U.S. Junior and Cadet Predictions
By Robby Adamson   
June 12, 2008
The 2008 U.S. Junior Closed and U.S. Cadet kick off this weekend (June 13-18, 2008) in Lindsborg Kansas with some compelling fields for both events. The U.S. Junior is a closed event open by invitation only to the top players under the age of 21.  The U.S. Cadet is a closed event open by invitation only to those under the age of 16. The winner of the U.S. Junior qualifies for the World Junior next year while the winner of the Cadet receives a scholarship to the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The Anatoly Karpov Int’l School of Chess is sponsoring both events. The games can be followed live at www.monroi.com.  Lindsborg will also host the U.S. Junior Open, July 25-27, 2008.

U.S. Junior Closed

For reasons discussed in depth later, the format for this year’s event is still uncertain.  Unfortunately there have been numerous cancellations prompting the organizer to scramble to complete the field. Before giving predictions on the event and profiling the players, I want to preface my comments with “I have never done this before, and I do not mean to offend anyone” by my predictions.  None of my comments are meant to be personal, just one person’s opinion. I also hesitate somewhat in giving predictions because I know many of the players personally. With that wimpy excuse, let’s talk about the field.

The current field for the 2008 U.S. Junior Closed is: Daniel Yeager, Chris Williams, Tyler Hughes, Gregory Young, Edward Lu, and Bradley Sawyer. All of these players have been rated over 2200.  Interestingly, each of these players has won a National Scholastic Title in the past few years, something that is somewhat unique. I will discuss each player in rating order, and talk about their styles, strengths, etc, and then give my predictions.

Daniel Yeager. Photo Elizabeth Vicary

Daniel Yeager

Daniel Yeager won the 2008 National High School Championship held in Atlanta, Georgia , with a perfect 7-0 score, and is the highest rated player in the field with a current rating of 2373. Daniel is a very solid player who has the ability to play 1.e4 or 1.d4 so it will be somewhat difficult to prepare for him when he is white. Daniel appears to play the Najdorf exclusively as black, so it will be interesting to see if he has some theoretical and tactical battles.

Daniel’s greatest strength is that he is very difficult to beat, and appears to have no obvious weaknesses. Besides his jump from low 2200’s last year, I was particularly impressed with his fighting spirit at the 2008 High School Nationals that he won. Rather than taking a quick draw in the last round and clinch a certain first place share of the National Title, Daniel confidently played for the win, sticking with his dependable  Najdorf to defeat Michael Thaler in an exciting English Attack.


Daniel’s biggest weakness in winning an event like this is he may not play actively and dynamically enough to score enough wins. To win an event of this kind, you typically can not draw too many games. Other than that, Daniel is one of the favorites.

Chris Williams

Chrissy “The Bear” Williams enters the field at a rating of 2362, also significantly higher than last year. Chris had a phenomenal performance at the 2008 Foxwoods Open, where he shocked the tournament with a first round win with black against GM Alexander Shabalov, as well as picking up his first IM Norm. I have had the pleasure of witnessing the incredible talent, creativity, and unmatched energy of Chris first hand at the chess camp I run in Arizona. Chris has been coached in the past by GM Larry Christiansen, who undoubtedly has turned him into the true bear that he is. Like Daniel, Chris also has the ability to play both 1.e4 and 1.d4 as white. Black generally plays the Kan Sicilian as black, though he did defeat Shabalov with 1…e5.


Chris is by far the most dangerous player in the field because his upside is higher than any other player. However, the aforementioned energy of Chris could be his downside as well, since a player who is so tactically gifted must be sharp to win a tournament such as this and can not suffer any unnecessary breakdowns. Along with Yeager, Chris Williams has to be one of the overall favorites of the event.

Tyler Hughes

Outside of those in Tyler’s home state of Colorado, not many people know much about Tyler Hughes. Tyler has an unusual style which makes him dangerous. Unfortunately, being from a state where there are not many strong players, he has not faced the top competition that many of the other participants enjoy. Tyler plays 1…e5 and the Kan Sicilian as black. As white, Tyler is a 1.d4 player.

I do not believe Tyler has a coach currently, but a few years ago he worked with NM Brian Wall, who is known for playing some unusual and shall we say unorthodox lines that may not being entirety sound but are difficult to refute over the board. For example, Tyler has played the following line: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d4 ed 5.0-0 Ng4?!? 6.h3 h5

Position after 6...h5

 I do not know if Tyler would play such a line in an actual game now that he is a master and pushing 2300, but I am guessing and hoping not!  With the above being said, Tyler has the ability to play under control and certainly is more than capable of knocking off anyone in the event.

Edward Lu

Edward Lu is a relative newcomer amongst the scholastic elite and is currently rated 2227. Most recently, he had a great result at the 2008 National High School Championships, tallying a 6-1 score (losing only to Yeager), and tying for 2nd place overall. He also lead his team to a 2nd place finish this year.
Edward attends one of the top high schools in the country, Thomas Jefferson High School, in Virginia. Just like the other players in the field, Edward has gained a significant number of points in the last year, recently making master.  Edward is coached by GM Gregory Kaidanov.  From what I have been able to observe, Edward is very solid player, and steers away from super-tactical positions, and normally plays 1.Nf3. I would guess that one of Edward’s weaknesses is his lack of experience against top level competition.

Greg Young

Greg Young is from Northern California, and is the youngest (no pun intended) player in the Junior at the very young (ok that was a pun) age of 13, and is ranked number 3 in the country for his age (Greg actually could have played in the Cadet by age).  He also was co-champion of the National Junior High School Championship K-9 section in Sacramento last year. Greg is coached by NM Michael “fpawn” Aigner.

Greg is a very aggressive player who plays with a tremendous amount of confidence and tends to play very quickly, something that can be intimidating if you are accustomed to playing at a slower pace. While not the favorite, Greg can be quite dangerous and will likely make a few upsets.

Bradley Sawyer

Last but not least is Bradley Sawyer, the lowest rated in the field, but someone who has made master before and is currently rated 2192. Brad was co-champion of the 2006 National High School Championships in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He is dangerous in tactical types of positions, and is very capable of defeating anyone in the field. Brad is a 1.e4 player, and a Najdorf and Accelerated Dragon player as black.  Brad’s biggest weakness is his positional play.

Robby Adamson makes Chris Williams a slight favorite in his predictions.
Photo courtesy Chris Bird.

 I see this as a two horse race between Chris Williams and Daniel Yeager. Chris gets the slight nod here based on his experience.  Overall, here is my breakdown for the chances for first place:

Chris Williams     30%
Daniel Yeager        25%
Hughes        15%
Young, Lu, Sawyer    10% each

U.S. Cadet

The field for the U.S. Cadet is wide open and features some excellent young players. It is very difficult to predict this field since at this level, all of the players are improving and anyone is capable of winning the event. In addition, I do not know some of these players all that well.

The players participating in the Cadet at this point (yes there is an odd number) are as follows:

Darwin Yang (2233)
Patrick John Tae (2180)
Conrad Holt (2124)
Richard Tuhrim (2098)
Alex Markovitz (2090)
Deepak Aaron (2082)
Andrew Shvartsman (2063)

The highest rated player in the field is Darwin Yang who made master at the age of 11 and resides in Texas. The second highest rated player is Patrick Tae (2180) from Tennessee, who I have always felt was very talented. The other players are close to 2100 in rating. This event really is a toss-up given that the highest rated player is also the youngest!

Even though I predict that Darwin will win the event, the dark horse of the event is Conrad Holt, who won the blitz tournament at High School Nationals this year. Conrad also did very well at the US Champ qualifier and seems to be playing very well.

Robby Adamson gives Darwin Yang a slight pull in his Cadet predictions. Photo Betsy Dynako

My predictions for each player’s chance of winning this event are as follows:

Darwin Yang             27%
Patrick Tae            23%
 Conrad Holt            20%
Andrew Shvartsman        10%
Alex Markovitz        8%
Richard Turhim        7%
Deepak Aaron            5%

Future of U.S. Junior

I would remiss if I didn’t at least comment on the U.S. Junior Closed and its lack of drawing many of the top players. Below is a list of players you will not be seeing at the event: IM Robert Hess, IM Alex Lenderman, IM Sal Bercys (all rated over 2500), IM Ray Robson, Daniel Ludwig, FM Marc Tyler Arnold (all rated over 2400), Joel Banawa, Mackenzie Molner, Elliot Liu, Sam Shankland, Julian Landaw, and James Critelli (all rated over 2300) etc.
Are you kidding me? How can it be that none of these players want to go to the US Junior? Based on talking to some of the players, here is why.

1.    Timing. The timing of the event is unacceptable. This year the event is scheduled in mid-June when some schools in states such as New York and California, are still in session. Clearly, this is less than ideal. Traditionally, the event has been held in July when school is not in session.

2.    Funding. The players are only reimbursed $200 in expenses. It is not that far back that the players in the US Junior had their way paid.

3.    Last Minute Notification. The notification for many players is last minute, due to the high number of people who decline their invitation. I know this has caused Tom Brownscombe a lot of heartbreak because he is scrambling to fill the field at the last minute.

As any organizer knows, and especially in any round robin, all it takes is one person to decline to screw up the event. It is often difficult to get someone to organize a tournament such as this when there is nothing else being run in conjunction.

What is the solution? Here are a few ideas.

1.    Run the event in July when there is no school. This probably should be written into the USCF scholastic guidelines

2.    Run an event in conjunction with the US Junior and US Cadet so the organizer can help defray some of the expenses.

3.    Send out communication with potential invitees months in advance. I have heard of many situations where players are notified only two days before the event that they can participate. I know cancellations to do happen, but every effort needs to be made to make sure this does not happen. Perhaps telephone calls with potential players would be the best way to solve this problem.

4.    Money cures many (not all) evils. Sponsorship is always a great way to attract players. Maybe the USCF can pony up a little more to help ensure the event is as strong as possible.

5.    Retain the idea of the winner receiving an invitation to the World Youth/Junior. To digress quickly, I think the USCF should consider tying automatic qualification spots to winners of certain Spring National events or even Grade Nationals. This would improve the quality of the National event as well and force the top scholastic players to play in these events.

Can anyone think of additional ways to improve the event?

    I fully expect there to be some highly competitive matches. Let the games begin!

FM Robby Adamson works as a lawyer in Tucson. He is also assistant manager and player for the new
U.S. Chess League team , the Arizona Scorpions, and organizer of the Western Invitational Chess Camp,www.westernchesscamp.com . Robby will also write a wrap-up of this event, when he will either brag about his correct predictions or wallow in his inaccuracy!