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Worldwide Junior Chess – interview with Goran Banovac and Maurizio Matteoli

Built on a network of trust and cooperation between chess enthusiasts, Worldwide Junior Chess provides an exciting and engaging online chess team competition and training ground for children. More than 2.500 players compete in 200 teams from over 70 countries. Worldwide Junior recently held the first editions of their festival and it was an all-round success. Goran Banovac and Maurizio Matteoli share more in an interview for

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We are here with Goran Banovac and Maurizio Matteoli, two of the founders of Worldwide Junior Chess.
You recently held the first three editions of your Worldwide Festival. Can you tell us more about it?

Goran Banovac: Yes, thank you very much for asking! Worldwide Festival is a part of our online chess activities in Worldwide Junior, organized as an opportunity for young players to meet their peers from all over the World. It is fascinating to see players from as far away as the Philippines or Malaysia, playing with European kids and those from Latin America. In Worldwide League there are teams and players coming from over 60 countries, covering as many as fifteen time zones and numerous languages. Imagine what the tournament chat looks like!

How did you come up with the idea and how did it start?

Maurizio Matteoli: The idea was very simple: find youth teams from other clubs for training matches. I simply wrote a post on the Lichess forum, briefly describing my idea. Goran was the first to respond, he was joined by Javier Uría, trainer of the religious school De La Inmaculada Jesuitas and FIDE Master from Lima, Peru –  a key nation for our initiatives, probably the one that had – it’s hard to keep count now! – more participating teams, along with Russia.

The three of us were quickly joined by David Fryer from Crowborough Chess Club. This was the initial group, from the collaboration between these 4 teams everything started and many other coaches and clubs joined in a year, turning the tournament into a league. Of all the friends we’ve met this year, it is right to mention who helped with the “special events”, that is simuls and blitz tournaments with special guests: IM Nico Zwirs and the Latin American team ‘Universo Ajedrecistico’.

How is the tournament organized today?

Banovac: Worldwide Junior has four Leagues, divided by age categories: U8, U12, Girls and U16, all played in different timings, to better accommodate many time zones. Various types of tournaments are organized, like Arena, Swiss, and Team Battle, using Rapid time control with occasional Blitz events.

Matteoli: Each category plays every two weeks, with a system of promotions and relegations that is the same for everyone. Now we are around 1500 players considering all categories, but we also had 2500 players in one week.

May 2021 league schedule

You are also the founders of Veli Vrh (Croatia) and Tatanzak (Italy)  Chess Clubs. How are the clubs doing during pandemic times?

Banovac: Veli Vrh Chess Club is very young, founded recently, and entirely devoted to children. When the pandemic outbreak forced the closure of Schools and Clubs, kids actually had no trouble adapting to an online environment, so Club immediately transferred all activities to chess servers. In search of other teams to play with, we answered Maurizio’s invitation, and the rest is history.

Matteoli: When the pandemic started we were about to celebrate the club’s 10th birthday – then we quickly arranged to move our activities online, the lessons and tournaments in particular, but the kids, especially the younger ones, miss spending time together, the social aspect of playing chess.

Visit the Veli Vrah page and the ASD Tatanzak page

Do you believe that the Covid-19 crisis has changed the way we perceive playing chess forever? Will chess stay mostly online or will move back OTB when possible?

Banovac: Chess has changed a lot. For us, the pandemic may have closed the doors of our houses, but opened the doors to the World. Yes, all of us are eager to return to OTB, but a significant part of chess will remain online even when the pandemic ends. As much as it was unimaginable that kids could one day meet their peers from all across the globe together in one tournament, so much it became easy to arrange for them to meet everyone, anywhere, and anytime. Online play also brought some interesting features: although one could argue it is not good for chess development, faster time controls and Arena type tournaments are what makes online chess tournaments exciting, especially when combined with team setups – kids are thrilled by the constant action and the team spirit it encourages. Chess became even more fun!

The Carlsen – Nepomniachtchi 2021 is coming. If you were to make a prediction today for an exact score in the 14 games match, what would it be?

Banovac: Oh, I wish it turns out as exciting as never before, to keep us all glued to the screens with streams, broadcasts, and media coverage, to bring out the emotions! Result…

Matteoli: … then I am the one who tries to guess the result: I say 8-6 for Carlsen.

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