- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Two weeks’ worth of hard work at the Chess Club of St. Louis produced three new U.S. champions, with 16-year-old Wisconsin GM Awonder Liang recording a rare three-peat as U.S. junior champion, edging out New Jersey GM Nicolas Checa in a playoff after the two tied in the 10-player invitational at 7-2.

(It will have to be “wait until next year” for local — Ashburn, Virginia — heroine WGM Jennifer Yu, the 2019 U.S. women’s champion who had a rough go with just one draw in nine games as a wild-card entry in the Juniors.)

In the U.S. Girls Championship, it was top-seeded FM Carissa Yip, 15, taking the crown, a half-point ahead of a very impressive WIM Rochelle Wu. And in the first-ever U.S. Senior invitational, for American stars 50 and older, Pittsburgh GM Alex Shabalov led wire to wire in a hard-fought event at 6-3, a full point better than GMs Gregory Kaidanov and Alexander Goldin.

Keeping the kibitzing to a minimum just allows us to squeeze in a game from each of the winners. Key to Liang’s late surge to catch Checa was his Round 7 win over IM Brandon Jacobson in an offbeat Sicilian line.

When Black castles kingside, Liang sacrifices a pawn to open lines and soon Jacobson’s center is in ruins. A double attack on White’s queen with 30…Ng4? backfires badly after 31. Nxg4! Bxe5 32. Nxe5+, and Black faces a lost ending after 32…Qxg7 33. Rxg7+ Kxg7 34. Nd3+.

The most dramatic and consequential game of the three events may have been Yip’s Round 6 victory over Wu, Wu’s only loss of the event. Black had a draw in hand with 26…Kg8, but Wu overreached and was punished on 26…Kh8?? (see diagram) 27. Qe7! (with the king on h8, Black can’t play 27…Rf7 here) gxh5 28. Qxe5+ Kg8 29. Qg3+ Kh8 30. Qe5+ Kg8 31. Qg3+ Kh7 32. Re7. Black’s clever defense can’t stave off the inevitable, and in the final position, Black resigns facing lines such as 35…Qd2 36. Rxh7+! Kxh7 37. Qh5+ and the White queen and rook will soon mate.

And the wildest game of the St. Louis summer came from a couple of the graybeards, GMs Igor Novikov and Maxim Dlugy, in an irrational but highly enjoyable London System line. Black “sacrifices” his queen on Move 12, White castles on Move 27, and the material balance is off-kilter throughout the play. We won’t pretend to explain things here, but Dlugy’s queenside pawns are eventually neutralized and it’s the Black d-pawn that decides the play.

In the final position, Black’s threats include 39…Qxg3 (followed by 40…Kxd6) and the even more lethal 39…Re1!; Dlugy resigned.

Liang-Jacobson, U.S. Junior Championship, St. Louis, July 2019

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 Bd7 5. b3 Nf6 6. Bb2 e5 7. Qd2 Bc6 8. f3 Be7 9. h4 h5 10. 0-0-0 Nbd7 11. Kb1 Qa5 12. Nh3 Qc5 13. Nf2 a6 14. g3 Qa7 15. f4 0-0 16. Bh3 b5 17. g4 hxg4 18. Nxg4 Nxe4 19. Nxe4 Bxe4 20. Rhg1 Rac8 21. Ne3 f5 22. Bg2 Rf7 23. Bxe4 fxe4 24. Nd5 Bf8 25. h5 e3 26. Nxe3 Rxf4 27. h6 Nf6 28. hxg7 Bxg7 29. Qxd6 Qf7 30. Qxe5 Ng4 31. Nxg4 Bxe5 32. Nxe5+ Black resigns.

Yip-Wu, 2019 U.S. Girls Championship, St. Louis, July 2019

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 Nxd5 8. exd5 Ne7 9. c4 Nf5 10. Bd3 g6 11. 0-0 a6 12. Bg5 Be7 13. Bxe7 Qxe7 14. Nc3 0-0 15. Re1 Qc7 16. Rc1 Nd4 17. b4 b6 18. Qd2 Bf5 19. Bxf5 Nxf5 20. Ne4 Nd4 21. c5 dxc5 22. bxc5 bxc5 23. d6 Qb6 24. Qg5 f5 25. Nf6+ Kg7 26. Nh5+ Kh8 27. Qe7 gxh5 28. Qxe5+ Kg8 29. Qg3+ Kh8 30. Qe5+ Kg8 31. Qg3+ Kh8 32. Re7 Nf3+ 33. Qxf3 Qxd6 34. Rce1 h4 35. R1e6 Black resigns.

Dlugy-Novikov, U.S. Senior Championship, St. Louis, July 2019

1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. dxc5 e6 5. b4 a5 6. c3 Bd7 7. Nd2 axb4 8. cxb 4 b6 9. cxb6 Bxb4 10. Bc7 Qe7 11. Nf3 Ba4 12. Qxa4+ Rxa4 13. Bb5+ Nfd7 14. Bxa4 0-0 15. Bxd7 Qxd7 16. a4 Na6 17. Ne5 Qe7 18. Nc6 Qc5 19. Nxb4 Qxb4 20. Rb1 Qa5 21. Bd6 Rd8 22. Bg3 d4 23. e4 e5 24. b7 f6 25. f4 Rb8 26. fxe5 fxe5 27. 0-0 Qxd2 28. Bxe5 Rf8 29. Rfd1 Qe3+ 30. Kh1 d3 31. Bd6 Rf2 33. b8=Q+ Nxb8 34. Rxb8+ Kf7 35. Kg1 Qxe4 36. a5 d2 37. Rd8 Ke7 38. Rd6 Qe3 White resigns.

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

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