Junior Closed Championship coming to Chess Club July 10
For the third straight year, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis will host the U.S. Junior Closed Championship. This prestigious event will be held July 10-15 and features not only some of the top players in the country, but also a brand-new format.
There will be two round-robin (all-play-all) sections of eight players each, followed by a two-game final match between the winners of each round robin. The 16-player event will be very strong, as all the Juniors who have a USCF rating higher than 2500 (except Ray Robson) have agreed to participate this year.
The four big favorites are International Masters Conrad Holt, Marc Arnold, Darwin Yang, and Daniel Naroditsky. Holt, in fact, is a grandmaster elect, and his title will be confirmed in September at the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.
The tournament is called the Junior Closed Championship because it is an invitation-only event, unlike the U.S. Junior Open Championship, which is open to any player who meets the age requirements. Players in the Junior Closed are younger than 21 and were invited either because of their rating or because of a few stellar performances over the past year that earned them a wildcard invitation.
Local resident Kevin Cao, 15, will be a wildcard participant, and he hopes to do well in his first Junior Championship. Kevin was outstanding last year in the Kings vs. Queens tournament, scoring 2.5 points against a world-class field. Kevin will certainly have his work cut out for him, being the lowest-ranked participant, but the Junior Championship is always full of upsets, and Kevin will prepare well for the event.
The youngest participant, Jeffery Xiong of Texas, is only 11! Jeffery has already attained the title of FIDE Master, and hopes to do well in his first of many Junior Championships. I saw Jeffery play four weeks ago at the Chicago Open, and his play was outstanding. Jeffery also was recently at the Chess Club to work in a small camp for players age 15 and younger under the tutelage of legendary Grandmaster Garry Kasparov.
Live games and commentary of the event will be available at the Chess Club website, www.saintlouischessclub.org. As usual, I will be one of the commentators, and I will be joined by FIDE Master Aviv Friedman of New Jersey, the same duo of chess voices from last year’s event. Aviv is well known in the Junior chess world, as he has coached most of America's top youth throughout the years in international competition.
For more information on all the players, such as pictures, ratings, hometown, and more, visit: http://www.saintlouischessclub.org/2012-us-junior-closed-championship-player-bios.
Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.