Invitational Winners Finish in the Black

IM Praveen Balakrishnan and Andy Huang, both of Virginia, Photo Henk Prinsloo

All three of the junior Champion of Champions had to win as Black in the last of six rounds on Tuesday afternoon at the US Open Chess Championship in Middleton, Wisconsin, to clinch their titles, an $800 check, and a $5,000 scholarship to a college of their choice.

Denker champ repeats

IM Praveen Balakrishnan (Virginia) repeated as winner of the Denker Tournament of High School Champions, banking his second $5,000 scholarship sponsored by the US Chess Trust. His favorite game featured a smartly conducted kingside attack against 2018 US Girls’ Champ FM Carissa Yip (Massachusetts), who finished 2nd-3rd.

Perseverance pays off in Barber

NM Andy Huang (Virginia) justifiably pressed on—and on and on—in the last game going in any of the sections, a 127-move queen-and-pawn ending with a number of interesting twists, to win the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions and another scholarship sponsored by the US Chess Trust, through the generosity of Dewain Barber (S. California). Barber is the originator and impresario of both the Denker and Barber events, which paved the way and set the pattern for the two newer invitationals.

Untitled NGTOC champ, but not for long

Untitled Veronika Zilajeva, an Expert from Oklahoma, had to run the gauntlet of four of her titled competitors to win 2018 National Girls Tournament of Champions and the $5,000-dollar scholarship funded by Richard and Barbara Schiffrin of Pennsylvania. Zilajeva drew WFM Sasha Konovalenko (Michigan) in Round 3, beat WIM Naomi Bashkansky (Washington) in Round 4, beat WCM Marissa Li (Illinois) in Round 5, and overcame top-seeded and hard-pressing WIM Thanh Tien Nguyen (Arizona), who was all-in for a win, in the sixth and final game.

Ursula Foster Awards

The Ursula Foster Awards are sponsored annually by Clifford and Rick Lester in memory of their mother, a Holocaust survivor and classmate of Anne Frank, who mentions Foster by name in the famous book The Diary of a Young Girl. Foster was comforted by chess while hiding from the Nazis as a child in Holland in World War II. She ultimately came to live in Modesto, California, where she devoted herself to helping those in need and promoting literacy. This year the Ursula Foster Awards of $500 each were presented by Clifford Lester to Carissa Yip, the top under-16 finisher in the Denker, and to Shravani Patil (New Hampshire), the top under-13 finisher in the NGTOC.

Every player in the junior invitationals that lead off each year’s US Open Championship venue is the chosen representative champion of his or her home state. The US Chess Trust sponsors many cash stipends for the competitors.

Denker to Senior Champ in “just” 33 years

While all this was going on, GM Alex Fishbein (New Jersey), winner of the first Denker Tournament of Champions in 1985, tied for first in the inaugural Tournament of Senior Champions by defeating GM Alonso Zapata in a must-win game in the final round. Zapata went into the game with a perfect 5-0, while Alex had drawn NM Eric Cooke (Florida) in Round 3 and GM Michael Rohde (New York) in Round 4. Rohde, who drew three games and won the rest, finished tied for 3rd -5th along with FM Karl Demelt (Pennsylvania) and GM Enrico Sevillano (S. California). Rohde will also be contributing a piece to CLO on his experience at the Senior. Fishbein’s son Mitch finished a very respectable 17th in the Denker.

Jon Haskel (Florida) serves as the hardworking and humble Chief TD of the invitationals. The equally efficient Kelly Bloomfield (Ohio) monitored the broadcast of the games. The championships are held under the auspices of and with space provided by US Chess.

NGTOC final standings 

Denker Final Standings 

Barber Final Standings 

Senior Tournament of Champions

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  1. In the Costello – Huang game white could have held a draw with 52.Ke3 Ke5 53.a3 f6 54.a4 and black has no way to make progress. Tough to see under time pressure, of course.

  2. A huge thank you to all of the participants and volunteers who have been a part of the Denker Legacy over these 34 years. It has been my pleasure to serve as a volunteer in support of the creation of all four events.

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