Polgar Invitational: Final Report

08.11.06 Abby Marshall repeats as Polgar National Girls Champion! Margaret Bryan wins her second game in a row to finish the tournament with 2.5 out of 6. Lots of news and images in this big illustrated final report.

Image courtesy Susan Polgar Foundation
Grandmaster Susan Polgar congratulates Maine representive Margaret Bryan at the awards ceremony.

August 11, 2006

So, today is the last round, and it is also my last written entry on this website relaying information from Chicago to Maine. I have really enjoyed writing for ChessMaine in the past week about my superb experiences in a location so different from the rural and wintry northeast, and I hope that I will also be Maine’Äôs representative next year so that I may correspond to this site once again. I have six more chances to attend the Polgar tournament, and I am hoping that during at least one of the remaining years I will be successful.

In the final round I played Shizuyo Ichikawa, a fifteen year-old from Ohio with a rating of 1334. Unlike in my previous entries, I am not going to divulge the result until after my analysis and speculations, for the game was very close for the most of the round, and is just as suspenseful to watch as a World Series baseball game, that is, if you’Äôre a chess enthusiast and not a baseball fan. (In my case I am partial to both sports.)

Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls
Round 6 August 11, 2006
Shizuyo Ichikawa (1334) - Margaret Bryan (1076)

To view this game with our interactive game viewer while following Margaret's annotations, right-click on the hyperlink below and choose "Open in New Window".

Click here to replay

1. d4 d5
2. e3 c6

I have never had to play this opening before in my life as black, and I am playing my moves by ear. Usually I respond Nf6 when my opponent plays d4, and I am never sure what to do next. This time I just decided to experiment.

3. Bd3 Nf6

White is playing very fast right now, as if she has memorized the opening by heart. In fact, since the time control for the tournament was 40 moves in 90 minutes with 30 seconds increment added on per move, she has actually gained over a minute in time on her clock.

4. Nd2 Bg4
5. Ngf3

At this point I thought that my opponent might have preferred to play f3, because it both protects the queen and threatens the bishop simultaneously. But the two knights guarding each other looks decidedly elegant, and it also enables White to castle on the next move.

5. ’Ķ e6
6. 0-0 Bb4
7. c3 Bd6

I like the fact that my bishop is lined up diagonally with the h2 square, and that the d-file has only one open space, making everything much more crowded and protected.

8. Qc2 Bxf3
9. Nxf3 g6

Now I am free to castle, as I am now protected by threats of White’Äôs knight adding extra backup to the h7 square.

10. Ne5 Nbd7
11. f4 Qe7

I believe that at this point I was hoping to castle queenside. I have never quite agreed with the phrase, ’ÄúCastle long, Castle wrong.’Äù It seems to me that it is almost more productive to castle queenside than kingside, for it allows what had been an almost nonexistent rook to come right in the thick of the action in only one move, throws in one more piece of defense on the d-file, and safeguards the king all in the same moment. The game continues with’Ķ

12. Qe2 Bxe5
13. fxe5 Ne4
14. Bxe4 dxe4
15. Qg4 f5

No, I did not overlook en passant in this instance; my position is relatively cramped as it is, and an exchange on f6 might give me slightly more space. Plus, I am not comfortable with four of White’Äôs pawns lined up diagonally from b2 to e5, and exf5 e. p. will minimize the count from four to three.

16. exf5 e. p.Nxf6
17. Qg5 0-0

Nd5 probably would have been a safer move, for it would relinquish the pressure on f6 and White would have to make an abrupt decision about what to do with her queen, but I thought that castling was a more defensively tactical move, and gave an additional smooth element of surprise.

18. Bd2

I was rather startled when White did this. I couldn’Äôt believe that she was going to actually attempt to maneuver her bishop around her pieces to h4 during the next couple of moves, but I knew that if she succeeded, the result would be disastrous for me. I pondered this position for a long time, and at length decided to play’Ķ

18. ’Ķ Kg7
19. Be1 h6
20. Qe5 g5
21. Bg3

White is equipped to trade queens on c7. However the game ensues, that is the one thing I do not want to happen. My opponent just has more space than me, and I am not ready to exchange my most powerful piece on the board quite yet.

21. ’Ķ Rad8
22. Qc7 Rd7
23. Qa5

At this point I debated what was the best move: a6 or b6? B6 threatens the queen and protects the a-pawn at the same time, while a6 only performs one of the two. However, with b6 White has various spaces to retreat to, and makes no major improvements to my position overall. I decided on a6 in the end, because both moves seemed equally strong. Play continues:

23. ’Ķ a6
24. Be5 Rd5
25. Qa4 c5

Okay, so that wasn’Äôt exactly a brilliant move. After Qc2, I can’Äôt do anything to stop 26. Rxf6 Rxf6 27. Bxf6 Qxf6 28. Qxe4. Sure enough’Ķ

26. Qc2 Kg8
27. Rxf6 Rxf6
28. Bxf6 Qxf6
29. Qxe4 cxd4

I’Äôm only a pawn behind, and right now I don’Äôt think trading pieces is such a bad idea. My chances of winning are slim, but the odds that I’Äôll manage a draw are much higher. White continues with:

30. exd4 Qf5
31. Qxf5 Rxf5
32. Re1 Rf6
33. h3 b5
34. Re5 Kf8
35. g4

At this point I had to make what for me was a difficult decision, but for a grandmaster probably would have been a matter of utmost simplicity. Should I abandon my own pawns and attempt to pick off White’Äôs with my rook? Or should I continue to protect my meager army while my opponent advances her ferocious regiment, focusing chiefly on my isolated pawns. I decided on the former choice.

35. ’Ķ Rf3
36. Kg2 Rd3
37. Rxe6 Rd2+
38. Kf3 Rxb7
39. Rxa6 b4
40. cxb4 Rxb4
41. Rxh6 Rxd4
42. Rg6 Rd3+
43. Kg2 Rd2+
44. Kf3 Rd3+
45. Kf2 Rxh3
46. Rxg5 Rh2+
47. Kg3 Rxa2+

Suddenly a draw is looking very possible right now, and my only plans now are to make sure it stays that way. If I play flawlessly, the game is drawn, and right now I am trying my best to do so.

48. Kf4 Rf2+
49. Kg3 Ra2
50. Rb5 Ra3+
51. Kh4 Ra7
52. Kg5 Rg7+
53. Kf5 Rf7+
54. Kg5 Rg7+
55. Kh5 Rh7+
56. Kg5 Rg7+
57. Kf4 Rf7+
58. Kg3 Rg7

I was aware of the threat of Rb8+, shortly followed by another check by White, resulting to a skewer that implicates the trade of rooks, but I knew that after Kf4, I could just play Kg6, and after that, my opponent would not be able to avoid a stalemate. Play continues:

59. Rb8+ Ke7
60. Rb7+ Kf6
61. Kf4??!

I was absolutely shocked after this move was played. At first I wondered if there was a strange sense of reasoning behind it, and that it was really a brilliant sacrifice that would allow White to advance her pawn and win the game, but a moment later I realized that it was just a blunder, and unless I countered it with a worse error, the game was won. You can probably predict where I moved next.

61. ’Ķ Rxb7

At this point there is no more notation on the game, as my score sheet was full and the game was almost over. The last move I recalled from memory, and you can probably guess how the game resulted. I managed to pick off White’Äôs final pawn and checkmate her about 10 or 15 moves later.

I’Äôve been both candid and blunt in my previous entries, and I will be so now also: I did not want to win in the manner I did. The game should have been a draw, and if I had made a major blunder, my opponent might have even been able to scrape out a win. But I still accepted the victory graciously, because it jumped me up in the standings from about 40th place to 33rd. I was originally ranked 37th prior to the tournament, so I can’Äôt complain. The results were both satisfactory and relieving.

After the final games were complete, there was a Polgar Invitational pizza party at 4:00 in the afternoon held in the Ogden room located in the lower lobby of the Doubletree, which not only included a delicious display of Dominoes® cuisine (your choice of thin or thick crust), but there was also an awards presentation for the winner of the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls Miss Congeniality competition. When taken to a vote, Elizabeth Oliver of Nebraska was declared the victor. She was presented with what I believe to be the newest model of the DGT Easy Game Timer Plus digital clock in cerulean hue (just in case there are future chess players aspiring for this award, you should at least know what the prize is). After the food was finished and the clock presented, the officials departed to prepare for the awards ceremony, and both the players and their parents were left to their own devices. Numerous games of bughouse and blitz ensued, and the exchanging of emails and ICC (Internet Chess Club) usernames were abundant in this gathering of less than a hundred, and even players whom had barely conversed with other participants throughout the tournament were clamoring for autographs and games of skittles alike. The scene suddenly seemed not to be just the conclusion of a heated competition, but a prospect of unity and confidence, and I was proud to be part of this exclusive community of young competitors from across the country.

All too soon, it was time to enter the main hall for what would be the final official gathering that would signify the close of this prestigious scholastic tournament, and possibly my last encounter with the many individuals whom I had come to know so well over the past week.

But before farewells were to be made, however, there was to be one final competition that would conclude a series of games and side events. This was a blitz championship between the Polgar Invitational victor (Abby Marshall) and the winner of the Denker Tournament of High School Champions (Nelson Lopez). With the clocks set to G3 with no time delay, the mood before the match commenced was one of utter suspense and tension. When finally told to start their clock, the two champions played with rapid skill and a silence that was loud enough to be heard from miles away. Abby was ahead at the end of both games, but in the first game she lost on time, and in the second, both clocks hit the 0:00 mark in unison and the game was declared a draw. There were a couple rows of chairs in front of the board so that players and parents could watch the game in progress. If a non-chess fan were to enter the room at that time, they would see a roomful of people leaning on the edge of their seats, their eyes glued to an unusual game board, whilst two individuals on either side hurriedly moved the black and white figurines to various locations on the board, occasionally removing one and placing it next to them. On every face this new onlooker would have seen expressions of apprehension and calculation, their brows furrowed and fingers crossed. In short, he or she would have seen the true definition of what sports fans would call ’Äúa love of the game’Äù. No, they would not see that chess was, as some people think, as big as life; they would see it as something worth spending some of their own time doing. Chess is a wonderful game, it involves both intellectual prowess, science, social skills, and art, as well as good physical condition, strength, and agility. It is one of the most well-rounded of all activities, and, like baseball in America, it has become the pastime of many other foreign countries. My word of advice: even if you don’Äôt like the game that much, play it at least once in a while, and with your knowledge of it or not, it is bound to at least improve one minute aspect of your existence.

All right, I believe I’Äôve indicated before that I sometimes have a habit of going off on tangents; it runs in my family. Now for some strict, proven occurrences:

After the blitz match was over and everyone had settled down, several announcements were made as officials, tournament directors, and sponsors made acknowledgements to other helpers and some friends in the crowd. Then it was time for the awards.

After the Denker awards were presented, it was time for the Polgar ceremony. Jordana Williams of Louisiana was officially presented with the Ursula Foster scholarship, a first-time-ever award given to the top finishing participant aged 13 and under. I placed somewhere in the middle in the race for that title. Then the top five finishers (listed from 1st to fifth respectively: Abby Marshall, Elina Kats, Louisa Livschitz, Courtney Jamison, and Ashley Carter) received the promised amount of money and had a group photo taken for the website.

And after that, it was all over. The crowd slowly dispersed, and it took a few moments for the thought to sink in that I really would be going home tomorrow. I was immediately filled with a flurry of mixed emotions, some bright at the prospect of going home and not having to wake up early the next morning have breakfast before preparing for the next round, and some sad that I would be leaving the location I had grown accustomed to in just a week. There were no outdoor malls in Maine, or large convention centers where big events such as the U.S. Open were held. Maine had no major league baseball team, and even in our larger towns, the perpetual honking of car horns is a rare sound to behold. At that moment I felt as if going back to Maine was my least favorite option in the world.

The next day we departed to catch the train in Union Station. Two days later, at 3:00 in the morning, at last we arrived home. I was absolutely exhausted with that dead weight hanging over me that I would not enter the boundaries of the Windy City again for a long, long time. But I also felt something I had not expected; elation. I was back in Holden, and in the morning I could revisit Chicago once more, as I typed my final journal entries relating my experiences in a state so different from my own.

I hope all of you enjoyed reading my entries over the past week, and that you will hear from me again sometime on this same website, not necessarily from Chicago; maybe next time I’Äôll be at the SuperNationals.

Margaret Bryan
ChessMaine’Äôs Special
Correspondent from Chicago

Images courtesy Susan Polgar Foundation
L to R: Louiza Livschitz - CA (3rd), Courtney Jamison - TX (4th), Susan Polgar, Ashley Carter - MI (5th), Elina Kats - NY (2nd), Abby Marshall - VA (Champion)

A friendly 2-game 3 0 exhibition blitz match between the winners of the Polgar (Abby Marshall) and Denker (Lopez II, Nelson) events took place right before the closing ceremony took place. This match drew the biggest crowd at the US Open!

Abby was up a piece in a winning endgame with the Black pieces in the first game. However, Nelson was too fast and won on time. Abby had a King and Queen versus King in the second game. Unfortunately, the time ran out for both players and the game was declared a draw.

Image courtesy USCF
Margaret Bryan (first on left) watches the Marshall - Lopez exhibition blitz match with Polgar National Invitational players Elina Kats and Emily Chu.

Image courtesy Susan Polgar Foundation
Some of the participants with GM Susan Polgar

Polgar Blitz Tournament

Emily Chu - Margaret Bryan Round 1

Margaret Bryan - Katie Mueller Round 4

Just before the start of Round 4

Ichikawa - Bryan Round 6

Abby Marshall and Nelson Lopez preparing for battle.

Round 5 commences

Thanks and congratulations to Margaret Bryan for all her hard work and dedication to these reports and for an awesome tournament!


Maggie is amazing and i am not just saying that because she is my best friend. She is the greatest chess player in the world!!!!!!!!

Excellent coverage of the Polgar National Girls Tournament. Margaret wrote exquisitely! And for a beginner player like myself, I was drawn in by her accounts of all the happenings. Well done!

The reports from Margaret were excellent! She is a great writer. I was proud to read about her performances in making a great representation for the state of Maine. Let's hope she gets her dream to go agian in the years ahead. She surely was a great representative for all grades in the state of Maine. Way to Go!!!

Post a comment

  • Navigation: