Looking to return to in-person play, Elmira man organizes chess tournament

An avid chess player since childhood, Elmira’s Scott Kuehl has had enough of online games at this point in the pandemic. Now, he’s looking to get back to in-person matches, figuring there are others who feel the same way. With that in mind, he’s organizing a chess tournament to be held in Elmira.

The Horse and Buggy Open will be held at the Elmira Legion October 2-3.

“I’m a little tired of COVID, and I think I’m not alone in that,” said Kuehl of the desire for a return to in-person activities. “I’m kind of tired of looking at the computer screen with chess pieces on it – it’s just not the same.”

He expects his will be the first over-the-board public tournament in the province since the lockdowns began. Beyond that, he’s not sure what to expect given that such tournaments are something of a novelty for this area. Still, there are a number of players in the wider region, with at least four chess clubs, including at the universities of Waterloo and Guelph, as well as one in Kitchener and another based at the Concordia Club.

The latter is familiar to Kuehl, as he was the champion there in his early days. He took up chess around the age of 12 or 13, eventually joining the chess team at Eastwood Collegiate Institute.

“Going back to my high school days, I wasn’t able to be a jock – I didn’t excel at physical sport, but our school had a chess team, and I was the one that always seemed to win. So that’s the only way I could try to, well, contribute,” he laughed. “I know mind games aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but it worked for me.”

Today, he notes, kids start much younger than he did. “We have grandmasters now that are 12, 13, 14 years old.”

In fact, just last month the chess world crowned it’s youngest-ever grandmaster. At 12 years, four months and 25 days, Abhimanyu Mishra of New Jersey became the youngest in history, breaking a record that stood for 19 years.

“I’ve had two sets of parents already contact me that are trying to enter their seven-year-old children,” added Kuehl.

There are no restrictions on who may enter the Horse and Buggy Open, though Chess Federation of Canada membership is required. The tournament offers five rounds in the Open Swiss format. Given the public health rules surrounding the pandemic, the size of the venue limits registration to 70 people; masks are mandatory.

More information can be found from the event link at the chess federation website, www.chess.ca, or by contacting Kuehl by email at ekuehlc551@rogers.com.

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