Several weeks ago I accompanied him to his first Denker qualifying tournament. You can read more about the Denker Tournament of Champions here; in brief, it is THE national high school chess event in the United States, held annually in conjunction with the U. S. Open. Players participate nationally by virtue of having won their state qualifying tournament, which is by invitation only. So it is a rare honor indeed to find one's name on the list of those invited to compete, but each of the young men pictured above did just that.
This year's Illinois state qualifier was held on the last weekend of March in Skokie, Illinois, within an hour's drive of our house. Even so, we made plans to stay in the hotel Saturday night to maximize sleeping time. Good thing, too, because as luck would have it Trevor came down with a cold heading into the weekend. But this was the Denker, and the show had to go on! So Saturday morning found us driving to the tournament site and Trevor laying aside intensive chess study as he relaxed by reading--what else?--a little Calvin & Hobbes. Equipped with lemon tea and ibuprofen, we pulled into the parking lot of the Skokie Holiday Inn, had a final hug and prayer, and headed off for the races.
Play was tough, games long, and the pressure very intense. There is a certain irony about the Denker arising from the brotherhood shared by these young players--having grown up together in the chess world and having played each other many times, there is a wonderful sense of familiarity here that is unmatched by any other chess event. Yet it is that same familiarity that makes this tournament so tough, for these young men know well the prodigious talent and skill they are up against. For parents, too, this is a singular event, because in our fondness for these players we would like to see them all win every one of their games! But that, of course, is an impossible outcome. So we pace and chat and wonder and speculate while in the tournament room the battle rages.
Out of five games, Trevor scored 2-1/2 points. Click here for full results. He had hoped for a stronger showing (see his comments at the end of this post), but I think his performance was remarkable, especially considering this was his first Denker appearance. He came in a mere 1-1/2 points behind first place. I daresay he will have another shot at it next year!
Just two weeks after the Denker, Trevor and I found ourselves on the road again, this time bound for Wisconsin for the United States Amateur Team Championship. In February, Trevor's team won the northern regional qualifier (you can read about that one here); now the day had come for North, South, East and West to vy for the national title. In the semi-final round, played online due to the far-flung locations of the teams, North played West and East played South. Unfortunately for the North, all of our players except Trevor lost their games, resulting in the West winning 3-1. In the East-South game, South won (also 3-1), so the final round was played between the West and the South, with the South winning (3-1 yet again). A disappointing outcome for the North, but Texas girl that I am I must say that if the North couldn't win I'm glad the South did!
I didn't get any photos from the team tournament this time, but here's one of Trevor doing some pre-game preparation in the hotel room:
In spite of a disappointing end, the team tournament was a great experience for Trevor. At the team meeting Friday night before the semi-final round, team captain Alex provided delicious Russian Napoleon cake for everyone while reviewing team strategy. I am happy to say I was included in that meeting and in spite of having nothing to contribute nevertheless got to enjoy the cake! And in consideration of the fact that Trevor had to travel from Illinois to play on this otherwise Wisconsinite team, his teammates generously covered the hotel cost for us. (Thanks, guys!)
I asked Trevor to share some reflections on both of these tournaments, and his remarks follow, with characteristic brevity. Enjoy, because although I have been trying to convince him that a chess blog is in his future, I think I still have some work to do to bring him around to my way of thinking.
"The game I was most proud of from both tournaments was the [final] one from amateur team. I didn't make any blatant mistakes in that one. I played rather badly in at least parts of all my games from Denker, but I guess my best there would have been Round 4 against Kevin [Velazquez]. It's hard to say which game was the toughest, as I carved my own grave. I didn't bring enough energy to try to capitalize on my first two opponents' opening mistakes, and in rounds 2 and 3, I blundered, and I had a completely drawn endgame versus Ilan [Meerovich--the first place finisher]. I feel that if I had been playing well I would have scored about 4 out of 5, and thus tied for first. But I couldn't help that I was sick. And I did enjoy playing in the team event. After all, I scored 6 out of 6 in all. :) I guess I didn't feel like letting my team down. Even Yury [Shulman, Trevor's teacher] couldn't find much to complain about in some of my games, which is saying something. :) Overall, I'd say Ben Marmont [from the team tournament] played the best against me out of all of my opponents."