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Two young players tied for first place in last month’s Canadian chess championship, but both said it wasn’t something they expected to happen.

Yuanchen Zhang of Markham and Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux of Montreal each scored 7 points to lead the field. They both qualify immediately for the international master title in chess.

For Zhang, who became the new Canadian champion because of his better tiebreak score, it was his first tournament in nearly three years.

“I took a break from chess in 2019,” said Zhang, 21. “It allowed me to take a step back and mature as a person.” He only resumed playing in January, and admits that he didn’t see the victory coming.

Rodrigue-Lemieux, 18, had an inkling he would be good at chess when he won five straight games in his very first event at the age of 6. But he was seeded seventh going into the championship tournament, which was played in Kingston, and didn’t have much expectation of winning.

Both he and Zhang played in numerous Canadian youth events and steadily improved their games. They both hope to play in next year’s World Cup.

Zhang currently studies financial analysis and risk management at the University of Waterloo, and Rodrigue-Lemieux is in a law program in his first year at a CEGEP.

Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux v Yuanchen Zhang, Kingston, 2022

Handout

How does White find the speediest win?

48. fxg6 and if Rxd8 49. Be6+ leads to mate. If hxg6 49. Be6+ wins a full Rook.