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.