Jeffery Xiong rocks Chicago

by Alejandro Ramirez
6/1/2015 – The Chicago Open has $100,000 in prize money, and is one of the strongest opens in the World. This attracted some of the top players in the continent, including Gata Kamsky and Lazaro Bruzon. However, everyone was in for a big shock as it was a 14-year old boy from Coppell, Texas that took the big prize, earning his GM title in the process. Who exactly is Jeffery Xiong?

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The 2015 edition of the classical Chicago Open was held in Wheeling, Illinois during Memorial Day weekend. This traditionally strong tournament attracted many grandmasters, from as far away as Belarus and Israel. The rating favorites were definitely Gata Kamsky, former U.S. Champion, and Lazaro Bruzon, part of the Cuban Olympic team and one of the strongest players on the continent. However, everyone was in for a big shock as it was 14-year old Jeffery Xiong from Coppell, Texas that took the big prize.

After a relatively mediocre start, drawing a couple of low rated IMs and wunderkind Awonder Liang, things fell into place for Jeffery Xiong. He downed a 2200 and a 2300 and then started getting paired with the big dogs. In round seven he had a draw against the tough Cuban grandmaster Isan Ortiz Suarez, and then he won two important back-to-back games. First he beat Boris Avrukh, 2609, from Israel but living in Chicago, and he found himself in a big tie for first.

He was paired against top seed and tournament favorite Lazaro Bruzon Batista, and this was their game:

[Event "24th Chicago Open"] [Site "Wheeling, IL"] [Date "2015.05.25"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Black "Batista, Lazaro"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2497"] [BlackElo "2684"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] [PlyCount "122"] [EventDate "2015.05.??"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "MonRoi"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Rd1+ Ke8 10. Nc3 Ne7 11. h3 Ng6 12. b3 Bd7 13. Bb2 Nf4 14. Rd4 Ne6 15. Rd2 Rd8 16. Rad1 Be7 17. Ne2 c5 18. Nc3 Bc6 19. Nd5 h5 20. c4 Rd7 21. Rd3 Bd8 22. Nd2 h4 23. Nf1 Bg5 24. Nh2 Rh5 25. Ng4 Kd8 26. Bc3 Kc8 27. Bd2 b6 28. Bxg5 Rxg5 29. Kh2 Rh5 30. f3 a5 31. Kg1 a4 32. Kf2 axb3 33. axb3 Kb7 34. Nde3 Re7 35. Nd5 Re8 36. b4 cxb4 37. Nxb4 Rhh8 38. Ne3 Ba4 39. Ra1 Ra8 40. Rda3 Nc5 41. Nbd5 Rhe8 42. f4 g5 43. fxg5 Rxe5 44. Nc3 Nd3+ $2 {The real mistake of the game: Bruzon overestimates his position and plays for the win.} (44... Nb3 45. Rd1 (45. R1a2 Nc1 46. Ra1 Nb3 $11) 45... Nc5 {trying to repeat moves, was Black's best chance. Of course White is not forced to do so.}) 45. Ke2 Rae8 46. Nxa4 Rxe3+ 47. Kd2 {The knight on d3 is pineed and it is not easy to find a continuation.} Re2+ 48. Kxd3 R8e3+ 49. Kd4 {White is not quite mated:} c5+ 50. Nxc5+ bxc5+ 51. Kxc5 Rxa3 52. Rxa3 Rxg2 {An extra pawn and excellent technique is all Jeffery needed to win the tournament.} 53. Kd6 Rg3 54. Ra5 Rxh3 55. Rf5 Rd3+ 56. Ke7 h3 57. Rxf7 h2 58. Rh7 Rd2 59. g6 Rf2 60. g7 Re2+ 61. Kd6 Rd2+ 1-0

With this victory and a string of draws on the other boards, Jeffery emerged as the only person with 7.0/9. His score was good enough for clear first, his final grandmaster norm and the rating bump needed to cross 2500 – the last requirement in obtaining the coveted title. As a nice "bonus", Jeffrey took home $10,300 in prize money.

# Name Rtng Tot
1 IM Jeffery Xiong 2497 7.0
2 GM Gata Kamsky 2673 6.5
3 GM Illia I Nyzhnyk 2622 6.5
4 GM Daniel A Naroditsky 2622 6.5
5 GM Sergei Azarov 2619 6.5
6 GM Samuel Sevian 2565 6.5
7 GM Vladimir Georgiev 2550 6.5
8 GM Vladimir Dobrov 2490 6.5
9 FM Eric S Rosen 2372 6.5
1st U2400
10 GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista 2684 6.0
11 GM Boris Avrukh 2609 6.0
12 GM Ioan Chirila 2542 6.0
13 GM Joshua E Friedel 2505 6.0
14 IM Ashwin Jayaram 2466 6.0
15 FM Atulya Shetty 2331 6.0
2nd U2400
16 GM Bartlomiej Macieja 2605 5.5
17 GM Isan Ortiz Suarez 2581 5.5
18 GM Kayden W Troff 2556 5.5
19 GM Holden Hernandez Carmenate 2544 5.5
20 GM Conrad Holt 2533 5.5

Who is Jeffery Xiong?

Jeffery Xiong is a 14-year old kid who lives in Coppell, Texas – part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He is an arduous worker both on and off the board, studying many hours a day to keep up with the latest opening trends, as well as polishing his strength. As a youngster, he was trained by GM Babakuli Annakov (and still is, three times a week!) and practiced in the Dallas Chess Club – a strong center of players due to the proximity to the University of Texas at Dallas; one of the top collegiate teams in the country.

A typical genius kid's rating graph

I personally have had the pleasure of playing against Jeffery many times, and have seen him grow from someone who could barely play chess to a full strength grandmaster. According to the USCF website I still have a positive score against him, but that certainly does not reflect the past few games we have played, two of them he was able to outplay me soundly. I personally have trouble playing against him because I have always felt he is way underrated - and with his new FIDE rating topping 2522 I still feel the same way!

Coach Babakuli Annakov, Jeffery and his dad, Wayne Xiong during a training session

The big leap for Jeffery came with his joining of Young Stars, a program catapulting extremely talented children and giving them the tools and opportunities to achieve the highest level in chess. The program is run by KCF president and FIDE Senior Trainer Michael Khodarkovsky. Since the inception of the program in 2012 Jeffery has been coached by grandmasters Alexander Chernin (head coach of the Young Stars program) and Gabor Kallai, both from Hungary. Also he has two training sessions a year with Garry Kasparov, one in New York and one in Saint Louis – the upcoming one will be held in the Missouri city starting June 18.

Awonder Liang is another of Young Stars' talents.
He incidentally drew Jeffery at this Chicago Open in round three.

Jeffery knows that his path to the top is only starting, and his next goal will be to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Chess Championship, the most important tournament of the year in America outside of the Sinquefield Cup. To do this, he will be participating in the U.S. Junior Closed Championship to be held in Saint Louis – the winner of this strong tournament will earn a direct spot in the U.S. Championship of the following year. Competition will not be easy, as some of his Young Stars colleagues will most likely be participating, including grandmasters Kayden Troff and Sam Sevian.

Jeffrey Xiong playing in last year's U.S. Junior Championship -
photo by Austin Fuller, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

His goal is to be part of the U.S. Olympic team – and join the ranks of Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana in representing his country on the highest level. He will continue his climb to the top with the backing of the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

Jeffery with GMs Kayden Troff, Samuel Sevian, WIM Ashritha Eswaran and ex-World Champion Garry Kasparov


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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ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 6/2/2015 04:30
please don't call garry as ex-world chess ch., ...... simply call him garry .... or kasparov...... or garry kasparov.......such is his charisma ...though i cannot say the same of his politics....
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 6/2/2015 04:29
great performance........ look at the dragon invasion the worldwide!
sco-ish sco-ish 6/2/2015 04:15
It seems like with the onset of technology and popularity of chess in the United States, that they may be a force to reckon with in team competitions, hikaru, wesley, Fabiano, and possibly kamsky/Robson/shankland/Sevian/Xiong/Naroditsky on board 4 in the future would just be insane.
johnmk johnmk 6/2/2015 03:09
@ivan3ivanovich Yes you could be right about move 55 Rg3. Maybe some time pressure, otherwise a GM should have seen that move.
Algirdas Algirdas 6/2/2015 10:27
Jeffery is so lucky that none of the European Women CC player was there.
ivan3ivanovich ivan3ivanovich 6/2/2015 10:02

That game is a draw if black plays 55. - Rg3 instead of Rd3+. There is no way that white could have believed he had a forced win 11 moves earlier...
Camembert Camembert 6/2/2015 09:35
Chinese are everywhere !
Just look at the International Maths Olympiads, they just keep being first since nearly 20 years (and the US team has always 4 chinese in the team of six students!).
Opium war is over, whatch out !
Lol !
Mason Mason 6/2/2015 09:27
He's lucky he didn't played with women, otherwise letters accusing him of cheating will be all over the building .
samvils samvils 6/2/2015 09:05
join the ranks of hinkaru nakamura,fabiano caruana and wesley so.. :)
johnmk johnmk 6/2/2015 04:59
Would be interesting to find out just how far ahead Xiong saw to win in the Batista game because it was not very obvious that white was winning after 44 Nd3ch
johnmk johnmk 6/2/2015 04:57
Kamsky made the mistake of settling for some quick and easy draws.

hpaul hpaul 6/2/2015 03:23
The Chinese-Americans are coming, just like the Chinese-Chinese.