Canadian University Chess Championship 2019: Registrations Now Open!!!

The 2019 Canadian University Chess Championship is coming-up soon and we are now accepting registrations from anyone who wishes to participate in the event, regardless of skill-level. There is no qualifying procedure and everyone is welcome to play. Registration and accommodation fees will be covered by Hart House Chess Club.

This year, our Club will participate in the competition with five teams of four players each for a total of twenty spots: sixteen spots will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis, whereas four spots will be offered to those with the highest rating. The line-ups of the teams will be decided by the executive board of the club after taking into consideration – but without being bound by – any preferences the participants will express. Waitlisted players will also be notified in the event some players decide to drop out. The deadline to register is January 7th at 2 PM.

If you are interested in participating, send us an e-mail to with your full name and rating (if you have one) and we will have you signed-up. Registered players will have a chance to represent UofT in Hamilton, Ontario from January 12th to January 13th, as this year’s CUCC is hosted by McMaster University.


When: January 12th-13th, 2019

Where: McMaster University, Hamilton, ON

Tournament: 5-round team Swiss (4 players per team) Each team may have a reserve fifth player, who may be substituted at will. The board order must be determined before the first round. The board order must generally follow ratings.

Eligibility: All players must be University Students or staff members. All participants must also be members of the Chess Federation of Canada or the Fédération Québécoise des Echecs.


Saturday, January 12th
Registration: 8 AM – 9 AM
Round 1: 9 AM – 12 PM
Round 2: 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Round 3: 4 PM – 7 PM

Sunday, January 13th
Round 4: 8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Round 5: 12 PM – 3 PM
Prizes: 3:30 PM

Time control: 75 minutes + 30 seconds increment/move

Hotel: Sheraton Hamilton Hotel


List of things you are responsible for

1. Be a member of the Hart House Chess Club [mandatory]

You can do this at Hart House main desk for $25.

2. Bring your Student or Staff ID

Make sure to bring your student or staff ID to the CUCC, as organizers reserve the right to check that all players belong to their registered universities.

3. Fill out the travel waiver form, attached as document [will be sent out to you later]

You can leave it at Hart House main desk and ask them to place it in Chess Club mailbox.

4. Chess Federation of Canada membership

The CUCC will be rated with the Chess Federation of Canada (CFC).  Some of you are already active members of the chess tournament scene, others are not.  If not,
you will have a published rating based on your results, after this tournament.  You can get an annual CFC membership on-line for $48.

5. Costs

Hotel fees and registration fees are all accommodated by Hart House Chess Club. Participants will be asked to cover their travel fees.

6. In your registration e-mail, please indicate your student number, full name, and most frequently checked e-mail account.

Send us an e-mail with this info at

7. Keep us posted

If you have any questions, let us know.  If something has come up and you cannot make it, let us know as soon as possible.


The CUCC is a team event that will provide for an excellent tournament experience and a wonderful team-bonding event, so come prepared to play some chess and enjoy yourself!

2018 Hart House Holiday Open: Early Bird Registration by December 12th!!!

Where: Great Hall, Main Floor, Hart House, University of Toronto, 7 Hart House Circle
When: December 14th-16th, 2018.
Round times:  Friday 14th at 6:00pm, Saturday 15th at 10am & 4pm, Sunday 16th at 10am & 4pm.
Style: 5 rounds in 6 rating sections – Crown (2200+), Under 2200, Under 1900, Under 1600, Under 1300 & U1000 Sections.
Time Control:  90 minutes + 30 seconds increment per move from move 1.

Prize Fund: $5000 based on 120 entries!
Rating: All sections will be CFC rated. Crown, Under 2200 & Under 1900 sections will also be FIDE rated.
Byes: Maximum 2 half-point byes in rounds 1-4 if requested in advance before the start of Round 1.
Arbiters:  Alex Ferreira, Tyler Longo
Organizer: Hart House Chess Club


  • Email registrations must be completed by December 12th, or else considered late.
  • After pre-registering by email, please bring cash payment to the playing site before 5:30pm on December 14th, or mail a cheque which arrives by December 12th. If online registrants paying in cash arrive after 5:30pm on December 14th, they cannot be guaranteed a pairing in Round 1. No cheques on-site.
  • To register in advance by mailing a cheque (arrival by December 12th, 2018), make cheque payable to Hart House Chess Club, at 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto ON, M5S 3H3. No postdated cheques.
  • Registrants after December 12th, 2018 are not guaranteed to be paired in Round 1, and must pay on-site entry fee ($80).
  • Players taking a bye in Round 1 can pay the entry fee thirty minutes before the start of Round 2 (9:30am).

Entry Fee: $60 in advance, $80 cash only on-site. Extra $20 to play up a section. Playing up is allowed only for players within 100 rating points of the section’s minimum rating. For example: a player in the Under 1600 section who wants to play up in the Under 1900 section must have a rating no lower than 1500.

Discounts: $20 less University of Toronto students. Free entry for IMs and WIMs if registered by December 7th.

Special Discount: Free entry for players who have never played in any CFC or FIDE rated tournament. Chess Federation of Canada (CFC) membership purchase still required for $48, and entrants will not be eligible for prize money.

Other Info: Please bring chess sets and clocks. Registrants must be current CFC members or bring payment prior to playing –


Facebook Page: TheHartHouseChessClub

Chess Lecture With IM Kaiqi Yang

Attend a special lecture by International Master Kaiqi Yang who will analyze the games of two Chess Olympiad gold medalists as well as some of the key elements to their success. Kaiqi has personal connections to both winning teams so don’t miss this rare and wonderful opportunity!

This event is open to all members of the Hart House Chess club. The lecture will be an hour, followed by a Q and A session.

When: Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, 4:30-6 pm
Where: Reading Room, Hart House
Cost: Free for HHCC Members / Non-members pay $5


Hart House Chess Club Raises $175 to Support Impoverished Youth in Brazil

On Saturday, November 17th, several chess enthusiasts enjoyed an opportunity to face Zehn Nasir, a Hart House Chess Club executive and a National Chess Master, in an exciting simultaneous chess exhibition in the South Dining Room. Having South American family himself, Zehn made an inspiring presentation on why it is important to raise funds for Brazilian youth, inviting people to show altruism for a good cause (raising funds for impoverished youth in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

In the end, a mixture of the simul and the online campaign raised “more funds than expected, but slightly less than the target.” bughouse star, helmsknight even made a guest appearance to add to the excitement! We would like to extend our thanks to National Master Zehn Nasir and to everyone who came out to play in the simul! The Hart House Chess Club always works to promote an equitable environment and hopes that its contribution in Rio will make a meaningful change in a less fortunate child’s life.

Ivy League Challenge: The Tigers Roar!

When it was announced that the 2018 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Chess Championship would be hosted in San Francisco, California, many North-Eastern Universities heard the news with mixed feelings. On one hand, who would not welcome a December trip from the Narnian lands of New England to the warm and sunny West Coast? However, securing enough funds for long flights and expensive hotels is not the easiest thing in the world for University chess clubs, which are usually on a budget. To give the reader a sense of the numbers, to send just one team of four players to this year’s Pan-Am, our chess club from Toronto would have to spend over 4,000 USD, a significant amount which, most clubs don’t have easy access to. We had to look for more affordable alternatives. We had to become creative.

Ivy League Challenge (with logo).jpg
The official Tournament Poster was designed by Loukia Tzortzopoulou

And then came the Ivy League Challenge

For the above-mentioned reason, it was a special honor for me to be a part of the Inaugural Ivy League Challenge, an invitational University Team Chess Competition, which welcomed to the vibrant city of Toronto six teams from five very strong non-chess scholarship Canadian and US Universities in the North East: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Michigan and University of Toronto. I’ve had the privilege of having a fabulous vantage point for the tournament as its proud Director and I’d be happy to share some inside stories from the event. To begin with, the organizers had set the bar very high by promising to host the second strongest University Team Chess Competition in the Continent (the first being the PanAms along with its “Final Four” leg) and they certainly came very close to fulfilling their promise.

As you will find a tournament table in this article, there is no need to list all the participants. You will probably agree, though, that it was a field that any North American tournament would have been very proud of. A fine blend of titled players, bright students from top-rank Universities, former Junior World Champions, Olympic Chess Players and, simply put, accomplished individuals, joined the event to support their Universities; in short a company of people which I felt pretty uneasy to Direct. Add to that my companion for the tournament, a group of ultra-dedicated students and Alumni from the University of Toronto – all of them incredibly hard-working and driven volunteers – and you can understand what my experience was like in Toronto!

Arrival and Forecasts

The guest teams arrived in Toronto in the evening of the 8thof November and they were accommodated at the Manulife Center, a beautiful 51-floor residential tower, conveniently located 5 minutes away from UofT’s Main Campus and connected by a retail complex on the main floor and basement. The building offered unbeatable amenities to its residents, including indoor access to two subway stations, grocery stores, movie theatres and an entire shopping mall. In an act of generous hospitality, UofT covered the expenses for the accommodation of the guest teams, while the players of the invited Universities, in the spirit of solidarity, paid for their trips to Ontario. As I happen to have had a student affiliation with three of the five invited Universities, I can hardly overstate my excitement when I saw them all playing together, especially considering that this was a tournament from which each of them had a chance to emerge victorious.

The Manulife Center proved very accommodating for the players and the organizers

To say that they all had a shot to win the tournament does not, of course, mean that their winning chances were equal. With an average rating of 2328 FIDE, Harvard seemed to be the clear favorite for first place, whereas Michigan and Princeton followed very closely with an average rating of 2264 and 2241 respectively. Toronto B also looked dangerous with its 2164 average rating while the lower ranks of the starting list were occupied by Yale (1842) and Toronto A (1765). As the Tournament Director, I was required to be unbiased but, as an avid chess fan I could not resist the temptation of making a forecast as to who would be the winner of the Inaugural Ivy League Challenge.

For a long time, I assumed, perhaps a bit romantically and naively, that there was some sort of team chemistry that shined during University Team Chess Competitions, those very unique events in which players are not only representing themselves, but also their Academic Institutions. Players who decide to play in these tournaments are often boosted by an immense amount of pride that is not present in other events, and perhaps even a certain encouragement to bring their A-game. It is already hard enough to lose a game, but to disappoint your teammates and your University is a much bigger blow. Thus, my rather unconventional guess was that the proudest and most closely-knit team would become the winner of the first Ivy League Challenge.

Hart House Chess Club’s beautiful home!

Day 1: Michigan takes the lead!

On the first day of the event the games were held in the Hart House, a Collegiate Gothic-revival complex, established in 1919 and celebrating its 100 years in the next year. Originally conceived as a place for cultural, intellectual and recreational function, Hart House quickly became University of Toronto’s main student activity center, featuring a wealth of facilities, including an art gallery, a theatre, a library, reading and sitting rooms, lounges and reception areas, several music rooms and even a gymnasium with a swimming pool! First-time visitors, especially those who are on the young side, tend to confuse its interior with Hogwarts, thanks to the college symbols on the brown walls, the horizontal lines, the stress placed on masses rather than silhouettes and the reduction of picturesque motifs to a minimum. The overall design acquires a high degree of stylistic unity through the calm, monumental impression it creates.

Panagiotis Tsialas delivered the welcome address. Most people call him just Panos and stop writing his name after five letters because of the chaos that ensues around letter number 9.

The opening ceremony was brief and simple with yours truly welcoming the teams and introducing each of the tournament staff to the players. After observing a minute of silence in solidarity with the Remembrance Day services, happening in front of Hart House, the microphone was turned over to the Arbiters, Weiwen Leung and Alex Ferreira, who announced the tournament rules with special emphasis on the tie-breakers. While they were delivering their speech, I found myself staring at the ten shiny trophies and medals, which had been carefully placed in the most prominent spot of the playing hall, almost beckoning to the players “get me if you can”!

Who’s going to win the precious?

Much to my amazement, the first round started right on time with a couple more pleasant surprises to follow. Despite the (perfectly understandable, given their price) lack of Digital Chess Boards, all Round 1 games were broadcast live on the club’s website thanks to the tireless efforts of three UofT students who volunteered to transfer the moves to a livechess platform manually! And though the live-streaming was not repeated in later rounds, as it was deemed potentially distracting to the players, the hard work that was put into the project showed the high level of commitment, displayed by the tournament volunteers. The latter, kept broadcasting the results live throughout the tournament, not to mention that they went out of their way to post all the tournament games, within minutes after the end of each round.

Hart House Chess Club Execs Leslie Tang and Sahan Karunaratne did a remarkable job in broadcasting the games

Going back to the actual games, however – which, by the way, you can view here – Day 1 saw Michigan University winning both its matches against Princeton and Yale by the closest of margins (2.5 – 1.5) and climbing up to the place of the sole tournament leader. Harvard defeated Toronto A relatively comfortably but lost to Princeton in a glorious Round 2 match, whereas Toronto B and Yale also scored one victory and one loss, joining Harvard and Pricenton in tying for second place.

The unavoidable civil war between Toronto A and Toronto B took place in Round 2 of the tournament

Yale’s performance deserves some special praise here, not only because it defeated the higher rated Toronto B in Round 1 but, most importantly, because it boasts a very active and capable chess club which, sadly, has not in recent years received enough funding by the University to play in the PanAms; and yet, under the superb captainship of IM Matt Larson, they decided to come out and play in the Ivy League Challenge.

Round 1 of the Ivy League Challenge is on!

I can’t recall any other surprises on Day 1, except for an unforseen and slightly embarrassing incident during the evening Round. Anticipating that the Hart House bell was scheduled to briefly play a couple of Remembrance melodies during the evening, I must have felt really smart when I made a special room booking for the games of Round 2. Located in a quiet side of the building and almost totally insulated from the bell noise, the Hart House South Dining Room truly presented the perfect location for a chess tournament. Thanks to my genius call the players wouldn’t even notice that there was a bell ringing in the distance. Like a true chess player, I was thinking several moves ahead and loving it. Now imagine my surprise when a separate building, adjacent to the South Dining Room, started ringing its own separate bell. And, boy, it was LOUD! I quickly closed all the windows, I provided earplugs to the players and I started biting my nails, hoping that the bell-ringing would end soon. I was so desperate that I almost prayed for help to the souls of our ancestors, who fell for Canada’s liberty.

South Dining Room: Elegant but not as quiet as we had wanted it to be

Alas, the annoying sound, coming from a totally different direction, kept going for almost one hour, which, to me, felt like a century. During these uncomfortable moments, I began to empathize with Elmer Fudd the not so smart hunter who thinks he has trapped Bugs Bunny, but, while he’s proudly pointing his double-barreled shotgun to the rabbit hole, that “scwewy wabbit” simply takes the other exit and comes back to mock him. In any event, I did not notice any major blunders in any of the games during the time the bell was ringing and that was, in fact, my only consolation.


Day 2: A rally for three!

On Day 2, the games continued on the 31stfloor of the Manulife Center and the conditions looked ideal. A bright and spacious room with a beautiful view of the city was made available to the tournament organizers by the Residence Manager and, as though this was not enough, the Concierge gave their permission for setting-up a Skittles room in an adjacent private space, which featured, among other things, a luxury lounge and a pool table. As the games finished, the Skittles Room became livelier and livelier, with players and spectators strolling in to analyze their games and mingle.

The stage is ready for the dramatic moments of Round 3

There was, indeed, plenty to analyze as Round 3 saw Michigan lose to Harvard, and Princeton beat Toronto B, setting up the stage for that notoriously tricky situation, in which there is a tie between three teams, each of which has defeated the one but lost to the other. With the three strongest teams already having played each other, it suddenly became clear that the third or fourth tie-breaker could prove decisive and, to make matters even more complicated, Yale defeated Toronto A in Round 3, joining Harvard, Michigan and Princeton in the lead with 2 out of 3 match points and adding itself to the candidates for the prestigious trophy.

In the critical match for Round 3 Harvard beat Michigan. In a most interesting board 3 game, FM Mark Heimann tried 1…a6 against FM Varun Krishnan’s 1.e4

When Princeton comfortably beat Yale on Round 4, the situation became a bit clearer but the dust had by no means settled, as Harvard and Michigan had also won their Round 4 matches, sharing the lead with the “Tigers”. With just one round left, the fight for first place could not get any closer, as the three leading teams were tied not only in match points but also in their head-to-head results. The third tie-breaker, which was game-points, yielded the slightest edge to Princeton (11 points) over Harvard (10.5 points) and Michigan (10 points).

WGM Qiyu Zhou was Toronto’s most solid player, not losing a single game

With the field blown wide open and with every game point having the potential to prove decisive, the last round could easily become very stressful for the contestants. It seemed to be the perfect time for a pause allowing the players to unwind and catch their breath. Thankfully, the organizers had made sweet arrangements for this special occasion: a Saturday chess-pub night was on the tournament schedule, providing the participants with a unique opportunity to socialize in a friendly environment, have some yummy appetizers and relax before the last round.

Is this chess analysis happening on a pool table or are we witnessing a new way of playing bowling?

Unfortunately, new problems arose when three of the players were not allowed to enter “The Fortunate Fox” because they were only 18 years-old. When this happened, the rest of the squad, in a really moving gesture, did not just send these first-years back to their beds but decided instead to show solidarity and look for another place, where everybody could enjoy the social event together. But where could such a place be found? Thirty people, walking around the city on a Saturday night are not easy to fit in any restaurant without a prior booking.

Just to dispel with any suspicion this liquid you see on the table is just H2O

As time went by and no solution was in sight, the players were beginning to split up, leaving the organizers with a sad feeling of hopelessness. “Don’t worry!”, said to me one of my colleagues. “They look very happy! Each of them is doing their own thing! They’re not upset or mad!” “Well, that’s what concerns me, Brett”, I replied. “They are having a good time separately, while we could be having a wonderful time together”.



Then a crazy idea dawned on me and it really was irresistible. They say that urgent times require urgent measures and this was definitely one such moment. I had to make up my mind really fast: “How many people do we have”, I asked. There were about 25 players still around. “Okay people. Come over to my house. All of you! Let’s go get some pop and chips and head over to my place.” And so it happened. We took the party to my apartment, where we were joined by my roommate’s two cats, Cleo and Luna!

A Queen drop on e7 left Isaac Martinez in awe and anguish

I will not go into details about what took place in my apartment that Saturday night, as what happens in Toronto should stay in Toronto, but I can honestly say that the players were a lot more open and talkative once they had a chance to meet each other in a friendly and casual environment. They played a lot of bughouse, they sang, they joked around and they even played college card games until 2 am.

Harvard’s IM Richard Wang clarifies to NM James Fu that he’s not gonna be the last to slap his hand on the table

It was indeed a most rewarding experience and everyone seemed to have a lot fun. Besides, rebuilding a city after an earthquake is still an easier task than cleaning up a house after hosting 25 joyful chess players for a party but that’s a story for another day to tell!

What is the TD shaking there?

Day 3: The Eye of the Tiger(s)

Entering the last day of the tournament, the organizers took the chess party back to Hart House. The final round was held in the famous Debates Room, which is known for its legendary debates, its vaulted ceiling, its impressive size and its elegant atmosphere. As we started the clocks, I could not help but wonder whether the party of the previous night would have any impact on the outcome of the games. We will never know the answer to that but what we do know is that the stakes were high in the final round, as three teams were tied on match points for first place, with Harvard and Michigan having slightly unfavorable tiebreaks compared to Princeton.

Hart House Debates Room stands out with its vaulted ceiling

As the room steadily emptied, the result per round rested on fewer and fewer individuals, with drawn game followed by drawn game. Harvard was left with a one point lead against Yale (2 – 1) with a single game to finish but needed to score at least half a game point more than Princeton to catch up with the “Tigers”. Princeton had a one point margin over University of Toronto A (1.5 – 0.5) with two boards left to play. Finally, Michigan found themselves a point ahead against University of Toronto B with three boards yet to finish (1 – 0) and they needed to score at least one more point than Princeton to catch them in the tie-breakers.

Qiyu Zhou is facing Safal Bora in a game that would determine the winner of the prize for best 2nd board

Then, unbeknown to the players who were all under time pressure, Princeton suddenly clinched its match against Toronto A with a win and a draw in the remaining boards, scoring a 3 – 1 overall victory. This meant that Harvard would have to win by at least 3.5 – 0.5, which was no longer possible at the moment, while Michigan needed to win its match by 4 – 0, a feat which was very hard to achieve. Indeed, when the Crimsonites and the Wolverines won their respective matches, it was to no avail. Princeton was victorious! Michigan and Harvard had to confine themselves to a shared second place, with Michigan having the stronger tie-breakers. Next in the final rankings were Yale, Toronto B and Toronto A. (You can view the results and team standings here).

Left to right: Ethan Li, Aaron Balleisen (Co-Captain), Isaac Martinez (Co-Captain), Kapil Chandran, Leslie Tang and Michelle Brownrigg

In the award ceremony, the big trophy was presented to the smiling winners by Michelle Brownrigg, Senior Director of Co-Curricular Education and Chief Program Officer for Hart House. Four additional trophies were awarded to the top-individual board winners, that is Princeton’s Isaac Martinez on board 4 (5/5), Michigan’s Mark Heimann on board 3 (4/5), Michigan’s Safal Bora on board 2 (4/5) and Princeton’s Kapil Chandran on board 1 (4/5).

Isaac's Game
Could that be a screenshot from Isaac Martinez’s laptop?

An honorable mention must of course be made to Toronto’s WGM Qiyu Zhou, not only because she was the only female player in the tournament, covering the event for, but, most importantly because she scored a splendid 3.5/5 on board 2 without losing a single game (+2, =3, -0).

With 4 points in 5 games, Mark Heimann scored higher than anyone else on Board 3

Finally, the award for the most beautiful game of the tournament was won by Princeton’s Kapil Chandran and Michigan’s Atulya Shetty for their board 1 battle on Round 1, a hard-fought draw in a very sharp and double-edged game. You can check out the game here.

A nice creation by Atulya Shetty and Kapil Chandran won them the prize for best game. Clearly, it takes two to tango!

As to the fate of my personal guess about which University would become the tournament winners, I can, without a shred of bias, argue that I probably got it right. Though it did not boast the highest rated players in the starting rank of the tournament, Princeton certainly was the most close-knit team to participate in the event. With 4 match points and 14 game points the Tigers deservedly edged out Harvard and Michigan, even if that was achieved by the tiniest of margins.

Harvard’s GM Darwin Yang was the highest rated player in the tournament

As the tournament progressed from round to round, I watched in admiration how a thoroughly tight-knit group of players remained focused on one single goal. They cracked jokes, they took team walks, they shared analysis, they played bughouse in pairs and they were wearing their Princeton jerseys quite regularly.

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until checkmate do us part.

They were clearly enjoying being together and I think it was precisely this positive collegial attitude that enabled them to show a level of pride and excellence over the board that equaled and surpassed every other team.


Blitz Battles: A Farewell Tournament

The last day of the event closed with a blitz tournament in which local strong masters from Toronto, such as IM Shiyam Thavandiran and IM Kaiqi Yang, had the opportunity to challenge the American guests but also each other in speed-chess. Chess players tend to be fond of sweets, so giving a Snickers or Bounty bar for first place in the blitz and splitting two Twix fingers between second and third place would likely have provided a powerful incentive, but awarding a trophy and medals to the winners proved more than enough inspiration for all the participants to fight to the best of their abilities.

Kyle Webster is having a great time at the Blitz Tournament

Canadian IM Thavandiran started with some really high quality play in the first half of the tournament, climbing up to the sole lead of the standings with a magnificent 5 out of 5 streak. However, he got unlucky in the second half of the event losing a couple of important games in some of which he seemed clearly better.

Canadian IM Shiyam Thavandiran started off with an astonishing 5 out of 5 but his streak was repelled in the second half of the tournament

Still, with only one round left, five players were tied for first place with 6 out of 8 points, including IM Thavandiran and IM Kaiqi Yang. Unfortunately, in the decisive last round they both lost their critical matches to Princeton’s FM Kapil Chandran and Michigan’s IM Safal Bora respectively. But it was neither Kapil, nor Safal who won the tournament. It was Michigan’s IM Atulya Shetty, who displayed great form and stream-rolled the blitz with a splendid 7 out of 9 points but also with the best tie-breaking criteria. The results and standings in the blitz tournament can be viewed here.

A magnificent 7 out of 9 and a first place in the Blitz Tourney for Michigan’s IM Atulya Shetty

Yours truly also enthusiastically accepted a challenge by National Master Aaaron Balleisen for a casual blitz game, much to the surprise of the Deputy Chief Arbiter of the event, Alex Ferreira, who has recently convinced himself (and a few others) that I no longer enjoy playing the game of chess. I must have eaten something very special for lunch before that game, in which I got nowhere against Princeton’s amazing Captain, who totally outplayed me before I somehow managed to figure out a nasty pin, which allowed me to simplify to a very favorable endgame and then lose on time to my very worthy opponent [upon request, I am happy to send the moves of this game to any person who has time to waste or is simply gifted with a very good sense of humor].

Panayoti Tsialas on his opening advantage (not!): “Right now it’s only a notion, but I think I can get the right moves to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea.”

Conclusion: A chess tournament organized by American students for American students

I would like to conclude with an acknowledgement of all the wonderful people who contributed to the success of this purely student event. First of all, the tournament arbiters, Weiwen Leung (Chief Arbiter) and Alex Ferreira (Deputy Chief Arbiter) deserve special recognition for their effort in making sure the pairings, tie breakers, and other details of the competition went smoothly. Hart House Chess Club Execs Leslie Tang, Sahan Karunaratne and Jimmy Bartha coped superbly with the difficult task of broadcasting the games on-line. Andrew MacMillan and Ben Hahn offered a very generous helping hand during setting-up and taking down. Penny Changrong Yu, Stephanie Chen and Alexandra Yao took the beautiful event pictures, which you can view on the Tournament’s Photo Gallery here.

Alex Ferreira (left) and Weiwen Leung (right) were Tournament Arbiters and they administered the event superbly

Finally, Brett Sherman astonished everyone with his incredibly creative filmmaking job, thanks to which this beautiful event could travel beyond the four walls of Hart House and reach a wider audience. It was a real privilege working with each and every one of them as the Tournament Director.

In addition, the organizers would like to thank the Manulife Center, whose discounted rate made it possible to book rooms for the guests and provide the excellent playing venue on the 31st floor of the building (Angela Breaton and Dean Ferguson, in particular, went way beyond the call of duty to provide their indispensable assistance whenever needed). They would also like to thank Hart House for their funding and for their support in providing beautiful rooms as locations for the tournament. Moreover, special thanks are owed to the participating Universities for venturing across the border to Canada. I can attest that from my very first contact with the University reps in late May until the farewell handshakes on November 11th, they communicated very responsibly, displaying a rare level of commitment to this ambitious chess project.

A game of pool in the Skittles Room?

Of course, many thanks are also owed to Tom Moss, Hart House Chess Club’s Supervisor, Michelle Brownrigg, Senior Director of Co-Curricular Education, Sian Layton (Events) and Alain Latour (Digital Communications) who provided their precious assistance to the organizers when needed.

Finally, the organizers incurred a huge debt to Kaitlyn Simpson, the Managing Online Editor of “The Varsity”, who labored tirelessly for three days to cover all the details of the event for UofT’s student newspaper. Several other outlets, including the Chess Federation of Canada’s Page as well as, ran stories about the Ivy League Challenge, which will be published very soon.

IM Matt Larson led Yale’s Chess Team!

However, as this beautiful tournament was mostly self-funded (the external funding was limited to 600 CAD) the organizers would be very grateful to any chess enthusiast or affluent chess Maecenas (?), who would like to support the club by making a donation no matter how small (they may do so on-line here).


*               *               *

Though UofT’s Team did not manage to win the Ivy League Challenge, the tournament received widespread acclaim and it is to be hoped that thanks to the wide and positive exposure it earned, it will contribute to University of Toronto’s as well as Canada’s chess development. Two Universities have already expressed their tentative interest in continuing this tradition as next year’s hosts and, if their interest is confirmed, University of Toronto will be delighted to offer any assistance it can provide. The Inaugural Ivy League Challenge has been a superb event and I hope that the students from North America, with the support of their Universities, will find the wood to keep this marvelous fire burning.



Support Hart House Chess Club

For over 120 years Hart House Chess Club has been the University of Toronto’s leader in the game of chess. Students, alumni and community members alike all benefit from the rich ambiance, the chess lessons and the plentiful tournaments happening at the centre of UofT. Your support will ensure that Hart House Chess Club can continue to offer vital opportunities for students to learn the Royal Game and put their chess skills into practice, developing their capacities and sharing new student-life experiences.

Call for Support:

During its history, Hart House Chess Club has benefited crucially from the number of its members who have chosen to maintain their association and support of the Club beyond their time as students. This has helped the Club to maintain continuity not only of its existence but also of its character. Anyone who has played at the Club will attest to the liveliness of its atmosphere and enthusiasm of its members. The stream of students who have come through its doors over the years consist of the whole range of players from complete beginners to ones with international titles.

As the Club moves into its 123rd year of existence as UofT’s official Chess Club, its initiatives keep increasing, hitting record numbers of club members as well as internal and external events. More an more students get to enjoy the invaluable benefits of the game in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. However, these rich activities have also resulted in increased costs; costs that we need your support to sustain.

Thanks to donors like you, many generations of UofT students have come to understand the value of having a space outside of academia where they can explore and engage in a diverse number of co-curricular chess-related activities, which ultimately provide extraordinary lessons of their own. Any donation, no matter how small, can help us continue to make progress, accommodating an ever increasing number of students.

Make a Donation:

This year we are focusing our fundraising efforts on upgrading the chess equipment of the club (boards and clocks) as well as sustaining the costs for the preparation and participation of our Varsity Chess Team in the PanAm intercollegiate Chess Championship in San Fransisco, California. Your financial support towards achieving these goals would be greatly appreciated.

If you wish to make a donation to the Chess Club:

– You may do so online on Please choose “Area of Greatest Need” and then add “Chess Club” in the notes field.

– You may also write Hart House Chess Club a cheque, made payable to Hart House, in which case you will get a tax receipt.

Public recognition will be offered to all those people who decide to support but donors may also choose to retain their anonymity.

Finally, for sponsorship proposals or alternative donating arrangements please contact our Fundraiser Representative, Mr. Panagiotis Tsialas, at

We hope that, with your precious support, the work done at Hart House Chess Club will gain momentum and help build an even better future for generations of students to come.

Ivy League Challenge

The “Ivy League Challenge” is an invitational Team Chess Tournament which will take place in Toronto from November 9th until November 11th, 2018.

The tournament is organized for the first time and University of Toronto will be the host. Open to six chess teams from five different Universities in the United States and Canada, the “Ivy League Challenge” will be one of the strongest University Team Competitions in North America. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Michigan and University of Toronto will be represented in this year’s tournament and the hope is to attract participation from even more Canadian and U.S. Post-Secondary Schools in the years to follow.

Each team will have four players and may have up to two alternates. The rules for the “Ivy League Challenge” can be accessed here. All rounds will be held at the Hart House and the games will be broadcast live on the Hart House Chess Club website.

Participants in the 2018 Ivy League Challenge include: GM Darwin Yang (2488 – Harvard ), IM Matthew Larson (2408 – Yale), FM Kapil Chandran (2398 – Princeton), IM Atulya Shetty (2395 – Michigan), IM Safal Bora (2392 – Michigan), FM Mark Heimann (2356 – Michigan), IM Richard Wang (2332 – Harvard), FM Nikita Gusev (2253 – UofT), FM Varun Krishnan (2253 – Harvard), FM Qiyu Zhou (2207 – UofT) and others.

Ivy League Challenge (with logo).jpg

You can watch the games in live streaming here. The tournament schedule is as follows:

Friday, November 9th– Hart House South Dining Hall

Opening Ceremony: 10:00 AM

Round 1: 10:30 AM

Round 2: 5:00 PM

Saturday, November 10th– Manulife Center Party Room (31st Floor)

Round 3: 10:00 AM

Round 4: 4:30 PM

Sunday, November 11th– Hart House Debates Room

Round 5: 9:30 AM

Closing Ceremony: 2:00 PM

A farewell, fundraising Blitz Tournament open to the community at large will be held on Sunday, November 11th in the Debates Room right after the closing ceremony. The list of participants can be accessed here.

Our next reports on the Ivy League Challenge will include photos from the site and the games as well as videos of interviews with the players.