Annotated Highlights from the K-12 Showdown

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Success Academy Harlem East chess team
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The Success Academy Harlem East chess team / courtesy Alejandro Montalvo

The US Chess K-12 Showdown was held on December 12-13. This article covers the event sections in grades 6 through 12, all played online on Chess.com. Unfortunately, the K-5 event sections were unable to be played.)  

As the first national event of the season, the US Chess K-12 Showdown was very popular, with many players and teams anxious to flex their chess muscles against nationwide competition within their grade.  

With entries from every state, it was clear that scholastic chess programs were emerging from their respective bubbles to finally test their progress in this forum. With USCF ratings having been frozen for months, it was impossible to know in advance which players had most improved in the interim. And with online chess booming, the Showdown was widely anticipated. The grade-by-grade format affords chances for many players to achieve top prizes, thus encouraging participation by ambitious players who have not yet achieved top rankings in their respective grades.  

 

12th Grade 

With 32 players, the 12th grade section was the smallest in the event, as the Showdown took place during a critical stage of the college application season, with seniors looking to max out their grades for this semester. In what proved to be a very tough section, twins Roshan and Taran Idnani from Newark Academy in New Jersey, took some of the top spots and led their team to victory. But they also had to deal with the top-ranked player in the section, FIDE Master Justin Chen.  

Chen defeated Taran in round three, but Roshan avenged his brother in round four. Chen was able to recover in this fifth-round game against Aidan Pevida. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 12"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Chen, Justin"] [Black "Pevida, Aidan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C90"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,55,26,27,26,20,8,25,28,1,-1,8,21,10,15,23,23,15,13,13,25,22,50,48,71, 73,134,104,103,114,125,135,114,130,130,124,127,89,92,85,81,55,125,119,179,159, 165,160,216,220,241,225,250,250,294,252,465,534]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O d6 {As natural as this move is, it is not that common a variation here. 5 ... Be7, or 5 ... b5 6 Bb3 Be7, are the Closed Ruy Lopez, and 5 ... Nxe4 is the Open Lopez. This move is a kind of Steinitz Defense Doubly Deferred (3 ... d6 would have been the Steinitz; it was deferred by 3 .. . a6 and 4 ... Nf6).} 6. Re1 (6. d4 b5 7. dxe5 {is one way to try to challenge Black's move order.}) 6... b5 (6... Bd7 {is a solid alternative.}) 7. Bb3 Be7 { Transposing back to the Closed Ruy Lopez.} 8. d3 (8. c3 {is the most standard, not allowing the trade of White's light-squared bishop.}) 8... Na5 9. Nc3 Nxb3 (9... O-O {was good for easy equality. White's bishop can't run away, so there was no need to take it yet and give White an incidental threat against b5.}) 10. axb3 Qd7 (10... Bb7 {Also 10 ... Bd7 or 10 ... b4 were playable.} 11. d4 Nd7 12. Nd5 O-O {was one interesting possibility.}) 11. d4 {The danger now is that White will use the d4 square to get a knight to f5.} b4 12. Nd5 exd4 ( 12... Nxd5 13. exd5 f6 {is double-edged; Black's idea is to shore up the e5 point and hope that his bishops will provide chances later.}) 13. Nxd4 { The knight's potential to show up on f5 spells trouble.} O-O 14. Nc6 {Now Black is losing material.} Nxd5 15. Qxd5 Bf6 16. Ne7+ Qxe7 17. Qxa8 c5 18. Qd5 Bb7 19. Qd3 Re8 20. Bf4 d5 (20... Bxb2 21. Bxd6 Qf6 22. Rad1 Bd4 {would have created more chances.}) 21. e5 Bg5 22. Qf5 Bxf4 23. Qxf4 f6 24. e6 Bc8 25. h3 Qd8 26. Qb8 Qe7 27. Qb6 Rd8 28. Ra5 1-0 [/pgn]

Brandon Wu began the event with four straight wins but missed a shot against Roshan on move 23 in this fifth-round game. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 12"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Wu, Brandon"] [Black "Idnani, Roshan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E60"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "126"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,126,30,27,32,-14,51,3,-12,-20,-24,-14,-13,-11,17,-4,10,8,41,47,52,13, 17,-18,5,20,7,5,38,29,28,15,26,6,11,-5,-7,-54,1,-15,16,8,28,-9,12,40,-15,-57, -95,-67,-62,-120,-31,-31,-30,-12,2,16,16,9,43,-160,-133,-103,-72,-67,-34,-60, -63,-67,-76,-79,-66,-66,-42,-71,0,-50,-12,-82,-72,-160,-82,-105,-56,-163,-190, -190,-190,-176,-112,-119,-169,-119,-108,-102,-104,-101,-97,-195,-196,-217,-198, -268,-285,-288,-124,-253,-183,-269,-288,-246,-285,-297,-308,-687,-732,-925, -980,-1397,-1421,-29983,-29984,-29985,-29988,-29989,-29972,-29973,-29976]} 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. b4 {An interesting move, but Black can ignore the queenside demonstration, and play for ... e5 as per usual.} Bg7 4. Bb2 O-O 5. e3 d6 6. d4 Nbd7 7. Be2 c6 (7... a5 8. a3 e5 9. dxe5 Ng4 {is fine for Black.}) 8. O-O Qc7 9. Nc3 e5 10. d5 {This type of queenside contact is not bad for White.} a5 11. dxc6 (11. a3 {is possible, but allows equality via the exchange of rooks.}) 11... bxc6 12. b5 Rd8 13. Ba3 (13. Nd2 {envisioning Be2-f3 is pleasant for White here.}) 13... c5 14. e4 Nb6 15. Nd2 Be6 16. g3 h5 17. Nd5 ( 17. Qc2 Bh6 {is similarly unclear.}) 17... Nfxd5 18. cxd5 Bd7 19. Qc2 Bh6 20. f4 {It was still too soon. The patient 20 Bc1 a4 was about equal.} exf4 21. gxf4 Bh3 22. Rf2 Qe7 23. Bb2 (23. Bf1 Bd7 24. Bg2 {would have been a double-edged way of stopping Black's threat.}) 23... Bxf4 24. Kh1 Be5 25. Rg1 Rab8 (25... Nd7 {would be a more active move to secure the advantage.}) 26. Bxe5 Qxe5 27. Nf3 Qf4 28. Bf1 Bxf1 29. Rfxf1 {White has played well to drum up some counterplay.} Rb7 30. e5 {A scary move, implicating destruction sacrifices against Black's kingside.} Qc4 (30... dxe5 31. Ng5 Qc4 32. Qg2 Qxd5 33. Ne4 Kg7 {is harrowing, but Black seems to be holding.}) 31. Qxc4 Nxc4 32. e6 fxe6 (32... Ne3 {is the best way to handle this, focusing on the White d-pawn, and willing to give the g-pawn back after} 33. exf7+ Rxf7) 33. Rxg6+ Rg7 34. Rxg7+ Kxg7 35. Ng5 {A nice resource, and the endgame is a mess.} Kg6 36. Nxe6 Rb8 37. a4 Nb2 38. Rf8 Rb7 39. Rf4 (39. Nd8 Rb6 {and Black will try to wipe out the a- and b-pawns;}) (39. Nf4+ Kh7 40. Rf6 {was interesting.}) 39... c4 40. Nd8 Rd7 41. Nc6 c3 {Black is quicker now.} 42. Rf2 Nxa4 43. Nxa5 Nb6 44. Rc2 Nxd5 45. Nc4 Re7 46. b6 Re1+ 47. Kg2 Rb1 48. Kf3 Rb4 49. Nxd6 Rxb6 50. Nc4 Rb3 51. Ke4 Nb4 52. Rg2+ Kf7 53. Ne5+ Ke8 54. Nd3 c2 55. Nc1 Rb1 56. Rg1 Na2 57. Rg8+ Kf7 58. Ra8 Rxc1 59. Kd3 Nb4+ 60. Kc3 Rb1 61. Ra7+ Kf6 62. Ra6+ Nxa6 63. Kxc2 Rh1 0-1 [/pgn]
 

Wu was paired with Chen in round six, where Wu’s artful but excessive knight maneuvers resulted in Chen winning a crucial center pawn. In the end, Roshan Idnani won with 6.5/7, Chen finished second with 6/7, and Taran Idnani was clear third with 5.5/7. Wu and Justin Watts tied for fourth with 5/7.  

In the team competition, the Idnani brothers led Newark Academy to top honors, Stuyvesant HS (NYC) took second, Belen Jesuit (Miami, FL) was third, Sparta HS (Sparta, NJ) was fourth place. 

 

11th Grade 

The 11th grade section featured 55 players and saw a blistering pace set by both leaders, Pradhyumna Kothapalli and Benjamin Chen, who remained perfect through four rounds. They met in round 5, and both players took extreme risks going for the win. Kothapalli emerged with the victory, but then both players continued their winning ways. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 11"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Kothapalli, Pradhyumna"] [Black "Chen, Benjamin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B70"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,89,19,38,72,47,80,51,48,36,51,34,24,34,42,54,37,25,25,12,14,14,10,13, 8,19,70,14,12,-84,7,10,-48,-29,-32,-2,3,-15,-16,-16,-19,-12,-15,-16,-16,-16, -11,-9,-1,-1,-5,4,23,23,23,21,51,23,39,112,57,46,46,48,37,58,54,55,59,72,74,61, 70,74,82,92,167,194,194,138,202,202,198,217,217,191,283,283,289,289,751,814]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. d4 (5. c4 {is popular here, to get a Maroczy formation in the center.} Qg4 6. O-O Qxe4 7. d4 {is not to be recommended for Black.}) 5... cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nf6 7. Nc3 g6 {A more ambitious setup than 7 ... e6.} 8. O-O Bg7 9. h3 O-O 10. Be3 Nc6 11. Qd2 Rac8 12. Rae1 ( 12. Rad1 {is a better place for the rook. The d4 square needs support.}) 12... Qd8 (12... a6 {planning ... b7-b5 and giving the queen a home on b7 seems like a good plan here.}) 13. f4 Qa5 14. g4 (14. Nb3 {keeping pieces on the board, and angling for a later Nc3-d5 to gain space, would be a good reaction to Black's queen maneuver.}) 14... Nd7 15. Rf2 Nb6 {Inviting the following complications.} (15... Nxd4 16. Bxd4 e5 {is the sharpest continuation, earning a square on e5 for Black's knight.}) 16. Nxc6 (16. Nb3 Qa6 {is now good for Black because of the knight getting to c4.}) 16... bxc6 17. Nd5 {Otherwise Black is just better.} Qxd2 18. Nxe7+ Kh8 19. Bxd2 Rc7 20. f5 f6 21. Nxg6+ (21. Bf4 Rd8 {gives Black a better version of the same structure.}) 21... hxg6 22. fxg6 Nc4 23. Bc3 Ne5 24. Rd1 Rd7 25. g5 Nxg6 (25... Kg8 26. Bxe5 fxe5 27. h4 { is also unclear.}) 26. gxf6 Bh6 27. e5 Be3 28. e6 {The two monster pawns are worth a rook!} Rdd8 29. Kf1 Bxf2 30. Kxf2 Kh7 31. Kg3 d5 (31... Rfe8 32. Ba5 { would be a nasty surprise, picking up the d-pawn.}) 32. e7 Nxe7 33. fxe7 Rg8+ 34. Kf4 Rde8 35. Bb4 {WIth two pawns for the Exchange, and one of them still a monster, White has the much better chances in a still-wild endgame.} a5 36. Ba3 Rg2 37. Ke5 Rxc2 38. Kd6 Re2 39. Kd7 Rg8 40. Kxc6 Kg7 41. Rxd5 Kf7 42. Rxa5 Rg6+ 43. Kd7 Rd2+ 44. Kc7 Rh6 45. Rf5+ 1-0 [/pgn]
 

In round six, Nathan Ouyang threw everything at Nikhita Chintareddy, but Chintareddy held on for the win.  

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 11"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "6"] [White "Ouyang, Nathan"] [Black "Chintareddy, NIkhita"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C47"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "48"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,48,28,23,10,27,38,4,0,0,-7,-4,13,13,0,19,18,-30,-51,-63,-39,-99,-99, -278,9,-89,-68,-73,-89,-85,-88,-332,-349,-354,-349,-387,-195,-242,-242,-347, -352,-429,-288,-372,-330,-977,-977,-990,-995,-2933,-1712]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d5 8. e5 {Tempting but not correct. Black's center is too solid, and pieces too active, in this line.} (8. exd5 {This quiet move is the main line here.}) 8... Ng4 (8... Qe7 {seems less efficient because typically a queen pinning on the e-file can be met by castling, and the object on the e-file cannot be captured anyway due to a counter-pin.} 9. O-O Ng4 10. h3 Nxe5 11. Re1 O-O 12. Bd2 {is obscure.}) 9. Qe2 O-O 10. O-O (10. h3 {would be no good here because Black could simply snap on e5 (utilizing the counter-pin theme).}) 10... Re8 11. f4 f6 {Insisting on breaking down the e5 square.} 12. h3 Bc5+ 13. Kh1 fxe5 14. fxe5 Nxe5 15. Bxh7+ {Imaginative, destroying h7 before White's bishop gets traded and he will be down a pawn for nothing. But the sac is insufficient.} Kxh7 16. Qh5+ Kg8 17. Bf4 Nc4 (17... Nf7 {is also possible as the knight can get covered on that square on the next move;}) (17... g6 {is best, as White's queen gets pushed away - if 18 Qh6 Bf8.}) 18. Bxc7 Qd7 19. Rf4 Re6 {Enabling the move ... Re6-h6, for both defensive, and attacking purposes!} 20. Raf1 Bb7 21. Rf7 (21. Ne4 { would be the best way to introduce complications into the position.}) 21... Re7 {Now there is no attack.} 22. Rf8+ Rxf8 23. Rxf8+ Kxf8 24. Qg5 Qxc7 0-1 [/pgn]
 

Kothapalli won the section with 6.5/7, Chen finished 2nd with 6/7, and Chintareddy scored 5.5/7 for third. 

Balanced teams did well in the team competition. Stuyvesant HS (NYC) and Gulliver Prep (Miami) tied for first; Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School (NYC) took third. Cranbrook HS (Bloomfield, NJ) placed fourth, and Chantilly HS (Virginia) placed fifth. 

 

10th Grade 

The 10th grade section had 78 players competing. Top-ranked FM Vincent Tsay took a half-point lead with a perfect score after five rounds, with this fine win against Leonardo Liu.  

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 10"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Tsay, Vincent"] [Black "Liu, Leonardo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B07"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,83,25,21,21,34,49,44,66,43,81,-7,41,14,36,-7,3,-20,22,-20,-1,21,33,15, 42,43,53,40,64,-3,70,74,85,94,80,67,71,86,84,66,74,84,85,79,98,77,99,59,48,36, 21,21,30,25,37,32,25,33,46,41,38,37,33,33,45,44,44,35,103,121,285,530,903,988, 1129,1112,1292,1358,1421,1835,2203,2411,29985,29986,29999,-30000]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nc3 {The Veresov structure has increased in popularity lately as ... d5 is no longer considered a cure-all due to White's control of e5.} Bg7 4. e4 O-O (4... d6 5. Qd2 c6 {is a flexible alternative designed to propel Black's b-pawn forward quickly if White castles queenside.}) 5. Qd2 d6 6. O-O-O a6 ( 6... c6 {more usefully gives the Black queen an outlet.}) 7. Bh6 b5 8. f3 Nc6 9. h4 e5 10. d5 Nd4 11. Nce2 {Black's position is strategically difficult because of the potential ferocity of the brewing attack on the kingside.} Nxe2+ 12. Nxe2 a5 13. Bxg7 Kxg7 14. g4 b4 15. Ng3 Rb8 16. h5 Qe7 17. Bc4 Nd7 18. Rh3 Nb6 19. Bd3 g5 20. h6+ Kh8 21. Bb5 f6 22. Rh2 Bd7 23. Nf5 Bxf5 24. exf5 { A surprising switch. White plays for a space advantage, and to poke at Black's queenside pawns.} Nd7 25. Bxd7 Qxd7 26. Kb1 a4 27. c3 {With tripling on the c-file in mind.} b3 28. a3 Rb5 29. Re2 Rc5 30. Re4 Ra8 31. Rb4 Rb5 (31... Kg8 { was indicated. The Black king might travel to d8, and Black should be holding.} ) 32. Qd3 Rxb4 {Not a good plan. The rook could have just gone back to c5.} 33. cxb4 Rc8 34. Rc1 {Now White can double on the c-file, and then march the b-pawn forward.} c5 35. dxc6 Rxc6 36. Rxc6 Qxc6 37. Qc3 Qb7 38. b5 Kg8 39. Qc6 Qb8 40. b6 d5 41. Qc7 Qa8 42. Qg7# 1-0 [/pgn]
 

Tsay was upset by Raghav Venkat in round six, allowing Eugene Yoo to leapfrog Tsay in the standings. In the final round, however, a draw between Venkat and Yoo, and Tsay picking up a full point, brought them all back together for a three-way tie for first place. Tying for fourth place were Liu, Danila Poliannikov, and Alex Zhang. 

In the team competition, Stuyvesant HS (NYC) grabbed another first-place finish, led by Yoo with 6/7 and Kyle Chan with 5/7. Hunter captured second place with a balanced team, and Liu led Columbia Grammar to third. Rounding out the top finishers were Gulliver Prep in fourth, and Dalton in fifth.  

A notable game was Jessica Hyatt’s last-round win against Michael Shapiro, which featured the attacking play she learned at Success Academy’s Bedford-Stuyvesant Middle School. Hyatt was the winner of the Daniel Feinberg Success in Chess Award. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 10"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "7"] [White "Shapiro, Michael"] [Black "Hyatt, Jessica"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,50,26,-23,-5,-5,-5,-29,-13,-28,51,47,68,67,77,58,53,53,44,2,-2,-31, -28,-28,-11,-30,-27,-19,-9,-18,-20,-73,3,-7,44,25,43,-165,-184,-118,-120,-163, 10,10,101,-163,-151,-141,-141,-314,-442,-710,-969]} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. cxd5 exd5 4. g3 f5 5. Bg2 Nf6 6. O-O Bd6 7. d4 (7. Nc3 c6 8. d3 {is another approach, not giving Black the e4 square.}) 7... c6 8. Nc3 O-O 9. e3 (9. Bf4 { was probably best, accepting doubled f-pawns, as White can later protect with e2-e3, and also get an iron grip on e5.}) 9... Nbd7 10. a3 Ne4 {Now Black has good prospects for the initiative.} 11. Qc2 (11. Ne2 {The issue for White in Dutch Stonewall positions is to get rid of the Black knignt on e4. But not through piece contact, due to the pillars on d5 and f5. White has to organize for f2-f3.} g5 {stopping Ne2-f4-d3} 12. Ne1 {and White's f-pawn gets into the battle.}) 11... Qf6 12. b4 a6 13. Bb2 {This looks like good development, but unless White can get his knight to e5 (which he can't), this doesn't help the defense. See the note to White's 11th.} g5 14. h3 h5 {No hesitation on Hyatt's part to start a full-scale attack!} 15. Na4 h4 {A very effective mini-sealer-sweeper. The h4 square gets sealed, and the g-pawn sweeps in.} 16. gxh4 g4 17. hxg4 fxg4 18. Ng5 Nxg5 19. hxg5 Qxg5 {The threats now are to play . .. Qg5-h5, or to simply mobilize with ... Nd7-f6 and ... Bc8-f5.} 20. e4 Bf4 ( 20... dxe4 {was best, still looking to get in ... Qf4 or ... Qh5} 21. Bxe4 (21. Qxe4 Nf6) (21. Qb3+ Rf7) 21... Nf6) 21. Bc1 Nf6 22. e5 (22. Bxf4 Qxf4 23. exd5 {was playable;} Bf5 24. Qc1) 22... Nh5 {Now with the knight watching over f4, the attack is too strong.} 23. Nb6 Bf5 24. Bxf4 Nxf4 25. Qd2 Nh3+ 0-1 [/pgn]
 

 

9th Grade 

The ninth-grade section had 116 players. Jason Lu started off on fire and never let up, case-in-point was his fourth-round game against Advaith Rajanish. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 9"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.12"] [Round "4"] [White "Rajanish, Adhvaith"] [Black "Lu, Jason"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B87"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,102,25,19,46,42,70,70,66,36,45,21,51,32,74,32,63,38,45,19,70,62,92,54, 56,45,45,51,43,22,34,16,15,9,0,-8,-43,-37,-14,-48,-51,-34,-26,-34,-33,-34,-27, -31,-13,-63,-65,-50,-57,-14,-23,-53,-55,-139,-153,-182,-152,-217,-211,-213, -212,-208,-208,-219,-213,-222,-221,-234,-234,-264,-246,-285,-237,-220,-238, -243,-241,-241,-242,-242,-264,-273,-296,-310,-284,-283,-298,-300,-306,-336, -341,-356,-364,-516,-510,-537,-538,-853,-880,-1249,-1864]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4 {The famous 6 Bc4 vs. the Najdorf, which Fischer favored in his early career.} e6 7. Bb3 b5 (7... Be7 {first is more conservative.}) 8. O-O (8. Qf3 Bb7 9. Bg5 {looks to nullify threats against White's e-pawn while also preparing to aggressively castle long; then Black should play either 9 ... Nbd7 or 9 ... Nc6, but definitely not 9 ... Be7 10 Bxe6.}) 8... Be7 9. Qf3 Qb6 {In these types of positions, 9 ... Bb7 would always be met with 10 Bxe6, garnering three pawns for the sacrificed piece. Therefore, Black moves to cover the long diagonal with his queen.} 10. Be3 (10. e5 Bb7 {does not work for White.}) 10... Qb7 11. Qg3 (11. a3 {may be best here, to preserve the good position of the knight on c3.}) 11... b4 12. Na4 Nbd7 13. f3 {The sacrifice 13 Bxe6 was not quite good enough.} O-O 14. c3 (14. Rac1 { prepares to open the c-file and take back with the rook in an attempt to make an issue out of the c6 square.}) 14... bxc3 15. bxc3 Ne5 16. Rab1 Qc7 {This has evolved into a very compact Sicilian position for Black.} 17. c4 Bd7 18. Nb2 Rfc8 19. h3 Rab8 20. Rfd1 Rb7 21. Kh1 Nh5 22. Qf2 Qd8 {Working consistently to occupy dark squares on the kingside, both for potential attacking purposes, and for strategic reasons.} 23. Qe1 h6 24. f4 Bh4 25. Bf2 Bxf2 26. Qxf2 Qf6 {Unwilling to retreat his knights, Black keeps pressing the issue of kingside dark squares.} 27. Rf1 Nc6 28. Nxc6 (28. Ne2 Qe7 {would leave Black with only a slight advantage.}) 28... Bxc6 29. Rbe1 Qg6 {Suddenly a double attack against e4 and g3.} 30. f5 Ng3+ 31. Kg1 exf5 32. exf5 Qg5 33. Qf4 Nxf1 34. Qxg5 hxg5 35. Rxf1 Re8 36. Rf2 Rbe7 {White has no compensation for the Exchange.} 37. Nd3 Re3 38. Nb4 Re1+ 39. Kh2 Bb7 40. Nd5 R8e2 41. Rxe2 Rxe2 42. Kg1 a5 43. g4 a4 44. Bxa4 Rxa2 45. Bb5 Kf8 46. Nc3 Ra3 47. Nd5 Rxh3 48. Kg2 Rb3 49. Bd7 Rb4 50. Bb5 Bxd5+ 51. cxd5 Rxb5 0-1 [/pgn]

After compiling a score of 6-0, Lu drew his final game against Nate Shuman. This allowed Abhinav Penagalapati to catch him and share a tie for first place, after winning his final game against Hersh Singh.  

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 9"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "7"] [White "Penagalapati, Abhinav"] [Black "Singh, Hersh"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,77,19,31,43,16,59,51,60,20,20,-22,-16,-8,1,-26,23,31,13,1,22,-3,6,-11, 44,32,73,45,63,37,148,117,115,123,151,89,90,123,170,163,181,79,86,105,105,27, 35,35,138,45,137,32,198,198,153,148,118,118,88,155,276,240,285,270,423,575,575, 233,445,364,648,858,29989,29990,29991,29992,29997,29998,29999,-30000]} 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 c5 3. e3 Nc6 4. c3 Bf5 {It is probably better to play 4 ... Nf6 or 4 ... e6. A too-early development of the light-squared bishop can lead to tactical difficulties on the queenside.} 5. Qb3 {Played immediately so that Black does not have 5 ... Qb6 6 dxc5.} (5. Nf3 e6 6. Bb5 {is also good, as White looks to get in Nf3-e5.}) 5... Qd7 6. Bb5 a6 7. Bxc6 bxc6 (7... Qxc6 8. Nf3 {is also uncomfortable for Black.}) 8. Nf3 f6 9. Nbd2 e6 10. O-O Ne7 11. Rfe1 {A nice plan. Opening the e-file will keep the pressure on.} Ng6 12. Bg3 cxd4 13. Nxd4 Bg4 (13... Be7 14. Nxf5 exf5 15. c4 {is also not fun for Black.}) 14. e4 (14. h3 Bh5 15. Qb6 {was possible, but White prefers to play for development.}) 14... Be7 15. exd5 exd5 16. h3 Bh5 17. Ne6 Kf7 18. c4 Ra7 {The motivation for this was that 18 ... Rhe8 fails to 19 Nc7.} 19. cxd5 cxd5 20. Bh2 Rb7 21. Qd3 Nh4 {It was mandatory to stop Qd3-f5.} 22. Nd4 (22. Rac1 {Bringing another piece into the attack, and specifically stopping ... Rb7xb2 due to an invasion on the 7th rank, was the strongest continuation.}) 22... Bg6 23. Qxa6 Rxb2 24. N2b3 Re8 25. Rac1 Nxg2 {Giving up two pieces for a rook, as the only way to distract from White's impending Rc1-c7.} 26. Kxg2 Be4+ 27. Rxe4 dxe4 28. Qc4+ Kg6 29. Ne6 {White's pieces are still very strongly placed.} f5 30. Nxg7 Rd8 31. Ne6 Rg8 32. Nf4+ Kg7 33. Bg3 {Stopping discovered check, White menaces Qc4-c3+.} Rxa2 34. Nd4 Ra5 35. Nde6+ Kh8 36. Qc3+ Bf6 37. Qxf6+ Rg7 38. Rc8+ Qxc8 39. Qxg7# 1-0 [/pgn]

Nate Shuman, Vincent Stone, and Jayant Maheshwari tied for third with 6/7. In the team competition, Dalton easily took first in the team competition, led by Shuman and Gus Huston. 

 

8th Grade 

The 8th grade section featured 204 players. In a critical early game from round three, Sylvia Merrill could not stop Aghilan Nachiappan’s counterattack.  

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 8"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.12"] [Round "3"] [White "Merrill, Sylvia"] [Black "Nachiappan, Aghilan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D35"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,70,18,19,26,-14,0,-4,-6,-5,24,23,42,44,35,20,43,19,15,4,24,1,-15,-17, -24,-24,-21,-24,-24,-28,-27,-27,-5,-28,-11,-39,-39,-56,-49,-44,-37,-100,-97, -97,-99,-126,-79,-103,-123,-248,-248,-198,-256,-334,-382,-879,-926,-926,-965, -29989,-29990,-29993,-29994,-29995,-29994,-29995,-2253,-29993,-29994,-29995, -29996,-29999,-30000]} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 c6 6. cxd5 {Often this trade is played before placing the bishop on f4.} (6. e3 { was a good alternative here because White is getting both bishops to active positions against the Slav.}) 6... exd5 (6... Nxd5 7. Bd2 {with e2-e4 on the way, and Black has not accomplished much.}) 7. e3 {We have transposed to a more common position in the Exchange QGD.} O-O 8. Bd3 Nh5 (8... Nbd7 {with a typical plan of ... Rf8-e8 and ... Nd7-f8 is more careful.}) 9. Bg3 (9. Be5 { is not bad, trying to get something out of the bad position of Black's knight on h5.}) 9... Bg4 10. Qc2 g6 11. Ne5 Be6 12. O-O-O {Enterprising play.} Nd7 13. Nxd7 (13. f4 {not giving up on the investment made in the knight on e5, was more consistent.}) 13... Qxd7 14. Be5 f6 15. Bg3 a5 {Now Black is better positioned to get rolling on the queenside.} 16. f3 b5 17. Bf2 (17. Kb1 { and White is better prepared for an eventual e3-e4, would be very interesting.} ) 17... f5 18. h3 a4 19. g4 Ng7 {Black has played well to restrict White from any real attacking chances.} 20. gxf5 (20. Bg3 {Aiming for e5 was the toughest. }) 20... Bxf5 21. Bxf5 Nxf5 22. Rdg1 Qa7 23. h4 b4 24. Ne2 b3 {Forcing a breach, Black is first to get there.} 25. axb3 axb3 26. Qxb3 Rfb8 27. Qc2 Rxb2 {Decisive.} 28. Qxb2 Ba3 29. Qxa3 Qxa3+ 30. Kd1 Qd3+ 31. Kc1 Qxe2 32. Kb1 Qxf2 33. h5 Nxe3 34. Rxg6+ hxg6 35. hxg6 Qc2# 0-1 [/pgn]

In a fitting example of the fighting spirit in this section, the fifth round featured a game between two players who would eventually tie for second place. Here, Avi Kaplan overextended in a Benoni against Daguy Vaval. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 8"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Kaplan, Avi"] [Black "Vaval, Daguy"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A67"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,80,21,28,26,-23,36,44,54,75,78,70,66,77,106,61,54,74,116,74,114,116, 134,90,182,138,169,93,70,76,76,-52,-92,-54,-79,-107,-136,-308,-300,-300,-322, -333,-327,-338,-366,-373,-343,-396,-378,-388,-404,-416,-423,-428,-341,-388, -388,-591,-604,-586,-618,-612,-605,-742,-741,-759,-733,-741,-735,-796,-728, -29989,-29990,-29991,-29992,-29993,-29994,-29995,-29996,-29997,-29998,-29999, -30000]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 {Playing the Modern Benoni straight-off like this (i.e., not having played a move order in which White has already played Nf3) allows White to play the hyper-aggressive line used in this game.} 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. f4 Bg7 8. Bb5+ Bd7 (8... Nfd7 {is the theoretical move here, preventing e4-e5.}) 9. e5 dxe5 10. fxe5 Qe7 11. Qe2 { This move has the virtue not only of immediately attacking the knight, but also disallowing 11 ... Ng4 as then 12 Qxg4.} (11. Nf3 O-O (11... Ng4 12. d6 Qe6 13. Nd5 {is too strong}) 12. O-O Ng4 13. Bg5 f6 14. Bc4 {looks very good for White.}) 11... Nh5 12. Nf3 O-O 13. Bg5 f6 14. Bc4 Qe8 {This move and 14 ... Kh8 seem to be about equivalent, except that now, if 15 d6+ Be6, whereas on 14 ... Kh8 15 d6 Qe8 16 Nd5 is possible.} 15. e6 fxg5 16. d6 Kh8 {Black is already doing well with the prospect of ... Nh5-f4, and a strong dark-squared bishop. White's thunder in the center is good enough only to win the piece back.} 17. Nxg5 (17. exd7 Nxd7 {and Black's active minor pieces give him the initiative.}) 17... Nf4 18. Qg4 Rf5 19. O-O-O (19. O-O Nxe6 {and the rook opposition doesn't do much for White.}) 19... Nxe6 20. Nxe6 Bxe6 21. Rhe1 Be5 22. Qe4 Nd7 {This secure defense of the bishop on e5 seals Black's advantage.} 23. Bb5 a6 24. Bxd7 Qxd7 25. g4 Bf4+ 26. Kb1 Rf6 27. Rf1 Raf8 {The consolidation is complete.} 28. Rde1 Bxg4 29. Ka1 Bxd6 30. Rxf6 Rxf6 31. a4 Re6 32. Qb1 Rxe1 33. Qxe1 Bxh2 34. Qf2 Qd6 35. Ne4 Qd1+ 36. Ka2 Be6+ 37. b3 Qxb3+ 38. Ka1 Be5+ 39. Nc3 Bxc3+ 40. Qb2 Qxb2# 0-1 [/pgn]

After five rounds, Nachiappan, Vaval and Maxwell Wang each stood at a perfect 5/5. Nachiappan drew Wang in round six, while Vaval drew with Rithul Dhanekula, who stayed a half point behind. But in the final round, Vaval and Wang settled for a draw while Nachiappan defeated Advaith Kollipara. Nachiappan won the section with 6.5/7, and there was a six-way tie for second place at 6/7: Vaval, Wang, Kaplan, Elbert Zeng, Kyle Lancman, and David Sartorio. 

In the team standings, Success Academy Myrtle MS, led by Vaval, squeezed into first place with strong performances in the last round by teammates Nicole Leonardo, Gabryela Caban, and Alexander Little. SA Myrtle edged out Hunter (NYC) and Rio Norte JHS (Vale, CA) in a tie for second. Nicollet Middle School (Burnsville, MN) finished fourth, and Discovery Middle School (Madison, AL) took fifth.  

 

7th Grade 

The 7th grade section had 263 players, guaranteeing that high scores would be needed to place. Four players led the standings with perfect 5-0 scores, and they were all paired together for an exciting sixth round. There, Damian Krotov beat Roger Zhang in this game, and William Safranek defeated Rohan Padhye. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 7"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "6"] [White "Zhang, Roger"] [Black "Krotov, Damian"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B19"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,88,38,17,76,77,57,46,47,36,70,55,60,64,41,23,16,14,31,27,33,33,37,8, 20,7,14,22,18,18,9,5,11,5,29,16,34,11,33,29,37,18,13,15,14,0,21,20,77,61,56,57, 46,59,47,57,35,22,37,38,6,19,23,-127,-165,-310,-310,-389,-372,-369,-369,-442, -455,-475,-455,-822,-326,-355,-363,-372,-394,-466,-488,-531,-550,-597,-626, -754,-506,-808,-867]} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. O-O-O Qc7 13. Ne4 Nxe4 (13... O-O-O {is the more modern variation.} 14. g3 Nc5 {is then one possibility.}) 14. Qxe4 Nf6 15. Qe2 Be7 16. Kb1 O-O-O 17. c4 {A model setup for White in the Caro.} Rhe8 18. Bc3 Nd7 {With White's d-pawn covered, Black had to stop Nf3-e5.} 19. g4 (19. g3 {is also to be considered, more circumspectly building for Ne5 and f4.}) 19... Bf6 20. Rhe1 (20. Ne5 {should most likely be launched at this point.}) 20... c5 21. b3 {Defends c4 but otherwise slightly weakening for White's position. It was difficult to decide on a course of action.} Qf4 22. Rg1 cxd4 23. Bxd4 Bxd4 24. Rxd4 Qc7 25. Rgd1 Nc5 26. Qe3 Rxd4 27. Rxd4 Rd8 28. Rxd8+ Kxd8 29. Qd4+ (29. Ne5 f6 30. Nd3 { with equality was probably best.}) 29... Ke7 30. Qxg7 {Falling into a very clever trap.} Qf4 31. Qd4 (31. Ne5 Qe4+ {and White likewise will lose to a knight fork.}) 31... Ne4 {White cannot save his knight.} 32. Qe3 Qxf3 33. Qxa7 Nxf2 34. Qc5+ Kf6 35. Qd4+ Kg5 36. Qg7+ Kh4 37. Qxh6 Nxg4 38. Qf8 Kxh5 39. Qh8+ Kg5 40. Qg7+ Kh4 41. Qh7+ Kg3 42. Qg8 e5 43. Qb8 Kg2 44. a4 Qxb3+ 0-1 [/pgn]
 

Also in the sixth round, Siddharth Arutla, who trailed the leaders by a half-point, used the dragon to get past Caden Qiao.  

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 7"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "6"] [White "Qiao, Caden"] [Black "Arutla, Siddharth"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B78"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,62,31,38,53,59,90,53,48,40,42,30,66,49,45,45,45,26,25,14,47,7,36,10, 16,-3,33,-4,-7,-14,41,35,35,34,34,34,34,26,18,-22,-22,-16,-84,-85,0,-67,64,36, 104,0,0,-228,-278,-29987,-29988,-29989,-29990,-29991,-29992,-29993,-29994, -29995,-29996,-29999,-30000]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Bc4 Nc6 9. Qd2 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rc8 11. Bb3 Ne5 12. h4 h5 {The main line of the Modern Dragon - the Soltis Variation, within the Yugoslav Attack.} 13. Rdg1 (13. Bg5 {is the most usual move, actually switching to an attack in the center, which may involve g2-g4 (to seal off the g4 square after Black takes it) and then f3-f4 and e4-e5.}) 13... Qa5 14. Kb1 e6 {A nice idea to limit White's minor piece activity, while also guarding against tricks with Nc3-d5 attacking e7.} 15. Bh6 {The problem with this move typically is that Black's following Exchange sacrifice is always viable.} Bxh6 16. Qxh6 Rxc3 17. bxc3 Qxc3 18. Ne2 Qc5 19. Qd2 a5 20. a4 b5 {Black would love to get in ... a5-a4 to budge the b3 bishop off the b-file.} 21. Qxa5 Rb8 22. axb5 Rxb5 23. Qc3 Nc4 24. Qxf6 Na3+ 25. Ka2 Nxc2 {Due to Black's multiple threats, the b3 square is falling.} 26. Kb2 Rxb3+ {A nice concluding combination.} 27. Kxb3 Ba4+ 28. Kb2 Qa3+ 29. Kb1 e5 30. Qd8+ Kg7 31. Qb6 Qa1# 0-1 [/pgn]

The sixth-round results set up a decisive final matchup between Krotov and Safranek, which Krotov won to finish a perfect 7/7. Arutla also won his final game, defeating Marvin Gao in round seven, and thus earning clear second place with 6.5/7. There was a seven-way tie for third place: Zhang, Safranek, Padhye, Jed Sloan, Najae Powell, Lang Xiong, and Mira Gupta. 

In the team competition Hunter (NYC), led by Gupta with 6/7 and Siddharth Ganti-Agrawal with 5.5/7, finished in first place. Success Academy Hudson Yards MS took second place, led by Nathan Booncharoen with 5.5/7, and Aston Roberts with 5/7. Dalton and Success Academy Myrtle tied for third. Success Academy Harlem East placed fifth.   

 

6th Grade 

The sixth-grade section had 296 players competing, the largest section in the event. Again, very high scores would be needed to take top honors, and the play was uncompromising from the start. 

This third-round game featured Avery Yu and Nathaniel Mullodzhanov, the winner of US Chess/ChessKid’s Online Elementary Championship held in August. Yu goes for a knockout with the sunning 26. Re7, but Mullodzhanov somehow hangs on and develops his own winning attack. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 6"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "3"] [White "Yu, Avery"] [Black "Mullodzhanov, Nathaniel"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B19"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,84,26,29,65,78,67,46,36,27,37,59,57,31,34,21,16,27,20,18,15,23,11,18, 16,-23,15,20,22,8,8,12,27,16,87,95,55,69,59,50,50,15,41,43,38,30,257,235,378, 387,384,421,651,421,660,389,348,69,101,50,103,70,68,25,52,-110,164,174,287,-39, 167,-142,109,125,119,-111,-121,-29991,-29992,-29995,-29996,-29997,-29996, -29997,-29998,-29999,-30000]} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. h5 Bh7 8. Nf3 Nf6 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Nbd7 12. c3 ( 12. O-O-O {is the main line here. The White c-pawn often later travels to c4 to patrol the d5 square.}) 12... Be7 13. O-O-O Qc7 14. Ne4 O-O-O 15. g3 e5 { Acting against Bd2-f4, but this seriously weakens f5, and that overshadows any other benefits of the move.} (15... Qa5 {allows the Queen to alight on some central light squares such as d5 or f5, while also keeping an eye on the potentially weak pawn on h5. For example,} 16. Kb1 Qf5 {and Black is doing well.}) 16. Qe2 {Suddenly, White is menacing 17 dxe5 Nxe5 18 Bf4, so Black adopts a passive defense.} Nxe4 17. Qxe4 f6 18. Rhe1 Bd6 19. Qg4 Rhg8 20. Nh4 exd4 21. cxd4 c5 (21... Kb8 22. Nf5 Ka8 (22... Nb6 {is not really good enough;} 23. Nxd6 Rxd6 24. Bf4 Nd5) 23. Re6 Bc5 {is a crazy computer line where Black can offer some resistance:} ({not} 23... Bf8 24. Nxh6) 24. dxc5 Ne5 25. Qe2 Qd7 26. Rxe5 fxe5 27. Nd6 Qe6) 22. Kb1 c4 (22... Kb8 {is the best chance, as Black needs to try to eliminate the pawn on d4 so that he can use e5 for his pieces.} ) 23. Nf5 a6 (23... Rge8 {may be the best chance, jettisoning the kingside to stop Re1-e6.}) 24. Re6 Bf8 25. Bf4 (25. Nxh6 {is also strong.}) 25... Qa5 26. Re7 (26. Rc1 {was winning.} {For example,} Qd5 27. Ne3) 26... Qa4 (26... Qd5 27. Ne3 Qc6 {holds.}) 27. Nd6+ (27. Rc1 {holding the formation, and looking to blow open the c-file, again is too tough to deal with.}) 27... Kb8 28. Nf7+ ( 28. Qf3 Qxd1+ (28... Qc6 29. d5 Qa4 30. Nxc4+ {is overwhelming due to the weakness of b6.}) 29. Qxd1 Bxe7 30. Nf5+ Ka7 31. Nxe7 Rge8 32. Nf5 {and White is winning.}) 28... Ka8 29. Nxd8 Bxe7 30. Ne6 Nb6 {Now Black seems to be out of trouble.} 31. Rc1 Nd5 32. Nxg7 {This self-pin is not a good idea.} Nb4 33. a3 Nd3 34. Rc3 Qb5 35. Rc2 Bxa3 {The attack on b2 decides.} 36. Qe6 Rd8 37. Bc7 Nxb2 38. Bxd8 Nd3+ 39. Ka1 Bb2+ 40. Ka2 Qb3+ 41. Kb1 Bxd4+ 42. Rb2 Qxb2# 0-1 [/pgn]

In another game between an aspiring player and a pre-tournament favorite, the fifth rounder between Xavier Bruni and top-ranked Brewington Hardaway saw a good opening for White gone awry when Black’s knights gain too much activity. 

[pgn][Event "US Chess Showdown, Grade 6"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2020.12.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Bruni, Xavier"] [Black "Hardaway, Brewington"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B23"] [Annotator "Rohde"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "1500+5"] {[%evp 0,102,35,21,46,51,46,37,34,23,53,16,20,20,19,22,44,13,24,13,5,-2,-4,3,5, 10,17,7,50,20,23,30,30,-80,-69,-190,-183,-179,-194,-183,-165,-176,-181,-185, -193,-192,-214,-258,-219,-357,-362,-645,-675,-716,-599,-675,-699,-908,-829, -879,-904,-931,-661,-672,-738,-742,-726,-742,-734,-742,-758,-860,-873,-871, -865,-1041,-1085,-1343,-1178,-29993,-1838,-1966,-2014,-2248,-834,-831,-841, -939,-979,-985,-1004,-1032,-1047,-1069,-1111,-1116,-1185,-1321,-1153,-1243, -1294,-1981,-1940,-29999,-30000]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 a6 4. Nf3 b5 5. d3 ( 5. d4 Bb7 {is not a great idea for White as there are a lot of ways in which the center can be undermined.}) 5... Bb7 6. g3 Nf6 7. Bg2 Be7 (7... d5 8. e5 d4 {is an interesting means of keeping the diagonal open.}) 8. O-O d5 9. e5 Nfd7 10. Ne2 Nc6 (10... d4 {is a little extravagant (pushing forward but without gaining time) but can still be justified on the basis of opening the long diagonal to angle for an eventual bishop trade.}) 11. c3 {Strategically correct. Now ... d5-d4 can be answered by c3-c4 and the d5 square is permanently denied to Black's pieces.} h6 12. d4 (12. g4 {was a possibility, starting a kingside action while avoiding direct contact in the center.}) 12... Qb6 13. Be3 Na5 14. dxc5 (14. b3 b4 {(what else?)} 15. Kh1 {is good for White, who has maintained well-placed minor pieces and a solid central wedge.}) 14... Bxc5 15. Bxc5 {This leaves some squares in White's camp undefended.} (15. Ned4 Nc4 16. Bc1 {was ok.}) 15... Nxc5 16. Nfd4 Nc4 17. Rf3 (17. b4 Ne4 18. Qd3 { was not pleasant, but it avoids the loss of material.}) 17... Nxb2 18. Qc2 Nc4 {White does not have enough compensation for the pawn.} 19. f5 Nxe5 20. Rff1 Nc4 21. fxe6 Nxe6 22. Qf5 O-O 23. Rf3 a5 24. Bh3 Ng5 25. Kh1 Bc8 26. Qxd5 Nxf3 27. Nxf3 Bxh3 28. Ned4 Ne3 29. Qe4 Bg2+ 30. Kg1 Bxf3 31. Qxf3 Nc2 32. Rd1 Nxd4 33. cxd4 Rad8 34. Qf2 Rd5 35. Kg2 Rfd8 36. Rf1 Qb7 37. Kg1 Rxd4 38. Qf5 Rd2 39. Rf3 Rd1+ 40. Kg2 R8d2+ 41. Kh3 Qd7 42. Qxd7 Rxd7 43. Rf5 R7d5 44. Rf3 R1d3 45. Rf2 Rd2 46. Rf3 Rxa2 47. Rb3 b4 48. Re3 Rh5+ 49. Kg4 Rhxh2 50. Kf5 Raf2+ 51. Kg4 f5# 0-1 [/pgn]

At the end of the day, four players tied for first with 6.5/7: Hardaway, Adhiram Pothuri, Nitish Nathan, and Ronen Wilson.   

The team competition had a three-way tie heading into the final round, between Success Academy Hudson Yards, Lab Middle School (NYC), and Lincoln Middle School (Gainesville, FL). SA Hudson Yards’ depth proved vital, as Mullodzhanov dropped his final game to finish with 5.5/7, but was picked up by Kory Chen, who tied for fifth individually at 6/7 and led his team to first place. Lab Middle School took second, and Lincoln took third.  

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