2016 U.S. Junior Closed- Round 2

By: GM Robin Van Kampen

After an eventful first round in which the players were praised for their fighting spirit by commentators. FM Aviv Friedman and GM Ben Finegold, expectations were high for the second round. Youngest participant Awonder Liang who showed great skill winning when converting a better ending against Michael Bodek on day 1, faced the difficult challenge of holding his own against top seed Jeffery Xiong.

Xiong vs. Liang: 1-0

Jeffery showed no interest in a theoretical battle as he opted for the London System, reminiscent of GM Gata Kamsky’s style. The game developed quietly and once both players developed their pieces, it was Awonder to err first. Rushing to activate his pieces, the thirteen year old wisconsinite opted for a central breakthrough which cost him dearly as Jeffery picked up a pawn. The Texas-based Grandmaster’s  technique did not leave any space for Awonder to get back into the game and not long after the time control, the top US Junior’s first win was set in stone.

Checa vs. Brown: 0-1
Michael Brown could not believe his eyes when he found himself playing the exact same opening as in his first game against Chandra, but this time on the Black side! Nonetheless Nicolas Checa got the advantage but misplayed the position when he closed the center prematurely. Brown showed no hesitation and seized the moment to regroup his Knights and open up the way to White’s King. Nicolas tried to defend but could not find a way to regroup his Queen and deflect the incoming attack. When the Black Queen found her way into the White position, there was nothing in Brown’s way to seal the first victory of the day. A great start to the tournament for the newcomer, whereas the 14 year old IM-elect from Dobbs Ferry, NY, is still trying to find his form.

Ostrovskiy vs. Bodek: 1/2-1/2
Aleksandr Ostrovskiy was looking to get ahead of the field after a strong performance against Nicolas Checa in the first round. The opening turned into a spectacular Sicilian sideline, which was seen in several games of World Champion Magnus Carlsen recently. Bodek continued in sharp style after being surprised a couple moves into the highly complicated line, and bravely sacrificed his Knight in order to compromise the White King’s position. The 18 year old International Master from Brooklyn was able to defend his King, but did not find a way out of the perpetual check. A more detailed take on the game here:

Chandra vs. Harmon-Vellotti: 1/2-1/2
The longest game of the day was played by 16 year old International Master and reigning US Junior champion Akshat Chandra, against Idaho native Luke Harmond-Vellotti. Luke may have hoped to recover from a volatile game in the first round against GM Kayden Troff, but today’s game proved to be no less exciting. Akshat nurtured a slight advantage from the opening, but Luke equalized when he was able rid himself off his isolated pawn. When the players got low on time, the game seemed to be heading for a draw, until Chandra decided to sacrifice an exchange in hopes of launching a dangerous attack supported by his Bishop pair. Initially Luke seemed to control the position but after several inaccuracies Akshat obtained the compensation he was looking for. After the time control Luke found several precise moves to keep his position together, resulting in a drawn ending.

Troff vs. Li: 1/2-1/2
Li opened up with a Slav defense, but found himself in a difficult position by move 15 when Troff wasted no time to occupy the center and obtain the Bishop pair. From there on, the 2014 US Junior Champion played too cautiously, allowing Li to counterattack and launch a dangerous Queenside offensive. After a tenacious defense by White, the 14 year old IM missed his chance in the late middle game and the pressure was relieved after a large series of exchanges. On move 40 the players agreed that the ensuing rook endgame did not offer more than a draw.