The making of the World Girls U-10 Champion
The World Cadet Chess Championships 2018 were held in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, from 3rd of November to 15th of November 2018. The Championships were held for the age groups U08, U10 and U12, Girls and Open. This year a record number of 851 participants from 86 federations took part in the Championships and out of which 542 players took part in the open section and 309 in the girls. In this article Peter Long shares with us his experience of working with the U-10 World Girls Champion from Indonesia, Samantha Edithso and her wonderful journey from being an unrated to winning everyone's heart with her spectacular performance one after the other, being the youngest Olympian, winning the world cadet rapid championship and becoming the U10 girls world champion.
In the days when the Philippines was undisputed No.1 in Asia with GM Eugene Torre at the helm, there was another country very similar in many ways who together with Australia would be pretenders to the crown. That of course was Indonesia who in the 80's boasted a golden generation led by GM Utut Adianto. Of course China emerged and then India exploded and with the breakup of the Soviet Union there were suddenly Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and in that tradition Vietnam and Mongolia as well, while Iran went from strength to strength.
Today the reality is that with perhaps the exception of Vietnam, chess in the ASEAN region is in crisis and everyone is looking to a new hero and those who have understood a little better are looking to youth even if it is a struggle to support such programs. Most countries have their flagship events - the Bangkok Chess Club Open in Thailand, HD Bank Cup in Vietnam, the IGB Malaysian Open and JAPFA International Chess Festival - immediately comes to mind and to this more are being added each year.
For several years, as a long time visitor to Indonesia where I have always been treated as an honoured guest and so have enjoyed not only their traditional hospitality but developed long lasting genuine friendships, I could not but help notice a very young and very small girl playing adults in the supporting events at JAPFA. Then last year she showed up at the Selangor Open in Malaysia and won the Challengers in stunning fashion and was practically adopted by locals here as one of their own.
For decades, Eka Wirya Putra has been the one constant patron of chess in Indonesia and the amount of work he has done and is still doing is mind boggling. He, together with Kristianus Liem and Adianto are the founders and backers of Sekolah Catur Utut Adianto (The Utut Adianto Chess School) and which today has branches all over a nation that boasts no less than 17,508 islands in three time zones!
Their decades long "Dream Girls" project has its graduates IM/WGMs Irene Kharismar Sukandar and Medina Aulia Warda and WIMs Chelsie Monica Shite and Dewi AA Citra and today they have a young group of talented IMs led by Novendra Priasmoro, Farid Firman Shah, Sean Winshand Cuhendi and Mohammad Lufti to name just a few, at the core of their national team.
Samantha Edithso's emergence however does not fit into or can be considered a part of any of PERCASI's (All Indonesia Chess Federation) excellent initiatives and so needed a completely different approach. In his usual generous fashion since Samantha's Selangor Open break-though, Eka has been a sponsor to pay her individual trips on behalf of PERCASI and even provide for accompanying persons, a treatment that only Irene Sukandar has been enjoying for over a decade.
It was during the Asian Youth Championship earlier this year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I was present and Eka decided to drop in to give support to Samantha. I found myself getting directly involved and at Eka's request I agreed to analyse each game played by Samantha along with my Indonesian friends. The more this went on, the questions of her ability grew even further but a lot of things also became clear to us and all her history of recent years, interactions with the local chess community, friends and family, became known.
It was no surprise then that the decision was made to send Samantha to play in the World U-10 Girls Rapid and Blitz Championship and despite being lost in at least two games she still comfortably emerged as the Rapid Champion.
Then, together with a large group of Indonesians, Samantha came to play in the IGB Malaysian Open, but this time without adult supervision and I had a prior commitment to be in Hong Kong so could not help to keep an eye on her. After four rounds of play she found herself registered in the open section and not the challengers and four defeats later she decided to withdraw from the event due to suffering from allergies.
PERCASI under the leadership of Adianto who famously said that Samantha was the "Future of Indonesia Chess" and here I believe it is the great chess player and not the successful politician speaking made the brave decision to include her in the team for the Batumi Olympiad and this move shocked even many of my eminent trainer colleagues!
For me it was wonderful exposure for her but in my wildest dreams I never expected a reserve to end up playing eight from 11 games! I managed to show up for the second half of the Olympiad and in six of the games by preparing well I was confident of getting the right result but in two, against experienced WIMs rated 400 points more, it was just suicide! However, scoring 6.0/8 instead of 6.0/6 meant still over a 100 rating point gain and instead of a perfect score, the WFM title under Olympiad rules as compensation and however you want to look at it, still very much a successful debut.
I had over week with Samantha before the training camp for the Olympiad but the plans to sit with her before the World Cadets Championship fell apart as I could not travel and she was constrained by having to make a complicated visa application and that was when I really appreciated having a passport that almost always did not need a visa!
There is no doubt that Samantha has talent as she has very quick sight, grasp concepts quickly and is a tactical monster. But it is also very clear that she has a very poor training and whatever so far has been done is very unstructured. But more importantly she is only 10 years so she finds it hard to work alone but all this has to change with the correct set of training solutions put in place if she is to realize her huge potential.
Here is a game from the Batumi Olympiad 2018: Ana Vitoria de Paul vs Samantha
My analysis of her chances at the World Cadets was that it depended on three things. First was who would be her rivals and what was their level because they would for sure be technically better. Second would be avoiding playing into opponent's type of positions or be trapped at opening stage, and third if we could maximize her tactical component and where it would be possible to give her the attack.
It became clear that she had only three serious rivals, she messed up and lost a winning position by playing too fast and carelessly, then even lost to one of the main contenders without giving a fight by playing passively but made it up by beating the other two rivals.
Here is the last round game from the world cadets 2018: Samantha vs Shvedova, Alexandra
Samantha is now both the World U-10 Girls Rapid and Standard Chess Champion and she had to do it almost all alone in Spain and largely because she really wanted it. I do hope this will be the impetus for her to take her game to a higher level as there is getting to be an ever decreasing age limit to what raw talent alone can do.
About the Author:
IA Peter Long is a Fide Master and heads the Institute for Chess Excellence which is also the National Chess Academy of the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) and a Regional Asian Chess Federation Academy. He is also the Press Officer for the Asian Chess Federation as well as Features Editor for American Chess Magazine.