The 2019 U.S. Junior, Girls, and Inaugural Senior Championships got underway today at the Saint Louis Chess Club. The first round had everything: tactical fireworks, trapped rooks, time scrambles, and a true miniature. And what about those four sacrificed rooks on a8?!
Fishbein-Dlugy after 8.Rxa8
Li-Bykovtsev after 17.Nxa8
Wu-Nguyen after 10.Nxa8
Yu-Burke after 16.Bxa8
Without further ado, let’s break down the action.
Brandon Jacobson had today’s star move in his win against Hans Niemann. While he had a serious advantage before Niemann’s 26. … Ra7, the move gave Jacobson the chance to finish the game with a memorable flourish.
Jacobson-Niemann (photo Crystal Fuller)
Jennifer Yu (photo Austin Fuller)
Jennifer Yu, who won the 2019 U.S. Women’s Championship in March, is the organizer’s wild card in the 2019 Junior. Today she lost a gripping battle against John Michael Burke. Yu gave up her light-squared bishop to win an exchange, and the absence of that bishop was felt as she defended against Black’s kingside pressure. Burke eventually broke through Yu’s defenses in her extreme time pressure.
Checa-Vaidya (photo Austin Fuller)
Nicolas Checa won an ending against Atulya Vaidya that may well, as Jesse Kraai proclaimed in the post-game interview, end up in the textbooks.
Joshua Sheng broke down Andrew Tang’s London System, defeating him in 58 moves, while top seed Awonder Liang defeated Craig Hilby in 59 moves.
9-year-old Rachael Li, who earned the organizer’s wild card entry to the 2019 Girls Championship, unleashed the “opening novelty” of the day with her 1.a3. Soon the position resembled more traditional theory, but after Agata Bykovtsev allowed Li to win the a8 rook, she quickly overpowered her opponent and mated Li on move 40.
Rachael Li after 1.a3 (photo Austin Fuller)
Rochelle Wu (photo Crystal Fuller)
Emily Nguyen (photo Austin Fuller)
Rochelle Wu put a new twist on a known gambit in her game against Emily Nguyen, choosing to sac the d-pawn instead of the b-pawn on her sixth move. Objectively the idea, culminating in (you guessed it) the grabbing of the a8 rook, should not have worked. But Nguyen gave Wu a route back into the game on move 15, and after that Wu did not falter.
Yip-Zilajeva (photo Austin Fuller)
Carissa Yip won a nice positional game against Veronika Zilajeva. Zilajeva got a very bad version of a typical French structure, and Yip’s pressure across the board earned her the full point.
The two remaining games of the round – Yan-Cervantes and Samadashvili-Feng – were both hard-fought draws.
Combining the inaugural Senior Championship with the Junior and Girls is, in my opinion, an inspired decision, and not just because it gives the Seniors another (and well-deserved) day in the sun.
What makes the pairing of the U18 and 50+ fields so powerful is that it gives some of our elite youth the chance to meet and watch some of the legends of American chess in action. Awonder Liang noted that while he has crossed paths with some of the Seniors who are still active on the circuit, there are others who he has not gotten the chance to see play. And let there be no doubt, particularly after watching today’s Round 1 action, that the Seniors still have lessons to teach today’s young stars.
Christiansen and Ehlvest shake hands (photo Crystal Fuller)
The first result of the day was a 14-move miniature win for Larry Christiansen over Jaan Ehlvest. Well-known for his attacking prowess, and the author of two outstanding books on attacking play, Christiansen overwhelmed Ehlvest after a very early error in the opening.
Goldin-Benjamin, with Dlugy watching (photo Austin Fuller)
Alexander Goldin had the other decisive result in today’s round, defeating Joel Benjamin in fine style.
Fishbein-Dlugy (photo Crystal Fuller)
It looked as if Alex Fishbein would join Christiansen and Goldin in the winner’s circle, as he was a clean exchange up (that a8 rook again!) against Max Dlugy, but Dlugy successfully muddied the waters and the game was eventually drawn.
In the two other games, Alex Shabalov – my pre-tournament favorite, for the chess gamblers out there – could not convert his advantage against Gregory Kaidanov, while Alex Yermolinsky and Igor Novikov also drew.
The 2019 Junior, Girls, and Senior Championships will be contested daily from July 10th-20th at the Saint Louis Chess Club, with a rest day on July 1th. Rounds start at 1pm CDT, except for July 20th, when play begins at 11am.
Winners of the US Junior Championship and US Junior Girls Championship will be awarded a $10,000 scholarship to be used at the institution of his or her choice. The scholarship is generously jointly funded by the Dewain Barber Foundation and US Chess.