Claudia Munoz on Queen Power at the Texas High School Champs

 WCM Priya Nikita, WFM Devina Devagharan and WCM Claudia Munoz
I have never dabbled in the boy vs. girl chess debate and simply play chess with the person across the board. However something meaningful happened to me this past weekend as I played in my last Texas High School Scholastic Chess Championship in Brownsville.  A total of 1,700 players participated in this event with 140 players in the High School Championship section. After registering I realized that I was not going to be the only higher rated girl as WFM Devina Devagharan and WCM Priya Nikita Trakru would be joining. By the end of this 7-round tournament we girls had stacked 17 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses against the guys, including National Masters higher rated than us finishing in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions. Here is my account. QUALIFIER RIGHTS The high school championship section of the Texas Scholastic Chess Championship is the state qualifier for the Denker Tournament of High School Champions and the National Girls Tournament of Champions. The middle school championship section is the qualifier to Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions. In that section WFM Emily Nguyen dominated her category with a 7-0 sweep! Emily has extensive international chess experience as she won the gold medal and her Woman FIDE Title in the 2013 Pan American Youth Championship in Peru. I look forward to seeing how far Emily goes. DSC_0005 (1024x683) ROUNDS 1-4 I started the 140-player event in  5th position behind FM Tommy He (2299), NM Bovey Lui (2250), NM Sam Capocyan (2240), and NM Curran Han (2221). All strong players! But on my heels were WFM Devina Devagharan and several experts as well as WCM Priya Nikita Trakru. My coach and I prepared against the top players extensively but to play those players one has to have a good first day. After winning my first three rounds uneventfully, I lost in the 4th round to Miguel Garcia (1849). Losing, just as winning, is a part of this game but when you simply give away a knight for an unexplained reason it is extremely difficult for a player. I was heartbroken as I realized that a shot to the Denker probably slipped my hands, even though there were still three more rounds, one cannot make mistakes against such a talented field. That night I realized I was not even in the lead to qualify to the National Girls Tournament of Champions. ROUNDS 5 & 6 The next morning I arrived at the tournament hall ready to face my 5th round opponent. I had to have a perfect day just to qualify to the National Girls Tournament of Champions. I must say that I had trouble in that game against Luke Lopez (1871), but calmness under pressure paid dividends. WFM Devina Devagharan got a draw in that round as WCM Priya Nikita Trakru won, now I had the tiebreaker in my favour, with two rounds left. National Master Curran Han (2221) was waiting for me in the 6th round. Although the rating difference was 138 points, as I am rated 2083, I was sure of myself as my coach and I had analyzed Curran’s games from the U.S. Junior Closed Championship. By my 17th move I felt things might look up for me as I was up on the exchange (game enclosed). With each passing move I got more confident. When NM Curran Han resigned I realized hard work prior to the event paid off. WFM Devina Devagharan and WCM Priya Trakru had also won!

[Event "2016 Texas HS Scholastic Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.03.06"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Han, Curran"]
[Black "Munoz, Claudia"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E57"]
[WhiteElo "2221"]
[BlackElo "2083"]
[PlyCount "102"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. e3 O-O 6. Bd3 c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. exd4
Nc6 9. Bg5 Be7 10. a3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 a6 12. Ba2 b5 13. Qd3 Bb7 14. Bb1 g6 15. h4
Na5 16. Ne2 Bd5 17. Nf4 Bc4 18. Qd1 Bxf1 19. Kxf1 Nd5 20. Nxd5 Bxg5 21. hxg5
Qxd5 22. Ba2 Qd6 23. Qe2 Rad8 24. g3 Nc6 25. Rd1 Rfe8 26. Qe4 e5 27. d5 Nd4 28.
Nxd4 exd4 29. Qxd4 Qe7 30. Qd2 Qe4 31. Kg1 Qf3 32. Re1 Re4 33. Rf1 Qe2 34. Qa5
Ree8 35. Qb4 Qe7 36. Qb3 Rd6 37. Qb4 Rdd8 38. Qa5 Qd6 39. a4 Rb8 40. axb5 axb5
41. Qd2 Re4 42. Bb1 Re5 43. Ba2 Rbe8 44. Qd3 Rb8 45. Bb3 Rb6 46. Qd2 Qe7 47.
Qd4 Rd6 48. Qc5 Rxg5 49. Qxb5 h5 50. Qb4 Rg4 51. Qd2 h4 0-1[/pgn]

[Event "2016 Texas HS Scholastic Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.03.06"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Devagharan, Devina"]
[Black "Odom, Barett"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E72"]
[PlyCount "91"]
[EventDate "2016.03.09"]
[SourceDate "2016.03.09"]

1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. g3 O-O 6. Bg2 d6 7. e4 Nbd7 8. f4 Nb6
9. Qd3 e6 10. Nge2 exd5 11. cxd5 Re8 12. O-O Bd7 13. a4 Nh5 14. a5 Nc8 15. Bf3
Bh3 16. Re1 f5 17. Bxh5 gxh5 18. Bd2 Ne7 19. Qc4 fxe4 20. Nxe4 Nf5 21. Ng5 Bg4
22. Ne6 Qd7 23. Bc3 Ne3 24. Qd3 Bxe6 25. dxe6 Rxe6 26. Bxg7 Qxg7 27. f5 Re5 28.
Nf4 Nxf5 29. Nxh5 Rxe1+ 30. Rxe1 Qd4+ 31. Qxd4 Nxd4 32. Re7 Rf8 33. Rg7+ Kh8
34. Rxb7 Nc6 35. a6 d5 36. Rc7 Nb4 37. Rxa7 h6 38. Nf4 d4 39. Ng6+ Kg8 40. Nxf8
Kxf8 41. Kf1 c4 42. Rd7 c3 43. bxc3 dxc3 44. a7 Ke8 45. Rh7 c2 46. a8=Q# 1-0[/pgn]

[Event "2016 Texas HS Scholastic Championship"]
[Site "Brownsville"]
[Date "2016.03.09"]
[White "Beltran, Dominic"]
[Black "Trakru, Priya"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B40"]
[PlyCount "72"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 a6 4. d3 Nc6 5. Be3 d6 6. g3 Nf6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. a3 Rb8
9. Rb1 Qc7 10. Na2 O-O 11. O-O Rd8 12. c4 b5 13. b3 d5 14. cxd5 exd5 15. Bf4
Bd6 16. e5 Nxe5 17. Nxe5 Bxe5 18. Bxe5 Qxe5 19. Re1 Qd4 20. Qf3 Be6 21. Qe3
Qxe3 22. fxe3 d4 23. e4 Ng4 24. Bh3 Ne5 25. Bxe6 Nf3+ 26. Kf2 Nxe1 27. Bxf7+
Kxf7 28. Kxe1 Ke6 29. Kd2 Rf8 30. Ke2 Rf6 31. Rg1 Rbf8 32. Rg2 Rf1 33. b4 Ra1
34. Nc3 dxc3 35. Ke3 Ke5 36. Re2 Raf1 0-1[/pgn]
THE FINAL ROUND  As the final round pairings were posted, I was in 3rd place, WFM Devina Devagharan in 7th and WCM Priya Trakru in 9th. Devina (2080) was going to face NM Sam Capocyan (2240), a tough match! As I began to do the math I realized that if I won my last game and Devina defeated Sam and if FM Tommy He defeated or drew NM Bovey Lui, I would win the 2016 Texas High School Scholastic Championship! A lot of ‘ifs’ but it never hurts to do the math! So, WCM Priya Trakru won her last round game, then I won mine. Afterwards WFM Devina defeated NM Sam Capocyan – it was all down to the game between FM Tommy He and NM Bovey Lui. Obviously I had to root for Tommy He, however when I re-entered the tournament hall I witnessed as Tommy resigned. As the final results were posted we noticed that we three girls had taken over the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place slots behind the Texas High School Scholastic Chess Champions NM Bovey Lui! (Top 15 Enclosed). I felt happy for Bovey because he played an outstanding tournament with 6.5 of 7, thus qualifying to the Denker Tournament of High School Champions. Being the highest placed girl, I qualified to the National Girls Tournament of Champions both to be held this summer during the U.S. Open. WCM Claudia Munoz 2nd place 2016 Texas HS Scholastic ChampionshipLEARNING FROM COURTNEY JAMISON When I was 10, teenager Courtney Jamison was one the strongest female chess players in Texas. She was also well known in U.S. Chess. She was the person who I looked up to when she played in international events. After she went to college, I decided to push myself to emulate her achievements. I played in 4-Texas Scholastic Chess Championship always coming in as the highest placed girl. When I reached the Texas High School Championship section, I had my sights on winning this event outright. Although I did not reach this goal, as 2nd place was the highest I achieved, after the award ceremony I got both WFM Devina Devagharan and WCM Priya Trakru together (picture). I challenged them both to win the event next year. I shared with them what Courtney had meant to me and I hope I meant the same to them. WFM Emily Nguyen had already won the Middle School Championship section, so now I was leaving the baton to them. They looked me in the eyes and stated that this was their mission as well. I have never believed in ‘girl’s chess’ but I do believe in ‘girls in chess’, if we as girls are going to elevate this sport for other girls that follow, we must remember those that came before us because they all had the same common denominator – success! WCM Claudia Munoz has been accepted to Texas Tech University and will be joining the Red Raider Chess Team this fall. You can follow her in the following social media (Facebook) @chesscampeona (Twitter)