Huge last round drama ended in 14-year-old New Yorker Robert Hess taking first place in the U.S. Junior Championship (July 15-21) in Dallas, Texas.
20-year-old Jake Kleiman from Memphis, who was leading the tournament the entire way, finally lost his lead in the last round with a devastating loss to Igor Schneider. Meanwhile, Hess defeated fellow New Yorker Adam Maltese, leapfrogging over Kleiman. "There was great sportsmanship all around," Hess said, "Kleiman congratulated me right after my game."
Hess earns entry into the World Junior Championship later this year in Yerevan, Armenia, as well as a spot in the next U.S. Championship. Robert already has two IM norms. Over his 8-year long tournament career, Robert won dozens of trophies and awards. But he only kept two, tossing the rest out. Remaining on his desk are his first place trophy from the 2001 K-3 Championships and his bronze medal from the 2002 Pan-American Youth Championship in Argentina.
A straight "A" student headed for Stuyvesant and three time basketball school MVP, Robert is surprisingly well-rounded for such a young champ. He says that he doesn't study on his own much. He credits his success largely to his coach GM Miron Sher, who prepares him very thoroughly in the openings and familiarized him with positional sacrifices.
Speaking of positional sacks, Champion Robert Hess' favorite game was his victory against his friend and incoming UTD freshman Igor Schneider.
Igor got the better of the opening, due to Robert's awkward g6 knight. 15. Nc4 was an inaccuracy. After 15...cd5, it would be great to transfer the knight to the d5 outpost with Nb6-d5. However, Nb6 fails to d4! So Igor was forced to capture with the pawn, which is undesirable in these Sicilian-like structures. After the game, Robert and Igor decided that Rg1 with the idea of Qd1-f3 was best.
To neutralize Igor's pressure against the light squares, Hess quickly played an incredible move: 21...Ne6! This unusual exchange sacrifice gives Robert control of the crucial d5 square. After d5, comes d4, and e4, and d3. Meanwhile, White has no safe haven for his king. Igor could've defended better, (Nf1 and Nb3 are culprits), but no matter what, Black has more than enough compensation for the exchange.
Robert's technique is smooth as he manages to break through to Igor's king. Igor resigned after Nb5 in view of Qb3 Nc3+, picking up the d1 rook.
1- Robert Hess
4. Kazim Gulamali
5-6. Igor Schneider and Daniel Ludwig
View Complete Crosstable
Congratulations are in order for runner-up Jake Kleiman as well. Kleiman was the second lowest rated player in the tournament, but that didn't stop him from dominating for most of the tournament. He started off with a double hit, defeating Mackenzie Molner and Robert Hess in rounds one and two. He pulled ahead of the crowd with a pretty attack against Adam Maltese:
His last round loss must have been particularly heart-breaking because Jake is 20 years old, and it's his last chance to play in a Junior Championship. Hess, of course has six more years. The extra pressure on Jake may have worked in Hess's favor.
Jake Kleiman was born and raised in Memphis. He's currently a prelaw student in his junior year at Rhodes College. He runs Memphis chess camps with his mother Arlene Kleiman and his coach Aleksander Stripunsky.
Runner-up Jake Kleiman Photo James Buchanan
Look for a story on the U.S. Cadets (U 16 Championship), held concurrently, in the next couple days.