The stars of tomorrow were on show this week thanks to a new initiative, as the Scholastic Center and Chess Club of Saint Louis (CCSCSL), in cooperation with the Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF), U.S. Chess Federation, World Chess Federation (FIDE) and FIDE Trainers’ Commission joined forces for the greater good of the game by bringing together some of the best young international players for a unique challenge match.
It’s billed as the ‘Match of the Millennials’, and runs 26-29 July at the CCSCSL and sees the top US juniors taking on the ‘Rest of the World’s’ best juniors. In the past, such matches implied a superiority of the nation’s team against the best the world had to offer, the most famous being the 1970 USSR vs the Rest of the World Match in Belgrade, which featured a whole firmament of top chess stars that included the world champion, ex-champions and title hopefuls, such as Boris Spassky, Bobby Fischer, Bent Larsen, Tigran Petrosian, Mikhail Tal, Viktor Korchnoi, Vassily Smyslov, Mikhail Botvinnik and Lajos Portisch et al.
However, in the case of the Match of the Millennials, it's perhaps a line-up of future title combatants rather than seasoned campaigners, as each side brings two teams of four players, one team of players under 14, and the other with players aged 17 or less. The US team line-up is: (U-17) Jeffrey Xiong, Sam Sevian, Ruifeng Li, John Michal Burke and Nicolas Checa; (U14) Awonder Liang, Andrew Hong, Carissa Yip and Martha Samadashvilli.
The World Team line-up is: (U17) Haik Martirosyan (Armenia), Andrey Esipenko (Russia), Aleksey Sarana (Russia), Anton Smirnov (Australia) and Aryan Chopra (India); (U14) R.B. Praggnanandhaa (India), Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Uzbekistan), Bibisara Assaubayeva (Russia) and Nurgyul Salimova (Bulgaria).
And after two days of fierce competition, The World leads the US by 13-11.
You can follow the conclusion of the match online on Friday and Saturday, with live coverage and expert commentary and interviews at the official broadcast site by clicking the link.
FM Andrey Esipenko - GM Sam Sevian
U17 Match of the Millennials, (1)
Modern Benoni, Knight’s Tour
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3 g6 The Modern Benoni is a fierce and fiery defence that was first popularised by the great Mikhail Tal, who used it to good effect in the late 1950s and early '60s as he emerged to become world champion - and it was also deployed to good effect by two of his more notable contemporaries in Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov! The Benoni is not, however, for the faint-hearted, as Black invariably has to compromise his position to activate his pieces. 7.Nd2 The Knight's Tour variation - where White has designs on a quick Nc4 and Bf4 to put pressure on Black's d6-pawn. And from here in, Black has to react very energetically to seek compensation. 7...Bg7 8.Nc4 0-0 9.Bf4 Na6 The only logical reply. Black has to seek active counter-play, as it's no use trying to defend the d6-pawn with retreating moves like 9...Ne8. 10.Bxd6 Re8 11.e3 Ne4 12.Nxe4 Rxe4 Threatening 13...Rxc4 and 14...Qxd6. 13.Bg3 b5! In the Benoni, Black not only lives by the sword but he's got to be prepared to also die by it with incalculable risks. 14.Nd6 Rb4 15.Be2 Playing into Black's hands would be 15.Bxb5?! Qa5! and Black has plenty of active piece-play for the sacrificed pawns. 15...Rxb2 16.0-0 It's all or nothing now - both sides are committed to the ensuing tactical melee. 16...c4 17.a4 Nc5 18.Nxb5?! Far too cautious. White has to keep harrying Black in these sort of double-edged Benoni set-ups, and more challenging would have been 18.axb5! as Black has to play on the 'edge' seeking complications with 18...c3 (There's no time for 18...Nb3 as it's well met with the rapid sacrificial attack with 19.Bxc4! Nxa1 20.Nxf7! winning.) 19.Bc4! Rb4!? where White is better, but Black is not without chances to further complicate matters to stay in the game. 18...Nb3 19.Ra3 Bf5 From one little slip-up with 18.Nxb5, suddenly Black has all the momentum with his pieces springing to life with multiple threats on the board. 20.Bc7?! Esipenko seems to have totally lost the plot now. More of a challenge was 20.Bxc4!? Nd2 21.Bd3 Bxd3 22.Rxd3 Nxf1 23.Qxf1 Qa5 24.Rd1! Qxa4 25.Nd4 where White's d-pawn at least offers good prospects of saving the game. 20...Qd7 21.d6 a6 22.Bf3 Rf8 The natural response was 22...Rc8 - but perhaps Sevian was seeing more than there was on offer for White after 23.Rxb3!? Rxb3 24.Nd4 Rb1 also with a won game. However, with 22...Rf8, Sevian does get to shortly force his opponent into a humiliating retreat. 23.Na7 Rd2! 24.Qe1 Rxd6! With White's pieces all awkwardly placed, Sevian cuts to the chase with the exchange sacrifice that soon proves to be a game-winner. 25.Bxd6 Qxd6 26.Ra2 c3 As if Black's very active pieces are not enough of a worry here for Esipenko, the young Russian now also has to deal with a very dangerously passed and running c-pawn. 27.Qd1 Nd2 28.Nc6 c2! There's a nice little tactical settlement coming that soon clears the board for Black to win. 29.Rxc2 Nxf3+ 30.gxf3 Qxd1 31.Rxd1 Bxc2 32.Rd6 Bxa4 The rest of the game needs no further comment: White is just playing the game out now till the time-control is reached. 33.Ne7+ Kh8 34.Rxa6 Bb3 35.Rb6 Be6 36.Nc6 Bf6 37.Kg2 Kg7 38.Rb8 Bc3 39.Rxf8 Kxf8 40.Kg3 Bd7 0-1