2016 U.S. Junior Closed - Round 1

By GM Robin van Kampen

Ruifeng Li faced off top seed Jeffery Xiong in a closed Sicilian. Black was quickly faced with a pawn storm heading straight for his King, and tried to counter attack in the centre. When the 15 year old grandmaster missed an opportunity to scatter Ruifeng's centre, he found himself forced to sacrifice a pawn in order to complicate matters. In time trouble, Jeffery's tactics stunned Ruifeng, but just when it looked like the top rated junior had it all under control, he erred and allowed Ruifeng to turn the tables and draw the game with a perpetual check. A more detailed take on the game can be found below.

Li vs. Xiong: 1/2-1/2

Game of the day: Even though the encounter between Ruifeng Li and top seed Jeffery Xiong ended in a draw, the game was a true spectacle. The players faced off no less then 37 times prior to this game, having drawn only 3 games previously. Based on this, fireworks were expected and the players did not disappoint! 

Brown vs. Chandra: 1/2-1/2

Akshat Chandra opened up with the rare 1.d4 e6!?, which turned into a Bogo-Indian. Michael played the middle game aggressively, trying to open up the path to Akshat’s King by all means. Akshat kept his cool and fended off the threats, leaving him with an advantage in the middle game. Right after move 30 Akshat had a golden opportunity to obtain a large advantage by focusing on his King’s safety rather than aiming to restore the material balance immediately. When Akshat’s King found itself in trouble, the game soon petered out in a draw by move repetition.


Harmon-Vellotti vs. Troff: 1/2-1/2

Harmon-Velloti, Troff, Junior ClosedThis game was a true spectacle! After Luke opted for a sharp line in the Grunfeld, the players banged out move after move until Kayden released a novelty on move 14. Luke played logically, and tried to change off Kayden’s vicious Bishop on g7, but fell for a spectacular Rook sacrifice in the process. After sinking in deep thought, Luke decided to play down a pawn rather than risk allowing a series of spectacular sacrifices by Kayden, although the computer engines crudely pointed out that this would have led to no more than a draw. Kayden seemed to be on his way to convert his pawn advantage, but in time trouble he lost control over the position, ultimately leaving Luke with a winning position. Not long after move 40, the players agreed to a draw after a miscalculation on Luke’s part.


Checa vs. Ostrovskiy: 0-1

Checa, Ostrovskiy, Junior ClosedAleksandr Ostrovskiy won a neat game against IM-elect Nicolas Checa. Aleksandr quickly got a pleasant position, and won an important pawn after the Knights were exchanged. For a moment, it looked like Nicolas was able to launch a dangerous attack in response, but Aleksander kept his cool during time trouble and defended accurately. Not much later, Nicolas fell victim to several impressive tactical blows, losing the game when Aleksandr managed to win the Queen.


Liang vs. Bodek: 1-0

Awonder Liang, US JuniorAwonder Liang, the youngest participant of the tournament at 13 years old, faced unorthodox opening play by Michael Bodek. After gaining control over the center, the young Wisconsinite found himself forced to move backwards in order to create space for his pawns. A complicated battle in the center emerged, leaving White up a pawn in a Rook and Bishop ending when the smoke cleared. What happened next was truly impressive, Awonder showed great patience as he slowly outmaneuvered his opponent. Michael was forced to throw in the towel when the f-pawn could no longer be stopped from Queening.