Nation's Top Juniors Prepare for Title Fight
By Brian Jerauld
The 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, the national title fight for players under 21, held its opening ceremonies on Thursday night at the host Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The ceremony marked the fifth consecutive year the event has been held at the iconic midwest venue, which has given away over $1M in prizes in hosting the trifecta of American title events - including the U.S. and Women’s Championships - since opening in 2008. This year’s Junior Closed offers a prize pool of more than $10,000 to ten of the nation’s top youths, with the winner earning $3,000 as well as an invitation to the 2015 U.S. Championship. The first move is Friday at 1:00 p.m. local.
The 2014 field of young stars is being headlined by just that: The Young Stars - Team USA is a five-year grant program partnership with the Kasparov Chess Foundation that began in 2012 to help develop several American prodigies. True to the program’s design, three of those Young Stars -- GM Kayden Troff, IM Sam Sevian and IM Jeffrey Xiong -- represent the top-three seeds of this year’s Junior Closed, according to FIDE.
Round 1 Pairings
|IM Xiong, Jeffrey
|IM Ostrovskiy, Aleksandr A
|NM Colas, Joshua
|IM Harmon-Vellotti, Luke
|NM Larson, Matthew W
|FM Bodek, Michael H
|FM Shen, Arthur
|GM Troff, Kayden W
|IM Sevian, Samuel
|FM Williams, Justus D
Troff, 16, is the lone grandmaster in the field after earning the elite title just last month, after reaching a 2500 FIDE rating at last month’s Chicago Open; while Sevian, 13, has collected two GM norms toward the title -- and still with a year-and-a-half left to break the record as the youngest American GM in history. This year’s event marks the second appearance for Xiong, 13, who has padded more than 60 points onto his rating since last year.
All three should enter extremely polished after just completing a rigorous training session with Kasparov himself in Washington D.C. earlier this week, as part of the program. There, in between training, Kasparov and his Young Stars visited Capitol Hill to help promote chess’ educational benefits to members of Congress. The students helped coach members of a newly formed Congressional Chess Caucus through the first-ever Congressional Chess Tournament that pitted Republicans versus Democrats.
The opening ceremony for the Junior Closed featured CCSCSL Executive Director Tony Rich, who congratulated the players as being role models in American chess, noting that each of them will likely commit 12 hours per day to chess between play and study through the nine-round event. The ceremony also featured a welcoming by Rex Sinquefield, founder of the CCSCSL and sponsor for each of the U.S. Championships. Sinquefield, who also made the trip to D.C., lauded the Young Stars for their efforts in raising awareness to the benefits of chess, as well as helping the Republicans take down the Democrats -- even though Sinquefield was begrudgingly placed on the Democrat team.
Each round of the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed will see its first move daily at 1:00 p.m. local, beginning Friday through June 29, with a rest day on Wednesday. The tournament will be streamed live on www.uschesschamps.com, with commentary, analysis and player interviews by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman.