Crystal Cao — Treasurer

Crystal is a second-year PhD student at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering studying the mechanism of cancer drug resistance. Before coming to U of T for an undergrad degree in Engineering Science, Crystal played competitively during middle school and high school (provincial and national tournaments). She also served as the VP of her school chess club and organized school-wide chess competitions and tournaments with neighbouring schools. Crystal has been a Hart House Chess Club member since undergrad time and now is excited to serve as Treasurer to support the club!

Having had the great opportunities to enjoy all the fun in-person activities and tournaments hosted by HHCC, Crystal understands the frustration new members have with online activities. She plans to dedicate herself to fully supporting online chess events and competitions, and hopefully also the smooth transition towards in-person events and over-the-board chess.

Victor Zheng — Co-Communications

Victor is a second-year undergraduate student at U of T pursuing a specialist in Computer Science. Currently, he is one of the Communications Directors for the Hart House Chess Club and is thrilled to be a part of the club’s amazing history.

At a young age, Victor began chess with his 2 older brothers. He went on to play regularly in chess tournaments in his hometown of Vancouver, and frequently played at chess tournaments in BC. He has volunteered, coached, and played in numerous chess tournaments and has experience working with students. His biggest chess achievement was beating FM Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux at the Canadian Chess Challenge in St. John’s in 2018. Believing in expanding the reach of chess to students regardless of their background, Victor started a chess club at his high school in 2019. Victor believes that chess can be taught to anyone, and strives to promote an open and hospitable environment for everyone at the HHCC.

Being in the footsteps of giants of the club has only further driven him to share his love for chess with the HHCC community. He recognizes the incredible legacy and the unbelievable impact that the HHCC has made on chess in Canada and looks forward to bringing the chess club and the Canadian chess community to even greater heights.

2022 Varsity Chess Team

The members of U of T’s Varsity Chess Team represent U of T at various events throughout the year. The 2022 Varsity Chess Team is made up of the following students (by order of CFC rating):

CM Koosha Jaferian 

CFC: 2349

FIDE: 2218

NM Chris Knox

CFC: 2340

FIDE: 2187

NM Sergey Noritsyn

CFC: 2332

FIDE: 2111

NM Joseph Bellissimo

CFC: 2276

FIDE: 2203

WIM Yunshan Li 

CFC: unrated

FIDE: 2262

2021-2022 IVY League

On Friday, April 1st the Hart House Chess Club, at the University of Toronto, hosted the 4th annual Ivy League Challenge. The competition featured a modified online team battle where teams of students from the University of Toronto, University of Chicago, Princeton University, and the University of Waterloo battled it out in sets of intense matches to determine the dominating Chess power on the East coast. Being the second time that the event’s been held online, the event was carried out on the Lichess platform under 15m + 10s time controls, with each university fielding a full team of four players.

Team UofT was led by our very own CM Koosha Jaferian. A PhD student in computer science, with a lot more to show than just simple calculation, known for his strong positional play and being able to hold down the fort on board 1 even against the best of competition. On board 2 WIM Yunshan Li looked to replicate some of the recent successes she achieved at the KCF Cup, which included a 8/9 performance and a win over a grandmaster. Christopher Knox was slotted in on board 3, where he scored a sensational 5/5 at CUCC in February. Finally, to complete the line up Joseph Bellissimo returned back in the fold on board 4, ready to show us what we were missing out on in his temporary leave from competitive play.

On paper, UofT faced a tough field. UChicago brought two GMs to the event (Awonder Liang and Praveen Balakrishnan) while Princeton fielded one GM (Andrew Tang) and one IM (Daniel Gurevich). Waterloo, who edged us out at CUCC after a tense tiebreak, was also led by IM Michael Song on board one. Tension was high.

In the first round it was UChicago vs Waterloo and Princeton vs UofT. However, things didn’t go as planned for all the favourites. In a series of several exciting up-and-down battles, UChicago’s board 2 GM ended up falling to Waterloo’s Richard Chen and Princeton’s board 2 IM lost to UofT’s Yunshan Li! While Chicago overcame that setback to defeat Waterloo 3-1, Princeton was held to a standoff as as Chris Knox picked up a win on board 3 for UofT to tie the match to 2-2.

In round 2, UChicago looked to extend its lead against Princeton, while UofT hoped to avenge their narrow loss in the CUCC against their rivals at Waterloo. Following a nice win by Awonder Liang on board one in a matchup of GMs, Chicago went on to sweep Princeton 4-0. While Joseph won on board 4, draws on boards 2 and 3 resulted in UofT’s second consecutive tied match. Sadly despite having some chances in the wild game on board 3, Chris Knox was unable to successfully the hunt down of William Li’s fleeing King, ultimately leading to a draw. However, the round’s performance still left UofT only a full match point behind UChicago going into the last round.

With Princeton and Waterloo sitting on half a match point each, they were fighting in the last round to overtake UofT for second place. Hoping that UChicago could beat UofT. With a win, UofT would tie UChicago for first, but anything less would keep the door to second place wide open. With a quick draw against Koosha on board one, Awonder Liang secured the top board one prize. His teammates finished the job, sweeping the bottom three boards, and concluding a perfect event for Kapil Chandran (board 3) and William Graif (board 4). With UChicago well ahead on 3 match points and 10.5 game points, Princeton defeated Waterloo by the narrowest of margins (2.5-1.5) to edge the other teams for second place. Though they collected 1.5 match points to UofT’s 1 and Waterloo’s 0.5, all three teams finished second with a total of 4.5 game points.

At the end of the event, several prizes were awarded to individual players for their performances. After a last round draw, Richard Chen shared the board 2 prize with Praveen Balakrishnan. Furthermore based on their flawless results, Kapil Chandran and William Graif of UChigago won the best board 3 and board 4 categories. Finally, the best game prize of the event was awarded to Kapil Chandran’s final round victory over Chris Knox.

Despite such a bittersweet result, with opportunities to edge it out into a shared first place, UofT ended up placing 2nd. Several amazing performances by our board 2 and board 3, Yunshan Li and Chris Knox proved to be the backbone to the team’s success in the event. Currently, we hope to continue to build up our roster’s strength and come back stronger next year! We’re looking forward to taking the IVY League crown next season…

Special thanks to the Hart House Chess Club Executives for putting setting up the event. A further message of appreciation for Jonathan Yu for providing commentary and live coverage of the event on twitch. We’d also like to thank the other schools for their enthusiastic participation. We hope to welcome everyone back to Toronto for an in-person classical event next school year!

FIDE Binance Business Schools Super Cup 2021

The University of Toronto participated in the FIDE Binance Business Schools Super Cup 2021 this past weekend, 9-11 July. Organized by SKOLKOVO, the Moscow School of Management, the event attracted several other Russian schools, but was truly international with teams from Bangladesh, Fiji, England, India, Mexico, Philippines, Switzerland, USA, Zambia, and of course our Canadian team. 32 teams were sorted into four groups of eight, with a 7-round round robin group stage played over the first two days. The top two teams from each group would qualify to the knockout final on the last day. Rapid games (10’+2”) were played on lichess, with standard anti-cheating measures in place.

Placed in group C, Toronto began as the second rating favourites behind Moscow School of Management, led by GM Joël Lautier, with a strong Adam Smith Business School from Scotland looking like a threat to take a qualifying spot as well. Toronto was represented by regular team players Koosha Jaferian, Joseph Bellissimo, and Dai Wenzhi on the top 3 boards, and joined by Dayana Nasybullina on board 4, with team captain Tanner McNamara and Henry Prickett listed as alternates.

2021 FIDE Binance Business Schools Championship – Group C

In the first round, we managed a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Moscow, putting both teams in a good position to qualify, but with a lot of chess to go. In a great finish to day one, Toronto gathered all 12 possible points from the next three rounds (game points, ahead of match points, were used to determine qualification) – against Business School IMD (Switzerland, round 2), Chicago Booth (USA, round 3), and Escuela Superior de Comercio y Administr (Mexico, round 4). Moscow had dropped more points, but already had a 2.5-1.5 victory over Adam Smith. At the end of day 1, Toronto led the group with 14 points, Moscow trailed with 12.5, and Adam Smith was just behind at 11.5. The round 6 matchup between Toronto and Adam Smith looked set to decide qualification, with Moscow, on paper, having easier games the second day.

In round 5, both Moscow and Adam Smith scored clean sweeps while Toronto dropped a half point to Brook Besor University from Zambia, narrowing the margin a little. In round six, we routed Adam Smith 3.5-0.5 in a match that was far closer than the final score indicated. Joseph held his game a pawn down against his IM opponent on board 2, while the highlight of the match for me was Koosha coming from two pawns down to win his game on board 1. With that score line, we clinched our spot in the knockout, though places were still to be decided – Moscow picked up another half point on us and could overtake us in the next round. Waiting for us in the quarterfinals would be another Russian school – either Perm State or Ranepa, who were guaranteed first and second in group D, in some order. In round 7, I took the opportunity to rest Koosha and play Henry, making his debut for the competitive team. He rewarded us handsomely with a brilliant victory, leading us to a 4-0 sweep over the Indian Institute of Management Jammu 2. With that we held off Moscow to win the group, having collected a remarkable 25 out of a possible 28 game points.

In the quarterfinals on the next day, we were paired against a strong Ranepa team that actually scored the most match points in their group, but finished second to Perm State by half a game point. This was such a stressful match for me to watch – while Joseph won quickly on board 2 to put us up 1-0, things were not looking great on the other boards. Koosha had a fine position,

but I was wondering how many winning chances he had. Dayana got into a spot of trouble on board 4, and Dai Wenzhi was forced to give up a rook for two pieces on board 3. Thanks to some imprecise play from her opponent, Dayana got active and was able to make a draw. Koosha played into the endgame, but the final result of a draw was no surprise. With the score 2-1 in our favour, I felt an armageddon tiebreak was looming as Dai Wenzhi was facing two pieces and two pawns for his rook now. By some miracle, and aided by time trouble, he somehow forced a draw against his FM opponent, and we were perhaps a bit lucky to advance 2.5-1.5. The rest of Sunday though, luck was not on our side. We faced MIPT in the semifinals, a team we had previously tied 2-2 at the Kasparov Chess Foundation Cup. While Koosha held a draw against his titled opponent, the rest of the team couldn’t capitalize on their chances, and we dropped the match 3.5-0.5, our first match defeat of the whole event. The day was not yet over, though, as we had a chance to play for third place, this time against our group rivals and hosts, Moscow School of Management. We could not, however, replicate our 2-2 result against them, and we finished in 4th place after a 3-1 defeat. Dai Wenzhi played brilliantly in his victory, but we did not get enough on the other boards. There was a chance, for a moment, missed in time trouble to make a draw on board 1. On board 4, it seemed we got an okay position, but it turned into a sour endgame. And board 2 was a wild sacrificial affair that began from a good position for UofT, and I can only imagine there were many twists and turns and imprecisions at the rapid time control. For most of the game, all three results seemed possible, but it was Moscow emerging victorious on that board and in the match.

After Toronto had no games left to distract me, the organizers graciously invited me on to the live broadcast, which previously hosted FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich and 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, among other guests – what a fun experience for me! I must say, they did a phenomenal job with the event and with the broadcast (there were streams in both Russian and English). A huge thank you to the organizers, FIDE, and the many sponsors, with a special thank you to Oxana Kosteniuk, Alexey Goryachev, Ivan Khvorov, Tania Karali, and of course the arbiter Alex Holowczak – they all did a great job!

A huge congratulations to the winners from Shri Ram College of Commerce from India, after defeating MIPT in a best-of-2 final. Well done to MIPT, too, and congratulations to the hosts from Moscow on a well-deserved third place finish.

Written by Tanner McNamara

Sponsors and Organizers

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!