Co-champions Rule in San Diego
By Randy Hough   
May 4, 2012
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Simone Liao vs. James Black in the K-9 Championship, Photo Jan Losoff
The National Junior High Championship, at the spacious Town and Country Resort in San Diego, took place April 27-29. The field was strong and the competition intense.

The 94-player K9 Championship section saw the top seed, Southern Californian Michael Brown (last year’s K8 Barber Champion) get off to a 5-0 start. In Round 5 he outplayed master Reinaldo Perez Jr. in a tactical Gruenfeld.
 


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Michael Brown, Photo Jan Losoff
Perez was much worse even before his 17th move led to a variation that lost material. At the end, 23…Nc6 24.Rxb7 wins easily for White. Despite the fine start, Michael must have felt some trepidation going into the last day, having begun with the same 5-0 two weeks before at the National High School and then losing two games. History did not repeat itself. He withstood a piece sac by the second seed, James Black of New York, and the players reached a drawn ending.
 


A solid draw with David Hua of New Jersey rhen clinched a first place tie for Michael, but James managed to catch up and reach 6-1. He played a solid Caro-Kann, withstood Simone Liao’s imaginative attack (20.a4 and 21.Qg3 improve, says Houdini, but 22…h6 was an error and White then missed equality with the deflection 23.Ba5!) and went on to win a pawn-up ending.
 


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Christopher Wu, Photo Jan Losoff
Joining Black and Brown in the winner’s circle, Bryan Hu of Arizona (the victim of a second-round upset by 1854-ratred Kenneth Martin) downed seventh-grader Colin Chow in the finale. Bryan tied for second in the High School Championship two weeks before. His favorite game here came in Round Six. He got a bind with the fianchetto system against the King’s Indian (though 13.c5 dxc5 14.dxe5 would have been even stronger – thematic when Black’s queen and rook are on that diagonal), won the queen for two pieces, and cashed in after lengthy resistance.
 


James Black emerged on top in a close tiebreak with Brown second (that “Swiss Gambit” in Round 2 hurt Hu’s tiebreak). Under USCF rules, the three are co-champions. Hua, Justus Williams, and local player Varun Krishnan finished fourth through sixth on tiebreaks. Black and Williams led Brooklyn's IS 318 to an easy win in the team competition, two and a half points ahead of Hu’s school, perennial contender Catalina Foothills HS of Tucson.
 
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Bryan Hu, Michael Brown & James Black 

There were 177 players in the K-8 Championship section. As in the K-9, a Southern California player got out of the gate with a 5-0 score: 11-year-old Albert Lu. He played perhaps the deepest combination of the tournament in round 5. The computer dismisses White’s piece sac because the denouement is “over the horizon,” but the plan of f4, Rf3, and Rh3 leaves Black without a good defense. Beilin used an inordinate amount of time (the control in all sections was Game/2) but couldn’t find anything. 31.gxf5 would have won more quickly, and later 37…f6 would have put up more resistance against the crossfire of White’s heavy pieces. Resignation and time forfeit occurred simultaneously.     



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Kapil Chandra, Photo Jan Losoff
However, Kapil Chandran of Connecticut also stood at 5-0, having won a nice game against Northern California’s Kesav Viswananda in the fifth round. 7.Qd3 is a rare choice in the Kan Sicilian, but White could have improved with 8.exd5 and then 12.a4. After 17.Be4? Black wins the c3 pawn and the game.



Chandran then defended well against Lu and held the draw, and finally downed Neel Apte in Round 7 to reach 6½.That left the way open for top seed Christopher Wu of New Jersey. His favorite game was back in Round 2, when he overcame strong resistance from a 1713-rated player and went on to win a nice ending concluding in zugzwang.



Chris slipped in the fourth round against Craig Hilby, erring on move 14 (14.Bxc6 Qxc6 15.Nxe5 Bxd1 16.Nxc6 Be2 17.d4 Bxf1 18.Nxf1 actually favors White) and letting Black get a strong attack after 17.Nb3? Black returned the favor by missing 22…Qh4 when the threat of a rook entry via the g- or e-file appears fatal (e.g., 23.Qd5 Re8 24.Qf5 Re6 25.Kg2 Rf6). The result was an ending with two pawns for the Exchange giving Black no winning chances.



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Albert Lu vs. Christopher Wu Photo Jan Losoff
After two wins, Chris found himself playing Black against Albert Lu in the final round. He essayed a solid hedgehog against a Qxd4 Sicilian, never getting in the thematic …b5 or …d5 breaks but counterattacking to win after White chose the wrong plan.

This left Wu and Chandran as co-champs, with the former ahead by a tiebreak point. Chris Wu was listed as 2291, but was actually 2313 going in. He’s represented the US overseas three times. Kapil Chandran achieved his first Master rating three weeks before, winning the Under 2200 section of the Philadelphia Open by a full point.

Hilby led the other 6-pointers, Jackson Chen of Colorado and Udit Iyengar of Northern California, on tiebreaks. Albert Lu, a fifth-grader who will have many more opportunities in nationals, led the 5½ pointers. Kennedy Middle School of Cupertino, California, whose team included Iyengar, Viswanadha, Apte, and Cameron Wheeler, took team honors by 4½ points, ahead of another “No Cal” team, Horner JHS of Fremont.

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Kennedy Middle School: Cameron Wheeler, Udit Iyengar, Pranav Srihari, Neel Apte, Kesav Viswanadha Photo courtesy Rob Wheeler

Other section winners included William Santos of Florida in K9 Under 1250, on tiebreaks over Jamye Moya of New York, Abubakkar Kamra of Delaware, and William Yu of New York. In K9 Unrated, Tracy Shaffer from Minnesota and Hawaii’s Wun-Shen Chen tied. K8 Under 1000 top honors went to the well-dressed Desi Trevon Hutson of Michigan, Matthew Helke of Minnesota, and Nicholas Kinzel from Arizona. K8 Under 750 saw the only perfect score, as Hao-Rui Xia racked up 7-0. Black and Williams tied with Sean Vibbert in the Blitz, and the team of Black and Isaac Barayev swept the Bughouse. A complete list of individual and team results can be found here.

The Town and Country Resort (which, by the way, will be the site of the National High School in 2014) elicited many favorable comments from players, parents, and coaches. One of the attributes is the neighboring Fashion Valley shopping center (and its food court!), reached via a footbridge over a scenic creek. Jonathan Schacter, Kiki Huerta, Phil Smith, and all the other TDs went the extra mile to keep things running smoothly (including explaining rules such as en passant repeatedly to some players in the lower-rated sections), as did USCF event organizer Pat Smith. And Janelle Losoff worked indefatigably on getting (and then processing) photos. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Town and Country in two years!

The Spring National season concludes with the Elementary Nationals in Nashville, TN from May 11-13. Also see the Fox News story on the National Junior High School Champs in San Diego.