The popularity of the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit lead Allison Barnes, the events programmer for the Students’ Association, to host the SA’s first-ever online chess tournament on Feb.11, 2021.
The four-hour afternoon tournament was hosted on the popular chess website Chess.com. The format of the tournament was arena-style, where players could come and go as they pleased. The tournament winner would be awarded a chessboard from Canadian company Chess Baron valued at $120.
Barnes says that hosting a tournament on a platform like Chess.com was new to her and so the decision on the format was a test run for a tournament in the future. The format she chose was arena-style and each game was 20 minutes.
Forty-five people registered for the tournament, Barnes says, and of that group, 31 unique users logged in and played some games. As it was arena-style, however, those numbers fluctuated throughout the duration of the event.
“I personally have never played chess or understood it very well and I watched The Queen’s Gambit and it was very interesting,” she said. “And I took up wanting to learn chess myself and I thought it would be a good idea to host a chess tournament.”
Barnes says there were other factors other than The Queen’s Gambit that led her to play chess. She mentions that her dad and boyfriend play chess as well, and that influenced her decision to pick up chess.
The eventual winner of the tournament, Vladimir Vershinin, a network administrator at Algonquin College, says he started playing chess at a fairly young age.
“I started playing chess when I was a child, maybe five years old,” he said. Vershinin had never played any tournaments before. Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, he decided that playing chess online would be a good way to pass the time.
As Vershinin works at the college in person, he says heard about the tournament when he happened to pass by the Algonquin Commons Theatre and there was a television with an announcement for the tournament displayed. Vershinin took home the top prize, ending the tournament with 23 wins.
Donovan Gignac, a first-level electrical engineering technician student, says he found about the tournament through the Student Association website and also when he was at the college.
Like Vershinin, Gignac played chess when he was younger. “I started playing when I was a kid, but I kind of rekindled that passion for it after watching The Queen’s Gambit,” he said. “After watching it a couple of months ago I started playing with my girlfriend whenever I can.”
Gignac enjoyed the way the tournament was set up, as he was able to come and go as he pleased.
“I thought it was great, you can go in and out of the lobby whenever you wanted, so I had a codes and regulations test,” he said. “I thought it was really easy to sign up, I made note of it. You just had to make an account on Eventbrite, and make an account on Chess.com and you just have to follow the link and follow the student association profile.”
Vershinin explains that the duration of the tournament and also game length may have been too long and would have been okay with two hours and 10 minutes games.
Barnes mentions she would like to organize another tournament in April. A firm date has not been set.
“I still have to work that out,” she said. “I have to look at the exam schedule so I don’t place it in a time where exams are happening.”