2016 U.S. Junior Closed - Round 5

by GM Robin van Kampen

The fifth day at the U.S. Junior championship was nothing like the peaceful fourth round. With all five games delivering decisive results, It was a great game to play with the White pieces as the White players accounted for a sweet 4 out of 5 wins! The two grandmasters in the field faced off, and what the analysts  expected to be a long tense battle turned, out to be the first game to finish. Jeffery Xiong described his play in the 4th round as “That of 2000 player facing his first GM” but the fifth round was a smooth comeback for the Texas Grandmaster.

Xiong vs. Troff: 1-0

Xiong battled Troff’s trademark Grunfeld by going for an Anti-Grunfeld variation. After a complicated theoretical discussion in which Kayden sacrificed a pawn, Jeffery got a slight advantage. As the queens came off Kayden seemed to be on his way to equalize. However, when the 2014 champion exposed his King, White’s rooks found their way into Black’s position creating a mate net. A more detailed take on the game here:

Bodek vs. Chandra: 0-1

Akshat Chandra was looking to score his first win after 4 disappointing draws. Michael Bodek opted for the Hungarian variation in the Sicilian, and soon the players found themselves playing a position that strongly resembled a Najdorf Sicilian. The defending champion played compromising chess, sacrificing a pawn on move 11 and a second pawn on move 13. What he did not know at the time the game was played, was that all of these moves had already been tested by nobody other than Garry Kasparov! After obtaining a large advantage, the GM-elect based out of Iselin, NJ, played a couple of inaccurate moves which allowed Bodek to set up a tough defense. After shuffling around the Queen, Chandra tried to sacrifice a pawn in order to break through. Bodek couldn’t find the right defense and his rooks ended up being dominated by the Chandra’s Queen. A well-deserved win for the 2015 Junior Champion was the result.

Liang vs. Checa: 1-0

Nicolas Checa opted for a classic Karlsblad structure against Awonder Liang. Awonder showed that he’s studied the classics and successfully launched a queenside minority attack. Nonetheless, Checa played solidly and should have defended a slightly worse ending. After missing a tactic, the Fide Master dropped a pawn which Awonder Liang convincingly converted to a win. Another nice win by youngest participant of the tournament, who once again showed to have Grandmaster level technique.

Harmon-Vellotti vs. Ostrovskiy: 1-0)

Tournament leader Alexandr Ostrovskiy surprised his opponent with the sharp French Maccutcheon variation. The middle game position promised excitement as both Kings were deprived from castling. When the queens were exchanged Ostrovskiy saw a chance to open up the position, which temporarily cost the New York-based International Master a pawn. When the wunderkind from Idaho found a way to hold on the sacrificed pawn, things started looking grim for Black. A highly complicated endgame ensued, in which the objective evaluation switched drastically move by move. When Harmon-Vellotti found a way to draw by sacrificing his rook in order to advance his passed pawns, the draw seemed inevitable. Ostrovskiy went for an all-in winning attempt, but placed his King on the wrong square which cost him the game. With a bit of luck Harmon-Vellotti managed to win his first game, where Ostrovskiy will have to come back strong after the rest day in order to get his leading position back.

Li vs. Brown: 1-0

Ruifeing Li got a slight advantage out of a trendy Ruy Lopez variation. The International Master who is part of Kasparov’s Young-stars program, bravely sacrificed an exchange in return for two connected passed pawns. Brown tried to hold on by sacrificing an exchange back, but Li played the resulting endgame to perfection, granting him his first win in the tournament.