Xiong Enters Chess Stratosphere!

by admin on August 21, 2016

Today Jeffery Xiong of Texas completed one of the greatest accomplishments ever by a U.S. junior chess player, winning the World Junior Championship by a full point and doing it at age 15. Xiong clinched the title with a round to spare and coasted in with a draw in the final round to finish with 10½ out of 13, ahead of top-seeded Vladislav Artemiev.

The writer of the Chessbase article (linked to above) was uncertain whether this made Xiong the youngest world junior champion ever. I checked all of the previous world junior champions on Wikipedia, and in fact Xiong is number two. The youngest ever was Joel Lautier, who won in 1988 at age 15 years, 6 months. Xiong is 15 years, 10 months.

I won’t attempt to analyze Xiong’s games — you can find them all over the Internet — but he seemed to have a universal style, able to win sharp tactical battles and positional games alike.

Does this mean we can start thinking of Xiong as a future world championship candidate? That’s hard to say. Four world champions were also junior champions: Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, and Viswanathan Anand. On the other hand, plenty of people you’ve never heard of also won the junior title. Remember Pablo Zarnicki? Igor Miladinovic? Helgi Gretarsson? Roman Slobodjan? I didn’t think so. Many things can happen; some people just decide to do different things with their lives. (See Tal Shaked, World Junior Champion 1997 and now an engineer at Google.)

But for now, what a tremendous accomplishment for Xiong and for U.S. chess! Xiong is officially the seventh American to win this title, although I think we should get half credit for Julio Kaplan of Puerto Rico. (What is Puerto Rico, anyway? If it’s a U.S. territory, why does it get to compete in the Olympics and FIDE events as a separate country? If you want to know, take your time to read this article which tells the fascinating story. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.) The list of top countries in number of world junior champions is quite surprising:

  1. Soviet Union — 9
  2. United States — 7½
  3. Yugoslavia — 5
  4. Russia — 3
  5. Argentina — 3
  6. India — 3

The U.S. has done surprisingly well over the years, considering that it’s never been considered a great chess country (and considering that our one world champion, Bobby Fischer, for some reason never played in the world junior championship). It helps, of course, that our two leading competitors are countries that no longer exist. How soon can we pass the Soviet Union and become #1?

Perhaps Jeffery Xiong can help the U.S. reach that goal! He has the potential to become only the second player to win two world junior titles. Can you tell me the first person to accomplish that feat?

The one thing that might get in his way is boredom. For whatever reason, not all of the world’s top juniors elect to play in the junior championship. This year, four of the five juniors ahead of Xiong on the rating list (Richard Rapport, Wei Yi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and Daniil Dubov) did not come to India. Perhaps Xiong will also think “been there, done that” and will skip the trip to Italy next year. But I, for one, hope that he will try to make history (again).



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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Aigner August 21, 2016 at 8:51 pm

To play in the next World Junior, he first has to win the US Junior again. And since Xiong can expect to be seeded by rating in future US Championships, his motivation to play will be less. Unless he really badly wants to travel to Italy. 🙂


Hal Bogner August 24, 2016 at 10:41 am

He has earned the personal right to play again next year:

From here: https://www.fide.com/component/handbook/?id=155&view=article

Handbook :: D. Regulations for Specific Competitions
05. FIDE World Junior Under-20 Championships
General Regulations & Rules

4. The following have a personal right and are entitled to participate provided they fulfil the condition of Rule 3 above:

a. The top 3 players of the previous edition.


admin August 24, 2016 at 11:05 am

I hope he knows about this! Although there has been one repeat winner, there has never been a back-to-back winner, so Xiong has a chance to do something that nobody else has done before.


Ilker Nadi Bozkurt August 22, 2016 at 8:15 am

The ever exciting super GM Shahkriyar Mamedyarov won World Junior twice.


admin August 22, 2016 at 9:28 am

Correct! We have a winner! I like to see that people are paying attention. 😎


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