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In February’s virtual IHSA State Chess Tournament, Whitney Young edged out Barrington to win its sixth State chess title in the last 11 years. The two teams played to a 34-34 tie in their last round match, but Whitney Young was awarded first place due to stronger results in their other team matches. Notably, this is the first time that two female players have faced one another as the top players for the top two high school teams in the Illinois High School Association State Tournament.

Whitney Young’s title hopes were saved on Board 1, where Aria Hoesley won a lengthy game against Barrington’s Shreya Mangalam. With her team trailing in the match, Hoesley needed to win, but for most of the game she did not have any advantage on the board. However, the situation changed after an erroneous pawn move by Mangalam in the endgame. Hoesley’s accurate response secured a win, the match and another State title for Whitney Young.

The game’s critical points occurred early and late. Mangalam, playing black, had no trouble in the opening and had an opportunity to obtain a favorable position after an inaccuracy by Hoesley:

1e4, e5 2Nc3, Nf6 3g3, d5 4exd5, Nxd5 5Bg2, Nxc3 6bxc3, Nc6 7Nf3, Bc5 80-0, 0-0 9d3, h6 10Re1, Nf6 11Be3, Bb6 12Nd2, Be6 13Qc1, Rad8 14Ne4, Qe7 15 c4. Bxe6 16fxe3?! (White wants to prevent Nd4, but 16Qxe3, Nd4 17Rac1, with an even game, is better.)

Hoesley Position 1

16…f5! 17Nc3, Rd7? (Black misses the opportunity to break up white’s pawn formation with 17…e4! Note that 18d4?, Bxc4 loses a pawn. 18Nd5, sacrificing a pawn to get play on the open f-file, is the relatively best move for white.) After 17…Rd7 white played 18Rb1, regaining equality thanks to her active rook on the b-file.

The game remained level until it reached a king & pawn endgame, with each player having just seconds remaining on their game clock. White has the apparent advantage of a protected passed pawn, but black can undermine it by playing 48…b5! After 49Kd4, bxc4 50Kxc4, black can draw by advancing her kingside pawns.

Hoesley Position 2

Black instead played too slowly with 48…a6?, allowing white to improve her king position. The game continued 49Kd4, h5 50Ke4, g4 (50…b5 fails to 51c5+!, Kxc5 52Ke5 and white’s d-pawn will queen) 51Kf4, b5

Hoesley Position 3

Now black finally played b5, but it’s too late to save the game. White exchanges pawns and then uses her king to capture black’s kingside pawns: 52cxb5, axb5 53Kg5, Kxd5 54Kxh5, Kc4 55Kxg4. White queened her h-pawn on move 60 and checkmated black on move 75 to secure the state title.

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.