Burnaby chess star off to World Championships in Dubai

Jeremy Hui has qualified to compete in the World Youth Chess Championships in Dubai later this month. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Jeremy Hui has qualified to compete in the World Youth Chess Championships in Dubai later this month.

When a Burnaby teen arrives in Dubai later this month to represent Canada at the World Youth Chess Championships, it'll be the start of fulfilling a dream years in the making.

Grade 10 Moscrop secondary student Jeremy Hui has won three provincial titles and a national championship for his age group over the past seven years.

Now 14 years old, he's been playing chess for half his life.

For most of that, he has aspired to represent his country at the worlds. Now he'll get the chance.

Hui didn't qualify right off the bat. At the national tournament in July he tied for fourth, just outside the top 3 who automatically qualify for the international competition.

But at the Canadian Open Chess Championship tournament right afterwards, in which players of all ages compete, he tied the first-place finisher from the nationals, impressing the judges enough he was added to Team Canada.

Since then, he's been practising one or two hours a day, reading chess books, playing others online and analyzing his previous matches.

He's been working on a new opening move to avoid being too predictable.

And he's receiving coaching from fellow Burnaby native Bindi Cheng, himself a former national title holder, via Skype.

Cheng, a Burnaby North secondary grad, currently lives in Toronto. He said by email that the world tourney is "pretty tough" to qualify for and that Hui is currently ranked 112th out of the 159 that will be competing.

Cheng said, "if he can finish in the top 50th, that will be pretty decent, of course as a coach I'm hoping he finishes better than that."

Hui will benefit from the experience of playing against such a strong field and his "hard work and willingness to try out new things" could serve him well, he said.

As for the trip to the United Arab Emirates for the tournament Dec. 17 to 29, Hui has been saving up from his part-time job teaching chess to younger kids, organizers provide some money for room and board, and he'll be the beneficiary of his dad's frequent flyer points for his plane ticket.

In addition to travelling alone internationally for the first time, Hui is looking forward to the chance of possibly meeting former longtime world champion Garry Kasparov, now retired, who will be in attendance.

While Canada has some strong players, chess is not as big a deal here as it is in Europe and Asia where some countries even sponsor players to attend the worlds, he said.

"I'll have to work really hard and just see how I do. I'm pretty positive going into this tournament."

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