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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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Hart,Vincent (2025) - Turgut,Tansel (2382) [A20]
Illinois Class Championships (1), 10.12.2011


1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 4.d4


This line has a very good reputation against the Keres Attack.

4...exd4 5.Qxd4 d5 6.cxd5

6.Nf3 makes more sense to me: why give Black the c6 square? The tempo offsets the isolated pawn. 6...Be7 (6...dxc4 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 is an ending in which both sides can play for the win.) 7.cxd5 This move order subtlety I don't understand: does the exchange make more sense after Black has committed the bishop to the modest e7 square? 7...cxd5 8.0–0 Nc6 9.Qa4 0–0 10.Be3 has been played by Topalov.

6...cxd5 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.Qa4 Be6 9.0–0 Bc5 10.Nbd2

10.Bg5 0–0 11.Nc3 h6 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Ne1 Rad8 14.Nd3 Bd4 15.Rac1 Rfe8 16.Nf4 Seirawan-I. Sokolov, Wijk aan Zee 1995


Maybe 10...0–0 improves, as the played with the isolated queen pawn generally prefers a complex middlegame.

11.Ne5 Qa5 12.Qxa5 Nxa5 13.Ndf3

An isolated pawn could be bothersome in an ending. But this is a queenless middlegame.

13...Rc8 14.Nd3 Ba7 15.Bd2 Nc6 16.Rac1 Ne4 17.Nf4 Ke7

Black hopes to make use of a more active king in an ending.

18.Nxe6 fxe6 19.Bc3 Nxc3 20.Rxc3 Nd4 21.Re1



Dr. Turgut suggests 21...Rhf8!? 

22.bxc3 Nb5! =/+


White prefers counterplay to passive defense.


The following lines are obviously computer-assisted, but the idea of getting rid of the knights and relying on the increased drawing resources of opposite-colored bishops is an obvious one. 23...dxe4 may improve, but White has 24.Nd2! (24.Rxe4 Nxc3 25.Rc4 Nd5 gives Black good winning chances) 24...Nxc3 25.Nxe4 Rf8 I don't know if I could summon the courage to play Houdini's choice for the next move in tournament play: it seems so wrong to move the king to the corner. 26.Kh1! (Not 26.Nxc3 Bxf2+ 27.Kf1 Bxg3+ 28.Ke2 Bxe1 29.Kxe1 b5) 26...Nxa2 (26...Nxe4 27.Bxe4 Bxf2 (27...Rxf2 28.Bxb7 Rxa2 29.Bd5) ) 27.Ng5 Rf6 28.Bxb7 Bxf2 29.Ra1 Nb4 30.Ra4 and kindly take the following variations as more of a fantasy than objective best play: 30...Nd3 (30...Nd5 31.Nxh7 Rh6 32.Kg2 Rxh7 33.Kxf2 Rxh2+ 34.Kf3) 31.Rxa6! (looks bad) 31...Nc5 (looks strong!) 32.Ra7! It seems amazing that White can get away with this! 32...Be3 (32...Nxb7? 33.Rxb7+²; 32...h6 33.Nh7 Inhuman! 33...Rf5 34.Be4+ Nd7 35.Rb7) 33.Nxh7 Rf1+ 34.Kg2 Rf2+ 35.Kh3 Nd3 36.Ra3 Rd2 37.Kg4 and White survives.

24.cxd4 Nxd4 25.Nxd4 Bxd4 26.Rc1 e5 27.Kf1

Why not 27.Rc7+ the computer asks? I imagine the humans were looking at the f2 square, but Rxb7-Rb3-Rf3(+) is one way to consolidate. 27...Kf6 (27...Kd6 28.Rxg7 Rc8 29.Rxh7 Rc2 30.Rf7 Rxa2 31.h4 Ke6 32.Rf3) 28.Rxb7 Rc8 29.Rb3


And here Dr. Turgut suggests 27...Rf8 as an improvement.

28.Ke2 b5 29.Bh3

Threatening Rc8 with exchange of rooks and a very drawish position.

29...Rb8 30.Rc8 Rb6 31.f4 Rc6 32.fxe5+ Bxe5 33.Rxc6+ Kxc6

Black is effectively a pawn up for the moment, as the Be5 can't be dislodged, and the g3 and e4 pawns are paralyzed. But it's not enough to win.

34.Kd3 Kc5 35.Be6 Kb4 36.Kc2 a5 37.Bd5

 Passive defense is sufficient.

37...Kc5 38.Kd3 h6 39.Bg8 a4 40.Bf7 g5 41.Bd5 b4 42.Bf7 b3

Maybe 42...g4 first, but this can't be enough.

43.axb3 a3


Simplest: give the pawn right back.

44...Kxb4 45.Bd5 Kc5 46.Bf7 g4

Black prepares to harvest White's kingside.

47.Bd5 Bd4

Dr. Turgut points out that 47...h5 may be a more serious winning try. (Still rather drawish.)

48.Kc2 Kb4 49.Be6 Bg1 50.Bxg4 Bxh2 51.Be6 Bxg3 52.Kd3! Kc5 53.Ke2 Kd4 54.Kf3 Be5 55.Bd5 h5 56.Kg2 Bf4 57.Kh3 Bg5 58.Kg3 Ke3 59.Kh3 Kf4 60.Kh2 Ke3 61.e5

This pawn is irrelevant.

61...Bf4+ 62.Kh1 Bxe5 63.Bg8 Kf3 64.Ba2

Sans tablebase, your stupid computer probably thinks Black is winning. But of course this is a dead draw. The White king wisely headed for the h1 square (it can't be evicted because the dark-square bishop doesn't control the h-pawn's queening square). White's bishop will continue to frolic along the a2-g8 diagonal until the Black king strolls to b2. When the pawn is pushed to a2, the bishop gladly sacrifices itself. ½–½



Hrach,Jonathan (1531) - Dolson,Carl (1555) [A03]
Illinois Class Championships (1), 10.12.2011


1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 g6 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Nf6 6.f4 0–0 7.Nf3 d5!

Why not?


If 8.e5 Black can contest the dark squares with 8...Ng4 9.0–0 f6! as in Arapovic-Uhlmann, Sarajevo 1982


8...d4! 9.Na4 b6 10.e5 Nd5³

9.Nxe4 Nxe4

9...Qb6 taking aim at White's dark-square weaknesses is also sensible.

10.dxe4 e5

Black must be worried about 11. e4-e5, but I don't think it's a big deal.

11.c3 Qb6 12.Qe2 exf4 13.Bxf4 Re8 14.Ng5



Time for modesty: 14...Rf8 followed by ...h6 and Black is OK.

15.Nxf7! Kh7

15...Kxf7 16.Bc7+ loses immediately


Game over.

16...h5 17.Bh6 Ne5 18.Bxg7 Nxf7 19.Rxf7 Kg8 20.Raf1 Bf5

and I can't make out the final moves, but the end is near. 1–0



Ulrich,Rachel (1735) - Peng,David (1896) [B45]
Illinois Class Championships (2), 10.12.2011


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6



When I was a kid, we were all taught by Fischer that White's path to advantage was 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bf4 (I don't think that Fischer ever reached precisely this position, but he was willing to waste a tempo to get similar positions! See for example Fischer-Najdorf, Santa Monica 1966.) But then Sveshnikov proved that 7...e5 8.Bg5 a6 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Na3 f5! was perfectly playable, and the world changed. It changed for us patzers, too: I remember losing a game to Ken Walter at the Chicago Chess Center circa 1980 and having no idea what had just hit me.

6...Bb4 7.f3

In combination with 6.Bg5, this is a bit much to ask of White's position. The dark squares are weak. 7.Ndb5 0–0 (7...d6 8.a3) 8.a3=

7...Qa5 8.Qd2
Again, perhaps 8.Ndb5.

8...Nxd4 9.Bxf6


Desperado! The knight is lost anyway, so get a pawn for it.

10.Qxc2 gxf6

White doesn't have enough compensation for the pawn.

11.Bd3 b6 12.0–0 Bxc3 13.bxc3 Qc5+ 14.Kh1 Bb7 15.Rab1 Bc6 16.c4


Black correctly judges that his king is perfectly safe on e7.

17.Rfe1 Rac8 18.Qd2 d6 19.f4 Rhg8 20.f5 Rg5! 21.Qe2 e5?!

Unnecessary. 21...Rcg8! 22.Rg1 Qe5! and Black rules the board, while White's pieces look nice but are totally ineffective.

22.Qf3 Bb7 23.Rb3 Ba6 24.Rc1 Rc7 25.Be2 Rg8

Black wants to bring more artillery to bear on c4.

26.Ra3 Bc8 27.Rb3 Bb7 28.Qd3 Rgc8 29.Rd1 Ba6 30.Rc3 Rc6

White has defended well.



Natural, but wrong.

31...Qd4! 32.Qc2

32.Qxd4 exd4 33.R3c2 Rc5 and White's bishop is miserable, while Black's two sets of double isolated pawn are not bad at all!


Right idea, but there's an even better move. 32...Bxc4! 33.Bxc4 (33.Rxc4 Rxc4 34.Bxc4 b5) 33...b5

33.Rd1 Qc5 34.Rc1 bxc4

34...b4! 35.Rf3 Bxc4 is quicker

35.Rh3 c3! 36.Bxa6 Rxa6 37.Rxh7

37.Rxc3 Qxc3 38.Qxc3 Rxc3 39.Rxc3 Rxa2 40.Kg1 offers more resistance, but should be lost.

37...Rb6 38.Rh3 Rb2 39.Qa4 c2 40.Rb3 Rb8! 41.h4 R8xb3 42.axb3 Rb1 0–1



Fei,Andrew (1579) - Craigmile,Charles (1713) [C42]
Illinois Class Championships (2), 10.12.2011


There's an old football saying: "A tie is like kissing your sister." But sometimes kissing your sister is OK!

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Qe2

The Petroff is a tough nut to crack. At the amateur level, Spassky's 5.Qe2 is a great choice, especially if you enjoy playing rook endings.

5...Qe7 6.d3 Nf6 7.Nc3

7.Bg5 is more commonly played. 7...Qxe2+ 8.Bxe2 Be7 (If you're playing Black and want to win, try Bronstein's 8...Nbd7 . But if you're playing Black and want to win, why were you playing the Petroff in the first place?) 9.Nc3 c6 10.0–0–0 Na6 11.Rhe1 Nc7= and 1/2–1/2 a few moves later, Spassky-Petrosian, Moscow World Championship 1969. At the amateur level, both sides can play for the win from here.

7...Bg4 8.Qxe7+ Bxe7 9.Be2

White lost a tempo over the normal line, but the bishops on e2 and e7 are not optimally placed.

9...Nc6 10.Be3 0–0–0 11.0–0–0 d5 12.d4 a6 13.h3 Bh5 14.g4 Bg6 15.Ne5 Nxd4

A cute idea: Black is hoping to execute a pawn fork. But it's refuted by the game continuation.

16.Bxd4 c5 17.Nxg6

The Be7 is hanging with check.

17...hxg6 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.Nxd5+-

The next thirty-four moves are flawless technique. But Black still manages a miracle save!

19...Bd4 20.Ne3 Rde8 21.Rd3 f5 22.c3 Bf6 23.gxf5 gxf5 24.Bf3 g6 25.Kc2 Bh4 26.Nc4 Re6 27.Rd6 Rxd6 28.Nxd6+ Kc7 29.Nxb7 Bxf2 30.Bg2 f4 31.Rf1 Be3 32.Na5 g5 33.Nc4 Re8 34.Nxe3 Rxe3 35.Kb3 Rg3 36.Rf2 Re3 37.h4 gxh4 38.Rxf4 h3 39.Bf1 h2 40.Rh4 Re4 41.Rxh2 a5 42.Rh7+ Kb6 43.Rh6+ Kc7 44.Ra6 Rf4 45.Bc4 a4+ 46.Rxa4

Yes, Black drew this.

46...Kb6 47.Ra6+ Kb7 48.Rh6 Kc7 49.a4 Kb7 50.a5 Ka7 51.Rh7+ Kb8 52.a6 Rf5 53.a7+ Ka8

Mate is so close that White can taste it. But will it be checkmate or stalemate?


Perfectly good if White has foreseen Black's reply and prepared for it.


When your opponent drops a surprise on you, it's human nature to want to reply immediately.  Stop and think instead!


55.Ka4! avoids the rampaging rook 55...Rxb5 is no longer check, and 56.Rh8+ Kxa7 57.Kxb5 wins.

55...Rb5+!! 56.Kc2 Rxb2+ 57.Kd3 Rd2+ 58.Ke3 Rd3+ 

58...Rd3+ 59.Ke2 (59.Ke4 Rd4+ 60.Ke5 Rxc4 is a theoretical draw, as White still has to lift the stalemate.) 59...Rd2+ 60.Kf1 Rf2+ 61.Kg1 Rg2+ 62.Kh1 Rg1+ 63.Kh2 Rg2+ 64.Kh3 Rg3+ 65.Kh4 Rh3+! forces White's hand. Chess is a cruel game. ½–½



Bale,Les (1765) - Hart,Vince (2025) [C51]
Illinois Class Championship (2), 10.12.2011


1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6

This is the move order recommended by Marin.

3.Nf3 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Be7

Here, Marin's recommendation is 5...Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.0–0 Nge7 8.Ng5 (8.cxd4 d5= but Albert Chow made me suffer at the US Game/ 30 Championships.) 8...d5 9.exd5 Ne5=

6.d4 Na5 7.Bd3 exd4

The classical way to break a gambit is to grab the pawn, then give it back in return for development: 7...d6! 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Nxe5 Nf6 10.0–0 0–0 11.Nd2 Ng4! 12.Ndf3 Nxe5 13.Nxe5 Bf6 14.Bf4 Re8 But this is just equal: the Evans Gambit is for real!

8.cxd4 d5 9.e5

I do not like Black's position: the pieces don't coordinate, as White's d4-e5 wedge splits the board.

9...Be6 10.0–0 Nc6 11.Nc3 Qd7 12.Be3 Nh6 13.Rb1 Rb8

There goes queenside castling, so....

14.Bxh6! gxh6 15.Qd2 Bf8 16.Ne2 Ne7 17.Ng3 Bg4



White continues the attack by positional means.

18...Ng6 19.Nhf5 h5 20.h3! h4 21.hxg4 hxg3 22.fxg3

These are the best-looking tripled g-pawns I've ever seen! The f-file is open, the g4 pawn supports the f5 square, the g3 pawn dominates the Ng6, and the g2 pawn covers the White king just in case.

22...h6 23.Rf3 Rg8 24.Rbf1 Nh8 25.Nxh6 Bxh6 26.Qxh6 Qxg4

That's OK: White has two more g-pawns.

27.Bh7 Qg5 28.Qh3 Ke7 29.Bxg8 1–0


Bungo,Greg (2034) - Kogen,Jonathan (2157) [D01]
Illinois Class Championships (2), 10.12.2011


1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 c6 4.Qd2 Bf5 5.f3 Nbd7 6.0–0–0 Qa5 7.e4

Looking at Greg's games makes me want to start playing the Veresov!

7...dxe4 8.fxe4 Bg6 9.d5 0–0–0 10.dxc6 bxc6 11.e5 Ne8 12.Nf3 Nc7 13.Bc4 h6 14.Bh4 Bh5 15.Rhf1 g5 16.Bg3 Bg7 17.Qe3 Qc5 18.Qe4 g4

18...Bxf3!? 19.gxf3 Nxe5 20.Bxe5 Qxe5 (20...Bxe5?? 21.b4!) 21.Qxc6 is equalish

19.Bf2 Qa5


20.Nd4 Nxe5 21.Nxc6 Nxc6 22.Qxc6 Rxd1+ 23.Rxd1 Bxc3


Ouch! 24.bxc3? Rd8 25.Rxd8+ Kxd8 26.Qxh6 Qxc3 isn't so clear

24...Bxb2+ 25.Kb1 Qa3 26.Bc5

Ouch again.



Right idea, wrong square. The primitive mate threat 27.Bd6! just wins.


27...Qxd5! allows Black to escape: 28.Bxd5 Bxd4 29.Qb7+ Kd7 30.Bb3 (30.Qc6+ Kd8 and the checks are over.) 30...Bb6 31.Ba4+ Ke6 32.Qe4+ Kf6 33.Qf4+ Kg6 34.Qe4+ Kf6 (34...f5 35.Qxe7÷) 35.Qf4+=

28.Kxb2 Qb4+ 29.Bb3 Rd8 30.Bc3

Adventure time is over: the White king is safe in his little house.

30...Qb8 31.Rxh5 Rd6 32.Qc4 Qa8 33.Qxg4+ e6 34.Qg8+ Rd8 35.Qxf7 1–0