Matthew Geng

Smooth moves

Great work ethic pays off for Oak Bay chess champ

Matthew Geng has the moves.

With his second consecutive victory at the B.C. Youth Chess Championships in Vancouver  earlier this month, the Grade 7 student’s ascent up the local chess ladder booked him another ticket to the Canadian Youth Chess Championships, this time in Montreal where the 12-year-old hopes to push the limits of the game he loves.

“I think it’s really fun to play chess because it challenges my brain. I think it’s important for me to get higher and higher,” Matthew said. “It is a good thing to challenge your brain and a lot of people should do it.”

The Oak Bay resident took third in his age category in last year’s Canadian Chess Challenge in Ottawa and hopes another year of experience, culminating in a recent first-place finish in his category at the Grand Pacific Chess Championships in April where he beat out a field of more than 100 local players, help him improve on his 2013 third-place finish. His 20-year-old brother Tiantian, also a former B.C. Youth Chess Championship title holder, believes he will.

“I think he can go a long ways. As long as he keeps up his work ethic, he can go as far or maybe even a grand master title,” Tiantian said. “Even when he is in a losing position he doesn’t give up. … I think for his age he is very skilled.”

Matthew reads his chess tactics book every day, playing five to six games a week, preparing for the July tournament with players much older and more experienced than he, including World Youth Chess Champion Jason Cao, his brother Tiantian and father Li, who is also an avid chess player. The Glenlyon Norfolk Junior student credits his friends and family for much of his recent success.

“I think it’s a really big part to have a family that is so supportive and chess guided,” he said. “They teach me a lot of the stuff they learned and their experience (helps) to teach me.”

Buoyed by the support of his busy school, basketball and chess travel schedule which takes him from tournament to tournament, he hopes to represent both his family and his home town well as he prepares for the biggest tournament of his short, but successful career.

“It made me feel happy inside and accomplished of what I did and helped me to think, ‘keep on practicing and keep working hard,’” Matthew said. “It feels great to represent B.C. at the national championships and I feel really excited and really pumped up for it.”

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