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3 Days Until the Battle for U.S. Junior Champion Begins

chess, club, scholastic, xiong, GM, juniors, championship, saint, louis, CCSCSL
2015 US Junior Closed

The top ten chess players in the United States under 21 years old will compete in the 2015 U.S. Junior Closed Championship July 6-15 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL). The winner will receive $6,000 and a seat at the 2016 U.S. Championship.

The field is full of bright and ambitious players and observers can expect rivalrous games. However, before the players tune into their chess-focused mode and start fighting for the crown, we asked the two top-seated players, Jeffrey Xiong and Akshat Chandra, along with the debut player, Mika Brittain, to give us more insights into their tournament preparation, current chess condition, and overall tournament strategy and goal. Below are a few of the questions we asked the aforementioned players.

GM-elect Jeffery Xiong is known for his well-rounded chess style through which he is able to aggressively attack, but also patiently hold his positions. He is greatly appreciative of the recent and very helpful CCSCSL’s training seminar, lead by the world champion, Garry Kasparov, and he has the strongest desire to win the US Junior Closed Championship.

Jeffrey, the Junior Closed is about to begin. How significant is this tournament for you compared to others you regularly compete in?

It is very significant! I have always enjoyed coming to St. Louis to play at this great chess club. I have initially planned to go to Washington DC to play in the DC International and World Open, but I have decided not to go, so I can have sufficient time to prepare for this US Junior Championship.

Did you have special preparation for this tournament?

Definitely; I had physical training every day, plus opening preparation.

How do you plan to approach the tournament? Will you take risks in your games?

I plan to have fun.  I will take risk. I will not be afraid of losing. I plan to play exciting chess.

Who is going to accompany you at the tournament?

Both my parents are coming. We all like to come to STL.


Jeffrey’s favorite game of 2015 demonstrating his style of play is against GM Lazaro Bruzon from Chicago Open:  “I needed a win to qualify for the GM norm, and I was determined to win,” said Jeffrey. “The game has been equal for a long time. I kept fighting and fighting until very late in the game he blundered. I like this kind of games when the stake is high, and winner takes all.”



chess, club, scholastic, chandra, juniors, closed, tournament, saint, louis, CCSCSL

IM Akshat Chandra inclines toward a classical style and he approaches his games from a positional perspective. However, he not only maneuvers well with his pieces, he also keeps his tactical vision sharp to readily expose all opponents’ inaccuracies and vulnerable targets. Akshat did not undergo a special preparation for this tournament, but his goals still remain high! As the second ranked player he aims have a winning attitude for each game and consequently win the tournamen

Akshat, how do you feel about yourself right before the start of the tournament?

I feel confident and restless in a positive way, eager for the tournament to begin.  Just like a racing horse as it’s pushed and maneuvered into the starting gates.

Do you have any preferences regarding the pairing of the tournament?

I have no preference. Every player is strong and each game will be a tough challenge. One has to work very hard to earn a favorable result.

How to you plan to approach the tournament? Will you take risks in your games?

I'll definitely have to take some "smart risks," but I won't try to force the matter if there is nothing there, as each point is valuable in such tournaments. 

Who is going to accompany you at the tournament?

Magnus and Anand, my team of seconds :)

No, my Dad will be the official bag carrier for this event.


Akshat’s personal best game so far in 2015 was against GM Giorgi Margvelashvilli from UTD vs. USA Juniors All Stars tournament. He particularly likes the game “for its Strategic dynamics.”



Chess, Saint Louis, junior, closed, tournament, scholasticNM Mika Brittain is a mixture of a positional and intuitive style player who hopes to be a good match for others in the playing field. He enjoys competing in round-robin tournaments, for it provides a rather controlled atmosphere and his goal is “to play great chess, and allow the results to work themselves out”. Mika focused his one month preparation for tournament on improving his game as a whole: “Regardless of how the tournament goes, I think I have improved as a player.”

Mika, your first US Junior Closed Championship is about to start, how do you feel about it? 

The Junior Closed Championship is the longest, most competitive, and prestigious tournament I have ever played in.  I feel great. I’ve taken a month off of playing in tournaments and I believe that my mind is fresh and ready to play good chess.

How to you plan to approach the tournament? Will you take risks in your games?

I plan to approach the tournament on a game-by-game basis and pursue the best result that is objectively possible each game.

Do you have any preferences regarding the pairing of the tournament?

I am rather ambivalent on this issue. I have found it is detrimental to spend energy on color and pairing preferences; in past tournaments luck has granted me my “preferences” but has failed to serve me well.