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Champaign-Urbana Sunday Chess Challenge A Success!

40 seats were available.  And 40 young chess players rose to the occasion of the Sunday Chess Challenge, held on back to back weekends (2/11 & 2/18) at the Champaign Public Library:   4 rounds, accelerated Swiss, g/30/ d/5.  Of the 40 players, K-8, 23 were USCF newcomers, flexing their rated chess muscles for the first time.  Welcome brave souls and kudos to all!  Here’s how it played:

Rated:  1st Pl Anthony Yang (4.0); 2nd Pl Navid Tajhorshid.  Six players tied for 3rd Pl, each scoring 3.0:  Joseph Torrellas, Jeffrey Yao, Kaylee Zheng, Jonah Singer, Dhiya Gopalakrishnan Sasikala, and Jonathan Ouyang. 

Unrated:  1st Pl Yao Chang (2.5).  Eight players tied for 2-3 Pl, each scoring 2.0:  Samuel Balogh, Jiwoo Kim, Tianyou Liu, Arya Thirodira, Alyssa Stevens, Raymond Zhang, Sohum Gurrapu, and Marshall-Flynn Mitchell. 

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Record Number of Girls Featured in Top 100 Lists


With a total of 50 girls, Illinois has a record number of female players in the top 100 lists compiled by US Chess. Thirty-six of the players have a rating above 1000 and three—Experts Marissa, Shreya and Miranda—are rated above 2000.

Nandini Prakash and Sukhi Doddi continue to rise up the ranks, with the seven-year olds now in 5th place and 55th place, respectively. This month, Illinois has 6 girls appearing in the Top 100 Age 7. Welcome back, Hili Bareket!

Our group of 8-year olds is headed up by Linda Pham. Linda’s rank at #24 this month does not yet include her good performance at the Jane Addams Memorial and CCC Plus-Score tournaments.

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January 2018 US Top 100 Lists For Girls


With the latest addition of Ankaa Gantulga and Bolor Sarah Lkhavgajav, Illinois now boasts 48 girls in the top 100 lists compiled by US Chess, with twelve young ladies featured in the top 20.

Nandine Prakash leads the 'Age 7' group with a solid 1156 rating (#9) followed by Sukhi Doddi, who also gained points over last month.

Linda Pham moved her rating back into the 4-digit territory with a string of good tournaments.

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In memoriam: James Robert Michalak (1941 - 2017)

by NM Len Weber

The Illinois chess scene has lost another longtime favorite.  In December, we lost James "Jimbo" Michalak, after a long health battle.  This writer first met Jim at the Homewood Flossmoor Park District Chess Club (defunct in 1984).  A "Fischer boomer", Jim reached over 1800 USCF, winning several notable prizes, before leaving the tournament scene in the mid-1980s.  In more recent years, "Jimbo" spent many warm weather days as a regular at the chess haunts in Chicago, including North Avenue Beach, where he taught lessons, played all comers, hustled and got hustled, earned wins against experts and masters, and traded fearless wit and clever barbs with even the most ferocious patrons.

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Illinois Chess Vets Christmas and Awards Party

The Illinois Chess Vets NFP (ICV) Christmas and Awards party was held on December 17, 2017 at the 2 Volcanoes Seafood Boil Buffet in Chicago. There were 45 attendees, to include ICA Metro VP Steven Plotnick, ICA Board Member Michael Lenox, Life Master Len Weber, and Master Nikhil Kalghatgi, enjoyed dinner, a presentation, a gift exchange, a blitz challenge board and conversation.

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Illinois Chess Vets Christmas and Awards Party

The Illinois Chess Vets NFP (ICV) Christmas and Awards party was held on December 17, 2017 at the 2 Volcanoes Seafood Boil Buffet in Chicago. There were 45 attendees, to include ICA Metro VP Steven Plotnick, ICA Board Member Michael Lenox, Life Master Len Weber, and Master Nikhil Kalghatgi, enjoyed dinner, a presentation, a gift exchange, a blitz challenge board and conversation.

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2018 Illinois Invitational State Qualifier Tournament Dates Announced

The 2018 Illinois Invitational State Qualifier tournament will be held May 5-6, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg.

This tournament determines which scholastic players will represent Illinois in the Barber, Denker, and National Girls’ Invitational Tournaments and SPF Girls’ Invitational Tournament.

Invitations will be sent out in early February.  As specified in the guidelines, invitation to this tournament is based on USCF rating from the January supplement.  Players who are currently in the Warren Junior Scholar or Rising Stars programs will automatically be considered.  Other players who are not currently in these programs who want to should be considered should email name, grade, gender and USCF number to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. no later than January 31, 2018.  All players must be current residents of Illinois.

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December 2017 US Top 100 Lists For Girls


Forty-seven Illinois girls have managed to earn spots on the most recent top 100 lists compiled by US Chess, which include the results of the 2017 Illinois All Grade in Peoria last month.

Almost all of the girls in the 'Age 7 and Under' group improved their ratings over the previous month. A big shout-out to newcomer Mehak Jiandani, who is 6 years old and ranks in 86th place nationwide after only a dozen tournaments.

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2018 Illinois Tour Schedule Announced

The ICA Board of Directors has approved the 2018 Illinois Tour Schedule. The Tim Just Winter Open will kick off the tour on January 6-7 and the Illinois Class will again conclude the tour. The David Mote Memorial held on March 3rd in Springfield is a newcomer to the schedule. Please see the complete schedule below.

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52 Players From Illinois Competed at the National K-12s in Orlando on December 8-10

Warren Junior Scholar, Matthew Stevens, from Whitney Young was the clear winner of the K-12 Blitz tournament with a score of 11.5.    Class trophies were awarded to Tristan Kenny, 2nd place for unrated and Luke Faxon, 3rd place for Ratings 1000-1199.    Team trophies were awarded to Whitney Young for 1st place and Glen Grove School for 5th.

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Brock,William (2106) - Moskwa,Robert (1928) [B06]
Illinois Class (4), 11.12.2011


White gets tricked out of his repertoire and finds himself in a dubious middlegame. Time for "Confuse a Cat"!

1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Be2 c5 5.dxc5 Qa5+ 6.Bd2 Qxc5 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.0–0

I don't think either player should get an award for "most precisely played opening," but we've reached a reasonable-looking Sicilian.


Premature? Better 8...0–0

9.Be3 Qa5 10.Nd4

Better 10.Nd2 Be6 (10...0–0?? 11.Nc4 Qd8 12.Nb6+-) 11.f4 0–0 12.Kh1 and White will play f4-f5 with tempo.

10...0–0 11.f4 Bd7 12.Nb3 Qc7


I thought the fact that d7 was occupied made this push stronger.  Either 13.Bf3 or 13.a4 would be reasonable.


So much for that thesis.

14.Bf3 h6?! 15.Qe1 b5 16.a3?!

A patzer's move. Perhaps 16.a4 b4 17.Nd5 or simply 16.Nd4.

16...e6 17.h4

17.Rd1 would have taken aim at the newly-tenderized d6 square.


Black can try to prove the (reasonable) thesis that White has overextended on the kingside with a move like 17...Nbd7.

18.e5 Ne4 19.Bxe4 dxe4

Both of Black's bishops are ineffective, and his queenside is undeveloped. But if Black could open the position, I might be embarrassed.




I was very impressed by this move: undermining e5 is thematic. But wouldn't Black rather have his king in the center and his horse on d7?


I was afraid of an Exchange sacrifice after 21.Nc5 gxf4 22.Bxf4 Bxe5 23.Bxh6 for example, 23...Bh2+ 24.Kg2 e3+ which the computer refutes via 25.Kh3.

21...hxg5 22.Qg3?

Again, 22.Nc5 gxf4 23.Bxf4


Hmm: I'm in trouble. Time for a cheap attack!

23.Rd2 gxf4 24.Rxf4!?

24.Bxf4 Nxe5 25.Rh2 f6 and Black is for choice.


24...Bxe5 25.Rh2 Rfd8! 26.Qh4 Nf8 and I have no clue.



This is not Black's best move, but it's by no means losing, as I thought in the game.

  • 25...Nf3+? 26.Rxf3 Be5 is refuted most cutely by Awonder Liang's 27.Bd4!! (This is the first of several variations in which the unguardedness of the Qc7 becomes relevant.).
  • The computer likes 25...Rfd8! I looked at 26.Qh3 Nf3+ 27.Rxf3 exf3 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Bc5+ Rd6 (29...Ke8 30.Qg8+ Kd7 31.Rd2+ Bd5 (31...Kc8 32.Rxd8+ Qxd8 33.Qxg7) 32.Qxg7) after which Houdini suggests 30.Ne4 Bxe4 31.Qxe4 Rad8 32.Qxf3 and the Black king is more secure.
  • Another try I considered was 25...Ng6 (exploiting the pin) 26.Qh3 f5 (26...f6?? 27.Qh7+ Kf7 28.Rxf6+ Kxf6 29.Rf2++-) and now 27.Ne2 looks obscure.

26.Nd4 Kf7

During the game and even the post-mortem, I thought I now had a big advantage, but Houdini is less impressed: 26...Ng6 27.Nxe6 Qe5 28.Nxg7 (28.Nxf8 Rxf8 29.Rh5 Qb8! (retreating to a guarded square!)(29...Qd6?! 30.Rf3!) ) 28...Kxg7 29.Rh5 (29.Ne2 Nxf4 30.Bxf4 Qd5 31.Bh6+ Kg8 32.Bxf8 Rxf8 33.Qf4 Qd1+ 34.Kf2 Qxc2) 29...Nxf4 30.Rxe5 fxe5 31.Qh4 Rae8!=

27.g5+- Rh8

On 27...f5 I was planning 28.g6+ Ke7 29.Rh7 , after which Houdini gives 29...Rg8 30.Qg5+ Kd7 31.Nxe6+-.



28...Bh6 is another try: I doubt I would have found Houdini's cool line: 29.Rxh6! (29.Qg7+! Bxg7 30.fxg7++- looks more "human") 29...Rag8 30.Rxh8! Rxg3+ 31.Kf2 and everything is hanging in Black's camp.

29.Rxf6+ Kxf6 30.Rf2+ Nf3+

On 30...Ke7 I saw 31.Qg7+ Kd6 32.Nf5+ exf5 33.Bc5+ Kxc5 34.Qxc7 , but I was worried about 34...Nf3+ . However, White wins with  35.Rxf3 exf3 36.b4+ etc, and Black's alternative 34...Rh1+ 35.Kxh1 e3+ is most easily refuted by 36.Rg2 which I did not see.

31.Rxf3+ exf3

White to play: is it time for lunch yet?


Closing the g-file.

Taking the free queen with 32.Qxc7 is messier: 32...Rag8+ 33.Bg5+ (the only move!) (33.Kf1? Rh1+ 34.Bg1 Rgxg1+ 35.Kf2 Rg2+ 36.Ke3 Re1+ 37.Nde2 Rexe2+ 38.Nxe2 Rxe2+ 39.Kd4 e5+ 40.Kc3 Be4 and Black has excellent winning chances) 33...Rxg5+ 34.Kf2 Rg2+ 35.Ke3 f2 36.Qf4+ Kg6 37.Nxc6 and White will win, but will get no style points.

32...Kg6 33.Qxc7 Rh1+!

This idea helps explain the point of 32.Bg5+.


Moving the bishop to g5 not only blocked the g-file, but also made Luft for the king on e3.  34.Kxh1? f2+ and Black queens!

34...Rf8 35.Nxc6 1–0


Turgut,Tansel (2381) - Brock,William (2106) [C47]
Illinois Class (3), 11.12.2011


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3

Circa 1975, GM Andy Soltis wrote a very funny article for an short-lived glossy chess magazine published in Pennsylvania (was the title Overboard?) on the position after 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.a3 One of the points was that 3...d5 (3...Nc6 4.Nf3 transposes to our game.) 4.exd5 Nxd5 could now be answered by Steinitz's defense to the Scotch: 5.Qh5!? (and 5..Nb4 is not possible here).

2...Nc6 3.Nc3

Nothing for White in the Ruy Lopez, nothing in the Scotch: why not the Four Knights? I think this is White's most underrated opening.

3...Nf6 4.a3!?

This line was featured in Secrets of Opening Surprises some years ago: it's popular and fun to play! I'd already lost two games in the line: once to Robert Loncarevic after 4...g6, and again earlier this year to Steve Szpisjak after 4...d6. The text move is very logical.

The Hallowe'en Gambit is 4.Nxe5 Nxe5 5.d4 Nc6 (I have won a few ICC blitz games with 5...Ng6 6.e5 Ng8 7.Bc4 d5 8.Bxd5 c6 9.Bb3 N8e7) 6.d5 Bb4! (Pinski) 7.dxc6 Nxe4 8.Qd4 Qe7.


Dr. Turgut bought me lunch after the game, and confessed that he was planning to answer 4...g6 with a version of the Hallowe'en Gambit: 5.Nxe5!? (the insertion of 4.a3 and 4...g6 favors White: even if a2-a3 is a useless move, ... g7-g6 is worse than useless, as it denies the g6 square to the Ne5). When I told this to Albert Chow on the ride home, he said, "Then why don't people play 4...Nxe4 against the Glek System?" (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 Nxe4!?!?) 5...Nxe5 6.d4 Nc6 The g6 square is not available to the horsie! 7.d5 Nb8 The b4 square is not available to the Bf8, as in Pinski's line! (And ...g7-g6 weakens the dark squares.) (The faint of heart may substitute 7...Bg7 ) 8.e5 Ng8

Black to play (variation): would the "Deferred Hallowe'en" be the "All Saints Day Gambit"?

I can't bring myself to look at this position seriously, but Houdini actually gives White a miniscule plus, and White scores very well in practice.  The alternative 8...Nh5!? may be worth investigating.

5.d4 exd4

Albert noted that the strongpointing Philidor line 5...d6 is perfectly viable. I had unpleasant memories from my game with Steve Szpisjak.

6.Nxd4 Nxd4

6...0–0 7.Nxc6 bxc6 (7...dxc6) 8.e5 Ne8

7.Qxd4 d6 8.Bc4 0–0 9.0–0 Be6 10.Bg5 Ng4!

The player with less space wants to exchange pieces.

11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.Nd5 Bxd5 13.Bxd5 c6 14.Bb3 Qe5


Having foreseen this position on move 10, I was very pleased with myself. And the computer agrees that this is a dead equal endgame. But a correspondence Grandmaster knows how to make an opponent suffer in dead equal positions.

Yes, the resultant pawn structure is balanced, which does not favor the bishop. (See Capa's explanation in Chess Fundamentals.) Yes, Black can successfully fight for the only open file. But the bishop exerts annoying pressuer on the a2-g8 diagonal, and the knight has no similar "square of power." So perhaps White is still better when human is playing human?

15.Qxe5 dxe5 16.f3 Nf6 17.Rad1 Rfd8 18.Kf2 Kf8 19.Ke3 Nd7 20.c3 Ke7 21.g3 Nc5 22.Bc2 Rxd1 23.Rxd1 Rd8



Of course, White doesn't want to exchange.

24...f6 25.f4 Nd7 26.h4 h6 27.Rg1 Nb6 28.Bb3 a5 29.Rf1 Nd7 30.Rf2 Nc5 31.Bc2 Nd7 32.Bd3 Nc5 33.Be2 Rd6 34.Rf1 Rd8 35.Rc1 Ne6 36.Bc4 Rh8

Black signals to White: "Break on the kingside with g4-g5, and I'll get counterplay on the h-file."

37.f5 Nc7 38.g4 Ne8 39.Rd1 Nd6 40.Ba2 Rd8 41.Rg1 Rh8 42.Rg2 b6 43.Bb3 Rh7 44.Bd1 Nc4+ 45.Kd3 Nd6 46.Be2 Rh8 47.Ke3 Nf7 48.Rg1 Rg8


White signals to Black, "The board has two sides, and my bishop can deal with play on opposite wings better than your horsie can."

49...Rd8 50.b4 a4 51.b5 c5 52.Bc4

Six of Black's seven pawns are now on dark squares, but giving up control of the d5 square allows the bishop to grab a strong central post.

52...Nd6 53.Bd5 Rh8 54.c4

Chow, on the Dan Ryan Expressway: "That's Botvinnik's bishop, you know." Fortunately for me, the artificially isolated pawn on a4 is difficult to tickle.


Black marks time.

55.Rh1 Nf7

"If you want to break on f7, you're going to have to eat the horse."


 "Are you going to give me the d-file?"

56...Nd6 57.Kf3 Rh8 58.Rd3 Rd8 59.Kg2 Nf7 60.Rg3 Rd7

In time pressure, I thought that 60...Rh8 lost its effect because of the Kg2: 61.Bxf7 Kxf7 62.g5 But 62...hxg5 63.hxg5 Rd8 is fine for Black.


For one brief moment, the White rook is not communicating with its queenside.


Black to play

Chris Merli once tried to explain the facts of life to me: "Bill, rooks are actually more valuable than minor pieces!"


Played instantly and with authority, as all bad moves should be played. The idea is actually a good one, as this is the kind of position in which knight plus pawn may prove to be stronger than rook. But even the few lines that I calculated showed that the move wasn't that promising: I lost objectivity.

Never one to leave an opinion unexpressed, Albert Chow told me on the ride home, "The way you play for a win against Turgut here is to show that you are willing to hold the draw. Don't give up the fortress: make him overreach, and you'll get your counterplay on the h-file."  It always pains me to admit to Albert that he is correct.


62.exd5? Nd6

62...Nd6 63.g5 hxg5 64.hxg5 Nxb5

Dr. Turgut suggested 64...Kf8 as possibly a sturdier defense But 65.g6! seems sufficient: (65.gxf6 gxf6 66.Rg1 Nxb5 67.Rb1 Nd4+ 68.Ke3 b5 69.Rc1 Nb3) 65...Nxb5 66.Rg1 Nd6 67.Rb1 b5 68.Rc1 Nc4 69.Rh1 Kg8 70.d6! (with the king on g8, back-rank mate is in the air) 70...Nxd6 71.Rd1 Ne8 72.Rd5 b4 73.Rxc5 bxa3 74.Ra5+-; 64...Kf7 65.g6+ Kg8 66.Rg1 Nxb5 67.Rb1 Nd4+ 68.Ke3 b5 69.d6 Kf8 70.Rh1 is similar.

65.gxf6+ gxf6 66.Rg7+ Ke8 67.Rb7 Nd4+ 68.Ke3 b5 69.Kd3 Kd8

69...c4+ 70.Kc3 Ne2+ 71.Kb4 Ng3 72.Kxb5 Nxe4 73.Kc6 c3 74.Rc7 c2 75.Rc8+ Ke7 76.d6+ Kf7 77.Kd5 finito

70.d6 Kc8?

I overlooked the obvious reply, but it no longer matters.  70...Ke8 71.Rc7 Nb3 72.Kc3 Kd8 73.Rf7 Nd4 74.Rxf6 Kd7 75.Rf7+ Kxd6 76.Rb7 Kc6 77.Re7 Kd6 78.f6.

71.Rc7+ Kd8 72.Rxc5 Kd7 73.Rd5

Zugzwang is in the air.

73...b4 74.axb4 Nc6 75.Kc4 a3 76.Rd3

I did not expect White to fall for the cheap trap 76.Kb3 a2 77.Kxa2?? Nxb4+ drawing, but there's no harm in trying.

76...a2 77.Ra3

Dr. Turgut's play in this game is a beautiful example of Shereshevsky's maxim "Do not hurry!" It was clear as early as move 27 that the game's outcome would hinge on the break g4-g5, but White waited another thirty-six moves to make this break! Before my blunder, White's advantage was never more than microscopic. But if one probes on one side of the board, then the other, and delays the critical pawn break as long as possible, there's always the chance that your opponent will go wrong. Psychology is part of the game!