2019 U.S. Junior, Girls' Junior and Senior Championship Recap – Round 4

by Josh Friedel
Today’s round had a lot of action in all sections. Nicolas Checa took the lead with a fine victory over Andrew Tang. Both Rochelle Wu and Carissa Yip won topsy-turvy games, and seem to be running away in the Girls’ tournament with 4/4 and 3.5/4 respectively. Alex Shabalov survived a lot of strong pressure from Joel Benjamin, and maintains a half point lead in the Seniors over Larry Christiansen and Alex Goldin. Let’s break down what happened in each event.
U.S. Junior Championship

The first game completed in the Junior was a heartbreaking one. IM Craig Hilby got his moves confused and had to resign after hanging a bishop against IM Hans Niemann. Such blunders occur now and then, even by super strong players, but they always leave the players and viewers in shock.
Atulya Vaidya has been having a rough event, and today he played solidly against Joshua Sheng, hoovering off most of the pieces in short order. They agreed to a draw in a balanced rook endgame. The US Women’s Champion continued to struggle, as Jennifer Yu got a cramped position as Black against Brandon Jacobson. Brandon finished off the game in resounding fashion by sacrificing a knight on f6 and taking advantage of Black’s lack of coordination.

Awonder Liang shook off yesterday’s loss by taking risks and pitching his queenside as Black against John Burke.  His risk paid off handsomely, and he crashed through by giving his queen for two rooks and a vicious 1st rank attack, winning the game in short order. Lastly, Nicolas Checa found an initiative against Andrew Tang, and eventually hunted down the Black king.  This win put Nicolas in clear first place with 3.5/4.
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Nicolas Checa played a very nice game today, and is currently in the clear lead with 3.5/4

U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship
“I hated it,” Rochelle Wu said about her position after the game. She had severe positional problems against Ruiyang Yan, who was playing an excellent game and dominating the entire board. Similar to previous rounds, however, Rochelle proved her resourcefulness. She opened the game by pitching a couple pawns, then found a nice tactical resource which won a rook out of the blue, forcing Yan to resign. Rochelle is an incredible 4-0, but Carissa moved to 3.5 today by beating Rachael Li as Black. The game was anything but clear, and the 9-year-old definitely had her chances, but in the end Carissa’s pressure proved to be too great.
Thalia Cervantes and Emily Nguyen played a game that had a lot of potential for sharp play, but none of it really materialized. The players agreed to a draw after a lot of pieces came off in a locked position. Agata Bykovstev seemed to have some pressure against Martha Samadashvili, but she soon found herself in trouble when she traded her queen for two rooks. Martha took full advantage of White’s weak king position, and eventually reeled in the full point in a queen vs. rook endgame.
In the final game of the day, Veronika Zilajeva had a thrilling game against Maggie Feng.  Maggie’s king ran up the board, and for a while it was unclear who was better. Unfortunately for Feng, she captured a pawn on a5 at the wrong moment, and allowed Veronika to deliver checkmate. Veronika found it, and thus won her first game of the tournament.

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Veronika Zilajeva and Maggie Feng had quite a battle this round

U.S. Senior Championship

Larry Christiansen and Alex Fishbein played an interesting Nimzo Indian, and the position became extremely locked after an f5-f4 push. Neither side could find a way to break through, and they agreed to a draw on move 31.  

Igor Novikov and Gregory also drew a solid game. Neither side made errors in a drawish line, and they agreed to a draw in a knight endgame. Jaan Ehlvest put a lot of pressure on Maxim Dlugy’s weak king. While Max found a lot of tricks, as he has in previous rounds, eventually Jaan extinguished all of them and forced a win in a queen endgame. Joel Benjamin and Alex Shabalov had an incredible battle, and for most of the game Joel was clearly in charge. Shabba put all of his resourcefulness on display to make things complicated, however, and Joel finally acquiesced to a draw in a rook endgame.
Finally, Alex Goldin had an instructive positional win against Alex Yermolinsky.  He transitioned from a hanging pawns position to a rook endgame up a pawn. As Goldin commented after the game, the “Russian School” helps in such positions, and he converted it with great accuracy.  
Alex Goldin showed great technique in a rook endgame against Alex Yermolinsky
Round five 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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