- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2016

School’s out and the kids are playing — at the board.

The summer months are traditionally the busiest part of the calendar for junior events, with young stars having a bit more time to compete before classes resume in the fall. The World Junior Championships, for players under 20, gets underway Sunday in Odisha, India, while the 2016 World Chess Olympiad for players 16 and younger just wrapped up in Poprad, Slovakia.

Closer to home, Washington-area fans got a firsthand look at America’s future stars this week at the U.S. Cadet Championships, hosted by the Maryland Chess Association in Rockville late last month for the country’s best players under 16.

Texas GM Jeffery Xiong will head to the world junior tournament in India with a boatload of momentum, having won his first national title last month at the U.S. Junior Championship, played at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. It was his first win in five tries for the 15-year-old Xiong, whose 6½-2½ result edged rising 13-year-old star IM Awonder Liang by just a half-point.

Despite his age, Xiong has a mature, positional style. His key win, over former U.S. junior champ Kayden Troff of Utah, came one round after he suffered his only loss of the event against NM Alex Ostroskiy. In an English, Xiong as White gives back the pawn gambited by Black on his ninth move, and after 17. Qxb2 Bxb2 18. Rab1 Ba3 19. Rxb7, White’s pieces have taken up dominant positions.

A tactical finesse — the natural 23…Rac8? runs into 24. Rc7! Bd6 (Rxc7 25. Bxc7 Rc8 26. Rxc5) 25. Rxd7!, and wins — only increases White’s dominance, and once Xiong’s bishop gets to e5, the fight is over. After 30. Ree7 Bb4 31. Rxh7, there’s no defense to the threat of 32. Rh8 mate; Troff resigned.

*****

Ironically, it’s the grownups who have been engaging in some sketchy opening play, at least to judge from Moldovan GM Viktor Bologan’s mishandling of his forces against Russian GM Dmitry Jakovenko in the ongoing Karpov Tournament being played in Poikovsky, Russia.

White puts the “pin” in pinata when Black blunders with 14. Rd1 Rd8? (see diagram; 14…h6 was surely more prudent) 15. Bg5! Qd6 (unfortunately for Bologan, 15…Bxg5 16. Bb5! leaves his queen embarrassed — 16…Qe6 [Qxf3 17. Re1+ Kf8 18. gxf3 g6 19. Qe4, with a big edge] 17. Re1 pins the queen) 16. Bb5 Qc7 17. Rxd8+ Kxd8 (Bxd8 18. Qe4+) 18. Rd1+ Ke8 19. Qe4 f6 20. Bf4 Qc8 21. Rd6, and Black’s pinned bishop can do nothing to help his pinned knight; Bologan resigned.

U.S. Junior Championship, St. Louis, July 2016

Xiong - Troff

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Qb3 Nb6 6. d4 Bg7 7. Bf4 Be6 8. Qa3 c5 9. Qxc5 Nc6 10. e4 Nd7 11. Qa3 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Bxd4 13. Bb5 0-0 14. 0-0 Qb6 15. Bxd7 Bxd7 16. Nd5 Qxb2 17. Qxb2 Bxb2 18. Rab1 Ba3 19. Rxb7 Rfd8 20. h4 a6 21. Rfb1 f5 22. R1b3 Bc5 23. Rc3 Bc6 24. Nxe7+ Bxe7 25. Rxc6 Bxh4 26. g3 Rd1+ 27. Kg2 Bd8 28. Re6 Ba5 29. Be5 Rad8 30. Ree7 Bb4 31. Rxh7 Black resigns

17th Karpov Tournament, Poikovsky, Russia, July 2016

Jakovenko - Bologan

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 Bb7 5. a3 d5 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. Qc2 Nxc3 8. bxc3 c5 9. e4 Nc6 10. Bd3 Rc8 11. d5 exd5 12. exd5 Qxd5 13. 0-0 Be7 14. Rd1 Rd8 15. Bg5 16. Bb5 Qc7 Qd6 17. Rxd8+ Kxd8 18. Rd1+ Ke8 19. Qe4 f6 20. Bf4 Qc8 21. Rd6 Black resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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