High School Nationals Kicks Off
By Jonathan Hilton   
April 18, 2008
Amanda Mateer and Emily Francis.
Photo Elizabeth Vicary.
I’m here at the High School Nationals in Atlanta, and I have never seen any hotel so totally and completely dominated by chessplayers. I could spot a chessplayer wherever I went at Foxwoods last month, but here it’s difficult to spot someone who’s not a chessplayer! From the large, boisterous team groups to the nervous individuals pacing the halls in front of the Grand Ballroom, which serves as the playing room, nearly everyone I’ve met so far has been a chessplayer or a chessplayer’s parent or sibling. After much searching I did meet someone from a business entrepreneurship seminar—to get away from the masses of chessplayers, one needs to head to the “Radius Tower” off on the side, known for its small one-person rooms for traveling businessmen.

And the young chessplayers are doing what they do best—playing chess and socializing! I arrived shortly after the blitz had finished last night, and was surprised to see a new name had won the event, Conrad Holt. Conrad, who lives in Kansas, was rated 2071 going into the event and came out in clear first with 11.0/12.0, giving up only two draws along the way. He will be one to watch in the main event!

249 players participated in last night's blitz tournament.
 Photo Elizabeth Vicary.

Amanda Mateer of Arizona and Emily Francis from right here in Georgia finished with 9.0/10.0, taking first on tie-breaks.  The perennial bughouse favorites, the Tan brothers, Jared and Derek from California, also finished in a tie for first with 9.0/10.0. They took second on tie-breaks. The third team tying for first consisted of Scott Low and Nikolas Theiss, both from Maryland.

I got to speak with Amanda Mateer and Emily Francis on Thursday evening about their bughouse victory. At first Mateer graciously brushed aside her team’s bughouse victory. “We were lucky. We didn’t have to play the Tan brothers,” she said. Yet it is clear by her team’s 9-1 record that they played some fierce and uncompromising bughouse. Mateer and Francis are good friends, having known each other for several years after meeting at a chess camp. They are often seen hanging out together around the tournament scene. Although the two modestly attributed their victory to luck, I suspect that the pair’s friendship combined with their mastery of bughouse were the true reasons behind their tournament success.

Now, it is time for everyone to fight down their nervousness and get ready for the first round! Good luck to all.

Watch the High School Nationals games live on Monroi.com, read Hilton's High School Preview article, and check CLO through the weekend for updates.