Nelson Lopez clear first in Denker
By Jennifer Shahade   
August 11, 2006
Nelson Lopez

Nelson Lopez II from the Raleigh area, North Carolina defeated Tyler Hughes of Colorado to take clear first in the Denker tournament of high school champions. He then went on to win an impromptu blitz match against Polgar Invitational winner, Abby Marshall. Nelson was home-schooled through high school, and will enroll at The University of Texas at Dallas later this month. Along with chess, he keeps active with soccer and running.

Denker Final Standings:

1. Nelson Lopez II.
(NC)- 5.5/6
Alexander Chua (TX) 5/6
3-6- Evan Ju (NJ), Tyler Hughes (CO), Corbin Yu (OR) and Brian Goldstein(FL) 4.5/6

Click here for complete Standings.

Nelson Lopez's father (also Nelson), said that his son prepared for the tournament both by studying chess and by working out. Nelson II believes that eating right and working out contributed to his success. One of his secrets: Two bananas a day.

His sister, a seventh grader and also a chessplayer, ran around saying "My brother is the Denker champion! It's his last scholastic tournament and he won it!" Nelson is entering UTD in the fall, on a full scholarship in the engineering department. "We really pushed chess to get him all these scholarships," said his father.

Nelson didn't get much from the opening in his last round game against Tyler Hughes, but some tricky middlegame play brought the point home for him.


"Tyler should have played d5 at some point", said Nelson. One good moment to do so was after 15.Na2 , when black would have a slight edge. 24.Qb5! was Nelson's star move, tactically defending against Nf2 (24..Nf2? 25.Rxf2 Qxf2 26. Qxb7) and liquidating pressure against his kingside. In the endgame, Tyler tried to distract the d2 knight from protection of e4 with Ne3-c4. 29. Kg1! was a calm and effective defensive move, after which Nelson won the a5 pawn, clinching the game.

There was so little time in between the Denker closing ceremony and the 7th round of the U.S. Open, in which Nelson is also playing, that he had to abandon his "eat right" philosophy. At around 6:50 pm, 10 minutes before his 7 pm Open game, he ate a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Alexander Chua

Alexander Chua from Texas came in clear second with a crisp victory over Daniel Schwarz, on the White side of the Grunfeld.


Particularly nice were Alexander's successful breakthrough with 14.c6! followed by 15.b6! and the decisive 27. Rxc4!

About the Denker

The Denker was founded in 1984 by Arnold Denker (1914-2005). Denker is known as the "Dean of American chess." The author, hall of famer and U.S. Champion continued to support the tournament throughout his life.

The concept of the Denker is to bring together state high school champions to compete for glory as well as college scholarships. This year, Tyler Hughes from Colorado won a full scholarship to University of Texas at Dallas. The top two finishers had just finished their senior year, and the prize was for incoming high school seniors or younger. Some state championships are particularly competitive, like California, Texas and New York, with several players over 2000 vying for the single Denker spot.

Photo Gallery

Nelson's parents.

Hundreds of spectators came out to watch the impromptu 3-minute match between Abby Marshall and Nelson. Nelson won 1.5-.5.

Among the spectators was Chess Life editor, Daniel Lucas. (left.)

Nelson Lopez II

Look for a U.S. Open update tomorrow and an upcoming report on Abby Marshall's victory in the Polgar.