2015 U.S. Junior Closed Championship - Round 3
Written and analyzed by GM Mackenzie Molner. Photos taken by Austin Fuller.
Yian Liou vx. Akshat Chandra (Game of the Day)
Certainly the game of the day! Liou went into the game today in a tie for second place and Chandra in first place. Both players have been playing their top game since the beginning of the tournament. When leaders of a tournament play each other, one of the two players will often play an opening move that is close to vest and not take any chances to upset the tournament situation. The opposite was true today! The players began the game in aggressive fashion with yet another Najdorf Sicilian.
Surely enough, in accordance with games of previous rounds, White chose to combat the Najdorf with another variation featuring the aggressive and thematic move g4. Liou played the opening quickly and in a slightly unorthodox fashion. Liou combined several slow, preparatory moves like 7. Be2 and 9. a3, with an aggressive approach based on a kingside pawn storm. This unorthodox combination of plans allowed Chandra to emerge from the opening with a slight advantage. Despite Black having the preferable chances, White’s position remained solid, and with opposite side castling, all three results were possible.
By move 20 an interesting situation had occurred on the board. On the surface, both players looked posed to start an attack against their opponent’s king but there was no clear sign of either player making progress. Due to the difficulty in starting an attack, both players began a series of maneuvers looking to improve their positions. The maneuvers soon resulted in several exchanges, reaching a watered-down version of an opposite side castling position.The players still continued with the standard pawn storms but due to the reduced material, there was no longer a serious threat of checkmate. The position was balanced, and after further simplifications, Liou and Chandra agreed to a draw on move 32.
Ruifeng Li vs. Luke Harmon-Vellotti
Today, we saw an opening that Luke Harmon-Vellotti specializes in: the French Defense. The French has a very combative reputation, but the variation featured in the game led to a quiet, more positionally oriented struggle. Although Luke’s combination of f6 and h6 in the middlegame didn’t impress the commentators, no serious damage was done. Slowly, Black’s position improved and, eventually, held a classic bishop-pair advantage. Ruifeng defended well and was able to reach a drawn, pawn down, opposite colored bishop endgame. The players quickly agreed to a draw.
Jeffrey Xiong vs. Arthur Shen
Both players came into this game sitting on an even score, although they had both gotten to this score in very different ways. Xiong started the tournament with two very solid draws, while Shen was involved in two wild Najdorf Sicilians full of exciting, attacking chess. The game followed the trend from Shen’s previous games and featured Shen’s third Najdorf Sicilian of the tournament. Shen fared better than his previous effort with Black and, at one point, held a large advantage. As the game approached the second time control, the position was extremely complicated. Xiong was able to make the most of the position’s tactical opportunities, emerging with a winning advantage going into the second time control. Jeffery quickly converted his advantage. The win should give him a big boost, gaining ground on the tournament leaders.
Awonder Liang vs. Michael Bodek
Bodek trusted in his favorite defense against 1.e4, the Sicilian Dragon. This was a bit of a surprise from Awonder Liang considering that in his first game with the White pieces he began with 1. d4. Awonder proved that he had done his homework and revealed in the postgame interview that he was still in preparation by move 17. His preparation did him wonders (no pun intended), because by the time he was thinking on his own, he already had a significant advantage. Bodek was able to bring the game close to equality on move 25 but Liang’s material advantage eventually proved too much to handle. Awonder is off to a fantastic start with 2.5/3 and a share of the lead!
Curran Han vs. Mika Brattain
Unfortunately for Han, he came into the game today with 0/2. From the start, it appeared his struggles were likely continue. Brattain remained true to his solid play early on in the game, avoiding a complicated, but potentially promising, piece sacrifice on move 12. Brattain could have played the well-known trojan horse bishop sacrifice Bxh2+ leading to complicated play. Han outplayed his opponent in the middlegame, earning an advantage which soon fizzled out. With almost no play left in the position, the players agreed to a draw.