Abby Marshall is the representative from Ohio. She is the co-champion of 2nd Annual SP National Invitational for Girls. She also won the SP National Invitational Blitz Championship with a perfect 6-0 score. She finished second in the SP National Invitational Puzzle Solving Championship. Posted by Picasa

Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls 2005

I barely notice the hundred-degree heat as I walk down the long and winding road to the tournament site. My thoughts are on the round ahead where I’ll be playing up on stage for a chance at first place. A win would get me clear first, a draw a massive tie may evolve, and a loss nothing.

Before I know it I’m there and I cross the huge playing hall to the black and rickety stage. The stairs creak as I step steadily up and take a seat at my board in the center. My back is to the demo board as I search for my state flag to hang on the flagpole by my board. Eventually I find it and I sit down to wait for the round to begin. Fiddling with my nametag, I look over the small sitting area and the sea of chessboards, letting my thoughts wander to previous rounds. Every game was close. In the round yesterday, luck had been on my side, getting me a win instead of a draw.

Soon some of the other participants in this event arrive and wish me luck. Then my opponent gets here and the last round of the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls 2005 begins. Inspired by the thrill of playing on stage and having my game up for all to see, I play well, getting out of a difficult situation to draw, earning me the title of co-champion for the Polgar.

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What impressed me most about the Polgar was the way the participants were treated like professional players. Receiving nametags and state flags to hang up along with getting a chance to play on stage with a demo board showing the moves was great. We also got to practice with international time controls.

Nobody could say the competition was weak. The Polgar attracted some very good players. When I first heard about the tournament, I thought that, except for two or three girls, the event would be a walkover. How wrong I was. As the tournament boasted a handful of 1800 rated players plus one girl rated over 2000 and another over 2300(!), I knew it would be tough. After all, every single girl had to be the best in her state.

Due to the strong competition, a lot of people followed the Polgar. After I drew the girl rated 2300, some people asked me how it went, including some of the strongest Denker players. However, the most exciting thing happened the morning after I tied for first, when Greg Shahade, who’s an IM, congratulated me on winning the event! I just think it shows people respect the Polgar and know it’s a strong event.

I had to play some of my best chess and have a little bit of luck to be co-champion. Every game was definitely a struggle. In my games, only one player resigned while I had to mate the others. My first two games each went three and a half-hours! My shortest game went three hours! I had to work hard to draw the games I drew and even harder to win the games I won. I wouldn’t have been co-champion of the tournament if I hadn’t been lucky, too, of course. In the next-to-last round, in a completely even position, my opponent blundered and a few minutes later graciously turned down her king.

Turning away from the competitive side, I have to say everyone was friendly and enjoying themselves. I have never felt more at home in a tournament. At the opening ceremonies, while the Denker players looked like they were in pain as they got their pictures taken, all of the girls were laughing, talking, and actually smiling in the picture. I felt like I could go up to anyone, introduce myself, and be welcome. The most enjoyable tournaments I’ve been to have been all-girls tournaments.

All in all, I thought the tournament was fantastic and I really hope to come next year. I’m moving to Virginia this week so the Polgar gave me a chance to scout out the competition. It looks really fierce (if the Virginia representative had won her last round she would have been tied for first too!) but that is all the better as it’ll inspire me to work harder.

The morning after the Polgar was finished I decided to walk down to the tournament room, just to remember what it felt like. I can almost still see the players like ghosts playing their games. I can see me up on stage and the position on the demo board. The feelings of tension, pressure and excitement still hang thick in the air. Sighing, I turn around and walk out, dreaming of next year.

By Abby Marshall

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar