U.S. Juniors, Senior Championships: Niemann, Wang Lead After 2 with GOTDs

GM Hans Moke Niemann at the 2021 U.S. Juniors Championship in St. Louis, MO. // photo Austin Fuller, Saint Louis Chess Club
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GM Hans Moke Niemann at the 2021 U.S. Juniors Championship in St. Louis, MO. // photo Austin Fuller, Saint Louis Chess Club


Perfection is scarce at the Saint Louis Chess Club, with only three of 30 players winning both of two rounds at the 2021 U.S. Juniors, Girls and Senior Championships.


2021 U.S. Juniors Championship

The entire 10-player field in the U.S. Junior Championship has now been touched for at least a half point, including top-seed GM Nicolas Checa who settled for a draw as White against IM David Brodsky. Another first-round winner, IM Christopher Yoo, earned a solid draw as Black against reigning Juniors Champion GM John Burke.

The U.S. Juniors Round 2 Game of the Day is a nice win as Black by one of US Chess’ freshest Grandmasters Hans Moke Niemann, to join the leading pack.

[pgn][Event "US Junior champs"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.07.17"] [Round "?"] [White "Balakrishnan, Praveen"] [Black "Niemann, Hans"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C85"] [Annotator "Shlyakhtenko,Robert"] [PlyCount "100"] [EventDate "2021.07.17"] {[%evp 0,100,25,16,10,25,17,16,31,-6,3,8,22,-7,11,12,26,8,0,-13,-9,-22,-7,-7, -4,-24,0,-51,-56,-61,-45,-94,-13,-13,3,-51,-56,-62,-62,-67,-62,-62,-62,-60,-59, -61,-48,-40,-42,-24,-14,-54,-54,-68,-54,-118,-133,-140,-125,-180,0,0,0,0,0,0,0, 0,0,-125,-168,-187,14,-319,-365,-477,-314,-634,-282,-327,-197,-479,-533,-647, -686,-739,-811,-939,-643,-646,-630,-646,-673,-694,-706,-719,-746,-804,-843, -871,-615,-830,-838]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. d3 Nd7 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. Nc4 f6 10. Nh4 {This is the main move, dating back to the 1950s. Black essentially has two approaches: he can capture the knight as soon as it comes to f5, or play ...g6 and keep f5 under control at the cost of compromising his structure.} ({Two weeks earlier, Niemann had faced} 10. a4 {against Nyzhnyk in the World Open.}) 10... g6 {A more fighting option, and also the one with the best statistic for black.} ({The most popular line is} 10... Nc5 11. Nf5 Bxf5 12. exf5) 11. Bh6 Rf7 12. Qe2 Nc5 13. f4 {This does not appear to give white any advantage, but I do not see anything stronger. White should probably search for alternatives on the previous move.} ({Black did not have any special problems after} 13. g3 Bh3 14. Ng2 Ne6 15. c3 Bf8 16. Bxf8 Qxf8 {½-½ (55) Botvinnik,M-Furman,S Moscow 1961}) 13... exf4 14. Rxf4 Be6 ({Black cannot win a piece with} 14... g5 $2 {because of} 15. Nf5 gxf4 $2 16. Qg4+ Kh8 17. Bg7+ Kg8 18. Nh6#) ({It's also too early for} 14... f5 $2 15. exf5 Bxh4 16. Rxh4 $1 Qxh4 $2 17. Qe8+) 15. Ne3 {Forced, as white cannot allow ...Bxc4. But now black is able to play ...f5 under favorable conditions.} Bd6 16. Rff1 f5 {White has to give up a pawn, but perhaps not too unhappily.} 17. Nf3 fxe4 18. Ng5 exd3 19. cxd3 Rxf1+ 20. Rxf1 { White's initiative on the f-file seems to be enough to fully compensate the missing pawn, but not more.} Qe7 21. d4 Nd7 22. b3 {This is a slow move that white did not have to make. The threat to the a2-pawn could have been dealt with indirectly.} ({After} 22. Qf3 $1 {black needs to be very precise. The above comments lead us to the move} a5 $3 {, which is extraordinarily difficult to find. Black is now threatening to take on a2, since b3 (as in the 22...Bxa2 line) is met with ...a4! and black extricates the bishop.} ({First of all,} 22... Bxa2 $2 {loses to} 23. b3 $1 Bxb3 (23... Re8 24. Nd5 $1 { illustrates the importance the light-squared bishop had in keeping black's position together.}) 24. Nf5 $18) (22... Nb6 $5 {is fine but not strongest.}) ( 22... Re8 {Pressuring the e3-knight, so white has to act quickly.} 23. d5 $1 Ne5 $1 24. Qd1 Nf7 $1 (24... Bc8 25. Qb3 $1 {is unpleasant for black. The significance of this will be shown later.}) 25. dxe6 Nxg5 (25... Nxh6 26. Nf7 $1 $18) 26. Ng4 {White can still put pressure on black's position. This variation makes it clear that black's rook is misplaced on e8.}) ({The main problem with} 22... Rd8 {is that it does not create any threat, since ...Bxa2 is still met with b2-b3. Therefore white can improve his position with} 23. Kh1 $1 {and black is actually in deep trouble: d4-d5 is a strong threat, and a move such as} Nb6 {is met by} 24. Ne4 $1) 23. b3 (23. d5 Ne5 24. Qd1 Nf7 { is no longer dangerous for black, because of the lack of a rook on e8. For example, after} 25. dxe6 {black can safely play} Nxh6 26. Nf7 Nxf7 27. exf7+ { (no fork this time!)} Kh8 $13) (23. a4 Nb6 {is also fine -- the inclusion of the moves ...a5 and a4 is clearly in black's favor.}) (23. Kh1 Bxa2 24. b3 a4 $1 $13) 23... Re8 {Now we have reached a position that was later seen in the game.} 24. d5 Ne5 25. Qd1 Bc8 $1 {This is the really subtle and beautiful point. A similar position was reached in the line with 22...Re8, where white was able to play 26. Qb3 and create unpleasant threats. Now we see why the inclusion of ...a5 and b3 was so important! The position is very complicated but by no means worse for black. For instance,} 26. Ne4 {is met by} Ng4 $1 $13) 22... Re8 ({I believe that the best way to take advantage of white's last move was} 22... Bd5 {, preventing d4-d5. White's best chance is to go into an inferior endgame:} 23. Qf2 Re8 24. Nxd5 cxd5 25. Nf7 $1 Qe2 26. Nxd6 Qxf2+ 27. Kxf2 cxd6 28. Rc1 $1 Nf6 29. Kf3 {and while white might be able to make a draw, black can press:} Kf7 $5 30. Rc7+ Ke6 31. Rxb7 Rc8 $15) 23. Qf3 Nb6 24. Ne4 Nd7 25. Ng5 ({White had an opportunity for} 25. Bg5 $1 {and black has to make a difficult decision.} Qg7 (25... Qf8 26. Qd1 Bf5 27. Nxd6 Qxd6 ({Far too risky is} 27... cxd6 $2 28. Ng4 {and white's knight inflitrates black's position.}) 28. Nxf5 gxf5 29. Rxf5 {and white is pushing.}) (25... Qf7 $5 {is a clever idea, but does not amount to much.} 26. Qd1 Qg7 27. d5 cxd5 28. Nxd6 cxd6 29. Nxd5 {with good compensation in view of black's weak king.}) 26. Nxd6 cxd6 27. Qf4 $1 Rf8 28. Qxd6 Rxf1+ 29. Nxf1 Qf7 $11) 25... a5 $5 {Defending actively: black prepares ...a4. Incidentally, the game has transposed into the note after 22. Qf3.} (25... Bxb3 $2 26. Nf5) 26. h4 (26. d5 {was already discussed above.}) 26... a4 27. h5 $2 {It is hard to give such a move a question mark, but objectively it should have led to a lost position. I am not sure if this was a miscalculation or a blunder. ...Bxb3 did not work for the last several moves, so it is easy to forget about it here. In any case, the game now becomes extremely complicated.} ({Something like} 27. Kh1 {is still entirely unclear, since after} Bxb3 $2 28. axb3 Qxe3 {does not come with check and white can play} 29. Qf7+ {.}) 27... Bxb3 $1 28. hxg6 ({Of course the difference is that after} 28. Nf5 gxf5 {white cannot capture on b3 with the queen.}) 28... hxg6 29. Nf5 $1 {If white saw 27...Bxb3, then it must have been this move that he had staked his hopes on. It does not work, but the refutation is incredibly difficult.} Qf6 $2 (29... gxf5 $1 30. Qxf5 Bc4 $3 { Only this move! Everything else loses immediately.} 31. Qg6+ Kh8 32. d5 $1 { The best chance.} (32. Nf7+ Qxf7 $1 {This is the point. Black will get his material back with interest.} 33. Rxf7 Re1+ 34. Kf2 Rf1+ 35. Ke3 Rxf7 $19) 32... Bc5+ 33. Kh1 Bxf1 34. Nf7+ Qxf7 35. Qxf7 Re7 36. Qxf1 Rh7 $1 {black will eventually capture the pinned bishop, and the resulting endgame should be technically winning.}) 30. Nxd6 Qxd4+ 31. Kh1 Qh4+ 32. Kg1 Qd4+ 33. Kh1 Qh4+ { The most likely result appears to be a draw, but white makes an extremely brave decision.} 34. Nh3 $2 {Commendable, but unfortunately also losing.} Bd5 $1 {The queen is chased off the f-file.} 35. Qd3 (35. Bg5 Qb4 $1 {and black will pick up the knight on d6.}) 35... Re6 $2 {A mistake in return.} (35... Ne5 $1 {was correct. Niemann probably feared} 36. Nxe8 Nxd3 37. Rf8+ Kh7 38. Nf6+ Qxf6 39. Rxf6 Kxh6 {. However, the endgame is simply winning for black: all he needs to do is push the queenside pawns.}) 36. Bg5 (36. Nf7 $1 {black has no way to win the knight and the position becomes wildly unbalanced. The most critical points are} Qc4 ({and} 36... Qg4 37. Nf4 $1 Rf6 38. Nxd5 cxd5 39. Ng5 Rxf1+ 40. Qxf1 Qh4+ 41. Kg1 Qd4+ 42. Qf2 Qxf2+ 43. Kxf2 $13) 37. Qxc4 Bxc4 38. Nfg5 $13) 36... Qg4 $1 {Now white loses material and the game.} 37. Nf4 Qxg5 38. Nxb7 Rf6 39. Nxd5 Qxd5 40. Rd1 Qh5+ 41. Kg1 Ne5 42. Qd2 Ng4 43. g3 Nf2 44. Qd8+ Rf8 45. Qxf8+ Kxf8 46. Rd8+ Ke7 47. Kxf2 Qh2+ 48. Kf3 Qxa2 49. Rd3 a3 50. Re3+ Kf8 0-1 [/pgn]


2021 U.S. Junior Girls Championship

IM Annie Wang at the 2021 U.S. Junior Girls Championship
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IM Annie Wang is a perfect 2-0 with two wins as Black in the 2021 U.S. Junior Girls Championship. // photo Bryan Adams, Saint Louis Chess Club


As the top two seeds in the 2021 U.S. Junior Girls Championships, IM Annie Wang and FM Thalia Cervantes are out in front with two wins apiece. Also scoring full points in a decisive second round were WIM Rochelle Wu and WCM Sheena Zeng, who make up the chasing pack at 1.5/2.

Wang and Cervantes are scheduled to meet in round 5, though Wang has already collected two points as Black, scoring against third-seed Martha Samadashvili in round 1, and here over fifth seed WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki in the U.S. Junior Girls Round 2 Game of the Day.

[pgn][Event "US Girls champs"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.07.17"] [Round "?"] [White "Morris-Suzuki, Sophie"] [Black "Wang, Annie"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B69"] [Annotator "Shlyakhtenko,Robert"] [PlyCount "138"] [EventDate "2021.07.17"] {[%evp 0,138,25,25,41,46,90,77,66,22,32,32,36,43,60,44,53,37,30,9,24,41,38,21, 20,15,12,21,30,3,6,8,9,8,49,75,79,97,76,67,62,76,76,54,48,61,83,60,64,39,26,0, 0,0,0,-29,16,-6,-6,3,13,23,56,50,50,50,67,74,66,56,60,56,59,53,47,57,44,32,102, 58,40,18,101,93,122,121,151,59,79,106,101,0,0,-105,-104,-156,-134,-128,-45,-49, -34,-47,-39,-33,-47,-41,-41,-41,-59,-137,-31,-187,-199,-302,-86,-509,-509,-509, -509,-509,-509,-509,-509,-509,-506,-676,-793,-689,-1314,-1644,-1778,-29983, -29986,-29989,-29986,-29995,-29996,-29997,-29998,-29999,-30000]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 {The same opening choice by Annie as in the previous round. This time, white was clearly well-prepared.} 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O Bd7 9. f4 Be7 10. Nf3 b5 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Kb1 Qb6 13. f5 O-O-O 14. g3 Kb8 15. fxe6 fxe6 16. Bh3 Na5 {This is a fairly recent idea, first played in 2017 by Dutch IM Max Warmerdam.} ({For a long time, black's main move was} 16... Bc8) 17. Nd4 b4 18. Nce2 e5 {White's knights are far from the d5-square, so black can get away with this move. In fact, much of the strategic battle revolves around the ...d5 break and whether white can prevent it.} 19. Bxd7 Rxd7 20. Nf5 Nc4 21. Qd5 Rc8 22. Nc1 Bf8 ({According to Roiz, the simplest way to equalize is} 22... Qf2 23. Qd3 d5 $1 24. exd5 Rxd5 25. Qxd5 Na3+ 26. bxa3 Qxc2+ 27. Ka1 Qc3+ $11) 23. Nb3 Rdc7 {The theory has essentially ended and now white starts to drift.} 24. Qd3 {It's hard to see the immediate purpose of this move.} ({It is clearly in white's favor to trade knights, after which the game would become a classic good knight vs. bad bishop position. However, the immediate} 24. Nd2 {allows sacrifices such as} Nxb2 $5 25. Kxb2 Rc5 $1 26. Qd3 Rc3 {and white should has to repeat moves with 27. Qd5. }) ({Thus white should have seriously considered} 24. Rc1 a5 25. Nd2) 24... Qc6 ({Black should have played} 24... a5 $1 {, not fearing} 25. Nd2 {in view of} Na3+ $1 26. bxa3 Rc3 $1 27. Qe2 bxa3+ 28. Nb3 a4 {and the complications favor black.}) 25. Nd2 ({Now that black has removed the queen from b6 and ...a5-a4 is less likely to come, it was worth considering the regrouping} 25. Qe2 $5 { , with the idea to double rooks on the d-file. Black does not gain anything from} a5 26. Rd5 a4 27. Na5 $1 Nxa5 28. Rxa5 Qxc2+ 29. Qxc2 Rxc2 30. Rb5+ Ka7 31. Rxb4 {and white has a better endgame.}) 25... Nb6 26. Rc1 d5 27. exd5 Nxd5 {Black has been able to achieve ...d5 and stands well.} 28. Ne4 Rd7 29. Qe2 Nb6 {Transferring the knight to c4 is not correct, because the knight lacks stability there. Moreover, the f6-pawn loses a defender.} ({Better was} 29... Rb7 {, and white needs to be somewhat careful about ...Nc3+. Black has a number of active plans at her disposal, starting with ...a5-a4 or ...Qa4!? with the idea of Nc3+. The knight on d5 is excellently posted, participating in both attack and defense. It is easy for white to go wrong:} 30. Rhd1 $2 ({ Also bad is} 30. Ka1 $2 b3 $1 31. axb3 Rxb3 $1 32. cxb3 Qxc1+ 33. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 34. Ka2 Nb4+ 35. Ka3 Ra1#) 30... Nc3+ 31. bxc3 bxc3+ 32. Ka1 Ba3 $1 33. Rb1 Bb2+ 34. Rxb2 Rxb2 $19) 30. Rhd1 Nc4 31. Rxd7 Qxd7 32. g4 Qb5 33. Qd3 $1 { White's play in this phase of the game was exceptionally strong. She starts by seizing control of the d-file.} Qc6 34. Rd1 Nb6 35. Rd2 Ka7 36. b3 {Another good move, restricting black's b6-knight.} Bc5 37. h3 Bf8 38. Kb2 (38. Kc1 $5 { was a bit more to the point.}) 38... Rb8 39. Qe3 (39. Ned6 {was already very strong, but white chooses to repeat moves first.}) 39... Rc8 40. Qd3 Rb8 41. Ned6 $1 Bxd6 42. Nxd6 {Paradoxically, this trade is in white's favor: without the "bad" dark-squared bishop, black cannot defend all her weaknesse.} Qc7 43. Rf2 $2 {This move wins, but is a bit careless from a practical perspective. The position was good enough to be won without excess calculation of variations, whereas now white suddenly gives black some resources.} (43. Kc1 { is simply winning for white. All the pieces are defended.}) 43... Rd8 $1 { Black finds a great practical try.} ({Also possible was} 43... e4 {and white has to find} 44. Qg3 $1 {in order to keep black's counterplay under control.}) 44. Rxf6 Kb8 $1 {Threatening ...Nc8. This was the critical moment of the game.} 45. Qd2 $2 ({The only winning move was} 45. Re6 $3 {with the idea of} Nc8 ({or } 45... a5 46. Re8) 46. Ne8 $1) 45... a5 {All of a sudden black is fine. The pin on the d6-knight is very difficult to dislodge.} 46. Qd3 (46. Re6 Nc8 47. Ne8 {no longer works, because white's queen is not defended.}) ({The best defense was to defend the queen with} 46. Kc1 {, and then} e4 47. Nb5 Rxd2 48. Nxc7 e3 $1 49. Rxb6+ Kxc7 50. Re6 Re2 $1 {is a drawn rook ending.}) 46... e4 47. Qg3 $2 ({White had saving chances after} 47. Qxe4 Rxd6 48. Rxd6 Qxd6 49. Qxh7) 47... Nd5 48. Re6 Qc3+ $2 {Both players were low on time, which explains the series of mistakes.} (48... Qg7+ 49. Kc1 Qa1+ 50. Kd2 Nc3 {was immediately winning. For instance,} 51. Qe5 {is met by} Qg1) 49. Qxc3 bxc3+ 50. Kc1 Nc7 51. Rh6 e3 52. Kd1 Nb5 53. Ke2 Nxd6 {Black is up a piece, but it is not over yet.} 54. Rxh7 $2 ({It was more logical to take the dangerous passed pawn with} 54. Kxe3 {, and after} Rd7 55. a4 {black's knight cannot penetrate. White should hold a draw.}) 54... Re8 $2 (54... Nb5 $1 {was correct, with the idea of} 55. Kxe3 Na3) 55. Rh5 $2 ({The only move to save the game was} 55. Rd7 $3 Ne4 56. Rd3 Ng3+ 57. Kd1 {, and white wins back one of the pawns.}) 55... Ne4 $1 { It is smooth sailing from here on.} 56. Rb5+ (56. Kxe3 Nf6+) 56... Kc7 57. Rxa5 Ng3+ 58. Ke1 Rf8 59. Rf5 Nxf5 60. gxf5 Rxf5 61. Ke2 Re5 62. h4 Kc6 63. a4 Kc5 64. h5 Kd4 65. b4 Rxh5 66. b5 Rh2+ 67. Ke1 e2 68. b6 Ke3 69. b7 Rh1# 0-1 [/pgn]


2021 U.S. Senior Championship

After opening the 2021 U.S. Senior Championship with a win, GM Larry Christiansen slipped in a winning endgame in the second round against GM Alexander Fishbein and gave away a half-point. Only GM Gregory Kaidanov remains perfect after two rounds, winning Saturday with this nice tactical shot against GM James Tarjan. 


2021 U.S. Senior Championship - Kaidanov-Tarjan
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26.Nf7+! won the exchange for White, with the point 26...Rxf7 27.Bxf7 Rxd1 28.Qf8+! leads to mate. // credit Kostya Kavutskiy, 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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