During the COVID-19 pandemic, the major U.S. chess tournaments that are normally played in person have been moved to online chess websites. A return to playing in person is expected later this year, but the timing remains uncertain. The U.S. Chess Federation, for example, has canceled its national events through this spring, and its summer schedule may also change. Tournament play has also moved online in Europe and in many other countries, but not everywhere. In-person tournaments have continued, or resumed, in some countries where chess is popular and COVID-19 cases are low.
Evanston has a connection to one of those places. After playing an important role on the Evanston Township High School team that placed fourth in the 2020 Illinois High School Association State Chess Tournament, Henry Zaslow is spending the current year abroad in New Zealand. Since COVID-19 case levels in New Zealand have been very low since last May, in-person chess resumed there during the second half of 2020.
Henry has taken advantage by playing in person at scholastic and open/adult tournaments. Most recently, he obtained a plus score in the Wellington Chess Club Summer Cup (their summer runs from late December through late March), where he won the following game, against his adult opponent, in fine attacking style.
White: Henry Zaslow
Black: Nik Bielski
1e4 c5 2Nf3 Nc6 3Bb5 g6 4Bxc6 bxc6 5d3 Rb8 6h4!? Nf6 7b3 Bg7 8Bb2
d6 9Nbd2 O-O 10Nc4 e5?! 11Bc1?! (White could have played 11Nxd6! Qxd6 12Bxe5 winning the exchange, although black would have some chances for a counterattack against the uncastled white king.) 11…Bg4 12Be3 Re8 13Qd2!? See Position 1. White plans to play Bh6 and attack black’s king. Chess software assesses this position as better for black, but humans often find it harder to play defense than computers.
Zaslow Position 1
13…Bxf3 (13…d5!) 14gxf3 d5 15Nb2 dxe4? (Better is 15…Nh5, slowing down white’s attack.) 16fxe4 Bf8 17O-O-O a5 (Position 2)
Zaslow Position 2
18h5! Nxh5 19Rxh5! gxh5 20Rh1 (Even stronger is 20Qe2, using the queen to capture the h5 pawn.) 20…Re6 21Rxh5 Qd6? (21…a4!? is a better try. If 22Nc4, black will be able to play axb3 and organize a counterattack.) 22Nc4 Qc7 23Qd1 Be7? 24Qh1 Kf8? (The black king’s attempt to run away from white’s attack is unsuccessful.) 25Rxh7 Ke8 26Qh5 Rg6 27Nxe5 Rf6 (Position 3)
Zaslow Position 3
28Rxf7! Rxf7 (If 28…Qxe5 29Rxe7+ and black is in double check from white’s rook and queen; 29…Kxe7 30Qxe5+ could follow.) 29Qxf7+ Kd8 and black resigns.
White has a forced mate with 30Qg8+ Bf8 31Qxf8.
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 US Chess Federation 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. Please email Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any chess questions.