2016 U.S. Junior Closed - Round 7

By GM Robin van Kampen

The 7th round showed the players were fatigued but still looking to give it their all. After 4 hours of play, not a single had been decided yet which set a new record in this year’s tournament.

Bodek vs. Brown: 0-1

Michael Bodek played the English in order to sidestep Michael Brown’s Nimzo-Indian. The International Master from New Rochelle, NY is a veteran in this year’s tournament, having participated twice before, but has yet to find his form scoring only 2 draws from 7 games. Bodek got an advantage out of the opening, but Michael Brown won a pawn when he threatened to trap White’s rook. Bodek responded well and got the initiative again once the center opened up. When the players reached an ending with only heavy pieces left, Michael brown slowly but surely saw the defenses around his King being breached. What happened next was truly heartbreaking; after showing amazing technique in the endgame, the luckless Michael Bodek blundered a simple mate in time trouble. As Michael Brown pointed out after the game, the 1 out of 7 points are misrepresenting the quality of chess Bodek has displayed thus far, and one can only hope that the last two rounds can offer some reconciliation.

Li vs. Ostrovskiy: 1-0

Ruifeng Li showed no mercy to Alexander Ostrovskiy, who after beating Jeffery Xiong, lost his last two games. Li opened up with the rare b3 and played the opening creatively. A slight edge turned into an extra pawn and Ostrovskiy was destined for a long defense. The Russian-born New Yorker played tenaciously, but erred once he made it to a theoretically drawn rook endgame. After a dull start of the tournament, Ruifeng Li is back at a solid +1 score, which means he will be in the race for second place. Ostrovskiy’s ambitious play has backfired in the last three rounds, putting him in 7th place with two rounds left to go.

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

Awonder Liang got a slight advantage out of a calm English opening. In the early middle game, Luke Harmon-Vellotti showed good understanding of the position when he allowed himself a few backwards moves to improve the positioning of his Knight. The Wisconsinite  who is currently in second place retained his advantage the entire game, but never got enough out of his positional edge to get the Idahoan IM in real trouble. In the endgame White won a pawn, but Black’s blockade proved to be enough to secure the draw.

Xiong vs. Checa: 1-0

Jeffery Xiong got an early opening advantage against Nicolas Checa’s Chebanenko Slav. Nonetheless, Checa’s strategy worked out well. Even though Jeffery had the Bishop pair and a space advantage, the Texas GM struggled to find a constructive plan. The players maneuvered for over 20 moves, until Jeffery opted for a central breakthrough which lead to a slightly better endgame for White. Checa counted on the opposite-colored bishops to increase his drawing chances, but erred in the late endgame after being forced to sacrifice the Bishop. As a result, Jeffery was able to increase his lead to a full point ahead of Awonder Liang.

A more detailed take on the game here:  

Troff vs. Chandra: 0-1

Defending Champion Akshat Chandra quickly equalized out of the opening after Kayden Troff failed to utilize his lead in development. When Chandra managed to block Troff’s isolated pawn, the GM-elect got a slight but stable edge. Troff tried to exchange his isolated d-pawn, lost material in the tactical skirmish that ensued, but played provocatively by marching his King down the board. After a complicated time-trouble phase, the off-form Grandmaster had a chance to equalize, but lost an exchange in the complications, costing him the game. A good comeback for the defending champion, who is still in the race for 2nd place.