Yip Wins North American Junior U20 Championship, Earns GM Norm

The 2023 North American Junior U20 Championships were held from December 19 through 23 in Dulles, Virginia. Organized by Capital Area Chess with approval of US Chess, Confederation of Chess for America (CCA), and FIDE, the nine-round tournaments (Open and Girls) crowned outright winners in each section.

In the Junior Open, IM Carissa Yip won the tournament outright with an 8/9 score, earning her first GM norm directly thanks to her finish. FM Erick Zhao — the ninth grade National Co-Champion – claimed clear second on 7½/9, nabbing an IM norm along the way. Canadian FM Daniel Xu also earned an IM norm with his third-place finish on 7/9, finishing ahead of fellow Canadian IM Nicholas Vettese on tiebreaks.

In the Junior Girls championship, America swept the podium with FM Zoey Tang (8/9), WIM Iris Mou (7½/9), and Angela Liu (6/9, ahead of Canadian WCM Julia Tsukerman and American WFM Aasa Dommalapati on tiebreaks) finishing first through third, respectively. Tang earned a WGM norm for her performance, and Liu earned both the WFM title and a WIM norm for hers. The same direct titles were available for Mou, but she already has both the WFM and WIM title. As it turns out, her draw from an advantageous position against Tang was the difference-maker between her and the WGM norm that both her and Tang were vying for.


Junior Open

Yip entered Dulles as the top seed and left as the champion. Smooth sailing, right? Not exactly! On board one, Yip suffered a shocking upset at the hands of James Douglas Wright (1754) to start her tournament. The 645-point upset was definitely not what anybody was expecting, but Yip rebounded in championship nature by winning her next eight games to claim clear first.

In round seven, shades of the World Junior Championship returned as Yip had to navigate a complex theoretical rook endgame against CM Pedro Espinosa to stay in the hunt:



Yip entered the last round tied for first on 7/8 with her opponent, Xu. A draw would guarantee at least a two-way tie for first, and a win by Zhao would make it a trio. With her first-round loss, tiebreaks would not be on Yip’s side, meaning that the final game was a “must-win” from the norm perspective:



Indeed, Zhao did also manage to win his final game, allowing him to not only join the podium but leapfrog Xu in the process.



Both Zhao and Xu were also eligible for prizes in the Under-15 age category, so we will see them back in future iterations of this championship. For Yip, on the other hand, this was a nice send-off, as this was the twenty-year-old’s last event on the Under-20 Junior circuit.


Junior Girls

Tang and Mou entered as the top two seeds, and they left with the top two prizes. Neither player lost a game the entire event, but Tang only gave up one draw in addition her game with Mou, while Mou was held to two additional draws. As such, the gold medal was decided by one critical moment on Mou’s 26th move against Tang:



Liu entered the event seeded fifth, so her podium finish is not a major upset, but holding Mou to a draw certainly was. Unfortunately, some errors in transmission have made it difficult to recover the ending of this game as well as those of her stronger victories. In her game against Tang, the eventual champion saw a hole in Black’s kingside and struck with the appropriate urgency.



Despite yielding one extra draw, Mou played notably ambitious chess throughout the event, highlighted in this game against a particularly tactical opponent.



With the top finishers all either 14 (Mou) or 15 (Tang, Liu) years old, it will be interesting to see whether any of the even younger 12- and 13-year-olds close behind them on the leaderboard will catch up in future years.

Since there will be no printable Tactics Tuesday or Wednesday Workout this week, please enjoy some additional tactical highlights that popped up while looking for games for this recap. See six more puzzles here beginning with the eighth chapter of our study here.