- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2017

They won’t be “liking” this on Facebook or boasting about it on Snapchat.

We’ll keep the fuddy-duddy jokes to a minimum, but there could be some real soul-searching after the disappointing performance of a team of top young American stars at the just-completed “Match of the Millennials” at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

Heavily outranked on the top boards, the nine-player International team made short work of the Americans, taking the overall match by a stunning 30½-17½ margin, with the U.S. Under-17 and Under-14 teams both already lost even before the final round began. Day 3 of the four-day event was particularly gruesome, as the Internationals scored 10½ points out of the 12 games played.

Sixteen-year-old Texas GM Jeffery Xiong, the U.S. top seed and the reigning world junior champion, could only manage a 4-4 result in St. Louis. But his lone win was one of the more attractive attacking games of the event, overpowering Indian GM Aryan Chopra from the White side of a Sicilian Najdorf.

Black’s 7. Nde2 h5!? is a committal move with momentous consequences down the line. Chopra gains space, but his king will never find a safe haven on the kingside. Still, after 14. Nge2 b5, Black has one of those resilient Sicilian positions where his weaknesses are hard for White to exploit; if Xiong does not react energetically, Black’s queenside push could soon become dangerous.

With Black’s king still stuck in the center, White redeploys his knights in a bid to strip away Black’s best defensive pieces: 21. Ncd1 d5!? (the classic Sicilian freeing move, though White is better situated to exploit the open position; better might have been 21…Qxc2 22. Rc1 Qa4 23. Ne3 Nbd7 24. Rfd1, when Black at least has an extra pawn to compensate for White’s clear initiative) 22. Ne3 Qc5 23. Bxf6! gxf6 24. exd5 Nxd5 25. Nxd5 Qxd5 26. Ne4, with the threat of 27. Rfd1 Qc6 28. Nd6+ Bxd6 29. Qxc6+.

White’s fancy-stepping knight grabs the spotlight in the game’s deciding sequence: 27. Kh2 Qxb2? (see diagram — this is no time to get greedy; it’s still a fight after 27…Qc4 28. Rfd1 Rxd1 29. Rxd1 Kf8, or even the trickier 29…Qxc2 30. Ra1 Qc6 31. Ra8+! Bd8 [Qxa8? 32. Nxf6+ Bxf6 33. Qxa8+ Ke7 34. Qb7+ Kf8 35. Qxb4, winning] 32. Rc8! Qb6 33. Nc5, though White clearly better) 28. Nxf6+! Kf8 (Bxf6? 29. Qc6+ Ke7 [Kf8 30. Qxf6 wins a rook] 30. Ra7+ Kf8 31. Qxf6 Rh7 32. Qxd8+ Kg7 33. Qg5+ Kf8 34. Re8 mate) 29. Ne4 f6 30. Ng5!, offering the knight a second time in the space of three moves.

Declining is bleak for Black on 30…Qxc2 31. Ne6+ Kf7 32. Nxd8+ Rxd8 33. Qh5+ Kg8 34. Ra7 Qc5 35. Rb7 Rc8 36. Qxh4, but Chopra opts for a quicker death: 30…fxg5 31. f6! Bc5 32. Qb7 Rg8 33. Ra7, and Black can’t stop mate in the next few moves; Chopra resigned.

Speaking of millennials (at least those born in the 21st century), they’re getting the first opportunity to play a U.S. Open in Virginia as the nation’s premier open event returns to the Old Dominion for the first time since the fondly remembered 1996 Open in Alexandria. Norfolk’s Sheraton Waterside Hotel is hosting this year’s Open, with GM Alex Shabalov trying to make it three in a row. Play ends Sunday, and we’ll have results and some of the action here next week.

Xiong-Chopra, Match of the Millennials, St. Louis, July 2017

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. Bg5 Be6 9. f4 Nbd7 10. f5 Bc4 11. Ng3 Qc7 12. Bxc4 Qxc4 13. Qf3 h4 14. Nge2 b5 15. a3 Be7 16. O-O Rd8 17. Nc1 Nb6 18. Nd3 a5 19. Nf2 b4 20. axb4 axb4 21. Ncd1 d5 22. Ne3 Qc5 23. Bxf6 gxf6 24. exd5 Nxd5 25. Nxd5 Qxd5 26. Ne4 Qd4+ 27. Kh2 Qxb2 28. Nxf6+ Kf8 29. Ne4 f6 30. Ng5 fxg5 31. f6 Bc5 32. Qb7 Rg8 33. Ra7 Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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