Top Seeds in Front After Opening 2021 U.S. Juniors and Senior Championships

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2021 US Chess Juniors Championship
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The 2021 US Chess Juniors Championships began Friday in the Saint Louis Chess Club. // photo Crystal Fuller

 

Three US Chess national titles went up for grabs with the kickoff of both 2021 U.S. Junior Championships, as well as the U.S. Senior Championship, at the Saint Louis Chess Club beginning on Friday. The top seeds in all three 10-player fields got off on the desired foot, as each GM Nicolas Checa, IM Annie Wang and legend GM Larry Christiansen set the pace with a win in their first-round games. 

 

2021 U.S. Juniors Championship

Five GMs are fighting for the 2021 Junior crown and Checa, winner of the Denker High School Tournament of Champions, knocked down one of them Friday with the black pieces against GM Brandon Jacobson. Reigning Junior champ GM John Burke settled for a draw with the black pieces in his first-round game, finding his way through some early pressure from IM Justin Wang in a Grunfeld exchange.

For Saturday’s second round, Checa looks to stay in front by taking the white pieces against IM David Brodsky, while Burke draws a tougher matchup with IM Christopher Yoo. The reigning 2020 US Chess Cadet Champion for players under 16, Yoo had one of the most-visible and active pandemic offseasons in the Junior field and likely could have been the sixth GM in the field, if not for the global shutdown.

On Friday, Yoo also got off to a good start with a win over IM Andrew Hong in the first-round
Game of the Day, annotated by FM Robert Shlyakhtenko.

[pgn][Event "US Junior champs"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.07.16"] [Round "?"] [White "Yoo, Christopher Woojin"] [Black "Hong, Andrew "] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D43"] [Annotator "Shlyakhtenko,Robert"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2021.07.16"] {Round 1 featured many interesting games, but the one that stood out the most for me was the following model positional game by IM Christopher Yoo.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 h6 {Through an unusual move order, the players have reached the Moscow Variation.} 6. Bxf6 {This is the quieter option. White grants black the bishop pair, but temporarily has the easier game due to his lead in development.} ({The game would have had a completely different character after the sharper} 6. Bh4 dxc4) 6... Qxf6 7. e3 Nd7 8. Bd3 g6 (8... dxc4 9. Bxc4 g6 {is more often played. In the game it did not make any difference, but this move order gives white fewer options.}) 9. O-O ({ One of them is} 9. cxd5 exd5 10. O-O Bg7 11. b4 $14 {1/2-1/2 (62) Ivanchuk,V (2750)-Morozevich,A (2741) Monte Carlo 2007}) 9... Bg7 10. e4 dxc4 11. Bxc4 ({ and} 11. e5 Qe7 12. Bxc4 {is the other. However, Yoo sticks to his gameplan.}) 11... e5 12. d5 Nb6 13. Qb3 {A rare move, which was clearly still part of white's preparation.} ({The main line is} 13. Bb3 Bg4 {. With the text move, white escapes the pin and mobilizes his pieces more quickly; his claim is that giving up the remaining bishop is no big deal.}) 13... O-O ({In my view, the most direct approach would have been} 13... Nxc4 14. Qxc4 O-O (14... Bd7 $2 15. Qb4 $16) 15. Rfd1 ({Black is active enough to equalize after} 15. dxc6 bxc6 16. Rfd1 Bg4 17. Rd3 Rfd8 $11) 15... Bd7 $5 16. Rd2 Rfd8 17. Rad1 Be8 {and black's position is very solid and without weaknesses.}) 14. Rfd1 Bg4 15. Rd3 {This is the position white was aiming for. His pieces are placed harmoniously, while black needs to resolve the problem of the g7-bishop and the structural tension in the center.} Nd7 {Judging from the game's continuation, this seems to have been a miscalculation. Apart from creating the threat of ...Nc5, the knight is not very well placed here.} ({It's far too early for} 15... cxd5 $2 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Bxd5 $16 {with light-square dominance.}) (15... Rfd8 {also does not solve black's problems completely. After} 16. h3 $5 {we see that black's queen is misplaced on f6, as shown by the line} Bxf3 $2 ({Instead} 16... Bd7 $14 { is better anyway.}) 17. Rxf3 Qe7 18. d6 $18) ({For black I would recommend} 15... Qe7 $5 {, which is a move that he wants to play anyway. The first point is that after h2-h3 black can safely capture on f3. The other point is that} 16. Rad1 $4 {is a huge blunder in view of} Qc5 $1 {and the bishop is simply trapped.}) 16. dxc6 ({In my opinion, it was preferable to keep the tension with } 16. Re3 $5) 16... bxc6 {A structural concession.} ({My impression is that black missed} 16... Nc5 $2 17. Nd5 $1 Qd6 18. Qa3 $1 $18) (16... Qxc6 {would have been more consistent with black's previous play. Both 17. Bb5 and 17. Bd5 are met with 17...Nc5!, and the attemt to use the d5-square with} 17. Nd5 { is not as strong as it may seem. After} Kh7 {white's pieces are somewhat loose and the threat of ...Nc5 actually becomes annoying.}) 17. Na4 $14 {Now we see one of the reasons black should have kept the knight on b6: this move is very unpleasant for black. White has emerged from the opening with a stable advantage.} Rfb8 {A rather important moment.} ({It may have been worth trying} 17... Qe7 {, with the idea of ...Nf6 and perhaps even ...Nh5-f4. As mentioned above, another point of removing the queen is that black can meet h2-h3 with .. .Bxf3. A natural continuation is} 18. Rc1 Nf6 19. Nc5 h5 $5 ({Obviously not} 19... Qxc5 $2 20. Bxf7+) 20. h4 $1 ({Worse is} 20. h3 Bxf3 $1 21. Rxf3 Rad8 { with play on the dark squares, via moves such as ...Rd4, ...Rfd8, ...h4, and .. .Bh6.}) 20... Bh6 {and black is at least fighting.}) 18. Qc2 Bf8 19. h3 { The right time for this move. White is able to force the trade of bishops, after which the superiority of his minor pieces becomes unquestionable.} Be6 20. Bxe6 Qxe6 21. b3 Bb4 22. Rc1 Nb6 {Black still has not been able to find a square for the knight. The knight on b6 was only good so long as it prevented Na4. In this case white easily avoids the trade and leaves the knight a poor piece.} ({Better was} 22... Nf6 {. The difference becomes clear after examining the following continuation:} 23. Nc5 Qe7 24. Na6 Re8 25. Nxb4 Qxb4 { -- all as in the game, but the knight on f6 is attacking the e4-pawn.}) 23. Nc5 Qe7 24. Na6 $1 {It is always nice to make such moves. White trades another pair of pieces.} Re8 25. Nxb4 Qxb4 26. Rc3 ({The pawn is untouchable:} 26. Qxc6 $2 Rac8 $19) 26... Re6 27. Rd1 {White does not limit his play only to the c6-pawn and takes the d-file as well.} Rc8 {Allowing the queen to be locked out.} (27... Qe7 {offered more resistance.}) 28. Rc5 f6 {So far everything has been "by the book:" white has confidently latched on to the c6-weakness and even controls the d-file. But what next? In such cases it's important to consider the worst-placed piece and where the potential is to create a second weakness. Christopher found a beautiful solution to this positional problem:} 29. Nh2 $1 {White wants to bring the knight to e3 via g4. It is better there anyhow, but along the way white will force black to create an additional weakness on the kingside -- with the move h6-h5.} ({An equally nice resolution was} 29. Nh4 $1 Kh7 30. a3 $1 Qxa3 31. Qc3 $1 {, a great example of combining play on both flanks. Black's queen can escape, but only at the cost of the king:} Qa6 32. Qg3 Rg8 33. Rd8 $1 Rg7 34. Qg4 $1 Ree7 35. Rxc6 {, and black's defenses fall apart.}) 29... Rc7 30. Ng4 h5 ({Even worse is} 30... Kg7 31. Qc1 $1 {and black has to play} g5) 31. Ne3 Nd7 32. Rc4 Qb7 33. Rc3 $1 {A move with a subtle point. White wants to put the knight on c4, but in some cases can also transfer the rook to the kingside.} Nb6 34. Rd8+ Kg7 {Surprisingly, this move is the decisive mistake. After being under positional pressure for so long, black loses his tactical awareness.} (34... Kf7 {was better. White would probably have continued with} 35. Rcd3 Rd7 36. Qd1 {, with total control.}) 35. Nf5+ $1 {All of a sudden, white changes direction from strategy to attack.} Kh7 ({or} 35... gxf5 36. Rg3+ Kf7 (36... Kh6 37. exf5 Rc8 38. Rg6+ Kh7 39. Qd1 $1) 37. Rdg8 $1 {and black has to give up major material to escape checkmate.}) 36. Qd2 $1 {This is really the point -- having provoked a weakness, white proceeds to exploit it.} g5 (36... gxf5 37. Qd1 $3 {is the whole idea.}) 37. Qe2 Kg6 38. Rg8+ Kh7 39. Re8 $1 {The cleanest way to finish the game.} Rxe8 40. Qxh5+ Kg8 41. Qxe8+ Kh7 42. Qh5+ Kg8 43. Qg6+ Rg7 44. Nxg7 Qxg7 45. Qxg7+ Kxg7 46. Rxc6 Kg6 47. Rc7 {A great first round for Christopher. The fact that he finished the game with more than an hour left on his clock makes this effort all the more impressive.} 1-0 [/pgn]

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2021 US Chess Junior Championship R1 Results
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courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club

 

2021 U.S. Girls Championship

Wang notched an important win on Friday, taking the black pieces in an Open Sicilian and knocking down one of her closest competitors in third-seed WFM Martha Samadashvili. After castling on opposite sides of the board, Wang’s knight took a tour from f3 to a nice post on b4, as Samadashvili focused her forces in the middle.

White accepting the pawn sac at 24. Rxd6 was the mistake, helping to open the center and unleash Black’s bishop pair. Attempting to thwart the minor-piece attack on White’s castle, 25. Ne4 saw the white knight pinned and eventually piled on. Samadashvili resigned when the minor pieces fell, after 33 moves.


[pgn][Event "U.S. Girls Junior Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, United States"] [Date "2021.07.16"] [Round "1.3"] [White "Samadashvili, Martha"] [Black "Wang, Annie"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2215"] [BlackElo "2384"] [UTCDate "2021.07.16"] [UTCTime "19:30:47"] [Variant "Standard"] [ECO "B56"] [Opening "Sicilian Defense: Classical Variation"] [Annotator "https://lichess.org/@/broadcaster"] 1. e4 { [%clk 1:30:57] } 1... c5 { [%clk 1:30:53] } 2. Nf3 { [%clk 1:31:19] } 2... d6 { [%clk 1:31:15] } 3. d4 { [%clk 1:31:41] } 3... cxd4 { [%clk 1:31:39] } 4. Nxd4 { [%clk 1:32:07] } 4... Nf6 { [%clk 1:31:59] } 5. Nc3 { [%clk 1:32:30] } 5... Nc6 { [%clk 1:32:21] } 6. f3 { [%clk 1:32:47] } 6... e5 { [%clk 1:32:30] } 7. Nb3 { [%clk 1:33:12] } 7... Be7 { [%clk 1:32:11] } 8. Be3 { [%clk 1:33:26] } 8... O-O { [%clk 1:32:14] } 9. Qd2 { [%clk 1:33:52] } 9... a5 { [%clk 1:31:54] } 10. Bb5 { [%clk 1:34:03] } 10... Be6 { [%clk 1:30:56] } 11. O-O-O { [%clk 1:34:00] } 11... Na7?! { Inaccuracy. Nb4 was best. } { [%clk 1:30:20] } (11... Nb4) 12. Bxa7 { [%clk 1:34:10] } 12... Rxa7 { [%clk 1:30:40] } 13. Qe3 { [%clk 1:33:38] } 13... Ra8 { [%clk 1:29:21] } 14. a4 { [%clk 1:33:10] } 14... Ne8 { [%clk 1:25:38] } 15. Kb1 { [%clk 1:31:35] } 15... Nc7 { [%clk 1:22:21] } 16. Bd3 { [%clk 1:26:43] } 16... Na6 { [%clk 1:16:42] } 17. g3 { [%clk 1:21:37] } 17... Nb4 { [%clk 1:10:11] } 18. Bb5?! { Inaccuracy. f4 was best. } { [%clk 1:17:48] } (18. f4) 18... Qc7 { [%clk 1:06:15] } 19. Rd2 { [%clk 1:11:50] } 19... f5 { [%clk 1:00:38] } 20. f4?! { Inaccuracy. Nd5 was best. } { [%clk 0:58:21] } (20. Nd5) 20... fxe4 { [%clk 0:54:00] } 21. Qxe4 { [%clk 0:50:49] } 21... Kh8 { [%clk 0:49:20] } 22. Re1 { [%clk 0:43:50] } 22... Bf6 { [%clk 0:41:45] } 23. Qe2 { [%clk 0:29:07] } 23... Qf7?! { Inaccuracy. Bxb3 was best. } { [%clk 0:26:28] } (23... Bxb3 24. cxb3) 24. Rxd6? { Mistake. Ne4 was best. } { [%clk 0:19:28] } (24. Ne4 Bf5) 24... Bf5 { [%clk 0:20:19] } 25. Ne4? { Mistake. Bc4 was best. } { [%clk 0:13:01] } (25. Bc4 Qg6 26. Ne4 Rfe8 27. Bb5 Re7 28. Qd2 Bxe4 29. Rxe4 Qxe4 30. Rd8+ Re8 31. Rxe8+ Rxe8) 25... Rac8 { [%clk 0:17:03] } 26. c4? { Mistake. Bd3 was best. } { [%clk 0:09:55] } (26. Bd3) 26... exf4 { [%clk 0:12:43] } 27. Rd2?? { Blunder. Ka1 was best. } { [%clk 0:06:46] } (27. Ka1 f3 28. Qxf3 Nc2+ 29. Kb1 Be7 30. g4 Bxd6 31. Qxf5 Qxf5 32. gxf5 Nxe1 33. Nxd6 Rc7) 27... Rcd8?! { Inaccuracy. Rfe8 was best. } { [%clk 0:06:52] } (27... Rfe8) 28. g4?! { Inaccuracy. Ka1 was best. } { [%clk 0:02:21] } (28. Ka1) 28... Bg6 { [%clk 0:06:31] } 29. Qf3 { [%clk 0:02:34] } 29... Qe7 { [%clk 0:04:47] } 30. Ree2 { [%clk 0:02:00] } 30... Qe5 { [%clk 0:04:17] } 31. Rxd8 { [%clk 0:01:55] } 31... Rxd8 { [%clk 0:04:10] } 32. Nc1 { [%clk 0:01:06] } 32... Rd4 { [%clk 0:03:30] } (32... Rd5) 33. g5 { [%clk 0:00:35] } 33... Rxe4 { [%clk 0:03:22] } 0-1[/pgn]

 

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2021 US Chess Girls Junior Championship
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courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club


2021 U.S. Senior Championship

Both Christiansen and GM Gregory Kaidanov share the early lead with wins on Friday, while the rest of the field played to draws. Kaidanov won with the black pieces in a Four Knights game over IM Leonid Sokolin, who struggled early against a suffocating kingside pawn attack and collapsed in a difficult bishop vs. knight endgame.

Christiansen won a statement game over GM Joel Benjamin, the 2020 U.S. Senior Champion in a bid for a repeat. Christiansen came with the Four Pawns Attack against Benjamin’s King’s Indian Defense. Black saw an early lead with a pawn grab at 16. … Rc4, but the follow-up 17. … Nc6 was an error, assisting in trapping the black rook and forcing an exchange at 19. … Rxc3. From there, Christiansen was quick with an attack on the castle, using a rook lift to invade through the h-file and finding a forced checkmate.

[pgn][Event "U.S. Senior Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, United States"] [Date "2021.07.16"] [Round "1.4"] [White "Christiansen, Larry"] [Black "Benjamin, Joel"] [Result "1-0"] [BlackElo "2506"] [UTCDate "2021.07.16"] [UTCTime "19:30:47"] [Variant "Standard"] [ECO "E76"] [Opening "King's Indian Defense: Four Pawns Attack"] [Annotator "https://lichess.org/@/broadcaster"] 1. d4 { [%clk 1:30:53] } 1... Nf6 { [%clk 1:30:56] } 2. c4 { [%clk 1:31:10] } 2... g6 { [%clk 1:31:02] } 3. Nc3 { [%clk 1:30:51] } 3... Bg7 { [%clk 1:31:18] } 4. e4 { [%clk 1:29:51] } 4... d6 { [%clk 1:31:42] } 5. f4?! { Inaccuracy. h3 was best. } { [%clk 1:24:27] } (5. h3 O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. d5 e6 8. Nf3 exd5 9. exd5 Na6) 5... O-O { [%clk 1:30:28] } 6. Nf3 { [%clk 1:24:52] } 6... c5 { [%clk 1:30:36] } 7. dxc5 { [%clk 1:24:51] } 7... Qa5 { [%clk 1:29:07] } 8. Bd3 { [%clk 1:25:12] } 8... Qxc5 { [%clk 1:28:21] } 9. Qe2 { [%clk 1:25:27] } 9... Bg4 { [%clk 1:10:44] } 10. Be3 { [%clk 1:25:35] } 10... Qa5 { [%clk 1:04:39] } 11. O-O { [%clk 1:25:41] } 11... Nc6 { [%clk 1:04:14] } 12. Rac1 { [%clk 1:21:14] } 12... Rfc8 { [%clk 0:57:08] } 13. Kh1 { [%clk 1:12:27] } 13... Nd7 { [%clk 0:52:02] } 14. Qf2 { [%clk 1:05:48] } 14... Nb4 { [%clk 0:42:21] } 15. Bb1 { [%clk 0:58:21] } 15... Bxf3 { [%clk 0:36:07] } 16. Qxf3 { [%clk 0:55:00] } 16... Rxc4 { [%clk 0:36:00] } 17. e5 { [%clk 0:54:58] } 17... Nc6?! { Inaccuracy. e6 was best. } { [%clk 0:33:38] } (17... e6 18. Qxb7) 18. Rcd1 { [%clk 0:54:41] } 18... Re8? { Mistake. Nb6 was best. } { [%clk 0:31:59] } (18... Nb6 19. exd6) 19. Qe2 { [%clk 0:39:41] } 19... Rxc3 { [%clk 0:14:56] } 20. bxc3 { [%clk 0:39:42] } 20... Qxc3?! { Inaccuracy. Qc7 was best. } { [%clk 0:14:31] } (20... Qc7 21. Qd3) 21. Bg1 { [%clk 0:39:10] } 21... Kf8 { [%clk 0:10:49] } 22. Rf3 { [%clk 0:37:12] } 22... Qa5 { [%clk 0:10:38] } 23. Rh3 { [%clk 0:36:55] } 23... Nc5 { [%clk 0:09:39] } 24. Rxh7 { [%clk 0:36:53] } 24... dxe5? { Mistake. Ne6 was best. } { [%clk 0:08:25] } (24... Ne6 25. Qf2 Kg8 26. Rh3 dxe5 27. f5 Nf4 28. fxg6 fxg6 29. Rf3 Rd8 30. Qf1 Rxd1 31. Qxd1) 25. f5 { [%clk 0:35:21] } 25... gxf5?? { Checkmate is now unavoidable. Rd8 was best. } { [%clk 0:06:33] } (25... Rd8 26. fxg6) 26. Qh5 { [%clk 0:35:20] } 26... Kg8 { [%clk 0:02:32] } 27. Bxf5 { [%clk 0:35:37] } 27... e6 { [%clk 0:01:04] } 28. Qg5 { [%clk 0:35:57] } 1-0[/pgn]

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2021 US Chess Senior Championship R1 Results
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courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club

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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