The ETHS Chess Team defeated Whitney Young, the current state champion, for the second time this season on the way to a second-place finish at the Niles West Sectional on Jan. 29. That result qualifies the team for the Illinois High School Association Chess State Finals in Peoria on Feb. 11 and 12.

Evanston Township High School has an overall record of 23-6 this season. Team seedings for the State Finals will be announced Sunday, Feb. 6 and ETHS expects to be among the top for this competition.

ETHS’ win against Whitney Young was led by its top players – Elijah Platnick, Christopher von Hoff, Nathan Melnikov and Rohil Bose – who won their games on Boards 1 through 4. Platnick defeated Aria Hoesley, who previously clinched Whitney Young’s 2021 state title with a dramatic win in the last round against Barrington.

White: Aria Hoesley, Whitney Young

Black: Elijah Platnick, Evanston

1e4 e5 2Nc3 Nc6 3g3 Bc5 4Bg2 d6 5Na4 Nge7 6d3 Be6 7Ne2 Qd7 8a3 Bh3 Platnick takes advantage of Hoesley’s conservative play to grab the initiative on the kingside.

9Kf1? 90-0 is a less awkward way to protect the bishop on g2.

Black to move

9…h5! 10b4 b6 11c3?! White is preparing to play d4 but will soon abandon that idea in order to respond to black’s kingside threats.

Black to move

11..h4! This move opens up the kingside to black’s advantage.

12Nxb6 axb6 13Be3 13f3, giving the king shelter on f2, is a relatively better defensive plan.

13…Qg4 14Bxh3 Qxh3+ 15Ke1

Black to move

15…d5! With white’s king on the e1 square and unable to castle, opening up the middle of the board helps black. If white’s king tries to run to the queenside with 16Kd2, 16…dxe4 17dxe4 Rd8+ wins at least a piece.

16Qb3 dxe4 17dxe4 Qg2 18Rg1 Qxe4 19gxh4 g6 20 h5 gxh5?!  Better is 20…Rxh5, threatening Rxh2. If white plays 21Ng3, forking the queen and rook, black can respond with 21…Qg4, and if 22Nxh5, Qxg1+ with an easily won position.

21Rd1 Rd8 22Rxd8+ Nxd8 23c4 Ne6 24Ng3 Qc6 25 b5?! Better is Ke2 to prevent black’s next move.

25…Qf3 26Qd1 Qxd1+ 27Kxd1 f5 White traded queens to slow down black’s attack, but black has a winning advantage in the endgame, with an extra pawn and better coordinated pieces than white.

28Bd2 Kf7 29Bb4, Nc5?! A stronger continuation is 29…Rd8+ 30Kc1 Nd4, when black dominates the center of the board.

30Bxc5 bxc5 31Re1?! Kf6 32Kc2 h4 33Nf1 f4?! (33…Rg8 wins more easily) 34Nd2 b6 35Ne4+ Kf5 36Nd2 Rg8 37Nf3 Ng6 38Rg1 Ra8

White to move

39Ra1? Activating the rook with 39Rg5+ Kf6 40Rh5 gives white slightly more hope of saving the game.

39…e4 40Nd2 Ne5 41Kc3 Ng4 42f3 Nf6 43fxe4+ Nxe4+ 44Nxe4 Kxe4 45Re1+ Kf3 46Kb3 Kg2 47Re4 f3 48Rxh4 f2 49Rg4+ Kxh2 50Rg4+

Black to move

50…Kg3 This leads to an easy win, but 50…Kg2 is the optimal move. If 51Rg4+ (otherwise black queens the pawn) Kf3 52Rg7 Rf8 white cannot stop black from gaining a full queen.

51Rf7 Rg8 52a4 Kg2 53 a5 f1(Q) 54Rxf1 Kxf1 Black is a full rook ahead. Because this was a team match, white played on until she was checkmated at move 68.

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...