In March 2023, I played in Southern California’s Superstates tournament, an annual scholastic tournament held to decide California’s elementary, junior high, high school, and female state champions. These champions go on to represent Southern California at the annual Rockefeller, Barber, Denker, and Haring tournaments, for elementary, middle school, high school, and females respectively.
Each state and the District of Columbia send their state champions to compete against each other in these prestigious tournaments (Northern California and Southern California are considered separate states for the purpose of these events). Unfortunately, I was age ineligible to attempt to qualify for the Rockefeller and Barber, and too low rated at the time to feasibly become the Denker representative, so my goal was to qualify for the Haring spot as a lucky chess player of the female gender.
Leading up to the qualifying tournament, I was second seeded among girls and Southern California’s #2 female junior with a rating of 2042. However, the top rated girl withdrew from the event, leaving me as the favorite to secure the spot. In this tournament, K-12 boys and girls play against each other in one section rather than separately, and the top female finisher in the pool earns the right to represent Southern California in the Haring. Because of this, I knew that I had tough competition to fight if I wanted to earn that spot, even if I was the “favorite”. In the first four of the six rounds, I beat a 1692 and 530, drew NM Brandon Xie (2201), and beat CM Nitish Nathan (2168), putting me in a favorable position to win. However, this also meant that as I climbed up the boards, my competition would become tougher. I was paired with and lost to eventual co-champion FM Teddie Wen (2282) in the penultimate round.
Even though I was defeated, I did not get an easier pairing and my heart sank when I was paired with and eventually lost to IM Ming Lu (2341) in the final round.
Despite the terrible outcome of the last two rounds, I finished first among girls with a score of 3.5/6. Even though four other girls tied with me for the same score, my performance in the early rounds and higher rated matchups gave me an advantage on tiebreaks. To this day, it is still inconceivable to me that my incredible luck got me into the Haring.
Fast forward to the end of July, I prepared myself for the forthcoming trials and flew to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to compete in the 11th annual WIM Ruth Haring Tournament of Girls State Champions (and the US Open which is concurrent with the National Invitational events including the Haring).
At the time, I was the second seeded contender (2123/2161 unofficially), trailing only behind Northern California’s FM Ruiyang Yan (2356).
However, an unfortunate series of events relegated me to fourth place due to an early upset draw against Aradh Kaur (1807) and loss to top seed Yan (2356) in the final round. I had 4.5/5 going into the final round, the only other player on 4.5/5 being Yan. My poor preparation and erroneous play were exploited accurately; I was deservedly beaten to a pulp and landed in fourth place with 4.5/6, missing the podium.
I was very upset and disappointed by the result, but forced myself to be ready to play in the 123rd Annual US Open Chess Championship after the conclusion of the Haring. This gave me 9 more rounds/9 opportunities for me to increase my rating in my quest for the title of National Master, even though it was highly unrealistic that I would do so. Unfortunately, things did not go my way as I netted two points of rating after both events combined. I concluded my ten days in Grand Rapids with a painfully mediocre and not NM worthy score of 6/9.
This was suboptimal for gaining rating and extremely anticlimactic, but there is a lot I can discover from my games, and so can you. Here I have included for you a position from each game that I played from the Haring for your entertainment. Whether you enjoy tactical content or positional maneuvering, are new to the game or an experienced player, there is something in here for you. Some of these will be tactics my opponents and I overlooked, while some were actually played out on the board. Happy solving, and I hope you learn from my games as much as I did! The answers will be at the bottom of the blog.
From Round 1 of the Haring: Jou – Hsu (1604), White to move
From Round 2 of the Haring: Kaur (1807) – Jou, White to move
From Round 3 of the Haring: Jou – White (1104), White to move
From Round 4 of the Haring: Wang (1904) – Jou, Black to move
From Round 5 of the Haring: Jou – WFM Matus (2091), White to move
From Round 6 of the Haring: FM Yan (2356) – Jou, White to move
1. Ng5 0-0 Qh5 with a double attack on f7 and h7
2. Bxc7 Bxc1 Qxc6 Qxc6 Rxc6 Bb2 Rc4 Bxd4 Bd6 Rxc4 bxc4 and white’s pawn will decide the game
3. e5 Nd7 Qxd5+ winning a pawn with a great position
4. Ne3+ Kb3 Nf5 forcing a rook trade as g3 is lost otherwise, which trades into a winning endgame for black
5. Nf6+ Bxf6 Bxh7+ Kxh7 Qh5+ Kg8 gxf6 gxf6 Kh1 Re8 Rg1+ Kf8 Qh6+ Ke7 exf6# (other attacking moves after the double sacrifice are acceptable)
6. f5! breaks down black’s center, leaving her with a weakness on d5