'A beautiful game': Chess competitors gather in Regina for national championship

The National Open Chess Championship runs July 12 to 18 at the Travelodge in Regina.

The National Open Chess Championship runs July 12 to 18

The National Open Chess Championships is taking up the entire bottom floor of the Travelodge Hotel in Regina. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Kings, queens, knights and bishops are all in play this week in Regina, as people from around the country gather for the National Open Chess Championship. 

The championship is hosted by the Queen City Chess Club. The National Youth Championship ran from July 6 to 10 and the National Open Championship runs from July 12 to 18.

"It's kind of a marathon organizing these events," Tom Boshoff, president of the Queen City Chess Club, said.

"It's a little audacious of us but we really wanted to push the bar forward in Saskatchewan."

The club doesn't don't normally even charge people or have formal memberships. It's show up and play. 

"We're a very casual chess club. We play out in the open at the Riddell Center at the U of R," he said. "There's lots of noise, we allow trash talk, and laughing during the games."

At national tournaments, a person could walk into the room and hear a pin drop. It is very formal, he said. 

"When there's prizes and money on the line we try to be respectful," he said.

Competitors from around the country gathered in the Queen City to try their hand at a national title. 7:36

Lydia Sogard, from Churchbridge, Sask., started playing a year ago. Now the six-year-old competitor and two of her siblings was able to compete at the national level in her home province. 

"It was fun," she said. "I played seven games and met some kids." 

Tom Boshoff is the president of the Queen City Chess Club. He started playing when he was eight-years-old but says there are 10-year-olds at the competition that could beat him. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Sogard's father Graham said it was great to have nationals so close to home. 

"It's funny because I played chess a lot myself and it's a lot more nerve wracking when your kids are playing than when you were playing," he said with a laugh. 

It's a game for everyone.​​​​​​- Svetlana Demchenko

Ottawa's Svetlana Demchenko won the Under-16 Girls event. She's been playing for about six years after a newspaper article caught her grandfather's eye. 

"He found an article about a girl who was about my age and she was a chess champion and he thought I could be like her," Demchenko said. "I know the girl now and we're friends."

Lydia Sogard came with her father Graham and two sibligs from Churchbridge, Sask. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

She said she enjoys how a person doesn't need to be physically strong or tall to excel at chess.

Demchenko hopes to one day earn a 'Woman International Master' title then work towards a 'Woman Grandmaster' title. For beginners, she suggests finding someone to help. 

"I would suggest find a good coach or somebody who will guide you along the way," she said. 

Svetlana Demchenko is the U16 Girls Champion and has high hopes of going international in the future. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"It's just the depth of the game," Boshoff said. "That coupled with the simplicity — it's the same rules I've known since I was a child — It's never ending and it's a beautiful game."

At the national tournament, each competitor plays seven rounds. Each round can be between two to six hours and anyone can participate in the open championship, regardless of age. Spectators aren't allowed but people can follow the competition online. 

There will also be side events that are open to the public, including an exhibition game where a grandmaster pro player from Russia will play up to 30 people at one time. All events are held at the Regina Travelodge. 


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