The US Junior chess tournament begins today (http://www.uschesschamps.com/). I know this because the CCSCSL (that’s Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis, for all my international readers), sent me a notification via email:
It’s another month, and yet another U.S. Championship is upon us! This time, the young guns get their turn in the spotlight to duel it out for the title of 2013 U.S. Junior Closed Champion. Ten of the top up-and-coming stars of the U.S. chess scene will battle head-to-head in a nine-round, round-robin event. The winner will earn a $3,000 grand prize and an invitation to the 2014 U.S. Championship. Click here to meet the field!
Round 1 begins today, June 14, at 1 p.m., and spectators are welcome to enjoy the action live at the Chess Club or online via http://www.uschesschamps.com.
We will not be canceling any of our regular programming for this event as the Junior Championship will be held in the Chess Club board room. Check out all of our exciting upcoming events in the column at left, and we hope to see you at the club soon!
Since it did not mention anything about who would be doing the commentary, I clicked on over, learning GM’s Yasser Seirawan and Ben Finegold would be on my screen during the event. I will admit to knowing very little about the Junior world of chess, so I clicked on to read about the participants. The first thing I noticed was the question of the day, which is, “Who will be the 2013 U.S. Junior Closed Champion?” Listed first is Sarah Chiang. As of this writing she has yet to receive a vote. After reading the bio’s of the players I learned Sarah is not only the lowest rated player, but clearly 200 points lower rated than the other 9 players, which is a whole rating class below the rest of the field! The webpage informs that the first 7 players were invited because of rating, while the next 2 were wild cards. Sarah’s “Invitation Method” was by way of, “U.S. Open Invitation.” I have absolutely no idea what that means, so will make no comment. I will say, though, that I am reminded of a former Junior player, Robin Ault. From Chess.com:
“Robin Ault (1941-1994) was the first person to win the U.S. Junior Championship three times (1959-1961). In the 1959, the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) had a rule that the American Junior Chess Champion was automatically qualified into the adult title competition. So Robin was invited to the 1959-60 U.S. Championship, then lost all 11 games (0-11). After this, the USCF no longer allowed the top junior player to be invited to the U.S. Championship.” (http://www.chess.com/chessopedia/view/ault-robin)
Then it hit me…I had just read, “The winner will receive an invitation to the 2014 U.S. Championship.” Wonder how long “…the USCF no longer allowed the top junior player to be invited to the U.S. Championship?” It is probably not as bad for the junior now as it was then because now the field has become a herd, while “back in the day” it was composed of only the best players.
I checked Sarah out on the USCF ratings page finding that although she is “27 out of 6461 female players”, she is only “112 out of 39156 junior players.” Maybe she is the top rated female junior and that is why she was invited. Yet it seems rather strange that a player not even in the top 100 would be invited to such a prestigious tournament with such a long history. A quick look at the top list on the USCF site shows there are many young men and boys more deserving, by rating, of participating in the tournament. The fact is this under qualified girl has taken the place of one of them. It is possible Sarah could be shutout in this event and it could have a deleterious effect on the poor girl in the future. Imagine, for example, the uproar caused if a Senior player, a former top level GM, had been invited to a closed US Championship even though he was now rated 200 points below the field and his playing strength was clearly not ready for prime time.
Speaking of Senior chess…The US Junior is up on the USCF webpage and there will be much coverage of the Junior in the coming days, while there has still been absolutely nothing posted on the website concerning the recent US Senior Open. This in spite of the fact I received an email from President Ruth Haring on Sat. June 8 in which she wrote:
Thanks for the report and suggestions. I will look into why there is no report online yet.
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