Whatley Finds Some Success in St. Louis, Eyes Future at Webster
Posted July 29, 2013
MERRIWETHER – Edgefield County’s Tori Whatley (far right) stood her ground at the Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational chess tournament in St. Louis, Missouri last week. She yielded nothing to players considered her peers, but didn’t pull off any upsets against higher rated players finishing the tournament in the 48th position where she started. Her par performance was played out among a field of 60 contestants representing six countries.
Five of the players were at the threshold of obtaining “Master” titles, making this the toughest and most diverse Polgar tournament yet. With a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships and prizes on the line, the competition was sure to be stiff. “Even the young lady from the Canadian Olympic team lost a game and finished fourth”, noted local chess coach David Whatley.
The opening ceremony featured a visit by the Webster University mascot, “Gorlock” as well as members of the #1 nationally ranked Webster University chess team. Also on hand for the festivities was legendary Grandmaster, Yasser Seirawan, with whom Tori had the pleasure of meeting and being photographed.
Round 1 was a tough duel with the Illinois champion, Shayana Provine. Whatley’s game was fundamentally sound, but she was simply outmaneuvered by the higher ranked player. In Round 2, Utah’s Jacinda Lee capitalized on a mistake by the S.C. champion and won the game.
Things began to turn around in Round 3 with Whatley defeating Madison Ford-McKnight of Pennsylvania. This game was analyzed by International Master Vitaly Neimar, a member of the Webster University chess team. He reviewed the game with both opponents and praised Tori for some of her tactics.
A tenacious and determined Whatley would take her seat across from California’s Hiya Ghosh in Round 4. Ghosh was rated at one and a half times the strength of the Palmetto State champion and heavily favored in this contest. The battle lasted for 3 hours with Hiya playing a lot of defense against an opponent that she should’ve been attacking. The game finally ended with a tricky, complicated combination that fell in favor of the Golden State champ.
“That was a tough loss for Tori”, said her father, David, “She was convinced she was going to win. Even now, I’m proud of the effort she poured into that game”.
With little bounce back time, Whatley quickly prepared for Montana’s Baylie Redman. Perhaps a little bitter with the result from the previous round, she battled the belle from Billings, winning Round 5 convincingly.
The stage at the Loretto-Hilton Center was set for the final round. On Board 1, Luisa Mercado Mendoza of Colombia faced Becca Lampman of Washington State in a game that would be worth around $106,000. A few tables back Whatley squared off with Skylar Hsu of Maryland.
Whatley and Hsu played strong openings, both going for a quick kill. Hsu quickly found herself down on material but one step closer on checkmate, winning just before being checkmated herself. Mendoza captured the title on Board 1, and will attend Webster University on a full scholarship, while Lampman will receive a $13,000 per year scholarship for four years.
Whatley enjoyed the side events of the competition as well. She participated in the Puzzle-Solving Championships and the Blitz Championships, where she had some notable success. Most of all, she enjoyed the hospitality of Webster University and it’s beautiful campus.
Indelibly moved by her visit this year, the rising Strom Thurmond High School senior has vowed to make the most of her final year of scholastic chess. She has pledged to increase her chess strength and return to the event for her final time as a formidable player. Her ultimate goal is to be a Webster student (she completed her application upon arriving home) and a member of the finest chess team in America.