Friday, July 9

Good Luck to Steven and Sam at US Junior!

(The top two seeds--Sam Shankland at left and Ray Robson on right--share a lighter moment before the action begins. Photo from CCSCSL website.)

Two of the Bay Area's most successful young chess players will participate in the US Junior Closed (invitational) beginning this weekend at the magnificent Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Please join me in cheering for FM Steven Zierk (one IM norm) and IM Sam Shankland (two GM norms).

The field seems a bit disappointing, with only three of the top nine players under 20 on the April Top 100 list actually showing up. This year's favorite is top seed and defending champion GM Ray Robson. The second seed, and only International Master to participate, is our own Sam Shankland, who could benefit from a little more luck than at recent tournaments. To be quite honest, I will be shocked if neither Ray nor Sam finish at least tied for first.

The dark horse is FM Conrad Holt, the highest rated player from Kansas ever. He gained another 50 rating points and earned a pair of IM norms at the Copper State International and World Open. Third seed FM John Bryant of Los Angeles won't be intimidated by anyone and may also end up being a force to reckon with.

In addition to Sam, I will cheer loudly for my student Steven Zierk. This is Steven's first one-game-per-day invitational and he will need to adjust to the level of competition. He has enough experience drawing against Grandmasters (plus one notable win) that he could be a serious contender. The challenge will be to play consistently in a round-robin tournament where eight of his nine competitors are rated within 30 rating points or higher.

2010 US Junior Closed (most updated USCF rating, July FIDE rating)
  1. GM Ray Robson (2608, 2562)
  2. IM Sam Shankland (2561, 2513)
  3. FM John Bryant (2483, 2403)
  4. FM Conrad Holt (2468, 2402)
  5. FM Darwin Yang (2429, 2396)
  6. NM Warren Harper (2416, 2304)
  7. FM Steven Zierk (2412, 2385)
  8. NM Parker Zhao (2382, 2267)
  9. NM Tyler Hughes (2381, 2312)
  10. NM Eric Rosen (2227, 2179)
Watch for live video coverage from St. Louis beginning at noon Pacific time daily through July 19 (rest day 7/16). As a treat, GM Hikaru Nakamura is scheduled to comment on the first two rounds this weekend. Games are being broadcast LIVE on ICC (check under the Events list). Watch for occasional updates on this blog and on my Twitter page.

Good luck Steven and Sam!

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