Kayden Troff is US Junior champion

by Albert Silver
6/30/2014 – The 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship has been decisive in its theme, and leaders rose and fell with hearbreaking collapses and heartwarming finishes. Victories were claimed on four of five boards in every one of the tournament’s last five rounds, and in fact there were only twelve draws out of 45 games, for almost 75% decisive games. Talk about bloodthirsty.

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For the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed, GM Kayden Troff decided to change up his tournament strategy -- on the only day he didn’t play chess.

The top seed of the event began his 2014 campaign claiming the expected headlines after taking an early lead in the standings, but then his focus seemed to waver. Back-to-back draws made him momentarily fall out of the limelight and then, literally, the worst: A loss to FM Michael Bodek -- and on the day before the break.

He needed a change.

Kayden Troff chose to turn a liability into an advantage as he changed the course of his tournament

“I’ve always said: Going into the rest day with a loss is just terrible -- just an entire day to sit around and think about it,” Troff said. “But this year, I turned it into a huge benefit for me. Clear my head, do some fun things and relax, try to come into the second part of the tournament as if it was a new tournament. I just wanted to try and start over.”

The reset button has been pushed. Troff (5.0/7) emerged from Wednesday’s rest day and walked straight into clear first, by using the most direct line possible: Stepping on literally everyone in his way. Troff has put together two consecutive victories, first over IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti and then Friday on top of IM Jeffrey Xiong -- both of whom shared the tournament lead during the rest day.

[Event "ch-USA Junior 2014"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.06.26"] [Round "6.2"] [White "Harmon-Vellotti, Luke"] [Black "Troff, Kayden W"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B20"] [WhiteElo "2412"] [BlackElo "2494"] [PlyCount "46"] [EventDate "2014.06.20"] 1. e4 c5 2. b3 {“He really surprised me with this b3 move,” Troff said. “I’m not sure if what I played was okay, in fact, I don’t think I equalized out of the opening. But at the same time, I did get a playable position -- which was one of my main goals: Just get into a position that is not more one-sided toward my opponent. Even if it’s slightly worse, at least make it a game I can play.”} Nc6 3. Bb2 a6 4. Nf3 d6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 e5 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3 Nf6 9. O-O {Diagram [#]} g5 {This is not a notation error. Troff returns the favor of a surprise by choosing one of the least obvious choices possible. With this move he is openly declaring his intentions though.} 10. Nd2 Bg4 11. f3 Be6 12. Kh1 h5 13. g3 $2 {This is a blunder however, since all it does is present Black with a target to attack the king.} (13. Bc4 d5 ({ Not} 13... Bxc4 $2 14. Nxc4) 14. Bd3 Qc7 {to protect e5} 15. Re1 {and White keeps the position under control. Ex:} d4 16. c3 c5 17. Qe2 h4 18. Bxa6 Be7 19. Bc4 $16) 13... g4 ({Obviously not} 13... h4 $2 14. g4 {And suddenly the attack vanishes as quickly as it appeared.}) 14. Qe1 h4 $1 {Black's last two moves almost play themselves.} 15. gxh4 Bh6 16. Bc4 $2 {White loses focus and allows} Bxd2 $1 17. Qxd2 Bxc4 18. bxc4 gxf3 {And White's position is collapsing very quickly.} 19. Rae1 Rxh4 20. Rxf3 Nxe4 21. Qe3 Qd7 22. Ref1 O-O-O 23. Rxf7 { Diagram [#]} Rxh2+ $1 {Followed by mate.} 0-1

Kayden Troff was a class act and won the tournament quite convincingly in the end, despite a few scares on the way, such as his loss to Michael Bodek, and of course the fierce start by Xiong that threatened to leave him in the dust. His 7.0/9 result was in line with his GM title soon to be ratified by FIDE, and will take him past 2500.

Jeffrey Xiong had a brilliant start but disappointing finish

For Jeffrey Xiong, the second half was a non-starter after his loss to Sevian in round five, and despite a 3.5/4 start, had a minor collapse in the end losing two of his last three games. Although not disastrous for his rating by any means, he will be disappointed with the finish.

Samuel Sevian had a disappointing start and a brilliant finish

Samuel Sevian experienced just the opposite, and after a very uncharacteristic 1.0/4 start, with three losses, he came back with a powerful 4.5/5 finish, allowing him to squeak into second place with 5.5/7, albeit a full point and a half behind the winner.

Third place finisher Michael Bodek had an excellent torunament through and through, and might have taken clear second place had he not fallen victim to Joshua Colas's last hurrah, scoring his only win in the final round. Bodek can take comfort though, in knowing he was the only player to defeat the winner Kayden Troff.

FM Justus Williams

Michael Larson outperformed his modest 2160 rating and turned in a 2305 performance

Luke Harmon-Vellotti led the pack at one point but finished with 4.5/9

FM Arthur Shen

Joshua Colas

Final standings

Report by Albert Silver and Brian Jerauld
Pictures from official site


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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