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Chess club continues at library thanks to this Grade 9 student

Bradford's Ricky Chen not only volunteers but was the impetus behind the club being reinstated after lapsing three different times over the past few years

Bradford District High School Grade 9 student Ricky Chen was introduced to the basic rules and moves of chess with his grandfather over nine years ago at the Bradford West Gwillimbury (BWG) Library. Now, Ricky is playing competitively and sharing his love and understanding of the game as a volunteer for chess club at the library.

Ricky not only volunteers but was the impetus behind the club being reinstated after lapsing three different times over the past few years.

“This chess club was my first introduction to chess, and it has propelled me forward in pursuing a game I love," he said. "Starting it up again not only reconnects local chess players, but also creates potential for future enthusiasts to continue growing, both in chess and in other activities.”

In 2019, Ricky learned the chess club had shut down due to a shortage of staff and volunteers who played the game. With the help of some friends, and his mother contacting the coordinator at the time, the chess club was up and running again.

"We are really grateful for the encouragement and support we’ve received from our parents and the library in this endeavour," he said. 

It continued for a while, then COVID-19 restrictions and the recent library staff strike closed it two more times. In both instances, he reached out the library to reinstate the club. It was a summer program this year, lapsed through the strike, and subsequently he and library got it going again in October.

“Anyone can join and play chess together here. Some parents drop their kids off here to play and learn, and some older players have also come to play. While many of our regular visitors already know how to play chess, we are always open to teach newcomers. Regardless of experience, the library has many resources related to chess, and there’s always something more to learn,” Ricky said.

Turning 15 this year, Ricky has been playing chess since he was about six years old. When asked by BradfordToday what he likes about the game, Ricky said, “For me, chess is a mental exercise in pattern finding, calculation, and awareness. It’s incredibly useful for building problem solving skills and various learning skills, and also expands a person’s logical abilities.”

He first competed in a tournament when he was in Grade 2. It was hosted by the Chess ‘n Math Association. He has taken chess lessons since and has continued playing in competitive rapid and classical formats in various tournaments in Canada.

“This year, I played in the Ontario Chess Challenge (OCC) and made it to top 10 players for Grade 8," Ricky said. "I also competed in the Canadian Youth Chess Championship (CYCC) in Calgary.” 

And it all started at the BWG library.

“I originally wanted to restart the chess club as a place to hang out and play chess but given its growth and success I hope that it will create new friendships between players and encourage new prodigies to continue learning chess," Ricky said.

Thanks to Ricky and his passion for the game, the Chess club continues in the new year on Thursdays, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., starting Jan. 18.

It is a free drop-in program. The library encourages people to “join fellow chess players for a few friendly battles on the board.”

“For the most part, the club is here to build bonds and let people in the community have fun playing chess," Ricky said.

The BWG Library is located 425 Holland St. W. For more information about the services and programs offered visit

Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, storyteller and playwright. She blogs on her website: