NM Rosen Wins Denker, Xu wins Girls Invitational

NM Eric RosenPenny XuPhotos: Betsy Dynako

NM Eric Rosen and Penny Xu both emerged as winners in two prestigious events this weekend, Rosen in the Illinois high school Denker qualifier which wrapped up Monday and Xu in the state girls invitational which ended Sunday. Rosen, a sophomore at Niles North High School in Skokie, will go on to be the Illinois representative in the National Denker Tournament of High School Champions in Irvine, California this summer. Xu, a seventh grader from Champaign, would have been named the Illinois representative to the National Polgar invitational, but itʼs been announced that the tournament is being replaced this year by a five-day intensive training session, so she plans to attend both the Kasparov Girls Open in Columbus, Ohio next month and the National Girls Open in Irvine this summer.

Both tournaments were held at the same time and place as the North American Chess Associationʼs FIDE World Amateur and North American Masters events, which continue through Thursday. Organizer Sevan Muradian donated the space for the Denker and girls tournaments, and served as tournament director. The ICA Warren program provided funding for the prizes. It was an exciting atmosphere, with players from all over the world competing for the amateur title, and many grandmasters participating in the Masters event. The Denker and girls players were seated at a table in the front of the room with blue and pink placards designating their board numbers.


Both the Denker and girls tournaments were a round robin format. The Denker started out with seven players---six who received invitations because their 2009 peak rating was 2000 or higher, and one wildcard---Evanston High School senior Ashok Raife--who qualified by winning the high school individual championship tournament last month. It was Raife, who with an official USCF rating of just 1150 was more than 800 points lower than any player---who ended up making the biggest splash in the tournament. He finished the tournament with three points, taking down Barrington High School senior Zach Kasiurak, Stevenson High School sophomore Josh Dubin and in the final round, NM Trevor Magness, a home-schooled junior from Bolingbrook and last yearʼs national Denker rep, who needed the final victory in order to secure a tie and a blitz playoff match with Rosen.

The tournament playing schedule was a bit unusual. Because it was a 7-player round robin, one player had a bye scheduled for each of the seven rounds. But after Round 1, Kasiurak withdrew with the flu and a high fever, so all remaining players except Raife, his first round opponent, wound up with two byes. This led to a scenario where Rosen finished all his games by Sunday night, with 4.5 out of 5 points, drawing only to Magness, who just last month earned his NM title at the Midwest Amateur Team tournament, taking down respected GM Alex Yermolinsky in the process. Magness had two games scheduled for Monday, and if he won both,they would have had an equal number of points and also been tied based on the formula for tiebreaks, which would have resulted in an Armageddon blitz match. But Raife prevailed in the final round, leaving Rosen as the clear winner, with 5.5/6 (everyone got a full point bye for what would have been the round with Kasiurak). Magness finished as runner-up with 4.5; Whitney Young junior Michael Auger, Buffalo Grove sophomore Matt Wilber and Raife all had 3.0, and Dubin had 2.0.

On the girlsʼ end, the race was a bit tighter. Xu and Stevenson High School freshman Adele Padgett tied for the lead at 3.5 points each, but Xuʼs tiebreaks were slightly better, earning her the championship title. Xuʼs victory comes on the heels of winning the state K8 title just last week.

The girls invitational had six players---all invited because they are the top six rated girls under age 18 in the state. Two of them, Rachel Ulrich of Grayslake and Shayna Provine of Plainfield, are just 10 years old; two more, Xu and 8th-grader Victoria Bian of Lincolnshire, are in middle school; and the other two, Padgett and New Trier student Sonya Vohra of Wilmette, are both high school freshmen. The girls tournament went Friday night through Sunday night, with round times each evening at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. While itʼs the ideal playing schedule for teenagers, it was a little more difficult for Rachel and Shayna, whose evening games went beyond what was their usual bedtime! They both had good results anyway, with Rachel coming in third place with three points and Shayna with two. Vohra also had two points, and Bian, who was last yearʼs Polgar rep, struggled a bit this weekend and had just one.

As winners, Rosen and Xu each win a $500 travel stipend from the ICA Warren Junior Scholar program to attend their respective national tournaments, as well as $250 to be applied to chess lessons. Runners-up Magness and Padgett each receive $125 towards chess lessons.