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Sixth in San Diego: Homidan on his Final Scholastic Print E-mail
By Jonathan Homidan   
April 9, 2014
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I was ecstatic when I heard the news. There could not have been a more appropriate place for my swan song to the National Championships I have grown to be very fond of than the dazzling coastal metropolis that is San Diego. Though chess has often taken a backseat in my list of priorities, I knew instantly that I had to make time for this tournament. This would, after all, be the grand finale, the final crescendo and denouement as a reward for years of practice, training, sweat, and tears. The curtain call that would close an amazing chapter in the book called life. I knew that no matter what, I would be going to San Diego. And boy, am I glad I did.

The drive was extraordinary. The grogginess of waking up early to pack for the trip, the disappointing realization of this one possibly being the last chess road trip with my father, the pre-tournament jitters was all compensated by the ocean breeze, the fresh sunlight, and the smell of life, vitality, activity, and passion. This was a city where people really lived. Granted, I do only live a few hours away in the Inland Empire, but after months on end cramming for SATs and filling out college applications, this drive was liberating. Perhaps it was because this time, instead of the usual uncomfortable feelings of nervousness, the door was open for reflection upon an incredible game I am lucky to call my own.

Cue the opening ceremony. Seeing more than a thousand chess fanatics all around my age who loved and appreciated the game just as much as I did was an absolutely fulfilling experience. The silence of mutual respect in the entire ballroom accompanied by the soft whiz of pieces sliding across vinyl boards gave me chills. As round after round passed— followed by a nightly stress-detoxification ritual of pizza, Pepsi, and Spongebob Squarepants with my dad—my quest for champion looked seemingly rational.

And then I was paired against the GM-elect himself, Darwin Yang.



After that tough loss, I found it hard to keep myself motivated for the last rounds of the tournament. Lying awake past midnight wallowing in the depths of despair while simultaneously trying to psych myself back into game mode, I began to get flurries of text messages. And then I realized. It was my 17th birthday.

I got my first birthday present from my dad in the morning (a small envelope filled with money because he knows I like to splurge on my wardrobe). Then I scored a convincing round six victory with the white pieces and waited for the last round pairings. Of course, the day that happened to be my birthday had one more twist in store: I was up against a good friend of mine, Nicky Korba, who somewhat recently slashed across the master barrier. After an exchange of friendly pleasantries, the war began, and two hours later we found ourselves in this complicated position.

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Here, Nicky has just played 28. Rg2, adding pressure along the g-file and hoping for a checkmate on either the g7 or g8 squares. Though my king looks hopelessly exposed on first glance, my pieces coordinate well to provide a convenient defense. A draw was agreed on at this point, because it is unclear what will happen after 28…Qxe4 29. Qg3 Qxg2+ 30. Kxg2 Rg7. During our post-game analysis, we agreed that both continuations 31. Bxg7+ Rxg7 32. Re1 Bd7 33. Qxg7+ Kxg7 34. Re7+ Kh8 and 31. Bg5 fxg5 32. Qxd6! Nxd5 were unclear.

That left me with 5.5 out of seven points, and because of favorable tiebreaks (playing the eventual champion had a silver lining, after all) my results were good for sixth place overall.

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All in all, it was extremely sad to recognize the fact that this tournament marked the end of my scholastic chess career, but also reassuring to reflect on the great people I met along the way. For me, it was an ideal way to spend my birthday, getting to play one last game and holding one last trophy before a big transition.
Next up for me is a road trip with my friends (maybe even a voyage to Brazil for the World Cup!) before we go our separate ways for college. I’ll then attend UC Berkeley, with the intent of majoring in Business.

To all of my friends and colleagues, it was an absolute honor to have met and spent time with all of you. Congrats to Darwin! And to my coach Andranik, thank you for the guidance and confidence you have given to me. To my family, thank you for the undying love and support. And lastly, to the amazing city crazy enough to host a thousand chess-crazy high-schoolers, stay classy, San Diego.

Look for more perspectives on the National High School Championships coming up on CLO, and browse full results here.
 
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