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The Illinois Youth Invitational, played May 22 and 23, was the first important Illinois chess tournament to be held in person since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. The tournament was by invitation only and was played in three sections: Grades 9-12, Grades 6-8 and girls in Grades K-12.

Two ETHS students, Chris Von Hoff and Elie Platnick, made the 12-player field in the Grade 9-12 division. Von Hoff finished in a tie for 5th place with a 3-2 record, just a half point behind the tournament leaders. Platnick finished in 8th place, with an even score, but did defeat Von Hoff in their individual game. Nick Ladan of Glenbrook South won the blitz playoff to represent Illinois at the Denker National Tournament of High School State Champions this summer.

Von Hoff was one of the lower rated players in the field, but pulled off upsets in his last two games. In his Round 4 win, he upended Aidan Carey, who played board 1 for Naperville North in February’s online IHSA State Tournament.

White: Chris Von Hoff

Black: Aidan Carey

1e4 d6 2d4 Nf6 3Nc3 e5 4dxe5 dxe5 5Qxd8+ Kxd8 6Bc4 Be6 7Bxe6 fxe6

Black’s defense looks unusual, but it has become a fairly popular way for black to avoid opening tricks while retaining chances for an advantage later in the game. Computer software suggests that white has an edge after 8Be3 Ng4 (8…Bd6 9f3) 9Bd2 Bc5 10Nh3, but a human player is unlikely to spot this variation on their own.

Von Hoff-Carey Move 8

8Nf3 Nbd7 (Nc6 is better) 90-0 (9Ng5! would threaten both Nf7+, forking black’s king and rook, and Nxe6+. Black’s only defense against both threats is Ke7, blocking his bishop on f8.) 9…Bc5 10Bg5 a6 11Rad1 Ke7 12Nd2 b5 13Nb3 Bb6 14Kh1 (better is 14Rfe1, allowing a later Kf1 and Be3 with an even game) 14…h6 15Bxf6 gxf6 16Ne2 Rhg8 17f4 exf4 18Nxf4 c6 19c3 c5 20Rd2 Rad8 21Rfd1, Bc7?? Black would have a slight advantage after 21…a5, planning a4 to drive the white knight back from the b3 square.

Von Hoff-Carey Move 22

22Nxe6! (this sacrifice leads to a won game for white) 22…Kxe6 23Rxd7! Bb6 (if 23…Rhxd7 24Nxc5+ Ke5 25Nxd7+ Kf4 26Nxf6 and white is 3 pawns ahead) 24Nxc5+ Ke5 25R1d5+ Kf4 26Ne6+ Ke3 27Nxd8 Kf2 (Down a rook, black hopes to turn the tables with Rxg2 and Rg1 mate, but white can easily prevent this.

Von Hoff-Carey Move 28

28R7d6 Bc7 (if 28…Rxg2 29Rxf6+ or 29Rd2+ wins black’s remaining rook) 29Nxf6+ Ke1 30Ne6 Bb8 31Rd8 Rg4 32Rxb8 Rxe4 33Rbf8 Kd2 34Rf2+ Kd1 35Rf1+ Ke2 36Nxd4+ Kd2 37Nb3+ Ke2 38R8f2+, Ke3 39Re1+ Kxf2 40Rxe4 and black resigned. White has a forced mate in 3 moves.

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 if you have any chess questions.


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