Game Highlights From XXXIII Pan-American Youth Chess Festival

The XXXIII Pan-American Youth Chess Festival featured over 2,700 games played across 12 sections and seven days. Results, including team standings and direct titles conferred, were covered in an earlier article.

Now, here are 20 annotated games highlighting some of the most captivating, competitive chess the Festival had to offer. Note that scoresheets were only available for some of the sections: Under-18 Open and Female, Under-16 Open and Female, Under-14 Open, Under 12-Open, and Under-10 Open. Thus, we can only provide annotations on games from these seven sections at this time. 


Under-18 Open

IM Robert Shlyakhtenko entered the field as the highest-rated player, and left Chicago with clear first on a 7/9 score. Going beneath the surface, his tournament victory was far from guaranteed. Indeed, round one started out as expected, until...



Then, in another upset, untitled Hersh Singh ended up leading for most of the tournament, ending up in second place on tiebreaks and earning his FM title in the process. Here's a nice upset victory from Singh:



But Shylakhtenko was not to be counted out, roaring back with a series of impressive victories before overtaking Singh in their last-round match-up.

This brutal attack, below, based on positional domination was a theme for Shylakhtenko during the middle rounds of the event:




Under-18 Female

Americans Kelsey Liu and Erin Bian shared top-honors on 7/9, with Liu taking the gold on tiebreaks. Eventual third-place finisher Sahana Aravindakshan, however, dominated early in the event, as illustrated by this smooth Sveshnikov victory:



Meanwhile, Liu was keeping up, winning a tense back-and-forth struggle with the eventual silver medalist:



Liu and Aravindakshan then played what was easily my personal favorite game of the tournament. The back-and-forth struggle came down to an imbalanced endgame that required a tremendous amount of precision. Studying this game in detail proved to be endlessly rewarding:



Bian meanwhile roared back from her early loss to Liu, showing great understanding in a number of opening structures, such as her anti-Stonewall victory over Jessica Hyatt:



Under-16 Open

FM Erick Zhao finished a clear point-and-a-half ahead of the field, yielding only two draws along the way to his impressive 8/9 finish. But that doesn't mean all of his wins were quick, let alone easy:



One of Zhao's only draws was one of the most interesting games of the event, as well:



Under-16 Female

Not to be outdone by her counterpart in the Open, FM Zoey Tang took clear first in her section also by a point-and-a-half but only gave up one draw along the way!

Considering how much pressure her opponents were able to apply to her (see below), this feat is especially commendable:



When not facing all-out assaults on her kingside, Tang was able to show her class. This game is remarkably mature in how Tang does not hurry, instead preparing multiple plans while committing to none of them until the time is right. 



Under-14 Open

Sihan Tao and Isaac Wang seemed destined for the top of the podium, with Tao eventually winning gold over Wang on tiebreaks after both finished with a 7½/9 score. 

Tao had some nice tactical acumen in a position that seemed headed for a drawish endgame:



Then, Tao delivered an upset to the heavy ratings favorite (Wang) in a characteristically double-edged Najdorf that remained complicated well past the opening.



But Wang did not go away, eventually catching up to Tao thanks to skilled maneuvering like his handling of his opponent's Grünfeld Defense here.



Under-12 Open

This section was the only one featuring a three-way tie for first! First, Ryan Sun taught us a lesson about pawn power:



Then, Yiding Lu joins the fun against Black's uncastled king in an off-beat sideline of the Najdorf Sicilian:



Sun's finest moment had to come against eventual bronze medalist Aiden Q Liu, when Liu's attempt to smother Sun's Caro-Kann backfired. Caro-Kann players always talk about how this is a great opening for counter-attacking chances. Well, here's what they're talking about:



Under-10 Open

CM Ethan Guo won the Under-10 Open with 7½/9, a half-point ahead of Sharath Radhakrishnan (silver) and Kyle Qiyu Dong (bronze). One curious moment occurred in Guo's game against the eventual silver medalist:



Radhakrishnan then had all the fun in the game that eventually gave him the edge on tiebreaks:



Congratulations to all the champions for producing such spectacular and instructive chess, and to Renaissance Knights on organizing a successful event!