By GM Ben Finegold
For the sixth consecutive year, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is hosting the U.S. Junior Closed Championship.
The Junior Closed is a round-robin (all-play-all) event comprised of 10 of the strongest male American chess players under the age of 20. This year, the prize fund has doubled from the 2014 event with more than $20,000 being distributed.
The winner, in addition to getting $6,000, will automatically seeded into the 2016 U.S. Chess Championship, which will also be held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center.
The favorite this year is none other than 14-year-old Jeffery Xiong of Dallas, Texas. Jeffery is the only player in the event rated over 2600 USCF. Although Jeffery is currently an International Master, he has fulfilled all the requirements for the Grandmaster title, which he will be awarded at the next FIDE Congress. FIDE is the International Chess Organization that bestows titles such as FIDE Master, International Master and Grandmaster to the world’s best players.
Another favorite in the event is New Jersey native Akshat Chandra, who, at the young age of 15 is second rated at a hefty 2589 USCF. International Master Chandra is two-thirds of the way to getting the Grandmaster title and most expect he will be a “GM” before the year is up.
The round-robin format ensures that all the players play against each other; therefore, there will be nine rounds in this 10-player event (you play everyone except yourself). There is one round a day, starting at 1 p.m. CST, and most of the games are expected to finish within a 3-4 hour time frame.
The U.S. Junior Closed Championship began July 7. Out of the five paired matches, three were decisive with the other two ending in draws. One of the most talented American Juniors is the youngest in the field, 12-year-old Awonder Liang. Liang won his opening match in the first round of the U.S. Junior Closed. He will look to add another world title later this year in Greece in the Under 12 section.
Spectators are welcome to watch the matches in-person at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center each day through July 15. Standings, pictures, live games and more can be found on www.uschesschamps.com.
FIDE Master Aviv Friedman and Grandmaster Ben Finegold will provide live commentary online explaining the strategies used by the players and guessing what results are expected based on the current board positions. We encourage all amateurs and professionals alike to visit the official website or attend the event in-person at the Chess Club. Join us as we watch the finest Juniors battle it out for the first prize of $6,000 and the title of 2015 U.S. Junior Closed Champion.
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