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Hundreds of chess players are set to invade Hamilton in July as two of the country’s biggest in-person tournaments take centre stage.

Organizers are expecting as many as 300 players at the Canadian Youth Chess Championships starting July 7. At least 200 more are likely to attend the Canadian Open, which hasn’t been held since 2019 due to the pandemic.

“It’s a big deal, it’s our flagship event,” says Bob Gillanders, executive director of the Chess Federation of Canada. While the pandemic suspended most in-person play for an extended period, he thinks the pent-up demand for over-the-board play is huge.

“I expect it will all come back with a roar,” he says.

The Canadian Open allows anyone to enter and compete against masters and even grandmasters. It’s a nine-round event running July 12-17 that will offer $26,000 in prizes, with an $8,000 first prize based on a minimum of 200 entries.

The first Canadian Open was held 66 years ago in Montreal, when a 13-year-old future world champion named Bobby Fischer ventured north to compete with 87 other players. The largest tournament in Canadian history was again in Montreal in 1974, when 648 players competed.

Tournament details are at can-open.ca. On-site registration is also available on July 11.

Alexander Shabalov v Alexei Shirov, Canadian Open, 2005

Handout

What is Black’s best path to a victory?

30...Qf3+ 31.Kc1 Rxc2+ 32.Kxc2 Qe2+ 33.Kc1 Qxe3+ and after Black plays an eventual Nc6 he wins easily.