Meet the Players: Calix Marchand!

My name is Calix Marchand and I am 8 years old. I just finished grade 2 and will be starting grade 3 in the Fall.

I first learned about chess at my daycare when I was 4 years old. I came home and was excited about the game and my Dad looked around the house and found his chessboard. I have loved chess ever since! A few weeks later, I went to a chess event at the Halifax Public Library and met Chris Felix (President of the NSSCA). He showed me some chess puzzles, taught me some chess principles and told me that I should go to the junior chess club at the Dartmouth Library.

I played my first chess tournament when I was 5 years old and have gone to every NSSCA tournament since (except one because I had a fever). I am currently the highest ranked grade 2 player in Nova Scotia and ranked in the top 10 in Canada for my grade. My biggest chess accomplishment was placing 3rd in the Canadian Chess Challenge for grade 1. I got to travel to Vancouver BC for this tournament and I really enjoyed being part of the NS team! At the end of grade 1, I was named Player of the Year by the Chess n’ Math Association of Canada (for the Atlantic and Prairie Provinces for kindergarten to grade 3).

I love solving and creating chess puzzles. When I was 5 years old, I made a book of my chess puzzles as a present for my grandpa’s birthday. He was my biggest chess fan up until he passed away. This year I have started playing in adult tournaments and have had some luck, including winning prize money two times!

Tell us about your journey into becoming a chess player. Was it a particular individual who inspired you or was chess something you found yourself?

There have been lots of people that have inspired me and who have helped me get better at chess. My parents (who are not chess players) have taken me to all my tournaments and worked through chess books with me before I could even read them. When my grandpa heard that I was interested in chess, he introduced me to his friend, Paul Simon, National Master. Almost every time I visit my relatives in Ontario, Paul Simon comes over and gives me a chess lesson (…and brings me Timbits – yummy!). He plays chess blindfolded, which made me want to play blindfolded too.

So far I have won blindfolded against my mom several times! Another important person in my chess journey has been Chris Felix (President of NSSCA). I first met him at age 4 and he has been my chess coach for the last several months. He is awesome! I am also inspired by many of the other Nova Scotia chess kids. When I started, I was one of the youngest kids at the tournaments and the older kids were really nice and encouraged me (and they still do!). Since the covid19 pandemic, Tal Younis (a strong adult Nova Scotia Chess player) has been playing chess online with me and he gives me tips after each game. Thanks Tal! Some other people that have been helpful are Laurie Parker (NSSCA volunteer) and Aaron Yip (president of the Dalhousie Chess club).

What is your favorite part of chess? Creating solid pawn structures? Finding checkmates against the enemy king? Figuring out complex endgame tactics?

My favourite part of chess is going to tournaments. I like it best when I win against a strong player by coming up with a checkmate plan that my opponents didn’t see coming. My favourite checkmates are ones that involve a queen sacrifice.

Who is your favourite chess player, and why?

My favourite chess player is MVL (GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave), who is from France and is one of the top players in the world. I like his style of play and I really like one of his games where he promoted a pawn into a knight leading to checkmate!

GM Hikaru Nakamura is another one of my favorite players. I like to watch his online chess stream. I like the way he looks up in the air, rather than at the board, when he is thinking. I think he is funny and I like the music he listens to when he plays chess.

What is your favourite part about the NSSCA tournaments and events? Is it the competition? Or is it perhaps seeing your friends and socializing at tournaments?

I like the competition – I love to win medals/trophies, have my rating go up and move up to the more advanced groups. However, even if I lose, I am always happy to play. The tournaments are fun, and I like being with the other chess players. I was really happy when my friend from school started coming to the tournaments. I hope he continues to come when they start up again!

Do you have a favorite chess opening? If so, which one is your favorite and why?

I like aggressive openings. I like the ones that let me quickly develop my pieces (but stop my opponents from developing); that allow me to get good control of the centre and that set up strong attacks as soon as possible. I have been trying out different openings and don’t have a favorite yet.

How far would you like to go in chess? Do you want to become a chess master or do you see yourself simply playing casually for fun?

I want to become a grandmaster and be a professional chess player.

Improving at chess can be difficult! Are there any things you do at home or with others that has helped you improve your chess skills?

I like doing chess puzzles. They have really helped me to develop chess tactics and to see common chess patterns. This year I started to have weekly chess lessons from Chris Felix. I also play chess online a lot (and even more often since covid19).

How has playing the game of chess impacted other areas of your life?

All my friends and classmates know I play and like chess. At school, I often draw and write stories about chess. Solving chess puzzles has also helped me to solve other kinds of puzzles.

Besides chess, what other sports or activities do you do?

I love playing soccer and tennis. I also like to ride my scooter and jump on a trampoline. I also like origami and Rubik’s cube.

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