Scarborough teen is chess queen

Although the Scarborough Chess Club is composed mostly of men, its top player is a 16-year-old girl.

Yuanling Yuan, who recently returned from the biennial Chess Olympiad, is the top-rated female chess player in Canada and also holds the distinction of being the youngest Canadian female to hold the title of international master.

Although Yuan admits she may have to look at the men’s game for challenge and inspiration, now that she’s the top female player, she never thought chess was limited to a particular gender.

“It’s a stereotype,” Yuan said. “People think that chess is a game for boys because it’s kind of based on war.”

The grade 11 Victoria Park Collegiate Institute student has been working to get more people interested in chess. Last summer, at the age of 15, she started a Chess in the Library club at Brookbanks Library.

“All I want to do is promote chess in Canada, because in Canada all they care about is hockey,” she jokes.

At this year’s Chess Olympiad, where she played the world’s best female players and took the 27th spot out of 564, many of the national teams had uniforms showing team spirit while Canada’s didn’t, she points out on her blog.

In just two months, her chess club became the most successful one at the library, attracting about 30 participants, Yuan says. Adopting her model, 14 branches in Toronto, two in Ottawa and one in Victoria now host chess clubs.

Chess is a fascinating game that teaches skills beyond the board, Yuan said. Because it requires a lot of logic, visualization and planning ahead, she said it directly helps with academic subjects and languages.

Yuan enjoys math and logic and said she hopes to go to an Ivy League university in the United States for business.

“And when I have the ability to help kids who play chess even more, then I’ll probably do something more than just chess in the library.”