Evgeny Shtembuliak and Polina Shuvalova are World Junior Champions 2019

by Sagar Shah
10/27/2019 – The World Junior Championships officially came to an end on October 26th 2019 when players from over 50 countries left for home. Two new World Champions were crowned: Evgeny Shtembuliak in the Open section and Polina Shuvalova in the Girls' section. The silver and the bronze medal in the Open section went to the Armenians, Shant Sargsyan and Aram Hakobyan respectively. In the Girls' section it was Mobina Alinasab from Iran who won the silver and Elizaveta Solozhenkina who won the bronze. We take you to the moments of the final rounds where the six medals were decided in a huge report from New Delhi by Sagar Shah, Amruta Mokal, Niklesh Jain and Angela Franco. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

No need to fear the Slav Exchange Variation No need to fear the Slav Exchange Variation

The Slav is a magnificent opening, but for many players there is one little blot on its escutcheon - that is the Exchange Variation. Not only does Black apparently have no prospects of obtaining the full point, but since he has an extra tempo White may well make attempts to win the game. But if you know what you are doing, you can easily do two things as Black: equalise and break the symmetry.


A game of respect

The final round of the World Junior Championships 2019 had a different feel to it. Instead of the usual time, the round began five hours in advance. Most of the players wouldn't even be waking up at 10 a.m. but that's how things are! You form a routine throughout the event to get to the board at 3 p.m. in the best possible shape and when the time comes for the most important game, where just about all your previous efforts are at stake, everything has completely changed! But Champions rise to the occasion and that's what happened at the World Junior Championships 2019.

Shtembuliak gets up from his chair out of respect for his opponent Volodar Murzin, who is just 13 years old! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The Penultimate Round

Wang Shixu despite getting the right type of position could only manage to hold a draw against the leader, but the untitled Chinese player satisfied the requirements for his maiden GM-norm.

Wang Shixu vs Shtembuliak | Photo: Niklesh Jain


Elsewhere, Aravindh Chithambaram drew with Miguel Santos in an interesting game arising out of Sicilian Dragon. And Aram Hakobyan played a nearly flawless game, giving no chance to his higher rated opponent Karthikeyan Murali.

Hakobyan discusses his win with Sagar Shah


The 13-year-old Volodar Murzin continued his fine run with a win over Albornoz Cabrera. Murzin too scored his first GM-norm.

Albornoz Cabrera and Volodar Murzin | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Praggnanandhaa played a very interesting game to beat Sergey Drygalov.

A look at Praggnanandhaa vs Sergey Drygalov


One of the most exciting game of the round was Leon's win over Viktor Gazik. Leon is a trained violinist and is used to creating symphonies off the board. But in round ten he managed to create one on it!

Four queens on the board!


A great gesture by the organizers to provide mugs to all participants with their name and photo engraved on it | Photo: Niklesh Jain

In the Girls' tournament, for the first time in the tournament it seemed like Shuvalova was in danger of losing. But Berdnyk didn't take her chances, and she eventually lost the game.

Berdnyk and Shuvalova | Photo: Niklesh Jain


The final round

A draw was enough for Evgeny Shtembuliak to become the World Junior Champion. If you look at it, becoming the World Junior Champion not only gives you 3000 euros as the winner, but it also opens up new avenues for you. For example, the winner qualifies for the next World Cup, he also tends to get invited to several prestigious events like Tata Steel B-group, Biel Masters, Tepe Sigeman & Co. and others. Overall, you become a recognized figure in the chess world. So, quite a lot was at stake here. But Shtembuliak had two contradicting thoughts in his mind while he was playing: a draw meant the title, but he would tie with someone (Shant Sargsyan later won his game), a win would mean he would be the sole champion. The latter was tempting, but it involved fighting his demons on the board. And that he did with great self-confidence, taking a page out of Fabiano Caruana's book. When Caruana was at the Candidates 2018, he only needed a draw in the last round against Grischuk to get his match against Carlsen. But once the American got a winning position, he did not back down. He decided to go full throttle and scored the win! The same happened with Shtembuliak. Once he won the pawn and realized that things were going his way, he played with confidence and brought home the full point. With 9.0/11, he deservedly became the sole World Junior Champion.

Evgeny Shtembuliak shows his win over Volodar Murzin from the final round


Shuvalova fought back from a difficult position to salvage a draw | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Shuvalova had a one point lead over the field. She was up against Song Yuxin from China. She landed in a tough situation after she lost a pawn around move 20, but fought back when her opponent made some mistakes and held a draw quite easily.


The fight for the silver medal in the open section was quite intense. Aram Hakobyan had the best tiebreak score, but he had the black pieces against Aravindh Chithambaram. This was not going to be an easy game for the Armenian. On the second board Shant Sargsyan faced Miguel Santos Ruiz with the black pieces. Fighting for a win in the final round with the black pieces is never easy, that too against a 2560 opponent. But Sargsyan managed to create imbalances right out of the opening. Playing 5...d7, he took his opponent out of theory. And then came the blackout moment.


Black has just played 16...b7 attacking the pawn on e4. 17.♘d5 or f3 are the natural moves to be played. Instead, Miguel just went 17.d2? completely forgetting about the e4 pawn. It's quite amazing that he could drag the game on for 94 moves. The above position is quite lost!


With this win Sargsyan moved to 8½/11, just half a point behind the leader. Miguel Santos Ruiz on 7½/11 had to settle for the fourth place.

Armenian youngster Shant Sargsyan had a successful trip | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Sargsyan also won Silver at World Youth under-18 and now another Silver at World Junior.

Aram Hakobyan faced a few tense moments before holding Aravindh Chithambaram to a draw | Photo: Niklesh Jain


Aram speaks after winning the Bronze medal

Mobina Alinasab Bibisara Assaubayeva

Alinasab swindled Assaubayeva in the final round | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Mobina Alinasab had absolutely no chances against Bibisara Assaubayeva as she landed in an utterly lost position. But the Iranian girl didn't give up and managed to swindle her opponent!

The final moments of Alinasab's win


Iranian players who faced quite a tough event in Delhi with both Aryan Gholami and Amin Tabatabaei withdrawing, Mobina's silver medal was a silver lining! She gave the fans of her country something to cheer about.

Elizaveta Solozhenkina beat her compatriot Dinara Dordzhieva in the final round to clinch the bronze medal | Photo: Amruta Mokal


As we have already seen, last round pressure can make people blunder big time. White to play and win some material.

Although Solozhenkina won a pawn early on in the game with 10.xb5! in the above position, she couldn't keep her advantage intact. Black got quite a bit of counterplay. However, Dordzhieva could not manage to keep the accuracy level going and after a long struggle, it ended in Solozhenkina's favour.

Annotated games by WIM Angela Franco

Click or tap a game in the list to switch

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Such a dynamic and popular opening as the Najdorf is developing the whole time. On this download, Daniel King updates lines that were included on his DVD but also responds to viewers’ requests, considering lines that he omitted from his original repertoir

Final standings (Open)


Final standings (Girls)


All games



Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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