2012 US Junior, Better Than Last Year!!! Part 1
Summer is over and school is here! Most people look at summer as a time to rest and have fun, but it seems like chess players have it all wrong and instead, play in a lot of tournaments and study hard during the summer. I mentioned how busy my summer had been in my last blog which going solely on how long it has been since I wrote that blog, it should tell you something! I also mentioned the two highlight events of the summer; I talked about one already, but now I continue my adventuring by talking about the 2012 US Junior Closed Championship.
This tournament is just a great time in general! It was held in the Saint Louis Chess Club, which is a very nice venue and definitely a historic place for US Chess since it has held the US Championship, the US Women’s Championship and the US Junior several times over the last few year along with other great events organized over the years. Also the competition is very strong, with an average of 2410 USCF. Another bonus for me was that I had met a lot of the participants beforehand which was cool and all the participants are just really great, nice people that I am glad to be able to call my friends.
The tournament this year had a different format than last years. Instead of a 10-player Round Robin as in the 2011 USJCC, this year had 16 players split into two different 8-player Round Robins. Group A and B would play all their rounds and after they were all done the top scorer of each group would playoff for the title. They split the groups based on rating so that each group would have the same or close to the same average rating. I was put into group B which had an average USCF rating of 2419.5 slightly higher than Group A who had an average of 2412.6, so both groups having a strong field of competition (Here is the article on uschess.org giving some of the details of the US Junior)
The people in my Group were:
1. IM Marc Arnold
2. IM Daniel Naroditsky
3. NM Robert Perez
4. FM Eric Rosen
5. NM Raven Sturt
6. FM Kayden Troff
7. NM Justus Williams
8. NM Kevin Cao
During the opening ceremony is when they picked lots, thus deciding color and opponent for each game. Obviously since there were 8 players in each group they had 8 different lots. This year, they had 8 different binders each with a different number in it, of course you don’t know what number you picked until you chose your binder and opened it up. They had us pick in order of rating so I got to pick 6th. Now the way it was set is that if you picked 1-4 you got 4 games White and 3 games Black and 5-8 you got 4 games Black and 3 games White. Most people prefer White, therefore, 1-4 were the numbers they were hoping to get. There were 5 people ahead of me so there should be a good chance of me getting a shot at 1-4, at least a chance right? Well the Chess instinct was apparently in while they were choosing and 1-4 got picked up before I got a chance; 5 people choosing and all but one picked the top four! Even though more games White than Black is preferable, I almost always get more games as Black in tournaments so I actually thought it was a little bit funny. And if it continues the way it has in some of my previous tournaments I usually get better results with Black than White so WAHOO!! More Blacks!!!
Overall in the opening ceremony we picked lots, they gave us some general rules and regulations for the tournament and they gave welcome and introductions to the tournament. After that they had refreshments and we just hang out and had a great time. It was a lot of fun!
The first day of the tournament I was playing FM Eric Rosen and NM Justus Williams in both games I was Black, so I was saying okay I need to start well, two good results here to start!
The first game I was playing FM Eric Rosen. I wasn’t really expecting him to play 1.c4, but I was fine until 4.a3 which is more of a sideline so he took me out of what I was expecting to begin with and then again! I knew after 4.a3 that I could play d5, but then I get into a reverse Sicilian down a tempo. I was too excited about that and decided instead to avoid it, he mentioned after the game that he was hoping I would go into it so I dodged that bullet! I decided instead to play a more waiting move with 4…a6, I admit it is a little strange move, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play Bc5 or g6, Bg7 yet, so I wanted to see what he was playing. I thought I played well for a while except I think I should have played 10…Nxd4 first and then d5 instead of 10…d5. The middlegame seemed good and even getting later into the game I had an advantage… Until move 30…Rf6, where I blundered my Bishop. At first I thought he couldn’t take it… I had calculated a line previously with my Rook on b2 and my Queen on f6 and after Bxh3 I have Qxf2+ followed by Qxh2#, I mixed up these lines and after Bxh3, Qxf2+, Kh1 there isn’t Qxh2# anymore since my Rook was on f6 not b2…oops. I was still able to get two Pawns for the Piece and later I was able to equalize the position and after he made a mistake I got a better, but drawn endgame and we drew.
It was sad to throw away a better position by miscalculating, even though I was in time trouble it really was just a sad mistake. In the second game I was playing NM Justus Williams. Justus is a very talented player around my age and a good friend of mine. Again like in the previous position I found myself playing a position I kind of knew, but I had expected and prepared for something else. The opening I felt was fine except I probably should have played 7…Bg4 preparing Bxf3 getting rid of a passive Bishop on d7 and trying to take some of White’s support away from d4. He played well and seemed to have an advantage out of the opening and I felt like the only point maybe other than 7…Bg4 was instead of 15…g5 trying something like dxe5 and Nc7. After 17.a4 my position was starting to get broken down. I played 17… Nb4 pretty much forcing Rc1. Then I was thinking about it (we were both low on time) and I decided to go with a little bit of gamble playing 18…Nc2. I wasn’t sure about all of this (I had calculated some), but it definitely was very complicated. It turns out he has more than compensation for the exchange after Rxc2 Bxc2 Qxc2 and b4, but it was hard for him to give a full assessment of the position and decided not to and played 20.Bxg7. We played a few moves and then after 23.Bxa6 I was thinking about it and was like “Oh shoot! He is going to play Bd3 next and my Knight is trapped.” I started thinking and played 23…Rc6 prophylaxis against Bd3 because of some tactical ideas. He does have the possibility of playing 24.Bb7 Rd6 25.Rxf5 Nxf5 26.Qxc2, which is good for him, but unfortunately for him he missed this idea in time pressure and blundered with 24.Bd3. After that mistake he never really had the chance to recover and I won.
So far a good result 1.5 out of 2! Next game I was White against NM Kevin Cao. Finally White, wahoo! This game I decided to try to play 1.c4 for the second time in my tournament history. In truth, I had prepared for 3…Nf6 more than 3…g6, but since I have played similar positions as Black I decided to take the same approach as if I were Black except now I am up a tempo. In the first few moves I wasn’t really sure of how much of an advantage I had. He played 6… f5 trying to take me out of prep. I wasn’t entirely sure about how to continue, but I liked the idea of 7.d4 preparing 8.b4, since after 8…Nxb4 I have 9.Qa4+ Nc6 and 10.d5 winning his Knight. When I played 9.b5 I thought my space advantage on the Queenside would maybe offer me a chance for an advantage. It turns out though maybe after 11.Ba3 it was really hard for me to get some advantage. Truthfully at first glance it appears that his Pieces are really cramped and I have two open Bishops and my Rook on the open d-file. However, his position is really solid and he has enough time to get his Pieces better placed. I probably should have played 11.Qb3 and I think I should have a slight advantage. He played really well and probably my best chance (other than 11.Qb3) for an advantage was 15.Rd2 followed by Rfd1 doubling my Rooks on the d-file. I would have just slowly traded down to a draw, but I made a mistake and played 25.Bxc6 instead of 25.Nxc6. After 25.Bxc6 I allowed the strong reply 25…Rxb5! And now I have to defend a Pawn down endgame. I felt like after allowing Rxb5 I found the best reply and it gave him a controversial endgame where maybe he can win. I was a little nervous as you can imagine, and I was looking at different ways that he maybe could play on, but after 35…Rd5 I think 36.g4! makes it a lot easier for me to draw. Maybe after 36…fxg4 he can still play on, but after 36…Ke5 37.gxf5 Kxf5 and 38.f3! He doesn’t really have any more chances and we drew soon after.