The 2011 US Junior Closed Championship

The 2011 US Junior Closed Championship

GM KaydenTroff

 Get ready for an account of one if not the best tournament I have ever been to:  The 2011 US Junior Closed Championship!  This tournament takes place in the Saint Louis Chess Club which if you haven’t been there yet, you really should!!   It is quite a nice venue and gives great hope that chess may have a future in America. 

As I mentioned in my previous blog (, I went straight from the Kasparov Chess Camp and Fundraiser in New York (which I also talked about in my previous blog) to Saint Louis for the USJCC.  In my opinion, the USJCC was me getting paid to vacation! Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of work preparing every day, but once you put in all the work to get invited to the USJCC, they definitely treat you right!  They pay for your flight, hotel room, ride from the airport to the hotel, and then give you a $250 credit for food.  Then the prize for last place was $250 (but i wasn't planning on taking last, so I'd get even more than that hopefully).  So I got paid to come and do what I love, stay at nice hotel, and have a great time!!

The list of participants was (check here for more details on the players: ):

1.IM Daniel Naroditsky 2536

2.FM John Daniel Bryant 2486

3.IM Conrad Holt 2473

4.FM Victor Shen 2435

5.FM Waren Harper 2412

6.FM Alec Getz 2398

7.NM Gregory Young 2384

8.NM Raven Sturt 2375

9.NM Kayden Troff 2345

10.NM Jialin Ding 2233

Overall having an average rating of 2407.  The participants were decided by the U21 Top 100 list, starting with the top 8 then two wildcard picks.  For everyone on the list that declines it goes down to the next person until they have 8 players, then they pick two wildcards (at least that is what they did this year).  I was picked as one of the wildcards because (as they said) they were excited about what I had done recently.  This tournament was a Round-Robin so we got to prepare for each other.  I was notified that I was invited to go a week before I left for the Kasparov Chess Camp, so it was pretty crazy getting all ready for the USJCC.  It was also challenging because they didn’t decide colors and pairings until we got there.  We knew who we were playing we just didn’t know when and what color.  So my coaches and I took the list and prepared for all the players with both colors in three days which is the days we had available.  That was a little crazy!!!

My dad and I got to Saint Louis on the 14th, then the Opening Ceremony was on the 15th, and it started on the 16th.  The 14th we just relaxed and decided to go check out the Saint Louis Chess Club and were just amazed the first time we saw it.  It was really nice and it didn’t stop for a while as there was an upstairs and a downstairs.  We even got a little tour from Mike Wilmering.  They had TVs setup showing top games if there was a tourney going on somewhere in the world or they would just show ICC games and then they had a store on the middle floor.  Upstairs was where we played and they had different pictures of top players or they had one part were they had all the participants from the US Championship pictures, and another part with the USJCC participants pictures.

Then 15th we relaxed until the Opening Ceremony that night.  We showed up and did the photo shoot (which I was told went a lot quicker than last year) so yeah it went pretty quickly, and then we got a little tour.  After the tour, we went to the broadcasting room downstairs and got a briefing on the rules and any questions we might have.  We were then told to do whatever we wanted for an hour because the actual Opening Ceremony didn’t start until 6:00PM Saint Louis time.  We just hung out at the Chess Club and played some Blitz for one hour until the Opening Ceremony.

The Opening Ceremony was a lot of fun.  First we did the drawing of lots which they just had boxes lined up and you would go pick one, open it up, and you would get a nice pen with the number inside the box.  The only slightly confusing thing is that they didn’t put anything to distinguish the 6 and the 9 apart.  When I went up I got one of the 6/9s which because of the way I opened the box was a 6 and then later someone else (I don’t remember exactly who) went up and got 6 also.  It was then that I noticed that they hadn’t marked the 6 or 9.  I ended up with 6 and the other person with nine (it didn’t make a big difference since we all played the same people anyway).  After that they had some food and Ben Finegold was giving us chess problems and telling us stories, we also played a little bit of Blitz in which Raven Sturt and I were not focused and definitely not playing too seriously J.  We had a few others say that that was one of the worst Blitz games they had seen.  Our last game ended in a draw after I stalemated him on accident obnoxiously.  Overall we had a lot of fun.

Next day was finally time for the event to begin.   I was playing Alec Getz as Black and had spent time in the morning preparing.  Now the disadvantage of being 6-10 (in the draw) is you get 5 Blacks and 4 White and for 1-5 visa-versa.  I got a good amount of prep time since the round didn’t start until 1:00PM.  Out of the opening I thought I was doing well and I thought I had looked at the opening recently, but it wasn’t in my prep that morning.  It wasn’t until he pushed his h-pawn (which was weird now, but paid off later) that I kind of liked my position, and this was the point that I haven’t quite decided on where I pushed my f-pawn to put a better hold on the center and the main question is, “Was it too weakening on my position?”.  When I reviewed it afterwards with my coaches - at first my coach GM Melik Khachiyan didn’t quite like it, then my other coach GM Sam Shankland didn’t like it at first, but decided that overall it was ok.  After that in a few moves I really liked my position.  There was a recommendation afterwards that was a little bit tricky, but would have made it so I wouldn’t have had to trade Queens, which I thought was good.  But I didn’t play that and traded Queen which was just fine, but after that I made a bad decision to trade my Bishop and keep my Knight instead of visa-versa.  If I had traded the Knight instead of the Bishop it probably was an easy draw.  We played on for a little bit and then he started to attack on the kingside.  He started to build his attack some, but then we started getting low on time.   I, unfortunately, made my final mistake in time trouble and I lost. 

It was sad to mess up a draw like that, but it was still a good game.

That night, I prepped for my next opponent Raven Sturt as Black again.  This one I felt really good about my preparations.  But again, like Alec, he didn’t go into my prep.  The line he did play, I knew two lines there:  the one I knew better was dangerous, but playable, and the other one I kind of knew the ideas, but not the entire line.  The one that was dangerous, I knew there was a key move which I couldn’t remember (not good!) so I decided to go with the other line that I didn’t know as well (as dangerous).  We played on and I thought I had found a good idea to take advantage of his pawn being down on d5.  There was one move that I was concerned about though which I figured I would have to give him a pawn and go into an endgame where he was probably better, but not winning.  He didn’t go into the line and pushed his d-pawn instead.  (I looked at it later with Rybka and the line I was worried about I was just fine, but I also had an exchange sacrifice that was good too).  Now here I found out after the game that we had conflicting opinions about the position; he thought he was better and I thought I was better.  It probably was about equal, but it was hard for White to deal with his weak pawn on d6.  We played on and I had to be careful, but I finally won the pawn, but it was still a little tricky because my King was a little open.  I thought he might actually be able to hold a draw, but I got a trade of Queens while we were both low on time.  I was up a pawn in a one Rook endgame, but it was difficult because his Rook was more active than mine.  I thought the way I played it was less promoting my extra pawn, but more undermining the fact that his pawns were doubled and because of that my h-pawn was passed.  I ended up sacrificing my extra pawn, but getting another passed pawn.  I had to make sure I had some tricks, but I ended up trading one of my passed pawns for his passed pawn.  But his King was too far to stop me from promoting my other pawn and I ended up winning.

I hate to say it, but I am going to have to leave it here for now.  I realize that I am only two games into the Junior, but I have to pack for Boy Scout Camp.  I am sad to be leaving you here for a while, but I will be way busy again in August.  This time though it will be split between scouts, family vacation, chess camp, and the Metropolitan International Open.   I would have liked to have written more, but I had to do some prepping for the tournament I have coming up since I will not be home for the two weeks before.   I also played in the Utah Blitz Championship which I am now the 2011 Utah Blitz Champion.  As soon as I have the opportunity, I will be continuing the blog on the US Junior Closed Championships.

Here is my game with Raven Sturt: