It was the final round of the Pennsylvania State Scholastic Championships, and it would determine whether or not I would rank as the first girl in the Pennsylvania K-12 Open and qualify for the 2005 Polgar National Invitational. Last year, I had qualified with five points, and managed to obtain the spot by overcoming my contender by mere tiebreak points. This year, it seemed like the same situation was about to repeat itself. I had 3 ½ points going into the 6th round, and so did the other candidate whom was aiming to qualify for the Polgar. There were no other challengers, so it was just between the two of us. A draw or especially a loss were unthinkable at this stage; all I needed to do was win, and if my rival was also victorious, the tiebreak points would have to create the decision of who is going to qualify once more.
I however, won the concluding round very easily, but the other girl lost. Therefore, I filled the qualifying spot, and was prepared to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to compete for the title of Polgar Champion. It was only the beginning of March when I qualified for the tournament, but before I knew it, it was August and I had arrived at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa where the championship was being held.
The hotel was absolutely magnificent, grand, and as expensive as it was gorgeous. I however did not allow the surroundings to distract me from my game, and attempted to play my best. I began with a good start in the first round with a win, but since I was also playing in the U.S. Open in the evening, I soon realized the pressure of playing in two tournaments simultaneously, with different time controls. Nevertheless, I managed to maintain my focus on the Polgar, and defeated opponent after opponent with a few difficult games (some even in a losing position) until I had a score of 4 out of 4 points. Rounds five and six would be the crucial rounds, and I did not get an easy pairing in round five when I was paired against first board. We drew after a tough game, and I was half-a-point ahead of her. My chances were looking pretty good at that point. I had 4 ½ points, and so did only one other person. I was extremely nervous, and too soon the final and anticipated round came.
I clearly remember seating myself on first board with the white pieces, and noticed everyone staring at our demo board, even though the round did not begin yet. As we started to progress into the game, I managed to acquire a slight advantage, and was a pawn up. My opponent and I played into a rook ending, and unfortunately, my extra pawn was not enough to prevail, as is common in the rook ending. We each concluded with five points, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed.
Later that day when I came to check on the tournament standings I brightened up a little as I discovered that I was one of the three co-champions in the Polgar (I started out as second board, and finished in second place!), and that UTD was generous enough to award full scholarships to all three of us!
The tournament was remarkable in organization and in the environment setting. I came to play chess and win, but I got even more than I expected. Along the way I met many new friends whom were participants in the tournament, and because of our mutual enthusiasm for chess, we had so much in common, and there was always a subject (chess!) to discuss. There were also fun side events such as the Polgar Blitz Championship and Puzzle Solving Competitions that were not only chess-stimulating, but also helped everyone get to know each other better with the tournament competitiveness gone. I had such an enjoyable time that I didn’t want to depart, but all too soon the Polgar and the U.S. Open ended, and it was time to go home.
I had such a great experience, and I would like to thank Susan and Paul for organizing and arranging such a wonderful tournament, and I am gladly looking forward to participating in more Polgar events in the near future.