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A Perfect Storm Leads IM Sam Shankland to US Junior title Print E-mail
By Mike Wilmering   
July 22, 2010
IM Sam Shankland had an atrocious first two rounds at the Junior Closed Championship. After announcing his early retirement from chess before coming to the Junior Closed, Shankland appeared listless as lower-rated opponents made quick work of him in rounds one and two. 

Then, after scoring a win against FM John Bryant in round three, Shankland appeared more relaxed, and was even able to crack a few jokes in his post-mortem analysis with GM Ben Finegold and WGM Jen Shahade. Shankland went on a tear to close out the Junior Closed, scoring six points out of his final seven games.

Initially, his round eight draw appeared to seal his fate, as GM Ray Robson entered round nine a full point, and Parker Zhao a half point, ahead of Shankland. In a bizarre turn of events, Robson lost to FM Warren Harper in the final round, and Zhao was unable to convert a winning endgame against Bryant.

As the Bryant-Zhao game unfolded, Shankland and Robson were watching with tense anticipation to see if Bryant could hold the draw. As both players got down on time, Zhao finally agreed to a draw.


In an unlikely scenario, Robson, Shankland and Zhao tied for first place and had to play an Armageddon playoff to determine the champion.

The playoff, which will took place at 10 a.m CDT, on Tuesday, featured  a unique set of rules. Robson, by virtue of being first on tiebreaks, elected to receive a bye in the first round of the playoff. Zhao and Shankland had to play first to determine who would play Robson for the championship.

Both players had to bid on how much time they were willing to start with, and whoever bid the lesser amount of time got the option to choose his color, with the black pieces getting draw odds (meaning that in the case of a draw, black is declared the winner). Whoever lost the bid received a full 45 minutes, with both players receiving a five-second increment for each move.

Shankland's bid of 31 minutes was trumped by Zhao's 29 minutes and 54 seconds, but even with draw odds, Zhao was no match for the newly focused Shankland.



Because of the victory, Shankland got his choice of color in the championship game, with Black again having draw odds. Shankland again chose Black and got a ten minute respite to mentally prepare himself for Robson. Robson attempted a line he hoped Shankland wouldn't know, the Fantasy variation of the Caro Kann, but Shankland was obviously prepared as he quickly whipped out the moves. Robson, as he has for most of the games throughout this tournament, once again found himself in time trouble, and Shankland cruised to an easy victory.


"I’ve been happy with my play," Shankland said. "I think ... in the last seven rounds of the tournament, I think I played my best chess. Unfortunately the first two count as well.”

Shankland said he may make an exception to quitting chess, instead calling it a long hiatus with the possibility of returning next year.

“It’s a nice feeling to get someone who normally gets you, but really it’s just the title that matters. If he had offered me a draw at any point I would have just taken it.”

To review photos, videos and pgn files from the 2010 US Junior Closed and 2010 US Women's Championships, go to the official website, uschesschamps.com. 

July - Chess Life Online 2010

The Chess Party Begins in Irvine Irina Krush Victory Rap The Odds at the DenkerPan-Am Youth Squad Heads to BrazilNew FIDE Titles for AmericansBullyproof Chess Arbiter Update: From the World School to Online TrainingUS Chess School Comes to Dallas US Women's and Juniors Closing Gallery Datta Wins Record Smashing U.S. Junior OpenThe Denker Turns 25 in Irvine, California The US Senior Open Returns to Boca Raton Berkeley International Returns in 2011Chess Boy Scouts Merit Badge Announced in Saint Louis Tatev Abrahamyan Wins 2010 US Women's Fighting Spirit Award Sevillano Triumphs in Agoura HillsA Perfect Storm Leads IM Sam Shankland to US Junior titleNietman and Walters Elected to USCF Executive Board Krush crowned; three-way tie atop Junior leaderboardMitkov Takes 2010 Chicago Class Krush and Zatonskih Tied in Women; Zhao Creeps Closer to Robson in JuniorsA Chess Mom on the US Junior Closed Zatonskih Maintains Lead; Robson Pulls Away in JuniorsYang and Liou Share Cadet TitleZatonskih Still Leads at the US Women's; Zhao FaltersLiou Leads the 2010 Cadet ChampionshipZatonskih and Zhao bring their A-GameKislik and Naroditsky Earn IM Norms in HungaryAdelberg and Ostrovskiy Take An Early Lead In CadetZhao Leads Junior Closed, Zatonskih and Krush WinUS Cadet Championship OpensHarper Leads Juniors; Favorites Break Streak at the Women'sDaniel Naroditsky Earns IM Norm in Hungary Stage Set for Epic Showdown at U.S. Women's ChampionshipFighting Chess in round 1 of US Womens and US Juniors Pairings Set for 2010 U.S. Women's and Junior Closed ChampsChess Talk with Yasser Seirawan The Scoop on the World Open A Parent's Perspective on Chess Camps July Grand Prix Update Vik(c)tors Top the World OpenNakamura to Comment on Opening Weekend of US Junior and US Women's The Origins of National Chess Day Laznicka Pulls Away at the World Open GMs Battle as World Open Merge Approaches Hilton on Arriving in Valley Forge The July Check is in the Mail The US Chess Scoop on Valley Forge: Part I