Prince Edward Island chess team decided for nationals

Mitch MacDonald
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Some of P.E.I.’s chess champions, from back left, Joseph Kassouf, Sandy MacDonald, Karla Lynn McCallum, Ronan Lantz and Duncan McIntyre, show their trophies after winning their grade level during recent the P.E.I. Chess Challenge at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown.

Provincial Grade 9 chess champion Joseph Kassouf is hoping the third time will be the charm when competing on a national stage this spring.

Joseph will be the Grade 9 representative for P.E.I. at the Canadian Chess Challenge in Winnipeg this May after winning the provincial tournament hosted by the P.E.I. Youth Chess Association recently at Colonel Gray High School.

“It feels great, it really does feel great,” said Joseph, who also competed at the national tournament in 2012 and 2013.

Eleven players from P.E.I. will attend the national challenge this year. The tournament will see them enter a round robin and face grade winners from every other Canadian province.

While Joseph lost his first game on Sunday, he went on to win all five matches afterwards to claim his spot in the national tournament.

He’ll be looking at the mistakes he made in his first game before leaving for Winnipeg

“In my first game, I wasn’t really paying attention to the board. I wasn’t taking my time, so I feel like I could improve if I take more time,” he said. “What I really have to do is practise my techniques and strategies.”

Winning the provincial tournament is a “big deal” for players, said Tom Crowell, president of the association.

“To win your provincial tournament is a big honour and to play at the national level against some of the best players in the country is quite a challenge for them,” he said. “So we’re happy to facilitate this.”

Grade 10 champion Sandy MacDonald has also experienced the honour of competing nationally.

This year will also be his third time playing in the Canadian Chess Challenge.

Having seen the high compete level of players from other provinces, Sandy will be practicing with Kassouf in preparation for the tournament.

“There are places like Ontario where there are a lot more people playing, the champions are really good,” he said. “People will be training a lot. In some of the larger provinces, (the champions) have personal tutors for chess.”

While P.E.I. doesn’t have the same number of chess players as in other provinces, the game has been growing in popularity amongst students during the past couple years.

Crowell said the past year has been the biggest in terms of growth for chess on P.E.I.

Regular tournaments held throughout the year have seen 55 to 60 players, a significant increase over previous years.

“It’s a good mix of guys and girls and most of them play chess through their school chess clubs,” said Crowell.

“There has been more school chess clubs crop up over the past couple years, and that’s probably responsible for some of the growth we’ve seen.”

The PEIYCA is a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to promoting scholastic chess in the province. The group provides a start-up kit for any P.E.I. schools looking to start a chess club.

More information on the organization can be found at www.peiyca.ca.

Organizations: P.E.I. Youth Chess Association, Colonel Gray High School

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Winnipeg, Ontario

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