Over a Thousand High Schoolers Team-up in Illinois
By Betsy Dynako   
February 16, 2010

While Amateur Team tournaments spanned coast-to-coast, over 1000 young players competed as teams in Illinois.  2010 marks the 36th year the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) officially hosted the High School Team Chess Championships, but the tournament was actually started back in 1968 by National Tournament Director Michael Zacate who is my father-and is also known as the father of high school chess in Illinois.

A family of USCF Life Members: Matthew Zacate, Betsy Dynako, Michael and Betty Zacate

The tournament began at Evergreen Park High School where Zacate was a teacher and chess coach. Zacate invited any and all high teams from the state to attend. By 1974, after only 6 years of teams sleeping in the gym in order to afford to attend, and filling in wall charts that took up more of the skittles area than one cares to admit, the IHSA picked up the tournament making it official.  Today teams of 8 players and up to 4 alternates come together every year.  This year 129 teams attended, making a new record high of over 1,000 players.  Michael Zacate who oversees the tournament to this day said, "While only a few of the schools were making their first appearance, twenty-five of the coaches experienced the event for the first time."

GM Yury Shulman
GM Yury Shulman visited the tournament again this year to lend support and inspire players.  I asked him about is impressions of the event, "I am always happy to admit that this is one of the best run tournaments with one of the biggest team tournaments in the World. I think it is number three by size after Olympiad and Amateur Team East."

For Shiny Kaur, a senior from Palantine High School, this year was bittersweet.  Shiny played on the team all four years of high school and led her team on board one for the last two years. Shiny told me, "Board 1 definitely seems to have more pressure because all the lower boards look up to that person. I liked having that sort of leadership role and helping all my teammates to become better players." 

Shiny Kaur
Board scores are weighed, with 12 points going to board one down to 5 points going to a win on board 8.  At the end of a round there is a max perfect score 68 points that one team could earn and it is also possible to have teams tie with a score of 34 to 34.  Kaur admits playing her last round as part of her team was a little sad, "Chess has been a huge part of my life through high school and for it to be over is emotional.  I want to play on a college team, as well as play individually."

While seniors said good-bye to high school, non-seniors currently lead two powerhouse teams.  Whitney Young High School of Chicago is headed by Junior Michael Auger (2133 USCF) while Niles North High of Skokie is lead by sophomore Eric Rosen (2214 USCF) who also plays in the US Chess League for the Chicago Blaze. Their final round was critical. Niles came in to the match with 6/6 and Whitney with 5/6.  Auger and Rosen are actually friends when they are not facing off over the board and teamed up to annotate their game together for us.


Michael Auger and Eric Rosen

Eric (playing Black): I walked into this game after a two-hour battle against Glenbard West's Nic Nogulich. I barely won in an intense time scramble, which secured my team the win. In the last round we faced Whitney Young of Chicago meaning I would have to play my long time friend and rival Michael Auger. After six difficult rounds of play I was very tired. I was expecting a long and difficult game and had Coca-Cola by my side to keep awake. I figured the outcome of this game was likely to determine the outcome of the match.
Michael (playing White): I've always struggled playing white against Eric, he plays one of the many annoying lines that refutes my favorite Danish Gambit which goes: 2.d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2 5. Bxb2 d5!? 6. Bxd5 Nf6 7. Bxf7 Kxf7 8. Qxd8 Bb4+ 9. Qd2 Bxb2. It leads to an equal position. I've gone as far as playing 1. h3 at the US Junior Open, to avoid the line.
1...e5 2.Nf3
Eric: This was the opening I was expecting from Michael. He played this against me in our previous meeting a few months ago and won in a close endgame.
Michael: I decided to play this move on the board, and then sat anxiously fearing the move Nf6 as I know absolutely no theory with 2. Nf3, and was relying entirely on a transposition to the Danish Gambit. [2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3
2...Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Bc4 d6
Eric:6.Qb3 Qd7 7.0-0 Na5 Nakamura-Ibragimov where Ibragimov eventually won
Eric: 6...Nf6 This is probably more solid. Black will hold on to the extra pawn.

Michael:  I am very happy with my position and have nice compensation for the pawn.
Eric: When I played Bg4 I thought I could play Qd7 here and 8.Qxb7 would be met by Rb8 giving Black a fine position. I overlooked that this fails after 7... Qd7 8. Bxf7+! Qxf7 9. Qxb7 and White will win back the piece with a better position
7...Be6 8.Qxb7 Nge7 9.Bb5 Bd7 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5
Eric: 11.Bxc6 Nb6 Black has everything defended.
11...Rb8 12.Qxc6!?
Eric: The move I was expecting. This definitely displays Michael's creative and aggressive style. 12.Qa6 Qe7+ 13.Be3 Ne5 14.Bxd7+ Qxd7 was also possible.
Eric: Luckily I had this move. I was thankful to come out of the opening alive and slightly better.
Michael:  I was hoping Eric would accept the queen sack but he didn't. 12...Bxc6 13.Bxc6+ Ke7 14.0-0 Black faces major problems in development and the king is very vulnerable. All of White's pieces are ready to strike. 14...f6 (14...h6 15.Re1+ Kf6 16.Be3 Kg6 17.Bxa7 Rxb2 18.Re8 one variation illustrating White's dominant position) 15.Ng5! Black has no good defense to Re1
13.Qc4 Be7 14.0-0 0-0 15.a4 Rc5 16.Qa6 Rxd5 17.Qxa7

Michael:  It was a matter of time before Black's bishops became extremely powerful, and I needed to create some counterplay. So I tried to conjure up a passed a-pawn.
17...Bf6 18.a5 Bb5 19.Re1 Qb8 20.Qxb8 Rxb8 21.a6 Ra8

Eric: I figured that White's a-pawn was not much of a threat and could be a weakness later on.
22.a7 Kf8 23.h4

Eric: It is difficult for White to develop without giving up the b-pawn.
23...h6 24.g4
Eric: Michael always has interesting ideas.
24...Rd3 25.Be3 c6 26.g5 hxg5 27.Nxg5 Bxb2 28.Rad1

Michael: It looks like my attempted passed pawn doesn't measure up to his bishops, but luckily we were both getting into time trouble.
Eric: The time pressure along with exhaustion finally gets to me. I lose focus and blunder. 28...Rxd1 29.Rxd1 Ba3 30.Ne4 Ke7=

Eric/Michael: Winning material.
29...Rb3 30.Bc1 Bd3 31.Rxb2 Rxb2 32.Bxb2 Rxa7 33.Rd1 c4 34.Re1 f6 35.Ne6+ Kf7 36.Nf4 Bf5 37.Rd1 g5 38.hxg5 fxg5 39.Rd5!

Eric/Michael: Simplifying the position
39...gxf4 40.Rxf5+ Ke6 41.Rxf4

Eric: Around this time one of my teammates- Saagar Gupta at board 3 pulled out a win in a very drawish position. This meant we had won the match as well as the tournament. I relaxed and let Michael finish me off.
41...Kd5 42.Rf8 Rb7 43.Bh8 Rc7 44.Bc3 Kc5 45.Rd8 d5 46.f4
Eric: Black doesn't have enough compensation for the piece and Michael cleanly converts for a win.
46...Rb7 47.Be5 Rf7 48.Kg2 c3 49.Rc8+ Kb4 50.Bxc3+ Kb3 51.Be5 d4 52.Rd8 Kc3 53.Rxd4 Rxf4
Michael: With my individual score of 7/7 and Niles North scoring 7/7 Eric and I both won a state championship. 1-0

In the end Auger's win over Rosen wasn't enough to put Whitney Young in the top three.  The final match score was 38.5 to 29.5 in favor of Niles North pushing Whitney Young down in the standings to finish in 8th place.  Auger did however go undefeated on board one, earning an individual medal. Since both of these teams have returning first boards next year they will be ones to watch in 2011 during the 37th annual IHSA Team Chess Championship, continuing the history of Illinois high school team chess.

Kelly High School from Chicago

1. Niles North Skokie, IL
Head Coach Harry Kyriazes
Assistant Coaches Heather Ingraham and John Kretsos
Eric Rosen -- board one, Fedor Titov -- board two, Saagar Gupta -- board three, Michael Chinitz -- board four and Evan Spiegel on board five, with Chad Hirsch and David Paykin splitting board six, Rafeh Qazi and Evan Goldstein splitting board seven, and Emmett Barr and Adil Dzelilovic rotating on board eight.
2. Stevenson Lincolnshire, IL
3. Central Hinsdale, IL
For more information and results visit the tournament's home page:

A Niles team member sporting their custom hoodies