Large, in-person chess tournaments are back in the U.S! After a year off, the Chicago Open was held during Memorial Day weekend at the Westin North Shore in Wheeling, where 550 players competed for $60,000 in prizes. While the biggest winner was Grandmaster Dariusz Swiercz in the Open section, a number of Evanstonians played successfully in the rating-limited sections, with several winning awards. Elie Platnick tied for fifth place in the section for players rated under 2100, Rohil Bose tied for seventh in the U1500, and Gerry Melnikov, Chris Von Hoff, Dhruva Mohnalkar, Somil Bose and Franklin Godinho finished with even or winning records in their sections.
The biggest Evanston winner was Nathan Melnikov, who took first place in the U1200 section with a perfect 7-0 record. Along the way he scored wins over the players who finished in 2nd, 3rd, and 6th place. His key victory occurred in his tense last round game against Nico Segal of Illinois. Segal, playing white, had an even or slightly better position for much of the game until Melnikov launched a successful counterattack.
White: Nico Segal
Black: Nathan Melnikov
1Nf3 Nf6 2b3 g6 3Bb2 Bg7 4g3 0-0 5Bg2 d6 6d4 (white begins to develop a strong pawn center) 6…c6 70-0 Bf5 8c4 Qd7 9Nc3 Re8 10Nd2 Bh3 11e4 Bxg2 12Kxg2 Qc7 13Rc1 (white has a slightly better position) 13…Nbd7 14Qe2 (another possibility was 14f4 e5 15fxe5, opening the f-file) e5 15 d5 Rad8 16b4 Nf8 17a4
White controls the center and queenside, so black correctly goes for play on the kingside.
Segal-Melnikov Move 17
17…h5 18h3 h4 19Ba3 Nh5 20Qg4
Black needs to respond to white’s threat to win a pawn with Qxh4.
Segal-Melnikov Move 20
20…hxg3 21fxg3 Qd7. Black decides to allow a trade of queens. Nh7 or Nf6 were other possibilities. 22Qxd7 Rxd7 23dxc6 bxc6 24b5 Rc8 (the game is even) 25a5 Bh6! (blacks’ attack on the d2 knight is uncomfortable for white) 26Ncb1 cxb5 (27…Ne6! would give black a clear advantage) 27cxb5 Rb8 28Rxc6 Rxb5 29Nc3 Rb8 30Ncb1 (30Nc4! attacking the d6 pawn would activate the knight) Ne6 (30..d5! would open up the middle of the board to black’s advantage) 31Rxd6 Rxd6 32Bxd6 Rb5 33Nc4 f6 34Nc3 Rb3 35Ne2 Nd4!
Segal-Melnikov Move 36
36g4? 36Nxd4 was necessary for white. Any other knight move would lose the g-pawn or the knight, and the move played also loses at least a pawn. After 36Nxd4, exd4 black would have a passed pawn with some chances for an initiative.
36…Nxe2 37gxh5 Nf4+ 38Kf2 Nxh5 39Rd1 Rc3 40Nxe5 fxe5 41Bxe5 Rxh3 42Rd8+ Kf7 (not 42…Kh7?? 43Rh8 checkmate) 43Bd4 Rd3 44Rh8 Rxd4 45Rxh6 Rxe4 (even better was 45…Kg7 trapping white’s rook) 46Rh7+ Ng7 47Rh3 Ra4 48Rf3+ Nf5 49Rb3 Rxa5 50Rh3 Ra2+ 51Ke1 a5 52Rh7+ Ke6 53Ra7 a4 54Kf1 a3 55Ke1 Ra1+ 56Kd2 g5 57Kc2 g4 58Ra4 g3 59Re4+ Kd5
Segal-Melnikov Final Position
With no way of stopping black from queening a pawn, white resigns.
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.