By Tony Rich
SAINT LOUIS (July 14, 2012) -- As the 2012 U.S. Junior Closed Championship winds down, the action is heating up; the competitors are feeding off the pressure as the race to first draws near to create some amazing games! As expected, the tournament has produced very few draws – just 14 in total.
Victor Shen continues to play well and leads the field in the A group. A victory in round seven against Atulya Shetty will guarantee him a spot in the playoffs against the winner of the B group. In round five, Shen dispatched Matthew Michaelides from the white side of a Ragozin Queen’s Gambit Declined. Using a pretty tactic based around forking Matthew’s king and queen with Ne7+, Victor was able to win a pawn in the opening. His continued pressure and blacks weak pawns ensured victory.
FM Victor Shen
In an exciting round six game, Shen was paired against top seed (and point leader) IM Conrad Holt. Shen fought tenaciously but found himself in a difficult position. He continued to defend patiently, and despite the pressure, Holt was unable to find a breakthrough. After sacrificing the exchange on move 26, things started going wrong for Conrad, who was left without compensation for the material deficit at time control. Shen pressed a victory from the exchange-up endgame, leaving him half a point ahead of his nearest rival after six rounds.
IM Alec Getz stumbled against Darwin Yang in the penultimate round, yet he remains in the hunt, tied with Holt at four points and just half a point behind Shen. Getz, who started the event ranked fourth in the A group, demonstrated some clear talent throughout the event.
Will Fisher inched off the baseboard with a solid draw in round five against Getz. Fisher, who has fared poorly in the tournament, seemed to play for the draw from move one. He repeated the position around move 19, tacitly offering the draw. In a fighting spirit, Getz varied his play and was able to win the bishop pair; however, the weaknesses on the light squares around his king kept the position balanced and they drew at the time control.
Jeffrey Xiong split the day with one win and one loss. His victory came in round five against Yang, who seems to be struggling this tournament. Xiong employed the sharp Albin Counter Gambit, and with a temporary queen sacrifice on move 15, won a piece and the game.
Despite two back-to-back losses against the top seeds, Shetty rebounded with a victory over Xiong in round six. Jeffrey sacrificed a pawn in the opening, but was unable to drum up any real initiative. Finding himself in a worse position, Xiong went all-in with 21… b5, which simply hastened the end.
In the B group, IM Marc Arnold continues to be in good form, despite his shaky draw in round five against NM Justus Williams. Arnold rebounded in the sixth round and quickly dispatched FM Eric Rosen, leaving him in clear first in the B group. He heads into the last round a full point ahead of his nearest rivals – Robert Perez and Daniel Naroditsky.
Justus Williams continues to earn his keep, drawing the top two seeds in the past two rounds. Williams missed the win against Marc Arnold in the fifth round, but played solidly in the sixth to hold Daniel Naroditsky to a draw.
In a heartbreaking defeat, Kayden Troff’s hopes were dashed in round six against Raven Sturt. In a balanced endgame, Troff blundered with 40. Rb6, allowing a rook sacrifice and mate in two.
Will tournament leaders Marc Arnold and Victor Shen be able to maintain their perch atop the field and enter the playoffs this evening? Tune in to www.uschesschamps.com to follow the action live and find out!