Journey to NM - Denker Bound
There is both good and bad in this post...

Journey to NM - Denker Bound

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Why hello there, welcome to the Lightning Reports! Last week, I competed in the 2022 Alabama State Scholastic Individual Chess Championship, as well as the 2022 Alabama State Scholastic Team Chess Championship. Both events are very important to my journey to NM, but for different reasons. We'll get to that later. This is the 3rd post of my Journey To NM series. I hope you enjoy it!


First of all, let me explain why I am even playing in this because I'm sure some of you are questioning why I would play in an event where one loss will cost me rating points. There is a very good reason. The winner of the highschool championship section earns Alabama's nomination to represent the state at the Denker Tournament of Highschool Champions. I have had the honor of competing in the Denker twice before, in 2019 and 2021, and I would very much love the opportunity to represent my state in such a prestigious event for the 3rd time. That is why, despite my rating being in immense danger, I dare compete in this event.

OK. With that out of the way, on to round 1! I was paired with a 1500 in the first round, someone who I had played twice before... in 2014. I played this guy nearly 8 years ago, back when I was rated 996! Crazy stuff. I feel old now. Anyway, yeah. Despite only getting 3 hours of sleep the night before, I was wide awake now. The idea of playing a good game of chess awakened my sleepy brain. Let's play chess. Here's round 1!

Alright, let's go! I'm all warmed up now and ready to roll. Sure, I really need to eat something. And sure, I really want to go back to sleep. But this is the scholastic state championship. Who could possibly eat or sleep when there is chess to be played?

Ok, ok, just kidding. I ate some fries and half of a chicken sandwich before round 2, but nothing more, I promise!

Round 2 is here and, as I had expected weeks before it happened, I was paired with Steven Pan, a 1750 (@FrostBite365 btw - this won't be the first time his name comes up today). How could I have possibly expected to get paired against Steven in round 2 before the event happened? Well, as much as I'd love to bore you all with my explanation, you probably don't want to know anyway. Instead, how about we check out my game with Steven, who is the first person I ever played the Sicilian against otb. 

So. Uh. That was terrible. I played decent in the opening, awful in the middlegame, and rather well in the endgame. Fortunately for me, it was enough to win and I am now 2/2. I'm also tired and hungry. But there are 2 rounds left. Just 2 more wins and I'm heading back to the Denker.

There are only 2 others at 2/2: A 1980 who I considered the most likely player here to beat me, and a 1570 who managed to beat a 2000 in round 2. Neither opponent is someone I want to play. But I must play one of them. I had been expecting to play the 1980, William Fox, and was very disappointed when the pairings said I was playing him. He is fully capable of stomping me, and yet fully capable of getting stomped. He has a fun playing style. Nervous as I was, I knew we were in for an exciting game. 

I've got nothing. I won? Somehow? I couldn't believe my luck in that one. I've pulled off some ridiculous swindles in the past. But this might honestly be my greatest one yet. Better to be lucky than good. And the 1570 who also had a 2/2 score lost, which is a huge relief. I am now guaranteed at least a tie for first place!

So, after 3 rounds of play, I have a perfect 3/3 score, lucky as I've been, and I alone am in first place. There are several players with 2/3, but nobody has more than that except me. I will at least tie for first place. All I have to do in round 4 is not lose and I will be going to the Denker! I really could not believe my luck and am just thankful I haven't choked yet. All I have to do is not choke in the final round. Fortunately, for whatever reason, I am always so chill, calm, and collected during big games like this where everything is on the line, but only if it's at a big event. If this was a normal event, I would probably lose the next game. But this is important, so I'm able to clutch up. Just gotta win or draw. I'm playing for two results and my opponent is playing for one. That's my advantage. But of course, I was paired with the one player I hadn't prepared for because I didn't even know the dude was still in high school. Whoops. Guess that's his advantage. In any case, with Alabama's Denker nomination potentially on the line, here is my final game of the day.

Let's goooo! It's a miracle, but I finished round 4 with a win and a perfect 4/4 score. I'm pretty sure I've never been more exhausted, but it's worth it. Because of this win, I'm Denker bound! I'll be heading to California at the end of July to represent Alabama in the 2022 Denker Tournament of Highschool Champions, and I'm so excited! Last year I managed to get 3.5/6, and I said if I got another chance to play in the Denker that I would aim for 4/6. So, that's my goal. I'm gonna put in far too many hours this summer preparing for the Denker, and I hope to get at least 4/6. Oh, and to make things even better, I actually gained 13 rating points from this, so my new rating was 2136 - a new peak. I was very happy to see that. But of course, all good things must come to an end, and I wouldn't stay at my peak for long...


March 13th, the day after the Individual championship. I have a chess club/team/whatever at my cover school (remember, I'm homeschooled). And for the past 2 months, we've been getting ready to play in Alabama's team state chess championship. I entered one team in the K-12 section and one in the K-9 section (btw, my K-9 team took 3rd place so that's pretty cool). I played on the K-12 team of course. And I have 3 siblings playing as well (1 on K-12 team and 2 on K-9 team), this being their first rated tournament. Cool, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the thing is, I was pretty stressed out about it, as I was nervous that they would lose all of their games and I would manage to ruin chess for them. So I only got 2 hours of sleep the night before. It also meant I was going to obsessively watch my teammates' games and keep track of what happened. As you might expect, that backfired tremendously. My coach told me my game had to come first and I couldn't worry about my teammates' games. I agreed. But even still, I couldn't focus on my games. Or even sit at the board for more than a few minutes. Ok, so, long story short, I lost two games. Badly. Not even close. As @B1ZMARK would tell you, I played like hot garbage. I Will share the games, as this is part of my Journey to NM - a minor setback - but I won't annotate due to how bad 2/3 of them are and how much time it takes to annotate. Enjoy, I guess. Maybe you can learn something from it - focus on your game and yours alone! Don't coach and play at the same event! Lol for real though, props to B1Z and Steven for crushing me as they did. At least I won the first game...

Ok, that one wasn't so bad. In fact, it was kind of good. But I'm warning you, the other 2 games are literally trash. I warn you now. Skip ahead of you don't want to see them. You might be traumatized by them. Best of luck if you look at them. 

And Steven gets his revenge... and I lose all the points I earned from my past few tournaments. Nice. Hey, I told you it was bad. But wait, it gets worse. If you dare, check out my final game of the day just below. I'm sure B1Z would be happy to tell you all about it... 

Told ya. It was that bad. And with that, my rating dropped from 2136 to 2104, which is devastating for me since I am trying to get to 2200 by the end of May. But it's fine. I'll earn my points back, somehow. I'll do it. My goal remains the same: NM before graduating high school. Sure, it's not even realistic anymore... but I'll find a way. And if not... I'll hopefully be an NM by the end of this year. Becoming a National Master is tough. It's hard work. But eventually, it will be worth it, and I can't wait for that day. On Sunday I suffered quite a bit and played 2 of the worst games I have played in recent memory. But someday it won't matter. Someday I will achieve my goal. I'll keep grinding and I'll get there. Hard work always pays off. And that's where I end this today. 

I may or may not post my Leagues blog some time within the next 2 weeks. We'll see. My next Journey to NM post will be some time in April and I'll let y'all know what my chances of getting NM are by then. Thanks for reading, y'all, I appreciate it. I know It was an up and down weekend, but I'm Denker bound and still grinding. That's what matters most. My Journey to NM is not yet over. Until it is, I'll see you in the comments below

Welcome to the Lightning Reports! I post tournament recaps, previews and reviews for big tournaments, and I also started the Questioning Non-Chess Players thing. Good stuff, yep.