Akshat Chandra Wins U.S. Juniors, Qualifies for 2016 U.S. Championship

Akshat Chandra Wins U.S. Juniors, Qualifies for 2016 U.S. Championship

| 23 | Chess Event Coverage

“It will be an incredible honor,” said Akshat Chandra, who might face 2800-GMs at next year's U.S. Championship in St. Louis. The 15-year-old IM from Iselin, New Jersey qualified by winning the U.S. Junior Championship on Wednesday.

Chandra photographed by Austin Fuller.

“I went into this tournament with the attitude that I wanted to win it,” said Chandra on his biggest payday ever as he received a check worth $6,000. “I wanted to play [Fabiano] Caruana, Wesley [So] and Hikaru [Nakamura] and people like that.”

Chandra finished on 7.0/9 which was half a point more than Chicago Open winner Jeffery Xiong. Both have been training with Garry Kasparov; the last session took place last month.

Chandra would lead the tournament from start to finish. Defending with the Grünfeld, he defeated 16-year-old IM Luke Harmon-Velotti in the first round. In a complicated middlegame, White didn't respond correctly to Black's central play and failed to get enough compensation for his early pawn sacrifice.

Annotations by GM Mackenzie Molner


The first round in action in St. Louis. | Photo Austin Fuller.

After six rounds Chandra was half a point ahead of Xiong. On Monday the two rating favorites faced each other in round seven for what was the most anticipated game of the tournament.

The leader returned to his Taimanov Sicilian after “flirting” with the Najdorf in round three. White held a slight edge and could have played for the attack, but decided to go for a better endgame instead.

After missing a good chance on move 51 the game was equal. Xiong could even afford going into a rook ending a pawn down, since it was a book draw position. A good fight between two future stars!

Annotations by GM Mackenzie Molner


Xiong vs Chandra, filmed for the live broadcast. | Photo Austin Fuller.

“I think my lucky game was against Jeffery,” said Chandra about this game, at the end of the tournament. “He was technically winning at one point, but was imprecise.”

For a moment he must have forgotten his game with 13-year-old FM Ruifeng Li in round five, where he was completely lost right out of the opening:

Annotations by GM Mackenzie Molner


Li vs Chandra, long after White had spoilt a completely winning position. | Photo Austin Fuller.

In the last round Candra, still half a point ahead of Xiong, defended his lead against 12-year-old FM Awonder Liang. By that point Liang was on a disappointing 3.5/8, taking into account his great start of 2.5/3.

Chandra kept his faith in the Taimanov. He was out of preparation as soon as Liang went for the not-so-popular 7.Bd3, but had a feel for the position nonetheless: “I actually won a blitz game against Igor Kovalenko with it,” he said. 

By move 16 Black had equalized. Chandra: “I thought I was OK after 16...Qh5 but I was kind of surprised by 19.Rf6. As long as Black can consolidate it's at least equal.”

FM Awonder Liang giving it a try against Chandra's Taimanov. | Photo Austin Fuller.

Chandra continued strongly, despite being low on time. The relief was clearly visible in his post-game interview with GM Ben Finegold. “I was in time trouble for like the last 15 moves. I had at least a share of the lead for the whole tournament, so to lose it at the last minute... 

Annotations by GM Mackenzie Molner

The $6,000 check was easily the biggest amount Chandra had ever won. He hasn't decided yet whether he wants to become a professional chess player. One very professional tournament awaits him: the 2016 U.S. Championship.

2015 Junior Championship | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Chandra,Akshat 2589 2688 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 7.0/9  
2 Xiong,Jeffery 2606 2634 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 6.5/9  
3 Shen,Arthur 2477 2603 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 6.0/9  
4 Li,Ruifeng 2502 2518 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0/9  
5 Liou,Yian 2501 2481 ½ 0 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5/9 19.00
6 Bodek,Michael 2527 2478 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 ½ 1 4.5/9 18.00
7 Harmon-Vellotti,Luke 2526 2400 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ 3.5/9 13.75
8 Liang,Awonder 2428 2410 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 3.5/9 12.25
9 Brattain,Mika 2457 2365 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 3.0/9  
10 Han,Curran 2211 2232 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/9  
Chandra being interviewed after his tournament victory. | Photo Austin Fuller.

The U.S. Junior Closed Championship 2015 took place July 7-15, for the sixth time at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in St. Louis. It was a 10-player round robin with the best juniors in the U.S., organized this way since 1966.

Peter Doggers

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