The 31st edition of the Chicago Open, played over Memorial Day weekend, showed that many chess players are returning to in-person competition. A total of 916 players competed, significantly more than the 554 who played in last year’s event and also more than the 849 who played in the 2019 tournament.

Nineteen grandmasters competed in the tournament’s Open section and four of them tied for first place: Jeffery Xiong and Awonder Liang of the U.S., Jianchao Zhou of China, and Aleksey Sorokin, who is from Russia and currently attends Texas Tech.

A number of Evanston scholastic players competed in the rating-limited sections, and several won prize money by finishing at or near the top of their sections. The biggest Evanston winners were Immanuel (Manu) Zerega, who tied for first place in the U1000 section with six wins and a draw, and Bo Lieberman, who won six out of seven games to tie for second-through-fourth in the U1300 section. In addition, Elie Platnick tied for sixth place in the tough U2300 section, while Ozan Mixon and Asa Lieberman tied for 10th in the U1300 section.

Other Evanston players who finished with winning records included Jonah Chen, Chris von Hoff, Rohil Bose, Meris Goldfarb, Tate Darin, Somil Bose, Luca Zerega, Shane Asbra, Onyx Lo, Evan Gonzales and Yusuf Bilgic.

Lieberman, a rising senior at Evanston Township High School, played board 6 on the ETHS team that took third place at the Illinois High School Association State Championship in February. His following win, from Round 5 of the Chicago Open, gave Lieberman a tiebreak advantage over his opponent, who also ended up tying for second place in the U1300 section.

White: Boaz Lieberman

Black: Luke Choi-McFarlane

1d4 Nf6 2c4 g6 3Nc3 Bg7 4e4 d6 5Be2 0-0 6Nf3 e5 7d5 a5 8Bg5 Na6 9Nd2 Nc5 10Qc2 Bd7 11f3 a4 12b4 axb3 13Nxb3 Nxb3 14Qxb3 h6 15Be3 c6? This move makes it harder for black to defend his b-pawn.

160-0 Nh5 17Rfc1 c5 18Rab1 Rb8 19a4 f5 20Qb6 Qe7 21Nb5 f4?! Black should have removed white’s strong knight, now or on the next move, by playing Bxb5.

22Bf2 Rf6?! 23Qc7! Rc8 24Qxb7 White wins a pawn and has a passed a-pawn that will be difficult to stop, so black redoubles his efforts to attack white’s king. 

Black to Move

Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 24

(Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 24)

24…g5 25a5 Rg6 26a6 Qd8 27a7 g4 28Ra1 g3 29a8(Q) White is now a full queen ahead, but black’s nasty-looking kingside threats give him chances to turn the game around.

29…gxf2+ 30Kf1 Kh7! If 30…Rxa8? 31Rxa8 black’s queen, but Rxa8 is now a threat and white needs to take defensive measures.Within the next six moves, white is going to solve his problems by sacrificing both of his queens to emerge with a winning position!

White to Move

Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 31

(Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 31)

31Qaxc8?! Redeploying this queen with 31Qa2! is the best way to stop black’s attack. If black plays 31…Qh4, white can defend with 32Bd3 Qxh2 33Qxf2. White will still need to sacrifice this queen after 33…Rxg2 34Qxg2 Bh3, but black’s attacking forces are greatly reduced and white has a winning advantage.

31…Qg5 32Kxf2 Qh4+ 33Kg1 Rxg2+ 34Kxg2 Qh3+ 35Kg1 Bxc8 

White to Move

Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 36

(Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 36)

36Qxc8! Computer analysis finds that white obtains a theoretically larger advantage by playing 36Qe7 or 36Qf7, but 36Qxc8 is white’s most practical winning option. This queen sacrifice stops black’s attack, allowing white’s rooks and knight to dominate the game. 

36…Qxc8 37Nxd6 Qd8 38Nf5 Qg5+ 39Kf2 The tables have turned, and the black king is more vulnerable to attack than the white king.

Black to Move

Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 39

(Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 39)

39…Qd8 40Rg1 Qb6 41Rgb1 Qd8 42Rb7 Kh8 43Raa7 Qf6 Now white can trade down into an easily won endgame.

White to Move

Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 44

(Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 44)

44Nxg7 Nxg7 45Rxg7 Qxg7 46Rxg7 Kxg7 48Kg2 Kg6 48Kh3 Kf6 49Kg4 Kg6 50d6! h5+ 51Kh4 Kf7 


Black to Move

Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 52

(Lieberman vs. Choi-McFarlane Move 52)

Black’s king can’t stop white from queening one of his passed pawns. White went on to win by checkmate on move 61.

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...