2016 U.S. Junior Closed

Luke Harmon-Vellotti

Title: 
International Master
Rating: 
2527
Residence: 
Boise, ID
Age: 
17
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

At some point, IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti moved beyond simply being a precocious young man—he’s full-fledged wunderkind. Born in 1998 in Boise, Idaho, Luke found early success in chess and academics alike.

A multiple National Chess Champion and All-American Chess Team member, Luke had been crowned the Idaho Chess Champion and had published his first book by the time he was only ten years old. Academics and chess both came easily to him, as he found himself the recipient of numerous academic awards, even while taking advanced classes far beyond his age group. Since then, he has become his home state’s first international master, and at 17 he is looking forward to his senior year at UCLA, finishing up a double-major in Applied Math and Computer Science. He currently fills his free time working as a software development intern at the Santa Monica based startup Heal and coaching some of Southern California's top youth chess players.

Luke’s ultimate goal in chess is to achieve the lauded title of grandmaster, but he admits that his life ambitions extend beyond chess alone. After he finishes his undergraduate degree, Luke wishes to attend medical school to become a doctor, as he has placed a premium on making the greatest positive impact on the world around him. Even so, he has already succeeded in finding ways to use chess as an instrument of good by raising funds for numerous causes through simul charity events. Luke was recently featured in the UCLA Optimists 4.0 ad campaign which highlights significant alumni and undergraduates for their work in the community, He also represented Unicef this past year in their Power to Youth partnership with ING Bank that identified teenagers from around the world who were maximizing their potential.

Akshat Chandra

Title: 
International Master
Rating: 
2583
Residence: 
Iselin, NJ
Age: 
16
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Defending U.S. Junior Closed Champion, International Master Akshat Chandra started learning chess at the age of about 9 years—a relatively late start compared to peers who started at the age of 4 and 5 years.

In January 2010, Akshat received a starting FIDE rating of 1548 and in less than 5 ½ years, crossed the Grandmaster rating level of 2500 in May 2015. His accelerated progress from such a late start is the largest and quickest rating increase in the world.

Akshat is the highest ranked junior rapid chess player in the country, and is among the leading junior blitz players in both online and on-board chess. Besides winning the 2015 US Junior Championship in his first appearance, Akshat is the 2015 US National High School Champion in both classic and blitz forms of the game. In 2013, Akshat won the K-9 Super Nationals Junior High Championship, and the Under-18 North American Youth Championship.

Away from the board, Akshat is an avid writer. Besides writing for Chess publications, he also has a comprehensive and unique chess blog (QuestToGM.com) that recounts his journey as a chess player from a beginner to a grandmaster. Academically, Akshat was a recent recipient of the 2016 U.S. Chess Trust Scholar-Chess Player award, sponsored by the U.S. Chess Trust and the National Scholastic Chess Foundation.

Akshat doesn’t believe in doing anything half-heartedly. In fact, as a fan of the New York Jets, his outlook echoes the words of former quarterback Joe Namath: “If you’re not gonna go all the way, why go at all?”

Kayden Troff

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2639
Residence: 
West Jordan, UT
Age: 
18
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

2014 proved to be highlight in the career of young Kayden Troff, earning his Grandmaster title at the Saint Louis Invitational in May, and then returning to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis the following month to win the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship with a convincing 7/9 score. The victory earned him a seat at the 2015 U.S. Championship, his second appearance in the national title event.

Troff first demonstrated chess ability at the age of three, learning to play by watching his father teach his older brothers. By the time he was six, his father had him tutored by Grandmaster Igor Ivanov, who was impressed with how well the youngster played.

Troff was among the first selected into the Young Stars-Team USA program, a joint partnership between the Kasparov Chess Foundation and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, which sought to train the country’s top emerging players to compete with those around the world. Through the program, Troff has participated in several training sessions with Garry Kasparov, as well as frequent sessions with GM Alex Chernin.

Troff’s accomplishments include several Utah scholastic and adult championships, as well as a gold medal at the U14 World Youth Chess Championship title earned in Maribor, Slovenia in 2012 -- an upgrade from the silver medal earned in the U12 World Youth Chess Championship in Greece in 2010.

Jeffery Xiong

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2723
Residence: 
Coppell, TX
Age: 
15
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Jeffery Xiong of Coppell, Texas, is the highest ranked player in the world under the age of 16. He has shown tenacity well beyond his years. At age 15, he already has had an impressive list of results: the 2010 Under-10 North America Continental Champion, a silver medalist in the 2010 Under-10 World Youth Chess Championships, 2013 MVP of the United States Chess League for his perfect record in regular season for the Dallas Destiny, 2015 Chicago Open Championship, 6th place finish in the strongest U.S. Championship in history (2016), and was recently awarded the 2016 U.S. Outstanding Player Achievement Award by USCF. However, it is his creativity on the board and his maturity in defeat that has caught the eye of some of the most renowned chess grandmasters.

From a very young age, Xiong has seen his losses, though painful, as an opportunity to improve. While some of Xiong's older competitors have been known to display their frustration with difficult losses, he remains collected—analyzing where his play could have been stronger. This maturity has helped enlist legendary Grandmaster Garry Kasparov as a mentor in the Young Stars program, and it has led to numerous impressive victories and awards since.

Home-schooled now, Xiong already has been awarded a four-year scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas. The school’s faith in him is well-founded, particularly since his undefeated play in this past spring’s UT Dallas vs. U.S.A. Junior All-Stars event helped his team, the Junior All-Stars, achieve victory over that same UT Dallas university program he may one day attend.

Arbiters

Tony RichTony Rich, IA
Chief Arbiter
International Arbiter (2013)
International Organizer (2010)
Senior Tournament Director

Regulations

Tournament Regulations

The 2016 U.S. Junior Closed Championship shall be a 10-player tournament paired as a Round Robin.

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