Action Heats Up in Day-2 of U.S. Junior Closed Championship

The action heated up today in the 2012 U.S. Junior Closed Championship as players once again demonstrated their fighting spirit. Pre-tournament favorites Conrad Holt, Darwin Yang and Marc Arnold hover near the top of the field.

Round three saw decisive action in half of the games, while the other half were hard fought draws. Matthew Michaelides chalked up his first half-point against NM Atulya Shetty. After the game, IM Marc Arnold commented that Michaelides should have been winning at some point. He won a pawn on move 28, and black’s pawn on g2 seemed doomed to fall, which it finally did just before the time control. Despite the two-pawn advantage, the game remained level thanks to Shetty’s pressure on the queenside. Michaelides real chance came when black played 44. h6?, when 45. Kd6, followed by maneuvering the knight to attack c6 should be decisive.

IM Conrad Holt squared off against FM Alec Getz, and the game seemed destined for a relatively placid draw. However, Holt tried to spice things up on the queenside, but found his kingside pawns threadbare and reached a critical position by move 36. After developing a beautiful kingside initiative, Getz misstepped just before time control and his advantage evaporated.

Will Fisher versus Darwin Yang was a fairly balanced Classical French until Fisher blundered terribly on move 38, allowing a mating attack against his exposed king. Fisher, who was on fire in the U.S. Chess League with an amazing 9.5 points out of 10 in the 2011 season, has not fared well in this tournament, losing all four rounds thus far. In chatting with him, Will mentioned being under the weather, which will hopefully turn around as he goes into the fifth round tomorrow.

Wildcard Justus Williams raked in his first point in round three with a relatively one-sided battle against NM Raven Sturt. Williams has received a great deal of attention as he quickly climbs the chess rankings. He has been featured in a documentary entitled "Brooklyn Castle" and was a star on "Xtreme Chess" – the miniseries covering top scholastic chess players throughout the country. Justus has even made MSNBC's "Top 100 Black Celebrities" list (Number 40); expect many great things from this young phenom.

In round three, Eric Rosen upset second-seed Daniel Naroditsky, who was clearly shaken after the game. Rosen sacrificed everything he could find and at one point was down a rook for a pawn. Eric kept up the pressure, and when the dust settled on move 50, he found himself up a pawn in a rook endgame, which he converted handily.

The action continued unabated in round four, with young Jeffrey Xiong defeating Will Fisher. Xiong repeated his Panov Attack in the Caro Kann from round three, but this time had something to bite on. Fisher weakened his kingside prematurely and Jeffrey’s kingside attack broke through.

The point leaders in the A-group squared off, as Alec Getz surveyed an offbeat line against Victor Shen’s Sicilian. White appeared to be in a lot of trouble, but as the tactics flew, Getz came out on top. Getz was seeded in the middle of the pack by rating, yet sits a half point ahead of his nearest rival, IM Conrad Holt as the players go into round 5 tomorrow.

Atulya Shetty versus Darwin Yang was wild from move one, with both players clearly aiming for the jugular. However, it was Yang’s attack that broke through first as he clinched the full point. This was a much-needed win for Yang, bringing him closer to the coveted first-place.

Eric Rosen scored an impressive victory over Robert Perez in the fourth round. With his perfect 2-0 score for the day, Eric jumps to equal second with Kayden Troff and Kevin Cao. Having clearly found his form, Eric will be looking to polish off Raven Sturt and Marc Arnold tomorrow.

Saint Louisan Kevin Cao routed Justus Williams on the black side of a Catalan. His 1.5/2 today was good enough to launch him into shared second in the B-group.

As the finish line draws near, the hunt for first races on. Tune in to to follow the games and enjoy the live commentary by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman, starting at 11am.