Troff Trounces, Sicilians Stomped in Round 2 of U.S. Junior Closed

GM Kayden Troff looks to be in top form through the first two rounds of the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship.

By Brian Jerauld

SAINT LOUIS (June 22, 2014) -- Historically, the Sicilian defense may be known as one of the best-scoring responses to the 1. e4 attack. But not today.

In the second round of the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, four out of five games saw black answering in the classic resistance, though white was able to smash through all but one. Saturday brought another decision-filled afternoon, with just a single draw -- the first of the tournament through 10 games -- as the Najdorf by FM Arthur Shen held up against FM Michael Bodek.

IM Jeffrey Xiong won against FM Josh Colas’ Sicilian to remain perfect through two rounds, and both IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy found their way through the line to earn their first points of the event.

Also remaining perfect and in front was GM Kayden Troff who, despite only two rounds into the event, looks to be in full stride. The tournament’s top seed won with swagger on Saturday, mauling his closest challenger by rating, IM Sam Sevian, in a lopsided affair that saw both an early advantage on the clock -- 40 minutes after 10 moves -- as well as one on the board. The loss leaves No. 2-seed Sevian scoreless in the event. Click here for a replay of the live play-by-play of the second round.

Rankings after round 2

Rank Name Score M/F Rating TPR W-We 1 2
1 GM Troff, Kayden W 2.0 M 2494 3187 +0.71 1 1
2 IM Xiong, Jeffrey 2.0 M 2437 3135 +0.73 1 1
3 FM Bodek, Michael H 1.5 M 2389 2439 +0.13 1 ½
4 IM Ostrovskiy, Aleksandr A 1.0 M 2423 2358 -0.17 0 1
5 IM Harmon-Vellotti, Luke 1.0 M 2412 2204 -0.53 0 1
6 FM Williams, Justus D 1.0 M 2278 2433 +0.41 1 0
7 NM Colas, Joshua 1.0 M 2247 2425 +0.47 1 0
8 FM Shen, Arthur 0.5 M 2331 2249 -0.20 0 ½
9 IM Sevian, Samuel 0.0 M 2442 1586 -1.15 0 0
10 NM Larson, Matthew W 0.0 M 2160 1601 -0.40 0 0

In the day’s only non-Sicilian, Troff dropped 4. e3 as a surprise in a Queen’s Gambit, unbalancing Sevian early. After playing his Young Stars teammate “20 million times” between training games and event matchups, Troff said he was hit with the opening inspiration just the night before -- an idea he later confirmed in preparation thanks to a game between GMs Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian from the 2014 Candidates Tournament.

“It’s always a struggle -- you play someone again and again, and you both become very familiar with all the little things that you both do,” Troff said. “(4. e3) just kind of hit me last night: Maybe I could do this and take him out of what he knows, just by changing up the move order. The more I looked at it, the more it became a good idea.”

The early surprise leached gobs of time from Sevian, who dropped below 40 minutes from his original 90 as he thought on 11. Bc2 -- while the 30-second per-move increment had left Troff with more time than he began. Troff also earned himself a wonderfully harmonious position, while black’s queenside rook and bishop stayed awkwardly undeveloped; 17...Nh5 even put a knight on the rim.

“I think I went through a similar thing when we played here last year: I was black, and (Sevian) smashed me out of the opening -- and I think it was from not really fully knowing all of these subtle ideas,” Troff said. “That game went very similar to this one today: good position early and just winning a few moves later.”

After 20. Bd4, Troff’s time advantage had increased to nearly 70 minutes, as Sevian fell below 2 minutes and soon after began playing off the increment. Collapse was swift and thorough.

In a match pitting two first-day leaders, Xiong issued his own early surprise to FM Josh Colas with 3. g3 -- a not-so-popular line in the Sicilian with which Xiong said he was comfortably familiar.

White earned a decent advantage out of the opening, partially due to the awkward development of black’s dark-squared bishop, who moved three times in the first ten moves -- and again after Xiong’s 14. Nf6 helped escape a surprise attack on the white queen.

By the time Colas completed his laggy development with 17...Bd7, Xiong’s open-lane-filled position was ready for attack, sweeping his rook to the seventh rank and picking up a material advantage with 23. Rxb7.

“When (Colas) played 17...Bd7 right away, I felt I was in a clearly better position and was able to win quite handily,” Xiong said. “The endgame it went into was pretty comfortable -- I couldn’t relax just yet, but I felt that with precies moves, I should be able to get it.”

The endgame featured bishops of the opposite color and white’s advantage as a queenside rook pawn - a tough, but winnable, position made clearer after Colas dropped another pawn in time trouble.

In Saturday’s second matchup between first-day leaders, Ostrovskiy as white was able to outmuscle FM Justus Williams despite walking himself into an all-too familiar “playable disadvantage” -- a Taimanov variation that had recently brought Ostrovskiy a crushing loss in the Chicago Open.

Inspired by the game, Williams earned more than just equalization, but also a far-more pleasant position entering the middlegame as Ostrovskiy was left reacting against black’s plans.

“When we got out of the opening stage, it just became hard for me to formulate a plan -- my moves were just kind of responses to his ideas,” Ostrovskiy said. “Most of my moves were directed in that regard, then I finally found this idea in a pseudo-sacrifice with Nd5 that my opponent missed, which allowed me to go from a disadvantage to a sizable advantage.”

Opposite-side castling brought pawn storms to both wings, and Ostrovskiy’s 20. fxe5 kicked off some nifty tactical action that saw a white knight hop back-and-forth onto the black-controlled d5 square.

The tricks ultimately left white with a dangerous passer on d5, which became a monster after finding support from 33. c4 and the white bishop. Ostrovskiy liquidated toward their advance.

Each round of the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed will see its first move daily at 1:00 p.m. CT through June 29, with a rest day on Wednesday. The tournament will be streamed live on, with commentary, analysis and player interviews by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman.