K-12 Nationals: Two Perfect Scores Remain With Two Rounds To Go

With the notoriously grueling "triple round" day in the books, the 2024 High School (K-12) Nationals turns the corner into the home stretch in Baltimore, Maryland. But, as all of the participants were aware, this wasn't the only "big event" going on this weekend:





In the Championship section, this author’s prediction that the leaders would separate themselves from the pack by the fifth round proved partially accurate. Only two players remain with perfect 5/5 scores, although eight are still on their heels with 4½/5, and 30 more are still very much in the running with 4/5.


It will be an all-Midwest battle on the top board this morning! (Photo Caroline King)


The highlight of this morning’s penultimate round, then, will be the board one clash between FM Yesuntumur Tugstumur and top-seeded IM Jason Wang. The two Midwestern seniors — from Illinois and Ohio, respectively — each had to defeat a trio of masters to get to this point, and both were tested in their fifth-round games. Interestingly enough, both games featured the same sideline of the highly technical Grünfeld Defense, and, in each game, one or two subtle inaccuracies from Black were enough to give White a lasting advantage.

Tugstumur had a promising position against Derek Clasby, but the endgame was not without suspense:



Wang had to face IM Max Lu, but managed to outmaneuver his Grünfeld and hang on from there:



Of the eight players a half-point behind the leaders, five boast US Chess ratings above 2400. If the leaders draw their sixth-round game, any of these players can easily top the leaderboard headed into round seven. And if there is a winner on board one, then the highest-rated of these players could definitely upset, or at least draw, that winner.


Brewington Hardaway and Terry Luo drew their fifth-round game, and join Gus Huston and Sharvesh Deviprasath in a tie for third. Max Lu is right behind them with 4/5. (Photos Caroline King)


The highest-rated of the bunch is IM-Elect Brewington Hardaway (2525, New York), who drew FM Terry Luo (2417, Delaware) in their relatively uneventful and even fifth-round game. Hardaway had a long day, too, with his third-round game going the distance and not being decided until late in the endgame:



The other three “big dogs” in this group each took very different paths from Hardaway to reach the same 4½/5 score. Pennsylvania’s IM Evan Park was held for a draw on Friday against Ethan Liu, an eighth grader from North Carolina rated “only” 2125! This wasn’t a fluke, though, as both Park and Liu won their next three games! Liu’s fifth-round victory over an older and higher-rated North Carolinian was especially thrilling:



Then, FM Sharvesh Deviprasath was fortunate to escape with a draw in his third-round game, while IM Gus Huston was even more fortunate for Toshinori Underwood to agree to a draw in a winning (but not obviously winning) position in round four!




Arizona’s Jayden Lee (2249, grade 10) joins Hardaway, Deviprasath, Huston, Park, Luo, Underwood, and Liu in the group of players tied for third.

Of the players with four points, IM Nico Chasin leads the pack after being upset by Californian senior FM Austin Mei in their fourth-round clash. Mei then lost his fifth-round game to Deviprasath, but is still also in the same group as Chasin with 4/5.



The other biggest upset from round four came when FM Eric Chang Liu lost to New York’s Nathan Shuman. If that name sounds familiar, Shuman is indeed a part of the Dalton School team (with Huston, Ryan Peterson, and WIM Iris Mou) that currently leads the team standings by a point-and-a-half and has won the K-12 Grade Championship for ten straight years!  




Saturday also saw 43 players compete in the rated section of the Friends and Family tournament (results from the unrated section are still forthcoming), Ramon Manon-Og Jr. and Marcos Antonio Casares, Sr. each finishing with perfect 4/4 scores. Can we arrange a playoff between them today, maybe?

In the Girls Club room, Rochelle Ballentyne and WGM Sabina Foisor led a day’s worth of activities with lectures, analysis, and a tandem-simul.



There is even more on the Girls Club docket today! In the morning, new Executive Director of US Chess, Ranae Bartlett, hosts a Town Hall meeting for parents and girls alongside Sabina and Rochelle. Then, there’s a pizza party (for girls ages 12 and up) at noon hosted by Karen and Laurel Aronian, and a mini-lecture with game analysis with Sabina and Rochelle at 3:00 p.m. EDT. The full schedule can be seen on the post embedded below:



Be sure to watch IM Igor Khmelnitsky and Gopal Menon’s stream as they return to US Chess’s Twitch for commentary on both of today’s rounds.  


Khmelnitsky Menon
Image Caption
Catch can't-miss commentary with two seriously fantastic coaches all day on our Twitch (Photo Caroline King)


Finally, we have one update on yesterday’s mystery bughouse duo, due to some on-the-ground reporting from none other than IM Max Lu. Lu writes, “Gus and I aren’t too sure who Olson and Jiang are, but we do know that Jiang has played 17,000 games of bughouse online! They are bughouse experts and know all the theory and strategies. Olson almost exclusively studies bughouse theory.”

Lu adds that “Jiang” is most likely Lucas Jiang from California (with a US Chess rating of 2318), and “Olson” is Kamila Olson, a Pennsylvania sophomore with a classical US Chess rating of 1163. Talk about a bughouse specialist!


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