Stars Look to Norfolk: Packing My A-Game

The beautiful site of the 118th US Open, Photo Franc Guadalupe, US Chess Events Director
As the US Open in Norfolk, Virginia approaches, top seeds from the upcoming National events talked to US about gearing up for the opening weekend's prestigious trio of Invitational events, as well as a variety of schedules for the 118th US Open (July 29-August 6th). NGTOC 
Rochelle at the 2016 World Youth Champs
Since we last previewed the National Girls Tournament of Champions (NGTOC), World Youth gold medallist Rochelle Wu of Alabama has entered. To learn more about Rochelle's style, you can watch GM Ben Finegold's video on the STL Chess Club's YouTube channel. Richard Schiffrin, who along with his wife Barbara, donated the top $5000 prize at the NGTOC in both 2016 and 2017, said " “We want to continue to encourage more girls and women to enter fields that have traditionally been filled by boys and men–engineering, math, science, technology, to name a few." Denker & Barber Many of the players in the Denker Tournament of High School Champions have been attending Barber tournament of K-8 Championships or Denker for several years. Even for top seeds who are also focused on winning the tournament, seeing old friends and meeting new ones is also a priority. IM-elect Craig Hilby of California, a top seed in the Denker, told US Chess, "If I'm not bringing my A-game to Denker then I can definitely be upset. I will prepare briefly before the tournament for (some of the top seeds) like Praveen Balakrishnan, Bryce Tiglon, Andrew Liu. I've been to Barber/Denker a few times before and I think what makes it stand out from other tournaments is the professional yet friendly atmosphere given by the small stuff like the opening ceremony, having your state flag by your table and possibly exchanging state souvenirs with opponents. I will definitely be going in with a hunger to win every game, but I am also going to enjoy hanging out with and seeing my friends like Emily Nguyen, Edward Song, Jennifer Yu and Joey Kelly."
Craig Hilby
Another top seed in the Denker, Edward Song agreed with Craig. "One reason the Denker and Barber are special is that each player in the competition is representing their own state, which already sounds like a big accomplishment in itself. The representatives of their own state are likely the strongest high schooler in the state as well. There's no doubt that this tournament will be very difficult, as there are a lot of players rated 2400+ and even a few above 2500, so I'll probably just take it one game at a time and see if I can fight for first." Another IM-elect, Bryce Tiglon was recently featured on US Chess for winning the Under 18 section at the North American Youth Championships, thus securing his IM title. He told US Chess, " The Denker tournament is special because it brings together incredible talent from across the country. It is already quite an achievement just to be at the tournament!"
Edward Song
See updated pre-registered lists on the Barber and the Denker. US Open:  Emily Nguyen is registered for the Traditional Schedule of the US Open. She told US Chess "this will be my third consecutive US Open. I always love the schedule because there's a lot of time to rest and relax or go sightseeing, and this will be my first year playing the traditional schedule. To prepare, I just finished the US Girls Junior Championship and I'm attending a chess camp in Bulgaria." Best of US Chess writer IM Kostya Kavutskiy told US Chess that he chooses the US Open because "the upside of winning first place (and qualifying for the U.S. Championship) is tremendous, even though I consider myself a huge longshot to win. The tournament is a lot of fun nevertheless, and you can feel the fantastic history and tradition of the event while you're there."
IM Kostya Kavutskiy, Photo Fiona Steil-Antoni
Josh Friedel, a former US Open Champion (2013), jokes that he is playing the 4-day schedule in a tournament for chess purists, hoping this isn't the harbinger of bad things to come. Follow the tournaments on the official site and also find out more about the Denker, Barber and NGTOC on their websites. Find top board games here and the Denker/Barber and NGTOC here: Follow @USChess on twitter for takeovers from Vanessa Sun and look for updates from Al Lawrence and photography by Jim Doyle.
GM Josh Friedel at the 2017 Amateur Team North, Photo Betsy Zacate Dynako