For the second summer in a row, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has hosted and sponsored the U.S. Junior Invitational for 10 of the top American juniors under age 21. This club, generously funded by Rex Sinquefield, has quickly grown into the most exciting new venue in the nation. The past two U.S. Championships were held here, attracting most of the elite players of the country. No doubt, many of the juniors attending this week dream to join the big boys in the near future. In fact, the U.S. Junior champion earns an invitation to both the World Junior and next year's U.S. Championship!
Previous winners of the U.S. Junior include GM Bobby Fischer, GM Larry Christiansen, GM Patrick Wolff, IM Joshua Waitzkin, GM Tal Shaked, GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Robert Hess, GM Ray Robson and last year's winner, GM Sam Shankland. Bay Area talent Shankland made the most of his opportunity at this spring's U.S. Championship, reaching the semifinals before being knocked out by the repeating champion GM Gata Kamsky.
The field of the 2011 Junior features 8 of the top 16 rated on the June Top 100 list for U21. However, the three Grandmasters ranked at the top (Hess, Robson and Shankland) all declined their invitations, perhaps because they each won at least once before. That left 15 year old IM Daniel Naroditsky, rated 2536 USCF, as the top seed. In a bizarre twist, one of the bottom half players actually tied for 1st in the 2008 U.S. Junior (see photo at top of post). The lucky guy holding the trophy was my longtime student NM Gregory Young, now 16 years old. Please join me in cheering loudly for the two Bay Area representatives in St. Louis, Danya and Greg!
My two former students face eight competitors from across the country: three from NY/NJ, two from Texas, plus one each from Utah, Kansas and the host state Missouri. One of the Texans is #2 seed FM John Bryant, formerly from Southern California, but now attending college. One of two Midwestern players, #3 seed Conrad Holt of Kansas, officially became an IM merely two weeks ago. And the youngest participant is 13 year old NM Kayden Troff of Utah, who picked up his first IM norm recently.
Check out the tournament schedule. The rounds begin at 11am Pacific time and are broadcast live on the chess club website using the MonRoi system. Also make sure to listen to the live broadcast by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman. Unfortunately, there is no coverage on ICC.