A Special End To A Successful Year: The First Hart House Youth Chess Championship

On April 29th, 2023, 152 junior players and their families travelled to Hart House for the Club’s first ever Youth Chess Championship. The tournament was sold-out early, a reflection of the historic year of chess in Canada and at the Club. The players came to compete not only qualification to the 2023 CYCC but also 12 coveted bursaries for the top-overall and top-girl in each of the 6 sections.

Due to the stakes, parents were restricted from entering the playing hall and photos were only taken by the Club’s photographer. The Debates Room and Committees Room were open to parents and supporters while the Club utilized the Music Room and Donald Burwash Room for the chess competition.

Action in the Donald Burwash Room of Hart House on April 29, 2023 during the 2023 HHYCC

The qualification number was 2.5/5, with those qualifying eligible to play in the CYCC this summer. A 2-game blitz playoff was held for sections with ties for bursaries. For ties after the blitz, a deciding Armageddon match would be held to determine the winner. This led to some very exciting finishes.

In the U8 Section (26 players), Kola Karthi finished a perfect tournament with 5/5, beating out 2nd place finisher Jasper Jia in the final round. Darren Chen finished third in their first ever CFC rated tournament. A playoff match was held between Luba Shtepa and Valeria Kit Lin Ho for the U8 top-girl bursary to the CYCC. Luba edged out Valeria and took home the trophy and bursary.

In the U10 Section (25 players), Ashley Qian entered as the top-seed with a rating of 1761, leading over the second highest rated player by over 500 CFC points! Ashley capitalized on the rating advantage and went on to take home both the top-girl and first-overall trophy. Deliberations by the organizers concluded that there would be a 4-way playoff to determine the 2nd bursary winner for the U10 section. Therefore, Diganth Anish, Yihang Wu, Caleb Langridge, and Siddharth Surendran played 3-rounds of round-robin chess to determine the winner. Coming out on top (2nd overall) and with the bursary to the 2023 CYCC was Yihang, followed by 3rd place finisher Caleb.

Ashley Qian was awarded the first place trophy by her personal coach and U of T’s highest rated player, Yunshan Li.

In the U12 Section (38 players), Isaak Huh came in with the highest rating of all players with a 2162 CFC rating! Just the evening before, he had finished 3rd at the Hart House Bullet Championship and he proved that he was up to the task yet again. Isaak finished the tournament undefeated alongside Jifan Zhao, and in the playoffs, defeated Jifan without dropping a game. Ping Yao Li finished 3rd after tiebreakers and Angela Wang picked up the top-girl prize and bursary.

The U14 Section (48 players) was the largest section, taking up nearly a third of the entire tournament field. Tony Lu came into the tournament with the first seed and went 5/5. However, Nicholas Ossine, who had played over 20 CFC Quick Rated events and not one classical event, also finished with 5/5. The playoff for first went to Nicholas where in Calgary, he may just play in his first CFC classical event! Eric Qian finished 3rd after a last-round loss to Tony. Top Girl was won by Irene Xie 3.5/5.

In the U16 Section (10 players), Ajith Aayush was the top seed followed closely behind by Saarthak Malakar. The two would face each other in round 3 and draw, leading to a playoff with 4.5/5 apiece. Ajith would pull through and finish the tournament with first and the bursary to the CYCC. Third place was won by Andrew Song and top-girl was won by Alexa Ksenych.

In the U18 Section (8 players), Hwang Jeong, playing in their first ever CFC rated tournament, went on to finish 4/5, enough for clear first. A 4-way tie was seen between Ingrid Wu, Pio Nicdao, Roger Guo, and Bek Khamidov. After computer tiebreaks, second went to Pio and third to Bek. Ingrid would receive the top-girl prize. The section was the only section to see no playoffs needed!

The tournament was an undertaking overseen by Hart House Chess Club’s new Secretary, Victor Zheng, the winner of the 2023 GTCL Organizer of the Year. In addition, the Club would like to thank a number of volunteers for the execution of a smooth event. Alex Ferreira provided very helpful expertise as a seasoned arbiter. Crystal Cao, Ahmed Khalf, and Bowen Zhang (photographer too), provided very helpful oversight alongside incoming Executives Grace Miao, Eric Wan, and Isabelle Wang. Finally, a number of volunteer students from U of T also came out to help and we are thankful for their service: Koosha Jaferian, Yunshan Li, Cindy Qiao, Ethan Moon, Derek Ma, Yein Chung, and Ray Wu who provided helpful score collection throughout.

A thank you as always goes to the Hart House staff for their assistance with registration, finances, room bookings, and guidance. Special thank-yous go to Jamie and Naseha at the HUB, Stan at Finance, and Meghan at Events for their event support.

Finally, the Club would like to thank the help of the Calgary Chess Club, organizers of this year’s CYCC, for their special help and guidance in distributing bursaries. We would also like to thank the organizers of the 2023 BCYCC and the Chess Federation of Canada for their support as well.

The 2023 Canadian Youth Chess Championship will be held this Summer from July 19 – 22 in Calgary, Alberta by the Calgary Chess Club. The 2023 Canadian Open will follow from July 22 – 30. We wish all participants attending the best of luck and look forward to hosting the HHYCC event again next year.

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