U.S. Juniors and Senior Championship: Day 8 Recap

It was a dramatic penultimate round at the 2021 U.S. Senior and Junior Championships as two out of three leaders, GM Kaidanov and GM Niemann both lost critical games, opening up the chance for their rivals to catch up significantly in the standings. Meanwhile, IM Annie Wang maintained her full-point lead over WCM Ruiyang Yan, keeping good chances to clinch the U.S. Girls’ Junior outright during tomorrow’s championship Sunday.

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

GM Alex Yermolinsky played spoiler in the U.S. Senior, defeating long-time rival GM Gregory Kaidanov in a topsy-turvy game. Despite starting out solidly against Yermolinsky’s Schlechter Slav, Kaidanov decided to risk everything by sacrificing the exchange for a strong passed c-pawn. Unfortunately for Kaidanov, he misplayed the position and his compensation soon ran out, leaving Black with a clean extra exchange that Yermolinsky duly converted into the full point.

Kaidanov had good compensation for the exchange, but could not maintain the balance. | 0-1, 33 moves 

GM Yermolinsky broke his streak of seven draws to take down the tournament leader. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

Meanwhile GM Larry Christiansen, the only player who can catch Kaidanov at this point, was held to a draw against GM Igor Novikov, meaning Christiansen will be a half-point behind heading into tomorrow’s final round.

Standings after Round 8

U.S. Junior Championship

After surviving a somewhat difficult opening against IM Christopher Yoo, it seemed as though GM Hans Niemann had everything under control in a Grunfeld Defense, but started to push too hard in the endgame, not forcing a draw when he had the chance on move 26. Instead IM Yoo was able to keep an outside passed pawn on the board, which he was eventually able to push all the way to promotion, winning him the game.

White was able to make use of their outside passed pawn in the endgame, soon winning Black’s light-squared bishop. | 1-0, 54 moves

IM Christopher Yoo blew the U.S. Junior wide open by defeating Niemann. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

The loss by Hans opened the door for several players to close the distance, though two of his main rivals, GM Brandon Jacobson and IM David Brodsky, could only draw against each other, leaving both a half-point behind.

IM Praveen Balakrishnan took full advantage of the opportunity, grinding down GM John Burke in a long queen endgame, taking 103 moves to convert and joining the tie for second place. This means that no less than four players, Niemann, Jacobson, Brodsky, and Balakrishnan will be in contention heading into the final round tomorrow.

IM Praveen Balakrishnan scored a clutch victory today to remain in contention for the title. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

Standings after Round 8

U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Top seed IM Annie Wang was in a bit of strategic trouble against the youngest player in the event, 11-year-old WCM Alice Lee, after she wrongly closed the queenside on the Black side of a Queen’s Gambit Declined, ending up with a serious space disadvantage on the kingside. However, Alice rushed to open the position too quickly, allowing Annie to equalize the game, after which the players soon agreed to a draw.

28.f5? opened things up too quickly, allowing Black to start trading pieces along the e-file. Instead, slowly building up with 28.h5 would have kept a serious advantage for White. | ½-½ 41 moves 

IM Annie Wang will need just a draw tomorrow to clinch the event without playoffs. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

In the meantime, WCM Ruiyang Yan drew as well against WFM Martha Samadashvili, after the latter defended with precision in a pawn down rook endgame. 

Standings after Round 8

Round 9 of the 2021 U.S. Juniors and Senior Championships will take place Sunday, July 25th, 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.