Although quite a few members of the Evanston Township High School chess team graduate in May, several of the team’s top players will return to ETHS for the 2023-24 school year. Freshman Adam Elgat, junior Chris von Hoff and junior Jonah Chen have been key members of this year’s teams for the Illinois High School Association state tournament and the National High School Championships. Many other players gained experience at the varsity level this season and will be ready to take on bigger roles.

Jonah Chen, third from left, with other award-winning team members at the North Suburban Chess League Conference Tournament in January. The others, from left, are Meris Goldfarb, Henry Zaslow and Rohil Bose. Credit: Keith Holzmueller

Chen won all six of his games at the state finals while playing on Boards 5, 6 and 7. At nationals, he played in the Championship section and faced a much tougher set of opponents, but he was up to the challenge. After an easy win in the first round, he played six consecutive games against highly rated opponents and defeated three of them. His last-round win helped move ETHS up from ninth to sixth place in the final team standings. 

Chen scored his most impressive win in Round 3 against Nathaniel Shuman, a master who plays for the national championship team, The Dalton School. Playing with the black pieces, Chen used an aggressive opening, sacrificed two pieces, and followed up with an accurate play to eventually trap white’s king.

National High School Championships, Championship Section, Round 3
White: Nathaniel Shuman, Dalton
Black: Jonah Chen, ETHS

1d4 d5 2Bf4 Nf6 3e3 c5 4dxc5!? This move is played less often, but it’s just as good as the standard move 4c3.

4…e6 5b4 a5 6c3 axb4 7cxb4 Bd7 8Nd2 b6 9cxb6 Bxb4 10Bc7! Other moves allow black to capture white’s b-pawn.

Black to move

10…Qe7! After this move, white can win black’s knight on b8, but Chen will be able to mount a strong counterattack against white’s underdeveloped position.

11b7 Ra3 12Bxb8 Ba4 This move attacks white’s queen, which does not have a comfortable place to go.

White to move

13Bf4? Moving the bishop, threatening to queen the b-pawn, is the right idea. But it is better to play Be5, covering the c3 square, instead of Bf4. After 13Be5! Qxb7 14Qb1 Bxd2+ 15Kxd4 Ne4+ 16Ke2!, white’s defensive resources are just good enough to offset black’s attack.

13…Qxb7 14Qb1 Bxd2+ 15Kxd2 Ne4+ 16Ke1 White loses his queen after 16Ke2? Nc3+.

Black to move

16…Rb3!! A spectacular rook sacrifice! White must choose between giving up his queen or allowing black to play Qb4+, launching a devastating attack on white’s king. 

17axb3 Qb4+ Black begins a series of checks that force white’s king into an increasingly precarious position.

18Ke2 Qd2+ 19Kf3 Qxf2+ 20Kg4 h5+ 21Kh3 g5! 22g3

Black to move

22…h4! This move threatens 24…hxg3+ 25Kg4 f5 checkmate and is the only move that ensures a win for black. White can now play several checks and sacrifices, but these will only delay, not stop, black’s attack.

23Bb5+ Kf8! 24Bd6+ Kg8 25Qxe4 hxg3+ 26Kg4 dxe4 27Rxa4 g2 and white resigns.

White to move

White can’t keep black from playing gxh1(Q) and forcing checkmate in a few moves with his two queens.

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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