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Placing 1st at the Midwest/Israel Tournament

Updated: Mar 4

Two weeks ago, a student’s mother sent over the flyer for the Israel & The Midwest tournament and suggested I play. I thought I’d put some of what I’d been learning with MM coach Zahar Efimenko to the test, but was a little worried, as Be’er Sheva holds the record for having more grandmasters per capita than any other city in the world!

Here’s an analysis of two instructive positions from the tournament, played on

Misha Vilenchuk (USA) vs. Alon Sabel (Israel)

Last month, Zahar taught me what pieces are actually worth. We know rooks are worth 5 and knights are worth three, but in certain positions (like when there's checkmate) a sacrifice is worthwile. Sometimes, that means getting a knight to an outpost on d6, but in this game it meant opening up their already open king (the queen is valuable, but checkmate is even more valuable!).

Rxg4! Afterwards, I brought up my rook up and won his queen. The rest is commentary.


Misha Vilenchuk (USA) vs. Yuri Zhizmer (Israel)

One big mistake of mine was against International Master Yuri Zhizmer from Netanya.

What should black’s plan be? Queen endgames are still on the frontiers of chess knowledge, and, as my old coach Predrag Trajkovic once said, “don’t listen to anybody that tells you they understand queen vs. queen endgames.” There’s only one rule: get your pawn, supported by your queen, to the end of the board to get another queen. The only problem was... he was way faster at this!

Black to move, and I’m out of checks. White gets another queen and then wins. I should have just tried to check him into a three-move repetition.


In total, more than 120 players played the tournament. I ended up tying for 7th place in the top section with GM Evgeny Postny, among others, and placing 1st among all the Americans and winning a cash prize. Not bad for coming out of retirement!

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