Checa, Peng, and Stevens win 2019 NHS Championship

The 2019 National High School Championship was a record-breaker, both officially and unofficially. This 51st edition of the High School Championship set an official attendance record with 1,689 players, shattering the previous best of 1,569 at the 2017 National High School in Nashville, TN. That year’s NHS was part of Supernationals VI; the record for largest stand-alone event was 1,492 in Columbus, OH in 2016. Unofficially, this year’s tournament felt like one of the strongest in its history. The Championship field was stacked with over thirty masters and dozens of experts, ensuring that the competition for the title of High School Champion would be fierce. And oh was it fierce! There were only two perfect scores going into Sunday morning’s round 6: GM Nicolas Checa and last year’s champion FM David Peng. Peng drew Checa in 41 moves with Black, and the GM was never really able to cause him much trouble along the way.

Checa vs Peng, Rd 6

[pgn] [Event "2019 US HS Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.03.17"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Checa, Nicolas"] [Black "Peng, David"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E15"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. Nbd2 d5 6. Bg2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Re1 Bb7 10. b3 Nbd7 11. Bb2 Re8 12. Rc1 Bd6 13. Nb1 Nf8 14. Ba3 Ne6 15. Bxd6 Qxd6 16. Nc3 a6 17. e3 Rac8 18. Qd2 Red8 19. Red1 Ne4 20. Qb2 Nxc3 21. Rxc3 c5 22. dxc5 bxc5 23. Rcd3 Qb6 24. R3d2 d4 25. exd4 Bxf3 26. Bxf3 Rxd4 27. Bd5 Rd8 28. Bxe6 fxe6 29. Rxd4 cxd4 30. Qe2 Qd6 31. Qe4 e5 32. Kg2 Qc5 33. Rd2 h6 34. h4 Qa5 35. Rd3 Rf8 36. Rf3 Rxf3 37. Kxf3 Qxa2 38. Qd5+ Kh8 39. Qa8+ Kh7 40. Qe4+ Kh8 41. Qa8+ Kh7 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
The draw did, however, cause a bit of confusion for US Chess broadcasters GM Mesgen Amanov and WGM Jennifer Shahade when the kings were moved to the center of the DGT boards, signifying the cessation of battle.

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The draw on board one opened the door for three other players – IM Arthur Guo, FM Sahil Sinha, and NM Matthew Stevens – to join the leaders at 5.5/6 for the final round. Guo, a 7th grader from Atlanta, GA and the 2018 National Junior High Champion, took down IM Praveen Balakrishnan with perhaps the move of the tournament.

Guo-Balakrishnan, Rd 6

[pgn] [Event "2019 US HS Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.03.17"] [Round "6.2"] [White "Guo, Arthur"] [Black "Balakrishnan, Praveen"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E04"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/1p3qbp/2p1R3/p4P2/P2rB3/1P4P1/4QRK1/8 w - - 0 45"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 45. Bd5 $3 Kf8 (45... Rxd5 46. Rxe8+ Bf8 47. Rf4 $18) (45... Rf8 46. Bc4 b5 47. Re7) (45... cxd5 46. Rxe8+ Bf8 47. f6 $1 {wti Qe7}) 46. Bc4 b5 47. f6 $1 Bh6 48. Re7 Qg6 49. Bf7 Qxf7 50. Rxf7+ Kxf7 51. Qh5+ 1-0 [/pgn]
Sinha, a senior from Maryland, defeated New York’s NM Brandon Nydick.
[pgn] [Event "2019 US HS Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.03.17"] [Round "6.4"] [White "Nydick, Brandon"] [Black "Sinha, Sahil"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B53"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 a6 5. Bg5 Nc6 6. Qd2 h6 7. Be3 Nf6 8. Nc3 b5 9. Bd3 e6 10. h3 Bb7 11. O-O Qc7 12. Rfe1 Rd8 13. Bf4 Ne5 14. Qe2 Be7 15. Nd1 Nxd3 16. cxd3 O-O 17. a3 Rc8 18. Nc3 Rfd8 19. d4 Qb8 20. Rad1 Qa8 21. Qd3 d5 22. e5 Ne4 23. Ne2 b4 24. Nh2 a5 25. f3 Ba6 26. Qe3 Ng5 27. Rd2 Qc6 28. Ng4 bxa3 29. bxa3 Nh7 30. Ra1 Qa4 31. Bg3 Rb8 32. Nc1 Rdc8 33. f4 Rc4 34. f5 Rbc8 35. Ne2 exf5 36. Nf2 Ng5 37. h4 Ne4 38. Nxe4 fxe4 39. Rf1 Qd7 40. Qf2 Bxa3 41. Bf4 Bb4 42. Ra2 Rc2 43. Qg3 Rxa2 44. Bxh6 Bf8 45. Bxg7 Bxg7 46. h5 Bxe2 47. h6 Qg4 48. h7+ Kh8 49. Qh2 Bxf1 50. e6 Rxg2+ 51. Kxf1 Rc1# 0-1 [/pgn]
Hometown boy Matthew Stevens, hailing from Chicago, toppled FM Yoon-Young Kim after an error on White’s 28th move.

Kim vs Stevens, Rd 6

[pgn] [Event "2019 US HS Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.03.17"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Kim, Yoon-Young"] [Black "Stevens, Matthew"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D12"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3b2k1/1p3pp1/p1p2np1/P3q3/N3n3/1P2P1P1/2Q2PBP/4B1K1 w - - 0 28"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 28. f3 $2 (28. b4 $11) 28... Qa1 $1 29. Qe2 (29. Kf1 {is no better:} Bxa5 30. Qe2 Nd6 $19) 29... Bxa5 (29... Ng5 $2 {is too slow} 30. Kf2 $11) 30. fxe4 Bxe1 31. Bf1 Bb4 32. Qc4 Qe1 33. Qe2 Qxe2 34. Bxe2 Nxe4 35. Bf3 Nd2 36. Bd1 Kf8 37. Kf2 Ke7 38. Bc2 f5 39. Nb2 Ne4+ 40. Kf3 Ng5+ 41. Ke2 b5 42. Nd3 Bd6 43. Nf2 Ne6 44. Nd3 a5 45. Ne1 Be5 46. Nf3 Kf6 47. Ne1 Nc5 48. Nf3 a4 49. bxa4 bxa4 50. Bb1 a3 51. Kd2 Ne4+ 52. Kc2 Bb2 53. Ba2 Nc3 54. Bb3 Nd5 55. Kd3 Be5 56. Kc4 Nxe3+ 57. Kc5 Nd1 58. Ne1 Ne3 59. Kxc6 g5 60. Kc5 g4 61. Kb4 Bd6+ 62. Kc3 Nf1 63. Nc2 Nxh2 64. Kd3 Nf1 65. Bd5 Nxg3 66. Ke3 Ke5 67. Bc6 Bc5+ 68. Kd2 f4 69. Ke1 f3 70. Bb5 Ne4 0-1 [/pgn]

Leaders after Rd 6: Guo, Peng, Checa, Sinha, Stevens

So five players were tied for first place going into the final round: Checa, Guo, Peng, Sinha, and Stevens. WinTD did its magic, pairings were posted, and the hunt for the title was on.

Sinha-Checa and Peng-Guo, Rd 7

Sinha had White on Board 1 against Checa, and the Grandmaster did what GMs so often do. He got a better position out of the opening and brought the full point home with excellent technique.

[pgn] [Event "2019 US HS Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.03.17"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Sinha, Sahil"] [Black "Checa, Nicolas"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D93"] [PlyCount "106"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2 g6 5. Bf4 Bg7 6. e3 O-O 7. Nc3 a6 8. c5 Nh5 9. Bg5 Nd7 10. Be2 Re8 11. O-O h6 12. Bf4 g5 13. Bg3 Nxg3 14. hxg3 e5 15. dxe5 Nxc5 16. Rfd1 Qe7 17. Rac1 Nd7 18. e4 dxe4 19. Nxe4 Nxe5 20. Nc5 Nd7 21. Nxd7 Bxd7 22. Bd3 Rad8 23. b4 Be6 24. Rb1 Qf6 25. Bc4 Bf5 26. Bd3 Bxd3 27. Rxd3 Rxd3 28. Qxd3 Rd8 29. Qe3 Qe6 30. Qb6 Rd7 31. Qa5 Qd5 32. Qa4 Qb5 33. Qxb5 axb5 34. Kf1 Rd3 35. Re1 Kf8 36. Re2 Rd1+ 37. Re1 Rd3 38. Re2 Bc3 39. Re4 f5 40. Re6 g4 41. Ne1 Rd1 42. a3 Kf7 43. Re3 Bd2 44. Re5 Kf6 45. Re8 Rxe1+ 46. Rxe1 Bxe1 47. Kxe1 Ke5 48. Ke2 Kd4 49. f3 b6 50. Kd2 c5 51. fxg4 fxg4 52. bxc5 bxc5 53. Kc2 Ke3 0-1 [/pgn]
Peng essayed the trendy 6.Nb3 against Guo’s Najdorf on board two and, after a tactical melee, won material and the game.
[pgn] [Event "2019 US HS Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.03.17"] [Round "7.2"] [White "Peng, David"] [Black "Guo, Arthur"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B94"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Nb3 e5 7. Bg5 Be6 8. Bxf6 Qxf6 9. Na5 Nc6 10. Nc4 Qg6 11. Ne3 Be7 12. Bd3 O-O 13. O-O Nd4 {Ceding d5 too cheaply?} (13... Bg5) 14. Ncd5 Bxd5 15. Nxd5 Bg5 16. Kh1 Ne6 17. g3 Qh6 18. Qg4 Nc5 19. f4 Bf6 20. Rf3 Qg6 21. Qh3 Kh8 22. Raf1 Nxd3 23. cxd3 (23. f5 $5 Qg5 (23... Qh6 $6 24. Qxh6 gxh6 25. Rxd3) 24. Rxd3) 23... exf4 24. gxf4 Bd4 25. f5 Qg5 26. f6 g6 27. Rg3 Qh5 28. Qg2 Rac8 29. Qd2 $2 Rc5 (29... Rc6) 30. b4 Rc6 31. Ne7 Rc7 (31... Be5 32. Rg2 Qh3 {wti ...Bxh2 and the x-ray on the f1-rook}) 32. Rff3 $6 (32. Qg2) 32... Bc3 33. Qe3 Bxf6 $2 (33... Bb2 {allows .. .Rc1+ with counterplay}) 34. Nd5 $1 Rc2 35. Rh3 Bh4 36. Nf6 Qxf3+ 37. Rxf3 Rfc8 38. Qd4 Rc1+ 39. Kg2 1-0 [/pgn]

Stevens-Li, Rd 7

Stevens’ game was one of the last to finish among those being broadcast, and his endgame advantage against FM Ben Li took a full 75 moves to realize.

[pgn] [Event "2019 US HS Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.03.17"] [Round "7.3"] [White "Stevens, Matthew"] [Black "Li, Ben"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/1p5p/p3p1p1/3p4/3q4/5r2/PPQ3BP/7K w - - 0 33"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 33. Bxf3 {The consensus on the livestream was that White should be winning this, but it's not easy at all.} Qb6 34. Qe2 Qd6 35. Qd2 Qf8 36. Kg2 Qf6 37. Qc1 Qe7 38. Qf4 Kg7 39. Qd4+ Kf7 40. b4 Qg5+ 41. Kf2 Qc1 42. Be2 Qg5 43. a4 Qf5+ 44. Kg3 Qc2 45. Bd1 Qb1 46. a5 h6 47. Bf3 Qe1+ 48. Kg2 Qc1 49. Kf2 Qc2+ 50. Be2 Qc7 51. h4 Qh2+ 52. Ke1 Kg8 53. Kd2 Qd6 54. Qg4 Kf7 55. Bf1 Qe5 56. Bd3 Qf6 $6 (56... Qb2+ {tries to keep the king in the center of the board.} ) 57. Ke3 (57. Kc2) 57... Qe5+ 58. Kd2 Qh2+ 59. Kd1 g5 60. hxg5 Qh1+ 61. Kd2 Qh2+ 62. Be2 hxg5 63. Qxg5 Qf2 64. Qe3 Qh4 65. Qc3 Qf4+ 66. Kc2 Qe4+ 67. Bd3 Qg2+ 68. Kb3 {Now that the king will be relatively safe, White can begin offensive operations.} Qh2 69. Qc8 Qd2 70. Qxb7+ Kf6 71. Qxa6 d4 72. Qc4 e5 73. Qc2 Qe3 74. Qe2 Qc1 75. Qf1+ 1-0 [/pgn]
So the 2019 Individual Championship ended in a three-way tie for first place and with three Co-Champions: Nicolas Checa, 11th grade, Dobbs Ferry High School, Dobbs Ferry, New York; David Peng, 11th grade, New Trier High School, Winnetka, Illinois; Matthew Stevens, 12th grade, Whitney Young Magnet High School, Chicago, Illinois. Peng was also National High School Champion in 2018.

Matthew Stevens and David Peng, two of three 2019 NHS Champions. (Checa was unavailable for the photo.)

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, VA) won the Team Championship. Like David Peng, they are also repeat Champions, having won the Team title in 2018.

Thomas Jefferson HS, 2019 NHS Team Champions

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