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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Journalist Creates German Wikipedia for Me & CITL

It was several weeks ago when journalist Gereon Kalkuhl infomed me, completely unexpectedly, that he has written a German Wikipedia page on me and Chess in the Library! Boy, that sure came as a huge surprise!

Interested in learning more about his motive, I asked Gereon what made him decide to write a Wikipedia page about me and CITL, especially in German. This is his response, word for word:

"The reason why I wrote the article in German is simply that German is my first language.Journalistic work is fun for me. Newspapers and magazines often have inacurate information about chess players. By writing these articles I provide some facts about chess personalities. The article about you I wrote because I like the idea of Chess in the Library and I thought we didn't have enough biographies about Canadian chess players. The only other female chess player from Canada that has an article on de.wikipedia was Nava Starr. I could have written about Natalia Khoudgarian, Dinara Khaziyeva, Johanne Charest, Dina Kagramanov, Diane Mongeau, Smilja Vujosevic or Vesma Baltgailis, but since you lead the Canadian FIDE list...- Gereon

You can see the article here: I will also post the link on the right sidebar, under CITL in the Media.

Although I don't understand a single word of the article, the fact that it is there, English or not, is heart-warming. I am touched not because of the sight of my own bibliography, but rather the short paragraph on Chess in the Library. The fact that this organization has become nation-wide, and now aware to Germans across the world, is simply unbelievable. I did not write this blog post earlier because it took quite some time for me to actually believe that I'm not dreaming!

You can see a list of Gereon's other articles here:

I want to take this opportunity to give a big THANK YOU to Gereon for helping us spread the word on CITL to the millions of Germans out there!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Victoria Library Juan de Fuca Starts New CITL Session

It was only several days only when I heard from Brian Raymer and Shannon Kenning with regards to the great news of revitalizing the Chess in the Library program at the Juan de Fuca Library after a year of inactivity.

The new session began on Wednesday September 28, 2011 and will continue every Wednesday until November 30, 2011. The first session attracted 16 participants which leaves only 2 more spots in the program open. Below are the details for this location:

Juan de Fuca Library  
1759 Island Highway
Victoria, BC 
V9B 1J1
Open wednesdays from 6:30 PM to 7:45 PM till November 30.
I'm so excited to see the program restarted in the west end! Although I had a chance to visit Vancouver this summer for Shad Valley, I have never been to Victoria. However, it is definitely one city already marked down on my "future travel list"! When the day comes for me to fly over to Victoria, I hope to meet the legendary Brian Raymer in person as well as the amazing librarian, Shannon, who made all this possible!

Monday, October 3, 2011

North York Central Library Create Special Chess Display Case

This news is a little outdated but I'm super excited to tell you all that in August this year, NYCL dedicated one of its stand-alone display cases just to chess and Chess in the Library! The display case was placed near the elevator on the third floor and it was there for an entire month, according to Gal.

It actually came as a complete surprise to me when I first saw it. Gal and I was at a meeting with Cameron, the new NYCL "chess manager" to book rooms for next year's festival. Speaking of that, we will have the NYCL auditorium for the ENTIRE day next year! Isn't that lovely news? This was something we've been trying so hard to accomplish for the past 2 days and because of Cameron, our dreams came true!

Anyways, after the meeting we went to the third floor (unintentionally) to put away the chess sets that were just being used for the Saturday program. I actually didn't even notice the display case when I walked by but then Gal suddenly exclaim:"Oh yeah, Yuanling, I forgot to tell you...look at this!" After that I practically was in shock for the rest of the day and it took me a good 10 minutes to examine each and every single detail on it. Take a look for yourself:
Front view - see the trophy??? :O

Side view

Back view - you can catch a glimpse of the 3rd floor front desk. If my eyes don't lie, then is that Tom I see sitting in front of the computer? Haha~

In the middle you can see the CITL Annual Trophy that was won by NYCL this year, so yes, they do have the bragging rights for it. The precious trophy is surrounded by many chess books and tiny chess pieces if you take a closer look at it. However, I am most impressed by the self-made paper chess pieces that are taped around the top of the display chess. It must've taken A LOT of time to draw and cut these out! Here's a close-up:
Don't you think that chess pieces are easy to cut! I've tried it many times before and boy, there are surely many contours! 

Nonetheless, the reason why I was in a shock for so long is because this is the first time that someone voluntarily did something great for chess under the influence of CITL. I didn't even know about this entire project until Gal and I accidentally walked passed it. This was the day I that had been waiting for ever since I founded this program. It shows how enthusiastic NYCL, the second largest library in Toronto, is about chess now, to the point where they take the time and effort to put this together. This display case must also be in high demand and to consider it a possibility of dedicating it to chess makes me thrilled, let alone a reality. However, the significance of this display case far exceeds what can been seen on the surface. It is a representation of a true beginning towards the growing popularity of chess in Canada!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Chess in the Library Executive Blog

The Chess in the Library team has recently launched our very own blog this month, which will be updated on a weekly basis! :)

Originally, I encouraged many CITL volunteers to start up their own blogs in order to reflect upon their personal experiences when volunteering at the program like I do; however, none of them seemed to last very long. Well, not everyone likes writing and blogging, right?

Nonetheless, a great idea that the new CITL Executive Board has came up with is an official "CITL Executive Blog" that will be written by the CITL Executives currently in position. I will not be participating in the writing of that blog, since I've got my own to keep up with! However, it is a great idea in the long run because the day will come when I am no longer the President of CITL and I hope to see the organization running smoothly without me. The executive blog is one of the many things that will help CITL's name live on. That doesn't mean the end of my blog though! Even if I cannot always be the President, I will forever and always be the CITL Founder that will step in when help is needed.

My fellow executive members will take turn blogging once a week and they will sign their names at the end of each post so we all know which author to credit. Check it out:

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the new executive blog, do send us a message and let us know! Our email is

Friday, August 26, 2011

CITL in Barrie Update

We recently received an email from the CITL program organizer in Barrie, Michael Zaghi telling us about how everything went. Below are some quotes from Michael himself:
"It looks like the CITL in Barrie was very successful and I really enjoyed my time working with kids and showing them some chess. The program in Barrie officially ended yesterday (Aug 21st) which was the timeline me and the manager decided upon before the program started. Over the past 6 weeks our numbers have ranged from 9-15 which isn't bad at all in my opinion."
For a small town like Barrie that has only ONE public library, the Barrie Public Library, the turn out for CITL is quite respectable! Unfortunately, Michael didn't take any pictures as he was afraid things might get complicated with parental permission, etc. It's so true though, because in Toronto, the libraries are very very strict with picture taking - each kid that we take a picture of has to fill out a media release form! When I went to chess tournaments anywhere on this planet, people take pictures of everyone but nobody had to sign anything haha. But it's alright, I'm already used to this by now. :)

Anyways, I'm just so pleased to hear the great news about Barrie! However, Michael will no longer be able to volunteer at the program anymore and certainly, we all want to see this program continue throughout the year. Michael hopes so too.
"I am going to try and see if I can get some volunteers to continue the program so I would consider it on hold for the time being since I would like to see it continue."
Michael spent a lot of effort convincing the librarians in Barrie to get this going so securing this location was 5 times harder than those in Toronto. I want to take this opportunity here to thank him for literally everything, EVERYHING he did to make CITL in Barrie possible!

So if you're living in Barrie and would like to contribute to the Canadian chess community by promoting chess, then this is your chance! Honestly, we would all be very grateful is someone steps up and takes on Michael's position after he leaves. Even if you're only available to do this for a month, it will mean a lot to us, the participants of the program and the chess community as a whole. Even if you spread the word about this program to your family, friends, coworkers, etc who might be interested in helping out, we will be more than appreciative, really. To those of you who read this post and took action, I sincerely thank you all! It's really all of you guys who made CITL so successful today, bit by bit, little by little, detail by detail. Email if you're interested in helping out! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Sneak Peak at a CITL Exec Meeting

Two days ago, the new CITL Executive Board had its 2nd internal meeting, which lasted for 2 hours and 30 minutes. You might consider that a super long meeting, but you know what? This meeting was actually more efficient than our previous one, which ended after 4 hours! Well, everyone had a lot to say at the first meeting anyway...

So we all met up at the North York Central Library and walked to the nearest Tim Hortons, where we all made ourselves comfortable in the non air conditioned room with some ice cappuccino. Yum! Now down to business.

From left to right:Linda, Vivek, Gal, Aaron and me. What a coincidence - Linda and Aaron were wearing the same shirt haha~

We delineated our goals for the upcoming quarter and set deadlines for them. One of the three main projects that we are working is a completely new and updated website that will be more organized and visually appealing. Our Director of Communications Vivek as well as our Art Director Linda will be the main coordinators of this big project.

The website team hard at work...

The two other projects are more on a small scale as they will be completed in the next several weeks, especially before school begins. Gal and I will be creating a step-by-step CITL set-up manual for libraries who are potentially interested in joining the network. We will also build up our image by drafting a document explaining briefing the benefits of chess to children and seniors alike. This document will allow potential donors, sponsors and libraries interested in getting involved in CITL understand the true value of CITL's programs.

Finally, Linda will be designing 4 large CITL posters that we would be able to display at promotional sessions, workshops, or any CITL event. Can't wait to see how it looks! :)

So that's it for now. After the meeting everyone had written a long list of things to do along with their deadlines. I better start checking off those boxes on my to-do list! ^_^

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Location Out West - Runnymede

Our 17th location in Toronto has just been confirmed 2 days ago after a short meeting with the librarians of Runnymede branch. The possibility of introducing CITL to this library, located in Etobicoke, was first brought up by a chess player in April this year. I was the special guest at the Ontario Girls Chess Championships this year and after the awards ceremony, a grade 9 girl who had won second place in her division approached me and said:"Hey Yuanling, do you think you'll be able to start Chess in the Library at Runnymede? I'd really like to volunteer!".

It's not so often that I get these requests from potential volunteers, you know. Surprised at the sudden request, I wrote down her email and told her that I will look into it. So who is this girl? She is Jennifer Ugodnikov, a young girl full of passion and enthusiasm for not only chess but also the community - a complete reflection of myself when I founded CITL back in 2009.

Several months later, in mid-July, I received an email from a librarian at Runnymede expressing their willingness of giving the program a shot! And that's how we got our 17th location in Toronto and 23rd CITL location nationwide. It's great to see more CITL programs in the west side of the city! So far we've got Humberwood, Richview and now Runnymede! :)

Your Prez and Vice Prez in front of the very pretty Runnymede branch!
Close-up picture. Just look at the details on the both sides of the door! Gorgeous!

I want to thank Helen and Monica, the librarians at Runnymede who made the program possible on TPL's part and our future volunteers Jennifer, Pascale, Alexandru and 2 other girls whom I haven't yet met. So this branch will have 4 girls and 1 guy as volunteers! That's surely a first!

Group pic! From left to right: Me, Gal, Jennifer and Pascale. I love how there are more girls involved, hehe~ :)
Below are the details of this new location that will be targeting children from grade 6-8:

Runnymede Branch
2178 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON
M6S 1M8
Open from 2-4pm on Saturdays, starting from Saturday October 8, 2011.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ghetto Chess

I should have written this post months ago but then someone kept forgetting to upload the pictures no matter how many times I reminded him (you know who you are). :)

Fortunately, I had a very similar experience recently so I figured that it wouldn't be too late to blog about this extraordinary topic now. Better late than never, right? So what exactly is this "ghetto chess" that I'm talking about? See for yourself:

a chess board drawn on a table at school and the pieces are represented by coins - how creative!

the very enthusiastic friends in my math class who drew the chessboard on one of the desk. From left to right: Shreyash, Sathvik, Sabin and Ike

So the story goes like this: one day, my friends finished their math homework in class and had a sudden rush to play chess! There was no chessboard, no chess set, absolutely nothing in the classroom. So the guys came up with a brilliant idea - drawing a chessboard on a desk! We laughed so hard at the finished product, haha...However, our ghetto chessboard didn't last long. Our math teacher walked by 5 minutes later and made us erase not only that specific desk but also the surrounding ones that had writing on them. We had an amazing time erasing the desks nonetheless. :)

Perhaps it's a coincidence that another variation of "ghetto chess" came up in the last several days. Check it out:

multiple chessboards drawn on pieces of paper

my cool friends who challenged me to a blindfold game on a 5-hour bus ride. From left to right: Amon, Jane and Joyce

So as some of you may know, I am currently in Vancouver for an awesome summer program focused on sciences and entrepreneurship. During a 5-hour bus ride to the UBC Okanagan campus from the UBC main campus located in Vancouver, 3 of my fellow Shads (that's what we call ourselves) challenged me to a game of chess. Amon asked everyone, yes, literally everyone on the bus, whether they had a chess app on their ipod. Unfortunately, just like my math class, the supply of chess sets and apps is really scarce. :(

In the end, they decided to play me on the paper while I played blindfold. What's even worse is the fact that they did not have any pencils so they couldn't just draw a chessboard and erase the pieces each time I made a move - they had to cross out the pieces and redraw them each time. Just look at the 2 pictures above! :)

Regardless, the reason why I decided to blog about this topic today is because these 2 "ghetto chess" examples mirror the way in which the Canadian chess community functions. There are so many people out there who are enthusiastic about chess but do not have the resources to enjoy the benefits of this game. It's almost as if these chess players are in poverty because of the scarce resources available to them. Chess in the Library bridges the gap for these people.

Through these 2 groups of people (my math classmates and my fellow Shads), I have seen people who love chess and while the circumstances don't allow them to play, they still figure out a way to do so. That's the chess spirit I love seeing!

Three New Toronto Locations

Although I am currently in Vancouver for a summer program, the past Friday and Saturday were big days for the Chess in the Library program. There were 3 new locations in Toronto that just had their grand openings on July 8th and 9th in completely different areas of the city. The executive board and I are so pleased to see the program spread to areas outside of North York, where the majority of CITL locations are up and running. Moreover, one of the new locations, the Malvern Branch, is primarily targeting seniors and adults in the Scarborough region. So to all the seniors and adults who wish to play chess, you now have 2 places to check out - the Deer Park Branch and the Malvern Branch! :)

Below are the details of the 3 new locations in Toronto:

Richview Library

1806 Islington Ave.
Toronto, ON
M9P 3N3

Open from 2pm - 4pm

Malvern Library
*for Seniors & Adults only*

30 Sewells Road
Toronto, ON
M1B 3G5

Open from 2-3:30pm on Sat July 9 & 23 and Aug. 6 & 20, 2011.

Barbara Frum Library

20 Covington Road
Toronto, ON
M6A 3C1

Open from 2pm - 4pm on Fridays

So what are you waiting for? Come on down to any of these 3 locations and play some chess with people from all over the city! :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

CITL 2nd Annual Festival Tournament Results

Congratulations to the following individuals and library teams! We are so proud of you! May your chess skills grow with Chess in the Library~

Individual Winners
Open Section
1st: Soorena Miralanmi (North York Central)
2nd: Kristen Li (North York Central)
3rd: Yang Ji (Fairview)

Grade 6 & Under
1st: Jonathan Chan (Brookbanks)
2nd: Harry Zhao (North York Central)
3rd: Erkhes Bayan-Altai (Fairview)

Grade 3 & Under
1st: Benjamin Lin (Fairview)
2nd: Evan Liu (Fairview)
3rd: Julianne Jorda (Downsview)

Team Winners
Open Section
1st: North York Center Library
  • Soorena Miralanmi
  • Kristen Li
  • Catherine Li
2nd: Fairview Library
  • Edmund Rong
  • Newton Xu
  • Yang Ji
3rd: Humberwood Library
  • Niruthika Puvaneswaran
  • Tina Vo
  • Gaajen Sivarasacumar
Grade 6 & Under
1st: Brookbanks Library
  • Jonathan Chan
  • Cassidy Wang
  • Henry Li
2nd: Downsview Library
  • Joshua Jorda
  • Bradley Ho
  • Melalee Gordon
3rd: Fairview Library
  • Erkhes Bayan-Altai
  • Bruce He
  • Victor Rong
Grade 3 & Under
1st: Fairview Library
  • Benjamin Lin
  • Evan Liu
  • Ray Liu
2nd: Bridlewood Library
  • James Gao
  • Jennifer Zhang
  • Alan Li
3rd: Downsview Library
  • Julianne Jorda
  • Diana Lin
  • Ba Son Nguyen

Thursday, June 30, 2011

CITL 2nd Annual Festival - A Huge Success!

A blink of an eye and it's already been 2 years since we first launched the program back in June 2009! To celebrate our 2 year anniversary, the Chess in the Library organization hosted its 2nd Annual Festival at the North York Central Library. There were over 150 people coming from each corner of the city to join the festivities, including participants, parents, volunteers, librarians, sponsors, donors and the media. With 76 participants representing 8 different libraries and 23 volunteers to help organize the event, this festival was the most successful event yet! However, not everything went so smoothly as we wished...

June 25, 2011, 11:30 am: The majority of the participants, parents, special guests and media were already on the second floor of the library, waiting for check-in, which starts at 11:45am. Leading the group of volunteers, I walked up to the second floor after a successful election in the morning, feeling as if the day couldn't get better. Well, at that very moment...our dreams were almost crushed. Suddenly there comes a librarian, whom I've never ever met before and for all I know, she was never involved in any CITL matters. She bluntly tells me that we are only able to enter the room at 1pm, despite the fact that our booking was for noon.

Imagine - a floor packed with 150 kids, parents, guests and media waiting to be served. We've got 30 minutes to do the check-in and setup everything for the opening ceremony, previously scheduled to commence at 12:15pm. Right when your anxiety level is at its heights, your mind is buzzing with thoughts of all the people waiting and bumping into you, a stranger just pops up and tells you that the event shall be delayed for an hour and that that "this is not debatable". For the first time in my life, I didn't know what to do at all.

I thought about all the happy kids anticipating the festival and all the volunteers who surrounded and depended on me. I knew that whatever I do, I can't let myself fall apart right then and right there. But I am one lucky girl, blessed to have a such an amazing volunteer team who told me: "Yuanling, we've got your back. Don't worry,don't worry...everything will turn out just fine."

So I cleared my head and thought of possible solutions to the problem. Crowd control is very important when you organize a large event like this. I grabbed a few desks and told the volunteers to start the check-in process ASAP. To ensure that we wouldn't create a mess, I told the participants to form 3 straight lines for check-in, one for each section. There were over 150 people waiting for us and we must try to do everything according to the plan. At the very least, we kept the bad news within the volunteers for as long as possible, or else we would've really lost control of the people. Meanwhile, we printed a copy of the email with the promise that room setup for our event will start at noon, hoping that it would clear the misunderstandings. And so it did, with the help of Tom from NYCL.

Regardless, I know that this post should be a report on the festival but I wanted to share this story with all of you today because of several reasons. First of all, I've learned a life lesson that day - no matter what barriers come in your way, you've just got to keep moving forward. If you've done nothing wrong, then God will help you and luck will be on your side. Second of all, perhaps the majority of you who follows Chess in the Library thinks that it is an easy job to undertake - how hard is it to run a chess club in a local library, right? Well, now you know the things that I, as well as the volunteers at times, go through. It's not easy. Finally, it was at that very moment that something hit me - I, Yuanling, the Founder of the CITL, is no longer alone like she was on June 20, 2009. It was truly after this incident that I felt like a part of a big family, a family that would support you no matter what. So I want to give a big thank you to all the volunteers for joining CITL and giving me what I needed the most - moral support.

The big family of CITL volunteers. :)

Now let's get to the real report of the festival! The flow of the opening ceremony was done very smoothly, starting with a short clip (should be available on YouTube soon), speeches and ending with the announcement of the 2011 CITL Volunteer of the Year Award. I'd like to thank our special guests, Vivien Canning, Maurice Smith and GM Mark Bluvshtein for making their appearance and presenting the Volunteer of the Year nominees and award winners with certificates and trophies. To see what Mark has to say about the festival, check out his latest blog post:

Commencement of the opening ceremony - the white screen in the background is where we showed the video

The audience. All the volunteers are lined up on the right hand side of the wall, wearing the special CITL T-shirts!

Me welcoming everyone to the festival. :)

Michael Kleinman, the 2010-2011 CITL Vice President, says a few words to the audience.

Kevin Wu, the 2010-2011 CITL Executive Director, despite being the youngest member of the CITL Executive Board, has showed his capabilities as a leader in this organization.

Tom Maragos, NYCL librarian, is the one who saved the day! Honestly, without him, I really don't know whether we would have a happy ending that day. Thank you so much, Tom!

Maurice Smith, one of CITL's main donors, takes an hour out of his busy schedule to support the festival! Maurice said a few touching words on behalf of all CITL donors and sponors. Thank you Maurice!

Vivien Canning, the Branch Head of of the Humberwood Branch in Etobicoke, is one of the most enthusiastic librarians that I've ever met! Humberwood was one of CITL's very first locations and right now, it is our of the most successful locations! Thank you Vivien for always supporting us!

The six 2011 CITL Volunteer of the Year nominees with their certificates presented by Maurice and Vivien. Since Yuan Dai could not make it to the festival, Lennart (far right) received the certificate on behalf of Yuan.

GM Mark Bluvshtein announces the 2011 CITL Volunteer of the Year winners

So who won the award? I want to give a BIG congratulations to the 3 outstanding youths:

Gal Gross, winner of the 2011 CITL Most Dedicated Award
Jesse Feng, winner of the 2011 CITL Most Innovative Award
Yolanda Zhang, winner of the 2011 CITL Best Instructor Award

The media. Thanks to Bob Armstrong, we were able to get several media coverages for the festival.

After the opening ceremony, the team tournament began. Every participant wore a sticker with their library name on it - something new that we introduced this year to show team spirit! We had enough time to play a 4-round Swiss, far better than last year's 3-round Swiss.

a beautiful tournament sitea beautiful tournament site

The referees of the Grade 3 & Under section announces the pairings to the kids

Games in action - there were 2-3 volunteers taking the role of a referee in each section. They would ensure that the kids were playing again the right opponent and that the results were marked correctly.

The Open section in action

Cool chess kid - is he playing chess or poker? :)

Naeema Garcia, age 5, is one of the youngest contestants in the tournament. Her shirt says "cute by psycho" ^_^

In between the games, the participants could visit the puzzle booth set up by Hazel and Lennart and take a shot at some trivial questions such as "What colour is CITL's logo?". There were also a set of chess tactics for the participants to solve, ranging from super easy to super hard, with a total of 5 difficulty levels. For a full list of questions and answers for Hazel's puzzle contests, check out her latest blog post:

Hazel and her puzzle contest booth to solve this problem?

However, the activity that caught most people's eye was of course...the GIANT CHESS SET!!! :) Everyone has so much fun moving the pieces, which were almost the same height as some of the younger kids!
Let's see if you can play chess equally well on this gigantic board!

Another blink of an eye and the festival was over. It was time to present the awards to those who fought the hardest in front of the chess board! We gave out a total of 27 medals to the top 3 teams in each of the 3 sections (Grade 3, Grade 6 & Open), as well as 9 trophies for the top 3 finishers in each section. What's even more exciting is that this year, we bought a large annual trophy for the library team that won gold in the Open section. Not only will the library's name get engraved on the trophy, this winner library will keep the trophy on display for an entire year and until the next CITL Annual Festival.

On behalf of the organization, I want to give a special thank you to the Southam family, who was not able to make it to the festival this year. It was them who donated the beautifully designed marble-based trophies as well as the big annual trophy. Some of you may know the background story behind these trophies from last year's festival, but others may not. Todd Southam, the younger son of the family, was one of Canada's brightest and most promising chess players a few decades ago. During his chess career, he won numerous trophies and plaques from local tournaments to international ones. As a FIDE Master, he was not only his family's pride, but also Canada's. Unfortunately, he passed away at a very young age, leaving his family and the country in great sorrow. When the Southams heard about the Chess in the Library program back in the summer of 2009, they immediately donated all of Todd's trophies to us, thinking that Todd would be very happy to see his trophies redistributed to a new generation of young chess players. Today, all of the 18 trophies that belonged to Todd are now shining ever so brightly in different chess families located in each corner of the city, encouraging the kids to keep playing this royal game. And so, we named the trophies "The Todd Southam Award". Todd and his family's contribution to the chess community will always be remembered, and we really believe that up there in heaven, Todd smiled when he saw all of this happening.

The awards, donated by the Southam family, are ready to find a new home.

The North York Central team, volunteers and librarian were all super excited about winning the large annual trophy! Congratulations to team NYCL!

We gave out a total of 12 book prizes for the puzzle competition winners as well as the contest winners. All these books were donated by some very generous people, so thank you!

It's so sad when I realized that it was already over...*sigh*. However, we did get many emails from parents telling us what an amazing time their kids had and that was enough for us to feel reassured. All the time and effort put into this event was worth it. Although the event was only 5 hours long, we gave over 76 kids an amazing experience that will forever be a part of the wonderful memories of their childhood.

For more pictures on the CITL 2nd Annual Festival, check out our web album here. I will be posting the individual and team results shortly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011-2012 CITL Executive Board Elections

Last Saturday morning, the Chess in the Library organization held its 2011-2012 Executive Board Elections, in which there were 8 candidates for 5 positions and 21 volunteers present to vote for the next CITL Executive Board. Candidates and volunteers rushed to the North York Central Library at 9am in the morning, shortly after the library first opens its door for patrons. Below are the list of candidates and with their respective target position. Click on the names to see their written campaigns:

Yuanling Yuan, Grade 11

Vice President
Gal Gross, 2nd Year University
Kevin Wu, Grade 10
Michael Kleinman, Grade 11

Mike Ivanov, Grade 10
Aaron Zhang, Grade 11

Director of Communications
Vivek Chachcha, Grade 10

Art Director
Linda Fu, Grade 11

Once everyone arrived, a special Chess in the Library T-shirt was distributed to them. We asked 2 different artistic students to design a T-shirt that would represent Chess in the Library. Below are the designs:
Designed by Hazel Smith

Designed by Lennart Batilando & Edited by Kevin Wu
The banner says "Chess in the Library" and the bottom of the king says "est. 2009"

We ended up using the second design by Lennart and Kevin but I want to thank Hazel for putting so much time into this. She learned how to use the vector draw software just for this - now that's what I call dedication.

I would say that the one of the most successful things of this festival was this T-shirt. This isn't just any T-shirt - it's something that unites all of us, like a big family of volunteers. Whenever someone walks past us, they would stop for a moment, just a split second, to see what is going on. We not only attract the attention of outsiders but also each other. Everyone felt as if they fit in and the barrier between those who previously did not know each other just came down. We are one big family.

Let's take a look at some pictures and short clips captured at the election:

front view of the conference

back view of the conference

Art Director candidate Linda Fu makes her speech

Director of Communications candidate Vivek Chachcha delivers his speech

Treasurer candidates (from left to right) Mike Ivanov and Aaron Zhang stand side by side during question time

Vice-President candidates (from left to right) Gal Gross, Kevin Wu and Michael Kleinman during question time

me making my presidential speech

I want to say congratulations to each and every single one of you who chose to run in this election. It means that you care. You care about Chess in the Library and moreover, the promotion of chess in Canada. You were brave enough to stand up in front of a crowd and present yourself so thoroughly. Even if you didn't win in the end, the fact that you took this initiative tells us all that you've already won. As the Founder and President of this organization, I am really, really, really proud of you all. This is exactly what I envisioned the program to be - full of enthusiasm and initiatives from the leaders. I couldn't possibly ask for more.

Some of your speeches were very inspirational and they really touched me deeply. Each candidate suggested something new for the program, from chess workshops to a meet-and-greet breakfast. We added in a 5-min question session after the speeches for each position were completed. I was a little surprised at how profound some of the questions were!

The ballets were counted by 2 random people at the festival that were not affiliated with any of the candidates in this election. They tallied the votes and wrote the results on a small piece of paper, which was then placed into a small envelope. It was only until the closing ceremony of the festival that I opened the envelope and announced the results.

I'm proud to say that we an amazing team of leaders that will be bringing the program to new heights in the upcoming year. I believe that you will do your best and I know that are capable. :)

A BIG congratulations to the 2011-2012 CITL Executive Board:
From left to right: Vice-President Gal Gross, Treasurer Aaron Zhang, President Yuanling Yuan, Director of Communications Vivek Chachcha and Art Director Linda Fu

To those of you didn't win - don't give up! If you set your heart on contributing to CITL, you can do so without being on the executive board. Like our new Vice-President Gal once said in this speech, we need the general volunteers to help out in whatever way they can. Remember - the 5 of us are on this executive board not for the glamour that goes with the title of our position but for the ultimate purpose of this program - to promote chess in Canada.

So if you are proficient in facebook - why not manage a facebook page for us? If you are proficient in twitter - why not setup a twitter account for us? As long as you want to contribute, there is always a way for you to use your specialty to show everyone what you can do. Most of you have lots of potential so if you didn't succeed this time, I encourage you to try again next year. To succeed, you must believe!

Finally, I want to dedicate a few words to the past Vice-President Michael Kleinman and Executive Director Kevin Wu: You guys have been amazing this year and I cherished the times when we worked hard together to create innovations for Chess in the Library. I want to thank you both for always being there for me, regardless of the situation. Your contributions to Chess in the Library will always be remembered and I hope that you continue to be a part of us! :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011-2012 CITL Treasurer Candidate - Aaron Zhang

Below is what Aaron wrote for his campaign:

Glad to be back everyone! I’m happy to say that I will be back in action at the 2nd annual festival at NYCL on Saturday! In case you don’t know me, I am Aaron Zhang. I was one of the first volunteers of Chess in the Library, having joined the program when it opened its first branch at Brookbanks. Then, after we opened a second location at Pleasant View, I permanently settled there. Today, I come to all of you because I see myself as the best candidate for CITL’s 2011-2012 treasurer. Hopefully, you will also agree with me after reading what I have to say.

First of all, I’m not just another high school student wanting something to put on my résumé. To be honest, I don’t think I’m even going to write this on my résumé even if I get elected. I am running for Treasurer because I love the ideas and people driving CITL and feel that this program could use my experience and expertise.

Ever since I first became a student at Macdonald, I’ve been involved in many large-scale fundraising events; this includes the extremely successful Relay for Life, which has been bringing in over $40,000 each year in donations for the Canadian Cancer Society. Outside of school, I’ve also been working for an international media company. There, I have been responsible for gathering new corporate sponsors and maintaining relations with current sponsors. Some of the sponsors I have brought in include some of the world’s largest corporations—Samsung, LG, and RIM.

On top of my work experience, I believe that I’ve proven my knowledge and skill in the many business-related events I’ve participated in. I was the 1st place winner of the Toronto Student Business Plan Competition, the MBA Virtual Stock Challenge, and the DECA Toronto Principles of Finance event. Today, I’m proud to say that I’m also the fund manager of an equity portfolio valued at over $30,000. It is both my passion and proven skill in the business world that has led me to my current acclaim in my school as Little Warren Buffett.

As a candidate for treasurer, I already have many plans for CITL for next year. The first step I intend to take as treasurer is to secure a non-profit business grant from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development. A past award winner of the Ministry’s business competition, I’ve been told that I could apply for the Youth Entrepreneurship Grant and receive thousands of dollars’ worth of funding. With the new funding, I intend to work with the Director of Communications and Art Director on a large-scale promotional campaign to dramatically increase membership at CITL. One of my ideas is to advertise and hold a large CITL meet-and-greet breakfast for new members. This will not only increase membership tremendously, but will also warrant media coverage, which will in turn increase the chances of us receiving corporate sponsorship.

Of course, actions speak louder than words. Therefore, I don’t believe in repeatedly making promises to get donations, expand the program, and whatever else any treasurer candidate would say. What I do not say, however, I let my actions put into words. Remember, though, for me to take action, you must take action too: Vote Aaron Zhang for Treasurer!

2011-2012 CITL Vice-President Candidate: Michael Kleinman

Below is what Michael wrote for his campaign:

Re-elect Michael Kleinman as Vice President for CITL!

Running again has been a difficult choice, with outstanding running-mates, the grade 12 year approaching, and the goal to become an International Master before university. I was very ambivalent in running, but I remembered why I first joined Chess in the Library. I wanted to give back to the community of chess, in return for all of the experiences that it brought me.

First of all, it has been an absolute honour to be able to represent the Chess in the Library organization as vice president this past year. Through meetings with a manager of Toronto public library, attending the openings of new branches, and crafting out the volunteer handbook, Chess in the Library has grown, and its been a pleasure to see.

Next year, a primary goal would be to expand. If you break it down, our organization is just awesome. We’re giving many children an opportunity to learn and appreciate the game of chess, who likely otherwise would have not been able to. Likely, these children will improve in many other areas of their life, its really awesome.

Also, I feel that we should have better means of communication. I would hope that we could have around 10 mentors, volunteers with a lot of experience. After sessions, these mentors could talk, and aid newer volunteers, increasing the strength of our network.

I really hope many of you come out and vote. This is an organization with a great initiative, and your vote really impacts the future of this organization.

See you guys Saturday, and the festival will be awesome!


Michael Kleinman

2011-2012 CITL Art Director Candidate - Linda Fu

I know this is a bit late but I still have to post it. Below is what Linda wrote for her campaign.

Hello guys,

Being someone who's been with the organization for more than a year, I have definitely seen the organization prosper under the hard work and dedication of everyone on the CITL team, including the execs. However, I think this organization still has an endless amount of space to grow. Every time I volunteer at the Bridlewood Branch, seeing the kids play chess and their smile of reward afterwards just keeps on bringing warmth to me, knowing that my small contribution of teaching the kids basic chess principles has brought them joy and experiences that they haven't experienced before. But I feel like being someone extremely passionate about the artistic field, I can use my strength to contribute even more to this organization, which is why I am running for your art director.

As your art director, the main focus is to make CITL look appealing to chess minds of all ages. As seen by the next festival coming up, CITL has many events that needs artistic input, like flyers, T-shir designs, invitations, banners, you name it! These methods of communication is the first thing that grabs people's attention when they are introduced to CITL, and thus it is my goal to make it as artistic and creative as possible. And of course, promotion of branches will need the attention grabber as well, since it is our goal to expand CITL across the country, a catchy flyer will definitely make the job easier. Also, I plan to work with the director of communications to make the website as appealing and artistic as possible, so youth who loves to go on the internet can get all the CITL information, while at the same time enjoying the creative layout and appearance of CITL's website.

Having an extensive background in inDesign and photoshop, graphic designing is not a problem. I have experience working in this field as I am the layout editor of my school's newspaper, and as well as layout editor of a national magazine.

I will be bringing the magazine and my school's newspaper to the festival for y'all to look at, and hopefully they show the passion I have for arts and a perfect candidate as you're arts director.

Thank you for reading this, and please support me on Saturday!

Linda Fu

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2nd Annual Festival Pre-Registration List Updated

This should be the final list. We have a total of 76 players this year representing 8 different libraries! That's almost half as more as last year's figure (55 players). Here is the pre-registration list:

Open Section
Team First Name Last Name
BB Eno Masha

Vlad Bardalez

Tonia Tong
BRW Zelin Liu

Andres Escobar
FV Yang Ji

Newton Xu

Edmund Rong
HW Mann Parekh

Niruthika Puvaneswaran

Avni Kaur

Gaajen Sivarasacumar

Tina Vo
NYCL Soorena Miralami

Kristen Li

Catherine Li

Grade 6 & Under Section
BB Jonathan Zhao

Dylan Chen

Jonathan Chan

Cassidy Wang

Henry Li

Jaden Wang
DV Melalee Gordon

Minhyun Hwang

Seonghyun Hwang

Bradley Ho

Adesh Leaver

Joshua Jorda

Yvan Nguyen
FV Victor Rong

Helen Chen

Bruce He

Erkhes Bayan-Altai
GE Callum Denault
HW Jaanani Sivarasacumar

Anjan Gnanatheevam

Rajan Kandola
NYCL Raelyn Song

Harry Zhao
PV Serena de Vera

Anji Zhang

Oliver He

Grade 3 and Under Section
BB Tiffany Yan

Benjamin Lin

Maxwell Tong
BRW Jennifer Zhang

James Gao

Alan Li

Aarabhi Krishnakumar

Mandaran Krishnakumar
DV Julianne Jorda

Diana Lin

Edward Hidalgo Lopez

Jeremias Campos

Ba Son Nguyen
FV Calvin Pan

Anthony Chen

Anar Bayan

Evan Liu

Brian Xian

Ray Liu
GE Aydin Kachra

Benjamin Lemke

David Teresi
HW Kevin Johny

Alen Johny
NYCL Kalan Raven Samaroo

Haotong (Hazel) Guo

Jouhan Pathmanathan

Kalan Raven Samaroo

Alum Jivra J.
PV Naeema Garcia

Ayah Barghout

Santiago de Vera

Domenic de Vera

Eric Sun