Joshua Lau and Nora Wu win in Hart House Spring Junior Open!

Hart House Chess Club hosted its Spring Junior Open tournament from March 16th to March 17th, 2019. It was the second junior chess event organized by our club in two consecutive years and what a blast it was! Held in the elegant Debates Room with the arched ceiling, the event attracted 22 young participants who showed everyone their confidence and chess skills during the March break.

Divided into two rating sections, an U- 900 and an U-1300 section, with 11 players each, the tournament offered 5 rounds of classical chess (55′ + 5”/move) in swiss-system. The competition was remarkably intense, as can be demonstrated by the ties for the top 3 in each section.

In the upper section especially, with one round to go, there was a long list of players from which the winner could have come out! Joshua Lau and Mark Rozin were leading with 3 out of 4 points but Yinan Wang, Ivan Huang and Zi Liu were a hair’s breath away from the top with 2.5 points in 4 games.

In the critical round-5 game, Zi Liu (white) faced Joshua Lau (black)!

In the last-round games, Ivan Huang managed to beat Mark Rozin, Zi Liu lost to Joshua Lau and Yinan Wang defeated Justin Huang.

This meant that Joshua Lau was sole first with 4/5, followed by Ivan Huang and Yinan Wang with 3.5/5 each. As the latter two had drawn their head-to-head game, the second tie-breaking criterion (opponent’s average rating) was decisive with Ivan Huang emerging on second place and the silver medal position! Lily Liu was also in a medal-winning position as she was the top girl in her section!

A light chuckle by Joshua Lau a few moments before winning the top place in the U-1300 section!

It’s also worth mentioning that the last round saw the best game of the U-1300, a spectacular victory by Sven Coat against Varun Pillai in the venomous Italian. After sacrificing two pawns Sven gained enough time in the opening to launch an unstoppable attack against his opponent’s king, checkmating him in the middle of the board.

Sven Coat did not manage to place among the top three this time but his spectacular last-round victory was jaw-dropping!

In the U-900 section things looked a bit clearer at the top level. Nora Wu entered the last round with 4 out of 4, threatened only by Karma Pillai and Yiming Zhao who had 3 out of 4 each. Gordon Zeng and Charis Zhu were also fighting for medals, with 2.5 points each.

After a double-edged game with opportunities for both sides, Nora Wu managed to win her game against Karma Pillai, scoring a perfect 5 out of 5 score and clinching the gold medal position! Charis Zhu and Gordon Zeng also won their games against Yiming Zhao and William Johnson, respectively, so they tied for second place with 3.5 points out of 5. Curiously enough, in a mirror image of the upper section, Charis and Gordon had drawn their head-to-head game so the second tie-breaking criterion had to be used, which placed Charis Zhu second and Gordon Zeng third. As for the top-female player distinction, the shiny medal was awarded to the very resilient Katelyn Johnson.

A formidable 5 out of 5 performance gave Nora Wu a very deserved first place!

As for the best game of the U-900 section, Jasper He and Charis Zhu must be very proud of their battle on Round 4. Their moves led to a slow and extremely positional game with opposite castles, where each side was fighting for the control of the center and the fast pawn expansion on the wing where the opposite king was. You don’t often see great strategic games like this between younger players.

Aided by the very good play of Jasper He, eight year-old Charis Zhu played the best game of the U-900 Section on Round 4.

The event organizers were delighted to introduce for the first time 11 beautiful digital boards in the competition, allowing the spectators to watch all the games live on-line! But March madness did not end with the live broadcasting of the games! With five national masters analyzing the games with the kids after each round, the excitement that swirled around the skittles room added even more to the enthusiasm of the day! A nice buffet of snacks and coffee was provided to the kids and the parents and a bulletin with the games of the tournament was sent out to all the participants for further review and analysis!

Alex Ferreira joined Weiwen Leung as one of the two tournament arbiters!

Of course, none of this could have happened without the very generous support of the UofT students, who volunteered a lot of their time and energy to boost the event. Weiwen Leung and Alex Ferreira were the event arbiters and did an excellent job running the pairings and providing the results, standings and tie-breaking criteria. The latter also took on the difficult task of the on-line registrations. Jimmy Bartha deserves some really high praise as he served as digital board operator in this first exciting trial! He was also the person who, with the aid of Sean Lei, Dmitry Choukov, Andrew MacMillan and Panayoti Tsialas, set-up the cables and the boards in the playing hall. Alyssa Rusonik, the incoming Communications Director of the club, was, once again, very efficient and exquisite in the handling of the on-site payments. Her ability to demonstrate leadership skills in every task she undertakes is outstanding.

National Master Tanner McNamara (here with William Johnson and Yiming Zhao) had a great time analyzing the kids’ games in the skittles room!

The club incurred a huge debt to Zara Toyserkani, who was at the skittles room from the very first till the very last minute of the tournament, taking care of the buffet and making sure that the parents and the kids would have a great time throughout their time at Hart House. Of course a big shout-out goes out to National Masters Sean Lei, Tanner McNamara, Jonathan Yu and Zane Nasir and to ex-Varsity player Gary Huang, who labored really hard in the skittles room, analyzing the games of the kids, providing helpful chess instruction and encouraging them to improve game by game! The combination UofT students analyzing chess games with the kids in the skittles room was and remains the most popular feature of our junior tournaments! The award ceremony was led by the very talented incoming club treasurer Sean Lei, who was delighted to congratulate the winners in each section! Finally, the tournament was directed by Panayoti Tsialas, whom the club would also like to thank for making the photo gallery and the bulletin of the games.

Snapping a pic of tournament director Panayoti Tsialas is not the easiest mission but Zara Toyserkani managed to get the shot!

It’s been a great pleasure for our club to organize its second Junior Tournament in two years. We are grateful to Hart House for providing us with all the assistance we need to run the event and, more than anyone else, we wish to thank all the participants and their parents for taking part in our tournament and supporting the official chess club of the students of UofT.

Click on the links below to view:

See you all in our next event! Until then, practice, play analyze, repeat!

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Participants List (2019 Spring Junior Open)

2019 Hart House Spring Junior Open
List of Early Entries
(as of March 15th)


1168 – Coat, Sven
1101 – Rozin, Mark
1095 – Huang, Ivan
1022 – Wang, Yinan
986 – Huang, Justin
977 – Liu, Zi
936 – Lau, Joshua
929 – Velasquez, Noah
928 – Pillai, Varun
904 – Liu, Lily
902 – Zhao, Yicheng

834 – Johnson, William
780 – Wu, Nora
768 – Pillai, Karma
662 – Zeng, Gordon
617 – Matiu, Theodore Justin
566 – Zhao, Yiming
519 – Johnson, Katelyn
502 – Zhu, Charis
431 – He, Jasper
319 – Toyserkani, Dean
unr. – Guo, Ziming

Analyzing the Games with the Kids

Saturday, March 16th

Jonathan Yu (CFC 2219)
Zane Nasir (CFC 2219)
Tanner McNamara (CFC 2121)
Gary Huang (CFC 1774)
Jimmy Bartha (CFC 1526)
Sahan Karunaratne (CFC 1495)
Alyssa Rusonik (CFC 1277)

Sunday, March 17th

Jonathan Yu (CFC 2219)
Sean Lei (CFC 2166)
Tanner McNamara (CFC 2121)
Panayoti Tsialas (CFC 2020)
Gary Huang (CFC 1774)
Jimmy Bartha (CFC 1526)
Sahan Karunaratne (CFC 1495)

Quadruple Tie in the 2019 Hart House Reading Week Open!

The 2019 Hart House Reading Week Open took place in Toronto, Ontario, from February 16th to February 18th. It’s been roughly a decade since the first very successful Reading Week Open and this year’s was no less exciting! A remarkable 188 participants from various chess clubs in Ontario and Quebec came out to play and fought for the big prize pool, totaling $7,400.

As per tradition, participants were split into six different sections, based on rating, and the started! In this Swiss-style tournament of classical chess, the top three winners in each section would be determined after six competitive rounds. There were plenty of talented participants in the tournament and, among them, four International Masters who joined the Crown Section, to the delight of the many spectators.

In the last round of the tournament IM Nikolay Noritsyn faced IM Tomas Krnan in a highly asymmetrical endgame, which ended in a draw!

As expected, the competition was fierce and the final standings saw many ties for the prizes in each section:

Four very worthy contenders tied for first place in the Crown Section with 4.5 points out of 6 games (22 participants):  IM Nikolay Noritsyn, FM Rohan Talukdar, FM Kenta Olivier Chiku-Ratte and CM Nameer Issani. It was a very pleasant surprise from Issani, who started on position 20th in the initial rank (FIDE 1952) and slowly climbed up to the top.

With 4.5 points out of 6 games, FM Rohan Talukdar was among the winners of the Crown Section

In the Under 2200 Section (27 participants) Brian Jiang was in great shape, scoring an almost perfect 5.5 points out of 6 games. Eric Ning and Henry Liu also had a wonderful tournament, scoring 5 out of 6 and sharing second place.

In the Under 1900 Section (52 participants) Ibrahim Syed Ahmed was the undisputed winner with a formidable 5.5 out of 6 games. There followed a tie between 7 (seven!) players for the silver medal position: Matthew Bergeron, Jordi Profits Fortuny, Trfelino Miaco, Joseph Liao, Dennis Tran, Boris Iriarte and Seiji Nakagawa.

Hart House Chess Club’s Jack Moore was, once again, on the top 3 of the U1600 section.

In the Under 1600 Section (37 participants) Johannes Kirk Dickson finished the tournament undefeated with 5.5 out of 6 points and deservedly became the section winner. Hart House’s own Jonathan Moore also had a great tournament, scoring 5 out 6 and clinching second place. There followed, at a very close distance, Gary Hua, with 4.5 out of 6, winning third place.

In the Under 1300 Section (35 participants) Sophia Wang and Ivan John Deal Torre were the co-winners, as each dropped only one point in six rounds. Christopher Charles, Lefan Yang and our very own Ethan Moon also had a very good performance, scoring of 4.5 out of 6 and sharing the bronze-medal position.

Finally, in the Under 1000 Section (15 participants) Noah Velasquez had a great tournament and won the section with 5 points out of 6 games. There followed, just one point behind him, UofT student Iudin Fraim and CCYC’s Lily Liu, sharing second place. A very honorable mention goes out to Steven Shi, who just arrived in Canada and, in his very first tournament ever, he scored a breathtaking 6 out 6.

Steven Shi scored an impressive and deserved 6 out 6 in the U-1000 Section!

Hart House Chess Club would like to publicly thank a number individuals for their precious assistance towards organizing this event. As always, most of the credit goes out to the Director and Chief Arbiter of the tournament, the amazing Alex Ferreira. The tireless Portuguese is not only the person who first envisioned and gave life to this open tournament several years ago, but he is the one who has kept it going for about one decade, breathing new life to it over the course of the years! Hart House Chess Club is delighted and honored to be supported by one of Ontario’s and Canada’s most successful chess organizers.

Next we would like to recognize the indispensable assistance of Tyler Longo, the Deputy Chief-arbiter who, once again did a fast and very professional job entering the results of 6 rounds and running the pairings for more than 185 players in 6 simultaneous sub-sections. Alyssa Rusonik, performed exquisitely the hard task of receiving on-site payments by dozens of participants and impressed us all with the level of her commitment and her remarkable work ethic. Ben Hahn, Hart House Chess Club’s Alumni Chair, took on the demanding mission of doing the financial accounting of the tournament, making sure that everything had been kept in order, once the event was over. For yet another tournament, Andrew McMillan’s silent but manifold contributions cannot be emphasized enough: behind the well-functioning chess equipment, the clean tables, the unstained chess boards, the uncreased scoresheets there lied Andrew’s helping hand. Sahan Karunaratne, the club’s Event Coordinator, was on the playing site from the very start to the very end of the tournament, contributing tirelessly in all sorts of ways: from doing on-site registrations and setting-up the play hall – including the water station and the skittles room – to being a floater in certain sections with odd number of players and taking down all the equipment at the end of the tournament. Finally, aided by Sahan, Panayoti Tsialas, the club fundraiser, created the nice photo gallery of the tournament and made himself available for answering any general inquiries that the participants and spectators might have.

The official poster of the 2019 Reading Week Open

On top of these volunteers, we would like to thank University of Toronto as well as Hart House for their steady support to our chess initiatives, including our Reading Week Open tournament. The Hart House Information Hub, the Meetings and Events Office, the Staging Personnel, the Department of Communications as well as the Financial Accounting Office coordinated their efforts amazingly to help us in our event. We wish to kindly acknowledge their assistance. We also incurred a big debt to Annex Chess Club, which generously lent us 15 of their digital chess clocks.

Finally, the most heartfelt “thank you” goes out to the 188 people, who defied the freezing cold and came out to play in the tournament as well as to their parents and friends who attended the event as spectators. We are very thankful for your participation and we are looking forward to seeing you again in our upcoming Hart House Spring Junior Open in mid-March!

Click on the links below to view:

William Li wins Hart House’s Fischer Random Tournament!

Fischer chess (Chess 960), invented by Bobby Fischer is a variant of chess designed to remove any opening theory advantages. The tournament like all 960 games was very frustrating for the seasoned club player who can talk at length on a number of opening lines. Featuring the very strange sight of extensive thinking on the very first move, the tournament was a challenge even for the most seasoned players.

Arthur Terra was the youngest participants in the tournament

As the games progressed into bizarre middlegames with multiple pieces lying on awkward squares, the players found themselves straining past their normal strategic thinking to unlock their forces. Numerous upsets occured as players were caught in the swirl of a game that was both familiar to and starkly different to the game that they loved. This was particularly true for the endgame which should have been the most familiar, but instead wound up being a complicated mess with no side being familiar at all with the position that was presented.

The decisive last-round match between William Li and Leslie Tang ended in a 1-1 tie!

In terms of individual results, William Li demonstrated a cool calculating mind, avoiding the usual pitfalls and blunders that are encouraged by such a challenging variant. Constantly placed on the first board, Li was able to demonstrate a competency that resulted in no match losses. Comfortably cruising with 8 points total, he dominated the field to receive first place.

8 out of 10 and first place without any defeats for William Li!

In second place was Edward Chan with 6.5 points, a veteran at the club he demonstrated keen positional understanding.

Edward Chan’s solid tactical play gave him the deserved second place!

Third place was won by Kevin Li with 6 points who once again reinforced his honorary title as “mini-stockfish”.

Kevin Li scored 6 out of 10 and finished in the bronze-medal position!

An honorable mention should go to Leslie Tang, our president who in his role as a floater racked up 7 points. Further, a big shout out goes out to Panayioti Tsialas, who was the tournament arbiter but also the photographer for the event and thus ensured the tournament ran smoothly and could be an enjoyable experience.

Fisher-Random Crosstable
Hart House Fischer Random Tournament – Final Crosstable

Finally, we would like to thank all the participants who defied the cold weather and came out to play in the tournament! We are looking forward to seeing you all again in our upcoming events too!