U.S. Juniors and Senior Championship: Day 1 Recap

 The 2021 U.S. Senior, U.S. Junior, and U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships kicked off today in Saint Louis, Missouri, featuring 30 of the top junior and senior players in the country battling it out for thousands of dollars in prizes, as well as three individual national titles on the line.

Top seeds GM Larry Christiansen, GM Nicolas Checa, and IM Annie Wang all won their first round games while showing good form, with Christiansen defeating reigning senior champion GM Joel Benjamin in his trademark attacking style.

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. Each event features a 10-player round-robin format, with a time control of 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by an additional 30 minutes with a 30-second increment added from move one.

U.S. Senior Championship

Three-time U.S. Champion GM Larry Christiansen essayed the highly aggressive Four-Pawns Attack against GM Joel Benjamin’s King’s Indian Defense, leading to a sharp middlegame right out of the opening. After Benjamin traded off his light-squared bishop in order to grab a pawn on the c-file, White was able to open up the position in his favor, soon winning an exchange. A further rook lift allowed Christiansen to build up a powerful attack on the kingside, eventually ending in a forced checkmate on the board.

After 25.f5!, launching a powerful attack for White--the game continued 25...gxf5 26.Qh5! and Black was mated in a few more moves.

Three-time U.S. Champion GM Larry Christiansen | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

GM Gregory Kaidanov also won his first game, grinding out IM Leonid Sokolin in a complex knight vs. bishop endgame.

GM Kaidanov was one of the last players to finish, but managed to earn the full point. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

U.S. Junior Championship

The #1 seed GM Nicolas Checa won an excellent attacking game as Black, defeating GM Brandon Jacobson thanks to a nice pawn sacrifice and an unopposed light-squared bishop. Jacobson tried to minimize the damage by sacrificing an exchange, but it was not enough to curb Black’s attack.

After Checa’s 19...Rd6!, lifting the rook over to the kingside to target White’s king. Black soon followed with Bc8!, forcing White to weaken their kingside.

GM Nicolas Checa played a fantastic attacking game today. | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

Both IM Christopher Yoo and IM Praveen Balakrishnan won their first round games as well, defeating IM’s Andrew Hong and Ben Li in respective fashion. 

After IM Yoo’s 36.Qd2!, threatening Qh6+ and leaving the knight on f5 hanging, where 36...gxf5 37.Qe2 Kh6 38.exf5! followed by Rg3-g6 would give White a mating attack.

The former youngest IM in U.S. Chess history, IM Christopher Yoo | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller


U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Top seed IM Annie Wang defeated WFM Martha Samadashvili on the Black side of a sharp Classical Sicilian, where both players castled on opposite flanks of the board. As the middlegame heated up, Wang sacrificed a pawn on d6, using the power of her two bishops aimed at White’s king to collect the full point.

After 32...Rd4! Winning the pinned knight on e4 and ending the game.

IM Annie Wang (right) outplayed WFM Martha Samadashvili in a dynamic Open Sicilian | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Local favorite FM Thalia Cervantes and WCM Ruiyang Yan also won their first games, with Thalia defeating WFM Sanjana Vittal. A relatively equal Sicilian endgame quickly turned to Black’s favor as her better pawn structure and superior king ended up being the decisive factors in a double-rook endgame.

Round 2 of the 2021 U.S. Juniors and Senior Championships will take place tomorrow, July 17th, starting at 2:50 PM CDT. Catch all the action live with host Sharon Carpenter and grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan and Cristian Chirila on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.