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.
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.
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!
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.
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 platforms:www.claudiamunoz.comwww.facebook.com/chesscampeona (Facebook) @chesscampeona (Twitter)