World Youth U26 Team Chess Championship

picture from www.ajedrezprofesional.comThe World Youth Team Championship was a competition adopted during the FIDE Central Committee meeting in Caracas, Venezuela in 1977. Due to growing financial burden generated by Student Olympiads it was decided that the latter be transformed into biennial (not annual as previously) event held every odd year. The Youth Team Championship was expected to fill in the vacuum in the world of youth chess and be organized every even year starting from 1978. BCF offered to take the responsibility on the premier edition.

The first two editions took part in Mexico City in 1978 and 1980 respectively after withdrawal of Great Britain and cancellation of championship scheduled in Liverpool, August 1978. The 1981 was a year of a Student Olympiad which was planned to take place in Graz (Austria). Indeed, the event came into being but it happened to be the 3rd World Youth Team Championship since the Student Olympiads were decided to be ceased. The Graz championship was perhaps the strongest and most memorable of all eleven U26 events. The World saw the magic of 18-year-old Garry Kasparov leading Soviet team to a win. The event attracted a record number of 34 participating nations. The next event took place in Chicago in 1983. It was (and still is as for 2006) the only international team championship ever held in USA. Moreover, Iceland, a country with 300,000 citizens won bronze medal, becoming by far the smallest country to ever win a medal in an international team event.

In 1985 the era of Southern American events started for good. The fifth championship took place in Argentina. The Soviets won fourth gold in a row. Then came two championship organized year by year in Puerto Rico but they remain complete mystery as no games and hardly any information is available. They were won by Western European teams. This was quite harmful for the prestige of the event which never regained lost ground. The event was not organized in 1989 then and was revived after four years in 1991. The Soviet Union was about breaking up but for the very last time they sent a team that won the first prize. In 1993, again in Brazil, Argentina won ahead of Azerbaijan, Kasparov's homeland, one of newly emerged ex-Soviet republics. The next event in 1995 was won by Georgia, another Caucasian republic, ahead of the Philippines, but it was already third-rate event with very few strong players in the field (needless to say, Russia sent a team of unrated players). The 11th and last World U26 championship took place in Sáenz Peña, Argentina, in 1997. The hosts took it most seriously and sent their best men who won the second title for Argentina in the history of the Championship.

The FIDE congress in 1997 decided to cease the World Youth Team Championship and replace it with the World Junior U20 Team Championship. It was fairly justified given that majority of World's top players happen to be under twenty six those times, so a U26 event is only theoretically part of youth chess.

Winners: 5x Soviet Union, 2x England, 2x Argentina, 1x Netherlands, 1x Georgia




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