Scarborough chess star expands game’s dominion

Yuanling Yuan (second from right) gives the chance for kids like Julia (middle) to showcase their chess talents through Chess in the Library. (Courtesy Chess in the Library) (Courtesy Chess in the Library)

Yuanling Yuan is quickly becoming the star of Toronto’s chess scene.

The 17-year-old chess prodigy is Canada’s top female chess player, was the youngest Woman International Master ever and is now spreading the game of chess throughout the city and beyond.

Chess in the Library, a program run by student-volunteers, was founded by Yuan in hopes of spreading the game across the GTA.

At least to start.

Yuan has had a specific goal in mind since starting the club in June 2009.

“The goal is to expand the program to every province in Canada,” said Yuan, a student at Victoria Park Collegiate Institute.

Already in 17 Toronto libraries, Chess in the Library has expanded to libraries in Calgary, Alta., and Victoria, B.C.

The program is designed to promote chess through casual games for the beginner and Chess Federation of Canada-rated games for the experienced.

“It’s a really fun and unique program,” said Andrew Loughlin, who learned about the program last year. “Not many people play chess, but for the people that do, this is perfect: free games, good practice and people actually willing to play.”

Thanks to the Saturday chess sessions, players not only battle one another, they also get to know each other.

“These kids see each other every week,” Yuan said. “The fact that they see each other often makes them … almost one big family.

“It’s become something more than just chess.”

Though Yuan has great designs on the future of Chess in the Library, it’s a different story when it comes to her own future in the game.

“I don’t want to become one of the top players in the world and play chess for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s not like that.”

Yuan still practices at least an hour a day, she said, but doesn’t play as much chess as she used to. Instead, she’s been focused on advocating the game to anyone who enjoys flexing their intellectual muscle.

“It’s fascinating to me because of the complexity [of the game], and I’m someone who loves to use logic and deduction,” Yuan said. “I like using my brain, and just figuring out solutions to the problems and challenges.”

The second-annual Chess in the Library Festival, hosted by North York Central Library, is set for the last weekend of June. Yuan said she’s optimistic it will help chess gain even more steam in the GTA.

Toronto libraries offering Chess in the Library
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