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On Chess: Young Leads U.S. Junior Chess Championship

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2011 - The 2011 U.S. Junior Chess Closed Championship is being held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis from June 15-26. As we hit the halfway mark of the tournament, appropriately enough, the leader is Young. That would be Gregory Young, a 16 year old from San Francisco who has started at a blistering pace, winning his first four rounds (4/4).

His accomplishments thus far are especially noteworthy because he entered the tournament ranked seventh out of the 10 players by rating. Three competitors are on his heels with three points out of four games (3/4), including pre-tournament favorite and 2011 U.S. Championship participant Daniel Naroditsky, as well as 2010 U.S. Junior participants John Bryant and Warren Harper.

The 10-player, all-play-all (round-robin) tournament has most of the top players in the United States under the age of 21, including a local favorite, 14-year-old Jialin Ding.

One of the problems with top-level chess is the high number of draws. Technique and defense has improved throughout the years, and some would say many top players are so afraid to lose that it often seems they steer the game to calm waters. The Junior Championship does not have this issue. All the players came here to fight, and after four rounds and 20 games, we have seen 18 decisive results and only two draws.

The most amazing game thus far was played in round three, when Alec Getz, who had the white pieces, was able to promote three of his pawns to queens. Pawn promotion in chess is rare (the opponent will often do anything to stop a pawn from becoming a queen), and promoting three of your pawns in such a short number of moves is unheard of at these levels. Although Harper lost this game, he was still quite cheerful in the commentary room afterwards, as he had never seen a game with so many pawns that could potentially promote. Harper himself had promoted a pawn to a queen, and he got close to another promotion as well.

Yours truly has been offering commentary and analysis of the games live at the Chess Club, and thousands of people from all over the world have been tuning in by visiting livestream.com/uschess to watch. These are the kinds of games that keep the thousands of online spectators mesmerized.

Come down to the Chess Club this week, from 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. to watch the action live. We are at 4657 Maryland Ave. near Euclid in the beautiful Central West End. Friday's commentary room was visited by none other than former World Chess Champion and living legend Garry Kasparov. Kasparov is quite interested in the top U.S. Junior players and was familiar with a lot of the participants as he gave his opinion of the action. Who knows who might show up next at the world famous Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis!

If you can't make it here in person, be sure to tune in to https://www.livestream.com/uschess to see all the action.

Ben Finegold is grandmaster in residence at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, which provides the On Chess columns.

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