Kayden Troff is U.S. Junior Chess Champion 2014
Kayden Troff defeated Matt Larson in the final round to win the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship in Saint Louis. The 16-year-old talent obtained a clear first with an impressive 7/9 score, grabbing the national championship for players under 21 by finishing 1.5 points ahead of the field. For his efforts, Troff has won the top prize of $3,000, as well as an invitation to the 2015 U.S. Championship.
“I’m really excited,” Troff said. “This moment has come and gone a few times, where I’ve been excited before and missed. I have just always seemed to struggle in this tournament specifically -- for it to be official and done, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
In his fourth appearance in the Junior Closed, Troff entered as the tournament’s top seed and only grandmaster, ultimately tallying six wins across the 10-player, round-robin event. That is twice the amount of victories Troff has recorded in preceding Junior Championships, his previous-best score coming last year at 4.5/9.
And despite the strong finish, Troff’s new title was anything but certain until the end -- especially after his fifth-round loss to FM Michael Bodek knocked him down into a tie for third place entering the rest day.
“My loss to Michael was a tough moment to get through; it just changed everything,” Troff said. “Everything was going quite well for me before that, and it was just this sudden shift of momentum. Trying to come back from that was probably my hardest moment.”
Troff apparently found zen on the rest day, however, returning to win out the rest of the tournament in convincing fashion. To get back to the top, Troff was forced to go right through it: Both his sixth- and seventh-round opponents, IMs Luke Harmon-Vellotti and Jeffrey Xiong, were tournament leaders at the time. And though a late surge by Bodek brought him within a half-point, Troff handled his own fate just fine by taking down FM Josh Colas and then the feisty NM Matt Larson in the final two rounds. Troff’s impressive score comes out of an extremely hard-fought Junior Closed Championship that featured 33 decisions across 45 games -- and most of the draws were bitter fights to the end.
“I think this tournament makes a good statement on where the U.S. is headed in chess,” Troff said. “All these good players who all play so well, I have so much respect for them. Even Matt Larson, even though he was the lowest-rated by quite a bit, showed his guns and brought it to this tournament.
From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
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