Wu, Shen, and Balakrishnan Win $5,000 Scholarships in Norfolk

Rochelle Wu of Alabama

Three young champs took a bite out of future college tuitions by scoring $5,000 scholarships at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel as the U.S. Open Junior Championships finished their sixth and final rounds on Tuesday.

Diminutive Rochelle Wu (Alabama) was standing tall at the end of the National Girls Tournament of Champions, finishing as the only clear first in the three prestigious junior tournaments of state champions. The 11-year-old thus captured a $5,000 college scholarship donated by Richard and Barbara Schiffrin.

Each of the three championships offers a $5,000 college scholarship as first place, with tiebreaks deciding if necessary. But there are also six cash stipend prizes in each event provided by the U.S. Chess Trust, along with Upset and Best Game prizes. Each U.S. state (Northern and Southern California count as separate states) may designate one player to represent it in each of the three events.

Rochelle Wu with Women’s committee chair Maureen Grimaud and US Chess board member Anjelina Belakovskaia

Wu finished 5.5/6, allowing a draw only with Saithanu Avirneni (Georgia) in round five. Top-seeded Annie Wang (Southern California), the only NM in the event, was upset in round two by Meghana Bhanuprasad (Maryland). But Annie fought back to finish in clear second with 5.0. Marissa Li (Illinois), Sanjana Vittal (New Jersey) and Anupama Rajendra (Wisconsin) tied for 3rd-5th with 4.5. All six girls at the top went home with stipends from the U. S. Chess Trust. Ratings in the NGTOC ranged from Wang’s 2296 to 542. Girls from grades K-12 are eligible to represent their states.

Here is a marathon win from Wu over World Schools Champ Naomi Bashkansky:


Praveen Balakrishnan with Al Lawrence, Photo Jim Doyle

Four senior masters finished in a tie for 1st-4th with 5.0 in the Denker Tournament of High School Champions. Praveen Balakrishnan (Virginia) went undefeated and topped the pack on tiebreaks, and so qualified for the $5,000 college scholarship provided by the U.S. Chess Trust. Defeating one of the co-champs in round five surely boosted his tiebreaks:

Edward Song (Michigan), Bryce Tiglon (Washington), and George Li (Illinois) shared the top stipend prizes with Balakrishnan. Tiglon defeated Song earlier in the event.

Bryce Tiglon

George Li of Illinois (here pictured with Harold Winston of the US Chess Trust and board member Mike Nietman) is also one of five winners of the 2017 Scholar Chess Player Award 

Meanwhile Song defeated his friend and #1 seed Craig Hilby in the final round to be co-champ.

Edward Song at the Denker, Photo Jim Doyle

Sungho Yim (Illinois) and Ryan Sowa (Rhode Island) also won stipends for finishing 5th-6th. US Chess ratings in the Denker spread from 2504 to 1138.

Justin Wang with Jay Stallings

Christopher Shen (Ohio) and Justin Wang (Texas) both notched up undefeated 5-1 results in the Barber Tournament of High School Champions. Their head to head battle was drawn.

With better tiebreaks by a nudge, Shen went home with the $5,000 college scholarship donated by Dewain Barber himself through the U.S. Chess Trust. Wang shared the top stipend prizes. Owen McCoy (Oregon), Aydin Turgut (Illinois), Justin Chen (New York), Jason Yu (Washington), and Pieter Heesters (Maryland) all scored 4.5 to share 3rd-6th place stipends. Ratings in the Barber ranged from 2330 to 813.

NTD Jon Haskel flawlessly directed all three events with help from NTD Brian Yang. Frank Johnson made sure the top boards were broadcast live. All three events are sanctioned by US Chess.

Christopher Shen, Photo Jim Doyle

About 35 of the juniors chose to play even more chess by joining the U.S. Open Chess Championship, being held at the same location, in its six-day schedule. After all, they’re here—and just getting started. Top seeds in the Denker Craig Hilby as well as champions Praveen Palakrishnan and Bryce Tiglon  all have perfect 3-0 scores in the six day. They are joined by last year’s NGTOC Champ Jennifer Yu.

At the time of writing, five Grandmasters are tied for first in the traditional schedule of US Open: Yaroslav Zherebukh, Evgeny Postny, Alexander Lenderman, Sergey Erenburg and Angel Lopez Arribas. Follow results and standings here, games here, and look for Al Lawrence’s next update on Friday. 

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