With another year, another U.S. Junior Chess Championships have come to a close. The field for both tournaments did not disappoint, even though they were markedly different from years past – another testament to the constantly evolving landscape of junior chess in the country. In the end, the tournaments were engaging to follow, with action and the title up for grabs all the way until the end (if you remember the Girls section last year, it was decided before the last round!). They were held from July 11-21 as a nine-player round-robin.
U.S. Girls Junior Chess Championships
First, the Girls Section. After nine grueling rounds, youngster Carissa Yip came out on top by a full point at 7/9. Although she lost one game later in the tournament, her six (!) wins more than made up for it. It was evident from the start that Yip was going to be playing for wins all tournament, essaying the double-edged Grünfeld and eventually creating a lethal attack against an uncastled White king. After winning the first game, she followed up with a second win, dodging and eventually capitalizing on her opponent’s overextension in the middlegame. She continued to excel at the top of the standings throughout the tournament, winning games wherever possible. By the last round, she was already up a full point on the rest of the field and just had to draw the last round to clinch the tournament, which she was able to do.
One of the more interesting points about this tournament victory for Yip is related to the same tournament from last year. In that event, while Akshita Gorti was able to power through to a convincing tournament victory, Yip somewhat struggled, finishing with only 3.5/9. As a result, I would have to believe that this victory feels extra special for Yip as, 1) it is already one of the most prestigious junior tournaments in the country, but 2) it’s also a bounce-back performance relative to last year. All in all, it made for a strong performance this year, and it’ll be interesting to see if she can keep it up next year.
U.S. Junior Chess Championships
The Open section of the tournament saw many new faces in this year’s edition, with five of the ten players not having played in this tournament last year. That statistic comes with somewhat of an asterisk as Annie Wang played in the Girls section last year, but for all intents and purposes, it counts. After nine action-packed rounds, it was Awonder Liang who came out on top with 6.5/9. Unlike the Girls section, which had a relatively spaced out distribution of final scores, the Open section was very clogged up in the middle, with five players in the 4-5 point range and seven in the 3.5-5 point range. This made for many critical games from early on, as every full point made a huge difference. Even the tournament winner, Awonder Liang, “only” had four wins, compared to Carrisa Yip’s six in the Girls Section. Still, Liang was able to finish a half point above Advait Patel, who earned second.
Unlike Yip, who was able to reverse her performance from last year to win the tournament this year, it was sort of the opposite of Liang’s case. He won the tournament last year, too! So, this actually marks two in a row for Liang, who must certainly be feeling ecstatic after this performance. While he faced significant competition in both events, he has been able to weather the storm each time out. The question everyone will be asking this time next year will be: Will Liang be able to three-peat? Of course, only time will tell.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!