Abby Marshall wins 2009 Denker Tournament of High School Champions

by ChessBase
8/19/2009 – At eighteen years of age, WFM Abby Marshall is making waves in the United States. In addition to being the only girl to hold two Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls titles, achieved consecutively in 2005 and 2006, she has recently added a victory at the Denker Tournament of High School Champions to her mantle - the first female to do so. We follow her activities in Indianapolis.

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Denker Tournament of High School Champions in Indianapolis, Indiana

Photos by MonRoi

Indianapolis, Indiana was the place to be from August 1-9. The Denker Tournament of High School Champions was held from August 1-4, concurrently with the US Open which ran from August 1-9 and included abbreviated schedules to allow players to compete in both events. The Denker is contested by state champions, but anyone could play in the US Open, throwing beginners in with the grandmasters. What was special about this year’s US Open was that there were five qualifying spots for the US Championship, encouraging stronger players to play who might otherwise have stayed home.

A strong player that might otherwise have stayed at home? GM Hikaru Nakamura, 2710,
gave a simul at the US Open and then relaxed in the hot tub - despite the heat outside

A cool customer that found the five available spots for the US Invitational
Championship tantalizing, GM Alexander Shabalov, 2580.

I played in the Denker and the six-day US Open. The Denker is an invitational tournament where the top high school player in the state is selected to go, either qualifying by virtue of rating or by winning the state championship. I was ranked eighth, though the top ten players were within about a hundred points of each other. I reasoned my chances of winning were probably ten percent?

Miss Ten Percent, WFM Abby Marshall, 2171

The first half of the tournament went according to plan and I was pretty relaxed. After winning my fourth game with the King’s Gambit against National Master Patrick Tae, I became nervous, as the possibility of being champion became more real. Winning basically ruined my mood. Well, not really; winning was awesome, but the Denker is unique in that every player is a champion and typically experienced and hardworking, so no one is easy.

National Master Patrick Tae, 2092, an unsuspecting victim of the King's Gambit.

I managed to win the tournament, becoming the first girl to do so. I could not have chosen a more nerve-wracking, ridiculously stressful way to win. Something went wrong in the final round and I ended up in a worse endgame with few chances except to desperately defend. For about an hour we were both under three minutes, blitzing around, with the only interruption being a fire alarm, which turned out to be harmless. The game was drawn in 87 moves. Because I was half a point ahead of the field, I won the tournament. Michael Yang and Jeffrey Haskel tied for second with 5.0/6.

Second place finisher, Michael Yang, 2052 of Minnesota

The other young man finishing second, Jeffrey Haskel, 2179, of Florida.

Kudos as always to MonRoi for broadcasting the games and making it possible for everyone to know the results live. I guess I switched to writing hieroglyphics in the middle of my notation so I can’t read half my moves, but thanks to MonRoi I now have the complete score. Yay! I’m definitely not going to be the last girl to win. There are many young players who are stronger than I was at their age. I have no doubt this is just the first step in American chess for women reaching equality with men. I’m excited about that.

Looking to the future, Abby feels confident up-and-coming girls will surpass her feats.

Another female player, representing the state of Idaho, Erica Barkell.

Abby receives her prize, which includes a scholarship. The
man to her left, Bill Hall, decided to keep the medal.

US Open Championship

In the US Open, six players tied for first with a score of 7.5/9: Alex Lenderman, Sergey Kudrin, Alex Yermolinsky, Jacek Stopa, Jesse Kraai, and Dmitry Gurevich. Kudrin and Gurevich had the two best tiebreaks and they played a blitz playoff for the title of US Open Champion. Kudrin chose White with five minutes while Gurevich had black with three minutes and draw odds. A perpetual ended the game and crowned Gurevich champion. I feel like this is one of the rare cases where choosing black worked; I just think that few blitz games end in draws anyway, so picking White with the time advantage makes sense. In any case, congratulations to Gurevich!

GM Dmitry Gurevich, 2485, takes home the trophy and the title of the 2009 US Open Champion.

GM Sergey Kudrin, 2578, who lost the title in a thrilling blitz tiebreak.

My chances to compete for first were partially jeopardized when I accidently forfeited the third round. I was playing in the simul given by Kosteniuk which started at six. The round started at seven. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I guess I hoped to finish in time to play my round. Of course, that was crazy. Thankfully I managed to draw Kosteniuk, so I didn’t feel like a total idiot. I finished the tournament with 6.0/9 and 23 dollars - a reasonable result. Kosteniuk, by the way, is totally amazing in blitz, winning the side event with 12.5/14, no losses. In the main event, she also played a thrilling game against grandmaster Nikolai Mitkov that ended in a draw, but she had a chance to claim a win on time. She took three half point byes to finish out the tournament, ending with 7.0/9. Very impressive. I really think there needs to be an all-boys invitational next year in the spirit of fairness. I mean, there’s hardly anything left for them to win, you know?

Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2516, in deep concentration against Abby.

Here Kosteniuk makes her move against a rogue chess journalist, safely returned
from Mainz, with his victory in the Unrated section of the Ordix Open a distant memory.

And the blitz champion plies her trade, en route to an undefeated 12.5/14 score.

The hotel was fantastic, probably the best chess friendly hotel I’ve ever been in with the exception of the five star super resort in Turkey for the World Youth. There was a central atrium to hang out in until 4 am and a nice outdoor plaza with cool places to sit. I’m a vegetarian, so normally traveling forces me to cheat because there are hardly any meat-free meals in restaurants, though luckily Indianapolis had a nice diner down the street. I really think a vegetarian fast food restaurant would be nice. Maybe I’ll open one, and I guess I’ll also pay for the food. Again congrats to US Open Champ Gurevich. I had a sweet time this year and I look forward to a great time next year in Irvine, California!


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