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Chandra Leads Heading to US Junior Final Print E-mail
By GM Mackenzie Molner   
July 15, 2015
Akshat Chandra leads the US Junior Closed as we enter the final round is underway. Follow along on uschesschamps.com and see if he will take the clear title.

Round eight featured the two leaders facing off in a pivotal game for this year’s U.S. Junior Championship. Chandra has maintained at least a shared lead throughout the entire tournament, while Shen’s 1 out 3 start was impressively improved upon with 4 consecutive wins. Shen’s game have been sharp and interesting with only decisive results. The two have been great entertainment for the fans and spectators watching. Shen chose a more solid opening today, relying on the Ruy Lopez defense against 1. e4. The way Arthur played allowed him the option of playing one of the many mainlines, or potentially a Marshall Gambit. Chandra chose 6. d3 which looks quiet but has a lot of advocates on the white side. It has the benefit of avoiding the Marshall Gambit which is extensively analyzed and doesn’t leave much room for either side to play for a win.

After a peaceful opening, the middlegame transformed into a very complicated struggle. Shen sacrificed a pawn to deal with pressure against his f7 pawn. He got a lot of compensation in return. Both sides had a lot of potentially interesting continuations in the middlegame but the big moment came when Shen played 19… e4. This turned out to be a big mistake even though it  appeared as a natural looking move. Shen needed to be more patient; bringing his last pieces into the game. 19… bxc4 followed up by Qc7 and Rad8 would have given him respectable chances. His continuation in the game lost the positional trumps that he had, such as the strong light-squared bishop and central control. By the time he played 24… Qh4, Shen looked like he was generating some serious threats. However, with Chandra not being unfamiliar with king walks, he was planning to march his king up to safety on the f3 square.

The final turning point in the game happened when Chandra played Bxg4 on move 27. He eliminated one of Black’s best attackers. The rest of the game was characterized by a slow build-up from Chandra and eventually transforming his slightly vulnerable position into a position ready for attack. The final blow came with 33. Nxh6. Shen’s kingside was collapsing completely and he was soon resigning and giving Akshat sole first place once again! A very exciting game with huge implications at the top of the standings.

See more annotations on the official website by GM Mackenzie Molner, see the crosstable here, and watch the action live on uschesschamps.com.