The Evanston Township High School Chess Team won a hard-to-get Illinois High School Association trophy by finishing in third place out of 126 teams, at the State Chess Finals held last weekend in Peoria. This is the 12th state chess trophy that ETHS has won over the years; only Whitney Young, with 13, has won more.

All teams in the state finals played a series of seven matches across two days, with eight players per team contesting each match. ETHS won six of its seven matches, but came up just short against Stevenson, which won the state championship. Stevenson edged ETHS in their match by the narrowest possible margin, 34.5 to 33.5 match points.

ETHS’ road to success combined excellence on its top two boards with strong results from the players on the other six boards. Evanston’s Board 1, Elie Platnick, won all seven of his matches, and Nathan Melnikov, on Board 2, was also awarded a state medal for his record of five wins and one draw in his seven matches. Boards 3-8 were Rohil Bose, Jonah Chen, Meris Goldfarb, Bo Lieberman, Luca Zerega and Peter Kezdy, all of whom scored four or more points in their six matches. Patrick O’Sullivan, Ozan Mixon and Isabela Maiewski won most of their games while substituting for Boards 3-8 during the first day of play, ensuring that the regular Board 3-8 players were fresh for their second day matches.

Peter Kezdy, on Board 8, demonstrated ETHS’ depth by winning five of his six games, including this Round 2 win against Glenbard West.

White: Peter Kezdy, Evanston

Black: Glenbard West

1e4 e5 2Nf3 Nc6 3d4 cxd4 4Bc4 Be7?! This timid move helps Kezdy take the initiative. A more common, and better, response is 4…Nf6.

5c3!? dxc3 6Qd5 White threatens to play 7Qxf7 checkmate. 6Qb3 is another good way to attack black’s under-protected pawn on f7.

Black to move

6…Nh6 This move, combined with move 7, is the only reasonable way to prevent mate.

7Bxh6 0-0

White to move

8Bxg7! Playing 8Bc1? to save the bishop and protect the b2 pawn would be a mistake. Black could turn the tables with 8…Nb4, threatening Nc2+, to fork white’s king and rook. If white plays 8Qd1 to stop that threat, 8…c2, forking the white queen and knight, would win a piece for black, and white’s remaining forces would be poorly coordinated.

8…Kxg7 Playing 8…Nb4 in this position would give white a winning position after 9Qe5! Nc2+? 10Kd1 Nxa1 11Bh8. To avoid checkmate black has to play Bf6, giving up a piece.

9Nxc3 d6 10Qh5 A more ambitious move, planning to attack the black king, than 10Rd1, which would give white a safe advantage.

10…h6? Advancing this pawn gives white a target to attack with his kingside pawns.

11g4 Ne5 12Nxe5 dxe5 13h4 White plans to play g5 to break open black’s kingside, but black’s next move temporarily stops this threat.

13…f6 14Nd5

Black to move

14…Bc5? Black should have immediately attacked the white knight by playing 14…c6. After 15Ne3, Qe8!, which forces white to allow a queen trade, white has the better position but black still has some chances.

150-0-0 c6 Now that white has castled queenside he can move his knight to create a discovered attack, with his rook on d1 attacking the black queen on d8. But which discovered attack is best?

White to move

16Nb6!! A high level move, sacrificing the knight. If black doesn’t capture this knight, it will win black’s rook on a8. A different knight move, such as 16Nf4, lets black play 16…Qe8 and trade queens, with less damage to black’s position.

16…Qxb6 17g5! Threatening 18Qxh6 checkmate. Believe it or not, white has a forced mate in 13 moves. No, Kezdy did not foresee the entire series of moves leading to mate, but his sacrificial instincts were right on target.

17…fxg5 18hxg5 Be3+ Sacrificing this bishop to get his queen into play is the black’s best defensive try.

19fxe3 Qxe3+ 20Kb1 Qxe4+ If 20…Qxg5, 21Rhg1 wins the black queen, with mate to follow soon.

21Bd3 Qf4?! Now it’s mate in two. Sacrificing the black queen by playing 21…Bf5 to protect the b1-h7 diagonal would delay checkmate by several moves.

22Qg6+ Kh8 22Qh7 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...

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