8/2/2015 – The US Junior Closed Chess Championship is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the United States – next only to the US Championships. The ten-player round robin event, open to best juniors younger than 21 years, was won by 15-year-old Akshat Chandra – who often writes for our news page. Today he tells us in his captivating style what it is like to play and win such a prestigious event.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
The US Junior Championship is a prestigious tournament with a long history. Among the past winners are former World Champion Bobby Fischer, Arthur Bisguier, Yasser Sairawan, and Hikaru Nakamura. Since 1966 the US Juniors are played as an invitational, separating it from the US Junior Open tournament.

Final Impressions of the US Junior Championship

This was my first time playing the US Junior, and I was looking forward to competing in this event. The chief attraction of the invitational Junior Championship is that the winner qualifies for the following year’s US Championship, in which they get to play top world-class players in a typical round-robin format, just like other elite tournaments. With next year’s edition potentially having a lineup that could include Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Gata Kamsky, each participant in the Junior championship had sufficient motivation to go all out.

The players arrived in St. Louis on July 6, one day before the event was to begin, and we all drew our pairing lots during the opening ceremony that evening. The picking of the lots was done by last name, but in reverse alphabetical order. By the time I got around to picking, all the five White lots had already been selected, and I had to content myself with the four Whites draw. The strongest US Junior ever had begun.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
In Round 1, I had the black pieces and faced a good friend of mine, the precocious International Master Luke Harmon Vellotti. This was a tough game to start off the tournament. Although one may have been tempted to play a solid opening, especially with the black pieces, I decided to go for a more fighting and complex game by revisiting an old friend.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]