Jeffery Xiong: World Junior Champion

by Alejandro Ramirez
8/21/2016 – It was a dominating performance from the American, as he secured his tournament win with a round to spare. Jeffery Xiong (pictured with his father) becomes the first player from the US to win this tournament in 19 years! We bring you an express report on his tournament, including annotations on his key and flashy victory against Aravindh, and will update with an extensive interview.

It has been an amazing series of tournaments for young Jeffery Xiong. Starting with his days at the Dallas Chess Club many years ago, it was clear that this young player had an enormous potential. However, his meteoric rise has surprised almost everyone. After having an excellent result in the U.S. Championship, Jeffery followed it by winning the Capablanca Memorial, the U.S. Junior and has now added a World title to his name: World Junior Champion of 2016!

His hard work has certainly paid off, and it has come with some fantastic aid. Jeffery has taken the spotlight of a very competitive and challenging group: the Young Stars. The Young Stars – Team USA program has been sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) and the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL) since 2012.

A group of young and promising chess players are assessed and evaluated by Garry Kasparov himself, along with KCF President and FIDE Senior Trainer Michael Khodarkovsky. The lead coach for this program is the world famous Alexander Chernin. This was designed as a 5 year program commenced in 2012. Jeffery's championship is a culmination of the 5 year program. Other stars include Kayden Troff and Sam Sevian, who won the World Youth Championship under 14 and 12 respectively, Awonder, twice World Youth under 8 and 10, Carissa Yip tied for first at the World Youth under 12, and Ashritha Eswaran who was the 2015 Continental Girls Junior champion under 20. 

American chess is becoming quite a superpower: Jeffery and Sam Sevian are the highest rated players born in the year 2000, while John Burke and Ruifeng Li are the highest rated players born in the year 2001!

A big part of Jeffery's success can of course be attributed to his first coach, GM Babakuli Annakov as well as his current help in India, GM Vladimir Georgiev.

This is the seventh time an American wins this prestigious event:

1957- William Lombardy

1976 - Mark Diesen

1979 - Yasser Seirawan

1985 - Maxim Dlugy

1990 - Ilya Gurevich

1997 - Tal Shaked

Even though the World Junior is an u20 tournament, Jeffery has won it at the tender age of 15, definitely the youngest American to do so and we are figuring out if the youngest in history: we will updated the story when we have confirmation.

His style throughout the event has been true to his roots: uncompromising and dynamic play, never afraid of taking risks. His game against one of his main rivals, GM Aravindh Chithanbaram from India, clearly shows that:

A key matchup between grandmasters

[Event "World Junior Open 2016"] [Site "Bhubaneswar IND"] [Date "2016.08.15"] [Round "8.2"] [White "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Black "Aravindh, Chithambaram VR"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B31"] [WhiteElo "2633"] [BlackElo "2543"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2016.08.08"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 {Jeffery's style has allowed him to adopt many different openings. Bb5 against 2...Nc6 is not as sharp as the open Sicilian, but that is perhaps what Jeffery was looking for.} g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 Bg7 6. h3 b6 7. Nc3 Nf6 8. Be3 O-O 9. Qd2 Re8 10. Nh2 {Even though the idea is not new, this precise move is rather rare. White wants to push the pawn to f4 and the knight rather lacks squares to go to.} e5 11. O-O-O a5 $5 {Even though these structures can sometimes be positional battles, the players come in with the will to fight. Black launches his own attack on the queenside.} 12. Na4 Be6 13. Kb1 Nd7 14. Ng4 Qe7 15. Nh6+ Kh8 16. h4 {No subtlety: both players are going for mate.} b5 17. Nc3 f6 18. h5 $5 {Jeffery allows Aravindh to trap his bishop on h6, but is banking on the strength of a future f4 break.} Bxh6 $1 19. Bxh6 g5 20. Rdf1 Qf7 (20... a4 $1 21. g3 c4 22. f4 (22. dxc4 b4 23. Nd1 Nc5 $1 $15) 22... b4 23. Nd1 c3 $17) 21. g3 b4 22. Na4 Bxa2+ 23. Ka1 {Black is up a pawn but faces serious challenges: the unstoppable f4 breaks open the kingside and Black has to find a way to counterattack on the queenside.} c4 $1 24. f4 exf4 25. gxf4 cxd3 26. fxg5 dxc2 27. gxf6 {Even visually the position is very double edged. Both sides are nearly getting mated, and it is only a question of who gets there first.} Bb1 28. Bg7+ Kg8 29. b3 {Forced, but sufficient} Nc5 $2 (29... Qxb3 30. f7+ Kxg7 31. fxe8=N+ {gets mated easily} Rxe8 32. Rhg1+ Kh8 33. Qd4+ Ne5 34. Rf8+) (29... Re5 $1 30. Rhg1 Rxh5 {Eliminating the pawn on h5 is key to Black's defense, as the rook on h5 targets the h6 bishop after a discovered check.It is rather inhuman, but it was the only way.} (30... Rae8 31. Bh6+ Kh8 32. Qg2 $18) 31. Bh6+ (31. Qg2 Ne5 $1 {And the knight jumps back to g6.}) 31... Kh8 32. Qg2 Rxh6 $19) 30. Nxc5 a4 31. Kb2 $1 axb3 32. Nxb3 (32. Nd3 $1 Ra2+ 33. Kc1 Ra1 34. Qxb4 {and White is surprisingly safe.}) 32... c1=Q+ {too early!} (32... Red8 $3 {What a concept! The queen is simply attacked and White has no good square for it:} 33. Qe3 (33. Qe2 c1=Q+ 34. Nxc1 Ra2+ 35. Kxb1 Rxe2 36. Rhg1 $1 $11) (33. Qf4 Ra2+ $19 34. Kc1 Rd1+ 35. Rxd1 cxd1=Q+ 36. Kxd1 Qxb3+) 33... Rd3 $1 34. Qxd3 c1=Q+ 35. Nxc1 Bxd3 36. Bh6 $1 {and White gives a perpetual}) 33. Nxc1 Bxe4 (33... Ra2+ 34. Nxa2 Qxa2+ 35. Kc1 {is winning for White}) 34. Rhg1 Ra5 35. Rg5 (35. Bf8+ $1) 35... c5 36. Rfg1 c4 37. Qxb4 c3+ 38. Qxc3 Rb8+ 39. Nb3 {Fearlessly White defends an almost naked king. Black however has finally run out of threats.} Rxg5 40. Rxg5 Bd5 41. Bh6+ Kh8 42. Rxd5 Rxb3+ 43. Qxb3 1-0

Jeffery was implacable from the get-go

Jeffery's new rating will be just shy of 2650. The only comparable player is Wei Yi with his 2720, but the Chinese player is over a year older than the American.

The first seed, Vladislav Artemiev, was able to win his last round and obtain second place. Third place on tiebreaks went to the Indian Narayanan Sunilduth, but it was a narrow margin over a surprise of the tournament: FM Xu Yi from China who gained a massive 67 rating points. A group of players tied for fifth at 8.5, not even including the Iranian terror who had dominated his opponents in the last couple of months and making a 70+ rating point jump: Parham Maghsoodloo!

We will bring a full interview with Jeffery Xiong in a separate article shortly.

Final Standings

Rk. SNo   Name FED RtgI Pts. Rp rtg+/-
1 2 GM Xiong Jeffery USA 2633 10,5 2725 13,7
2 1 GM Artemiev Vladislav RUS 2665 9,5 2643 -2,2
3 10 GM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan IND 2515 9,0 2593 14,2
4 30 FM Xu Yi CHN 2371 9,0 2558 66,6
5 11 GM Karthikeyan Murali IND 2514 8,5 2556 8,8
6 20 IM Mosadeghpour Masoud IRI 2437 8,5 2569 24,2
7 9   Xu Yinglun CHN 2516 8,5 2557 8,1
8 18 IM Nasuta Grzegorz POL 2442 8,5 2535 17,6
9 6 IM Svane Rasmus GER 2546 8,5 2530 -1,0
10 7 GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. IND 2543 8,0 2537 -0,5
11 4   Maghsoodloo Parham IRI 2576 8,0 2506 -8,4
12 37   Ivekovic Bozidar CRO 2351 8,0 2465 45,6
13 13 IM Lorparizangeneh Shahin IRI 2478 8,0 2442 -5,9
14 25 IM Menezes Christoph AUT 2408 7,5 2443 6,1
15 12 GM Gagare Shardul IND 2486 7,5 2451 -6,1
16 23 FM Praggnanandhaa R IND 2429 7,5 2448 3,2
17 31   Yuan Qingyu CHN 2366 7,5 2442 27,4
18 60   Srijit Paul IND 2217 7,5 2464 165,6
19 26 IM Bersamina Paulo PHI 2402 7,5 2433 5,9
20 15 IM Tran Tuan Minh VIE 2473 7,5 2440 -5,0

... 80 players

Games - Rounds 1 to 13


Photos: Tournament page


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Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.
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excalibur2 excalibur2 8/23/2016 12:33
Great achievement from Xiong. His universal style, tenaciousness and end game skills will take him far.

Still awaiting the "extensive" interview with the new World Junior Champion though. Hopefully, it doesn't take 10 months to add it to the article.
bachma1 bachma1 8/23/2016 04:32
TYPO: should it be: has NOW added....?

"and has no added a World title to his name: World Junior Champion of 2016!"