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Yuan, however, is set on proving those people wrong.
Two years ago she founded Chess in the Library — a smart-sounding club for smart-sounding people. The kind of people who travel to the library (that ancient bastion of knowledge) to play chess (that game that old, wise people play).
“I just wanted to do something to promote chess in Canada,” she said of the day in spring 2009 when she walked into Brookbank Library and told head librarian Denise Drabkin that she wanted to start a chess club.
“She came in here and she said, ‘Hi! I’m really, really keen on starting a chess in the library program’ and I said ‘Wow, lets talk,’ ” recalls Drabkin, who admits she was skeptical at first. “The rest is history.”
Less than two years in, Yuan’s idea has turned into a weekly ritual for people young and old across Toronto. Chess in the Library now operates in 12 Toronto libraries, and has more than 40 volunteers.
The program also operates in a library in Ottawa, and recently expanded to a library in Victoria B.C.
“I think chess is a game for people of all ages,” says Yuan, who started playing with her father when she was 7. “As long as they can sit at the table and move the pieces, they should be allowed to play.”
Yuan enlisted the help of Sheldon Usprech, a teacher who coordinates the International Baccalaureate program at Victoria Park, to get students at the school involved. They are able to complete their community services requirements for graduation by volunteering with the program.
Even then, she’ll continue to champion the game she loves.
That’s because, for Yuan, Chess in the Library is more than just a game on Saturday mornings.
“But it’s more than just chess.”