Getting Ready for the State Championship
After weeks of checking the website more or less daily, I finally have the pairings for the Washington State Championship, which begins February 11. I had expected to have difficulty qualifying at all, but to my surprise, many expert and master players declined to play, and I am in the Invitational section (section 3 of 4).
The top section, while not quite as strong as last year, remains impressive. FM Raptis, the previous Oregon Champion, will likely be hard pressed by 10th-grade rivals FM Feng (WA Champion 2015) and FM Tiglon, not to mention IM Kaufman. The addition of FM Tian Sang and NM Ignacio Perez, both highly aggressive players, should add plenty of energy. It will also be interesting to see how NM Anthony He (6th grade) handles the top-level competition. So far little seems to disturb him.... The average rating in the top section, which decides the Championship, is 2341 with 4 players over 2400.
The Premier section has an average rating of only 2129 but some players to watch, particularly Ramasamy (an endgame virtuoso with some fine recent results) and our new Women's Champion WFM Norovsambuu. We'll also have LM Pupols, playing in what must be about his 50th WA Championship (he won it for the first time in 1961), and Truelson paying the price for winning a major junior event, namely gaining entry to a section where everyone else is rated 125+ points above him.
Skipping over Invitational for the moment, the lowest (Challengers) section is 2 adults and 8 kids, an impressive selection of up and coming local juniors with an average rating of 1778 but probably underrated by an average of around 100 points. (The two adults may be in for a very hard tournament).
All this is very well, but of course I've been looking obsessively at the Invitational section, average rating 1988. Surprisingly it's 8 adults and 2 kids. A rundown:
Alan Bishop (2043). A player around my age whom I've surprisingly never played, though he won the last WA Class Expert so we've certainly met. He's been an Expert almost continuously since 1991 if not earlier (that's as far back as USCF tracks).
Aaryan Deshpande (2030). An ambitious 7th grader who has been angling to play in the Expert Challenges, and won one of them recently despite being the bottom seed. I've never played him.
Eric Zhang (2017). This 5th grader was last year's "wild card" entry into the bottom section of the Championship, but WCF's faith in him has been amply repaid; he won a FIDE Round Robin recently and his rating is increasing fast. I have a +1/-1 record against him; I won a tactical slugfest in last year's Championship, and lost an opening debacle in the Round Robin.
WFM Chouchanik Airapetian (2015). A seasoned player and past WA Women's Champion who has struggled a bit lately. I have only played her once; she dropped a piece to me at the 2016 Women's Championship. She will doubtless be looking to even the score.
David Arganian (2013). Another seasoned player. I lost our one previous game when my attack backfired.
Timothy Moroney (2012). A previous US Junior Open co-champion, now 29 and playing less frequently--mostly in Eastern Washington. I've never played him.
Damarcus Thomas (1963). I believe I've met Damarcus at previous tournaments, but we've never played.
Mary Kuhner (1956). An older player who really wants to be an Expert again but has been stuck around 1950 since last year's State Championship, mainly due to opening debacles versus well-booked kids. Fourth place in last year's Challengers section; would be lucky to do that well in the Invitational.
Travis Olson (1953). A younger adult who really wants to be an Expert. We've played 4 times: +1 =2 -1. It's a friendly but rather serious rivalry. (I have White, which is helpful here.)
Mark Trevor Smith (1880). A seasoned adult. I've played him once, a draw in last year's Championship; my position was in ruins due to underestimating him when he unexpectedly forced a repetition draw.
It's going to be a tough tournament. Even score or better to improve my rating, but I'd like to do better than that. Or at least play some good games. The Championship is run like an elite tournament, with nameplates on the boards and bulletins after the rounds; I love the atmosphere and hope it will inspire me to play my best. (I also need to get my mind off politics: distraction is my biggest enemy.)