Swindles and Surprises at the US Junior Champs

The new US Junior Champion, 14-year-old Awonder Liang. Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

For most of the tournament (rounds 2-8), GM Kayden Troff was the sole leader of US Juniors—at times even a full point ahead. However, in the last round, with the stakes and tensions high, everything changed.

Mika Brattain’s excellent opening preparation against Troff gave him a comfortable initiative, which he pressed to his first victory of the tournament.

Tactic #1

This unexpected result left a wide open opportunity for Awonder Liang to clinch the championship, without even needing a playoff—if he could win his game against the very solid IM Michael Brown. Liang was up for the challenge and played an excellent middlegame, full of both positional and tactical play.

Tactic #2

Awonder Liang vs. Michael Brown

Although Liang found a sufficient winning idea, he overlooked a fascinating tactical possibility in this position. Can you find it?

White to move.

US Junior Girls

The 2017 US Junior Girls Champion Akshita Gorti. Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

In the US Junior Girls Championship, Akshita Gorti virtually sealed the deal in round 7 when her victory against Bykovtsev gave her a 1.5 lead over the field—which she didn’t relinquish for the rest of the tournament.

Since Gorti had mathematically secured 1st in round 8, the last round was a battle for 2nd. A draw against Bykovtsev gave Maggie Feng 5.5 points. Meanwhile, in the last game to finish, Annie Wang needed a victory to tie for 2nd place with Feng. However, her opponent, Rachel Ulrich, managed to sneak away with a draw in a tricky two-pawn down queen ending.

Tactic #3

Rachel Ulrich vs. Annie Wang

White to move and draw.

For more information on the U.S. Junior Championship, visit the Official Website

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