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The RoundTable is excited to introduce Rank and File – our new column on chess by ETHS head chess coach Keith Holzmueller. Interest in chess has surged following the hit Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” – so we figured it’s time to get on board. If you have chess questions you’d like answered, please send a note to Keith at email@example.com.
Evanston Township High School Chess has been more fortunate than many other high school activities and sports that have been disrupted, or even shut down, by COVID-19 during the current school year. When the pandemic began last spring, playing chess online was already a popular pastime, and ETHS club and team members were quickly able to shift from in-person meetings to playing games on the Lichess.org website.
When school resumed virtually in the fall, online chess continued and was supplemented with lessons via Zoom. There were still questions about how competition between school teams could happen, but the efforts of Rockford Guilford’s Erik Czerwin, and other Illinois coaches, made it possible to run matches and tournaments on Lichess.org. ETHS was actually able to play more team matches during the 2020-21 season than during the prior season.
All of this activity helped chess become the first IHSA Activity or Sport to hold a state championship event during the current academic year. A total of 113 high school teams competed virtually on February 12 and 13, with Whitney Young emerging as the state champion, and ETHS finishing in 12th place.
The ETHS team is quite young, with 7 sophomores and 2 freshmen on its IHSA State team of 12 players. Sophomore Elijah Platnick played on Board 1 and was the team’s top scorer with 6 wins, including the following victory over Glenbrook North’s Daniel Kim.
White: Daniel Kim
Black: Elijah Platnick
1c4, e5 2g3, Nc6 3Bg2, Bc5 4Nc3, d6 5e3, a6 6Nge2, Ba7 7d4, Nge7 80-0, 0-0 9dxe5, dxe5 10b3, f6 11Ba3, Re8 12Qb1, Bf5 13 e4? (White limits the activity of his own bishop. 13Qb2 was better.) Bg4 14Rd1, Nd4 15Qb2, Qc8 16Bxe7, Rxe7 17Nxd4, Bxd4 (White is trading down in hopes of simplifying the game, but black is better.) 18Rd2, Rd7 19h3, Be6 20Kh2, Qf8 21g4?
21…b5! (White’s pinned knight on c3 is hard to defend, leading to a winning advantage for black.) 22cxb5, axb5 23b4, c5 24Rxd4, Rxd4 25bxc5, Qxc5 26Rc1, Qb4 27Qxb4, Rxb4 (Black’s rook is much stronger than white’s knight.) 28Nd5, Bxd5 29exd5, Rxa2 30d6, Rd4 31Rc5, Rad2 32Rc8+, Kf7 33Rc7+, Kg6 34Rb7, Rxd6 35Rxb5, Rxf2 36Kg3, Rdd2 37Be4+, Kh6 38h4, Rfe2 39g5+, fxg5 40hxg5+, Kxg5 41Rxe5+ Kf6 42Rf5+, Ke6 and white runs out of checks. Black checkmated white on move 61.
Keith Holzmueller has been the head coach of the Evanston Township High School Chess Club and Team since 2017. He became a serious chess player during his high school years. As an adult player, he obtained a USCF Expert rating for over-the-board play and was awarded the Senior International Master title by the International Correspondence Chess Federation. Keith now puts most of his chess energy into helping young chess players in Evanston learn to enjoy chess and improve their play.