We arrived at the most critical part of the tournament, so naturally there were high stakes and tension; mistakes could occur, but some flourish in these conditions and create brilliancies!
U.S Girls’ Junior Championship
Akshita Gorti went into the round with a one and a half point lead, but faced her tournament rival, Maggi Feng with White! Maggie Feng opted for a Stonewall Dutch, but Gorti was more versed in the nuances of the position. Gorti played 8.Qc2!, and Feng replied with the standard, but dubious 8…Nbd7. Gorti did not hesitate and she took on d5 and transposed into a favorable position, as Maggie Feng could not avoid the exchange of the dark-squared bishops. Gorti had a nagging advantage, but one move spoiled it. After the inaccurate 22.Re7, Maggie found Kf8! and repetition was unavoidable, as otherwise White’s rook would get trapped. A disappointing result for Akshita Gorti, as at this point she could not have known that her draw, would clinch her the tournament!
Emily Nguyen was playing Rachel Ulrich, and even though White was pressing most of the time and she even got close to winning, after a lot of piece exchanges the position transposed into a drawn endgame! This means that Akshita Gorti has won the Girls’ Section with one round to spare!
There is still a fight for second and third place, so winning in the last rounds is extremely important! Thalia Cervantes and Annie Wang did just that, and they join the fight for the medals!
U.S. Junior Championship
Round 8 was the most dramatic round of the Open Section, as Troff is chased by Liang who is just half a point behind, while Chandra is a full point behind Troff.
Troff showed deep home preparation against Josh Colas, but then suddenly tiredness kicked in and one move almost cost him dearly; Troff was calculating the moves Bg6, and Be4 and did the classic mistake of making a third move instead! 22. g3 was immediately punished by Josh Colas with 22…Qa5!, and Troff had to find a way to save the game!
Meanwhile, the other big match between Chandra and Liang was unfolding. Chandra surprised Liang with the Reti, but after 2-3 counter surprises, Liang was the one caught in a trap; Black played 5…Ba6!? hoping for a fight, but Chandra cleverly transposed to classical Petrosian waters with the strong 6. Qb3! and Liang had to fight for the equality for the rest of the game. Fortunately for Liang, he managed to survive, even though Chandra had a moment when he could have won the game. Chandra played 33.Bxh5, believing that he would win a piece, but missed the strong defensive move 35…Qe4! which gave ample play for Liang to hold the position. Chandra should have played 32.Bf3 and then 33.Nd5! with decisive threats.
In Troff’s game, fortune did seem to favor the brave as he found the best way to put up a fight, and shockingly Troff had enough counterplay for the lost piece! Colas chose a safe continuation, but his move turned out to be slightly premature and Troff again had a chance to win!
Troff tried to win, but Josh Colas was defending superbly today, and managed to draw against the leader, Kayden Troff! We are about to witness a dramatic last round, as the situation did not change with round 8; Liang is still only a half point behind and if he manages to win he can force a tiebreak with Kayden Troff for the Junior Championship Title!
The commentators, Tatev Abrahamyan, Alejandro Ramirez and Cristian Chirila, mentioned in the live coverage that the top three players of the Open Section only lost one game altogether!
Troff will have good chances going into the last round to win the tournament, but he will be facing Mika Brattain with Black, while Liang will be facing the in-form Michael Brown. Chandra will have a tough job, as he needs to win against Checa with Black, but that would still give him a theoretical chance to win the Junior Championship! Akshita Gorti, with her draw today against Maggie Feng, has already secured her title. Akshita Gorti is officially the Girls Junior Champion of 2017! The last round starts at 11 am CT, and we will find out, who will be the 2017 U.S. Junior Champion!