My Last Denker
Literally didn't know what to do with this thumbnail... sorry if this is just a hot mess lol

My Last Denker

| 77

Hello there. Welcome to the Lightning reports! Today I will recap my experience at the 2022 Denker Tournament or Highschool Champions. If you don't know what the Denker is, it is essentially the national highschool chess championship, but why call it that, ya know? Anyway, click on the above link and go see more details regarding the event, if you want. I’ve been preparing for this tournament for a while now, hoping to achieve a fantastic 4/6 score and pick up some rating points. I said a year ago that if I made it back to the Denker that my goal would be 4/6.  We’ll see how it goes. But first, here's a picture of the skies outside of the plane I took to get to California, where the Denker took place. Someone in my club requested that I get a picture and share it, and who am I to say no to such a request?

Nice, yeah? I was feeling pretty happy to be inside the plane while I took this picture

You're welcome, whoever it was who asked me to share that.

Aside from a nice little flight delay that resulted in me staying in Dallas for a night and getting to California a day late, the flights went smoothly. Yep.


My day one schedule had me playing blitz at 10 am, attending the dreaded opening ceremony at 3, and playing in the first round of the Denker at 7. How nice.

I got up at 8 am to shower. That’s already rare. I prefer night showers, but for long events, I take morning showers to help wake me up. And also after long night games, I typically don’t feel like showering.

I took about a 10-minute walk to the playing area for blitz. I only got lost once, which is why the walk took 10 minutes. I eventually found my way by following other chess players, who I knew were chess players because who else would ask, “What is your regular rating?” to a stranger they meet at a hotel?

I don't have much to say about the blitz event, because it's blitz and because I didn't come close to winning, but I will mention that I played the bongcloud multiple times. Ya know, as I should.

As for the opening ceremony though, something amazing happened... see if you can find me in the 2022 Denker group photo

Photo Credit: Mark Cieslikowski

I'm not in the very front of the group! Woohoo! For whatever reason, they decided to put the short people in the 2nd row. I'm not complaining. I was in the very front of the group in both 2019 and 2021. This was a major accomplishment for me. Anyways, I don't have anything else I feel like sharing with you regarding the opening ceremony, so yeah. Cool. Sooo let's get to the games!

For the first round, I was paired with a 1500 from Arkansas. Only, he’s not 1500. He’s actually 1750, has only played 8 total games, and according to my coach, he played like a 1900 against me. Like, what the heck? Of all the "1500s" I could play, I get this guy? Tough. I kinda freaked out before the round, like actually, but I calmed down enough and was ready to play when it was time. So, let’s see the game. 

I can now say I never lost in the first round of the Denker. I’m 3-0, let’s go lol

The game was pretty solid I thought. It was nerve-wracking to play that endgame, I honestly thought I was gonna blow it. But somehow I played accurately, which is rare. and I got the win. Yay me.


Going into day two with a 1/1 score, I'm chilling so far. I knew I would get a tough round two pairing though, but I felt confident I could hold my own against whatever 2300 I was paired with. But then, I had the extreme misfortune of being paired against Sharvesh Deviprasath in round 2. He’s from Texas. This matters, because this is the 3rd time I have played the player from Texas in the Denker. And it’s the 3rd time I took a really tough loss...

Yeah. That hurt me. Losses like that always hurt me. Even now I still feel pretty bummed out about this. There’s no reason for me to lose that. Not to discredit my opponent, as he played that very very well, but I honestly beat myself in this game. I mean, this had more to do with me losing than him winning. If I just play 25. Rc8 then it should be drawn. But noooo, I just had to keep more pieces on the board, hoping I could somehow play for a win eventually. Oh well. It’s fine. I’ll learn from this. No pain, no gain, right…?

Also, yes, I somehow managed to go 0/3 against Texas in the Denker. I also went 0/2 against Florida. So. Fun fact. I am 0/5 against Texas and Florida in the Denker, but I am 9/13 against everyone else... 

I'm now 1/2 and a bit unhappy, but there's still plenty of chess to be played. I went to an invitational dinner thingy for the Denker, Barber, and Haring players, because I am a good friend. That was a mistake. It was loud and miserable. I didn't even eat the food they had, because it was like two hours before the next round. So instead I did prep for my round 3 opponent in the middle of a noisy room. And I'm proud to report that... it worked! For round 3 I was paired with an 1850 from Mississippi. I was honestly a bit worried since we happen to have the same coach, which is why I spent as much time doing prep for him as I did… but again, I think it worked out well for me. 

Hehe, the French Defense is so good. It’s too good. Sure, that was definitely different from my usual French defense games, but it was still very tactical. His freaky Bxc4 move made it interesting, but all I had to do essentially was not blunder and I’m just winning. That's not exactly easy, but I made it work. And with that, I end day two with a 2/3 score - the best start I've ever had in the Denker (1/3 in 2019, 1.5/3 in 2021). So, I'm content for now.


Heading into the 4th round with a 2/3, I'm feeling decent. I've beaten the players lower than me and lost to the player higher than me, so I can only feel so happy about this. This makes round 4 an important game. I knew I'd be playing someone higher rated than me, so I needed to win. Indeed, I was paired with a 2160 from Indiana. I had been hoping to play him. I played him in December 2020 and choked a better position into a loss. Since then I have hoped for a rematch someday. I wanted revenge. But of course, why would I be allowed to have revenge? 

Yeah, so, I’m pretty disappointed that I couldn’t win that. I mean seriously, come on! I’m a freaking 2100 and didn’t stop to consider how bad of an idea it was to trade into a rook + pawn endgame. 9/10 2100s are going to win that. My mistake was speeding through it I believe. I sped through the middlegame and then didn't slow down when I got the advantage. It was foolish to trade off as many pieces as I did. I simply can’t win that endgame, it’s just drawn, even with the extra pawn. I still tried though, but I couldn’t win. Sadness. But it’s fine. I've gotta keep my head up, cause I'm likely to play another higher-rated player next round.

Now with a 2.5/4 score, which is what I had after 4 rounds in 2021 and after 6 rounds in 2019, I'm feeling decent but also disappointed since I could very easily have at least 3/4 points. But it’s fine. I’m playing a 2200 next. I want to win this. But honestly, my goal was to just not lose. He's a strong 2200, NM Tommy Wen, and I was pretty tired by now. I concluded it was best to play it safe and get a draw, setting myself up for an important round 6 game. Of course, I am gonna try to win, but I'm not gonna take any chances like I normally would. 

Well. Mission accomplished. I mean, it was just dead even pretty much the entire game. I should have been more careful in the middlegame, I very nearly messed up everything. But fortunately for me, I was able to spend very little time and energy and get a solid draw against a strong NM. Now it all comes down to the final round. Will I meet my goal...?


So. It all comes down to this. The final round. With my 3/5 score, all I have to do is win my final game to get to my 4/6 goal. But it won't be easy. I’ve got black against a 2260. But... he's an e4 player. Time for another French Defense! Now, I decided to try something risky, hoping I could make the position messy and manage to outplay the guy. Surprisingly, I did get a good position by playing the line I played. My prep did not fail me, which I am honestly quite pleased about. But the opening is just one part of the game... 

Sigh. Yikes. I honestly was super depressed after that. I failed my goal. 3/6 instead of 4/6? Sadness. That's less than I got in 2021! I got 3.5/6 in 2021, and I only needed 5 rounds to do it. So of course I am sad that I failed my goal. But I took a chance in the last round and it didn't pay off. That's on me. Sometimes the risk will pay off and sometimes it won't. This time it just didn't work, and that's ok. So. After like 2 hours of feeling down, I was successfully cheered up. Which is really good. Because I can’t dwell on this tough loss. I’ve got the US Open up next, which I will post about sometime next week. With solid play and a little bit of luck, I can get my rating points back. But for now, my rating dropped two points to 2131.


First, shoutout to a certain anonymous someone (you know who you are) for smashing their goal in one of the invitationals. You crushed it! And also, thanks for making it a more enjoyable experience, it was great to have a friend there. Yeah. Anyways, here is their best game from the event. 

Next, shoutout to @Nitheguy - He successfully fanboyed over me and got a pic with me. It's a cringe pic cause I suck at taking pics, and there was like something wrong with my hair for some reason, more so than usual I mean, but yeah, it's fine. Oh and Niall also earned the biggest upset award in the Denker, so that's epic. Yeah. Anyways, he and I had an Alabama-Idaho alliance going on. He even gave me Idaho potato-shaped cards lol

Ni took the photo - I clearly wasn't ready

Why does this photo matter? Because he zoomed in on me, saved an edit of that, and asked that it be my profile picture. In exchange, he would change his profile picture, and so would @JoshPrice. After some negotiating, I agreed to a deal... 

Naturally, the next shoutout goes to @JoshPrice for that wonderful profile picture! And, exciting news - as part of the deal, Josh has to do a singing stream, live on his twitch channel! That's literally what got me to agree to the deal in the first place lol it's gonna be hysterical. Be sure to check out Josh's channel for the singing stream, which will take place on the 27th at 3 PM EDT.

I'd also like to shout out the winners of the Denker - IM Arthur Guo, GM Andrew Hong, and FM Sandeep Sethuraman - these dudes are crazy good. The amount of skill it must take to win a tournament like the Denker... gosh. Congrats to them!

My final shoutout is to all the people who helped me get here. Not to be cheesy, but I wouldn't have made it to the Denker without my coach or family, no doubt. And I appreciate the support I received from some of you guys while I was competing, I appreciate you guys. Thanks, everyone.

Now for some announcements... there aren't many, but yeah lol

See all planned upcoming blogs in the image above

My next blog will drop some time next week, I'll recap my experience at the 2022 US Open - that was fun. And I'll post a part 3 to my Questioning NCP's series in September.

After that, I'm really unsure what's next. And that's because I might not be playing otb again for a while. I'm due for a break, so we'll see what happens. There's a solid chance I don't play again in 2022, but who knows.

I'd like to also announce that I will be live streaming analysis of my Denker games tomorrow night, Friday August 19th, starting around 9 PM CST - check out my twitch channel if you'd like to hear my thoughts on the games, and maybe stop by and ask me questions about the event! 


Good job, you made it to the end. I truly hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at the 2022 Denker Tournament of Highschool Champions. I'm truly quite proud that I had the opportunity to represent Alabama in this event 3 times. I never thought that would happen. When I went in 2019, I didn't honestly expect a second chance, let alone a 3rd chance, to compete in the Denker. So I'm quite grateful that I was given the ability to earn such opportunities. Sadly I'm too old to go back to the Denker again, so this truly was my last Denker, but I'm thankful for the 3 trips I got. Anyways, yeah, thanks so much for reading, I put a lot of time into this one, I hope you guys enjoyed it. Lemme know what you think in the comments! Keep an eye out for my 2022 US Open post to drop some time next week - that should be a lot of fun. Until then, that's all I've got, and I'll cyall in the comments!