July Chess Championships in Saint Louis


The Saint Louis Chess Club is hosting three championships from July 10-21: The U.S. Senior Championship, the U.S. Junior Championship, and the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. The senior tournament is for players ages 50 and older. The junior tournaments are restricted to players under age 20 as of January 1, 2019.

The U.S. Senior Championship, the U.S. Junior Championship, and the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship
Courtesy of the Saint Louis Chess Club, Photos by Crystal and Austin Fuller

This link leads to information about all three championships, including photos and biographies of each player, pairings, standings, rules, and prize funds. Games begin daily at 1 p.m. Central Time (GMT-5), except for a rest day on July 16 and a last round that starts two hours earlier. The commentators are WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, GM Robert Hess, and GM Jesse Kraai. If you are not able to watch the games live, you can replay the games (and the video commentary) at chess24.

July 10th was the opening ceremony. Round 1 was July 11. My favorite tactic of the first round was in the game between GM Andrew Tang and IM Joshua Sheng. By move 47, Sheng (playing Black) is one pawn ahead. But after White’s 47. Qf4, Black won another pawn using a chess tactic called a “decoy.” A decoy is when you win material by enticing an enemy piece to a square where it falls victim to a fork, skewer, or even a checkmate. In this case, Black decoys the white queen to a square where, if it captures the decoy, it will become the victim of a fork. With those hints, look at the position and see if you can find Black’s 47th move.

[pgn][Event “U.S. Junior Championship 2019”]
[Site “USA”]
[Date “19.07.10”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Tang, Andrew”]
[Black “Sheng, Joshua”]
[Result “0-1”]
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 e6 3. Bf4 d5 4. e3 Bd6 5. Bxd6 Qxd6 6. c4 b6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Rc1 Qe7 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bd3 Bb7 11. O-O c5 12. b3 Nbd7 13. Qe2 a6 14. Qb2 Rfc8 15. Ne2 Nf8 16. Rc2 Ne6 17. Rfc1 g6 18. Ng3 a5 19. Bb5 Ne8 20. h4 Nd6 21. Bd3 cxd4 22. Rxc8+ Rxc8 23. Rxc8+ Bxc8 24. exd4 Nf4 25. Bf1 Bg4 26. Qd2 Qf6 27. Ne5 Be6 28. Qc1 Qxh4 29. Qc6 Qd8 30. Ne2 Nxe2+ 31. Bxe2 Nf5 32. Qc3 Qd6 33. Bf3 h5 34. Qd2 Qe7 35. Be2 Qh4 36. Nf3 Qg4 37. Bd1 h4 38. Kh2 Kg7 39. Qc1 Nd6 40. Qe3 Qe4 41. Qd2 Bf5 42. Be2 f6 43. Ne1 g5 44. Bf3 Qe6 45. Nc2 g4 46. Bd1 Ne4 47. Qf4

{[#] Did you find 47….Nxf2 for Black? The move wins a pawn, because if 48. Qxf2 (falling for the decoy) 48….g3 forks White’s king and queen.}

Nxf2 48. Ne3 g3+ 49. Kg1 Bg6 50. Qc7+ Kg8 51. Qc3 Nxd1 52. Nxd1 Qe2 53. Ne3 Bf5 54. Qc1 h3 55. a3 hxg2 56. Nxg2 Bh3 57. Qf1 Qxf1+ 58. Kxf1 f5 0-1[/pgn]

IM Joshua Sheng
IM Joshua Sheng
Courtesy of the Saint Louis Chess Club, Photos by Crystal and Austin Fuller

Three participants in the U.S. Senior Championship may feel nostalgic from being seated near the U.S. Junior Championship. Grandmasters Larry Christiansen, Joel Benjamin, and Maxim Dlugy are all former U.S. Junior Champions. On July 11, Christiansen won in the fewest moves (14) of any competitor in all three championships.

[pgn][Event “U.S. Senior Championship 2019”]
[Site “USA”]
[Date “19.07.11”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Christiansen, Larry”]
[Black “Ehlvest, Jaan”]
[Result “1-0”]
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be3 O-O 6. Qd2 c6 7. Bd3 b5 8. Bh6 Qc7 9. Bxg7 Kxg7 10. e5 Nfd7 {[#]} 11. h4 h5 12. e6 Nf6 13. exf7 Nh7 14. Ng5 1-0[/pgn]

As Christiansen pointed out in his post-game interview with Kraai, Grandmaster Jaan Ehlvest should play either 3….d5 or 4….d5. However, psychologically….d5 is a hard move to play because Ehlvest likely wanted a Pirc Defense formation, which normally includes ….g6, ….d6, and ….Bg7. Christiansen was happy with his classical center after the first few moves. Analyzing a later part of the game, Christiansen said that Ehlvest’s 8.…Qc7 “felt soft…I felt I should get pushy here.” The Stockfish computer engine agrees that Black’s 8….Qc7 changed an almost equal position (.3, which means the equivalent of 1/3 of a pawn ahead for White) to a slight edge for White. Then Christiansen played a blistering attack, which encouraged Ehlvest to resign on move 14. You can hear Christiansen’s analysis of the entire game.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on Amazon.com.