Sunday, March 20, 2011

WIM Yuanling Yuan Promotes Chess in the Library!

WIM Yuan Yuanling
She is one of the top female chessplayers in Canada and I followed her performances at the 2010 City of Montreal Chess Championships and the 2010 Chess Olympiad, where she was a member of the Canadian Women's Team, with keen interest.  Yuanling is a junior in high school, so she and a few friends are working on CITL (Chess in the Library)  in their "spare" time.

Yuanling's chess in libraries idea is a great one and we're glad to see it getting some promotion in the press - in this case, the Italian press.  Thanks to Bob Armstrong of the Canadian Chess Federation for posting these items on the Federation's message board.  Links are below - unfortunately an English translation is available only for the second article - an interview of Yuanling, posted below.

02-11-2011, 12:30 AM
Bob Armstrong
CFC Governor Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,687

Follow-up Interview with Yuanling ( English Translation )


English Translation:

Giovanni Ornaghi (questions) – Yuanling Yuan (answers) :

1) Hello Yuanling! Could you tell us how did you become interested in chess?
- my dad was a chess coach at a summer camp when I was 7
- I took dance classes at the camp so it was convenient for me to try my dad's chess class as well
- I enjoyed the classes and since I was improving quickly, I decided to continue

2) How popular is chess in Canada? Looking at the CFC's website I'd say: not so much. But then it seems there are a lot of people interested in it, donating money and chess material for both projects and outstanding players...
- HAHA, I laughed at your first sentence (the CFC website sucks and all the chess players here know it
- the main reason to why I started CITL was because of the lack of popularity of chess in Canada; it really can't compare with the European countries
- no, you're wrong, the donations for the Olympiad teams gets less and less each year and all the donations come from the chess players
- we SO DON'T have lots of donations for projects and outstanding players
- CITL gets a modest amount of donations because chess players here know that it is pretty much the only positive chess related thing around here
- we have no government support, no corporate support (excluding a few for large tournaments like the Canadian Open) and the CFC has about 3000 active members? haha, it's quite sad...

3) A lot of people, and FIDE itself actually, are very focused in getting chess into schools. In a recent post we've read how Justin Bieber used to be in the Chess Team of his middle school! Is chess well spread in canadian schools?
- I'm actually surprised to hear that Justin Bieber used to play chess!
- um, I would say that some schools have chess clubs, but definitely less than 50% of all schools (in Toronto that is)
- I believe that in Quebec, the Chess 'N Math Association has spread to many schools, especially primary school
- not sure if it's in a form of a club or actually a part of the curriculum

4) Let's get to the point, the "Chess in the Library" started about a year ago. How did you get this great idea?
- I've always wanted to give back to the Canadian chess community for always supporting and encouraging me to continue to improve my game
- considering that chess is not very popular here, I wanted to help promote chess
- I feel that as the top female player in Canada, it is a part of my duties to help promote chess here
- libraries have very quiet environments, surrounded by books of knowledge - perfect for playing chess
- so yeah, I just went and talked to my local librarian about starting up such a program and that's how it started

5) Now "Chess in the Library" (CITL) is a national program and it seems you've already achieved your 2010 objectives. However your new goal is to have at least a library in every province with a chess program available. Any progress so far? How much time do you think this would take?
- unfortunately, no progress so far
- we plan to begin with Quebec & Alberta, the provinces that are slightly more popular in chess
- the new goal it's not only just the spread of the program to other provinces but also in new cities in Ontario; we already have made some progress in Hamilton (a small city in Ontario), however, nothing has been finalized
- I'm in grade 11 right now so I have 1.5 years left before I'm off to university
- the plan is to have this goal achieved by the time I graduate

6) Do you have a marketing plan to help the CITL spread? How you get the word out there?
- posting on chesstalk is a very efficient marketing strategy - pretty much all Canadian chess players read it
- I'll also be emailing all the CFC governors that represent each province
- if that doesn't work, then we'll google the websites of the public libraries in every province and contact them directly
- once CITL has been firmly established in one city (with at least 2 -3 locations like in Toronto & Ottawa), it spreads by itself because the librarians talk to each other and they help us spread the word; by then, the libraries will contact us, instead of the other way around

7) After only one year from its start, you had a big tournament which turns out to be an Annual Festival. Considering the spread of your program since June, the second Festival would promise to be even more successful. Are you already planning it? Is there anything you can tell us about it?
- yes, we are currently planning the location, deciding whether to stick to last year's location (which had a lot of limitations) or to spend some money and rent a larger space
- also, the annual trophy that will be given to the winning library team at this festival has already been settled - one of our donors agreed to fund the trophy and we'll purchase it when it gets closer to the date

8) It looks to me that CITL is appealing to a lot of young chess enthusiasts in Canada. Was that your age-target from the beginning or it just happened to turn out this way?
- the program was intended to target people of all ages because the purpose was to promote chess, not promote chess to JUST kids
- library programs attract more kids with ages 7-12 and that is a general trend, not just with CITL

9) You mentioned once on your blog that kids in the CITL program started to borrow chess books from the library and then engaged in other kind of readings. On this blog we often talk about the benefits, often academic, that chess can bring. Did you see this happen? Is it something you tell parents interested in the program?
- oh yeah, the reason why the librarians love this program so much is because it brings a lot of traffic to the libraries, especially the small local ones that usually don't have a lot of patrons
- the kids will often borrow books after the program, which means that they will read more books and increase their knowledge
- chess itself is very beneficial to people who engage in the game
- academic wise, it is directly connected with math & science (subjects that requires logical thinking), philosophy (obviously!) and language courses as well (when you're playing chess you have to think ahead and thus visualize the position - that helps ameliorate your memory) since language is a lot about memorizing vocabulary
- also, it helps build a great personality (patience, good sportsmanship, persistence, etc)
- I saw this happen on myself but it takes time to realize the benefits as the kids themselves
- parents who want their kids to join the program already know all of these benefits so we don't really have to explain

10) I imagine a lot of people asking themselves "how can she find the time?!". How can a high school student manage to find the time for school, her own chess career, some well deserved leisure and something like the CITL?
- yeah, not only am I in high school but also in a very tough program called the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. I'm sure that Italy has this program too - it's an international one.
- if you don't know much about it, I'll give you a sense of what it's like to be in this program:
* for my school, 200 kids are granted admission in grade 9 through an interview and by grade 12, there are about 65 kids left - drop out rates are 60-70% each year
* comparing to the Ontario curriculum, we are compile 5 years of academic study (from grade 9 - first year university) into 4 years
* the workload is a lot more compared to the normal curriculum and we have IB exams at the end & 2 mandatory essays to write (one of them is like 5000 words)
- well, basically I try to manage my time well - I focus more in class so I don't have to study as much for tests and I put enough time into school so that I get decent marks but not the best in the grade. I value being a well rounded student over one that gets 100% on everything (although I really wish I could do both!).

11) Thank you so much for your time and dedication to chess! Do you have anything you would like to add? A word to your readers: If you've been wondering how you could help promote chess in your country, whether you're in Italy, USA or even El Salvador, please don't hesitate to contact me (! We could definitely work together to get the Chess in the Library program started in your local library and expose more more people to this wonderful game!

Thanks Bob Armstrong, CFC Public Relations Coordinator P.S,

Thanks to Scarborough CC member Pino Verde, who drew these articles to my attention.
Last edited by Bob Armstrong; 02-12-2011 at 12:06 AM.

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