Leaders Separate From Crowd on Day Two of NHS

Editor's note: This article has been updated on April 2 to include a statement on the live broadcast from April 1.

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Jason Wang (L) leads the Championship section after five rounds (photo Caroline King)


As math would dictate, after five rounds at the 2023 National High School (K-12) Championships, only the large Under 800 section (407 registrants) has more than a few perfect scores remaining.


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FM Gus Huston (photo Caroline King)


In the Championship section, round six will feature a duel between two FIDE masters, Jason Wang (Ohio) and Gus Huston (New York). Wang has remained perfect since Friday’s first-round scare, and Huston joins him atop the standings after a fantastic attacking upset over overall top seed IM Arthur Guo in round five. Here is Huston dismantling the reigning Denker champ:



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IM Arthur Guo (photo Caroline King)


What’s remarkable about Guo’s loss is how similar it looked to his win in the previous round on the other side of a sharp Sicilian.



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Photo Caroline King


Speaking of nervy Sicilians, Wang found himself in hot water after his opponent threw a speculative, but characteristically complex, “Bxb5” sacrifice against his Taimanov.



Since a perfect score rarely wins the higher sections — especially the Championship section — we cannot ignore the top players who are lurking beneath perfection.

Here are the players who have an unblemished handful of points:

Championship: FM Jason Wang, FM Gus Huston (plus seven players, all rated over 2300, with 4½/5)

Under 1900: Chance Nguyen (all by herself!)

Under 1600: Manuel Alvare, Geah Jean-Baptiste, Simon Kravitz

Under 1200: Zachary Nowell, Lucas Fugate, Andrew Minuti, Noah Hellerslia

Under 800 (8 players – click here)

Unrated: Mohit Maringanti, Vivian Millar-Kellner, Elias Orrell, Aamir Quadri

Standings page


Here is Nguyen's fifth round win to claim sole first in the under 1900 section. His understanding of dynamics in playing with the isolated queen's pawns is impressive and instructive.



Current leaders after five rounds in the team standings are: Dalton (Championship), Thomas Jefferson (U1900), Julia R. Masterman and Success Academy HS (U1600), Abington HS (U1200), Renaissance HS (U800), and Niles North (Unrated).


Friends & Family Rated Tournament

A robust 35 players competed in this fun side event, with two players landing on top with scores that Magnus Carlsen would be proud of: perfect! Winning all four games were Vladimir Bugayev (NY, 2183) and Georgi Sukhiashvili (NJ, 1905). If I only had a list of first names of the entrants, I still might have picked these two to tie for first!


Girls Room Inspiration and Fun

US Chess Women’s Program Director WGM Jennifer Shahade and special guest IM Rusudan Goletiani inspired the audience in the Girls Club room with key games on their respective paths to winning the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. A large (and hungry) crowd of girls descended on the team room before the final round to devour 25 pizzas thanks to the generosity of Laurel and Karen (daughter and mother) Aronian!


Scholastic Meeting

For years, as a member of the Scholastic Council, I sat at the front of the room at the Scholastic Meetings facing the audience. This was not my first time in the crowd, but due to the pandemic, it was my first time in a while. Some questions were raised in the meeting, so I thought it would be good to dedicate a little space to give readers (coaches, parents, and players) some more information. As a result, our two teasers from yesterday’s post (Sunil’s unretired K-1 kids a dozen years later, and the mystery of who the unknown bughouse partner is) will be dealt with in tomorrow’s final segment.

At every National Scholastic event, US Chess hosts an open meeting. This brings coaches and parents together, along with the hard-working volunteers and staff to share ideas and information about how our chess events are changing and why. This is a way to give those who do not deal personally with issues such as hotel selection, time control modifications, entry fee increases, section rating limit changes, and many others a closer look at some of the reasoning behind the changes that enable us to continue to thrive as an organization and community.



Twenty years ago, our numbers at national events were much smaller. Wonderful hotels would court us to see if they could accommodate our 600, 700, or maybe 1,000 players. Those hotels often settled for rotary club meetings, and hoped for weddings, but landing “USCF” (as it was called back then) would be big for them. Now, with only the largest hotels able to accommodate our numbers, US Chess competes with IBM, the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner (yes, they use the DC Hilton!), and other cash-heavy organizations. Contracts at this level are much more favorable to the hotels, and US Chess has to absolutely nail their numbers (of participants) so that they get enough meeting space and guest rooms without contracting for too many. Last year this cost US Chess about $130,000 in penalties due to unsold hotel rooms.

Why So Much?

One question that came up during this meeting was why the cost of attendance for national events keeps rising. Due to inflation, the cost of traveling to, staying at, and dining during these events keeps rising, but as Director of Events Boyd Reed pointed out in the meeting, “That money does not go to US Chess.” 

But when costs for entry fees do rise, it’s to ensure that the events are able to maintain their high standards. As costs rise for everyone, it is essential to these events’ success that those who make a living coaching, directing, organizing, and even writing (ahem!) about chess are able to continue to do so. These costs, in other words, might not always translate to larger trophies or swankier hotel accommodations (see above!), but they do ensure that these events continue to go off without a hitch as attendance continues to grow. 

As an organizer of state championships for the past 25 years, I look at these national events and commend Boyd Reed, Pete Karagianis (Assistant Director of Events) and their staff who work tirelessly long hours with patience and professionalism. Thank you, US Chess!


Chicago Public Schools program

As costs for attending national events do continue to rise, we will continue to highlight the coaches and organizers who were able to take advantage of Title I Schools National Event grants to ensure these events remain accessible for students who might not otherwise be able to make the trip.

David Heiser, President of the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation, applied for and received one of the Title I Schools National Event grants on behalf of the Chicago Public Schools’ Academic Chess Competition program. They had schools within their program apply to be selected to bring teams to this event, and coaches at 11 schools were selected to each bring six players. Heiser said that the review committee used a checklist to select the schools, but he emphasized that they really prioritized bringing schools that had never made a trip to Nationals before. This fits with the goal of the CPS program to expose students to new experiences.

Besides the usual seven games, Heiser and his team took the players to some of the Smithsonian museums and also had a “play date” with programs from Baltimore and Kentucky.


Two CPS Students: Camilo and Jaehden

Camilo Alatorre and Jaehden Ayala (both eighth graders at James Monroe Elementary School) were eager to share why they loved chess and how they thought that it benefited them.

Camilo postulated that playing at Nationals gave an extra benefit. “At Nationals, you put more thought into the games, especially with so much time (on the clock).” He felt that he is already improving and said that his favorite thing about this trip was spending time with his chess-playing friends. He believes that chess has helped him “think before moving in life, too.”


Chicago Title I
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Camilo Alatore (L), David Heiser, Jaehden Ayala, Jay Stallings (photo courtesy of the subjects)


Jaehden enjoyed the casual games against the teams from Baltimore and Kentucky. “It was interesting to learn their different playing styles.” He spoke enthusiastically about his enjoyment of the game: “Making (smart) trades is important. And using your pawns, especially in the endgame.”

One of the popular additions to US Chess national events in recent years has been our live Twitch streaming. Unfortunately, a situation arose on Saturday. US Chess Spokesperson Dan Lucas tells CLO, “During the official US Chess Twitch stream on Saturday, April 1, a player being interviewed exhibited unsportsmanlike behavior by disparaging another player. US Chess has taken immediate steps to prevent this in the future: we will no longer have live player interviews during our streams.  

“Chess has a storied history of both sportsmanship and a healthy respect for both opponents and the game itself. We thank the players who uphold this tradition. We are disappointed whenever we see this tradition broken by anyone at our events — whether players, parents, or coaches — and we encourage all participants to practice good sportsmanship principles. We want US Chess national events to be a positive experience for all participants, but especially so for our scholastic competitors.”