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Although every player on the team contributed to Evanston Township High School’s third-place finish at last month’s Illinois High School Association’s State Chess Finals, junior Elie Platnick was clearly the team’s leader. Platnick not only played Board 1 in each match, against the opposing team’s top player, he defeated each of his opponents to finish with a perfect record of seven wins, no draws and no losses. His win in Round 3 helped ETHS avoid an upset by Glenbrook North in the only close match among the team’s six victories.

In Evanston’s Round 5 matchup against Stevenson, the ultimate state champion, Platnick moved his team to the verge of victory by outplaying his opponent in the following tricky endgame.

IHSA State Chess Finals, Round 5

White: Elijah Platnick, Evanston

Black: Stevenson

After obtaining an advantage early in the game, Platnick reached the following position. White is a pawn ahead, but his rook seems to have no good moves … or does it?

White to move

35Re5+! Nxe5 If black plays 35…Kf6, declining to take the rook, white plays 36 Re8 and the rook will be free to attack on either side of the board.

36fxe5 Rb8 37Kf4 By sacrificing his rook for black’s knight, white has obtained two dangerous passed pawns, supported by his bishop, and a more active king.

37…Rf8 38Bb7 Rb8 39d5+ Ke7 40Bxa6? Rg8? Black misses his chance to play 40…Kd8, followed by Rb6. White would need to play 41a4, sacrificing the pawn, in order to save his bishop.

White to move

41Bxb5 White has a large advantage in this unbalanced position. His bishop and advanced passed pawns, combined with the weakness of black’s remaining pawns, are difficult for black’s king and rook to cope with.

41…Rg2 Black is hoping to collect as many white pawns as possible before white can queen one of his central pawns.

42d6+ Ke6 43Bxc4+ Kd7 44Kxf5 Rxh2 45Bb5+ Kd8

Black to move

46e6? White’s central pawns look unstoppable, but with best play black has just enough time to stop them from queening. White should have guarded his bishop with 46a4 before advancing his pawns.

46…Rh5+ 47Kf6 Rxb5 48b4  White cannot force a queen by immediately advancing the d-pawn or e-pawn. If 48e7+? Kd7 49Kf7 Re5 stops the e-pawn and black can begin advancing his own passed pawn.

Black to move

48…h5? Black misses his best chance to save the game by playing 48…Rd5!, attacking white’s d-pawn. After 49c4 (49d7? h5! and black can queen his h-pawn faster than white can queen any of his pawns) Rxd6 50Kf7 Kc7 51e7 Rd7 52c5 h5 53b5 h4 54b6+ Kc6 55Kf6 Rxe7 56Kxe7 h3 57b7 Kxb7 58Kd7, white’s c-pawn and black’s h-pawn will both queen, leading to a drawn position.

49c4 Rb7 50c5 h4 51c6 Rh7 52e7+ Rxe7 53dxe7+

Black to move

Black resigns. White will be able to queen his e-pawn or c-pawn and deliver checkmate in another move or two.

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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