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Nicholas Vettese got a gift this summer that every chess player dreams about: an international title for winning a single tournament.

The 18-year-old University of Toronto student took first place in the North American Youth Championship in Calgary. According to the world chess federation rules, that immediately qualified him for the title of international master.

“It was amazing of course. I didn’t think going into it I would win,” he said. The international master title is one rung below grandmaster, the highest achievement in chess.

Vettese is no stranger to success at the chessboard. At the age of 10, he became the youngest-ever Canadian master. His career started with a lunchtime program in elementary school, and he blossomed into one of Canada’s top young players.

Typically players qualify for a title by winning several norms at international tournaments and maintaining a high rating. Vettese has no illusions about how he earned his title, and he feels lucky to have it.

Every chess player who enjoys success early in life has a decision to make, he says. Some dedicate hours of study every day to get better, while others treat chess as a hobby.

Despite his recent success, Vettese says chess will still just be a hobby.

Nicholas Vettese v. Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux, Calgary, 2022

Handout

What is White’s best move?

White played 32.Re4 threatening Rg4, and Black is paralyzed. Note that 32.Rg3 with a similar idea doesn’t work because of 32… Nc2 33.Rg3 Qxd4.