Reports | November 04, 2009 9:05

Vachier-Lagrave wins World Youth Championship U20

Biel 2009Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from France won the U20 World Youth Championship after a dramatic last round, in which he caught Sergei Zhigalko in the standings. The two finished on 10.5/13, but Vachier-Lagrave won the title due to a higher sum of the ratings of the opponents. WGM Swaminathan Soumya from India took gold in the girls section.

The World Youth Championship 2009 took place October 21 - November 4 in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Originally it was supposed to be held in Mar del Plata but just a few weeks ago FIDE communicated the switch to Puerto Madryn, a city in the province of Chubut in the Argentine Patagonia.

It was a big Swiss of 13 rounds and 84 participants in the boys section and 45 in the girls section. The rate of play was 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an addition of 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

World Youth 09The tournament ended dramatically for Sergei Zhigalko (2646, Belarus), who had been leading the standings throughout the event. In the last round he drew with Ivan Popov (2582, Russia) and in doing so he allowed top seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2718) to finish on the same number of points - the Frenchman beat Dmitry Andreikin (2659, Russia) in round 13.

As it turned out, the first tiebreak rule, the sum of the ratings of the opponents, was in favour of Vachier-Lagrave. Michal Olszewski (2544, Poland) won bronze on tiebreak after finishing shared 3rd with Popov and IM Alex Lenderman (2542, USA).

The girls section was won by WGM Swaminathan Soumya (2297, India) while the silver medal went to WIM Deysi Cori Tello (2361, Peru). Cemre Betul Yildiz (2224, Turkey) who recently played in the 2nd FIDE Women Grand Prix in Nanjing, took the bronze medal. All three ended on 9.5/13.

World Youth Championship 2009 | Final Standings (top 30)

World Youth 2009

World Youth Championship Girls 2009 | Final Standings (top 30)

World Youth 2009

Selection of games rounds 6-13

Game viewer by ChessTempo


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Vincent Dovillers's picture

I'm glad for Maxime but it's tough for Zhigalko. Rapid tie-breaks would be better in such cases.

jazzkoo's picture

in final table standings what do TB1 and TB2 represent? I assume TB1 is the total of the opponents ratings but what is TB2?

Ianis's picture

Before Maxime catched Sergei in the ranking table (Zhigalko was also leading in tie break points ) , i was thinking that Vachier-Lagrave did not have the chance to play as white against Zhigalko , so i was hoping that there would be a "finale" in case they were tied . I think it would have been better for the spectacle .

Anyway , congratulations to both Maxime VL and Sergei Zhigalko for their undefeated performance ! I'm happy for our "maximus" , the last youth champion we had was Lautier a long time ago .

Oh and i hope next time there is a youth world championship , i hope they make sure they have a website at the height of the event cause it was not easy this time :/

Onischuk fan's picture

A 13 move Sicilian draw between the 2 top finishers is very lame in my opinion.

Castro's picture

"Sergei Zhigalko (2646, Belarus), who had been leading the standings throughout the event"

This is not completely acurate. He lead most of the time, but I recall there was at least one round where he stood 1/2 point behind the first (Maxime, BTW). Then he caught up again.

TB2 looks like one of the multiple forms of Buscholz tiebreak (don't know which one, and not in the mood to calculate :-) )

Castro's picture

The issues regarding if both played white (or not) against each other, and medals decided on tiebreak points, etc. are no big problems here. The number of rounds was big enough to avoid doubts.
Every Swiss tournament should be like this. More rounds than the strictly necessary, not less, like lots of fake "tournaments" arround the world. The last "shame" (or should I say shameless?) was that European Club Championship, with 7 say-nothing rounds.
Hats off for this World U20 Championships, at least because of that!

Remco G's picture

Very impressive performance by Vachier-Lagrave -- it's not easy to go into an open youth tournament with a 2719 rating and gain points from it!

Of course Zhigalko is equally impressive.

Poek's picture

"As it turned out, the first tiebreak rule, the sum of the ratings of the opponents, was in favour of Vachier-Lagrave."

Does this include each others rating? e.g. would Zhigalko have been champion if he had a 2000 rating?

Poek's picture

And look at the girls tiebreaks.

Soumiya: 2297 rating, TB1 27314
Cori Tello: 2361 rating, TB1 27250


This means Cori Tello is punished for having a high rating...

Oak's picture

Poek, agreed. You should not sum up the ratings of the players involved if they played each other.

Thomas's picture

"Zhigalko had been leading throughout the event" may be formally correct (but still "mis-leading"), as it does not necessarily mean in _sole_ lead. From the moment that both players started breaking away from the field, Zhigalko was in sole lead after rounds 7, 9 and 12 - they were tied in the other rounds including the final one. BTW, it wasn't a matter of color distribution, or was it? In the two rounds (7 and 8) when they played with different colors, the one having black won his game ... .

Poek's remark seems correct, indeed Vachier-Lagrave had a disadvantage because he is the higher-rated player. There could even have been a scenario where "winning Biel costs Vachier-Lagrave the World Junior championship" ... .

There is another reason why average opponents' rating doesn't make much sense as a first tiebreaker. I think many young players are "underrated" - because the rating lists cannot keep up with their rapid progress. Still a difference of roughly 8.5 points [(30764-30663)/12 - the lowest-rated opponents is not considered] decided matters.

Buchholz has other problems - the final ranking can be influenced by the result of a game on board 20 (potentially allowing or inviting cheating or bribery?). If there was no time for a tiebreak match, why not give gold to both players? This would also mean a spot in the World Cup for both - now I guess Zhigalko is already a very logical candidate for a wildcard.

Thomas's picture

Hey, how could the number eight (followed by a bracket) turn into a smiley? I am still not familiar with all codes of Internet language ... .

Castro's picture

The sensible and better options is either to
1. Have 3 or more good tiebreak criteria and aply them in an ORDER choosed by drawing lots AFTER the last round ends OR
2. Have a pair number of tiebreak games (hence, at least 2), but only if it is posible to have them of the exact type of the tournament's games, in this case "classic" time controls, NOT by rapid games (let alone blitz :-) )

Option 1 is perfect, I think, provided a real Swiss tournament had heppened (enough number of rounds), and normaly less complicated for the organization to implement.
Anyway, a very good championship!

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