My First U.S. Tournament

Ashley Tapp 1 Dec 7, 2015 9550 reads

Hi ChessKids!

It's an honor to be asked to write for! I'm looking forward to sharing my chess journey with you all, reading your input and studying on's many chess teaching options.

My name is Ashley Tapp, I'm 15 and I'm Canadian. I have played in two World Youth Chess Championships when I was 12 and 13. They were hosted in Maribor, Slovenia and Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.

I became known as the "Chess Girl from Canada" when fundraising to these two tournaments and for highlighting the need for chess sponsorship in Canada. Also, I wanted more girls to play chess. I'm thankful to many for this experience, and to my sponsor David from the Netherlands for allowing me to play chess in Budapest in the summer of 2014. Every week there were high-level FIDE rated tournaments, unlike in Vancouver where I live.

Spoiled for choices, I played tournaments regularly. I opted to study from chess books at this time, which taught me the value of independent study (naturally in chess you need a chess coach at my level). All this changed everything for me! Playing was the best part.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and it was my first all-girls chess tournament. I was lucky to be invited by GM Susan Polgar to play in the Susan Polgar Invitational 2015 in St Louis, at Webster University.

Sixty girls played (8-21) from 10+ countries and nearly 40 US states at Webster University, July 25-30, 2015. 

This was tough competition, with the strongest girls playing. Honestly, I've always looked forward to stronger competition, and I also try not to think about my opponents' strength too much, instead thinking it's just another chess game and to give it my best.

Before the tournament I arrived early in St. Louis and stayed with a wonderful family in Webster Grove a block away from the university. I attended a SPICE Summer Chess Camp first and studied with GM Susan Polgar and the SPICE Chess team coaches. I had a great experience with many young players I enjoyed meeting.

Right after this I was fortunate to be asked to join another five-day training session this time with some of the top U.S. juniors. I couldn't believe I would be training alongside players like GM Ray Robson (2659) , Awonder Liang (2483), and Darwin Yang (2580).



I was the lowest-rated player in the camp, but managed to keep up most of the time with all the grandmasters. It was tough and all came down to how dedicated and focused we are if we wanted to make the most of the training.  SPICE training (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) is not for the average chess player. Susan Polgar made me feel very welcomed and confident to follow through with the training.

After this it was five days to the SPGI 2015 Tournament. All I can think about was resting, no more training and preparing. So I spent five days with my host family Margaret, John and their grandchildren Francis, Lizzie and John Patrick. We toured the city and dropped by a few times to the Saint Louis Chess Club. The children were keen to learn chess and I was happy to teach them.  


 The St. Louis Art Gallery and a group shot under the famous Arch. Francis playing chess.

The tournament was now about to begin, with six games to play.

The first round was a win for me followed by the second, also a win. The third was a fair loss. Then the two to follow both wins again for me! What a great tournament so far, with four points out of five and with only one game to go.

The sixth game was a battle for second place. It was a brilliant game just a few moves away toward a victory for me, then the unthinkable happened! Even though I saw the win for myself, just moves away I hesitated and went over the position.

Why? I can see it. What was left to calculate? Then it happened, I was out of time! Out of time?! What a lesson that was. How did I not remember what I was just taught -- to respect that "the chess clock is just as important as any piece on the board."

That would have saved my game. I won't ever forget this and this game. My first US tournament earned me a USCF rating of 1811, a good start.

Let's take a look at game six




My Game From Round Two

Annotated by GM Marian Petrov.

GM Marian Petrov is an accomplished professional chess coach, theorist, and former Bulgarian champion, as well as winner of many tournaments around the world. He graduated from the Nationals Sports Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria with a Bachelor's degree in Chess Pedagogy, a four-year undergraduate program designed to prepare top level chess trainers, mentors, and professional seconds of the World Chess contenders.


  Good luck everyone playing chess! It's a truly amazing game.



Ashley Tapp and GM Susan Polgar at Webster University, St. Louis.