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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jeffrey Xiong Leads U.S. Junior Chess Closed Championship after four Rounds

Hello chess blog friends, some update from the U.S. Junior Chess Championship 2014 now. Four rounds have been played at this premier event and we have a confident 13-year-old IM Jeffrey Xiong in the lead in Saint Louis. Brian Jerauld, reporting for the official website, writes Experience is starting to pay dividends -- on the board and in the standings. Thirteen-year-old IM Jeffrey Xiong, in his third Junior Closed Championship appearance, played with relaxed confidence on Monday despite leading a heavy mating assault through unclear waters. Xiong as white set the theme early with a 14. Nxe6 sacrifice, immediately exposing and launching siege on FM Arthur Shen’s uncastled king -- initiating a tension-filled game that demanded some act-like-you’ve-been-there posturing.

“Experience has been big,” Xiong said. “The first few times I played (in the Junior Closed), I haven’t been as comfortable and as confident as I feel now. Probably one or two years ago, I wouldn’t have been as confident in sacrificing a piece like I did in today’s game.”
The win sets Xiong (3.5/4) as the tournament’s first clear leader, with the Dallas star remaining undefeated and plus-3 after four rounds. Also winning on Monday was IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti (3/4), last year’s Junior Closed runner-up, who has now put together three consecutive victories -- the latest after cracking open a slight rook-and-pawn endgame advantage over IM Sam Sevian. Harmon-Vellotti’s win moves him into a second-place tie with GM Kayden Troff (3/4), who lost his share of the lead after Monday’s draw with IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy.

Xiong’s accelerated pace also breaks the three frontrunners away from rest of the pack, as a four-way tie for fourth sits a full point behind (2/4) the leader group.

It is no longer a secret that Sevian (1/4) is having a rough tournament, now minus-three across four rounds after seeing breakdowns in all phases of his game -- this latest to Harmon-Vellotti in the form of an endgame collapse.

FMs Michael Bodek and Justus Williams played each other to a wonderful fighting draw, with both sides playing for wins -- and both players coming up just short of tempo to finish their attacks. 

Each round of the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed will see its first move daily at 1:00 p.m. CT through June 29, with a rest day on Wednesday. The tournament will be streamed live on, with commentary, analysis and player interviews by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman.

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