- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A first-timer and a repeat winner have captured this year’s U.S. junior and junior girls national titles, respectively.

GM John Burke, a 19-year-old sophomore at St. Louis college chess powerhouse Webster University, won in his third try for the tournament restricted to the top U.S. players under 20. Burke edged favorite GM Jeffery Xiong, a former U.S. and world junior champion, in a blitz playoff to take the title after the two finished the regular event tied at 6½-2½.

The junior girls event, by contrast, has a familiar face at the top. Massachusetts IM Carissa Yip, 17, won for the third time in a row, with a 7½-1½ result that was 1½ points clear of second-place finisher IM Annie Wang.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, both events were played online at rapid Game/25 time controls. But both winners managed to play some attractive attacking chess even at the faster pace.

Burke stumbled out of the game with a Round 1 loss to Xiong, but righted the ship with a victory over IM Joshua Sheng in the very next round. In an English Four Knights, Sheng as White spends a lot of time running down Black’s light-squared bishop, leaving his opponent after 15. Nxg6 fxg6! with a big lead in development and a very useful f-file as an attacking avenue.

White tries to bolster his second rank as Black keeps pressuring the defense: 19. Rh2 Ng3!? 20. Bh3 Qf3 21. Rd1 e4 22. d4? (here 22. Bg2! appears keeps the balance in lines like 22…Qg4 23. Bh3 exd3 24. Bxg4 dxc2 25. Rd4 Nge4 26. f3 Nc3 27. Rxc2) Nd3+ 23. Rxd3 exd3 24. Qxd3 Rae8.

White may have thought his two bishops would compensate for the loss of the exchange, but Burke’s attack barely takes a break. After some tricky tactics — 28. Qd3 Rxh4 29. Bxb2 Rxh3! 30. Qxd4 Rf7 31. Rxh3 Qxf2+ 32. Kd1 Qf1+, recovering the rook — Black emerges the exchange and two pawns to the good. White hastens the inevitable with 35. Qa7? Qd3+ 36. Bc3 Qd1+, resigning as 37. Ka2 Qc2+ 38. Bb2 Qxc4+ 39. Kb1 Rf1+ 40. Bc1 Qxc1+ 41. Ka2 Qc2 is mate.

Yip’s dominating performance included a win over rival WGM Jennifer Yu, the pride of Ashburn, Virginia, and the reigning U.S. women’s titleholder. In a classic Ruy Lopez battle, Yip breaks on top with 12. Bh4 g5?! (see diagram; the pin is annoying, but the coming sacrifice gives White two pawns for the piece and an attack that never relents) 13. Nxg5! hxg5 14. Bxg5 Kg7? (tougher was 14…exd4 15. Bd5 d3, trying to gum up White’s advance) 15. Re3, and already the Black king is in a highly precarious position.

The king is one the run after 19. Qh6+ Bg6 (worth a look was 19…Rg6 20. Qh4+ Kg7 21. Qxe4 Rxg3 22.hxg3 f5, with some survival chances) 20. Nd2 d5 21. Re1, when 21…Qf8 22. Qh4+ Kg7 23. dxe5 Rh8 24. Qf6+ Kg8 25. e6 puts tremendous pressure on the defense.

White already has three pawns for the piece in the game’s critical sequence: 25. Bf3 Nf5 (Bc7 26. Rxe7+! Rxe7 27. Bg4+ f5 [Kd6 28. Qf4+ Kd5 29. Bf3+ leads to mate] 28. Qxg6 fxg4 29. Qxg4+ Ke8 30. Ne4, and Black can’t defend) 26. Rxf5! Rxe3 (Bxf5 27. Qxc6 mate) 27. fxe3 Bxf5 28. Qxc6+ Ke7 Qxa8, bxa4, and now White is just three pawns to the good.

In the final position, Black’s bishop is caught behind enemy lines and Yip’s pawns are ready to roll; Yu resigned.

Sheng-Burke, U.S. Junior Championship, October 2020

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 Bb4 5. Qc2 Bxc3 6. Qxc3 Qe7 7. a3 O-O 8. b4 d6 9. Bb2 Bg4 10. d3 a5 11. b5 Nb8 12. h3?! Bh5?! 13. g4 Bg6 14. Nh4 Nbd7 15. Nxg6 fxg6 16. g5?! Nh5 17. h4 Nc5 18. Qc2 Qf7 19. Rh2 Ng3 20. Bh3 Qf3 21. Rd1 e4 22. d4 Nd3+ 23. Rxd3 exd3 24. Qxd3 Rae8 25. Bc1 Re4 26. Qc2 Nf5 27. Qd1 Nxd4 28. Qd3 Rxh4 29. Bb2 Rxh3 30. Qxd4 Rf7 31. Rxh3 Qxf2+ 32. Kd1 Qf1+ 33. Kc2 Qxh3 34. Kb3 Qf5 35. Qa7 Qd3+ 36. Bc3 Qd1+ White resigns.

Yip-Yu, U.S. Junior Girls Championship, October 2020

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Bb7 7. Re1 Bc5 8. c3 d6 9. a4 O-O 10. d4 Bb6 11. Bg5 h6 12. Bh4 g5 13. Nxg5 hxg5 14. Bxg5 Kg7 15. Re3 Ne7 16. Rg3 Bxe4 17. Qd2 Rg8 18. Bxf6+ Kxf6 19. Qh6+ Bg6 20. Nd2 d5 21. Re1 Ke6 22. Rxe5 Kd7 23. Rge3 Re8 24. Bxd5 c6 25. Bf3 Nf5 26. Rxf5 Rxe3 27. fxe3 Bxf5 28. Qxc6+ Ke7 29. Qxa8 bxa4 30. Nc4 Bd3 31. Nxb6 Qxb6 32. Qb7+ Qxb7 33. Bxb7 Kd6 34. Kf2 f5 35. Ke1 Kc7 36. Bd5 Kd6 37. c4 a5 38. Kd2 Bf1 39. h4 Black resigns.

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

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