2016 U.S. Junior Closed - Round 8

By GM Robin van Kampen

The 8th round was a tepid round, with all the games ending in a draw within 4 hours of play. Nonetheless, the games had several exciting moments, but fatigue played an important role, as several players missed the opportunity to realize their advantage.

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

The players went into the Tarrasch variation of the French defense, with black taking back on d5 with the queen. White got a slight edge out of the opening, owing primarily to the pair of bishops. However, Aleksandr Ostrovskiy was not able to put the game away, during time trouble and the pieces were traded down until Chandra and Ostrovskiy were in a bishops-of-opposite color endgame. The commentators criticized Ostrovskiy for letting the defending champion of the hook, but after three consecutive losses it is understandable that the Russian-born New Yorker did not seek any more risk.

Checa vs. Troff : 1/2-1/2

Nicolas Checa decided to go for the English opening which Troff faced with the main variation, turning into a position reminiscent of the Sicilian Dragon. Troff got good piece activity on the queenside whilst Checa lashed out with his pawns on the Kingside side of the board and his central pawn majority. However, after minor pieces were exchanged, Checa’s king proved to be a little too open, allowing Troff to escape with a perpetual check after the loss of a pawn in the early middle game.

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

Facing the top seed and tournament leader with white was a tough challenge for FM Michael Brown. The game turned into a theory-heavy Grunfeld Indian defence, in which Brown got a slight advantage out of the opening. Xiong seemed to take over the initiative when he timed the typical f5 central break well, but Brown reacted well and found counter play when his rook reached the 7th rank. When the Queens came off the board, the players found themselves in a drawish endgame in which the Texas Grandmaster saw no more chance to further increase his lead.

Harmon-Velloti vs. Bodek : 1/2-1/2

Fans were excited to see Michael Bodek’s trademark Sicilian Dragon appear in the opening. Luke Harmon-Vellotti went for the calm 9.0-0-0 variation and got an edge by surprising his opponent with the rare Queen to e1. White seemed to build up a stable advantage, but Bodek managed to balance the scale with a speculative exchange sacrifice. For a moment, it seemed like the unfortunate International Master was on his way to obtain an advantage, but Harmon-Vellotti was able to bail out by offering an exchange of queens and scoring a perpetual. A more detailed take on the game can be found here:

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

Ruifeng Li enthusiastically sacrificed a pawn against Awonder Liang, hoping to propel himself to a second place in the standings. Li had piece activity and a kingside pawn storm going for him, but the youngster, Awonder Liang, held to a stubborn defense. Li got back his pawn and then immediately sacrificed it again to open the h-file, allowing his rooks the access to the Black King. The Texas IM seemed to be on his way to score an important win, but failed to convert an exchange up in the endgame, allowing the thirteen year old Wisconsinite to retain the sole second place.