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
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.
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
Sinha, a senior from Maryland, defeated New York’s NM Brandon Nydick.
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
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.
Peng essayed the trendy 6.Nb3 against Guo’s Najdorf on board two and, after a tactical melee, won material and the game.
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.
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.