[imagefield_assist|fid=10513|preset=fullsize|title=Gregory Young, right, solidified his place at the top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Junior Championship.|desc=|link=none|origsize=|align=left|width=700|height=467]By Ken West
SAINT LOUIS, June 24, 2011 -- With just two rounds remaining, Gregory Young stands alone at the top of the crosstables with a score of 6/7 in the U.S. Junior Closed Championship at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
The 16-year-old national master from San Francisco leads by 1.5 points after beating IM Daniel Naroditsky Thursday. Naroditsky could have moved into first place with the win, but Young won with the accelerated Dragon against his opponent’s Maroczy Bind.
“I still have to focus,” Young said when asked about his chances to win it all. He said he is exceeding his expectations.
“If you told me it would be like this, I would have thought you were crazy,” he said. “It’s a good result but I still have plenty of room to improve. It ain’t over till it’s over,” he said with a laugh.
Alec Getz and Jialin Ding drew as did Warren Harper and Victor Shen. Conrad Holt beat Raven Sturt with the white pieces and John Bryant beat Kayden Troff from the black side. Naroditsky, Holt and Bryant are tied for second at 4.5.
“Victor (Shen) and I are going to be Daniel’s best friends,” Harper said during postgame commentary with Grandmaster Ben Finegold and FIDE Master Aviv Friedman. Chen and Harper are Young’s two remaining opponents. Young said he has never played either.
Naroditsky said he thought he was fine after Young’s 24. b5.
“I didn’t see rook takes knight a4,” Naroditsky said.
Bryant notched another point with his beloved Benoni against Troff, sticking to it despite a fifth-round loss to Holt with the opening.
“The Benoni is my soul,” Bryant said. “In Italian it means something like son of sorrow because of the weak pawn on d6.”
On move eight, Bryant pushed his queen to h4, a move Ben Finegold said IM Emory Tate plays. Troff said he had never seen the move in the opening. Troff also said he missed Bryant’s Qd4 on move 24. The game ended a move later.
“In several cases during this tournament, it’s been kind of crazy,” said Troff, the youngest competitor in the event at 13. “I’m disappointed I missed Qd4. It’s kind of sad — you think you play a good game and realize it’s over and you lost.”
Friedman said all the players have displayed a great demeanor in the face of lost games.
“In this tournament, people don’t seem as upset with a loss,” Friedman said. “They have good attitudes.”
Holt has moved into a tie for second with three straight wins, including Thursday’s win over Raven Sturt. Finegold said Holt seemed to be playing with more confidence. Holt will play the white side against Getz in round eight and they are currently tied at 4.5/7.
Ding held a draw on the black side despite being a pawn down against Getz.
“That’s pretty high level, really good play,” Finegold said at one point in the game, complimenting both players.
In the Harper-Shen game, Harper said Shen’s e5 on move 20 was a mistake but said both had less than five minutes left on their clock.
The championship runs through June 26 and includes some of the top players in the country under the age of 21. In addition to earning the title of U.S. Junior Champion and taking home the first-place prize of $3,000, the winner also receives an automatic bid to both the World Junior Championship and the 2012 U.S. championship. The total prize fund is more than $10,000.
Action resumes at 1 p.m. Friday. Games and commentary can be seen live on www.livestream.com/uschess.