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  • Writer's pictureMathew Silver

Calgary Chess Player Works Toward Grandmaster Title

Metro News, August 2016. Find the original article here.

Photo: Courtesy of Mathew Silver

The final day of the 9th Calgary International Chess Classic took place in a small converted office space in Northeast Calgary on Monday, not exactly where you would expect to find some of the world’s greatest chess minds.

The room itself was filled with a total of five Grandmasters (the highest title in chess) and players from countries as far off as Israel, Brazil, and India.

But Diwen Shi, one of Calgary’s most exciting young players, didn’t look out of place. Despite being just 17, Shi has earned the title of FIDE Candidate Master and ranks in the top 10 for his age group in Canada.

According to the President of the Alberta Chess Association, Vlad Rekhson, this tournament is the next step for Shi towards earning the rank of International Master.  Rekhson could only describe the Sir Winston Churchill student - who just so happens to run the school’s chess club - as a certified “wiz.”

On the final day of competition, Shi was seated opposite Olivier Chiku-Ratte, a Montreal-born player who had travelled to Calgary for the annual tournament. There was a nervous energy in the room, and the young players seemed to mitigate this with some combination of toe tapping and head scratching.

Their match stretched over three hours with Chiku-Ratte emerging victorious, but despite their rivalry on the board, the two have formed a friendship that extends beyond competition.

In fact, Chiku-Ratte stayed at Shi’s house for the weekend. The boys met at the Canadian Chess Challenge and have been keeping in touch ever since. They also both idolize Norwegian chess prodigy, Magnus Carlsen, and remain divided on how they would fair if they had the chance to challenge the world number one.

“I think I would win easily,” says Chiku-Ratte with a wry smile.

“Maybe I could beat him in correspondence chess, but otherwise I would lose in like ten moves,” says Shi.

Both of them are respectful and soft-spoken, preferring to let their playing do the talking. When asked what they like to do in their spare time the boys looked at each other and smiled.

 “We play blitz. It’s chess with five minutes per person,” says Shi.

Surprise surprise. If you want to be one of the best young chess players in the world you aren’t going home to play Pokémon Go.

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