2020 U.S. Junior Championship - Day 1 Recap


The 2020 U.S. Junior Championship kicked off today with ten of America’s most talented players battling it out in a 9-round rapid round-robin event. Despite a draw in Round 2, top seed GM Jeffery Xiong managed to take the early lead with 2.5/3 points, shared with recently minted GM Brandon Jacobson. The #2 seed in the event, GM Sam Sevian, struggled today and only scored 1/3, but will have two more days and six more rounds to go to try to catch up with the leaders.

Check out all the games from the first day of action here, and you can watch a video replay of the event’s live coverage featuring WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Maurice Ashley here.

Standings after Day 1

Asked about his play, Jeffery wasn’t too pleased overall, saying “I felt like I was under pressure all three games, like my opponents were actually outplaying me, so I definitely need to raise my level in the next two days.”

“I felt like I stole both of my wins”, said U.S. #5 and top seed GM Jeffery Xiong 

Round 1

Shortly after the first round began, Xiong found himself in a worse position, but he was ultimately able to grind down GM John Burke in an advantageous queen endgame. International Masters Praveen Balakrishnan and Josh Sheng also won their first games, taking down FM Christopher Shen and IM Bryce Tiglon with the black pieces.

Meanwhile IM Christopher Yoo had GM Sam Sevian on the ropes with an extra pawn and the attack, but Sevian defended well and managed to trade down into a holdable endgame.

Round 2

In the second round the action didn’t fade for a moment as all five games looked to have potentially decisive results. Xiong traded down and turned up worse in the endgame against FM Christopher Shen, but played solidly and was eventually able to hold. Sevian grabbed a lot of space against GM Jacobson but soon overextended, losing the game. And GM John Burke played a beautiful attacking game to defeat IM Josh Sheng, thanks to a number of consecutive strong moves:

After 20...Qf3!, one of a number of powerful moves played by GM John Burke

In the meantime Balakrishnan continued his initial burst and won his second game of the day, finding a nice forced checkmate in an endgame against GM Nicolas Checa. With the only remaining perfect score, this win gave Praveen the early lead with 2/2 going into the final round of the day:

The final position after IM Praveen Balakrishnan’s 39.Ke2+!, leading to a forced mate after 40.Rd2+ and 41.Rg1#

Round 3

In the final round of the day Xiong used the extremely risky ‘Hippopotamus’ opening against Checa, giving up a lot of space on the board in order to complicate matters later. Xiong eventually managed to get the better of his opponent in the endgame, earning his second full point. Also earning his second win was Jacobson, who stopped Balakrishnan’s perfect run by taking advantage of an early opening mistake: 

Position after GM Jacobson’s 12.e5!, giving up the rook on f1 for two minor pieces.

This win allowed GM Jacobson to share the early lead with GM Xiong on 2.5/3, with GM Burke and IM Balakrishnan just a half-point behind with 2.0/3 points.

Rounds 4-6 of the 2020 U.S. Junior Championship will take place tomorrow, October 14, with live coverage from WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Maurice Ashley starting at 12:50 PM CDT on USChessChamps.com, YouTube, and Twitch.

The 2020 U.S. Championships features a series of five national title events, all taking place online from Oct 8-29, starting with the 2020 U.S. Girls Junior Championship. For full details, pairings, and results of the events, make sure to check out USChessChamps.com.