Opening/Closing Ceremony Program
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2020 Online Invitationals: Overview, Schedule, & Prizes
2020 Online Invitational: Rules
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2020 EVENT UPDATE: Please click here to access the document that was sent to all State Presidents and Scholastic Coordinators. It has all the information competitors will need for the 2020 online events being held this year and updates the information on this website.
WGM Jennifer Yu Simul
WGM Jennifer Yu, current Champion of the US Chess Women’s Championship, conducted a FREE 23 board Simul to begin the US Open in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, August 3. Participants were players from the Denker, Barber and Haring National Girls Tournament of Champions (Haring NGTOC) with up to seven participants from each of the three events. There was a special guest participant: Minnie Mouse. All the participants and parents had their pictures taken with the lady from the “Mouse House.” There were no wins. Because of the high ratings of the players there were 9 draws. One was to Minnie Mouse who was coached by WGM Jennifer Shahade. Minnie had to leave early because she had a lunch date with Mickey at the Cheese Factory. Congratulations to the following players: Best Game-Hayes Goodman (RI) and Longest Game-Cindy Jie (FL).
Game Analysis and a Meet and Greet
The Texas Tech University (TTU) students, WIM Iryna Andrenko, a graduate in Horticulture Science, GM Andrii Baryshpolets, graduate in Agricultural & Applied Economics Ph.D. and Jennifer Yu were available for game analysis and a Meet and Greet party for players. WGM Jennifer Shahade, 2 time US Women’s Champion and US Chess Women’s Director was also on hand to meet the players and help with game analysis.
Congratulations to IM Bryce Tiglon (WA), rated 2454 who scored 5/6 for a tie for First Place. He received the $5,000 College/University Scholarship to the school of his choice on tie-break. The scholarship was provided by the US Chess Trust. The other Co-Champions were IM Ben Li (MI) and WIM Emily Nguyen (TX). There was a three way tie for 4th Place involving NM Rithwik Mathur (WI), NM Dex Webster (LA) and NM Forest Chen (TN) with a score of 4.5/6. There was a field of 3 IMs, 4 FMs, 3CMs and 14 NMs.
WCM Sheena Zeng (KS) was the winner of the $500 Ursula Foster Memorial Chess Scholarship for best result under the age of 16. See also the US Chess story: https://new.uschess.org/news/invitational-winners-2019-orlando/
Florida, SoCal and New York Tie for First in Team Competition
Congratulations to Florida on their First Place tie-break finish (13/18) with a team average of 2138. Southern California matched their point total (13/18), but lost on the second tie-break with a team average of 2243. New York was also in the hunt with a point total (13/18) and a team average 2268. The Florida state team was composed of their Denker representative, Ryan Hamley (4/6), Barber representative, NM Raghav Venkat (4.5/6), and Haring NGTOC representative, Tianhui (Cindy) Jie (4.5/6). The Southern California state team was composed of their Denker representative, CM Brandon Xia (4/6), Barber representative, CM Robert Shlyakhtenko (5/6) and their Haring NGTOC representative, Julia Sevilla (4/6). The New York state team was composed of their Denker representative, NM Max Jiahua Li (3/6), Barber representative, NM Gus Huston (4.5/6) and their Haring NGTOC representative, WFM Martha Samadashvili (5.5).
State Team winners in the Under Sections: (Under 2100) Texas. In the (Under 1900) it was Utah and in the (Under 1600) section was New Hampshire. Complete results can be found at: https://www.denkerchess.com/wp-content/uploads/2018-State-Team-Standings.pdf
Local GM Awonder Liang conducted a FREE 23 board Simul to open the US Open in Middleton, Wisconsin on Saturday, July 28. Participants were players from the Denker, Barber and National Girls Tournament of Champions (NGTOC) with up to seven participants from each of the three events. In addition, our two guests were the Mayor of Middleton, Mr. Gurdip Brar and Dylan Denker (FL), grandson of GM Arnold Denker. Simul results were 22 wins and one loss. Congratulations to the following players: A win was achieved by a Denker participant, Tinh Son Nguyen (UT), Best Game–Tianhui (Cindy) Jie (FL) and Longest Game–Amanda Lossef (DC).
Congratulations to IM Praveen Balakrishnan (VA), rated 2496 who scored 5.5/6 for clear First Place. He received the $5,000 College/University Scholarship to the school of his choice. Following Praveen was IM Joshua Sheng (CA-S) rated 2507 and FM Carissa Yip (MA), rated 2408 both who scored 5/6 tied for 2nd Place. Forest Chen (TN) rated 2272 scored 4.5/6 took clear 4th Place. Twelve players tied for 5th Place. This twelve way tie included FM Maggie Feng (OH), FM Yoon-Young Kim (CT), FM Ben Li (MI), FM David Peng (IL), Joshua Lynch (AZ), FM Sahil Sinha (MD), NM Andrew Titus (MN), Diddharth Banik (CA-N), NM Emmanuel Carter (NC), NM Jack Easton (KS), NM Arshaq Saleem (IA) and FM Roland Feng (WA). There was a field of four IMs, 7 FMs and 12 NMs.
FM Carissa Yip (MA) was the winner of the $500 Ursula Foster Chess Scholarship for best result under the age of 16.
Virginia takes clear First in 2018 State Team competition
Congratulations to Virginia (team avg-2213) on winning the Team Championship Title for 2018! Virginia finished with 14.5/18 followed by second place finisher Washington State (team avg-2310) with a total of 13.5/18. California-S (team avg-2276) and Massachusetts (team avg-2154) both finished with a tie score of 13/18 with CA-S winning the tiebreak. State team winners in the Under Sections were: Arizona (U2100) with a score of 12/18, Connecticut (U1900) 9.5/18, and Indiana (U1700) 9.5/18.
August 1, 2017
This year the result was a four-way tie for the top position. Each co-champion scored 5/6. Praveen Balakrishnan (VA) rated 2478 brought the home state advantage into play. The other three were: Edward Song (MI) rated 2411, Bryce Tiglon (WA) rated 2442 and Zhaozhi [George] Li (IL) rated 2408. Clearly this was one of the strongest fields to participate in the Denker. There was a group of twenty-two Masters among the forty-eight participants. Winner on tie-break was Praveen who will receive a $5,000 College/University Scholarship to the school of his choice.
There was a two-way tie (4.5/6) for Second Place which included Sungho Yim (AZ) rated 2358 and Ryan Sowa (RI), rated 2307. In addition, Third Place has a three-way tie. Leading that group was Gabriel Bick (CA-N) rated 2333. Included were Emmanuel Carter (NC) rated 2259 and Ryan Swerdlin (CO) rated 2245. Praveen Balakrishnan (VA) was also the winner of the $500 Ursula Foster Scholarship for best result under the age of 16. Further details can be found here:
Illinois clear first in State Team Competition
Congratulations to Illinois on their First Place finish (14/18) ending any doubt that their state team average (2242) was strong enough to take the top spot. Their team was lead by Denker representative, Zhaozhi [George] Li (5/6). Barber representative, Aydin Turgut (4.5/6) and National Girls representative Marissa Li (4.5/6) who completed the effort. Second Place team, Washington state had a team average (2172) and was ½ point behind Illinois followed by Texas (2180) who took clear Third Place with ½ point below.
2016 Denker Event: Mika Brattain (MA) Clear First
Congratulations to NM Mika Brattain (MA), rated 2458 who scored 5/6 in a field of twenty-three masters which is a record for this event. Mika gave up two draws on his way to the title, Denker Champion of Champions. His two draws were against NM Zhaozhi Li (IL), rated 2362 and IM John Burke (NJ), rated 2480. With a clear point ahead of the field, Mika will receive a $5,000 College/ University Scholarship to the school of his choice provided by the US Chess Trust.
NM Advait Patel lead the field with a six way tie for 2nd Place with NM Bovey Liu (TX), NM Zhaozhi Li (IL), last year’s champion, IM Alexander Velikanov (WI), IM John Burke (NJ) and NM Aaron Grabinsky (OR).
Patel was also the winner of the $500 stipend for the Ursula Foster Award for the best result under the age of 16
New Jersey clear first in State Team Competition
Congratulations to New Jersey on their commanding First Place finish (14/18) ending any doubt that their state team average (2232) was strong enough to take the top spot. Their team was lead by Barber representative, CM Brandon Jacobson (5.5/6). Denker representative, IM John Burke (4.5/6) and National Girls representative Angelica Chin (4/6) completed the effort. Second Place team, Texas with a state team average (2174) was ½ point behind New Jersey followed by Virginia (2227) who took clear Third Place with ½ point below Texas.
State Team winners in the Under Sections were Oklahoma (Under 2100), Oregon (Under 1900) and Nevada (Under 1700).
Christopher Yang & the Brickyard
By Christopher YangAugust 5, 2016
Because I won the PA State High School Chess Championship, I qualified to represent Pennsylvania in the Denker Tournament of High School Champions again. This year, the tournament was in East Indianapolis, a rather desolate area. However, the field was stronger than before, as I came in only as the 15th seed.
Round 1: I was playing an 1800 rated player as Black. I played a small sideline in the opening, but it backfired, giving my opponent a good amount of space. However he was too eager to push his pawns to attack my king, letting me undermine his dark squares and win three pawns.
Round 2: I was playing on board 1 against the second seed after the first seed was upset in round 1. I played a quiet line and had a good position, but was too tempted to attack, failing to see that I could lose a pawn. I continued to defend into a rook and knight endgame, which definitely had drawing chances. However, my opponent outplayed me and eventually won.
Round 3: My opponent was a 2100 rated player, and I had Black again. I developed my pieces way to slowly in the opening, letting my opponent obtain a crushing position. However, he blundered in time pressure and allowed me to win the game.
Round 4: My opponent was the 2100 rated player who upset the first seed. I had a small positional edge and a good grip on the position the whole game. My opponent sacrificed his bishop for two pawns in the endgame for counterplay. It was almost successful because both players missed a chance for him to draw. At the end, I was able to sacrifice my extra piece for his promoting pawn and promote my own pawn.
Round 5: I played the defending champion from last year. I had a slight edge out of the opening and agreed to a draw 20 moves later in a relatively equal position.
Round 6: If I won this game, I would tie for second. If I lost, I would get 14th. A draw would earn me a Life Master norm. I made a dubious opening choice, but recovered and exchanged into an equal endgame. However, I missed one of his resources and simply blundered a pawn and the game.
Overall, I had a successful tournament though my score was the same as last year’s (3.5/6). I gained 12 rating points, putting me back at 2250. There definitely were some lucky breaks, and I can see where I need to improve on next.
As a side note, I did end up visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 are held. The tradition is to kiss the bricks at the finish line if the driver wins the race. Maybe kissing the bricks this time will give me enough luck to get first place next time!
Velikanov Out Points The Field
FM Alexander Velikanov (WI) scored 5/6 in a field of fifteen Masters out of 46 participants to take clear first place in the 2015 GM Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions. His two draws against IM Andrew Tang (MN) and NM Nicky Korba (CA-S) nearly left the door open for one of the next five players to equal his score. In addition, Alexander was the winner of the Erik Patchell $750.00 College Scholarship given in memory of Erik who played in the Denker.
There were five players who tied for 2nd Place. They had a score of 4.5/6 and appear in this order: IM Andrew Tang (MN), FM Sean Vibbert (IN), NM Tianqi Wang (NC), NM Vignesh Panchanatham (CA-N) and Noah Dennis Fields (WA).
The Ursula Foster Award went to IM Andrew Tang (MN) for the best score of the U16 qualifiers.
Wisconsin and Oklahoma Top State Team Competitors
Congratulations to the 2015 Co-Champions, Wisconsin (team avg-2074) and Oklahoma (team avg-2134) for charging forward with a 13.5/18 score which was a full point above the third place team, Washington State (team avg-2014). In the end Wisconsin (Alexander Velikanov, Kevin Li and Anupama Rajendra) had the best tiebreaks. Oklahoma (Joshua Alexander, Advait Patel and Veronika Zilajeva) were in the hunt, but fell short. Although Washington State (Noah Dennis Fields, Neo Edward Olin and Sangeeta Dhingra) fell a point behind they ended up clear third. Fourth place was also a clear result with Massachusetts (Mika Andy Brattain, Evan Meyer and Ria Dawar) achieving 12.0/18 over the group that had a five-way tie (Arizona, Southern California, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey) for fifth place.
State Team winners in the Under Sections were Massachusetts (Under 2100), Maryland (Under 1900) and Tennessee (Under 1700).
UTD Goes to Rhode Island
Christopher Gu (RI) with clear first of 5.5/6 in the 30th Annual GM Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions took the University of Texas at Dallas, four year scholarship with a fine performance against a very strong field. The participants included four Senior Masters and 12 Masters. It was a big challenge to reach higher than 5/6.
Edward Song (MI) was the clear second place finisher with a score of 5/6. There was a three way tie for third through fifth place, each scoring 4.5/6 led by Nicky Korba (CA-S), Christopher Wu (NJ) and Joshua Colas (NY). Tournament results can be found at: http://www.alchess.com/chess/14/usopen/?page=&xsection=denker
NEW JERSEY EDGES FOUR OTHER STATES FOR THE FIRST STATE TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
This year for the first time a competition was organized among the states. The scores of each state’s Denker, Barber and NGIT representative were combined to identify the state team score. With a total of 13 points, New Jersey (Christopher Wu, John Burke, Kimberly Ding) won the inaugural competition. Tied for second through fifth place with 12.5 was New York (Joshua Colas, David Brodsky, Lilia Poteat), Southern California (Nicky Korba, Joshua Sheng, Annie Wang), Rhode Island (Christopher Gu, Ryan Sowa, Alana Mc Guinness) and Michigan (Edward Song, Michael Chen, Soumya Kulkarni).
A Denker Freshman Leads the Field
By Dewain Barber
Dr. Tim Redman of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) awarded a four year scholarship to Freshman Kapil Chandran (CT) for his tie-break performance over Freshman Safal Bora (MI) and Sophomore Michael Brown (CA-S). All three players scored 5/6 and were declared Co-Champions in the 2013 Denker Tournament of High School Champions. This year’s field totaled forty-eight players.
Kapil played in the Inaugural Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions in Orlando and followed that up by playing in the Barber last year as an 8th Grade student in Vancouver. In addition, he received the Ursula Foster Award for best player under sixteen this year and will be one of the US representatives in the World Youth.
Safal Bora (MI) had only two draws. The draws were against Kapil and Alexander Katz (NJ). Michael Brown (CA-S) played in the first Barber two years ago and was Co-Champion of that event. Last year Michael played in the Denker in Vancouver and tied for third. These three players as well as seven other players were 2300+ entering this event. This is the strongest Denker top ten in the 29 year history of the event.
Alexander Katz (NJ) and Kevin Zhou (VA) tied for 4th/5th place and showed a strong result of 4.5/6 in the tournament.
I would like to recognize our new sponsor, Internet Chess Club (ICC) which provided a two year membership to each participant.
2012 UTD Scholarship goes to Michigan Player
By Dewain Barber
Congratulations go to Atulya Shetty (MI) for winning the UTD Scholarship. His draw in the last round of the 2012 Denker Tournament with Darwin Yang (TX) created this year’s Denker Co-Champions result, Shetty (MI) and Yang (TX). Third through Fifth was a tie between Sam Schmakel (IL), Michael Brown (CA-S), Deepak Aaron (NY), and Kevin Bu (MN). The $500 Ursula Foster Award was won by Darwin Yang (TX), Best Game was awarded to Eldon Nakagawa (HI) and Top Upset congratulations go to Carl Steele (ND). I would like to thank GM Yasser Seirawan for attending the Closing Ceremony and presenting awards. Our event next year will be in Madison, WI at the next US Open.
Opening Ceremony Remarks
by Mike Nietman, July 31, 2010
On behalf of the USCF Scholastic Council and Committee I’d like to welcome the participants, parents, friends and visitors to the 2010 Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions.
I first met Grandmaster Denker in my home town of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. You may know that in 1990 Don Schultz placed the World Youth Chess Festival there and called me up one night to ask, “How would you like to host a World Championship in Fond du Lac?” Of course, I was speechless and worked feverishly with Don to organize a most successful event.
Being Don’s close friend, GM Denker wanted to come along to assist and watch the top notch youngsters play. The US squad was led by Josh Waitzkin, Tal Skaked and gold medal winning Nawrose Nur. The foreign squads numbered about 40 with over 170 players in all including from Hungary, Judit Polgar and Peter Leko, Romania’s Gabriel Schwartzman, and a host of others from six different continents.
Grandmaster Denker came in shortly before the opening ceremony. Many of my volunteers were busy with various tasks so no one could pick him up at the airport. I asked my retired father to go to the Oshkosh Airport, about 15 miles from Fond du Lac, to pick him up. He said he would, and thoroughly enjoyed the stories that GM Denker told him on the drive back to the campus.
During the opening ceremony, GM Denker, with his deep booming voice, and another person alternated calling off the parade of nations as we shined a spotlight on the country’s flag and asked the delegation to stand. Much to our chagrin, when the spotlight shined on the big, red maple leaf, Arnold, reading from a script, called out “Costa Rica”. We caught it on stage and made sure that our friends to the north got their proper due, but later Arnold said, “Canada wasn’t on the script!”
I have many great memories from the event, I saw Judit Polgar at the closing ceremony clutching her stuffed teddy bear while modeling her gold medal. I also remember Hungarian born Arpad Elo visited the tournament to watch Judit play. Everyone including American Coaches, GM Pal Benko and Bruce Pandolfini wanting to have their picture taken with him, and having Arpad Elo speak to the participants before a round. No one was listening to my introduction of him until I spoke his name, then a hush immediately fell over the room. That was quickly followed by huge round of applause. Also, the Romanians asking us if they could doctor their flag after their country had navigated thru a coup seven months before. I saw the East and West German teams unite at the end of the event for a soon to be united country team picture. I heard the Israelis tattling on the Russian girls for discussing a position in the bathroom. I could regale you with my many memories of the event, but it would take us into your first round and Dewain wouldn’t be happy with me.
So, in Grandmaster Denker’s name, go out and make some memories that will last a lifetime!
Denker Simul-Steven vs Hikaru
By: Dewain BarberImage
As I read the cover story in the April, 2013 issue of Chess Life about GM Hikaru Nakamura, I reflected back on the young boy I met many years ago. He certainly has come a long way. I would like to tell you about an incident that took place at the 2010 US Open in Irvine, CA where I was hosting the GM Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions. I had decided to have a simultaneous exhibition prior to the competition and invited seven of the Denker representatives to each play six young, area students. The room was set up so I checked registration to see if all of the young players were seated correctly and my Denker participants were ready.
I noticed an empty student chair at the simul area reserved for those players who would face IM Steven Zierk. I was surprised because I had spoken to all of the participants in advance and now one player was missing. I started the simul and after a couple of moves US Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura came down the hall. I thought it would be great to introduce him to the assembled parents, coaches, Denker representatives and student participants. Tony Rich of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis came up to me and offered the following idea: How about we see if we can place Hikaru at the empty chair opposite Steven and see how long it takes for Steven to realize that he is not playing your average “kid”. Tony persuaded Hikaru to participate in this prank. We mentioned to him that he needed to look down and not show his face. There was a chance this would work because most of Steven’s opponents were high school students. When Steven was at the end of his group ready to start another round of moves, we had Hikaru move quickly into place. As Steven approached Hikaru’s board he recognized the chair was filled and reached out to shake hands with his opponent. As Steven raised his head he immediately realized who his opponent was. His startled reaction caused him to jump back as they were shaking hands.
After several moves, I stopped the entire simul and addressed the “young man” playing against Steven. “Excuse me, but you look a little older than the other participants?” He nodded his head and then I asked, “Have you played in high school before?” He replied, “Yes.” At that point I introduced Hikaru to the audience and there was a huge round of applause. I asked everyone to continue, expecting Hikaru to step away from the board and depart the room. He continued for a few more moves and then shook hands with Steven and stepped to the edge of the room.
Shortly thereafter the student who was originally scheduled to play Steven walked into the room. We escorted him to his board and he proceeded to set up the pieces and began to play against Steven. When told about the resetting of the pieces Hikaru later commented, “I had a slight advantage. It is a shame that the young player did not continue the game.”
2010 Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions Report
by Matt Anzis
I prepared for the Denker in several key ways. Most importantly, NM Tim McEntee was kind enough to mentor me nearly every weekend this summer! This improved my game and gave me valuable insight into the mind of a master. Another big help was playing in the Chess.MN 2nd FIDE Open two weeks prior to the Denker, which got me acclimated to the time control and to playing new people. On my own, all I did was watch high level games (mainly the US Junior Closed and the US Women’s Championship) and play a few long games. Finally, I used one of Josh Waitzkin’s tricks and went fishing nearly every day the week before the tournament. Tim’s help and the FIDE Open got me playing well, and my minimal preparation along with fishing let me carry that form over to the Denker.
My pre-tournament goal was 4.0/6.0. I didn’t really think I could win the tournament because to do so I would need to beat 3-4 masters in a row. I could contend with masters, but that was a lot different than consistently outplaying them. However, I come a lot closer to winning than I thought I would!
I was playing chess well, but the trip to Orange County, California, put my endurance to the test. My mom and I flew out of Des Moines at about 8 P.M. on Friday, July 30th, planning to connect to a flight to Orange County in Denver. But as so often happens in chess, our plan did not work out. In this case, our opponent, United Airlines, played an unexpected move that caused us to be 20 minutes late and miss our next flight. They then followed it up by making us wait in a line for two hours just to get a hotel room. Thanks to my dad we were able to schedule a flight the next morning to San Francisco and then Orange County. After three hours of sleep we returned at Denver Int’l and made our 6 A.M. flight to San Francisco. The plan was a two hour wait and then a flight to Orange County, but our second round opponent, low clouds, had something else in mind. After a 2½ hour delay, we were ready to go. However, our third and final round opponent, some stupid bird, had other thoughts: it sacrificed itself in order to delay the flight another twenty minutes. Luckily, that tournament was only three rounds and there were no more delays. We arrived (the playing site was a very nice 14-story Hyatt hotel in an upper-class urban neighborhood) a mere hour and a half before the opening ceremony; the total time lost was about 15 hours. I just hoped that my play wouldn’t be affected.
The opening ceremony was pretty routine: several important people spoke, the participants got introduced, and then we took a group photo, but there were a few points of interest. Super-GM Hikaru Nakamura was in attendance. Dewain Barber, basically the head of the Denker, announced that 2010 would be his last year in charge (he also wore Mickey Mouse ears). Tyler Hughes gave a very good speech concerning chess’s role in high school to college transitions. Unfortunately, the group photo was organized in an idiotic way: three rows of people standing and one row sitting. People in the back row such as myself will not be seeing themselves in Chess Life. After the ceremony my mom and I went out to eat with Prashantha Amarasinghe of Minnesota, his dad Sisira, and Andrew Latham of Kansas, and then it was time to play.
Round 1: Adam Jiang - Matt Anzis
I knew that I was going to be in the bottom of the top half, and thus play a fairly low rated opponent. My strategy for this round was simple: look out for tactics, win, and then get to sleep ASAP. As expected, I played down: Adam Jiang, a 1500 from Idaho.
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 c5 7. c3 Nc6 8. 0-0 cxd4 9. cxd4 Nge7 10. Bd2?
This game is a good example of what happens if one side does not know basic middle game plans. White wants to expand on the kingside, so the bishop belongs on e3 where it guards d4.
10…a6 11. Bc3?
White spends two moves putting his bishop on a bad square: on c3, the bishop is just a big pawn that black can attack with tempo. White’s kingside expansion has not started; black is several moves ahead in his queenside expansion.
another tempo wasted because of the c3 bishop
This prevents g4, allowing my e7 knight to develop to the good f5 square. It does weaken g5, but that’s acceptable.
13. Ng5 Nf5 14. f4
White finally begins kingside expansion, but due to the extra tempi, black has everything under control.
14…Be7 15. Nf3
The kingside is locked up. If white tries h3 with ideas of g4, black has h4. It’s going to take quite a few moves for white to get any play at all. Meanwhile, black has plenty of play on the queenside.
15…Qb6 16.Nbd2 a5 17. Nb3 0-0
Psychologically, there was a battle going on too. I was so tired that I was having trouble keeping my eyes open so Adam decided to play really slowly. At this point, I had 70 minutes to his 35 (the time control was 90 minutes with a 30 second increment each move). After 17…0-0 I decided to go up to our room and change from my dry contacts to glasses. Best move I made all game! After that I was able to focus.
White has the plan of Rg1, g3, h3, g4 with a little play, but it’s way too slow.
18…Rfb8 19. Be1?
hoping to meet the b4 break with a4, and laying a trap that doesn’t work.
Now d4 will be unprotected. White’s pseudo-trap is 20. Nbd2 Ncxd4 21.Bf2 Bc5 22. Rac1, but black stay a clear pawn up with 22…Nb3!, which must be what he missed when he played Be1.
20. Nc5 Bxc5 21. dxc5 Qxc5 22. Bf2Qc4!
It looks like the queen will be in danger of getting trapped by a rook on the c-file after Qd2, but I had prepared a nice combo to avoid it.
23. Qd2 Na5 24. Rfc1
Moving the other rook would lose the exchange.
Forcing a pawn up ending with dominant knights.
25. Rxc4 Nxd2 26. Rc7 Nb3
I had a lot of nice options at this point, but I decided controlling the c-file would be best.
27. Rb1 Rc8 28. Rd7 Rc2 29.Be1 Rac8 30. Bc3 d4!
Forcing the bishop back, or else:
31.Bxd4 leads to back rank mate after N(either)xd4.
31…Nfxd4 32. Bxd4
Here the back rank is covered due to Bg1, but I can just win a piece.
32…Rd2! 33.h3 Nxd4 0-1.
I was pretty pleased with my play in this game.
Round 2: Matt Anzis - Andrew C. Wang
After a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast I was ready to play up. My second round opponent was the third seed, Andrew Wang, a 2250 from Massachusetts. He was short and looked pretty young, so I figured his main strength was tactics.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5. Nge2 c5
I started playing the Nge2 line this summer with Tim’s help. I remembered one game where after 5…c5 6. d5 b5 black achieved a Benko-like position but with several tempi. The way to avoid this was for white to play 6. dxc5 instead of 6. d5. However, I didn’t do this for two reasons. First, I was unsure of the exact position in which black played 5…c5, and second I was worried about 6. dxc5 Qa5 with pressure on e4. Going into an unclear position that may be opening theory is dangerous, especially against a tactical player, so I decided to go with the possibly inferior line with which I was familiar.
6. d5 b5 7. cxb5 a6 8. Ng3 h5
Black is getting a lot of play, but I was able to continue playing solidly.
I decided that repositioning the knight after …h4 was less bad than playing h4 myself and severely weakening my kingside.
9…Nbd7 10.Bxa6 Qb6? 11. Qb3 forcing black’s queen back
11…Qc7 12. Nf1
I decided to use the tempo to reposition my knight and take away his option of playing h5-h4-h3 weakening my kingside.
12…Bxa6 13.Bxa6 Rxa6 14. Nd2
My bishop and rook are okay undeveloped as they defend my queenside pawns.
14…0-0 15.0-0 Ne5 16. f4?
I thought this stopped c4, but overlooked a tactic. Worse was 16. Nc4 which loses by force to Rb8 17.Nb5 Qd7 18.Nxe5 dxe5 19. a4 Rxb5! and the a1 rook falls. It turns out that I can’t really stop the c4, Nd3 maneuver, but I CAN play around it with something like 16. Qb5 Ra5 (or b6) 17.Qe2 c4 18.Nf3 Nd3 19. Nd4 and my knights are powerful too.
Here I had planned to play 17. Qb5 but 17…Ra5 18. Qb4 Rb8 and my queen is trapped. So I had to retreat and try to play around the knight on d3. Unfortunately, I’ve already weakened my king with f4, so now any advantage I had is lost and black is slightly better.
17. Qc2 Nd3 18.H3 e5? 19. f5 and now I have play on the kingside.
19…Bh6 20. Nf3?!
In the game this exchange offer proved okay, but the computer says it is a mistake. The idea is that if black takes twice on c1 and wins the exchange, then I recapture the second time with my queen and get a strong kingside attack due to black’s weak dark squares. Apparently it isn’t sound and black can defend (computer), but then neither were a lot of Tal’s sacs.
20…Qc5+ 21.Kh1 Nxc1 22. Raxc1 Kg7
Black turns down the offer, technically a mistake. But once again, I think it is a decent practical decision against a lower-rated player.
23. Rce1 g5 24. Qf2
Here I was under five minutes, so I decided to trade queens. In the resulting endgame I’m a pawn up and can try for a win.
24…Qxf2 25. Rxf2
Here white has difficulty coordinating his pieces while black has easy play. I simply did not have enough time to come up with a solid plan, and thus he slowly outplayed me (he had 20 minutes).
25…g4 26.Nd2 Bf4 27.Rfe2 Rc8 28.Nf1 h4 29.Rc2 Rc5 30.Ne3 gxh3 31. gxh3 Nh5
This is the point where I really started having trouble coordinating my pieces.
32. Nf1 Kf6 33. a3 Ra8 34. Ne2 Bg5 35.Nh2 Rb8 36.Ng4+ Ke7 37.Nf3 Rb3 38.Nc3 Bf4 39.Kg2 Rc8 40. Kg2
I slammed this move out with one second left on my clock! Not fun.
40…Rcb8 41.Nd1 Rg8 42. Rg2?
I’m now clearly worse after 42…Rxg2 43. Kxg2 Bc1 as I can’t defend the b-pawn with my rook due to Nf4+.
42…Bg3 43. Rh1 Nf4
His piece play is worth more than a pawn by now.
44. Rd2 Be1?!
A nice looking combo, but it doesn’t lead to anything but a perpetual, and white would be very happy with a draw at this point.
45. Rxe1 Rg3+ 46. Kf2 Nxh3+ 47.Ke2 Nf4+??
He should take the draw by checking with the rook on the g-file. After the continuation I’m up a piece.
48. Kf1 Rb8
I’m up a piece but he has a dangerous passed h-pawn and a lot of play. Still at the minute-mark, I played the next several moves correctly.
49. Re3 Rg5 50. Ne2 Rbg8 51.Nxf4 exf4 52.Rf3 Rg1+ 53.Ke2 R8g2+ 54. Nf2
I won, but a desperate master is a dangerous opponent. He’s playing for tactical traps, and in my time pressure I have trouble avoiding them.
54…Rb1 55. Rh3? Rg3!
This is just the sort of thing I was trying to avoid: 56. Rxh4 loses to 56…Re3#.
56. Rc2 Kf6 57. a4?
Much simpler (for the next two moves) is 57. Rxh4 since Re3 is no longer mate.
57…Ke5 58.a5 f3+ 59. Ke3??
Black already has a lot of counter play, but 59. Kd2 keeps an edge. This terrible blunder leaves me scrambling for a draw.
59…Re1+ 60. Kd2 Re2+
I completely overlooked this when I played 59. Ke3, anticipating that the rook would move away.
61. Kc3 Rxf2! 62. Rxf2 Rxh3
Black’s advanced king puts him in command, but white has enough to draw.
63. a6 Rh1 64. Rxf3 Kxe4 65.a7 Ra1 66. Rh3 Rxa7 67.Rxh4+ Kxd5 68.Rxc4 Ke5 69.b4 Kxf5 70. b5 Ke5 71. Rc6 Rd7 72. b6 f5
He spent his remaining trying to find a win, so we were both at the minute-mark at this point.
73. Rc7 Rd8 74. b7
Once black blockades the pawn with his rook, my king and rook can stop/pick off his two pawns. If black swings his king over to pick off the b-pawn, I just win his two pawns and it’s a draw.
Time pressure? I don’t know but wow, a totally game losing blunder. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he played it.
75. Rc8 Kd7 76. Rxd8+ 1-0.
I’ve heard the famous quote about never feeling sorry for your opponent, but I really did feel sorry for Andrew after that. Turns out that in his two tournaments prior to the Denker he had dropped more than 50 points to below master-level. Hopefully Andrew can recover from his slump because he’s definitely one of the most promising juniors in the country.
After the game, my mom and I went out to lunch with Prashantha and his dad, Sisira, at an all-you-can-eat soup, salad and dessert bar. My mom doesn’t play, so I enjoyed “talking chess” with Sisira and Prashantha a lot. I also called my dad at least once a day to talk chess with him. I think these conversations were very important; if I keep to myself too much during a long tournament my view of “chess reality” can be distorted. For example, by the 10th game of the Denker/US Open last year, I felt like I was in an endless fog of games; so I had no creativity in my play and was playing much less tactically than I normally do. This year I was able to start fresh each game and played better as a result.
Round 3: Kevin Zhang - Matt Anzis
Although happy to be 2-0, I knew I had gotten very lucky and wasn’t feeling very confident about playing up again. My opponent for the third round was Kevin Zhang (my first three opponents rhymed!), a master from Arizona; we played on board 3.
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6.c5 Be7 7. Nf3 0-0 8.b4
The line I was familiar with is 8. Bd3 after which I challenge white’s center with 8…b6.
White took time to solidify his c5 pawn, so black can expand in the center/kingside.
9. Qc2 f5 10. Be2 10.b6
My plan I wanted to trade off queenside pawns, blockade on c6 and pressure d4 was flawed. It’s a good positional plan in theory, but white more space and active pieces so there’s just no way black can do it effectively. This position is dynamic: Black needs to play finessing tactical maneuvers against white’s pawns. The option I like best is 10…a5 11. b5 b6! as 12. c6 fails to 12…Nxc3! which picks up a piece since 13. Qxc3 Bb4 wins the queen.
11. 0-0 a5?! I overlooked white’s reply.
12. Na4 bxc5 13. bxc5 Nc6 14. Bb5
For the past few moves, hesitant to mix it up with a master, I’d been trying to play solid positional moves in a dynamic position, and now find myself faced with a poor position.
14…Nb4 15.Qe2 Ba6 16.Bxa6 Nxa6 17. Nb6 Ra7
So far I have played poorly and unimaginatively, and find myself in a passive, inferior position. However, although clearly better, white has no clear breaks or easy ways to improve on the queenside. Over the next few moves, white played inaccurately, allowing me to get back in the game.
The bishop belongs on f4; this one move threat just lets me reposition my knight for defense of the queenside.
18…Nb8 19. Qb5? Qe8
A trade of queens helps black, for the endgame would be equal due to mutually weak pawns.
20. a4 Nc6!
The queenside is blockaded. Any advantage white had is gone, and black is ready to expand on the kingside.
21. Rfd1 Bf6 22. Qd3 g5
I think this move caught him off guard: now my intentions are obvious, but hard to prevent.
23. Bc3 g4 24. Ne1 Qh5
I was under ten minutes while Kevin was at about 40, but all of my pieces are coordinating in a kingside attack. White will have trouble surviving. I continued to play solid moves that built up the attack as I didn’t have much time to calculate.
25. Nc2 Bh4 26. Be1 f4 27. f3?
A losing mistake.
I missed the winning 27…Bg3!! After 28.hxg3 fxg3 29. Bxg3 Nxg3 and white’s kingside will soon fall apart. For example, 30.f4 Qh1+ 31. Kf2 Qh4 (31…Ne4+?Loses to 32. Qxe4! Qh4+ 33.g3Qh2+ 34. Qg2!) since 32. Qg3 Rxh4+! wins the queen.
28. Bxh4 Qxh4 29. Ne1 Rg7
Although under 5 minutes, I am better and have an easy position to play. Meanwhile, he has to play passive, precise defense moves.
30. Qe2 Rf6 31. Qf2??
After one move of passive defense he cracked and played the losing move.
Completely winning was 31…Nh3+!! which forces 32. gxh3 gxf3+! and the game is over. One line is 33. Kf1 Qxh3+ 34.Ng2 Rxg2 winning the queen or mating. What I played was winning too; however, it left me room to err.
32. hxg3 fxg3 33. Qe3 Qh2+ 34. Kf1 Nxf3!
The point of 31…g3: white can’t capture on f3 with the g-pawn as it allows the winning g2+.
35. Nxf3 Rxf3+! 36. Qxf3 Rf7!
This was far as I calculated when I played 31…g3, but luckily it’s won for black.
37. Ke2 Rxf3 38. Kxf3 Qh4!
The key move, asserting dominance. Only now is black clearly winning.
39. Ke2 Nxd4+?
I missed white’s reply which nearly forces a draw. 39…Qe4+ is much tidier.
40. Rxd4 Qxd4 41. Rc1
Here, in under three minutes, I had to find a way to stop the c-pawn. I spent most of my remaining time devising this maneuver:
41…Qb2+ 42. Kd1 Qxg2 43.c6 43…Qf1+ 44. Kd2 Qf2+
Now, no matter where the king goes, the queen can take the knight and still stop the c-pawn (44. Kc2 was no different as after 44…Qf2+, the king can’t run to the b-file as it would allow Qxb6 with check). Once again, I missed a simpler win: 44…Qxc1+.
(if 45. Kc3 Qxb6 the b-pawn is hanging.)
45…Qxb6 46.c7 Qa6+!
The point of the entire maneuver.
47. Kd4 Qc8 48. Ke5 Kf7 49.Kd6 Ke8 50.Kc6 Qa6+ 51.Kc5 Kd7 52.Kd4 Qb6+ Kd3 53.Qxc7 0-1.
Despite several sloppy, second-best moves, I remained in control and won.
With the win I moved into a four-way tie for first with 3.0/3.0; NEVER had I imagined I would be in that position. It felt great. For the first time ever, I felt like I belonged at the top boards with the best scholastic players in the country. Also, I was proud to be representing Iowa so well.
However, there were still three very tough games left. The other three unscathed players were Richard Herbst, a 2100 from Colorado, Michael Bowersock, a 2100 from Michigan, and the top board FM Stephen Zierk, a 2400 from California. Based on colors and ratings, I calculated I would play Herbst in the fourth round; I was slightly nervous, but knew I could beat him.
((The first half of this article ended after the third round of the Denker: it was Sunday night, I had 3.0/3.0, and I was going to play 2100 Richard Herbst from Colorado the next morning. It turns out that only two out of three of those statements were accurate. ))
I woke up the next morning and found out I was paired instead against the top seed, FM Stephen Zierk, rated 2426. That was…not good. In preparation for the Denker I had watched and studied games from the US Junior Closed, an invitation-only tournament between the most elite young players in the country: Zierk had played in that tournament. I was reminded of the athletes that grow up with a certain player as their role model and end up playing against them once they become professionals. There was just one difference; I was not a professional, I was still just me.
So far in the tournament I had shown that I could compete with masters; however, I knew that I could not contend with someone of Zierk’s caliber. A senior master like Zierk played at a level at which I had no control over the outcome of the game. If I played my best and he played his best, then he would win, simple as that.
However, I obviously was not going to give up, so I put on my UNI shirt because Zierk was Kansas. I felt like last year’s UNI men’s basketball team: I was a huge underdog on a national stage facing a murder’s row of opponents that normally I only watched but now had to play. Zierk was Kansas, the best team in the nation, and I had to beat him if I wanted to win the tournament. Maybe he was better than me, but try telling that to UNI on the morning of March 20th. Maybe I didn’t have a chance, but try telling that to Ali Farokhmanesh with 37 seconds left. Maybe, I should have been focusing on chess instead of making sports analogies.
Despite my inspirational metaphorical apparel, I was still more nervous than I had ever been. Usually I prefer to play up as I have nothing to lose and feel no pressure; however, usually there is not a prestigious place in US chess history—both for myself and for Iowa—on the line. I would much rather have been playing Herbst. I was so nervous about playing Zierk and losing that I felt nauseous and could barely eat breakfast: I almost threw up after a few bites of bagel. Then on the way back to the room, I had to hover over a garbage can in the hallway for several minutes until I could walk again. I eventually managed to return to the room, bagel still in my stomach, and there I waited restlessly for the round to begin.
I felt better when it was finally 12 o’clock and time to play. I can’t remember my exact frame of mind but it was something like: “Well, there’s nothing I can do now but play my best and see what happens.” And that’s what I did.
Round 4: Matt Anzis - FM Stephen Zierk
It was cool being on board one at a national tournament for the first time in my life, and it would have been cooler if they had had the correct name next to me.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4. Nf3
Thanks to Tim’s help, I knew the opening as well as Zierk.
4…Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.cxd5 Nxg5 7. Nxg5 e6 8. Qd2 exd5
A 1900 I played in Oklahoma this year claimed that after 8…h6 9. Nf3 exd5 Black is won. The game ended in a draw…
9. Qe3+ Kf8 10.Qf4 Bf6 11.h4 h6 12.Nf3 Kg7 13. e3 Be6
This is where my knowledge of the main line ended. However, because I knew the basic positional plans, I was not lost. White wants to pressure black’s king whereas black wants to attack the center at d4.
14. Bd3 c6?
The time control was 90 minutes with a 30 second increment each move. Before this move he had 94 minutes compared to my 78. He was playing nearly instantaneously, and that is intimidating to anyone. This was the first move he thought about (3 minutes), and he made a mistake. 14…c5 would be consistent with black’s plan of attacking the center, but 14…c6 is a complete waste of time. It was at this point that I had an “epiphany” and realized: “Hey, this guy is not some unstoppable genius. We’re both playing at the same board. We can both see all the moves. Sure, he’s really good, but that just means he sees a lot. He’s not unbeatable.”
I chose this, with the plan of attacking g6, over 15. g4 and a pawn storm because it was faster and I remembered it specifically from a lesson.
15…Nd7 16. Ne5 c5
Black admits his mistake on the 14th move, a good decision as he needs counterplay. At the time I thought I must have at least a slight edge due to the extra tempo. However, computer analysis shows that things remain fairly dynamically balanced.
Expanding on the kingside and threatening f5.
I was very excited at this point because he was retreating. The position is still dynamically balanced due to black’s pressure on the center; however, white is constantly one move away from breaking through, and black must play very precisely.
18. h5 cxd4 19. exd4 Qb6 20. Qf2
I had played well so far, putting a lot of pressure on Zierk. The computer may say that it is equal, but white is the one with the comfortable game, which is an unquantifiable but valuable advantage.
Black’s last two moves have gained time attacking white’s center, and now he relieves the pressure from his kingside. But…it is a mistake! 20…Kg7, a redeveloping move which maintains the tension, was called for. Here, white gains a lasting positional advantage. During the game I felt this was simply the transformation of advantages for white: dynamic to static. In reality, it was the transformation of a psychological advantage (Zierk having to find only moves) into several static advantages. Black is left with a backwards f-pawn and a large bishop-shaped e-pawn. On top of that his knight is inactive, his h-pawn is weak, and after white castles he will be underdeveloped. White’s only weakness is his d4-pawn which black can only attack once..
21. fxe5 g5 22. Rf1?!
Unfortunately I misunderstood the position and played it poorly. The rook belongs on f1, but instead of 22.Rf1 white should play 22. 0-0! This error boils down to a conceptual misunderstanding of the position. The kingside is closed with no possible breaks; therefore, it is a safe place for the white king. Also, although the position is more closed than it was several moves ago, tempos are still important: 0-0 gets white developed faster than 0-0-0. After 22. 0-0 white would be free to improve his position and start making threats such as Bb5 or Nb5. That being said, white still maintains an advantage at this point because black’s weaknesses are static.
22…Kg7 23.0-0-0 Rac8 24. Bf5?!
An impatient move. We were each under 30 minutes here, and I was trying to force my way into black’s position when careful maneuvering like 24. Bc2 was needed. This is an example of the weaker player not knowing what to do with a good position.
24…Rhf8 25.Bxe6 Qxe6 26.Qf5Rc4 27. Kb1 Rc6
White still has a solid advantage due to black’s poor pawn structure. Additionally, Zierk had spent a lot of time trying to find a way to escape the bind and was under 15 minutes. However, I learned in this game that even with a better position and a time advantage it is pretty difficult to outplay an FM.
28. Nb5 Qxf5 29.Rxf5 a6 30. Nc3?
This allows black to equalize. 30. Nd6! keeps up the pressure and gives white all of the winning chances. For example, one mostly forced line goes 30…f6 31. Nxb7 fxe5 32.Rxf8 Kxf8 33.Rxe5 Nxe5 34.Rxd5 Ng4 35.Rd6 Rxd6 36.Nxd6 Nf6 37.Nf5 Nxh5 38.Nxh6 Nf4 39.g3 followed by 40. Nf4 and white is up a pawn.
30…f6! 31. exf6+ Nxf6 32. Nxd5 Nxh5 33.Rxf8 Kxf8 34. Ne3
The endgame is equal but try telling that to Zierk! Now I have to find a way to draw.
34…Re6 35.Nf5 Nf4 36.g4 Nd537. Kc1
My passed pawn is blockaded and I was starting to feel like I had choked away the game. I was under five minutes here; one or two more mistakes and I would lose!
Rf6 38. Rh1 Ne7
Luckily here I found a nice way to force a draw.
39. Nxh6! Kg7 40. Re1! Kf8
He could try 40…Kxh6 but it would be suicidal as after 41. Rxe7 Rf4 42. Rxb7 white has an edge.
41. Rh1 ½—½.
We went over the game in the lobby, and I have to say that I was very impressed by Zierk. A lot of players get upset and surly after a poor result; I know that I often do. However, he was very gracious, friendly, and not at all condescending in the analysis like the stronger player often is. I was very happy to see that Zierk won the World Under 18 Championship this October! He was the 26th seed in a field that included many IMs and even GMs. That is an amazing accomplishment, both for Zierk and for US chess. Congratulations!
I remember that after Zierk had left the lobby, I said to someone, “I didn’t ever think I’d be mad about drawing an FM!” It’s true: I was kind of disappointed because I had given away a draw from such a good position. However, that disappointment soon turned to happiness as I realized what I had done. I had just held off the top seed, heck, maybe he had held off me! I had overcome my nerves and pulled off a huge half-upset. I was playing really good chess, good enough to play with FMs and beat masters. There was no one in my way now that I couldn’t beat!
After the game with Zierk, I stuck to the routine from the day before: I ate at SoupPlantation, rested, and called my dad. My dad had been getting a lot of emails from family and friends in Iowa about my performance, and I used this as extra motivation. I was not going disappoint myself and everyone back home by coming this far and then failing. I was not going to end up like UNI and lose to Michigan State because I didn’t play my best. My nerves were gone and a solid determination took their place.
I was paired against another master, NM Bob Shao of Texas, on board 2. It was awesome being on the top boards at a national tournament and belonging there. Last year I had been in the middle the entire time, and I had watched the masters at the top boards with admiration, wondering how they did it. How did that Patrick Tae guy get to be 3-0? How did Abby Marshall and Michael Yang hold it together in time pressure as they played the game that would decide the winner of the Denker? What did they know that I didn’t? Nothing now.
Round 5: NM Bob Shao-Matt Anzis
The trap of overconfidence is dangerous, especially when playing a higher rated player after an upset. In one of Roger Gotschall’s FIDE Swisses a few years ago, I defeated masters in rounds 1 and 4 by playing brilliant chess, and lost to masters in rounds 2 and 5 by playing overaggressive and sloppy chess. With that in mind, I kept my confidence in check and played.
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Be7 7. b3
This move stops black’s idea of 7…dxc4 8. Bxc4 b5. Before, especially playing online, I had never found a good answer to b3. However, in this game I came up with the plan of playing b5 anyway.
7…a6 8. Be2 b5 9. c5?!
This relieves the tension on the queenside and lets me know where to place my pieces. A better plan for white would be to keep black guessing and improve his position with non-committal moves like a3, Bb2, 0-0, etc.
9…0-0 10. b4?!
Another substandard move which relieves tension and lets me know exactly what to do next. Black has achieved equality as white has wasted the last two moves.
10…a5 11. bxa5?
This is an error which gives black an advantage. Black’s queenside play now becomes a tangible initiative, and all white can do is try to negate it. At the time I was quite happy with my position and felt that black had a slight edge.
11…Qxa5 12. 0-0 b4 13. Nb1 Ba6 14. Bxa6 Qxa6
One of black’s main goals in this opening is to find a way to activate or trade his light bishop. Done. The time situation here was Bob 71 minutes and myself 56 minutes, but 15 minutes is a small deficit and well worth such a positional edge. Unfortunately, just as in my game with Zierk, I then spent a lot of time, but I ended up just bumbling around and was unable to increase my advantage. To his credit, Bob played pretty accurately.
15. Nbd2 Rfb1 16. Bb2 Qb5 17. Rfb1 Bd8 18. Nb3 Ne4 19. Ne1 f5 20. Nd3 Ra7
Bob, Zierk, and I analyzed the game afterwards and concluded that I should have doubled rooks on the a-file sooner if I wanted to maintain my advantage; the computer agrees.
21. f3 Nef6 22. Bc1
White has consolidated his position and now begins to pressure the b4 pawn. I had spent a lot of time on the previous moves and was now under 20 minutes compared to Bob’s 50. I feared that I had screwed everything up, and I lashed out for counterplay to avoid being crushed by time pressure.
22…Qc4 23.Rb2Bc7 24.Bd2 e5 25. Rc1?! 25. Nxb4 Rxb4 Bxb4 Qxb4 Qxf5 was interesting and perhaps necessary. This allows me to reclaim a slight advantage.
25…e4! 26. fxe4fxe4 27 Nf4 Bxf4 28. fxe4 Qe2!
Black is back in business due to a superior pawn structure and some initiative. However, I was under 10 minutes compared to his 34.
29. Re1 Qh5 30. Nc1 Rab7 31. h3?
Qa4 would put black in a tough spot.
31…Nf8 32.Be3 Ne633.Qe2 Qh4 34.Qf2 Qxf2 35. Rxf2Ra8
I played well even in time pressure. Black has a nice endgame advantage due to active pieces and better pawns. White needs to start pushing his kingside pawns for counterplay.
36. Rb2?! g6 37. Rb3? Nh5!
Bob wasted the last two moves blockading my b-pawn needlessly. Now my knights are active on the kingside; they attack and prevent pawn advances at the same time. At this point—despite being under 5 minutes—I was feeling very good about my position (and rightfully, the computer evaluates it at -1) but also very nervous due to time pressure.
38. Rf1 Ng3 39. Rd1 h5 40.Bf2 Nf5 41. g3 Ra3!
The kingside is shut off but now black returns play to the queenside.
42. Rxa3 bxa3 43. Nb3 e3!
Played with two minutes left as I had to be sure the pawn could not be won later.
44. Be1 Oftentimes a team’s season comes down to one play, to one moment, to one decision. This was mine. My entire tournament, my entire chess career up to this point, was decided by this next move. Black obviously had a much better position, but white seemed to have everything covered. Tick-Tock. I was under 2 minutes, and I had struggled all tournament with converting positional advantages against stronger players, especially in a timely fashion. Tick-Tock. Most likely I would have to win this game to win the tournament as Zierk probably would win his next two (which he did). Tick-Tock.
I saw the exchange sac: 44…Rxb3. It looked pretty good: I would have two passed pawns on the third rank and the loose d-pawn. Tick-Tock. There had to be a way to win from that, but I didn’t see it. Tick-Tock. “What should I do? Should I risk everything to win on a chancy tactical shot? Should I play it safe, should I do the smart thing and keep the draw in hand?” Tick-Tock. “There’s not enough time for this.” Tick-Tock. “If you want to win you have to give it your all.”
It is really as simple as that. If you want to win you have to give it your all, you have to risk everything. However, it’s not called a risk for no reason: it is going to backfire every so often. And it did this time.
45. axb3 Nfxd4 46. b4.
From here on out it was basically a crapshoot, and I just ended up on the wrong end of it. It is an extremely complex position—Tim, Pete Karagianis, and Jason Juett, three of the strongest players in Iowa, were watching online and couldn’t figure it out—and I had only two minutes. It was a coin-flip that I chose: I wanted something dynamic with no drawing possibilities, and I got it. It just didn’t work out. Bob played accurately, even brilliantly in the end, and I missed a few key ideas and it was over.
46…Nc2 An easy win is 46…a2 47. Ra1 (47. b5 cxb5) Nc2 48.Rxa2 Nxe1 and after 49.Re2 Nf3+ 50.Kg2 Nfd4 51. Rxe3 Kf7 black is won. I did not go into this line because I was afraid white could find a way to get his queenside pawns rolling.
47. Rc1 Ned4 48. b5!
This was the move that I missed and now, with Ne2+
49. Kh2 Nxc1 50.bxc6 a2 51.Bc3 d4?The losing move. 51…e2 holds at least draw.
52. c7 dxc3 53. c8=Q+ Kg7 54. Qc7+ Kg8 55.Qd8+ Kf7 56.Qd7+ Kf8 57. c6 a1=Q 58. c7 Qa6 59. c8=R+! Bob has a cruel sense of humor! We had several laughs about this move after the game.
59…Qxc8 60.Qxc8+ Kf7 61.f5 e2 62.Qe6+ Kg7 63.Qxg6+ Kf8 64. f6 e1=Q 65. Qg7+ Ke8 66.f7+ Kd7 67. f8=Q+ Kc6 68. Qxc3+ 1-0
I was proud of the way that I lost; if I had to choose a way to go out, it would be like that. C’mon, a total of 5 promotions: that’s making someone beat you! Bob was a very gracious victor which I really appreciated, and as I mentioned we went over the game afterwards. Zierk participated in the analysis too, and the cool thing was that we did it as equals. A master, a future World U18 Champion, and myself just going over a game!
I returned to the tournament hall late that night, still feeling proud. Then I saw the remnants of the players from that night’s US Open round, animatedly discussing their games. I saw a few chess parents reading and chatting on the chairs in the lobby, passing the time as their children played somewhere in the convention hall. I saw little kids running around playing blitz in the skittles room, enjoying the game at its purest level. And suddenly I felt overwhelmingly sad.
All of the people I could see: I knew them, I was them. I had been those young kids, just playing blitz and bughouse for the pure joy of it. I had been those class players, testing new theories, trying to shine light on the black-and-white-jungle. I had seen my parents be those chess parents so many times, sacrificing countless hours so their kids could play. Throughout it all I had had one dream: I wanted to be a star. I wanted to be Josh Waitzkin and I wanted to win a national championship. I had always been an above average player but nowhere near elite, and in the past few years, I had accepted my role of “good, not great.” But here at the Denker, I had gotten a chance, against all odds, to make my dream a reality. Somehow I beat back-to-back masters and got to 3.0/3.0. Somehow I drew the future World Under 18 Champion and got to 3.5/4.0. And then my unattainable dream was two games away. And then it was just a few moves and one game away. And now it was gone.
I got choked up and a little teary eyed there in the lobby just thinking about it all. What came to my mind was: “Now I know what it feels like to lose the Super Bowl”. Eventually I made my way back to the room. I had to get a good night sleep…for the last round.
In the back of my mind was the thought that if I lost this round I would finish with 3.5/6.0, the same score I had gotten the previous year. After everything thing I had done, I would just be the same patzer that I was last year. Also, I really did not want to play—and risk losing to—some 2000 or 1900, especially after the caliber of the opponents I had just succeeded against. Luckily, my wish was granted: I was paired with the highest rated 3.0, NM Eric Rosen of Illinois. This game did not mean nearly as much as the others because I was out of contention for first, but I still wanted to finish strong obviously.
Round 6: Matt Anzis-Eric Rosen
I felt pretty relaxed during this game since I did not have nearly as much to lose. However, this also meant that I was no longer constantly on edge, so my play was somewhat sloppy as a result.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 b6 5.Bd3 Bb7 6.Nf3 0-0 7.0-0 Re8 8.Qe2 Bxc3 9.bxc3 d6 10.e4 e5 11.d5?!
I think that a better plan for white is to support e4 with either 11. Nd2 or 11. Re1 and maintain the tension in the center.
Preparing to start kingside maneuvers with Nh4 and f4; once again, this is white’s plan in the other variation. However, in this line black achieves his queenside play more quickly and thus gets a slight edge. A developing move such as 12.Ba3 or 12. Re1 would have been better.
12…c6 13.Ba3 Qc7 14.Nd2 14…cxd5 15.cxd5 Nc5 16. Rac1 Rac8 17.c4
My plan of Nh4 has already been abandoned, and now I have a backwards pawn on an open file. However, it is a singular weakness and easy to defend so the position is still equal.
17…a6 18. Kh1? Kg2 was superior as it covers h3.
18…Qd7 “Forking” a4 and h3.
The position is equal as black still only has one weakness to attack, but now white’s chances of expanding on the kingside are gone. Having lost my opening advantage and now my only hopes to regain an advantage, I began to play for a draw.
20. f3 Rc7 21. Qg2 Qxg2 22. Kxg2
Rosen has outplayed me by equalizing and then gaining a slight edge, but the position is still holdable. From here on out all I had to do was play a few precise defending moves.
22…Nd7 23.f4 f6 24.f5
This secures a space advantage on the kingside and prevents black from breaking through with an f5 push of his own.
24…Nb7 25. Bd3
As black repositions his knights to attack c4, I have time to reposition my bishop to defend it. One weakness is not enough to decide the game.
25…Rec8 26.Rc2 Ndc5 27.Be2 Kf7 28.Rfc1 Ke7 29.Kf2 Kd7 30.Ke3 Na5 31.Bb4 Nab7 32. Ba3
Offering a draw. White has actually defended well and gained a slight advantage due to his greater mobility. However, during the game I was still in a defensive mindset and playing for a draw.
32…Rh8 33. Ke7 ½-½
Rosen offered the draw because he recognized that white had an advantage and saw no way to play for a win. I played poorly and unimaginatively, but the position was closed and boring enough for it to not cost me. With 4.0/6.0, I tied for 5th place.
We went over the game afterwards and once again it was really cool analyzing with someone whose games I had studied less than a month before: Rosen had also played in the 2010 US Junior Closed. Despite being at least 200 points below everyone else in the tournament, he finished with an even score of 4.5/9! Coming from a master underdog like Rosen, it meant a lot when he told me: “yeah, you’ve had a really nice tournament.”
The Award Ceremony took place that afternoon in the “garden pavilion” (like I said, it was a NICE hotel). Because I had tied for fifth, I got to go up on the stage and receive a scholarship. At a total value of $24, it wasn’t quite the full ride for which I had been hoping, but getting a prize of any kind is always nice. I will say though that I value the memory of standing on the stage with the other winners—many of them masters and top 10 for their ages—more than I do the scholarship. Bob Shao (who was one of those masters that tied with me) and I had been hoping that he would win the brilliancy prize for his victory over me, but unfortunately they gave it to an 1800 that beat a 1600. He and I were understandably disappointed: how could a game on board two (in round 5 nonetheless) with a total of 5 promotions be bested by a routine kingside attack on board 20? Too bad. I soon got over it and enjoyed the rest of the day in sunny California…by playing in a blitz tournament! Let’s just say that I did a lot of “giving back to the community”. The next morning my mom and I packed up and plane-hopped for another day. Once I was home, I was able to relax and reflect on my experience at the 2010 Denker.
I entered the 2010 Denker as an unproven small-state expert just trying to have a decent tournament. I was low on self-confidence and did not believe that I could actually compete for the title. But with a little luck and a lot of brilliance I proved myself wrong and had the tournament of my life. I went 2-1-2 against five masters—including a future World Champion—and had a performance rating of over 2300. I almost fulfilled a long-abandoned childhood dream of winning a national championship. I did everything in my power to attain it, and I came within a coin-flip of doing so. When the dust settled, I tied for fifth with a very respectable score of 4.0/6.0. (and if I might say so, probably the strongest in Denker history). In summary, I had a great tournament.
As I have written this article, I have had a lot of time to think and have realized something. I didn’t almost achieve my childhood dream: I did achieve it. After watching Searching for Bobby Fischer as a young boy, my dream had been to win a national championship and be a top national scholastic player. At the 2010 Denker I achieved the latter half. I proved it when I crushed Zhang from a poor position, when I gained an advantage against Zierk and then held him to a draw, and when I outplayed Shao as black. I proved it by staying on the top boards throughout the entire tournament and gaining the respect of the other players. I proved it most of all—and especially to myself—when I gave everything I had and played 43…Rxb3. At the 2010 Denker, I proved that I belong among the top young players in the country; that knowledge—and the confidence that it instills—is more important to me than any tournament victory could ever be.
Afterword: I intended for this report to be, besides entertaining, both psychological and inspirational. I’ve read a lot of chess books, but none that deal with the mindset of normal tournament players. Hopefully, the in-depth descriptions of what went through my head during the Denker were interesting and helpful in one way or another.
My main message (especially intended for scholastic players) in this article is that you can do it, whether “it” is getting a rating over 800 or becoming a master. You don’t have to come from a big chess state like New York or California to be good, and you don’t have to be a genius or a child prodigy. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Magnus Carlsen said, “Despite some of the preconceptions about me, I wouldn’t say I have a freakishly high IQ. I am just someone who is naturally curious.” That is completely true. All it takes is a belief in yourself and a love of the game, and you can go as far as you want to go.
I’d like to acknowledge several people who went out of their way to help me be able to have such a great experience at the 2010 Denker. Thank you to John Flores and Sam Smith. They each do a lot to support chess; and this summer they organized and ran a fundraising chess camp for Prashantha and me. Thank you also to Tim McEntee. He volunteered many weekends this summer helping me prepare for the Denker. Finally, thank you for reading!
The Denker Trio
by Jonathan Hilton
From Chess Life, November 2008 with permission.
Some play chess for fun. Others play chess for blood. We play chess for honor. Who are we? We are the Denker representatives, and we come from Alaska to Hawaii, from California to Maine. We represent not only ourselves, but our state federations, home clubs, schools, coaches, friends, and families—the chessplayers and non-chessplayers that have shaped us into champions.
Success for a Denker representative does not solely consist in winning the tournament. Success is achieved by playing with pride. Fighting spirit, camaraderie, and etiquette are traits possessed by the ideal representative. Personal respect at the Denker is unparalleled—there are no cheap psychological tricks, no routine intimidation tactics. During this six-round, four-day, 48-player tournament, not a single dispute arose, reported chief tournament director Dewain Barber (NOTE: Denker TD was Alan Losoff and Barber was the organizer).
By the afternoon of the fourth day, however, a true champion of champions is decided. The champion of champions is someone with extraordinary mental stamina, a fierce sense of danger at the board, and an incredible ability to win games when the chips are down. This year, three co-champions shared the glory with 5/6—a rare tie, making 2008 an exception in the Denker’s recent trend toward clear winners. In fact, the last time more than two tied for first place was eight years ago!
Each winner had a unique story, with FM Daniel Yeager (PA) on one side, Julian Landaw (CA-S) on the other, and expert Scott Low (MD) falling somewhere in between. One thing the members of this unlikely trio shared? They all admitted to having followed, consciously or unconsciously, some piece of advice given by USCF Executive Director—and former Denker representative—Bill Hall during his rousing speech at the opening ceremony!
Daniel Yeager: A fierce competitor takes time to travel
It is hard to get one’s head around the powerful brain of FM Daniel Yeager. A young man of few words, he lets his incredible chess record speak for itself. With the unyielding concentration of a fighter pilot and the thorough eye of a computer, Yeager did not lose a single game during his entire stay in Texas—four wins and two draws in the Denker; three draws, five wins, and a bye in the U.S. Open. Total: fourteen consecutive games without a single loss!
Yet, to many, Yeager remains a mystery. Perhaps the most reticent player in the Denker, the Pennsylvanian can hold an entire conversation without saying a single word! Often, he communicates through grins, shrugs, and laughter. He has a hunger to hunch over the chess board in deep concentration, and comes to scholastic tournaments with the clear intention of capturing the top prize. He is disciplined and does what it takes to churn out top performances—during his 7-0 victory at this year’s high school nationals, Yeager was sure to look after himself, heading off to bed early on multiple nights. A few days after the Denker, I asked Yeager what he enjoys most about chess. He instantly broke into a grin; after some initial hesitation, he gave a surprisingly honest answer: “I love to win!” he exclaimed.
Thus, I was surprised to discover how much traveling and socializing Yeager accomplished during his stay in Texas. Even before the start of the Denker, he and his father, Richard Yeager—a likeable extrovert whose supportive presence is a key factor in Daniel’s success—took a day trip out to see the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). James Stallings, the director of the UTD chess program, had arranged a special tour for Denker participants, so both Yeagers eagerly signed up to go. This turned out to be a wise move: Daniel Yeager wound up capturing one of two full four-year scholarships awarded by UTD during the Denker event! The other was awarded to Low. Landaw, who has graduated high school, had already enrolled in UC Berkeley.
I rarely saw Yeager unaccompanied by fellow Denker comrades. Whether he was visiting local eateries with Scott Low, hanging out in the weight lifting room, or just exploring the hotel with friends, the Pennsylvanian chess machine always showed his human side between rounds. He was living the chess player’s dream, traveling the country and enjoying every moment in Dallas. Yet he maintained an unrelenting positional control throughout all six rounds, including this last-round win over then-tournament leader Matt Parry:
Queen’s Indian Defense (E15)
FM Daniel Yeager (2353)
Matt Parry (2279)
2008 Denker Tournament of High School Champions (6), 08.05.2008. Notes by Yeager
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 Bb4+
Forcing White’s bishop to the awkward d2-square. The downside is that the move 5. Bd2 could also be a useful developing move for White.
5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 0-0 7. 0-0 c6
Aiming for a closed Catalan position. After 7. … dxc4 8. Qc2, White’s fifth move has proved useful, clearing the way for Rc1.
8. Qc2 b6 9. b3 Ba6
A good move, preventing 10. Nc3 due to the attack on the c4-pawn.
Aiming to play a4-a5 and exploit the slightly awkward position of the bishop on a6. 10. Rd1 Nbd7 11. Bf4 is another option, reaching a Queen’s Indian Defense. Black soon strikes with … c5, leading to a complicated position.
10. … Nbd7 11. a5 c5 12. Nc3!?
Offering a pawn sacrifice on c4 which Black should accept. 12. Rd1 would have been the safer and better option, when Black is running out of useful moves. If 12. … Rc8 13. axb6 Black has to take back with the queen, leading to a structural advantage for White: 13. … Qxb6 14. Ba5 Qb8 15. Nbd2.
12. … bxa5?
Once White regains the a5-pawn with Qa2, Black will have a tough time holding everything together. Black must accept the pawn sacrifice: if he doesn’t, the bishop on a6 did not fulfill its duty.
12. … dxc4! 13. bxc4 Bxc4. The diagonal has opened for the bishop on g2, but Black is solid. White has no immediate threat.
13. cxd5 exd5 14. Qa2 Qb6 15. Qxa5
Even better is 15. Ne5! Rybka gives 15. … Rad8 (15. … Qe6 16. Qxa5 Bb7 17. Nd3 cxd4 18. Nf4) 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Bxa5 Qe6 18. Bxd8 Nb4 19. Bxe7 Nxa2 20. Bxf8 Nxf8 21. Rxa2 with a clear advantage for White.
15. … Bb7 16. Na4
16. Ne5 was again worthy of consideration.
16. … Qxa5 17. Bxa5 Rfe8 18. e3 Rab8 19. Rfc1 Ne4?!
19. … Rec8 20. Bh3 cxd4 21. Nxd4 Bd6 is a better try.
The bishop finds a great diagonal and attacks one of the key defenders of the c5- pawn.
20. … Bc6 21. Nxc5
I considered 21. Bxd7 Bxd7 22. Nxc5 Nxc5 23. dxc5 Rxb3 24. c6 but I didn’t like the idea of giving up my great bishop. However, this option would have been great for White.
21. … Ndxc5 22. dxc5 Nxc5 23. Nd4
Of course, not 23. b4? Nb3.
23. … Ba8 24. b4 Nd3 25. Rc7 Rb7 26. Rxb7 Bxb7 27. Bd7 Rb8 28. Bc7 Ra8 29. b5 Nc5 30. Bc6
Removing a key defender and planning to play Nd4-c6.
30. … Bf6 31. Bxb7 Nxb7 32. Ra6
Preparing to play b5-b6. 32. b6? a5 was certainly not to my liking.
32. … Nc5 33. Ra5 Nb7 34. Ra2 Bxd4 35. exd4 f6 36. Ra6 Rc8 37. Bf4 g5 38. Be3 Rb8
A better try was 38. … Rd8 39. Rxf6 Nd6 40. Bxg5 Nxb5, but White has the shot 41. Rb6! axb6 42. Bxd8 Nxd4 43. Bxb6 with a winning endgame.
Nd6 and Black could hang on for a while. Now Black’s kingside pawns fall, and he resigned on move 58.
Julian Landaw: Hakuna matata
Julian Landaw, the representative from Southern California, blundered in round three to Karel Gonzalez of Florida, losing on the spot. He laughed the loss off quickly and came back fighting—only to trade a winning position for a losing one in round four against Haizhou Xu of Vermont. But, through Caissa’s divine intervention, Xu returned the favor and dropped a rook in a nutty endgame time scramble. But then in round six, his closed Sicilian brought him a dismal position. He held on for dear life as his opponent’s dark-square bishop ravaged his kingside. “I kept messing up and getting bad positions, but I kept my cool and managed to turn them around,” says Landaw. This was indeed the truth—in that fateful round six game, Landaw regrouped mentally, regrouped his pieces to the center, and then capitalized swiftly on a blunder from his opponent to win the game. What brought Landaw success in the Denker? Although he admits “luck” was involved, Landaw’s unusually relaxed attitude allowed him to breeze through a Denker-winning ordeal that would have proved an emotional roller coaster for anyone else. His calm attitude—which reminds one of the Swahili phrase “Hakuna matata,” meaning “no worries”—allowed him to rise to the top of the pack when the four days of Denker drama were done. In an audio interview I did with Landaw shortly after the tournament, Landaw explained that he has grown and matured in his emotional handling of chess. “When I was younger, I used to be very emotional,” he admitted. “I don’t feel much pressure … I just walk around, cool myself off, get some water, talk to people—and I feel really light, really relaxed.” He said that he definitely agreed with Bill Hall’s message about not letting a Denker loss bring one down. Here Landaw describes his emotional reaction to one of his tournament’s many surprises.
Bird’s Opening (A03)
Tony Chen (1926)
Julian Landaw (2297)
Denker Tournament of High School Champions (1), 08.02.2008
Notes by Landaw
1. f4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 Bg4 4. Be2 Bxf3 5. Bxf3 c5 6. 0-0 Nc6 7. b3 e5 8. fxe5 Nxe5 9. Qe2 a6 10. Bb2
Qc7 11. d4 Nxf3+ 12. Qxf3 Bd6 13. g3 0-0 14. dxc5 Be5 15. Bxe5 Qxe5 16. Nd2 Qc3 17. Qe2 Rae8 18. Rfe1
Qxc5 19. Qd3 Re7 20. c4 Rfe8 21. Nf1 dxc4 22. Qxc4 Qxc4 23. bxc4 Ng4 24. Rab1 Ne5 25. Rec1 Rc8 26. Nd2
Rd7 27. Nb3 Rxc4 28. Rxc4 Nxc4 29. Nc5 Rd2 30. Rxb7 h6 31. Nxa6 Rxa2 32. Nc5 Nxe3
Even after analyzing with Fritz, I am still not certain as to whether this position is theoretically a win for Black or a draw.
33. Rb1 Rg2+ 34. Kh1 Rc2 35. Ne4 f5 36. Nd6 g5 37. Re1 f4 38. h4!
A powerful move. White trades off two pairs of pawns, leaving me with only one pawn left on the board. If he could then trade his knight for the pawn, a drawn R+N vs R position might be reached.
38. … Kh7 39. hxg5 hxg5 40. gxf4 gxf4 41. Nb5? Rd2?
I unfortunately miss the powerful move 41. … Nf5! After 42. Na3 Ra2 43. Nc4 Ng3+ 44. Kg1 f3, when the threats of … f2 and … Rg2 mate cannot be stopped. It’s good news that I didn’t find this line, because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to see Chen’s brilliant idea later on!
42. Nc3 Kh6 43. Ne2 f3
At this point I felt very confident. My pawn cannot easily be stopped, and I can soon move my king up the board with strong penetration.
After this move I felt probably three different emotions. First I was thinking, “Wow, what is this kid doing?” I thought Chen just had to go 44. Ng3, in which case I would play 44. … Ng4, threatening 45…. Rh2+ 46. Kg1 f2+. Then, after looking over some of the lines in my head I found Chen’s stalemate idea. My reaction was, “Oh no, did he just completely trick me here?” And finally, with about a couple of minutes left in the game, I felt an acceptance and thought, “Well, let’s just see if this will work out somehow.”
44. … f2 45. Rxe3 f1=Q
And here is the brilliance in Chen’s play: he has stalemated his own king and has the plan of simply checking me with his rook until I have to capture it. The game would end in a lousy draw!
Unfortunately, White does not find the correct plan! He needs to prevent my king from entering the queenside, as we will see in a couple of moves. White could draw with 46. Re6+!! Kg5 47. Rg6+!!, after which Black has the surprising 47. … Kf4! 48. Rf6+ Kg3! (Threatening mate! Isn’t this exciting?) 49. Rg6+ Kf2 50. Rf6+ Ke1 51. Rxf1+ Kxf1 52. Nh3 with a theoretical draw! Of course, I would try for a swindle in this type of endgame with Black, but it is still disheartening that I might not have been able to win!
46. … Kg5 47. Rh5+ Kf6 48. Rh6+ Ke5 49. Re6+ Kd4 50. Rd6+ Kc3 51. Rc6+ Kb4 52. Rb6+ Ka5
Now my king finds a safe haven since after 53. Ra6+ or 53. Rb5+ I can snag the rook with my queen.
53. Rb2 Qg2 mate.
Scott Low: The middle ground
Scott Low from Maryland fell somewhere in between the contrasting styles of Yeager and Landaw. His first three games were won with Yeager-like precision; he made few, if any, slight mistakes and patiently outplayed his opponents. Yet his tournament turned into a Landaw-styled roller coaster during round 4, in which he had to rely on a flag-fall to score the full point in a messy position versus Karel Gonzalez. Then, in round 5, he suffered defeat at the hands of Matt Parry. His hopes of winning the tournament rested on beating Kentucky’s Erik Patchell in round 6—and his prospects seemed bleak from his unlucky thirteenth move. Then, there was a strange twist of fate…
Sicilian Defense (B32)
Scott Low (2184)
Erik Patchell (2085)
Denker Tournament of High School Champions (6), 08.05.2008
Notes by Low
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 6. N1c3 a6 7. Na3 b5 8. Nd5 Nge7 9. c4 Nd4 10. Bg5 h6 11. Be3 Nxd5 12. cxd5 Be7 13. Bxd4?
Losing the bishop pair and turning the initiative over to Black.
13. … exd4 14. Qxd4 0-0 15. Be2 f5 16. 0-0 Bf6 17. Qb4 fxe4 18. Nc2 Qb6 19. Rad1 Bd7 20. Ne3 Rae8 21. a4
21. Bh5, with equality, was better.
21. … a5 22. Qb3
22. Nc4 Qa7 23. Nxa5 e3 24. f4 bxa4 holds the balance.
22. … Rb8 23. axb5 Bxb5 24. Bxb5 Qxb5 25. Qa3 Qc5 26. Qxc5 dxc5 27. Ra1 Rxb2 28. Rxa5 Bd4 29. Nd1 Rb1 30. Ra2 Rc1 31. Re2 Rb8 32. Rxe4 Rbb1 33. Ree1 Bc3??
33. … Kf7 and Black is only slightly better, surprisingly.
34. Nxc3, Black resigned.
During a post-Denker interview, I asked Low his favorite part of Bill Hall’s opening speech. “The message to thank your parents for being behind you every step of the way was something really important I took away from it,” Low remarked. After a moment of reflection, he began to wonder aloud if he’d actually remembered to do it. He gave me permission to thank them publicly here in Chess Life.
To Scott’s parents, and to all the parents of the Denker champions—including my own—thanks!
1991 Arnold Denker Tournament Standings
Location: Los Angeles, California
Dates: 08/05 – 08/09, 1991
Tournament Director: Ira Lee Riddle
Alan Stein Takes 7th Denker Tournament
by Ira Lee Riddle, National Tournament Director
From Chess Life, November 1991 with permission.
Alan Stein, of Mountain View, California, took clear first in the 1991 Arnold Denker Tournament of State High School Champions, with a 4 1/2 – 1/2 score. He completed a tournament that was marked by surprises from the first move to the last.
Stein was ranked No. 6 going into the event, with a 2117 rating. He drew in the third round with Brad Skaggs of Kentucky, then reeled off two more wins to claim the title. Right behind him were Corey Russell of Tacoma, Washington and Lewis Eisen of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Josh Manion, of Wisconsin, had been tied at 3 1/2 with Stein after four rounds, but fell to Eisen in the second-to-last game to finish, thus winding up tied for 4th place in the event.
Stein, formerly a master, is no stranger to tough competition. He is a contributor to the California Chess Journal.
He earned a $400 scholarship for his first place finish. Russell will be entering his junior year in high school, and hopes someday to major in computer science in college. His hobbies, aside from chess, include politics, current events, music, and volleyball. Eisen, going into his senior year, is uncertain about his future plans, but would like to major in either pre-med or somewhere in the chemistry/bio-chemistry fields. Eisen also enjoys sports, especially tennis and bowling. Eisen also enjoys sports, especially tennis and bowling. Eisen and Russell will each receive a $250 scholarship.
Top-seeded Matt Morgan of Virginia was one of the many upset victims in this event. He was upended in the second round by Eisen, and then in the third round by Curtis Cooper of New Mexico. Morgan did come back with two victories in the final rounds to have a plus score at 3-2, good enough for 10th place. Second-seeded Nate Graham of Minnesota suffered a similar fate, losing in the second round to Josh Manion of Wisconsin and in the third round to Jason Phillips of Alabama. Thus, after three rounds, the top two seeds each had only one win and no draws. Graham wound up with 2 1/2 points and 15th place.
Finishing in 4th-7th places, in tie-broken order with 3 1/2 points, were Alon Bochman of New York, Manion, Ilya Figelman of Massachusetts, and Adam Caveney of Georgia. Each will receive a $25 scholarship.
A total of 30 players participated in this, the 7th Denker Tournament. (Fourteen of the participants also played in the U.S. Open.) Funding for the players’ expenses ($5500) was provided by the American Chess Foundation and by Arnold Denker. Additional contributions came from the U.S. Chess Trust, the Southern California Chess Federation, Dewain Barber, Paul Shannon, Arthur Dake, and Marjorie Metzger. Seven of the players were winners in a special drawing and given complimentary tickets to the luncheon with world champion Garry Kasparov.
The chief tournament director was Ira Lee Riddle, assisted by Alan Benjamin and Dewain Barber.
1990 Arnold Denker Tournament Standings
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Dates: 08/05 – 08/09, 1990
Tournament Director: Ira Lee Riddle
Kraai Takes 1989 Denker Tournament
by Frank Elley
Reprinted from Chess Life, November 1986 with permission.
Jesse Kraai of Santa Fe, New Mexico emerged as the clear winner of the 1989 Arnold Denker Tournament of State High School Champions. The event was played during the 1989 U.S. Open in Chicago. Kraai, who scored 4 1/2 out of 5, entered the final round with a full point lead over six others, needing only a draw to win the $1000 prize. His game against Lael Kaplan of Washington, D.C. continued for over 60 moves, into the sudden-death time control, before Kraai earned his final half-point.
Kraai will be a senior this year and he plans to attend college after he graduates. He has previously won two other national titles but he credits much of his improved play to attending a summer chess camp and studying with GM Edmar Mednis.
His fourth-round game against Mike Gilner of Georgia put him into a full point lead.
Jim Schuyler of New York, the top-rated player, found himself out of the money when he failed to answer his alarm clock for the third round. (This was a constant problem, as one player forfeited on time in the second round, three in the third round, one in the fourth round, and three in the fifth round, including a dual forfeit.) Perhaps the state associations, many of which provide additional monetary support to their players, should also invest in alarm clocks. Schuyler did provide a jolt of excitement with his final rourid opening against Henry Yu of Indiana. Finishing in a tie for second place were Vladimir Karasik of Colorado, Jeff Phillips of Utah, and Jason Fulman of Massachusetts. Here are two more games from the event:
W: Mike Gilner
B: Jeff Phillips
1989 Denker Tournament of High School Champions
l. e4 c5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 Nf64. Bb5+ Bd7 5. Bxdi+ Qxd7 6. c4 e6 7. Qe2'Bd6 8. dxe6 fxe6 9. d3 0-0 10. Nf3 Nc6 11. 0-0 Rae8 12. Nc3 e5 13.'fxe5 Bxe5 14. Be3 Bxc3 15. bxc3 Ng4 16. Bxc5 Rxe2 17. Ne5 Rxf1+ 18. R&1 Qd8, White resigns
W: Jason Wysocki
B: Kyle Hammond
1989 Denker Tournament of High School Champions
l.,d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. e4 Nxe5 5. f4 Ng6 6. Be3 Bb4+ 7. Nd2 d6 8. a3 Bxd2+ 9. Qxd2 0-0 10. 0-0-0 Nc6 11. Nf3 Qe7 12. Bd3 f5 13. exf5 Bxf5 14. Bxf5 Rxf5 15. g4 Rf7 16. Ng5 Rff8 17. h4 Na5 18. Rdel Nb3+ 19. Kc2 Nxd2 20. Bxd2 Qd7 21. Ne6 Rfe8 22. f5 Ne5 23. Regl Rxe6 24. fxe6 Qxe6 25. b3 Nf3 26. Rg2 Nxd2 27. Kxd2 Re8 28. Rhgl Qe3+ 29. Kc2 Qf3 30. Rg3 Re2+ 31. Kdl Qf2 32. R3g2 Qxg2 33; Rxg2 Rxg2 34. g5 Kf7 35 b4 g6 36. a4 Ke6 37. a5 a6 38. Kcl Ke5 39. b5 Kd4 40. b6 cxb6 41. axb6 Kxc4 42. h5 gxh5 43. g6 hxg6, White resigns
National Tournament Director Ira Lee Rid- l die directed the event, with assistance from Audrey Lynn Colletti.
1989 Arnold Denker Tournament Standings
Location: Rosemont, Illinois
Dates: 08/06 – 08/10, 1989
Tournament Director: Ira Lee Riddle
Three Juniors Split Denker Championship
by Ira Lee Riddle
From Chess Life, January 1989 with permission.
The 1988 Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions ended up in a three-way tie with Vivek Rao (Pennsylvania), Robby Adamson (Arizona) and Ilya Gurevich (Massachusetts) all scoring four points out of five at the Swiss system tournament, run in conjunction with the 1988 U.S. Open in Boston. A record 38 players took part in the event’s fourth incarnation.Rao and Gurevich were paired in the final round; Adamson was paired against Jesse Kraai of New Mexico, who was tied with Rao and Gurevich after four rounds. After Adamson won and Rao and Gurevich agreed to a draw, they waited for the results on the next two boards to see if there would be three, four or five co-champs. The other games ended in draws, and only tri-champs were crowned.
Rao drew in round one, when he found himself in time trouble against Andy Berger (Missouri). Running from one end of the floor to the other to also play in an Action Chess side event can create problems. When asked if he were playing in another side event the next day, Rao commented, “I may be stupid, but I’m not dumb.” He easily won his next three games to tie for first after four rounds.
Adamson lost in the second round to David Wright (Indiana), then roared back with two wins to put himself just behind the co-leaders.
Gurevich was forced to begin with a half-point bye, as he was flying home from Romania, where he had just taken second place in the World Under-16 tournament. He won his next three games to put himself into a three-way tie after four rounds, and drew against Rao in the final game.
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 Qc7 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. O-O-O e6 13. Qe2 Bd6 14. Nf5 O-O-O 15. Nxd6+ Qxd6 16. Ne5 Rhf8 17. Bf4 Nd5 18. Bg3 Qb4 19. Rd3 N7b6 20. Rhd1 f5 21. c4 f4 22. Rb3 Qa5 23. Bh4 Qxa2 24. Ra3 Nc3 25. Qc2 Qxa3 26. bxa3 Nxd1 27. Bxd8 Black Resigns
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O h6 9. Bf4 Bd7 10. Nxc6 Bxc6 11. Qe1 Be7 12. Kb1 Qa5 13. f3 Rd8 14. Bc4 b5 15. Bb3 Qc7 16. a3 a5 17. e5 dxe5 18. Qxe5 Qxe5 19. Bxe5 O-O 20. a4 b4 21. Ne2 Nd5 22. Bxd5 Bxd5 23. b3 Rc8 24. Rd3 Rfd8 25. Rhd1 f6 26. Bd4 Bc5 27. Nf4 Kf7 28. Bb2 Re8 29. Nxd5 exd5 30. Rxd5 Re2 31. R5d2 Rce8 32. c3 Rxd2 33. Rxd2 Re1+ 34. Ka2 Ke6 35. h3 h5 36. Rc2 h4 37. cxb4 Bxb4 38. Ba3 Bxa3 39. Kxa3 Rg1 40. Rc5 Rxg2 41. Rxa5 Rg3 42. Rb5 Rxh3 43. a5 Rh1 44. Kb4 Ra1 45. f4 draw
Rao, the highest-rated player in Pennsylvania, has been accepted at Harvard University. Adamson is a senior in high school in Tuscon, Arizona, and plans to attend law school. He twice won titles in the National Junior High School Tournaments. Gurevich, an FM at 16, is a junior in high school. He also plans on a college education, but his plans are undecided at the moment. The surprise of the tournament was 8-year-old David Peterson of Austin, Texas, who won the Texas Junior Championship ahead of 25 high school students and many junior high/elementary students. David tied for first at 4-1 and then won a double round-robin playoff. He is the highest rated junior in Texas, and could conceivably be in the tournament for a total of 11 years!Two Knights Defense – Wilkes-Barre Variation W: Darryl Terrell B: David Peterson 1988 Denker Tournament of High School Champions
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 Bc5 5. Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6. Kf1 Qe7 7. Nxh8 d5 8. exd5 Bg4 9. Be2 Bxe2+ 10. Qxe2 Nd4 11. Qd3 Ne4 12. Qxe4 Qf6 13. g3 Bxg3+ 14. Kg2 Qf2+ 15. Kh3 Nf3 16. Qa4+ c6 17. hxg3 Ng5+ 18. Kh4 Nf3+ 19. Kg4 Nd4 20. Rh5 g6 21. Rxe5+ Kf8 22. Qa3+ Kg7 23. Nxg6 hxg6 24. Qe7+ Kg8 25. Qh4 Nf3 26. Qe7 Nxe5+ 27. Qxe5 Qf1 28. Nc3Black resigns.
The tournament was directed by NTD Ira Lee Riddle of Warminster, Pennsylvania, who was assisted by Larry Schmidt. Funding was provided by the USCF.
1988 Arnold Denker Tournament Standings
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Dates: 08/08 – 08/12, 1988
Tournament Director: Ira Lee Riddle
1987 Arnold Denker Tournament Standings
Location: Portland, Oregon
Dates: 08/03 – 08/08, 1987
Tournament Director: Ira Lee Riddle
Edelman Tops Field of High School Champions
by Frank Elley
Reprinted from Chess Life, November 1986 with permission.
Danny Edelman of New Rochelle, New York, continues to enlarge his collection of national championship trophies. The reigning national high school co-champion won the Arnold Denker National Tournament of High School Champions, held from August 3 to 8 at the U.S. Open in Somerset, New Jersey.
Edelman scored 5 – 1 in this Swiss system event, drawing only with the two second-place finishers, senior masters Vivek Rao and Ilya Gurevich, who tallied 4 1/2 – 1 1/2. His final round battle with world under-14 champion FM Gurevich was dramatic indeed. Gurevich, in a better position, picked up a Rook and mistakenly placed it on a square where it was en prise. When he extended his hand to resign, Edelman grabbed it. But before Gurevich could speak, the champ accepted his “offer” of a draw.
In addition to his championship trophy (all the hardware was provided by Fidelity Electronics), Edelman received a $1,000 college scholarship. Edelman is a former national eighth grade champion (1983), national junior high champion (1984), and national high school champion (1985).
Six players tied for forth through ninth places at 4 – 2. They were, in tiebreak order, Tim Radermacher, Benjamin Finegold, Joseph Waxman, Erik Ronneberg, Chuck Lovingood, and Andrew Witte. The final trophy for 10th place went to Andy Serotta, who had the best tiebreaks among five players scoring 3 1/2 – 2 1/2.
This was the second year for the Denker Tournament, which brings together high school champions from across the country. Each participant received $200 to help cover travel and living expenses. This year’s event drew 32 players from 30 states. (Northern and Southern California are separate state chapters, and Pennsylvanian Vivek Rao was seeded as national high school champion, since he posted the superior tiebreaks from that event.)
The tournament, which was co-sponsored by the USCF and by the New Jersey State Chess Federation, was directed by Michael Somers, who was assisted by veteran NM Edgar McCormick.
1986 Arnold Denker Tournament Standings
Location: Somerset, New Jersey
Dates: 08/03 – 08/08, 1986
Tournament Director: Michael Somers Jr
Fishbein Tops Field of High School Champions
by David Gertler
Reprinted from Chess Life, November 1985 with permission.
Alex Fishbein of Wyoming** scored 5 1/2 – 1/2 to take top honors at the first Tournament of High School Champions. Thirty-two players from 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the Dominican Republic played in this U.S. Open satellite event, which was held from August 5 to 11.
Fishbein earned a $1,000 scholarship by his fine showing. After a first round draw, he closed out strongly, beating masters Ronald Burnett of Tennessee, Danny Edelman of New York, and Adam Lief of California in the final three rounds.
Carl Magnuson of New York finished second with five points, outdistancing many far better-known players. Michigan’s Ben Finegold captured third place in tiebreaks, ahead of Edelman, Burnett, Lief, Vivek Rao of Pennsylvania, Brian Gannon of Minnesota, Scott Moore of Missouri, and John Kirby of North Carolina. All scored four points.
GM Yasser Seirawan highlighted the event by giving a simultaneous exhibition against the participants. Edelman was the only player to make Yasser turn down his King.
The tournament came about largely as a result of GM Arnold Denker’s energetic lobbying and organization. In recognition of these efforts, the USCF Delegates determined that it henceforth be known as the Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions.
George Cunningham, Steve Miller, and Ira Lee Riddle directed the event. Its success indicates that this showplace for future stars will be around for a long time to come.
Here is how Fishbein locked up the big prize:
W: NM Alex Fishbein
B: NM Adam Lief
1985 Tournament of High School Champions
Nge7 9. Qe2 f5 10. h4 O-O-O 11. b4 Bb6 12. O-O h6 13. a4 g5 14. hxg5 Ng6 15. Bh2 a5 16. Na3 Be8 17. b5 Nb8 18. c4 d4 19. c5 Bxc5 20. Rfc1 b6 21. Nc4 Kb7 22. gxh6 Rxh6 23. Ng5 Qe7 24. Nh3 Nh4 25. Nd6+ Ka7 26. Rxc5 Qg7 27. Bg3 bxc5 28. Qd2 Kb6 29. Nc4+ Kb7 30. Qxa5 Nf3+ 31. gxf3 Rxh3 32. Kg2 Rxg3+ 33. fxg3 Qf8 34. Nd6+ Rxd6 35. exd6 Qxd6 36. b6 Nc6 37. Qa6+ Kb8 38. b7 Kc7 39. Rb1 Nb8 40. Qxd6+ Kxd6 41. a5 Black resigns
**Alex Fishbein said that he represented Colorado in the tournament although he spend the summer before the event in Wyoming.
1985 Arnold Denker Tournament Standings
Location: Hollywood, Florida
Dates: 08/05 – 08/11, 1985
Tournament Director: Ira Lee Riddle
* DR - Dominican Republic