Junior Championship off to a strong start
Day one of the 2012 U.S. Junior Closed Championship was as exciting as expected. In most strong tournaments, many of the top players play carefully and solidly in an attempt to avoid a loss, which typically results in a lot of drawn games. But not at the Junior Championships!
In the first round, there were seven decisive games and only one draw. The 16-player field is split into two sections of eight players each, and the winner of each section will play head-to-head in a final match, which takes place Saturday and Sunday.
The event features two rounds each day; and the surprise leader of Group A after one day and two rounds of play is Alec Getz. In the first round, Getz misplayed the opening against first-time Junior participant Atulya Shetty of Michigan (one of my former students), but he was able to sacrifice a rook for a bishop, and the open nature of Shetty’s king was all the play Getz needed for a victory.
He also was able to win his second round against 2012 U.S. Junior Open champion Matthew Michaelides in a nice endgame where white was able to push forward on the kingside and create a winning passed pawn.
The pre-tournament favorites are doing well, for the most part. The highest-rated players in Group A were paired in round one, and top-seed Conrad Holt was able to win against second-seed Darwin Yang in a very long endgame. Holt recently earned all of his GM norms and will get the title officially later this year, and Yang has achieved two of the three necessary norms on his way to the grandmaster title. They both drew their games in round two.
Also doing well with 1.5 points out of two games (1/5/2) is Marc Arnold, the highest-rated player in the event. Arnold may have earned his final GM norm last week at the World Open, and many have tabbed him as a favorite to win the event.
St. Louis resident Kevin Cao, 15, also is participating in this event, and he scored a nice victory over Eric Rosen in round two to pull into the middle of the pack after day one. Cao will be a sophomore at Parkway Central High School in the fall, and although he is the lowest-rated player in his section, he is off to a great start.
The winner qualifies for the 2013 U.S. Championship and will represent the U.S. in the 2012 World Junior Championship. Games are shown live at uschesscamps.com, and you can also come down to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center and watch the games and commentary each day with matches beginning at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. local time.
Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.