Spring Classic: Youth leads

by Macauley Peterson
3/9/2019 – The Spring Chess Classic is a pair of 10-player round-robin tournaments at the Saint Louis Chess Club. After four rounds, the A group field was surprisingly tight with five out of the ten players tied on 3 points. But after seven, Jeffrey Xiong (pictured) and Illya Nyzhnyk have taken the lead. Vassily Ivanchuk and Rustam Kasimdzhanov, meanwhile, are struggling. | Photo: Austin Fuller

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Two leaders with two rounds to play

The quarterly "Classic" events at the Saint Louis Chess Club provide opportunities for players in the 2600 Elo range to gain round-robin tournament experience as they fight for over $30,000 in prize money.

After seven rounds, the youth are the standouts as Illya Nyzhnyk (22) and Jeffery Xiong (18) are leading, with Ray Robson (24) and Aryan Tari (19) a half point behind.

Standings after Round 7 — Group A


Click or tap any result to jump directly to that game in live.chessbase.com


It's rare to see Ivanchuk playing in a tie! | Photo: Austin Fuller

Veterans struggling

Vassily Ivanchuk got off to a bad start in his first ever appearance in St. Louis. He became overly ambitious as time control approached against Varuzhan Akobian.


Black's knight just vacated the g6 square so it may have come as a surprise that after Ivanchuk lashed out with 37.g4? Akobian's 37...g6 is winning for black. 38.g3 b6 29.d7, but not because of 29...c5 which gave Ivanchuk the chance to bring his queen back on defence and grab a pawn at the same time with 30.xa4. Instead 29...a6 penetrates into White's position via d3 with devastating effect.

Ivanchuk squandered the second chance, however: 


White's only chance is to keep the position messy with 55.h4 d3 and 56.f5, but the Ukrainian's 55.xe6 allowed a pretty mate: 55...h4+ 56.g4 xf4+ 57.h5 xf3+ 58.g4 f4+ with mate in four.

After this loss Ivanchuk made four consecutive draws but then over pressed against Dutch GM Benjamin Bok and now stands at just 2½/7.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov is also far off the pace after dropping a three games to Robson, Le and Akobian. In Round 1, Robson showed how opposite-coloured bishops can be dangerous with queens on the board.

Can you spot the mate in three?

50.g6+ h8 51.h6+ Black resigned due to 51...g8 52.d5#

In round four, Le Quang Liem tested Kashimdzhanov in one of the main lines in the Berlin Defence, until the move 12...d7 (lately players like Hikaru Nakamura prefer Be6). 


There followed 13.g3 d8 14.g5 as in Kramnik-Naiditsch, Dortmund 2014, but Le played the novelty 12...c8.

The game looked to be heading towards a draw until Kasimdzhanov blundered a pawn with 31.d5


Grabbing the c4-pawn immediately allows White to take on c7, but 31...b7 takes advantage of the long diagonal and Le had a healthy pawn up after 32.f3 xd5 33.cxd5 xd5. Black was eventually able to swap his c7-pawn for both White's h-pawns and advance his queenside majority.


Kasimdzhanov is languishing in last place | Photo: Austin Fuller

Solid 'plus two'

Jeffry Xiong, the world's number three junior player, is undefeated with two wins. In round three, he set the pace with a win over Bok:


White's position is losing, but 37.e4 hastens the end. What was the knockout blow?


Xiong followed this win with two draws and then a crucial victory over top seeded Le, in a game he controlled from start to finish:


Le Quang Liem

Le was leading earlier but now trails by a full point | Photo: Austin Fuller

Nyzhnyk scored his wins over Robson and Eric Hansen, the latter after Hansen missed a good opportunity to liquidate in time pressure on move 37.


Here 37.a5 is a tricky move, with the idea that 37...xa5 is met by 38.xb5 xb5 and 29.a7 queening.

After Hansen's 37.a3 Nyzhnyk kept the position complicated in his opponent's time trouble, a good strategic choice as GM Aman Hambleton explained in the live commentary:

Nyzhnyk ended up slightly better in a rook ending, which he won in 58 moves, to join Xiong in the lead.

Group B

Chinese GM Bai Jinshi is on the verge of winning the B group in St. Louis as he leads Andrey Baryshpolets, whom he has already played (to a draw), by a full point with two rounds to go. Bai is currently on 5½ points with four wins to his credit. He kicked off a three-game winning streak in round three, when he defeated GM Gregory Kaidanov with the black pieces from an equal knight endgame.


Black's kingside pawns are menacing and Kaidanov tried 34.e4+ but he needs his king on d4 to be able to recapture as after 34...fxe3 35.fxe3 h4 36.e4+ f4 37.e5 e3 38.e6 g3 Black's g-pawn is faster than White's e-pawn. Bai queened first and could get back in time with the king.

A pretty forcing sequence brought home the advantage in his next game against Sergey Erenburg:


It looks like Black is braking up the strong why pawns, but 37.f4 (hits the black bishop) 37...f7 38.e5 (now the knight) h5 39.h4+ (driving the king back) f8 40.xh5 xh4 41. f4 g6 42.f5 and Erenburg resigned since he cannot take of f5 due to a pin on the f-file. Bai would collect the g-pawn and advance his connected passers.

Bai Jinshi

Bai Jinshi has a full point lead | Photo: Austin Fuller

Standings after Round 7 — Group B


Click or tap any result to jump directly to that game in live.chessbase.com

All games and commentary

Players receive 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, plus 30 seconds per move starting from move one. No draw offers are allowed before move 30.

Group A


Group B


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Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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