Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Generous Donation From the Southam Family

Todd Southam was the youngest son of the Southam family. He was a talented youth that won many Canadian Cadets and Juniors, and represented Canada in the world tournaments. He broke the record of being the youngest chess player to win the Toronto Closed Championship when he was only 15 years old and being the lowest rater player in that section. He not only was an excellent chess player, he was also a nice and kind person who would always stay behind and analyze games with juniors. Later on he became a FM, scored an IM norm and his final rating was 2423 before he suddenly died in 1996. Even though I never met him in person, but from how others describe him, I can tell that he had a great personality and if I had met him I would've liked him too. His death was a great loss for the chess community in Canada but he will always be in our hearts.

A great surprise was that about 2 weeks ago, I received an email from the Southam family saying that they wish to donate Todd's trophies and many chess sets to the Chess in the Library program! It was a complete honor to receive this donation. I was so touched of their enthusiasm and support for my program when I received this email and wanted to meet them in person.

Thus, last night, Michael, Yutong and I visited the Southam family. We were greeted by Todd's mother, Elsa, his father, Peter, and his brother David who I've met before at the Scarborough Chess Club.

Us and the Southam family- from left to right: Yuanling Yuan , Elsa Southam,
Peter Southam, David Southam, Yutong Luo and Michael Kleinman

The family showed us 5 huge binders of Todd's tournament records, pictures and articles. We listened with interest as they told us many chess stories from the past, most of them were before I was born! We also got to see many pictures of famous Grand Masters when they were younger. Last but not least, they showed us their chess magazine library which took up an entire book shelf! There was a complete collection of the New in Chess (originally from Germany), Chess Life (from the US), Inside Chess (from England), Chess Canada Echecs (from Canada) and the En Passant (from Canada) magazines. All these things were fascinating to me and beyond my imagination. It was like walking in a chess history museum!

The Southam family showing us the 5 huge binders of Todd's chess history

Their generous donation consists of 20 trophies and the money for new plates and engraving, 2 plaques, many chess sets and a couple of chess books. To remember Todd Southam and to make all these trophies more special, we've decided to customize a new plate for the trophies: "Chess in the Library - The Todd Southam Award". Along with the trophy, we will also hand out a little pamphlet to the award recipients which includes a brief about Todd, a couple of his chess stories, a list of his achievements and a couple of his most famous games. Perhaps we will run a Todd Southam Memorial tournament at each of the Chess in the Library programs and give out a couple of the trophies there. We are still working on the details.

A lot of trophies eh?

We are all just so happy to recieve all of this!

On behalf of all the participants who are and will be playing chess in the Chess in the Library program and the organization team, I would like to thank the Southam family here for their genenous donation and support towards our program. I also thank them for sharing all their wonderful memories with us. We all appreciate it very much and it was a pleasure to have the chance to meet them in person as they are an extremely nice family. This is a very important event in the development of the Chess in the Library program and I will never ever forget this day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just My Luck

Guess how many people came this week? Exactly 30! It's amazing how each week there's just that many people, sometimes 1-2 more or less. I hope it will always stay this way, as we only have space for 30 kids anyway. The branch head at Brookbanks told me that she is shocked that the attendance each week is always around 30! It is extremely rare for a library's program to become this popular.

In fact, at 9:45, when we just started setting up the room and getting stuff ready, about 10 kids zoomed in already! Their excitement and anticipation to play chess really brightens my day and reminds me of the purpose of starting this program.

I would also like to announce here that the Chess in the Library program has 2 more blogs now! One from Michael Kleinman, who recently joined the organization team of this program and the other from Yutong Luo, our web master and the the main organizer for our program at the Pleasant View branch. Make sure to check out their blogs for updates as well!! :)

The Chess in the Library at Pleasant View will officially start running this Saturday. So far we've already got 17 people signed up. Hope all goes well!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Starting to Overflow...

I had a feeling that players coming to yesterday's Chess in the Library meet at Brookbanks was going to exceed 30. Guess what? I was right! 32 chess players showed up yesterday morning and we sure didn't know what to do! The best idea we've came up with is to allow 2 groups have 7 players and each round 1 person would have a bye. It worked out pretty well actually. What we are talking about here is 32 people, but what if the number changed to 40? Then, before Pleasant View branch opens, I'm going to be in big trouble...

Playing site front view

Playing site back view (a room full of young chess players!!)

This week the meet was mostly ran by the 3 volunteers who will be running the Pleasant View branch on their own. They are Yutong Luo, Aaron Zhang and Sam Wang. They got to watch me run the meet last week, and this week I wanted to let them have a go since they have to be ready for Pleasant View. My job yesterday was to watch them the entire time and point out things that aren't done good enough and show them how to do it. Overall, they did a great job and I'm sure they will be able to handle Pleasant View! :)

From left to right: Aaron Zhang, Yuanling Yuan, Yutong Luo & Sam Wang

Yutong adding a clock

Once again, the book reading table was full of excitement! Not to mention useful too! Just look at these kids reading the chess books!! :)

Hmm...the serious face...trying to figure out a puzzle?

Wow, that must be a good book!

Now here are some of our future champions:

2 weeks till Pleasant View opens. I've just got an email saying that 7 people already signed up! Hope you guys liked the pictures this week. Stay updated on our progress!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

2nd Library Officially Open!!

First, I would like announce that Michael Kleinman, CFC rated 2096, has joined the organizing team of the Chess in the Library program! Welcome Michael!!

Today, I got a confirmation that the Chess in the Library program will open at the Pleasant View branch starting from Aug 1, 2009. The time will be the exact same as Brookbanks, from 10:00 am -12:00 pm every Saturday. However, in September the time may change and I cannot be certain that this program would be able to run each week due to other bookings. Well, I'm sure by then there will be another location to run this program and people can go there! Pleasant View Library is located at Van Horne Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M2J 4S8 (Closest major intersection: Victoria Park Ave. and Van Horne Ave. Located east of Don Mills Rd., west of Victoria Park Ave.)

Michael and I visited the Pleasant View branch today and we saw 4 registrations already in one afternoon! It's amazing news and we are both extremely happy to see that. Who knows how many people will sign up before Aug 1st !!

We are still working on our website and hope to upload it at the end of this month. It's looking great so far!

Everyone is invited to come to the Pleasant View and Brookbanks libraries to play chess on Saturday mornings! See you there!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thunderstorm and Chess!?

If you're living in other cities, then you probably don't know that on July 11, 2009, there was a pretty big thunderstorm in the morning of Toronto. So I was like:"Uh oh, the Chess in the Library program is going to be in trouble today!" With half of the regular members not from the local community, I doubted that the tables would be full that day. However, I was sure in for a surprise! We not only maintained the maximum limit again, we had an extra person! Luckily, one little girl only wanted to watch so it was all good - for now.

This week there were 4 volunteers helping out, Jimmy Wang and Yutong Luo that I introduced before as well as Sam Wang and Aaron Zhang who will be joining me at Victoria Park C.I.'s IB program next year. Thanks to them, everything was done more efficiently than before. Week by week, the Chess in the Library program is getting better and better!

This program has been running at Brookbanks for a month now, and it's starting to become quite stable. No longer I will worry about having not enough people coming in. For 3 weeks in a row the number was mainted at the maximum limit. I believe the number of people would only increase from now on, not decrease. Thus if I don't expand soon, instead of worrying about not enough people, I will have to worry about too much people!!

The next library that I hope to have this program is at the Pleasant View Branch. It's the library right beside my former junior high school and ever since I went off to high school, chess in Pleasant View hasn't been so great. However, I'm hoping that once this program starts running at that branch, chess in my junior high school will become more popular and stronger. I've started to contact that library and if I'm lucky, I would be able to get it start running on July 25. Also, the volunteers who will be running the program at Pleasant View branch (I can't be at 2 places at once :P) are the ones who are being trained at Brookbanks right now so they will be ready to do it on their own!

Wish me good luck at the second library!! :) Anyone who wants to volunteer is welcome to contact me!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

So Far So Good!

Hi everyone,

The third Chess in the Library meet ended yesterday at the Brookbanks Library. This week, the turnout was better than I expected! Even with the Hart House tournament running and the US holiday, 29 kids came to play chess!! I was very happy that the maximum limit was maintained. A great improvement from last week was that by making the table further apart, and with one less volunteer, we still managed to control the noise level much better. Again, I must thank that volunteer, Jimmy Wang, for helping me lots and making this possible.

Just like last week, we had long line ups but the check in table wasn't as busy. That's because on the day before, I created a Chess in the Library member's database which was sorted out by grade and last name. So when they come in, all we had to do was check their names off (much easier to find as well ) and add the new members to the list. It definitely saved us at least 10 minutes this week!! Another new thing we had this week was a reading table full of chess books! So if someone had a bye or finished playing, they would be sitting at the reading table and reading chess books. This prevents the kids from being bored and ending up running around. I think it's a pretty good idea!

I'm overwhelmed that these three weeks had been amazing so far. However, to maintain this current situation is only a small step toward my long term goal. Before I just said that I will want to expand to many more libraries but didn't give any details. Now I have a very clear goal ahead of me. In my next 3 high school years, I hope to expand to 30 Toronto Public Libraries and maintain the level of having 500 kids playing chess in my program each week. I'm sure everyone who's following my program's update more or less will have some doubts about my organization skills and if I will be able to actually reach this goal. Well, you all have the right to doubt, after all, in many of your eyes, I'm just a girl who just turned 15. However, seeing all those kids having fun playing chess gives me the confidence and the motivation to make this program bigger and better so that chess in Canada would become more and more popular.

Recently, I received a donation of more than $500 to buy the first 100 chess sets which are going to be used in 5 libraries. On behalf of all the kids at this program, I would like to thank this kind anonymous donor for supporting the Chess in the Library program. It really means a lot to all of us and also the chess community in Canada. Thus, I've already started contacting 2 other libraries and by the end of this summer, I hope to have 3 libraries running this program smoothly. I also hope that there will be more kind hearted people who will donate to this program.

If you want to support the Chess in the Library program by donating or volunteering (students only ), then contact me at

Thank you!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Amazing Turnout for the Second Meet!!!

The second meet of the "Chess in the Library" program held yesterday at the Brookbanks Library was a huge success! We had about 50% more players than last week, which brings us to more than 30 players this week!!! I seriously didn't think that there would be more people than last week. I guess good news spreads fast! Another good thing is that this week there were 2 volunteers helping me. They are Jimmy Wang from my current high school, Victoria Park C.I. and Yutong Luo who was from the same junior high as me, Pleasant View JHS. Both of them were in the school's chess team and I was proud to be their coach. I would like take this opportunity to thank both of them here, and without them I couldn't have pulled it through. I believe from now on, at least one of them will always assist me in organizing this program.

It was a busy day for all of us. Parents started to bring in kids at around
and in 10 minutes, the check-in line went all the way outside the door. We very extremely busy checking people in, getting newcomers to fill out a registration form and also doing the pairings at the same time. We had 7 sections in total, the top section being the strongest, with kids who have a CFC rating. In that section we had 6 kids in total and out of the 6, 3 were from Scarborough Chess Club! Now for the rest of the kids, I divided them into groups of 4 according to their age. We played round robin in each section and it turned out to be pretty successful. What motivated the kids to win was that if they got first place in their section, they would receive a chess certificate and once they got enough, they can exchange it for a secret chess prize!

Since there were 3 people in charge this week, the group was more under control. However, even though I had "quiet please" signs on the wall, we still had to remind them to keep the noise level down once in a while. But overall, I think it went really well. We also had a lot more older kids (Gr 8 and up) this week and I was happy to see that. The librarian was almost shocked to see that many people coming in because the maximum amount of people they had coming in for other programs was just a bit over 20.

I am extremely happy that there was such an incredible turn out for the program so far. I'm looking forward to the expansion of this program very soon so that the chess players would be more spread out. I will also get the program's own website done as soon as possible.

Once again, I thank all my dear sponsors for making this possible: Brookbanks Library, Scarborough Chess Club, Victoria Park C.I., Toronto Schools Chess League and the Greater Toronto Chess League. I hope you guys will continue to support me and this successful program.

When I expand this program, I will definitely need at least 2 people to take care of each library. However, they must first be in training just like the 2 students who helped me this week. Right now I'm seeking for more responsible high school volunteers. Do you like this game? Are you looking for opportunities to learn some leadership skills to prepare you for the real world? Do you want to give some commitment to your community? Do you need volunteer hours? If you answered yes to all those questions, then this is your chance! Contact me at for more information.

Hope to see you all next week in the library!
(written on Jun 28, 2009)

Debating With Myself...

Ever since half a year ago when I started to think about this program, I have been debating with myself. It seemed like I had a tiny elf standing on each side of my shoulders. The elf on my right shoulder would tell me that charging a small fee each time to purchase chess sets should be pretty reasonable to many people. However, the elf on my left shoulder would argue and say: “It should be completely free of charge! Even though the average income in Toronto is more than $70,000, there are lots of low income parents who cannot afford to send their kids to summers and other activities that cost money. Canada is a rich country, but food banks still exist here to help the people who cannot afford to eat in restaurants.” Listening to what my right elf said, I realized that I must think in the eyes of needy people. He also added: “If the ‘Chess in the Library’ program charges money, then isn’t that like saying ‘Buying a book in Chapters cost you $15 so paying $2 to read a book in the library is very reasonable right?’. A library resembles free of charge and since my program’s name is “Chess in the Library” not “Chess Club”, I think I should try not to charge any fees.

I provide services such as private lessons which cost $35/h but this service I provide for the “Chess in the Library” program is different. I’m a volunteer student who just entirely wants to help the kids who cannot afford many things to come and just enjoy the benefits of playing this game. I think if the program charges money, then it will defeat the purpose of starting up this program in the first place.

Right now this program is only held in one library and the space is very limited. That's why I want to expand this program so that there will be room for everyone and some people can just go to their local library instead of coming all the way here to the Brookbanks site. I greatly appreciate the fact that Scarborough Chess Club has lent me numerous chess sets to start up. But if I want to expand, I will need the chess sets for every library. If we buy it from wholesales, each library will need 20 sets which only cost around $250.

I really don’t believe that here in
Canada nobody would want to donate to help this cause. In the past, I’ve met tons of kind people who donated to me and other kids for our tournament expenses. When I went to WYCC in 2003, there was this anonymous person who donated $1,000 each to the kids in Ottawa who played in the WYCC and I was one of them. My school, my neighbours, Scotiabank, people from the RA centre all donated to me. Last year when I got the top girls ranking, a guy from Windsor sent me a check to encourage me to keep working hard. I won’t mention any names here but there’s one thing in common, I will never ever forget these people. I believe that the kids who are participating in the “Chess in the Library” program will never forget anyone who donates to them just like I do.

I really hope that I won’t be forced to charge these kids money. So once again, I’m seeking for donations from anyone who has the same vision and dream as me. It doesn’t have to be a large sum, something small to show that you care is good enough.

Thank you for your support!
(written on Jun 25, 2009)

First Chess in the Library Meet – Huge Success!

Yesterday was the very first meet of the "Chess in the Library" program. Surprisingly, we still had around 20 kids and a couple of adults come to play chess regardless of the bad weather. The librarian and I were both very happy that everything turned out to be quite successful. Not only people who lived in the local community came, many parents brought kids here all the way from Scarborough and other areas. I organized a Blitz tournament that day, dividing the players into two sections. Although we didn't have time to finish the tournament, everyone had a great time. They were a quiet group who followed all the rules that I announced. All my worries of having to deal with behavior problems of the kids disappeared at once. Looks like this program is going to run smoothly after all!

One reason I chose the public library as the location for this program is so that the chess players can be surrounded by a safe and quiet environment. Another important reason is that the library is where the resources are. Learning from reading books is something that not a lot of boys like to do. It's a fact that there are more girls coming to the library than boys. Therefore, to get the boys to read more books, we had a couple of chess books on display and after the program was over, a lot of kids not only borrowed the chess books but also other ones!

After the program was over, I was obviously very tired. The 2 hours of walking around, doing the pairings and helping the kids mark their result was not an easy job. However, even though I was so tired that I fell asleep when I got home, I still believe that this entire project (from first contacting the library to finalizing the flyer and to promotion) was definitely worth all my effort and time.
Canada needs to promote this game a lot more and I'm glad I can be a part of it.

My dream is that one day most of the public libraries in
Toronto will have this program and each have about 20 sets kept there. And week at every library location there will be around 20-30 people to come to play chess regularly. Each library will have one or more student volunteer to organize the program. Then every week I would be able to visit a different library and check on them. Our own website will be professional with lots of people viewing and checking for upcoming events. I could go on and on and tell you guys this entire picture of the kind of future I wish to see with all the details but then I think I would have to keep writing until tomorrow.

Everything in my dream is not something impossible to achieve. I think the only problem is the money to buy all the sets. The library's budget is very limited and the librarian told me that they can only afford to buy one set a month. I really don't want to charge the people coming to play chess money either. All I want is to see chess in
Canada grow and that chess can be a game everyone will know how to play. Other countries can do it why can't we? So if your dream is the somewhat similar to mine, I hope you can help this program by sponsoring some sets or some money, anything is greatly appreciated by me and all Canada's future chess players.

If you are a kind person who wishes to donate to the "Chess in the Library" program, you are more than welcome to contact me at

Thanks for everyone's support!! The future of chess in
Canada depends on all of you!
(written on Jun 21, 2009)


Last year, I was a Canadian Chess Olympiad member, and CFC gave me lots of support. Now I think it's time for me to do something for the chess community in Canada. I have always tried to promote chess as much I can. I am currently the President in my school's chess club, and I organize the teams to play in the high school tournaments. Recently, I have also joined the Executive Committee of the Toronto Schools Chess League to promote chess furthermore.

Now I have found an excellent idea for promoting this game widely. For the past month, I have been working hard to start up and promote a program called "Chess in the Library". The very first library that will run this program is at the Brookbanks site. In the future, I hope to expand this program in all Toronto libraries, and then perhaps across Canada. This program is like a chess incubator in your local library that tries to encourage more and more people of all ages to play this game in the grass root level. By doing so, the chess community in Canada will be getting better and bigger.

We play casual chess, Blitz and CFC rated games. The program will be at the Brookbanks Library (210 Brookbanks Drive, Toronto, ON) every Saturday 10am-12pm starting from Jun 20th, 2009. Everyone is welcome to come!!

I would also like to give credit for our sponsors: Brookbanks Library, Scarborough Chess Club, Victoria Park C.I. , Toronto Schools Chess League and the Greater Toronto Chess League. Without them, this program would have not been possible.

Feel free to give me all your opinions, suggestions and any support (money, sponsors are all welcome :P).

(written on Jun 18, 2009)