By Ken West
SAINT LOUIS, June 16, 2011 -- The first round of the 2011 U.S. Junior Closed Championship at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis ended with four decisive games and one draw. Even the draw between International Master Conrad Holt and International Master Daniel Naroditsky showed fighting chess according to FIDE Master Aviv Friedman, who is providing commentary on the games along with GM Ben Finegold, the club's resident grandmaster.
The championship, which runs through June 26, features some of the best players in the country under the age of 21. In addition to earning the title of U.S. Junior Champion and taking home the first-place prize of $3,000, the winner also receives an automatic bid to both the World Junior Championship and the 2012 U.S. Championship. The total prize fund is more than $10,000.
In Thursday's games, NM Gregory Young (2384) beat NM Raven Sturt (2375); FM John Bryant (2486) sacrificed a knight and won against FM Victor Shen (2435); NM Jialin Ding (2233), the hometown player, lost on the white side to FM Warren Harper (2412); and FM Alec Getz (2398) won his game against NM Kayden Troff (2345), the youngest in the field at 13.
We're seeing a lot of king hunts, Finegold said about the games.
Holt and Naroditsky agreed to the draw when both only had a few seconds left on their clock. Friedman and Finegold both said they thought Naroditsky had the edge with his Kings Indian early in the game because Holt's king was in the center and he had advanced his g pawn. When Holt finally castled on move 21, the commentators said he was consolidating his position.
Naroditsky's a5 on move six surprised Friedman. In post-game commentary, Naroditsky said GM Sam Shankland showed him the idea. Holt said he had never seen the move in that position.
Friedman said both sides exhausted each other in the run-up to the draw.
Bryant likes to play rock em, sock em chess and likes double-edged positions Friedman said. Bryant lived up to that by sacrificing his knight on f7 on move 18 in his game against Chen and followed it with a rook lift.
I definitely didn't calculate the whole variation, Bryant said. I calculated enough to discard Qh5 as the next move and played Rb4 instead. My idea is I have superior force on the king side.
Bryant said the move makes it difficult for Chen to defend his position.
I played the risky g5, Chen said. I calculated a long variation. Unfortunately I missed Ba4. I only considered Bg6. The reason I played a risky move is because I did not want to be stuck with a passive defense.
That passive defense would have had his king on g8 and his rook on h8. Chen resigned on move 30, with his queen on d7 in front of his king and Bryant's rook on d1.
Ding essayed Ngh5 on move eight against Harper's Caro Kann defense. The move sent Harper into a long think before he moved the king to f8 to protect the g pawn. Ding said he had the same position against GM Alex Lenderman at the recent Chicago Open.
I had never seen it before, Harper said.
Ding said it was his plan to capture that pawn if Harper did not move the king. Harper didn't like his king on that square but said he thought it resulted in Ding's knights being on awkward squares, h5 and f4.
During commentary, Friedman and Finegold said Ding should push his h pawn. Ding said he rejected h4 because he thought his opponents a and b pawns would reach his castled queenside faster than his h pawn would reach the king side.
Action resumes at 1 p.m. Friday. Those pairings are: Sturt/Troff; Naroditsky/Getz; Harper/Holt; Shen/Ding; and Young/Bryant.
Live commentary with Finegold and Friedman can be seen live on www.livestream.com/uschess.