Well, history repeated itself this weekend as Trevor again won the Illinois state high school championship! Out of five games played he was the only player to score four wins, giving him a clear claim to the title, no tiebreaks necessary. Trevor will go on to represent Illinois once again at the national tournament, which will be held this year in Orlando.
I think the best word to describe this tournament is "tempestuous." It was quite a wild ride! Last year's Illinois Denker champion, junior Eric Rosen, was upset in the first round by freshman Sam Schmakel, who went on to upset Trevor in round 2. But both Eric and Trevor recovered nicely, however, and ended up playing each other in the final round. It was definitely a deja vu moment, as these two have sparred many, many times over the years. Sometimes Eric wins, sometimes Trevor, but it is always interesting! Here they are a few years back, getting ready to face off in another state championship tournament. I can't believe how little they used to be: Here they were yesterday before the final round on the top board. Some things never change, but obviously some things do. The game was quite a nail-biter. I did not watch for the first several hours. Chess makes no sense to me, so there is no point torturing myself. But finally I went back into the playing room to see how things were going. At the point I started watching, Eric had somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 minutes on his clock and Trevor had 1 minute. Yikes! (One way to lose a chess game is for your clock to tick down to nothing.) The time control for this tournament, however, also used a 30-second increment. What this means is that each time a player moves he gains 30 seconds, so if he has not used more than that amount of time to think, he will break even on time. If he has used less time than that to think, he will come out ahead. For something like an hour I watched Trevor's clock tick down as low as 25 seconds and go as high as a minute and a half as he alternately used up time and got it back. Talk about pressure! I don't know how he can stay so cool, much less how he can think in that situation. (Trevor is renowned among his peers for thinking for incredibly long periods of time and ending up in "time trouble"--short on time--at the end. Obviously, he was true to form in this game.)
As Trevor's clock was doing its manic depressive thing, Eric's clock slowly ticked down a little at a time, until he was in the 6-minute range. With the game dragging on, the tournament director joked to me, "These two players should never be allowed to play with increments." In other words, "We could be here all night." But we weren't. Finally, over four hours after the game started, Eric resigned and Trevor claimed victory. Here is a photo of the board and clock immediately following the game. It's hard to see, but I think Eric's time is 6:16 and Trevor's is :49. Phew!
Serious players rarely immediately get up from the board. There is always something to talk about, and here are Trevor and Eric doing just that.
The thing that always impresses me about chess and those who play it is the absolute passion for the game as well as the camaraderie of the players. The above picture shows the 2010 Illinois Denker champion (Eric) immediately after losing to the 2009 Illinois Denker champion (Trevor). It had to be a tough moment for Eric. Nevertheless, he smiled, congratulated his opponent, and proceeded to join that opponent in some post-game debriefing. And I know if Trevor had lost he would have done the same.
This will be Trevor's last year to play high school chess. He starts college this coming fall. We are thrilled that he will wrap up his high school chess career with another shot at the national championship. Next year we will be rooting for Eric to have that chance again during his senior year. Trevor and Eric will not play each other again in high school competition, but I have no doubt that they will play each other again. The question is only, when?