Ten youths from Rainy River District who took part in the Northwestern Ontario Schools Chess Championship finals in Thunder Bay last weekend have qualified to attend the provincial showdown in Toronto next spring.
Those who garnered the opportunity to go to the provincials included locals Justin Sanders (Fort High), Josh Tovey (St. Francis), and Ghislain Godin (L’Ecole Boreal de Fort Frances).
Qualifying from the district were Marty Johnston (Riverview), Shane Ikert and Jeremy Cole (Sturgeon Creek Alternative), and Braeden, Jordan, Gregory, and Jeremy Beller of the Beller Academy (home school).
Chelsea Derkson and Gary Lambert (St. Francis), along with Derek Leahy-Elias (Sturgeon Creek), also competed in Thunder Bay but did not qualify for the provincials.
All 13 participants had qualified for the finals in Thunder Bay during regional championships held at district schools in late September.
Johnston and Braeden Beller came home from Thunder Bay with top honours in their age categories. Johnston, 11, garnered a perfect score in each of the six games he played in the 10-12 division.
Beller, nine, earned top honours in the nine and under category, also with a perfect score in five games.
“Johnston was very impressive,” John Rutherford, co-ordinator of COREL’s Northwestern Ontario Schools Chess Championships, said late yesterday.
“He beat out 95 kids in his section—that’s a big section,” he added, noting Johnston had placed in the top 10 in the nine and under category two years ago at the provincials in Toronto.
“In fact, all of the participants did very well—it’s a very strong group,” Rutherford stressed.
Whether or not some or all of the 10 youths get to Toronto for the finals next spring remains to be seen, he noted. The trip is expensive and the cost falls to the parents of the participants.
Rutherford has been lobbying the Ontario Chess Association to make Northern Ontario a separate region for qualifiers (much like as in curling and bowling) so they could advance directly to the nationals in Edmonton next July.
“I just received a fax from the OCA yesterday and they voted unanimously to reject my idea of separation,” Rutherford noted. “[But] they would all do well in Toronto and that’s something to root them on for.”