Xiong Secures World Junior Title With Round To Spare (UPDATED)
For the first time in 19 years, a player from the United States has come in first place at the World Junior U20 Championship. Today, GM Jeffery Xiong, age 15, won the tournament with a round to spare.
Jeffery Xiong is becoming a very strong grandmaster, and he's doing it fast.
Two months after winning the B group of the Capablanca Memorial, and a month after clinching his first U.S. Junior Championship in St. Louis, the youngster from Plano, Texas won the World Junior Championship in the under 20 category. He did so aged 15 (!) and with a round to spare.
The tournament is under way at the KIIT University in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, in Eastern India. It is a 13-round Swiss with both an open section and a girls section. In the open, there are 80 players including 8 GMs and 16 IMs.
The top seeds are Vladislav Artemiev (Russia) and Jeffery Xiong (USA), the only two players from the current world's top ten juniors who made the trip to India. Artemiev is currently the world number four player younger than twenty years old; Xiong is number six. The current top three are Richard Rapport of Hungary, Wei Yi of China and Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland.
A key game — and a truly spectacular encounter — was Xiong's fight with Aravindh Chithambaram VR in round eight. He had played 1.d4 in earlier games as white, but this time, against one of India's rising stars, Xiong switched to 1.e4. A 3.Bb5 Sicilian led to opposite-side castling and extremely sharp play.
Xiong had the stronger nerves in a crazy game vs Chithambaram. | All photos courtesy World Juniors.
However, most of Xiong's games were much more positional and technical efforts, like the following one in round ten.
The playing hall during the first round.
By that point, Xiong had scored 8.5/10 and was leading by a full point. Fortunate with the pairing, he got the white pieces again for the top game against the runner-up at that point: the top seed, Artemiev. Xiong drew without any problems.
He then decided the tournament with a convincing win in today's round, whereas Artemiev only drew.
UPDATE: In the final round, Xiong drew with IM Masoud Mosadeghpour of Iran, after having already secured the gold medal and the €3,000 (U.S. $3,400) first prize. Artemiev defeated Chithambaram to clinch the silver medal.
World Junior U20 | Final Standings (Top 20)
|3||GM||Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan||2515||U18||9||½||98½||104||6||6|
|10||GM||Aravindh Chithambaram Vr.||2543||U18||8||0||99||105||7||5|
|20||IM||Tran Tuan Minh||2473||U20||7½||0||87||92||7||5|
(Full final standings here.)
Jeffery Xiong, the 2016 World Junior Champion.
The last U.S. player to win the World Junior title was Tal Shaked, who won in 1997 in Zagan, Poland. The other past winners from the United States are Ilya Gurevich (1990), Maxim Dlugy (1985), Yasser Seirawan (1979), Mark Diesen (1976) and William Lombardy (1957).
Dlugy told Chess.com, "I was very impressed by Jeffrey's endgame technique. He showed maturity of play that shows he is ready to make the next step forward in his playing level."
This is the 55th time the tournament has been held. The first ever World Junior Championship was won by Borislav Ivkov in 1951. Currently, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan is the only player who has won the tournament twice — a record Xiong might be chasing, as he can participate four more times.
Together with Sam Sevian, Xiong is considered to be the one of today's biggest U.S. chess talents. Both players were born in the year 2000.
Xiong was the runner-up in the 2012 World Youth Championship U12. He became a GM at the Chicago Open in May 2015, in which he scored his third norm. He has been trained by Babakuli Annakov and Vladimir Georgiev.
UPDATE: Chess.com got in touch with Garry Kasparov, who is a former world junior champion himself, and who has worked with Xiong in the Kasparov Chess Foundation training program.
"I'm very happy and very proud of Jeffery for winning and for doing it in such overwhelming fashion. It's a long and rowdy event, but he showed his best qualities throughout and simply dominated. His progress over the last year or so has been remarkable. He's been part of program for four or five years and honestly, I thought he was getting a bit stuck for a while. It sounds silly to call a 15-year-old a late bloomer, but he really exploded last year.
"It's also notable that he's not only adding Elo, he's winning tournaments. It shows he has the drive and the nerves to go with his great talent. He has a very solid style, very mature chess. He also works damn hard, and it's paying off. I was quite impressed by the quality of his games at the last Young Stars training session in June — very high quality. That was even before he won the Capablanca tournament with +4, undefeated. You can't put a ceiling on such a young player who has had a recent big leap like Jeffery has. Anything is possible for him, as long as he continues to work as hard as he does, and I expect that he will.
Left-right: Garry Kasparov , Alejandro Ramirez, Kayden Troff, Jeffery Xiong, Sam Sevian.
"I cannot omit pointing out how critical Rex Sinquefield and his Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis have been for the success of our program. Combining his sponsorship with the Kasparov Chess Foundation training program has turned the U.S. into a true chess powerhouse. Xiong's cohort includes Troff and Sevian, an impressive group. And not just at the elite level, but in education and through growing the grassroots. It gives me a funny sense of déjà vu, back to my Soviet days when chess had tremendous prestige, and the benefits of the game were appreciated. Spassky once joked that the greatest example of the Soviet chess school was Bobby Fischer. It turns out that the traditions and pride of the Soviet chess school are being revived in St. Louis!"
Yasser Seirawan, another former world junior champion:
"Simply outstanding. Hearty congratulations to Jeffrey on his fantastic achievement. Congratulations also belong to his father, Wayne, who has supported Jeffrey all the way. Hard work, dedication and constant support does payoff. In terms of a comparable World Junior result, the only thing that comes readily to mind is Kasparov’s results first in the Soviet Junior and then in the World Junior. Bravo!
"What does potential mean? I don’t know. Each and everyone has potential. Better to ask: will Jeffrey continue to dedicate himself, work on his game, enjoy the results that encourage him to go further, to have the opportunities to compete at an elite level? After all such opportunities are few and far between. Those are a lot of questions to be answered. Jeffrey is so young. Only time will tell.
"I'm amazed about the maturity of his game. We are all used to associating young players with romantic attacking games. Tactics being the dominate feature. With Jeffrey I see a well-roundedness. He enjoys playing long games. He keeps his nerves in double-edged positions. His 2016 U.S. Championship result shows that he is a tough player to beat. Jeffrey has a bright future. Hopefully, he will fulfill the promise that is so clearly self-evident."