2016 U.S. Junior Closed - Round 6
By GM Robin van Kampen
After 5 hard fought rounds, the participants had the Wednesday off to prepare themselves for the second half of the tournament. Whereas most players stayed in and rested up, Kayden Troff had a busy schedule. On Wednesday morning the Grandmaster from Utah was awarded the prestigious eagle scout award with festivities celebrating both his newly earned title, as well as his GM title which he achieved at the early age of 16.
Ostrovskiy vs. Troff: 0-1
The newly crowned Eagle Scout has had a rough tournament and finished with a disappointing score of 1,5/5 in the first half of the tournament. A day away from the chessboard bore its fruit as the GM found his form winning a complicated game against New-York based International Master Alexandr Ostrovskiy. Ostrovskiy was the first one to divert from his previous games against Xiong and Bodek, and got a pleasant position out of the opening. Troff decided to sacrifice a pawn, hoping to seize the initiative but soon found him on the defense when Ostrovskiy sacrificed a piece in return! A few moves later the International Master should have reconciled himself with a draw, but bravely decided to play on with only 5 minutes left for over 10 moves. Ostrovskiy got the chance he was looking for after Troff erred, but missed the golden opportunity to support his connected central passed pawns. When the players reached move 40, Troff was able to isolate the White Knight and not much later Ostrovskiy resigned as he found himself down a full rook. Not a perfect game by the 2014 U.S. Junior Champion , but the Grandmaster paved the way for a strong recovery in the second half.
Chandra vs. Xiong: 0-1
Akshat Chandra opted for a topical line in the g3 Grunfeld against Jeffery Xiong. The defending champion had a pleasant advantage out of the opening as he controlled several important dark squares, but Xiong played tenaciously. Chandra gave up his light-squared Bishop in return for a strong-looking initiative, but once the GM-elect ran out of easy moves it turned out Xiong still had everything under control. Looking for an energetic way to continue, Chandra burned up a lot of time and slowly but surely Xiong’s position improved. In time trouble the top-seed retained his opponents play in an impressive matter, which granted him a large advantage once the time control was reached. Xiong never let go of the advantage, and showed sophisticated technique, granting him the full point and the leading position in the tournament. The 15 year old Texas GM has shown great willpower by rebounding with 2 wins after his unexpected loss to Alexandr Ostrovskiy in round 4.
Checa vs. Bodek: 1-0
Michael Bodek did not find the appropriate way to develop his pieces against Nicolas Checa’s delayed Catalan set-up. As a result the 14-year-old International Master obtained a large advantage, but the White edge was lost when opting for the wrong attempt to change the Queens. What happened next was odd; instead of developing his previously restricted pieces, Bodek went right for Checa’s King but the attack turned out to be harmless. When Checa reached an ending where he could dominate Bodek’s rook with his two knights, the win was trivial.
Brown vs. Liang: 1/2-1/2
Michael Brown opted for an offbeat opening against Awonder Liang’s Grunfeld-Indian defense. The New Yorker got a slight edge, but Liang equalized by bravely thrusting his a-pawn in order to block Whites dark-squared Bishop. When the center opened up in the middle game, the youngest participant in the tournament sacrificed a pawn which discoordinated Brown’s pieces. As more pieces came off, Brown was forced to return the pawn, but the equilibrium was never truly broken. Awonder Liang seemed to be in trouble for a moment, but correctly judged a rook endgame with a pawn down to be a dead draw.
Harmon-Vellotti vs. Li 1-0
Ruifeng Li started out in his trademark style when he sacrificed a pawn as early as move 13 to make way for his pieces on the Queenside. Harmon-Vellotti reacted well and got the edge when Li opened up his own King’s position to get out of a pin. In the middle game the position remained approximately balanced, but when Harmon-Vellotti managed to exchange the Queens Black was left with several weaknesses in an ending. Harmon-Vellotti skillfully prevented Li’s counter play and slowly but surely picked up the Black pawns. Li resigned when the Idaho IM launched an attack against his King, whilst already being two pawns down. Luke Harmon-Vellotti still has good chances for a top 3 position, with a neat 3.5/6 score.