Clear Leaders in U.S. Juniors, Senior Championships After 6

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IM Annie Wang at the 2021 U.S. Junior Girls Championship
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IM Annie Wang leads the 2021 U.S. Junior Girls Championship with a decisive 5.0/6 performance. // photo Bryan Adams, Saint Louis Chess Club

 

While most of Thursday afternoon was peaceful at the Saint Louis Chess Club, three important round 6 wins by front-runners in each of the 2021 U.S. Junior, Girls and Senior Championships have now produced three clear leaders for each competition. 

GMs Hans Niemann and Gregory Kaidanov both padded existing leads in the U.S. Junior and Senior Championships, seeking 2021’s best American players under 20 and over 50 respectively, while IM Annie Wang separated herself from the U.S. Junior Girls field with a win with the black pieces against WCM Sheena Zeng on Thursday. 

 

U.S. Senior Championship 

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GM Gregory Kaidanov
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GM Gregory Kaidanov is in full control of the 2021 U.S. Senior Championship with a near-prefect 5.5/6 score. // photo Bryan Adams, Saint Louis Chess Club

 

Another win for Kaidanov, who has taken the 2021 U.S. Senior Championship by storm with a near-perfect 5.5/6 performance. The US Chess Hall of Famer cushioned his lead with the only decisive game in the section Thursday, winning in another deep endgame against GM Alex Fishbein’s Sicilian.  

Kaidanov is now a full point ahead of the field, with the last realistic chances to catch the front-runner lying in the hands of GM Larry Christiansen, second place with 4.5/6, who takes the White pieces against Kaidanov on Friday. 

 

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2021 U.S. Senior Championship Standings R6
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courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club

Despite Kaidanov’s command of the 2021 Senior Championship, the field is still filled with legends and continues to produce highlight games, such as Thursday’s game between GM Melikset Khachiyan and GM Igor Novikov, which only ended peacefully, in the Round 6 Game of the Day, annotated by FM Robert Shlyakhtenko. 

 

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Khachiyan Novikov
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GMs Melikset Khachiyan and Igor Novikov in the sixth round of the 2021 U.S. Senior Championship. // credit Austin Fuller, Saint Louis Chess Club

[pgn][Event "US Senior champs"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.07.22"] [Round "?"] [White "Khachiyan, Melikset"] [Black "Novikov, Igor"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B23"] [Annotator "Shlyakhtenko,Robert"] [PlyCount "114"] [EventDate "2021.07.17"] {Despite the "peaceful" result, this game was by far the most exciting of the round.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. f4 Nc6 4. Nf3 g6 5. Bc4 Bg7 6. d3 e6 7. O-O Nge7 8. Qe1 h6 {A prophylactic move.} ({After the most common} 8... O-O 9. f5 exf5 $2 {it's well known that white gets an initiative with} 10. Qh4 {, often followed by Bg5 or Ng5. The move played in the game is designed to prevent such ideas.}) 9. h4 $5 {A logical novelty, clearly prepared for this game.} h5 10. f5 gxf5 11. Ng5 Nd4 {Black tries to gain time by forcing white to defend the c2-pawn. However, white has a spectacular resource.} 12. Nb5 $1 {This wonderful deflecting move is white's idea. Black does not have time to take on c2.} Nxb5 $6 ({Over-the-board, it is difficult to decide upon} 12... d5 $1 { , which appears to be the best reaction. The following line is more or less forced:} 13. exd5 Nxd5 14. Nxd4 ({or} 14. Bxd5 Nxb5) 14... Bxd4+ 15. Kh1 Kf8 $1 {, and black has beaten off the initial attack and reached an unclear position. }) 13. exf5 $5 {This piece sacrifice puts the most pressure on black, at least in practical terms.} Nd4 $2 ({For better or for worse, black had to play} 13... Bd4+ $1 14. Kh1 Nc7 {My best guess is that Khachiyan had prepared the following line:} 15. c3 Be5 16. fxe6 (16. d4 $5) 16... Bxe6 17. Nxf7 Qd7 $1 ( 17... Bxf7 18. Bxf7+ Kd7 19. Bg5 {is just losing for black; d3-d4 is next.}) 18. Bxe6 Nxe6 19. Nxe5 $1 ({After the materialistic} 19. Nxh8 $2 Bxh8 {black is able to complete development.}) 19... dxe5 20. Qxe5 Rh7 $5 ({Not} 20... O-O-O $2 21. Re1 Rhf8 22. Kg1 $1) 21. Qe4 $1 Rg7 22. Rf6 Nd8 23. Bg5 Ndc6 24. Re1 O-O-O 25. Re6 Rdg8 26. Bxe7 Rxg2 {and white is still better, but black has some chances.}) 14. f6 Bxf6 15. Rxf6 {Because of the Nxf7 threat, there is no time to take on c2.} Rf8 {From the opening white has very strong attacking chances, but converting this into a win is not easy.} 16. Nh7 $6 {White spent 16 minutes here, but after the planned continuation his pieces become somewhat disorganized and black's king escapes to the queenside.} ({The best execution of the Nh7 idea was} 16. Rf2 $5 d5 17. Nh7 Rh8 18. Nf6+ Kf8 19. Bb3 $40) 16... Rh8 17. Rh6 Kd7 {Now black's king runs to relative safety. White's position is still very good, but now there is more accuracy required.} 18. Bg5 Rxh7 $5 ({ After the natural} 18... Kc7 {white is also winning:} 19. Qf2 Ndf5 20. Rxh5 Ng7 21. Qxf7 $1 Nxh5 22. Bxe7 Qg8 23. Ng5 $1) 19. Rxh7 Qg8 20. Rxh5 ({White could have avoided the loss of an exchange by playing} 20. Qe4 Ndf5 (20... d5 21. Bxd5 $1 Nxd5 22. Rf1 {wins.}) 21. Rxh5 Ng3 22. Qh7 $1) 20... Nxc2 21. Qf2 $5 { An extremely creative idea, simply offering a whole rook.} ({However, a simpler win was} 21. Bb5+ Nc6 ({or} 21... Kd8 22. Qf2 $1 Nxa1 23. Qf6) 22. Bxc6+ bxc6 23. Qc3 Nxa1 24. Rh8) 21... Nxa1 22. Qf6 Ng6 23. Rh7 ({White could also have opened more lines with} 23. d4 $5 cxd4 ({or} 23... Kc6 24. dxc5 dxc5 25. Be3 $1) 24. Bb5+ Kc7 25. Rh7) 23... Kc6 {Up to here white had played an incredible game, but over the next few moves black gets some chances for a swindle.} 24. Rxf7 $2 {This is the first real error. White allows black to activate his pieces with a few tempo moves.} (24. Rg7 Qe8 25. d4 $1 {would have kept things under control.} cxd4 (25... Bd7 26. h5 {is also bad.}) 26. Qxd4 Ne5 27. h5 $1 {Despite the piece deficit, white has achieved domination: it is impossible for black to coordinate his pieces in any way, and the h-pawn simply runs.}) 24... Ne5 25. Rf8 Qg6 $2 ({Black could have gained significant counterchances with} 25... Qh7 $1 26. Bxe6 Bxe6 27. Rxa8 Bd7 $1 {, where he is about to take on d3 and the position becomes very messy.}) 26. Bxe6 $6 { Giving black some chances of a miraculous escape.} ({Black cannot keep the extra piece after} 26. Qh8 $1 {. All endgames are automatically losing for black because of the passed h-pawn.} {Black cannot defend with} Kc7 27. Bd8+ Kb8 {in view of} 28. Bb6) 26... Bxe6 27. Qxg6 Nxg6 28. Rxa8 Ne5 29. h5 Nxd3 ({ The d3-pawn is not going anywhere, so it may have been worth trying} 29... Nc2 30. h6 Bf5 {and now if} 31. Rf8 {black has the extra option of} Bxd3) 30. h6 Bf5 31. Rf8 Be4 32. Re8 Bg6 33. Re6 Bf5 34. g4 {The second rook sacrifice in the game, but here the result is more obvious: white gets a new queen.} Bxe6 35. h7 Ne5 36. h8=Q Nf3+ 37. Kf2 Nxg5 {Black can safely exchange the a1-knight for white's g4-pawn. In the resulting endgame, white's material advantage is minimal and all pawns are on the same side of the board. Thus, white's main winning chances are connected to the g4-pawn; he should have kept it at all costs.} 38. Qh1+ d5 39. Qxa1 $2 {Played instantly.} ({However, white could have won with the following maneuver:} 39. Qh6 $3 Ne4+ 40. Kf3 Kd7 41. Qc1 $1 { and white wins the a1-knight all the same, while retaining his g4-pawn.}) 39... Bxg4 40. Qh1 $2 {After this black is able to set up a fortress.} ({White could gain a critical tempo by playing the immediate} 40. Kg3 $1 Bd7 41. Kf4 Ne4 42. Ke5 {, and black is unable to accomplish the planned regrouping of the bishop to c6. White has some winning chances based on zuzgwang, though it would take a very detailed analysis to prove this.}) 40... Ne4+ 41. Ke3 Bd7 42. Kf4 Kb6 $1 {The right setup. With the bishop on c6 and the knight on e4 black covers all the entry squares.} 43. Ke5 Bc6 44. Qg1 a5 $1 {White is playing for the break b2-b4, so black makes sure that he will be able to trade another pair of pawns when it happens.} 45. b3 Kb5 46. a3 Ka6 47. Qg8 Kb5 48. Qg2 Kb6 49. Qc2 Kb5 50. Qb2 d4 51. Qe2+ Kb6 52. Qc4 Ka7 ({Black could have gained a simpler draw with} 52... Nd2 $5 {, preventing white from playing b2-b4.} 53. Qd3 Ne4 $11) 53. b4 axb4 54. axb4 b6 $2 {Surprisingly, this move could have been the losing mistake!} ({Black had to play} 54... cxb4 $1 55. Kxd4 {To hold this endgame, black needs to find a setup for his minor pieces that does not allow white's king to penetrate. The current setup (Bc6, Ne4), is clearly insufficient, because white can put the king on c7. Thinking schematically, we see that black should put the knight on d5 -- then white's king cannot approach and create threats, so the position is an easy fortress. Thus...} Nc3 $5 56. Qxb4 Nd5 {and a draw. By the way, this exact setup is the basis for many endgame studies. Black does not even need the pawn on b7.}) 55. b5 $2 {The last mistake. Black's king is ideally placed and after this move he achieves a draw. } ({White had to first force black's king to c7:} 55. Qa2+ $3 Kb8 (55... Kb7 $2 {loses immediately to} 56. b5) 56. Qe6 $1 Kc7 57. Qf7+ Kb8 58. Qg6 Kc7 ({ It's no longer enough for black to trade all the pawns:} 58... Bb7 59. Qxb6 cxb4 60. Qd8+ Ka7 61. Qxd4+ Ka8 62. Qxb4 {Black can no longer transfer the knight to d5, so white is winning.}) 59. Qg7+ $1 (59. b5 Bb7 60. Ke6 Nc3 $1 { White's queen is badly placed on g6 and black achieves a draw.}) 59... Kb8 60. Qh6 Kc7 61. b5 $1 {At the right moment!} Ba8 {To draw, black needs to put his king on a7 and transfer the knight to d5. White is just in time to stop this.} 62. Qf8 $1 Bb7 63. Ke6 $1 {and white wins, e.g.} Bc8+ (63... Nc3 64. Qd6+) 64. Ke7 Nc3 65. Qd8+ Kb7 66. Qe8 $1 {Black cannot complete the knight transfer, and white wins.}) 55... Bb7 56. Ke6 Nc3 $1 {By now, this knight maneuver is very familiar.} 57. Kd6 Nd5 {A fantastic, fighting effort by both players.} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]



U.S. Girls Championship

 

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WCM Ruiyang Yan
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WCM Ruiyang Yan, in second place with 4.5/6, will look to stop a streaking WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki on Friday. // photo Bryan Adams, Saint Louis Chess Club

 

Top-seed Wang reclaimed her spot in front of the 2021 U.S. Girls Championship, with her fifth win in a completely decisive performance in St. Louis. The only International Master in the field has done much of the heavy lifting in her schedule already, with only one game remaining against an opponent in the top half of the standings. 

[pgn][Event "U.S. Girls Junior Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, United States"] [Date "2021.07.22"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Zeng, Sheena"] [Black "Wang, Annie"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2013"] [BlackElo "2384"] [UTCDate "2021.07.22"] [UTCTime "19:30:43"] [Variant "Standard"] [ECO "E11"] [Opening "Bogo-Indian Defense: Wade-Smyslov Variation"] [Annotator "https://lichess.org/@/broadcaster"] 1. d4 { [%clk 1:30:56] } 1... Nf6 { [%clk 1:30:54] } 2. c4 { [%clk 1:31:16] } 2... e6 { [%clk 1:31:18] } 3. Nf3 { [%clk 1:31:32] } 3... Bb4+ { [%clk 1:31:31] } 4. Bd2 { [%clk 1:31:44] } 4... a5 { [%clk 1:31:49] } 5. g3 { [%clk 1:31:42] } 5... d5 { [%clk 1:31:58] } 6. Nc3?! { Inaccuracy. Bg2 was best. } { [%clk 1:30:03] } (6. Bg2 dxc4 7. Qc1 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 c6 9. a4 b5 10. axb5 cxb5) 6... O-O { [%clk 1:30:05] } 7. Bg2 { [%clk 1:25:51] } 7... b6?! { Inaccuracy. dxc4 was best. } { [%clk 1:27:36] } (7... dxc4 8. O-O Nbd7 9. a3 Bxc3 10. bxc3 h6 11. a4 Ra7 12. Bc1) 8. O-O { [%clk 1:13:48] } 8... Bb7 { [%clk 1:24:23] } 9. Ne5 { [%clk 1:09:45] } 9... Nbd7 { [%clk 1:21:00] } 10. cxd5 { [%clk 1:04:51] } 10... Nxe5 { [%clk 1:13:46] } 11. dxe5 { [%clk 1:05:01] } 11... Nxd5 { [%clk 1:14:05] } 12. Nxd5 { [%clk 1:02:19] } 12... exd5 { [%clk 1:08:43] } 13. Bxb4 { [%clk 0:57:37] } 13... axb4 { [%clk 1:09:04] } 14. Qb3 { [%clk 0:57:40] } 14... Qe7 { [%clk 1:07:52] } 15. Bxd5 { [%clk 0:48:18] } 15... Bxd5 { [%clk 1:07:55] } 16. Qxd5 { [%clk 0:48:42] } 16... Ra5 { [%clk 1:06:48] } 17. Qc4 { [%clk 0:43:03] } 17... Rxe5 { [%clk 1:04:55] } 18. Rac1 { [%clk 0:37:58] } 18... c5 { [%clk 0:59:44] } 19. e3 { [%clk 0:37:34] } 19... Re4 { [%clk 0:51:47] } 20. Qb5 { [%clk 0:33:32] } 20... Qf6 { [%clk 0:49:18] } 21. b3 { [%clk 0:22:05] } 21... h5 { [%clk 0:43:37] } 22. Rc4? { Mistake. h4 was best. } { [%clk 0:17:45] } (22. h4 Rd8) 22... Re6? { Mistake. Rxc4 was best. } { [%clk 0:42:07] } (22... Rxc4) 23. Rf4 { [%clk 0:16:08] } 23... Qb2 { [%clk 0:39:46] } 24. Qd7 { [%clk 0:13:05] } 24... Rh6 { [%clk 0:31:25] } 25. Re4?! { Inaccuracy. Qa7 was best. } { [%clk 0:12:27] } (25. Qa7) 25... Rf6 { [%clk 0:27:16] } 26. Re8?! { Inaccuracy. Qd1 was best. } { [%clk 0:10:39] } (26. Qd1 Qxa2) 26... Rxe8 { [%clk 0:27:18] } 27. Qxe8+ { [%clk 0:11:03] } 27... Kh7 { [%clk 0:27:41] } 28. Qe4+ { [%clk 0:09:35] } 28... g6 { [%clk 0:27:05] } 29. Qh4?! { Inaccuracy. Qb1 was best. } { [%clk 0:05:43] } (29. Qb1 Qe2) 29... Kg7 { [%clk 0:25:50] } 30. g4?! { Inaccuracy. Qc4 was best. } { [%clk 0:01:53] } (30. Qc4 Qxa2 31. Qd3 h4 32. gxh4 Qa8 33. f4 Qh8 34. h3 Qxh4 35. Kg2 Rf5 36. Qd6 Qh5) 30... hxg4 { [%clk 0:25:34] } 31. Rd1 { [%clk 0:01:54] } 31... g3 { [%clk 0:18:35] } 32. Qxg3 { [%clk 0:01:37] } 32... Qxa2 { [%clk 0:18:22] } 33. Rd8 { [%clk 0:01:12] } 33... Qb1+ { [%clk 0:16:36] } 34. Kg2 { [%clk 0:01:37] } 34... Qe4+ { [%clk 0:16:06] } 35. Kg1 { [%clk 0:00:48] } 35... Rf5 { [%clk 0:10:44] } 36. h4 { [%clk 0:01:05] } 36... Qb1+ { [%clk 0:08:58] } 37. Kg2 { [%clk 0:01:14] } 37... Qe4+ { [%clk 0:07:20] } 38. Kf1 { [%clk 0:01:23] } 38... Rd5 { [%clk 0:05:42] } 39. Rxd5 { [%clk 0:01:27] } 39... Qxd5 { [%clk 0:06:06] } 40. Qb8?! { Inaccuracy. Ke1 was best. } { [%clk 0:31:17] } (40. Ke1 b5) 40... Qxb3 { [%clk 0:35:05] } 41. Qe5+ { [%clk 0:30:39] } 41... Kh7 { [%clk 0:34:48] } 42. f4 { [%clk 0:28:10] } 42... Qe6 { [%clk 0:34:31] } 43. Qc7 { [%clk 0:26:22] } 43... b3 { [%clk 0:33:42] } 44. h5?! { Checkmate is now unavoidable. Qd8 was best. } { [%clk 0:26:30] } (44. Qd8 b2) 44... b2 { [%clk 0:33:53] } 45. hxg6+ { [%clk 0:26:53] } 45... Qxg6 { [%clk 0:34:09] } 0-1[/pgn]

 

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2021 U.S. Junior Girls Standings R6
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courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club

Wang might coast over a Girls Championship field that could tear itself apart to stay on pace. WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki has won three in a row, including Thursday’s victory over WIM Rochelle Wu in a battle for third place, and now holds the spot clear at 4.0/6 and a point behind Wang. Morris-Suzuki looks to continue her hot streak on Friday, with an excellent pairing against second-place WCM Ruiyang Yan – though if Yan makes it through, she will have her shot at Wang in the ninth and final round. 

 

U.S. Junior Championship 

 

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GM Hans Moke Niemann
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GM Hans Moke Niemann has a full point lead over the 2021 U.S. Junior field after six rounds. // photo Lennart Ootes, Saint Louis Chess Club

 

Niemann padded to his lead with a Thursday win as Black against IM Ben Li, while reigning Junior Champion GM John Burke lost pace with a draw against GM Nicolas Checa.  

[pgn][Event "U.S. Junior Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, United States"] [Date "2021.07.22"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Li, Ben"] [Black "Niemann, Hans Moke"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2376"] [BlackElo "2571"] [UTCDate "2021.07.22"] [UTCTime "19:30:43"] [Variant "Standard"] [ECO "E12"] [Opening "Queen's Indian Defense: Petrosian Variation, Farago Defense"] [Annotator "https://lichess.org/@/broadcaster"] 1. d4 { [%clk 1:30:57] } 1... Nf6 { [%clk 1:30:53] } 2. c4 { [%clk 1:31:21] } 2... e6 { [%clk 1:31:17] } 3. Nf3 { [%clk 1:31:42] } 3... b6 { [%clk 1:31:41] } 4. a3 { [%clk 1:32:04] } 4... Ba6 { [%clk 1:32:07] } 5. Qc2 { [%clk 1:32:24] } 5... Bb7 { [%clk 1:32:29] } 6. Nc3 { [%clk 1:32:42] } 6... c5 { [%clk 1:32:52] } 7. e4 { [%clk 1:33:04] } 7... cxd4 { [%clk 1:33:18] } 8. Nxd4 { [%clk 1:33:30] } 8... Bc5 { [%clk 1:33:43] } 9. Nb3 { [%clk 1:33:52] } 9... Nc6 { [%clk 1:34:10] } 10. Bf4 { [%clk 1:34:01] } 10... O-O { [%clk 1:32:43] } 11. Rd1 { [%clk 1:33:51] } 11... e5 { [%clk 1:29:09] } 12. Bg5 { [%clk 1:34:11] } 12... h6 { [%clk 1:29:05] } 13. Bh4? { Mistake. Bxf6 was best. } { [%clk 1:34:00] } (13. Bxf6 Qxf6) 13... Nd4 { [%clk 1:19:52] } 14. Nxd4 { [%clk 1:34:28] } 14... exd4 { [%clk 1:20:11] } 15. Nd5 { [%clk 1:29:05] } 15... g5 { [%clk 1:20:30] } 16. Bg3 { [%clk 1:11:31] } 16... Nxe4 { [%clk 1:20:44] } 17. Bd3 { [%clk 1:09:58] } 17... Bxd5 { [%clk 1:18:46] } 18. cxd5 { [%clk 1:10:09] } 18... Nxg3 { [%clk 1:19:08] } 19. hxg3 { [%clk 1:10:32] } 19... Re8+ { [%clk 1:19:25] } 20. Kf1 { [%clk 1:10:52] } 20... Qf6 { [%clk 1:19:50] } 21. Bf5 { [%clk 1:05:42] } 21... d3 { [%clk 1:15:13] } 22. Qxd3 { [%clk 1:01:37] } 22... Qxb2 { [%clk 1:15:21] } 23. Qf3? { Mistake. Qd2 was best. } { [%clk 1:01:59] } (23. Qd2 Qxd2 24. Rxd2 Rad8 25. Rxh6 Re5 26. g4 Rde8 27. g3 Re1+ 28. Kg2 R8e2 29. Rxe2 Rxe2) 23... Kg7 { [%clk 1:15:11] } 24. Bxd7 { [%clk 0:58:46] } 24... Re7 { [%clk 1:15:00] } 25. Bc6? { Mistake. Bf5 was best. } { [%clk 0:57:09] } (25. Bf5 Rd8 26. g4 Qxa3 27. Bd3 Qb2 28. Qf5 Re5 29. Qh7+ Kf8 30. Bc2 Rdxd5 31. Qh8+ Ke7) 25... Rd8 { [%clk 1:14:53] } 26. a4 { [%clk 0:54:54] } 26... Rd6 { [%clk 1:14:45] } 27. Kg1 { [%clk 0:40:23] } 27... Rf6 { [%clk 1:15:08] } 28. Qg4 { [%clk 0:29:31] } 28... Rxf2 { [%clk 1:15:25] } 29. Kh2?! { Checkmate is now unavoidable. Rh5 was best. } { [%clk 0:29:52] } (29. Rh5 Rf4+) 29... Rxg2+ { [%clk 1:15:51] } 30. Kh3 { [%clk 0:30:17] } 30... Ree2 { [%clk 1:16:13] } 31. Qf3 { [%clk 0:19:37] } 31... h5 { [%clk 1:15:40] } 32. Qxg2 { [%clk 0:11:17] } 32... g4+ { [%clk 1:15:58] } 33. Kh4 { [%clk 0:11:39] } 33... Qf6+ { [%clk 1:16:25] } 34. Kxh5 { [%clk 0:12:00] } 34... Qg6+ { [%clk 1:16:51] } 0-1[/pgn]

 

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2021 U.S. Junior Championship Standings R6
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courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club

 

Tied with Burke in second place with 4.0/6 is IM Praveen Balakrishnan, who has delivered a solid plus-three performance so far, but will be tested with back-to-back pairings against two of the field’s Grandmasters. If Balakrishnan can make it past GM Brandon Jacobson on Friday, he gets Burke on Saturday to show his mettle. 

Each round of the 2021 U.S. Juniors and Senior Championships begins daily at 3:00 p.m. central time, along with live commentary from GMs Yasser Seirawan and Cristian Chirila, and host Sharon Carpenter on www.uschesschamps.com or the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch channels. 

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