2013 U.S. Cadet Championship

2013 U.S. Cadets (L-R): Justus Williams, Ruifeng Li, Michael Brown, Joshua Colas, Christopher Wu, Varun Krishnan, James Black, David Hua.

The 2013 U.S. Cadet Championship will begin today with eight of the top juniors under the age of 16. The tournament will take place July 20th-22nd at the Rockville Hilton in Baltimore, Maryland. Defending champion Michael Bodek is not eligible and has picked up IM norms since the Cadets.

While neither Josh Colas nor Justus Williams (above) fared well last year, as top seeds they may get their chance. Photo by Maryland Chess Association.

This year, the field is led by returnees Josh Colas (2398), Justus Williams (2374) and David Hua (2373). In fact six of the eight players return from last year!

The players are vying for a four-year college scholarship offered by the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC). The winner will receive the full ride. The top three players will receive free entry into the Washington International which begin August 5th. The entire field is as follows:

2013 U.S. Cadet Championship
July 20th-22nd, 2013 (Baltimore, Maryland)
1 Colas, Joshua NM USA NY 2398
2 Williams, Justus NM USA NY 2374
3 Hua, David NM USA NJ 2373
4 Krishnan, Varun NM USA CA 2346
5 Brown, Michael NM USA CA 2343
6 Li, Ruifeng CM USA TX 2326
7 Black Jr, James NM USA NY 2310
8 Wu, Christopher NM USA NJ 2293
(Main Site, PGN Games)

The Cadets have a pre-tournament meal together. Good times!

All photos in the reports are courtesy of Maryland Chess Association.


  1. The usually consistent Justus Williams had an interesting past couple of tourneys. At the NY International, He lost to a 1796 and drew an 1838 en route to a 30 point plummet in his rating.

    He followed that up by gaining 22 points back at the World Open; beating a 2621 GM, drawing a 2640 GM, beating a 2506 IM, and beating a 2432 along the way!

  2. Round 1. 2013 US Cadet, 20 July 2013 @11:00hrs

    Site of 2013 U.S. Cadet Championships

    Site of 2013 U.S. Cadet Championships

    Hua, David (2373, 0.0) 0-1 Black Jr, James (2310, 0.0)
    Brown, Michael (2343, 0.0) 1-0 Williams, Justus (2374, 0.0)
    Colas, Joshua (2398, 0.0) 1/2-1/2 CM Li, Ruifeng (2326, 0.0)
    Wu, Christopher (2293, 0.0) 1/2-1/2 Krishnan, Varun (2346, 0.0)

    James Black

    James Black started last year’s Cadets strongly only to struggle later on. Will this year be different?

  3. Round 2. 2013 US Cadet, 21 July 2013 @ 18:00hrs

    Krishnan shocks Colas as three decisive results show fighting spirit

    Black Jr, James (2310, 1.0) 0-1 Wu, Christopher (2293, 0.5)
    Krishnan, Varun (2346, 0.5) 1-0 Colas, Joshua (2398, 0.5)
    CM Li, Ruifeng (2326, 0.5) 1-0 Brown, Michael (2343, 1.0)
    Williams, Justus (2374, 0.0) 1/2-1/2 Hua, David (2373, 0.0)

    Josh Colas is the top seed which brings with it the pressure to win. In Krishnan-Colas, the game entered the typical lines of a Taimanov which then transposed more into a Scheveningen system. White sacrificed a pawn for open attacking lines, but black appeared to be solid. Colas offered an exchange for control of the dark squares, but Varun Krishnan decided that a strong initiative on the black king was worth more. He turned out to be right. Before black could get a kingside attack going, white was breaking through on the other wing with 25.Ba7+! Ka8 26.axb7+ Qxb7 27. Bc5+ Kb8 28.Bxd6+ Kc8.

    At a critical moment, Krishan uncorked a rook sacrifice with 29.Ra8+ (diagram #1). Upon first glance, it did not appear to be sound, but with the black king exposed, there were some problems that needed solving. After 29…Qxa8 30.Qc4+ Kd7 31.Bb4 Qb7 32.Ra1, black had to be careful since there were many tricks. Unfortunately, Colas overlooked white’s strong reply to his 32…Bf6?? On the natural 33.d6, black’s 33…Be6 was met by the crushing 34.Bc6+! (diagram #2) and black resigned. Disappointing loss for Colas who was on the verge of holding back a strong attack.

    James Black, Jr. was coming into the second round with a win. He would face Christopher Wu who can be a slippery opponent. In this game, Black adopted a very risky setup with 10.g4 and in a matter of moves his dark squares were under pressure. Wu’s 16…h5! was very uncomfortable and exposed white’s weak king even more. While Black was able to get the game into a rook ending, he was a pawn down and his position was impossible to hold. Wu’s rooks dominated the h-file and then penetrated the third rank eating pawns along the way. The black king then escorted the e-pawn up the board. Impressive win for Wu.

    Li Ruifeng uncorked 24.Bh6! and the attack was on!

    In Li-Brown, a Ruy Lopez turned into a positional battle, but black overlooked a tactic 22.Nxf7! After that, white had a raging attack after 22…Bxf7 23. Qxe7 Bd5 and the nice sortie 24.Bh6! Black put up a two knights defense with 24…Nh5 25.Qg5 Bf7 26.Re7 Ng6 but after 27.Rxf7! black was unable to protect his king and began hemorrhaging material.

    In Williams-Hua, a very usual Catalan occurred. Black tried to hold on to a pawn after 4.dxc4 (ill-advised) and was given a second pawn as white attempted to catch black napping. It appears Williams got a bit of play for the pawn, but ultimately had to retreat. He obtained a grip on the queenside and in the end, neither side could make any progress.

  4. This Rueifeng Li kid is a tough nut to crack! I spoke with Josh and reminded him about the significance of spending quality time at his board. I think he got the message and he will share it with James and Justus as well.

    1. Ruifeng played a nice attack. I believe both James and Josh lost concentration at some point. I noticed how often they got up from the board. It’s natural, but all of these opponents are tough so they’ll have to stay focused… especially when the positions are so complicated.

      Round Two Action!

      Round Two Action!

  5. Pingback: Daily Chess News Links July 21, 2013 | blog.chesscafe.com
  6. Bc6+ caught me off guard as well! I thought Josh was on his way to an amazing come back and out of nowhere, bang! That’s chess for you.

  7. Round #3. 2013 US Cadet, 21 July 2013 @ 11:00hrs

    Williams, Justus (2374, 1.0) 1/2 -1/2 Black Jr., James (2310, 1.0)
    Hua, David (2373, 0.5) 1-0 Li, Ruifeng (2326, 1.5)
    Brown, Michael (2343, 1.0) 1/2 -1/2 Krishnan, Varun (2346, 1.5)
    Colas, Josh (2398, 0.5) 1-0 Wu, Christopher (2293, 1.5)

    There was a little bit of everything in round three of the U.S. Cadet Championship. In Williams-Black, white seemed to gotten the better of the complications and ended up a solid passed pawn. Black’s best chance was to blockade the pawn and hope for the best. Instead the game took a violent turn. Williams seemed to be trying to conjure up threats while ushering the pawn home, but missed a nice tactic after 39. Be4 Nf5! hitting f2. On 40.Rxf5 Nxf5 41.Qg5+ Kh8 white repeated moves and then had nothing better than to allow a perpetual check.

    Hua-Li was absolute crazy game!

    Hua-Li was absolute crazy game!

    Hua-Li was the game of the round with all types of fireworks… or fire on board. In a Slav, both sides accepted the tremendous complications and the game exploded on 14. e4 e5 15. Ne2 axb4 16. axb4 Bxb4 17. Ng3 c5 18. Nf5 Qe6 19. dxe5. Black played actively but stirred the pot with 19…c4? White got an advantage with 20.exf6, but could win with 20.Rxb4 cxd3 21.Qc7! with two pieces hanging. Nevertheless, the board was still sizzling when Hua played a nice intermezzo with 25.fxg7. At this point, all of black’s pawns were weak and they begin to fall like flies. After the smoke cleared, white was two pawns up and converted the endgame easily.

    Colas played the shattering 9.Bxe6!
    and black was sent reeling.

    It didn’t appear as if Michael Brown and Varun Krishnan were in the fighting mood against each other. They drew rather quickly. With the draw, Krishnan pulled into the lead as the other frontrunners (Li and Wu) lost. In fact Colas-Wu was a rather trivial contest as Wu didn’t put up much fight after being stunned by a typical Sicilian bishop sack on e6. Typically that sacrifice occurs after black has moved his bishop from f8, but it also had a devastating effect here. On 9.Bxe6! fxe6 10.Nxe6 Qb6 11.Nd5 Nxd5 12.Qxd5 black must lose material, so on 12…Ne5 (12…Bb7 13.Nc7+ mating) 13. Qxa8 Qb7 14. Qxb7 Bxb7 15. Nxf8 the game went on a few more moves before black resigned.

    Varun Krishnan is in sole possession of first. There are six players on an even score and only one point separates 1st place from 8th. This will be an exciting tournament.

    Varun Krishnan is in sole possession of 1st. There are six players on an even score and only one point separates 1st place from 8th. This will be an exciting tournament.

  8. Round #4. 2013 US Cadet, 21 July 2013 @ 18:00hrs

    Round four action!

    Round four action!

    Black Jr., James (2310, 1.5) 1-0 Colas, Josh (2398, 1.5)
    Wu, Christopher (2293, 1.5) 1/2 -1/2 Brown, Michael (2343, 1.5)
    Krishnan, Varun (2346, 2.0) 1-0 Hua, David (2373, 1.5) 1-0
    Li, Ruifeng (2326, 1.5) 1/2 -1/2 Williams, Justus (2374, 1.0)

    James Black Jr. and Josh Colas battled together for years and are the best of friends. If these two are friends, then pity on their enemies! The game today featured a rather tame opening by white followed by a kingside attack by black. As the black pieces invaded the white camp, it appeared that James Jr. was going down. However, he had resources to cover his weak squares.

    In a critical moment, Colas couldn’t resist the tempting 36…Nh4?? eyeing the f3-square. He must’ve missed 38.Nf5 not just winning two pieces for the rook, but an exchange or mating the black king with minor pieces! After 38…Qf4+ (After 38…Qh5 39.Nxe7+ Kh7/Kf7 40.g6+) 39.Qxf4 exf4 40.Nxe7+ Kf7 (40…Kh7 41.Ng4 and black will be mated beautifully) 41.g6+! and black resigned.

    The game of the round had to be Krishnan’s demolition of Hua’s king in a swachbuckling Kan Sicilian. White got an advantage in space while black had to try to seal the weak dark squares around the queen. The problem is black grabbed a pawn which opened more lines to the king after 16…Nxe5 17.Rxe5! f6 (17…Bxe5 18.Qe4 is devastating).

    So on 17…f6 white sacrificed more material with 18.Rxe6+! After 18…fxe6 19.Qxe6+ Qe7 20.Qc6+ Kf7 21.Qd5+ Qe6 22.Ne5+! (22.Qb7+ also) with a winning attack. Black had to give back the sacrificed material, but his king was too weak and soon fell. Beautiful attack by Krishnan!

    Both Wu-Brown and Li-Williams petered out into drawn endings despite tense, positional battles.

  9. The mystical FIDE mystifies me again. CM Ruifeng Li is the only player with a FIDE title because he came in second at the 2011 World Youth Chess Championship U 10 open section scoring a 7/9. The average rating of his rated opponents was only 1842. Two of his opponents were unrated, including Yi Zhu of China who won the section and as a result automatically gained the FM title and has a current and peak rating of 2083. You have just crossed over into the FIDE zone.

    1. Ruifeng is strong, but the awarding of all automatic titles should cease. In some cases you have people earning IM titles without a FIDE rating because they get 6/9 in a subzonal tournament without titled players. FM Awonder Liang won a World under-10 and got the FM title with a 1800 rating. The young U.S. players have few titles and low FIDE ratings because they play in few FIDE-rated tournaments. The ones they do play in have low-rated players. It’s a paradox. Fortunately, the U.S. has a strong cadre of young players such as GMs Ray Robson, Marc Arnold, Steve Zierk, Daniel Nadoritsky to get opportunities to play in strong tournaments. These Cadets will get these chances if they keep playing.

    2. You are too care about their titles. They earned their titles, not grabbed them from somewhere. We should respect their achievements and give them encouragemnet.International players’ rating could be much lower than their actual level, and some of them could be unrated, that does not mean their level must be low. We can not expect every country has the same system like U.S.
      Titles and rating may not mean everything. But the tournaments’ results do reflect their thue level, and need to be respected. If Li’s real level is so low as you described, how could he be abole to perform so well during big tournaments?

      1. Hi Rose…

        Thanks for comments.

        No one is saying the titles are not earned. Players earn them within the current rules. It’s a constant issue in FIDE discussions and some meetings I’ve attended at Olympiads. This also includes titles for women. The idea of making titles equal across the board is not always possible under the current system.

        For example, to earn a FIDE Master (FM) title normally you have to earn a 2300 FIDE rating. However, in certain international tournaments (Olympiad, subzonals, Continental Championships and many youth tournaments) you can earn titles (CM, FM, IM) by reaching a percentage score regardless of the strength of the opposition. So in some cases you’ll have players with the same title 300-600 points apart.

        Ratings, more than titles ultimately reflect consistency and if a player has consistently good results then titles will follow. However, the nature of his/her competition is a factor. Players in the U.S. do not get many opportunities to play internationally which is why there is not an abundance of titles earned by junior players. Li Ruifeng is the only player with a FIDE title, but I know players of other countries with FIDE titles who are much weaker than Ruifeng and the other players in the Cadets. Titles aren’t everything, but in time, these players will earn them at the highest standard.

        1. Thank you Dr.Daaim,
          Your explanation makes sense. The rating and the tournaments’ results more reflect a player’s true level. The one has a FIDE title is not his /her fault. The title is offered by FIDE after he /she has reached the certain scores within current rule. People have their choices to attend different tournaments as long as they believe the tournaments can help them to improve. We can not ask everyone to attend the same level tournaments. Even in the U.S., people with same rating may not mean the same level. Getting the title sometimes is just an unavoidale process for impvement.

          I feel Li is the youngest player in the Cadet tournament and he performed quite well. He may have much more potential than the other kids. Let’s send him our best wishes rather than discussing the titles. He may not care about the title like us at all.


  10. Round #5. 2013 US Cadet, 22 July 2013 @ 11:00hrs

    Li, Ruifeng (2326, 2.0) 1-0 Black Jr., James (2310, 2.5)
    Williams, Justus (2374, 1.5) 1-0 Krishnan, Varun (2346, 3.0)
    Hua, David (2373, 1.5) 1/2 -1/2 Wu, Christopher (2293, 2.0)
    Brown, Michael (2343, 2.0) 1/2 -1/2 Colas, Josh (2398, 1.5)

    In Williams-Krishnan, after dropping 25.Nb6! on the board,
    black’s pieces were shredded.

    With only three rounds remaining and such a small gap in between the competitors, things are heating up in this even-matched field. Varun Krishnan went into today’s round with the lead and would face Justus Williams who is looking for consistency. This game was a Classical Sicilian, but black got a bit too ambitious with his queenside play and his pieces got tangled. It appeared that black could seize the initiative, but missed a combination after 23…Nxe4 24.a4! With all types of deflection motifs and pins, white solved his problems tactically and then threw down the thunderbolt with 25.Nb6! when all of black’s pieces are loose after 25…Rc3 26. Nxd5 Rxb3 27. Rc8. While black was certainly the aggressor, in the end, it was white collecting the point.

    Li-Black was a strange game after a very normal French Defense, but Li played moves like 10.Nh3, 11.f4 and 12.Bh5+, certainly a different method of play. The game immediate became critical after 12. Bh5+ Kd8, but black found a nice haven and starting to focus on launching a kingside attack. There were some tactics missed in the middlegame. For example, on 23…g5 24. Qc1 Nd8?! 25. fxg5 f4?? (25…hxg5) white missed 26.gxh6! He played 26. Bxf4 and black got back in the game after 29…hxg5. Moves later black tried to gain counterplay but blundered after 40…Rb1?? On 41.Bc2 Ra1 42.g4 black would lose material. As a result of his victory, Li joined Krishnan in first place.

    Michael Brown still only 1/2-point out.

    Hua-Wu liquidated into an equal ending before move 20 and they shook hands. Brown-Colas was a thrilling encounter going 66 moves. In this game, black was able to develop some initiative on the kingside, but was never able to take advantage of the exposed white king. Even after winning a pawn, black’s bishop was stunted by white’s central pawns and he fell into passivity as the white king marched forward. After plodding along for dozens of moves, the game reached a book draw with K+P vs. K.

  11. So far I am very satisfied with the way the young lions are fighting. Just told them Atlanta will be watching round 6 on big screen. My job is to see where there can be improvement. With that, I advised Josh to use the extra time he seems to always have to do deep analysis in the end game. They still lack discipline, they get up and down too much from their seats.

    1. It’s true of many scholastic players these days… roaming around between moves chatting and watching other games. If you see the top players, they are calculating in blindfold while they are away at the board.

  12. It seems ‘Justus-like’ that he got a win over the leader after things weren’t looking too good . Two of the three top seeds sit at the bottom of the standings in a very tight tourney. This is very entertaining and the coverage is excellent.

  13. Round #6. 2013 US Cadet, 22 July 2013 @ 18:00hrs

    Black Jr, James (2310, 2.5) 0-1 Brown, Michael (2343, 2.5)
    Colas, Joshua (2398, 2.0) 1/2 -1/2 Hua, David (2373, 2.0)
    Wu, Christopher (2293, 2.5) 0-1 Williams, Justus (2374, 2.5)
    Krishnan, Varun (2346, 3.0) 1/2 -1/2 CM Li, Ruifeng (2326, 3.0)

  14. Round #7. 2013 US Cadet, 23 July 2013 @ 10:00hrs

    Round four action!


    Krishnan, Varun (2346, 3.5) 1/2 -1/2 Black Jr, James (2310, 2.5)
    CM Li, Ruifeng (2326, 3.5) 1/2 -1/2 Wu, Christopher (2293, 2.5)
    Williams, Justus (2374, 3.5) 1-0 Colas, Joshua (2398, 2.5)
    Hua, David (2373, 2.5) 0-1 Brown, Michael (2343, 3.5)

    An improbable possibility occurred at the U.S. Cadets this years. If you look at the pairings above you can see that it was possible to have an eight-way tie for first if the lower-half players beat the upper-half players. That would have created a massive playoff for the overall title.

    Justus had to play Josh Colas, who had been struggling. The game was a bit strange and early on white had a tremendous position when black lost an exchange and succumbed to a strong attack on the king. Now Justus only had to wait for the other results. When Michael Brown beat David Hua, it created a two-way tie. Both Ruifeng Li and Varun Krishnan could have joined them with wins, but neither were able to break through. Ruifeng was trying in vain to convert a three pawn versus knight ending against Christopher Wu while Varun got nowhere against James Black.

    (Michael Brown vs. Justus Williams)

    So in a tiebreak format, a bidding process took place and Justus (playing black) got 25 minutes while Michael (playing white) got 19 and draw odds. The game started as a Nimzo-Indian, but then got into a fierce battle with play on both wings. White launched his kingside pawns, but soon became overextended and his position begin to fall apart, blow-by-blow. Brown could offer no more resistance and resigned. Both players would be declared joint champions with Williams winning the UMBC scholarship. Below is the playoff encounter:

  15. 2013 US Cadet Championships
    (Final Standings)

    # Name Rtng Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6 Rd 7 Tot TBrk[R]
    1 Brown, Michael 2343 W2 L3 D4 D5 D8 W6 W7 4.5 14.75
    2 Williams, Justus 2374 L1 D7 D6 D3 W4 W5 W8 4.5 14.25
    3 CM Li, Ruifeng 2326 D8 W1 L7 D2 W6 D4 D5 4.0 14.5
    4 Krishnan, Varun 2346 D5 W8 D1 W7 L2 D3 D6 4.0 12.25
    5 Wu, Christopher 2293 D4 W6 L8 D1 D7 L2 D3 3.0 10.5
    6 Black Jr., James 2310 W7 L5 D2 W8 L3 L1 D4 3.0 9.25
    7 Hua, David 2373 L6 D2 W3 L4 D5 D8 L1 2.5 9
    8 Colas, Joshua 2398 D3 L4 W5 L6 D1 D7 L2 2.5 8.5

    *Williams won the rapid tiebreak game to determine who would get the 4-year scholarship to University of Maryland-Baltimore County. William had black with 25 minutes while Brown has 19 minutes requiring on a draw to win. Brown and Williams will actually be listed as co-champions.

    Justus Williams and Michael Brown flashing their smiles and prizes.
    Both will be listed as co-champions.

  16. Congrats to Justus! Blitz is an important asset for sure!

    I realized after round 5 that Justus had Josh and Christopher left to play and that a win or a draw by Josh would be good individually but would not bode well for the Young Lions given his position in the standings at the time. Plus I believe Justus has a good record against both players.

    BTW James won the Young Lion mini-tournament by going 1.5 against the higher rated Lions 🙂

  17. Things turned out for the best in the given situation. Lesson for Josh, time management towards the end of the game and increase focus for James midway through the games.

    1. Guy… it may just be my impression that Josh does not like being in the top-seed position. It puts added pressure. He seemed a bit uncertain at times in his games. The opening against Justus was puzzling to me and he was punished. He will be back!

      James gets up after every move (as does Christopher Wu). As he gets up in the 2400-range seeking norms, he will have to become more focused at the board to play consistently.

      Justus was poised and his games had a good quality. However, his game against Varun Krishnan could have been disastrous since he didn’t play with any initiative. Varun overextended and his pieces became targets.

      This was a good tournament and very evenly-matched. I’m not sure Justus will play in next year’s event, but hopefully he will compete again in the U.S. Junior Closed. That may be his fastest path to compete in the U.S. Championship.

  18. My congratulations to Justus…what a fine tournament, especially going 3/3 in the last 3 rounds to force the playoff, and then winning the playoff to win the title outright and the full college scholarship that goes with it!

    In addition to being the first African-American to win the U.S. Cadet Championship, Justus now has another record: most national championships won by an African-American. With this title (his 5th), he has officially broken my record, which I had held for the past 20 years :). Congratulations to Justus…I know the future is secure with you, Josh, and James — truly worthy of being called the Big Three. May the Lord bless you and keep you.


    Shearwood “Woody” McClelland III, M.D.

  19. Congratulations from the Jamaican chess fraternity to all the players for an exciting event. Of course, special commendation must go to Master Williams, for his determined, spirited play and victory. After an inauspicious start he displayed qualities reminiscent of my alma mater’s motto: “FORTIS CADERE CEDERE NON POTEST: THE BRAVE MAY FALL BUT NEVER YIELD”!

  20. This was the first time my wife went with Josh to a tournament since he started playing and she told me Josh was unsure of himself throughout and complained about having to play Justus last round.So, your observation is correct. I will make sure to be with him this weekend in Wisconsin for the Denker. Justus was focused and played with keen determination.

    1. Yes… that would be very, very different for him. He would not have had a chess confidante. It’s also hard when you have to play people you know (and even friends) every round.

  21. It’s interesting that Josh does so well in blitz which is very high stress. But then again, he does well against people he’s not expected to beat or hold. In the recent World Open 7-minute championship he held that blitzer from Cuba who is a GM with a 2711 blitz rating.

    1. Bruzon just won the blitz at the Canadian Open, but didn’t win the tournament. Nigel Short won the tiebreak over Eric Hansen. BTW, I first saw Hansen playing blitz at the World Open as a 17-year old FIDE master a few years back. He was very quick, but in classical play I noticed he began to soar and now is nearly 2600 FIDE! So blitz does have some benefits!

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