Manitoba’s High School Chess Championship was held at Sisler High School in Winnipeg on Tuesday and 70 kids from 18 different schools came to compete, including around 10 Ukrainian refugees.
“I knew when the war started, and everything was bombarded, I immediately knew that students lost every single privilege, of education, playing chess, playing any sport, and I thought, what can we do?” said Orysya Petryshyn, tournament organizer.
In Ukraine, the game has been popular for generations and gives kids a chance to come together to speak a universal language — especially for 12-year-old Tym and his family, who fled from Kyiv when war broke out last year.
“It is really important, especially for Ukrainian kids who don’t have anyone here,” said his father Andrii Petrucheck.
The president of the Chess Association, Blair Rutter, said over the past few years the game has become much more popular and it’s the most ethnically diverse event.
“The pandemic — a lot of people were cooped up inside. Chess lends itself very well to online play,” Rutter said.
“A lot of these young people are good young chess players that are streaming their games on various social media and a lot of that’s attracting a new audience.
“There’s been an explosion in interest, certainly online, but it’s also translating into over-the-board play.”
The game is a battle of wits and no two games are alike. “That type of back and forth conversation on the board, I really enjoy. It’s like you’re speaking to each other with pieces.” said Samuel Daya, co-chair at Sisler Chess Club.
Rutter said with the increased interest, the plan is to do the championship every year. Last year, 38 players came and he said next year they are aiming for 100.
— with files from Global’s Katherine Dornian