Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 Humberwood Spring Tourney

Yesterday the Humberwood branch in Etobicoke held its very first official chess tournament and it was surely a great success! For the entire afternoon, young players ranging from 5 to 16 year olds battled their wits over the chessboard.

tournament site

From left to right: Kevin, Vivien, Julia (winner), me & Eunice

From left to right: Kevin, Mann (winner), Amber, me and Vivien

group photo of the winners~ SAY CHESS!! :)

Your fellow Executive Director Kevin and I made a gruesome trip across the city to support this event. It was definitely 200% worth it! I've been hearing from the librarians Vivien and Eunice the amount of enthusiasm the players bring to the Chess in the Library program but until I've actually seen it with my very own eyes, it is hard to imagine that chess would shine so brightly in an area so desolated. Vivien, the branch head of Humberwood was thrilled to see such an amazing turnout and at one point, she was jumping up and down exclaiming: "Finally, after 3 years, I've accomplished what I wanted!"

The other Chess in the Library staff coordinator at Humberwood was Eunice, of whom I was previously not too familiar with. However, throughout the event, she told me many stories of the program at Humberwood. She said, "Some of these kids, including my daughter, never even knew how to play chess at all until last October, when we restarted the program. They learned and improved slowly from the volunteers and now look at them - they are just so enthusiastic about the game! If it weren't for you, I would have never had the slightest thought about being an ardent chess promoter and all these kids wouldn't be having the time of their life! You're a true inspiration."

For the very first time in my life, I was told personally that I was an inspiration to the librarians, the volunteers and the kids. In the past perhaps I've heard similar comments or I simply assumed that I inspired others, but for some reason, it was completely different this time. At that very moment when I heard those words, my heart leaped and I couldn't help smiling. This is exactly what I hoped for from the very beginning - to inspire other people, especially those who had no previous connection to chess at all, to start promoting chess. I've known that an individual like me will not be able to accomplish much, however, if 100 people join in the team, then the impact that we create must be 200 times greater than the impact I create.

It was unfortunately that I did not get to meet Kevin Burda, a senior who not only volunteers at the program, but also contributes greatly to it. His creation of Whole Brain Chess (a method of teaching beginners with only half the board) and financial support of the entire 2011 Humberwood Spring Tourney, including prizes, medals, ribbons, rating fees, etc was critical to the program's success. On top of that, Eunice also told me that Kevin B. is willing to give it his all to help the program succeed in Humberwood. I am just utterly amazed at how there are so many people in this world that are willing to support this game unconditionally.

Luckily, I got the chance to meet Amber, another active volunteer of the program at Humberwood. Amber is very sweet girl and she is amazing with the kids. Since chess is a male dominant game, I love to see girls involved in the program, regardless of whether they play the game or not. Amber says that she she isn't so great at the game but nonetheless loves to watch the action and help out the club.

Amber and I

Thanks to Amber, who studies journalism at Humber College, the tournament was able to attract some publicity from the Toronto Star and the Etobicoke Guardian. The photographer from the Star took some really awesome photos, to the point that I have an urge to make some CITL posters with them! Check out the Toronto Star Photo Blog by Richard Lautens:

Photo by Richard Lautens. Caption: Kevin Johny, 6, reacts.

At the end of the game, I am just overwhelmed by the amount of surprises showered upon me. Vivien, Eunice, Kevin B. and Amber, all of you have touched my heart deeply and I thank you all for making this day a forever memorable one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Aesthetically Appealing Invitation

It's human nature that we're attracted to pretty things, nobody can deny that. Although the common sayings of "don't judge a book by its cover" is a good lesson to be learned, most often "what looks good will be good" is reality, especially with the psychological effect intertwined.

Now suppose there are two newly opened burger stores with no previous reputations of any sort. While the quality of the burgers in both stores are the same, store A has better sales, customer reviews, etc. Reason? Well, store A's flyers are much more professionally done, in way that anyone who sees the flyer would want to rush to the store and gobble down the delicious looking burger immediately. Well, you may say that I'm exaggerating a bit, but in reality, that's true, isn't it? Plus, if the owner of store B spent all his time complaining about why his burger business wasn't as prominent, you would think that he is foolish.

You might wonder why I am suddenly interested in burgers. Isn't this a chess-related blog??? Of course...I'm getting there! It was some time ago that I had received a printed invitation by mail. Never in my life had I seen such an aesthetically appealing invitation...for chess! It was simple, elegant and quite professional looking. Check this out:

As an ardent promoter of chess, I am crying of joy at this sight. This invitation is special because I can tell that the organizers have indeed spent a lot of effort and time into it. This is the positive attitude that everyone should have about chess. Perhaps many Grand Masters in Europe have seen much better invitations, but right now, right here, within our geographic boundary is a country called Canada, a place where chess isn't so important at all. Considering the circumstances, this piece of paper seems like a miracle. Perhaps to many people, this invitation will create no effect, just as if the burger flyer went into the hands of a vegetarian. However, to me it signals something - hope. Again, in this country, that is a feeling you'll rarely get when dealing with chess.

When I mentioned the burger example, it seems so obvious that a better flyer and better sales are positively correlated. The funny thing is, people don't seem to realize that this model can be used on chess. It's true that compared to hockey, this game isn't so popular. However, if everyone would just put some effort into changing this fact, then in a few decades, we might be able to see things turn around. Perhaps the owner of burger store B could spend his time on redesigning his flyers. With Chess in the Library, I am trying to create a model that can be duplicated easily. A model that promotes chess with low costs and some volunteers.

I simply must praise the organizers who sent me this invitation for doing such a wonderful job. One day, I shall frame it as if it is a delicate piece of art. As much as I would like to support this event with my participation, the upcoming months of April and May are critical to my academic studies. Nonetheless, I hope that this will turn out to be a very successful event!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chess in Calgary Follow-Up

The very first session of the CITL program in Calgary was as successful as it could be. The club attracted a large number of participants, ranging from those in elementary school to those in university! Take a look at some pictures below (photo credits goes to Avelino Angelo Tolentino):

Very pretty CITL poster!

This stand was placed on a small table full of chess books


Alberta Women Champion Nicka Kalaydina

Thanks to the Calgary Chess Club, the program is able to provide chess clocks~

Chess in action!

There were quite a few volunteers there to help out

To see the complete album, visit my web album here.

Thanks again to Simon Ong and his fellow volunteers for doing such an outstanding job! When Simon sent me the pictures, I was quite surprised to see Kalaydina among the crowd. She is one of the top female chess players in this country and I remember playing her a few years ago at the Women's Zonal. I'm just really glad to see more and more strong juniors join this program, whether as a volunteer or participant. Kalaydina's presence was definitely enlightening for me, as seeing a fellow top female player in this field join CITL to promote chess is not a frequent sight. In fact, she is the first.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Humberwood Prepares for First Tourney!

Other than the CITL Chess Festival that we host annually, the program has never hosted an "official" chess tournament. The word "official" refers to rated games, prizes for winners and most importantly, serious players. In the past, thanks to the Chess'n Math Association, we were able to rate some weekly tournaments. However, it was mainly casual chess that the kids played and rarely did we ever give out prizes. If we did, it would be chess books donated by one of the many kind-hearted CITL supporters out there.

Well, I'm pleased to announce that the Humberwood branch in Etobicoke has decided to take the initiative and organize a legit chess tournament. There's always a first time to everything, right? Here's some information on the tournament:

When: Saturday March 19, 2011, 1-5pm
Where: Humberwood Library (check if you don't know where that is)
Rating: All games will be both CMA and CFC rated
Sections: Players will be grouped according to age, and rating if they have one
Prizes: There will be lots of medals, ribbons and book prizes for the winners! The top finishers will also represent the Humberwood branch at the annual festival this year.
Entry Fee: $0 (the purpose is to promote chess, remember?)
*Pre-registration at the Humberwood branch

Shiny medals and ribbons for prizes~

Close-up look at the SHINY MEDALS! :)

This tournament would definitely not have been possible without the help of 3 ardent CITL promoters, Eunice R., Vivien C, and Kevin B. Kevin is a volunteer at the Humberwood branch and the main sponsor of this event! Without his contributions, it would definitely be impossible for us to provide all these awesome prizes and pay the rating fees! Thank you so much Kevin!
So what are you waiting for? Sign up for this tournament now by calling the Humberwood branch (again, check our website for their phone number)! :)