Thursday, August 2, 2012

Passing on the Baton

To all my blog readers who are wondering to where I have disappeared in the past month - I spent most of July learning French with the Nadeau family in Kapuskasing! If you never heard of "Kapuskasing" - that's okay. In reality, most of my friends thought that I was speaking in a different language when I said the place name, haha. Kapuskasing is a small town located in northern Ontario, with more than 80% of the 9000 population speaking French. Pretty amazing, eh?

My three week visit was an escape from the quick paced life here in Toronto, a stress-free vacation, a beautiful dream that one would never want to wake up from. I actually been to Kapuskasing back in 2003 when the Nadeau family hosted the Canadian Youth Chess Championships there. At the age of nine, I only remembered the massive mosquito bites that kept me awake during the nights; at the age of eighteen, I came to truly appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of Kapuskasing. Here are two pictures that I took with a normal camera (nothing professional - all credits goes to the natural scenery):

Witnessing a beautiful sunset while fishing.  
Never have I seen a body of water as blue as this one. Nor have I ever seen a group of clouds as 3D as theses.
Life in Kapuskasing also seemed like heaven partially due to the stressful life I pulled through the past year - rigorous academics, IB exams, SATs, university essays, scholarship applications and of course, my duty as the President of CITL - so much had to be accomplished in so little time. However, they say that hard work pays off and thankfully, such was the case for me. This fall, I will be joining Yale's Class of 2016.

Some of you may have paid attention to CITL's 3rd Annual Executive Board Election held one month ago. News of the new team lineup was posted on facebook, the CITL blog, and chesstalk. And yes, it is true: after founding the organization in 2009 and leading the team to great success for the past three years, I have decided that it is time to pass on the baton.

If you remember, CITL started from scratch in June 2009. I had no experience, no funding, no resources, no team - it was truly a "one woman show" haha. Looking back, I had the time of my life building the CITL kingdom one brick at a time. The best part? Getting to know everyone on a personal level, whether it be the dozens of library Branch Heads, the hundreds of volunteers, the handful of sponsors, and finally, the countless participants that brought smiles to the program each and every single week. Some of the bonds I made in this big Chess in the Library family will surely last a lifetime. And I want to take a minute here to sincerely thank everyone who involved in this organization for the past three years from the bottom of my heart. I couldn't have done it without you.

from the very first CITL location in June 2009... the grand CITL festival in June 2012
We live in a democratic nation where our leader is subjected to a change every several years. Such a change allows our beloved country to flourish like no other. New ideas are emerged, new policies are implemented, and together we walk towards a better future. Can you imagine what life in Canada would be if we had one leader that ruled for three consecutive decades? I surely couldn't. Chess in the Library is now an international organization, with almost three dozen programs not only running all across Canada, but also the United States. It's time for a change. It's time to embrace a new leader.

The decision to not run in the last election was only partially based on my academic status. While it is possible to operate CITL in university, I truly believe that the organization as a whole will benefit more from a new wave of young and passionate leaders. The seven members of the Executive Board as well as the five members of the Junior Executive Board have already taken action - current CITL President Vivek Chachcha has just announced the opening of another CITL location in Surrey, BC. I have complete confidence in these twelve chosen youths to bring CITL to yet another peak by the end of the 2012-2013 year.

I have always been saying how I wish I could back ten years from now and witness the program going stronger than ever. I am sure that the Canadian chess scene, all the volunteers and librarians who have once been involved, as well as all the sponsors and donors hope for this envision to come true too. So let's make this happen! Chess in the Library will last for ten years only if you all continue to support it the way you did for the past three years. A collaboration effort from you all will help us spread the beautiful game that we all love to as many communities as we can.

CITL and all of its family members will forever hold a special place in my heart. Rest assured - I will not forget you. One day, I will come back, and I know that the way in which Chess in the Library will work its magic will simply blow my mind away.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
Yuanling Yuan
CITL Founder

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chess in the Library 3rd Annual Festival

In a blink of an eye, it's been already 3 years since I first founded this program back in 2009! Firstly, I'd like to thank all of our sponsors, donors, chesstalk readers, blog followers for their continuous support! As of today, we have successful expanded the program to 31 locations across the nation with locations in Toronto, Ottawa, Barrie, Newmarket, London, Vaughan, Calgary, Victoria and Washington D.C. Without your support, we could not have made it this far.

To celebrate Chess in the Library's 3 years of existence, the 2011-2012 CITL Executive Board and staff members have been working hard the past month to bring you our 3rd Annual Festival. The main event will be an exclusive CITL tournament, where representatives of different CITL locations gather together to complete for the best team prizes. There will also be many side activities this year, to be announced shortly. Check out the details for this amazing event below! If you want to play, you must register through one of our participating libraries. See for a full list of our locations.

When: Saturday, June 30th, 2012 from 11:45am – 4:30 pm

Where: North York Central Library, Auditorium (5120 Yonge St, Toronto, ON)

Style: Individual & team competition: you will be representing team <>. To form a team in a given section, there must be a minimum of 3 players representing the same library.

Rating: Players with a CMA rating of 1100+ must play in the Open section. All games will be CMA rated.

Sections: Grade 3 & Under, Grade 6 & Under; Under, Open (for everyone & students Grade 12 and Under)

Event Schedule:
11:00am – 11:30 pm Check-in
11:30pm – 12:15 pm  Opening Ceremony
12:15 pm – 4:00 pm Tournament Games
4:00 pm – 4:30 pm Closing Ceremony & Awards

Entry Fee: FREE! Donations are welcome!

Registration: Submit completed entry forms (obtained at any of our locations) to your local librarian by June 16th (deadline).

Info: Contact your local librarian first, and then email if necessary. Also check out our website for information on side events

Prizes: There will be trophies, medallions and chess books given out to top three individuals and top three teams in each section. A large annual trophy will be awarded to the top team in the Open section.

Chess in the Library is able to bring to our community completely free chess tournaments like this one because of the donations that we receive. Expenses for chess sets, clocks, trophies, medals, book prizes, certificates, ratings, etc do add up to quite a lot and we sincerely hope that you can help contribute to the cause. This year, we are also inviting the players and volunteers from nearby cities' libraries (Ottawa, London, Newmarket, Vaughan) to join our festival here in Toronto and we would like to cover their minimal travel expenses.

Our goal is to raise $2000 by the end of this year to fully fund this event and if you believe in what we do for the community, we hope that you can show some support. Your donation does not have to be in a monetary form - it can be used chess sets, clocks, trophies, books - anything chess related! We also made the donation process much easier by adding a donation button on our website. Now you can donate by paypal on our new website!  If you don't have paypal, you can contact me through A small donation such as $5 will make a huge difference!

Thank you everyone! From the bottom of my heart, I really appreciate all the support you've given us thus far!

P.S. We are hoping to get some media coverage for this event to further promote the image of chess to the general public. If anyone has any contacts in this industry, would you mind helping us out? I have the press release written. Thank you soooo much!

Friday, June 8, 2012

I'm Back!

To all my dear blog readers, I apologize for disappearing the past 3 months! To be honest, it was probably the most hectic 3 months of my life because it was the final stretch of high school for me. And when you're in a crazy rigorous program like IB (International Baccalaureate), you're in for some serious workload and exams during the months of Feb - May of your senior year. For those of you who are not familiar with the program, here is a brief description that may or may not scare you off, haha.

While normal high school exams are 1 per course and usually lasting anywhere between 1-2 hours, IB exams have 2-3 "papers" per course. Each paper is usually 1-2 hours long and since you've got 2-3 of each subject (you need at least 6 IB subjects to get the diploma), you might find yourself writing a total of 5-hour exam for a certain subject. My IB math exam, for example, was broken down into paper 1 (2 hours), paper 2 (2 hours) and paper 3 (1 hour) over the course of 3 separate days. Now multiply that by 6 subjects and you'll understand how our entire month of May is devoted to writing exams! :)

Also, there is a lot of pressure on the students to do well because our exams account for approximately 70% of our course mark. Usually Ontario exams are only 30%! Yeah, it was insane. Anyways, now that's over, I will be back to blogging on a weekly basis!

There will be several upcoming posts that are of quite importance, so stayed tuned!

Finally, here is a recent picture of me at the Chess in the Library program so that you all know I'm alive and well hehe. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Tina Fang - Founder of CITL in London

In my last post, I mentioned that I will be interviewing Tina with regards to her CITL program in London. So, are you ready for it? Now before we get started, allow me to introduce you to Tina:

Do you guys think that she looks like me? :)

So I asked Tina five very basic questions and I think that she answered all of them really well! It's always been other people interviewing me on such questions but never me interviewing others! This time, as the Founder of CITL, I get to hear this story from a different perspective, a different context, a different person. :)

1. Why did you decide to start up a Chess in the Library chapter in London?
Chess is fun and there are lots of kids interested in this game. However, the chess community in London was not very vibrant and there wasn't an organized place where kids can play each other for fun. When I heard about the Chess in the Library program, I thought that library is a great place for kids to play and the program would help promote chess in London, which is something that I've always wanted to do. 

2. What was the greatest obstacle that you had to overcome in the process? How did you accomplish it?
Fortunately, I did not come across many obstacles to start the program. The librarians were very supportive and were happy to have this program in their library. 

3. What do you find most rewarding about this experience?
After every session of CITL, I leave the library feeling very happy and proud of this program and the kids. The smiles on the kids' faces just light up mine. :)

4. You created a facebook group for the program in London. Tell me a bit more about its purpose.
My volunteer team are mostly my friends in high school and Facebook is a good way for us to communicate outside of school and the library. Having a Facebook group makes us feel that we are part of this team, and it is a place that allows members can share their ideas about CITL.

5. Do you plan on expanding the CITL program to other branches of the London Public Library?
Absolutely. For some of the kids and volunteers, the Masonville Library may not be their most convenient location. In addition, by expanding this program into other branches, the game of chess can be spread to an even greater area. In fact, a parent of a participant of CITL really liked the idea of CITL and enthusiastically offered to start this program at the Byron branch. It is now officially our second location in London!

Did you hear that? Tina has already influenced a second library in London to host the program! After reading her responses from this interview, I truly think that I should conduct a lot more similar interviews with different volunteers! Details on the new London location will be posted soon!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

CITL in London Update

I know that it's been so long since I wrote my last blog post but don't worry - Yuanling is back! :) 

The main reason for my prolonged absence on this blog is...graduation! Although I started CITL in grade 9, I am now in grade 12! Time flies, eh? Well, I needed to apply to many univerities and scholarships too, since tuition and residential costs are awefully expensive these days. Anyways, I'm 95% finished with all of my crazy applications and essay prompts so I'll be blogging on a bi-weekly basis again. Thank you for being so patient with me!

Alright, so the first post is going to be dedicated to our new program in London, organized by Tina Fang and her friends. Tina plays chess on an international level too! She recently represented Canada at the 2011 World Youth Chess Championships held in Brazil! The Chess in the Library family is super proud to have Tina as one of our newest members! 

I spoke to her several days ago asking about the program in London and was told that everything is running smoothly. There is a decent number of participants each week and the numbers are getting quite stable, which is excellent news! What I love the most is their fabulous self-designed poster:

simple and elegant

Tina also sent me a dozen pictures so that I can get the London CITL experience without having to spend 4 hours on the road getting there physically! Take a look:

Aww...this is simply my favourite picture! The 3 boys seem to be super excited about chess!

Time for some serious chess, eh?

Hmm...what to do?

Oh, look this way, boys! :)

Room setup; there are a lot more people in total than the ones you see!

The London program runs every Friday from 3:30-5pm. If you live nearby, feel free to drop by and take a look! You sure won't regret it! Here are the details of this location from our website if you need help getting there Support the London location!

I will be sending Tina several interview questions soon and in my next several posts, you'll get to gain a bit more insight in Tina and her CITL program in London. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chess in the Library Goes International!

When I founded this organization two and a half years ago, I hadn't the slightest idea that one day, this very program will be not only expanding to the rest of Canada but also to other countries. I clearly remember that my initial goal was to expand the CITL program to 30 Toronto Public Libraries and then to several other cities in Ontario. Once that seemed to be feasible (as of today, 17 Toronto Public Libraries have hosted this program), I dreamt of spreading the program to other chess popular (relatively speaking, haha)  provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec. When we went nation wide in Oct 2010 with a program in Victoria, B.C. (see blog post Officially a Nation Wide Program Now!), my goal was only to reach out to the other 11 provinces in this country and that is something we are still working on, even after the expansion to Calgary, Alberta.

It was approximately two months ago when Kellar Wendell, a librarian from the Washington D.C. Public Library system contacted us inquiring some advice on running the CITL program. After a long telephone conversation with Wendell, I found out that they only had 3 chess sets in the library and was currently doing a casual drop-in based chess club.

My first response was, "How do you run a chess club with ONLY 3 chess sets?". Wendell continued to tell me that like Toronto, the major of Washington D.C. implemented some budget cuts that not only inhibited the purchase of library materials (let alone chess sets...) but also limited the service hours to two nights a week. Evidently, in that situation, it is extremely difficult to run a prosperous chess program without outside support - and that's us!

The purpose of CITL is essentially to help promote chess, anywhere, any time, as long as there is a demand for the game. Any library that joins the CITL network is considered family and we will do everything we can to make sure that their CITL program becomes successful. Thus, I sent Wendell our CITL handbook and told him many of our success stories in Canada, including marketing strategies and such. I also sent his library 7 chess sets so they could have a capacity of 20 participants, which is the minimum for any CITL location in Toronto at least. Here is the info for our new CITL location:

Deanwood Library
1350 49th. St. N.E.
Washington, DC 20019
Phone Number: 202-698-1175Info: Open from 7pm-9pm on Fridays.

If you live in Washington D.C. and love playing chess, do come out and support the chess program at the Deanwood Library! :)

In only 2 years and 5 months, CITL made its first step into the international market in our neighbour country, the United States of America. This is truly a milestone for our organization as it really shows us that with our passion and drive for success, the sky is our limit. More importantly, it made me realize that even if I go to the States (or anywhere outside of Canada) for university, I can still continue running the program there. CITL will follow me wherever I go and maybe, just maybe, you see CITL in Europe, Asia and all the other continents of this unifying world.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

WIGUP TV Features 3 Articles on Chess in the Library!

To those of you who attended the 2nd Annual Chess Festival, you should remember that we have several TVs and newspapers covering the event. One of them was WIGUP TV, represented by Averie MacDonald, a very sweet young lady who travelled a great distance just to get to the festival venue. Aside from having a little chat with me whenever I was not anxiously running around and making sure that everything is going well, Averie interviewed several CITL participants who represented different libraries. Her articles would have been published on WIGUP TV's site long ago had it not gone under "construction" for many months since the festival.

However, it was last week when I received a pleasant surprise from Averie - the articles have been officially published! I must say that they were all very nicely written and engaging! I want to take this opportunity to thank Averie for helping us promote chess in Canada! :)

I did not copy and past every paragraph that Averie wrote below so if you want to see the ENTIRE 3-article series with pictures, then do check out the following links (will also be posted on the right side bar under CITL in the Media) Otherwise, just keep reading this extra long post!:

1. Chess 101:
2. Chess in the Library Turns Two:
3. Meet the Chess Champs of Tomorrow:

Averie began her 3-article series with an introduction to chess in general, quoting some of my philosophies haha. The article was titled "Chess 101".

What can chess do for me?
According to Canada's top female chess player, Yuanling Yuan, chess can do a lot for a young person. Chess can make you more patient..."The biggest benefit that chess brings to kids is allowing them to develop patience and develop endurance," says Yuanling, "because Chess is a game where you really have to sit there quietly and play for a long time. My longest game was like 6 hours, believe it or not!" 
Chess can help you focus in school...
"Especially as you get to high school, sometimes your classes are pretty long, so for (kids) to be able to sit there and listen to the teacher and concentrate and absorb all the information... that requires patience and other abilities that chess players have," says Yuanling, "I think that's the biggest thing that chess brought me, I'm always able to focus for a very very long time." 
Chess can help improve your memory...
"When you play chess, you have to think a few moves ahead... So in order to do that, you have to develop a very good memory," says Yuanling, "and that helps with language I think. Say you're learning a second language, a good memory really helps because you're able to pick up the words faster." 
Chess can help keep your mind sharp for your whole life!
"Chess increases kids' academic performance and it decreases seniors' chances of getting Alzheimer's disease," says Yuanling. "There are a lot of benefits to chess that people don't really realize!"

Her next article was called "Chess in the Library Turns Two!", which is exactly the purpose of the annual festival.

On Saturday, June 25th at the North York Central Library in Toronto, Yuanling and her volunteers celebrated their two-year anniversary with a huge chess festival for kids of all ages!
"This is one of the few times in the year when all of the volunteers and participants get to come together in one place and enjoy a day of chess," said Yuanling.
The festival started off with a speech from Canada's top overall chess player, Grandmaster Mark Bluvshtein, and some funny videos showcasing memories from the past two years.After that, it was time for the main event, a free chess tournament for the best players from the Ontario library teams. Players squared off in three categories: Grade 3 & Under, Grade 6 & Under, and the "open" category, for Grade 12 and under and kids who wanted to take on players above their grade level.
Once they were finished each round, participants could do chess quizzes to win a prize, attempt some tricky chess puzzles, or play on a life-sized chess set (with pieces as big as some players!) 
"For me, looking at these young kids reminds me of when I was little," said Yuanling once the festival had begun. Yuanling started playing chess at 7 years old and is now the top female player in Canada.
"It's really something that makes me feel that all my effort that I put into this program was worth it." 
After four intense rounds of competition, it was finally time for the 76 competitors to head home, but not before the trophies were handed out! The top prize, a gigantic golden trophy, was given to the host team-- North York Central Library-- for winning first in the open category. But winner or not, each participating team walked away grateful for the chance to play.Happy Birthday Chess in the Library!
 I just love how Averie adds in her own comments of "with pieces as big as some players!" and "a gigantic golden trophy", haha! Anyways, I am saving the best for the last because my favourite article of the 3 was the one with the interviews of the participants. Their responses are just so cute - exactly what kids should be like. This one was titled "Meet the Chess Champs of Tomorrow".

While on site at Chess in the Library's second annual festival, sat down with some competitors to get the inside scoop on what's so great about chess, they even shared some of their top-secret tips! 
Name: Jaanani Age: 10Plays chess at: Humberwood Library (Toronto)Has been playing chess for: about one year
What do you like best about chess? "Every time you're playing it, you somehow find a new strategy that you never really knew could be so useful." 
Why should other kids learn to play chess?"There's some people that really hate school and don't want to study, but still want to be smart... (I would tell them to) play chess because it's the fastest way to learn." 
What's your number one chess tip?"The most important thing is always staying confident that you're going to win. And don't scared just because (your opponent) is older because I have versed someone in grade 11 and beat them, and I'm only in grade 5." 
Name: Jayden Age: 12Plays chess at: Brookbanks Library (Toronto)Has been playing chess for: about 4 years. 
What's the best part of a chess game?"Probably the gameplay or taking other people's pieces, because it makes you feel like you're going to win." 
Why do you play chess?"For the fun of it! It's good to pass time and it's also really interesting." 
Melalee GordonAge: 11Plays chess at: Downsview Library (Toronto)Has been playing chess for: two years 
What's the best part about playing chess? "You get to have fun with your opponent, and you get to try your hardest. It's not like checkers or cards... because when it comes to chess you're moving (your piece) all around the board that has 64 squares, so there's many possibilities of moves. It's more long-lasting." 
How do you feel when you're playing chess?"I feel confident in myself because I think I may have a chance to win, I may not, but it's just about having fun and doing your best." 
Do you have any tips for new chess players?"If you're new to chess, you should go to a chess club. There, you can get people to help you and experience the wonders of chess!"Melalee says to remember these tips when you're playing chess: 1. protect your king.2. keep your focus on the centre of the board.3. use all your pieces.4. don't give away any of your pieces.