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Not Just the Denker: Orlando's Opening Weekend Preview Print E-mail
By Randy Hough   
July 29, 2011
As Dewain Barber explained to CLO readers last month, the Denker Tournament of State High School Champions, a 26-year tradition at the U.S. Open, now has a companion. The Tournament of State Junior High (grades 6-9) Champions, fittingly named for Dewain, who has worked indefatigably to make these events a reality, has its inaugural this year. Let's look at some of the favorites in both events before they begin play in Orlando at 7 pm Saturday (along with the dwindling band of "traditional schedule" US Open players)..

Every state but Wyoming will be represented in the Denker. Last year, this writer declared Steven Zierk the favorite and the prediction was borne out. I'll refrain from picking anyone this time, partly to maintain my crystal ball's 100% record, but mainly because there 13 masters rated between 2293 and 2207, and obviously none is anywhere near odds-on. I'll comment on each without trying to be comprehensive.

Top dog is 2293-rated Andrew Shvartsman of New Jersey, a 2010 participant. He represented the US in the PanAmerican Youth Under 16 Championship in 2009.

Also participating is Carl Harmon-Vellotti (1879) of Idaho, who should certainly find the assistance of his brother Luke (rated 2287) helpful. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Luke (who recently gained 85 points at the superstrong Philadelphia Open in April) would be playing the Denker-he cannot play as he has not begun high school yet. Minnesota's Michael Yang checks in at 2279; his laurels include equal first in last year's US Cadet and a second/third place tie in the 2009 Denker.

At 2267 is Harrison Wheeler of Connecticut, who braved the great blizzard to tie IM Justin Sarkar for second in last December's Empire City Open. Stuart Finney, 2259, of Rhode Island, has represented the US abroad five times. 2255-rated Bob Shao of Texas, a 2010 Denker participant, finished equal third in last year's Junior Open and equal fifth last week in Houston. Michael Vilenchuk (2252) of Ohio was equal second in this year's National High School.

Missouri's Jialin Ding (2244) was the wildcard in this year's Junior Championship, finishing ninth in a very strong field. Nick Thompson of Arizona, 2242, was in that second place tie at the 2011 National High School. Vincent Huang of Southern California (2235) has played overseas several times and recently took in the FIDE-rated Sixth Metro Chess Qualifier. His strong start in the 2009 North American Open was noted here.

Three players round out the list of masters. Andrew Wang of Massachusetts, at 2223 finished eighth in the recent US Cadet. Georgia's Ryan Moon (2220) had a great tournament in the elite 2009 North American Open, finishing "plus two" and pocketing 23 rating points. His brother Benjamin is playing in the Barber. Finally, Kevin Mo (2207) of Pennsylvania, a repeat participant, was equal sixth in this year's Cadet.

Of course, the winner could come from outside the master group. Let me use a journalist's prerogative and mention Matt Anzis (2112) of Iowa, who played the last two years and wrote about his experiences in his state magazine (no, I couldn't find a link). Alas, in a tournament won by a girl (Abby Marshall) as recently as 2009, there's only one female, Hannah Warren of Alaska, a repeat participant. She takes the prize for coming the furthest, though!

The new Barber Tournament has a highly respectable 46 players (all but Alabama, Delaware, DC, Idaho, North Dakota, and Wyoming are represented), including five masters. Arthur Shen (2291) of New Jersey, recently equal first in the Cadet, is top-rated. Two of his wins from that tournament appear here.   Michael Brown of Southern California, at 2255, was equal sixth in the same event.

Justus Williams, Photo Shaun Smith
New York's Justus Williams, until recently the youngest-ever African-American master comes in at 2239. He played in the National High School this year; one of his wins was published here. Sean Vibbert of Indiana (2238) was in that famous second-place tie at this year's National High School. And 2215-rated Kevin Cao of Missouri was fifth in the recent Cadet.

I won't anoint anyone in this field either! Both tournaments will feature lots of fighting chess, and I'll be reporting Sunday as the players move into the home stretch. Stay tuned!

Stay posted and browse participant lists on the official pages the 2011 US Girls Junior Championship, 2011 Denker Tournament of High School Champions and the 2011 Barber Tournament of K-8 State Champions. Also see the CLO preview on the US Open, and register for the Main Event or any of the sides at the USCF webstore.

August - Chess Life Online 2011

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