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  • James Neal

2022 K-12 Champions of Iowa

Journalism for the 2022 Denker/Rockefeller/Barber Candidates event.

I made a long journey from California to Iowa to participate in my first of 3 events. The first event would be the Denker/Barber candidates of Iowa. I would not be playing; I would instead use the time to support my Iowa students. I had 13 students registered for the event which looked good on paper but there were some high tier players amongst the field.

I had one high schooler fighting for the Barber, but he was 1400 and attempting to upset a seasoned 2100… I offered my support, but I knew it may be asking too much to think a 1400 can overcome that skill gap (although my student was underrated).



I was surprised by a student I had long ago when I first attempted to teach elementary schools. This kid was named Isaac and he was my top player from Longfellow about 8 years ago. I could not help but ask him for a photo so I can show the side-by-side comparison (3rd to 11th grade).

Entering the last round of the Junior High section, I was rooting hard for my student Aydan. He had done the unthinkable and upset a 1200 in the last round. The 1200 was the clear favorite since he was the only player in the section with a rating over 1000.


Aydan (3/3) played another Iowa City kid named Asim who entered the last round 2.5/3.0. Aydan played well but made a late blunder that propelled Asim to first place and the winner for the Rockefeller section.

The Winner of the Barber section was a girl from Des Moines named Irene. She is an up-and-coming 1400 that convincingly beat her rival Awen (a former student) in the final round. They would meet a week later and Awen would get her revenge. The revenge would prove fruitful for Anjali (another former student) since she needed an Irene loss to enter a blitz tiebreaker that resulted in her winning and representing Iowa girls for the 2nd year in a row.


The event was fun. I had a lot of time analyzing, motivating, and chatting with my students. It was just like old times. I cannot wait until this pandemic has fully blown over.


My next event will be a thriller in my hometown Burlington Iowa.

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