Scarborough chess players race against time in Jack Swiss Tournament

Thirty-seven chess matches took place simultaneously on Feb. 10 in the Scarborough Chess Club’s Jack Swiss Tournament.

The only sounds heard at the Birkdale Community Centre were of each player hitting the tournament clock after completing a move in the 90-minute games.

It’s not only a match against one’s opponent but also a race against time. Tournament players were stressed and anxious while they were up against the clock.

The tournament was the sixth out of seven rounds, with the final round taking place on Feb. 17th.

Seventy-four players battled against their opponents and the clock to gain top points to tally into their overall combined play for the entire tournament. Five tournaments take place each year.

The Chess Federation of Canada tracks club member points.

Every so often, the shuffling of a player’s chair could be heard over the droning of the time clocks, as the players craned their necks over their boards to get a better view of what their opponents were up to.

By late evening, some of the younger players had wrapped up their matches.

“They tend to play at a faster pace compared to older, experienced players,” club president Maurice Strong said.

Timekeepers and parents strolled the aisles to take in the intensity that hangs over each chessboard like a low hanging thundercloud bookended by pressure and anxiety.

Chess is normally an unbiased sport in which anyone can challenge anyone else: young people play against mature players and women play against men. The only factor that counts is skill.

Yuanchen Zhang, 10, has been playing with the club for a year and came away from his match victorious.

“I’ll try to be back for next week for the final match,” Zhang said as he looked at his father.

Many club members are still in grade school, with homework a constant challenge for the younger players.

According to Strong, “one of the highest rated women in Canada is Yuanling Yuan, 16, and belongs to the club.”

“She played first board at the Olympiad tournament for Team Canada,” Strong said.

By the end of the tournament a group of spectators gathered around a match: Michael Song, 12, against Josh Guo, 30. The two are ranked sixth and fourth respectively at the club.

“I technically won, but it was due to time constraints also,” Guo said. “Sometimes a match will go for three hours when skilled players will face off against each other.”

Observer Radio News: Scarborough holds bragging rights to the largest chess club in Canada, with some of the nation’s top players. And as Cole Carruthers reports, there’s big buzz now about one of the club’s teenage prodigies.

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