Wilson Sy

Wilson discovered chess late in high school to his chagrin. In his first year of play, he competed in the 2019 Ontario High School Championship, scoring 3/6 in the Beginner section. He also finished 1st in the Amateur section of 2019 Mississauga Chess Club Championship. Although still an amateur player by all means, Wilson enjoys being fascinated by the complexity and beauty of the game. It is not uncommon for him to procrastinate by watching an ongoing professional chess tournament.

Currently, Wilson is a first year computer science student at the University of Toronto. His interests go beyond his projected program of study, including subjects from linguistics to political science. This diversity can also be seen in his extra-curricular involvement with student associations such as UTLEI and UTAMA.

While serving as Communications Director of HHCC for 2021, he hopes to learn a lot from the club’s senior members and to help contribute to the club’s legacy. Expanding the club’s outreach and recruiting new members has become difficult during this trying year, but he promises to do his best to support the club.

Benjamin (Benny) Zhang

Benny is a third-year undergraduate student at U of T studying Health & Disease, Genome Biology, and Statistics. Currently he is a Communications Director at the Hart House Chess Club and is avid about promoting the HHCC. 

Before coming to university, Benny was a casual chess player and the club president at his local high school. He has been playing since early childhood with some competitive tournament experience. With that being said, he understands the struggles and barriers that people may face when trying to pick up chess and works towards helping others define their own relationship with the game. Benny believes that chess can be taught to anyone and desires to promote an open and hospitable environment to individuals of varying aptitude. 

Being a part of the Hart House Executive team has only further enabled him to share his love for the game and he hopes to see you over the chess board.

Chess Club Constitution

Submitted and unanimously approved by Jimmy Bartha (Treasurer), Sean Lei (Fundraiser), Tanner McNamara (External Events Coordinator), and Alyssa Rusonik (President/Secretary) in October 2020.

1.         Purpose.

The purpose of the Hart House Chess Club is:

a) To provide a suitable environment for Hart House members to enjoy chess-related activity, casual or serious, including open play, analysis, discussion, and relevant social interaction;

b) To provide an opportunity for Club members to improve their chess ability and to compete informally or formally in both internal and external events.

2.         Definitions.

The Hart House Chess Club (hereafter “the Club”) is an official club of Hart House. It is financially supported by Hart House, and is subject to its rules, including the “Clubs and Committees Guidelines”.

The University of Toronto Chess Team (hereafter “the Team”) is a team organized by the Club on occasions of external competition, such as the Pan-American Inter-Collegiate Chess Championship (hereafter “Pan-Ams”) and the Canadian Post-Secondary Chess Championship (hereafter “CPSCC”).

3.         Membership.

Any person who has purchased a Chess Club Membership from Hart House is a member of the Club. Members are automatically entitled to participate in all events organized by the Club (see “Club Events”, 5d, below).

4.         Executive.

The Club Executive is comprised of seven members: the Secretary, the Treasurer, the Fundraising Representative, two Communications Representatives, [the] Events Co-ordinator, and the Alumni Chair (non-voting).

All Executives are expected to actively participate in the weekly Club meetings (see “Club meetings”, 5a below) and help in the organization of the Club’s special events, orientation events and fundraising initiatives.

4a) Eligibility.

In order to run for all voting Executive positions, individuals must have had a valid club membership for at least one month prior to the election.

4b) Election.

All Executive positions, [except for the Alumni Chair], are filled through election at the annual General Assembly. Club members interested in Executive positions will announce their candidacy at or before the General Assembly, and if there are two or more candidates for a position, a vote will be held to determine the successful candidate. A person can be a candidate for more than one Executive position; however, if elected to more than one position, they must choose the one role in which they will serve. All voting at the General Assembly is done by secret ballot and all Club members [who have been members for a minimum of one month] are eligible to cast ballots.

A by-election may be called by the Board to fill vacancies on the Executive. Candidates interested in running for an open position and those who cast a vote must have been members for a minimum of one week prior to the by-election.

4c) Appointment of the Alumni Chair.

The position of Alumni Chair is filled by a person in the Hart House Chess Club community selected in the Fall by the Executive Board on the basis of their dedication to, enthusiasm for, and knowledge of the Club. An Alumni Chair is appointed for a three-year term with no limit on the number of terms. The appointee must be involved with the Club and have shown demonstrable commitment as judged by the Executive Board.

The Alumni Chair serves an advisory role and is a non-voting member of the Executive; he or she must make themselves available to attend Executive Board meetings upon request and is otherwise welcome, but not required, to attend. The Alumni Chair is tasked with administering annual elections and by-elections of the Executive as well as with upholding transparency in the electoral process.

4d) Duties of the Voting Executive

4d.1) The Secretary is responsible for calling meetings of the Executive, maintaining records (minutes) of all such meetings, refereeing all votes taken by the Executive, ensuring communication of all relevant Club information among Executive members, managing the schedule of weekly club meetings/events for rotations and ensuring executive commitment, maintaining an inventory of club equipment, organizing an annual General Assembly of the Club members, liaising with the Hart House staff via the Club’s Programme Advisor, and acting as the Club’s representative where necessary.

4d.2) The Treasurer is responsible for keeping an account of the Club’s revenues and expenditures, informing the Executive of any deviation from established budgets, and devising the annual budget with the input and approval of the Executive (see “Budget”, 8, below). The Treasurer is also responsible for keeping track of the chess materials borrowed by members as part of the Club’s lending library.

4d.3) The Fundraising Representative acts closely with the Treasurer to determine the extent and nature of the Club’s financial needs, and organizes corresponding fundraising initiatives with the assistance of other Executive members.

4d.4) The Communications Representatives maintain a directory of email addresses for all Club members and interested parties, inform Club members of upcoming events, promotes the Club to prospective members, advertise Club events when required, and maintain the Club’s website and social media accounts.

4d.5) The Events Coordinator is responsible for informing the Executive about the specifics of the Pan-Ams, the Pan-Ams Qualifier and the CPSCC, communicating with tournament organizers and all other relevant parties, overseeing the assembly of the Team, working with the Programme Advisor to organize accommodation, registration, and transportation for the Team, and dealing with all other concerns pertaining to these three events. The Events Co-ordinator is also charged with administering the special events hosted by the Club, such as the Master Lectures, the Casual Chess Tournaments, the Chess Lessons and the Simultaneous Chess Exhibitions.

5.         Meetings.

All official Club activity takes place in one of four kinds of meeting: Club meetings, Executive meetings, General Assemblies, and Club Events.

5a) Club meetings are held weekly, and are overseen by the Club member responsible for signing out the equipment on the day of the meeting (preferably the Secretary or a designated member of the Executive). Club meetings are open to the general public.

5b) Executive meetings are held according to need, and are called by the Secretary of his/her own initiative or that of another member of the Executive. There must be a minimum of one Executive meeting per month. At least four members of the Executive are required for quorum at an official meeting, but a majority of the Executive is required for all votes (if only four votes are cast, the agreement must be unanimous). Minutes are kept by the Secretary, and all decisions affecting the Club are communicated to the Club members by the Communications Representatives. Executive meetings are restricted to members of the Executive, except in cases of special invitation. The Programme Advisor may be invited to Executive meetings.

5c) A General Assembly is held annually in the Spring Term, and is called by the Secretary. All elections to the Executive are held at the General Assembly, or are officially postponed at this time by a majority vote of the incumbent Executive.

5d) Club Events include in-house tournaments, lectures, simultaneous exhibitions, orientation events, chess lessons, and any other events organized for Club members or the chess community at large by the Executive or by a Club member acting with the sanction of the Executive, as well as any events in which the Team competes. Club Events may only be restricted to subsets of the membership if the restriction is made on the basis of playing strength (as with Team events), in which caseall members must be granted a reasonable opportunity to qualify, or on the basis of enrolment at the University of Toronto (as according to some tournament organizers).

6.         Pan-Ams.

The Club sends one or two Teams to the annual Pan-American Inter-Collegiate ChessChampionship. The aims of the Club’s participation are to provide an enjoyable and instructive experience to the members of the Team, and to place as high as possible in the final standings. Selection of up to 50% of the Team members may be done according to official ratings granted by the Chess Federation of Canada, FIDE, or any similar federation, but no Team member may be selected on the basis of a rating less than 2200 CFC or its equivalent. The remaining Team members must qualify in a special event organized by the Events Co-ordinator with the assistance of the Executive in either late September or early October. The Executive Board determines the process, by which the Team line-ups will be decided. Reasonable notice of Team selection procedures must be given to all Club members by the Communications Representatives.

7.         CPSCC.

Each year, the executive board determines the number of Teams that will represent the Club at the Canadian Post-Secondary Chess Championship. The aims of the Club’s participation are to provide an enjoyable and instructive experience to the members of the Team and to place as high as possible in the final standings. Selection of the members of Team A may be done according to official ratings granted by the Chess Federation of Canada, FIDE, or any similar federation. The remaining Team members are selected on a first-come first-served basis. The Executive Board determines the process, by which the Team line-ups will be decided. Reasonable notice of Team selection procedures must be given to all Club members by the Communications Representatives.

8.         Budget.

The annual budget is prepared by the Treasurer with the assistance of the Executive. It is presented to the Hart House Committee on Budgets by the Treasurer and additional executives as needed. The original budget and all significant amendments are made by the Treasurer or the Secretary and must be voted upon by the Executive.

9.         Equipment.

The Club’s equipment is stored at Hart House. All executives have the rights to sign out the equipment for the Club’s activities.

10.       Additions and Amendments.

All changes to this constitution must be approved either by full consensus of the Executive, or simple majorities in the Executive and the general membership. In the latter case, at least ten Club members or a third of the Club membership, whichever is less, must be present for a general vote to be valid for this purpose. Any vote held for the purpose of changing this constitution must be announced by the Secretary or Communications Representatives a minimum of two weeks in advance.

The Perfect Tournament

Below, please find Sahan Karunaratne‘s report on the tournaments which took place on September 25th that he organized!

We can be very happy to put this on page, as we had a wonderful blitz tournament this week. The stars aligned as a crop of players with a rating range from 1000-2300 took stage. Yet this group of people, who would usually huddle in different corners of the reading room, found themselves having a competition that everyone could enjoy.

Each player had at least a couple of players that posed a genuine threat to them. Jonathan Hay and Handknit, two people who typically can dominate a tournament like this, provided the other is not present, found themselves in one hair raising position after another. Both were put under significant pressure by Ethan M’s Berserking which brought him a clear win. Henry Vu, who I might remind you has won a number of tournaments was not only challenged by the 2000+ players, but also players at his own rating. He just about managed to snare fourth place, from what I see now is clearly his sworn enemy Daniel Glasroth. A shoutout is in order for Edmund Chan who managed to play their usual unfazed chess, this time with some results to be proud of! For the bullet tournament, there are two items of interest.

The winner: Ethan M. and the last comment Daniel wrote which is that chess is not necessarily restricted to Fridays. Perhaps our next report shall include challenges made right throughout the week!

NM Chris Knox the Ruthless

National Master Chris Knox dropped into our weekly blitz tournament. The skill disparity among players has always been a feature and problem at the chess club. However, despite the fact that Chris was at times a thousand rating points over his opponents, there were no signs of fatigue or discouragement from the opposition. Rather they were eager for experience.

It seemed as though nobody could so much as conceive of defeating Knox. Then out of the shadows sprang HandKnit. With a rating close to 2300 could they add a blemish to Chris’s spotless tournament record?

The aspiring challenger played careful games one after another. No messing around, the berserk button gathering dust. Then in the final quarter their chance arose. What followed was a memorable game. Chris played the most passive sacrifice I have personally seen. Moments later my jaw dropped as a jam-packed middle game had converted into a stage for three black pieces to dance around a terrified white king. The game like a magic trick has no spectacle being described. I have enclosed my own rough analysis of it here. [LINK]

The two foes did have the final face off to finish the tournament with a flourish. Beginning in the dying moments of the tournament, it would not count towards the final score. However, the stakes were high still. Bragging rights are essential for a healthy kibitzer.

For Handknit however, it was not to be. Chris played a series of “conventional” sacrifices to fin a winning position. Whereas the previous game had Chris initially looking fatigued, here he looked downright careless. The computer may agree with the moves, but that does not change the look and tone of the game. I have not analyzed this game. However, I definitely encourage you to see it. [LINK]

There were certainly other interesting games in the tournament. Henry Vu and Daniel Glasroth fought a bitter endgame at the very beginning. Harthausian never could find the initiative against Chris. Inadvertently you spent every game cheering for them. Hoping that the underdog would find some defence for the artillery trained on them.

The bullet tournament, while having a disappointing turnout, was a chance for Jonathan Hay to run circles around people, with some nauseatingly solid chess. Finally, I goaded him into playing the bongcloud, an opening akin to shooting yourself in the foot. It took everything in him to ignore the self imposed destruction and find some way to repair the situation. Incredibly, his sheer skill was able to produce a win. Certainly a memorable match, where the tournament favourite suddenly became the underdog after a few opening moves.

Shoutout to Wilson Sy and Edmund Chan for playing ambitiously and with care, even against
opponents much stronger than them!

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated. It’s great to see people using Discord and the chat to connect with one another!

August 21 Update

Below, please find a weekly update report written by Coach and former Events Coordinator Sahan:

This week the chess club, having had some community input on Discord, is switching back to Arena tournaments. In addition, we will be hosting the tournaments on chess.com. The move to chess.com will not be permanent. We intend to foster a similar player base to our lichess page, so as to give our club access to variants that are only available on chess.com.

The main variant that came to define the late nights spent at the Hart House Chess Club was certainly bughouse. A variant only available on chess.com, so in our quest to capture some essence of the atmosphere in the reading room, we are aiming at broadening our online platform.

In addition, we have variants that are new to the club. Many members are no doubt unfamiliar with four player chess. No doubt it seems impossible to keep people invested in a game so seemingly opposed to chess, but I hope that you will keep an open mind and feel a sense of adventure as we try out new ideas at the club!

Finally, congratulations are in order for Henry Vu for winning the Hart House Blitz.

Recap of the Week

Below, please find a report written by Sahan on last week’s tournaments and on all of the exciting things happening at HHCC:

Last week the Hart House Chess Club expanded on their latest initiatives. Mark Plotkin provided yet another puzzle and video, and our discord became more active, and is hopefully on its way to become a kibitzer’s paradise.

Congratulations are in order for Chris Knox who had a perfect score in the blitz tournament securing a well earned first place. We hope as many people will join the bullet tournaments as did the blitz!

Yet on another front, we would like to thank everyone posting and responding to Mark’s puzzles on Facebook. It is great to see people coming together and taking the time to figure out the solution to each puzzle. You can find this week’s puzzle at the following [LINK] — be sure to give it a try before the solution comes out next week!

Push towards Discord

Below, please find a weekly update from Sahan, including some details about a new way to stay connected with old friends…

Last week was the beginning of a movement at the Hart House Chess Club towards greater communication between members. We may not fully recreate the warmth of the Reading Room will over a chat room in an online tournament, but we think we could come close! You can find our Discord server at this [LINK].

With our move towards a Swiss tournament for the Blitz, players have more time in between
games, and are able to kibitz more freely. Trying to stay true to our slogan, ‘The Kibitzer is King’,
we hope to have more communication between groups of players on discord, especially for the

Sahan Karunaratne will be on Discord for the duration of the blitz tournament. Many of you
know him personally, and we hope that may encourage you to join us!

A discussion of the previous week would not be complete without mentioning Mark Plotkin and
his puzzles. Expect puzzles and solutions to be posted on Facebook, with the links available with the Friday email!

Congratulations are in order for ‘ChessMaster’ for winning the blitz, and ‘Itsjustahobby’ for
winning the bullet!

First-Ever Hart House Online Swiss Tournament!

Below is a report written by the club’s very own Sahan Karunaratne on the first tournament of this kind, along with some exciting news about … online Bughouse Chess!

Hart House Chess Club’s blitz Swiss tournament went off to a flying start surrounded by the excitement of a new tournament format. Then immediately everyone felt the meditative calm of having a long wait in-between games. Feeling for the first time in an online tournament the ability to spectate was refreshing, and had more in common with an in-person tournament. While no one tried it out, this week we are certainly encouraging the use of the Discord for chatting amongst members in between games! After all, we are a club where the Kibitzer is King.

Our Discord can be found [HERE]

Congratulations are in order for the SeriouslyDoubtful with an assured win! [LINK]

Hart House Bullet remained the same, with no new additions. However, the consecutive game format of a standard Lichess tournament does seem to complement the bullet tourney. SeriouslyDoubtful again dominated this format this week. [LINK]

Starting from the following week, we’re replacing the Rapid events with Bughouse tournaments to try something new! Here’s a link to the first one taking place on July 31st: [LINK].

New Additions to HHCC Online

Below, please find an update from Sahan about a wonderful new feature of HHCC Online and some news about tournaments!

There are exciting news at the Hart House Chess Club this week!

First we shall have Mark Plotkin going over our first weekly puzzle at the end of the week. The puzzle shall be sent out to all of you with our Friday email, and subsequently Mark will go over it on Sunday. You can find the puzzles and Mark’s video solution on the HHCC Facebook page — here’s a [LINK] to the first video!

In addition, this Friday we shall be having our very first Swiss blitz tournament. The tournament
will be 7 rounds, with a 3+1 time control. Bullet will undergo no changes, but rapid will be in the
evening. (We’ll host the rapids later in the evening than last week so that more people can attend!)

This week we had Mark win the bullet, and Henry Vu win both the rapid and the blitz!