The Evanston Township High School varsity chess team successfully began its 2021-22 season by taking second place at Saturday’s Hinsdale Central Red Devil Challenge.

The team won its matches against Oak Park River Forest, Glenbrook North and Hinsdale Central, losing only to Whitney Young, the current state champion. Notably, this was Evanston’s first in-person tournament since the Illinois High School Association State Tournament was staged in February 2020.

Evanston scored strongly on the middle and lower boards in this eight-board team tournament. Juniors Meris Goldfarb, Luca Zerega and Boaz Lieberman won board prizes on Boards 4, 5 and 6; each of them had 3 wins and 1 loss. Freshman Sam Kemeny had a perfect 4-0 record on Board 7, and sophomore Ozan Mixon took second place on Board 8 with 3 wins and a draw.

Evanston’s JV team was also allowed to play in the Varsity section, and they performed creditably. The JV team beat Bolingbrook in the first round before losing to three of the top 20 teams in Illinois (Hinsdale Central, Niles North and Benet). Freshman William Zalmezak was the team’s top scorer with three wins and a draw on Board 6, and Immanuel Zerega won two games against tough opposition on Board 2.

Mixon, who gained some Varsity experience during last year’s virtual chess season, won the following game in Round 1 to help Evanston post a perfect score against Oak Park River Forest.

White: Ozan Mixon, Evanston

Black: Oak Park River Forest

1e4 e5 2Nf3 Nc6 3d4 Bb4+? The usual move for black is 3…exd4. Now white can gain time by blocking this check with a pawn, threatening the black bishop.

White to Move

4c3 Ba5 5d5 Nce7 6Nxe5 White wins a pawn. 6…d6 7Nf3 Worth considering was 7Qa4+, threatening the bishop on a5. White would win a second pawn after 7…c6 8bxc6 bxc6 9Nxc6 Nxc6 10Qxc6+.

7…Nc6 8Nbd2 Bg4 9Be2 0-0 10.0-0 Qd7 11Nd4 c5?! 12dxc6 Nxc6 Now white can choose to capture the bishop on g4 or the knight on c6.

White to Move

13Nxc6?! Stronger is 13Bxg4 Nxg4 14Nc4, attacking black’s bishop and d-pawn. 13…bxc6?! Black misses a chance to play 13…Bxe2 14Qxe2 Qc6, activating his queen and reducing white’s advantage.

14Nc4 Bc7 15Bxg4 Qxg4

White to Move

16Qxg4! Weaker for white is 16Nxd6 Qe6! because white’s knight has to move to avoid being captured, which allows black to win white’s e-pawn.

16…Nxg4 17Bf4 d5 18Bxc7 dxc4 19h3 Rac8 20hxg4, Rxc7 21b3 Putting a rook on the open d-file would give white a more active position than the game continuation.

22…Re7 22f3 cxb3 23axb3 Rb7

White to Move

24Rab1?! A more accurate move is 24b4, which protects white’s b-pawn and keeps the rook active on the open a-file.

24…Rfb8 25 Rfd1 White’s 25th move sets a trap, but black can avoid it by playing 25…g6 so that his king can escape the black rank, avoiding any checkmate threats. White’s weak pawn on b3 would then give black drawing chances. Black instead played…

Black to Move

25…Rxb3? This move loses at least a rook for black. 26Rxb3 Rxb3?? Black’s rook needed to stay on his back rank to guard against checkmate. 27Rd8 checkmate.

Keith Holzmueller

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...