Round 8 Recap - U.S. Junior, Girls' Junior & Senior Championship

 Today’s round was easily the most wild, as many games in all sections had numerous won positions turned into drawn or even lost ones. A few even turned two or three times! Awonder Liang beat Jennifer Yu with the black pieces, but it was anything but a straightforward affair. Nicolas Checa only drew against John Burke, which means Awonder and Nico are tied for first going into round 9. Carissa Yip nearly blew a crushing position against Maggie Feng, but buckled down and got it done. Rochelle Yu looked to be doing the same, but erred in the endgame against Martha Samadashvili, meaning that Carissa is a full point ahead going into the last round. Alex Shabalov won one of these topsy-turvy games against Alex Fishbein, while the other leader Gregory Kaidanov lost to Alex Yermolinsky. Let’s take a look at the craziness. 

U.S. Junior Championship

Atulya Vaidya and Hans Niemann had a highly complex game, and it looked like Atulya had a very promising position on the kingside. Despite that, Hans found some resources as he has all tournament, and they agreed to a draw in a queen and rook endgame. 

Andrew Tang clearly likes to attack on the kingside against King’s Indian structures, and once again it worked out well. He threw his kingside pawns at Craig Hilby, and the Californian IM could find no defense, allowing Tang to move up to his first plus score of the event. 

Brandon Jacobson tried to get a slight nibble in a knight and bishop endgame against Joshua Sheng, but was unable to make anything of it, and they agreed to a draw when the queenside pawns got liquidated. 

Awonder Liang was clearly looking for the win as Black against Jennifer Yu, but the U.S. Women’s Champion didn’t make it easy. Awonder got the better of a complex middlegame, and ended up in a pawn up endgame, but one that proved difficult due to his poorly placed king. Despite stubborn resistance from Jennifer, Awonder was eventually able to hop around with his knight and capture her h5 pawn, and won the game soon thereafter. 

Tournament leader Nico Checa had what looked like a pleasant position, but John Burke untangled his position using a lot of tactics, and got to an ending where White didn’t have much. The players repeated in a balanced rook and bishop endgame.  

Nicolas Checa and John Burke follow the live games on a flat screen.


U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Ruiyang Yan has showed impressive chess here, and this round was one of her best yet. She got a dominating position against Veronika Zilajeva’s French Defense, and was merciless in taking over all parts of the board. 

Thalia Cervantes got a nice positional advantage against Agata Bykovtsev, then later converted it to an attacking one. Agata’s king ran to f5, but no further, allowing Thalia to capture one of her best wins of the event. 

Emily Nguyen has had some bad luck in winning positions, and this game was no exception.  She won a pawn and had a great position against Rachael Li, but made life complicated for herself in the rook endgame. Rachael, to her credit, took full advantage and snagged her first win of the event. 

Carissa Yip got an absolutely dominating opening position against Maggie Feng’s offbeat system, then won a central pawn with a nice tactic and looked to be running away with it.  Matters became more complex, however, when Maggie managed to sacrificed a piece for several pawns. The resulting endgame looked extremely hard to win, but once Carissa fixed Maggie’s pawns on dark squares, she was eventually able to blockade and round them up.   

It was Emily Nguyen’s birthday today, but it was her opponent Rachael Li who got a present.


U.S. Senior Championship

Jaan Ehlvest seemed to have a “senior moment” in the opening against Joel Benjamin, and sacrificed a piece for dubious compensation. Somehow he found a way to get counterplay, and had a huge attack despite being down a whole rook. The players agreed to a draw in a position where Jaan had a promising attack, but almost no time on his clock.

Larry Christiansen repeated Awonder’s idea from the previous round against Igor Novikov’s Sicilian, but Igor seemed to defuse Larry’s play with his handling of the position. The players agreed to a draw soon after they reached the endgame. 

Maxim Dlugy trapped Alex Goldin’s knight on a5 on the Black side of a Queen’s Gambit Accepted. While it looked like Goldin had saving chances in an opposite bishop endgame, Dlugy’s passed b-pawn proved to be too strong.

Alex Yermolinsky got a promising endgame with two bishop and a passed d-pawn against Gregory Kaidanov, then stole a pawn on b6. While his bishop got trapped there, he sacrificed it to win a couple more pawns, and after that his position was completely dominating. 

Alex Shabalov had a difficult position against Alex Fishbein, and had weak pawns and a king that was weak in the center.  He managed to complicate matters by gaining a powerful d-pawn, and once he traded queens it was clear that his position was to be preferred. Shabba eventually converted his win in an exchange up endgame.  

Yermo looks on as Alex Fishbein and Alex Shabalov battle it out.

Round nine starts today at 11am, two hours earlier than the previous rounds. Tune in at 10:50am central time for live commentary by GM Robert Hess, GM Jesse Kraai, and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan on