2019 U.S. Junior, Girls' Junior and Senior Championship Recap – Round 3

by Josh Friedel 
While round one had a lot of blunders and quick victories, the players seemed to settle down for round two. There were several long, tough battles, and the players in all sections showed they were willing to fight it out to the very end. Let’s take a look at what happened.
U.S. Junior Championship
IM Hans Niemann had laptop issues before his game against WGM Jennifer Yu, but that didn’t stop him from winning a nice game. Once again, Jennifer took a lot of risks early in the game. While it might very well have been sound with best play, she lost the thread and couldn’t hold her position together. GM John Burke seemed to have chances on the white side of an Exchange Ruy structure against GM Andrew Tang, but after Black sacrificed a piece, John didn’t find anything better than allow a perpetual.  
IM Joshua Sheng had a crushing position and huge time advantage against IM Craig Hilby.  Craig held tough, however, and Joshua was unable to finish him off. They eventually agreed to a draw in a bishop endgame. GM Nicolas Checa found himself on the worse side of a Carlsbad structure against IM Brandon Jacobson, and was certainly worse for much of the game, but managed to hold the draw in the end.  
Atulya Vaidya was holding his own against top seed GM Awonder Liang for a long time in a rook and knight endgame. Unfortunately for the bottom seed, he went astray at the last minute, and Awonder took full advantage to convert the win and move to 2-0.
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GM Awonder Liang beat Atulya Vaidya in a lengthy endgame battle
U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

WIM Rochelle Wu said in the confessional booth that she was happy with her prep and position, and she used this confidence as Black against Veronika Zilajeva. With this win, Rochelle is off to a flyer with a quick 2-0 start.  
FM Carissa Yip, on the other hand, got a highly suspicious opening as Black against WIM Agata Bykovtsev. Last year’s champion showed her class and turned the tables, however, to eventually win the game and join Rochelle in the lead.
WIM Emily Nguyen finally won Martha WFM Martha Samadashvili’s isolated pawn, then converted her endgame advantage with authority. FM Maggie Feng played a nice game, and won a complex struggle against WIM Thalia Cervantes. She gained a central pawn advantage in the middlegame, and eventually ran those pawns to victory.  
In the battle of the two youngest participants, Ruiyang Yan nicely outplayed Rachael Li in a bishop endgame. Black certainly had drawing chances at some stage, but in the end a couple slips was all it took for Yan to take home the point.  
Ruiyang Yan won the battle of the youngsters against Rachael Li
U.S. Senior Championship
Igor Novikov seemed to be pressing against Alex Fishbein, but went astray by allowing Black to advance his pawn on d4. Had he captured on d5 Igor would have preserved his advantage, but as it happened the players agreed to a draw as soon as the knights traded. 
Jaan Ehlvest seemed to have the better side of an opposite bishop endgame against Gregory Kaidanov, but was unable to make anything of the position, and the game petered out into a draw. Joel Benjamin won a crazy game against Alex Yermolinsky. His e6 pawn push early in the opening led to an exchange up endgame, but not a simple one, and in the end it took some errors from Yermo’s side for Joel to wrap up the game in his favor.  
Alex Shabalov outplayed Maxim Dlugy with the Black pieces. As he did yesterday, Max fought on in a lost position for a long time, but in the end Shabba was able to navigate the complications and reel in the point.  Finally, Larry Christiansen put a lot of pressure on Alex Goldin in the battle between the leaders, and in mutual time trouble he was able to win a pawn.  
Round three saw a couple of the leaders get knocked off as well as numerous entertaining battles.  Noteworthy results included leaders GMs Larry Christiansen and Awonder Liang getting knocked off by GM Alex Yermolinsky and IM Joshua Sheng respectively. Rochelle Wu, on the other hand, won a third game in a row and is 3-0 in the Girls’ section. Let’s break down the action.
U.S. Junior Championship

Brandon Jacobson, with the white pieces, won two pawns out of the opening against Atulya Vaidya. It looked like he was on the road to an easy victory, but he got seduced into sacrificing a rook for an attack. Brandon miscalculated, however, and was forced to draw the game with a perpetual check. 

Andrew Tang gained a nice pawn structure advantage against Hans Niemann. Hans defended well, however, and eventually the players agreed to a draw in a balanced knight endgame.  Craig Hilby found himself under fire right out of the opening against John Burke. Burke lost his way, however, and then Hilby was the one in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately for him, Craig struggled to take advantage, and they eventually agreed to a draw in a rook endgame. 

Jennifer Yu played an exchange slav against Nicolas Checa, and while in the confessional booth she said that she expected a quieter game, that’s not what happened.  She sacrificed a piece for three pawns, but her pawns proved not to be super impactful, and eventually Nicolas converted his extra knight. Top seed and tournament leader Awonder Liang played some unusual ideas in a Spanish as White against Joshua Sheng, but it didn’t work out well and he found himself in a difficult situation.  While he certainly had chances at some point, eventually he dropped two pawns, and Joshua took the full point in convincing fashion.
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GM Awonder Liang went on a walkabout just before move 40 and couldn’t quite recover
U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Carissa Yip had a clear positional advantage against Ruiyang Yan’s Sicilian, but Black defended quite well. Carissa allowed the game to simplify too much, and the players agreed to a draw in a balanced endgame. Veronika Zilajeva won a pawn as Black in a French Defense against Martha Samadashvili, but allowed White’s queen to penetrate her position. Martha found a beautiful pawn sacrifice, and delivered mate shortly after. 

Emily Nguyen outplayed Maggie Feng with the black pieces, and converted her advantage in convincing fashion. This was her second win in a row. Rachael Li was holding her own against Thalia Cervantes, and the game looked to be heading towards a draw for the longest time. Rachael lost her way in a bishop ending, however, and Thalia was merciless in bringing home the point. 

Rochelle Wu had nice opening advantage against Agata Bykovtsev’s Najdorf, but she went astray by allowing Agata to capture her dark-squared bishop. Black was clearly winning, but Bykovtsev got low on time, and ended up missing a nice resource that allowed Rochelle to give checkmate. This win put Wu on an incredible 3-0 score. 
Rochelle was in serious trouble against Agata, but she looked completely unfazed throughout
U.S. Senior Championship

Maxim Dlugy had a normal position as Black against the Slav, but at an unfortunate moment he allowed Gregory Kaidanov to steal a pawn. Max is a tricky customer to finish off, and Gregory went astray by allowing Black to capture his b-pawn, after which the players agreed to a draw in short order. 
Alex Goldin seemed to have a difficult position against Jaan Ehlvest, but in mutual time pressure neither player wanted to take excessive risk, and a draw was agreed on move 31. Alex Shabalov and Igor Novikov played an extremely complex Najdorf. Igor navigated the complications quite well for some time, but one slip allowed Shabba to capitalize and convert into a won position, which he converted well. 
Alex Fishbein and Joel Benjamin were involved in a sharp tussle, and at some point Alex seemed to have great chances to win. Joel navigated his way to a pawn down ending, and expertly held it after a couple missteps by the White player. Tournament leader Larry Christiansen took excessive risks as Black against Alex Yermolinsky, but he found himself in a difficult position soon after.  Yermo played very well to convert his positional edge into victory.
You have to tip your hat to Alex Yermolinsky, who won a nice game against Christiansen
Round four starts today at 1pm. Tune in at 12:50pm central time for live commentary by GMs Robert Hess, Jesse Kraai, and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan.

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