Learn to Play Chess Workshop — Fall 2019

Starting September 20th, Sahan Karunaratne, who was the External Events Coordinator in 2018-2019, will be hosting a 8-lesson workshop to introduce beginners totally new to the game or with very little training to the wonderful world of chess! Join Sahan and your fellow chess club members on Friday evenings, 5-6 pm in the Reading Room (please see below for details and a tentative syllabus) as you explore the rules, and learn about chess notation, game analysis, strategy and tactics!


Tentative Syllabus

September 20th – The Rules of the Game

September 27th – Foreshadowing Tactics: Board Vision and Blunder Capitalization

October 4th – Chess Notation Key Squares and Move by Move Positional Changes

October 11th – Foreshadowing Strategy: Checkmating Patterns

October 25th – Introduction to Tactics: The Double Attack and the Skewer

November 1st – Pins

November 15h – Introduction to Strategic Thinking – Opening, Middlegame and Endgame

November 22nd – Combining Tactics and Strategy

(NB: There will be no lesson on October 18th)

Where: Hart House Reading Room
When: Friday evenings, 5:00 – 6:00 PM

Free entry for Hart House Chess Club Members!*

*A student membership costs only $25 and is valid for the entire year.

For whom is the Beginners Workshop intended?
The Beginners Workshop is for players who are either new to the game or else have
little to no training game.

What will you be able to do after completing all the workshops?

At the end of the workshop, you will be able to employ simple methods of evaluating positions; you will be able to apply common tactics such as forks, skewers and pins while thinking multiple moves ahead. Most importantly, you will drastically reduce the number of blunders you make (which will take your game to a new level!) and be able to defend against a considerable number of dubious traps. On the strategic side, you will be able to utilize opening principles to further strengthen both your attacks and defenses. You will also have developed the basic skills necessary in pawn endgames at their disposal and have knowledge of other key endgames.

What can you expect from each workshop?

The lessons are designed to train students in using multiple different recurring themes in chess to their advantage. This workshops are structured in such a way that reinforces past material and foreshadows upcoming topics. Each workshop will be mostly comprised of puzzles that are designed so as to allow the instructor to highlight the key patterns and ideas. Most lessons will incorporate a discussion of a real game to illustrate concepts in action.

Finally, please note that the motivation for providing these chess lessons is not just to make you better chess players but also to give you a sense of community at the Hart House Chess Club. We intend to make you confident in saying that you are a part of the chess community at large! We are trying our best to ensure that after these workshops are over, you will be able to read chess books, ask specific questions of your peers and thus rapidly improve. You can expect, if nothing else, that the workshops will demystify a lot of what is going on in the club, and any trepidation you feel will disappear!


Sahan Karunaratne

Sahan Karunaratne
Current CFC rating: 1495

SahanSahan has employed a vast number of strategies when teaching chess in the past as the president of his high school chess club. Some, such as exhaustively and exclusively reviewing an extremely complicated game, proved not to be beneficial or enjoyable. Others, such as starting of with the examination of simple positions and then turning to differing positions with the same underlying ideas but with increasing complexity have met with great success.

In particular, Sahan has discovered this use of puzzles to be an effective tool to train one of the skills most crucial to chess improvement: pattern recognition. In his lessons, he hopes to preserve the same joy that comes from playing chess, which, unfortunately, is often missing in chess instruction. Thus, he likes to place as much emphasis on solving puzzles as is reasonable, and he especially enjoys displaying beautiful games of chess.

Sahan would also like to add that he would not have been an active member of the Hart House Chess Club if it had not been for Panayioti Tsialas, who was an executive at the time. He constantly encouraged Sahan to take part in chess club events, participate in tournaments and spent a considerable amount of time when giving me thorough advice on how to improve his game. Sahan hopes to be able to replicate at least some of what Panayoti was able to do for his experience at the Hart House Chess Club in his capacity as a coach.

Chess Bio
Events Coordinator at HHCC 2018-19
– 2nd year studying for an Applied Mathematics with Statistics Specialist
– Learnt chess at the age of 5
– Began playing rated tournaments after joining the Hart House Chess Club

Explore Hart House Welcome BBQ

Chess Club is delighted to be a part of Hart House’s Explore Barbecue again this year.

Join us on September 12th from 12 to 2pm for a fun chess-themed activity, a blitz game, and free food generously provided by Hart House. This is a great opportunity to engage with some of the highlights of student life at Hart House, and we hope to see you there!



Clubs Fair 2019

Hart House Chess Club was delighted to participate in the UTSU Clubs Festival on September 4th — we were thrilled to see a large number of new and returning chess friends! You can read Elly Chen’s report on the event below:

Clubs Fair 2019
Treasurer Sean Lei and Joseph Bellissimo introducing visitors to Hart House Chess Club!

Alongside Hart House’s 100th year anniversary, HHCC is proud to share some wonderful events and services offered by the chess club at the UTSU Club Fair on Sep 4. Located within the family circle of Hart House on the front campus next to the academic student unions, HHCC drew attention from many students and even some from the neighboring Archery Club!

UTSU Club Fair is a once-a-year event usually hosted during frosh week before school starts. It gives perspective and current students a great opportunity to learn more about the on-campus resources as well as student clubs. This year, HHCC not only has 2 representatives from the executive team, Elly and Sean, but also a dedicated member Joseph Bellissimo who shared his valuable experience with interested students.

During the 3-hour slot, more than 140 students indicated interests in joining HHCC, and many showed great interests in the beginner lessons for absolute beginners. Sean and Joseph had pleasure meeting an International Master while Elly had been sharing her experience with students outside the booth. This event is not possible without the valuable contribution Director of Communications and Fundraiser Panayoti Tsialas and Director of Communications Alyssa Rusonik.

HHCC meets every Friday 4 – 11 p.m. in the Reading Room in Hart House. We welcome all students and community members from all chess skill levels, and we’re excited to share yet another exciting year with everyone. A welcome party will be held on Sep 13 starting at 6 pm, and we look forward to seeing all of you who are reading this post!

No photo description available.



Alyssa Rusonik – Director of Communications

AlyssaWith very fond childhood memories of playing the game, Alyssa is thrilled to be returning to the world of chess in her capacity as Director of Communications where she hopes her past experiences coordinating Debate Tournaments will be of service to the club. Alyssa has been the Tournament Director of a number of events, each of which brought together over 200 competitors from across the province. Apart from chess and debating, her hobbies include the study of political and art history, and literature; she also enjoys playing tennis and piano, and skating.

Alyssa is a first-year student and UofT National Scholar pursuing a joint degree in economics and mathematics, along with a minor in history. She is honoured to be a part of the Hart House Chess Club this year!

Elly Chen – President/Secretary

EllyElly is a fourth-year student double majoring in Human Biology and Sociology. She strongly believes that the greater good of the society can only come from the dynamic interaction of people who strive to be better selves to better be themselves, much like chess players who strive to achieve self excellence and full potentials through constant game analysis and self improvement.

Other than her love for chess, HHCC being the unique organization within Hart House has made her feel safe, welcomed and supported. She wants to contribute back to HHCC as much as she can before graduation, and was inspired by last year’s execs, particularly the former president/secretary who made initiatives to include women in chess and encouraged her even more. She’s happy to serve on the committee as the president/secretary for this upcoming year, and she looks forward to learning from and growing with everyone within and outside HHCC.

Jennifer Jiang – Fundraising Director


Jennifer Xueyan Jiang is the Fundraising Representative at HHCC, who is in charge of hosting a series of events at HHCC including Fundraising Open Tournaments and kids’ favorite Junior Tournaments. She is flattered to work with other brilliant executives and the Fundraising Committee at HHCC. Jennifer is at the beginner level of chess and is deeply fascinated by a character in the TV show Person of Interest, who was teaching an artificial intelligence that ‘anyone who looks on the world as if it was a game of chess deserves to lose.

Before her interest in chess, she became a second-dan player at Go, an ancient Asian board game. Jennifer also enjoys her academic life as a third-year international student at Rotman Commerce at UofT and wants to pursue a career in the accounting industry. Jennifer shows her great enthusiasm in reading economics magazines and watching suspense movies.