Please tell us your name and provide a brief biography about yourself. Feel free to include information regarding your current educational status/school grade, employment, rating, titles, chess awards and/or accolades.
My name is Chris Felix and I have a Degree in IT from Mount Saint Vincent University and currently work as a regional manager for the Federal Government, dealing specifically with process design, implementation and improvement.
In chess I am a National Candidate Master and have been competing at chess for 22 years, coaching chess for 17 years and have been involved with the Nova Scotia Scholastic Chess Association for 8 years.
My best chess tournament was becoming the Canadian Forces Chess Champion in 2016, winning the national competition with a perfect score of 6/6 and then representing Team Canada at the NATO Championships in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I was also the Nova Scotia Chess Champion in 2016 and 2017.
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?
I grew up as a gamer and always loved every form of game, video games, puzzles, board games, etc. I remember seeing the chess board and was fascinated by the different designs of the pieces, they were all so elegantly crafted!
I kept asking to be taught how to play the game, and at the age of 12 my mother taught me how to play chess. I immediately became hooked on all of the thinking required when making a move.
A few weeks after learning, I was in a book store looking for chess books and bought the only chess book they had… “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess”. I worked through the book and then joined the new chess club at my school, South Woodside Elementary (I was Grade 6) and saw a poster for Don Bidgood’s March Break Tournament at the Alderney Gate Library, so I played.
There’s a funny little story about this one. To get into this tournament was actually not so easy! The first problem was that because my family worked on Saturdays, no one would be able to be at the tournament with me. It took quite some time to convince my parents to agree to leave me at the tournament by myself and I would be fine.
So after days of complaining, I was allowed to go to the tournament. My mother called Don Bidgood to register me into the beginner section, since I had only played for a few months. Don advised that the beginner and intermediate groups were full and I would not be able to participate this year. Don eventually relented that he could be put in the Advanced group if I absolutely was adamant about playing and didn’t mind losing. I agreed.
Luckily the book I read came in handy, I performed very well at my first tournament and then found out about the NSSCA monthly tournaments. I was a officially a chess player, and the rest is history!
What is your favorite part of chess? Creating solid pawn structures? Finding checkmates against the enemy king? Figuring out complex endgame tactics?
My favorite part of chess is the endgame, which generally has a mathematical truth to the moves. In an endgame one must be careful, the wrong move is the difference between winning and losing, it’s a very precise part of the game. It’s also the part of chess where you can find some really counter-intuitive moves that are the only correct moves! Showing us time and time again that our own understanding of chess can always be improved and things are not as obvious as we originally think.
Who is your favourite chess player, and why?
I enjoy Bobby Fischer a lot for his aggressive play, but my favorite player is Vladimir Kramnik! He has a very calm and methodical approach to all of his games and had this nice ability to create binds in the position, keeping his opponent’s under complete control. I liked how he could squeeze out wins based on the smallest of positional advantages.
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?
Watching how advanced the kids play chess and have improved over time is my favorite part of the tournaments. It is amazing the skills that these players have at such a young age, even I’m scared when I have to meet them across a chess board now! Listening to them talk about their games, learning from each other and enjoying the competition always brings a smile to my face.
Do you have a favorite chess opening? If so, which one is your favorite and why?
The Sicilian is my favorite chess opening right now as black, just because it creates a lot of really interesting imbalances in a position and is extremely complex. There are so many different ways to play the position.
As white, I guess my favorite is the King’s Indian Attack when I get to play it, because I’ve won a lot of good games with it! It becomes aggressive very quickly.
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 would like to finally achieve the National Master title. Someday when I have the time to put in the required effort!
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?
In the past I used to have a set schedule for chess work, maybe an hour each evening. I would spent 20-30 minutes solving chess problems, 10 minutes reviewing an opening in my repertoire (I had a schedule to review specific lines on specific days) and 20 minutes studying something new, like middle game strategy, or endgame. It’s important to balance study and play, study needs to be made of up solving tactics, studying endgames, studying opening concepts, studying middle game strategy.
One thing I did do that helped a lot was setup a sheet of “knowledge” which had various concepts such as “Rook Endgames – The Lucena Position”, “Queen vs Pawn Endgames – King Pawn Victory Box”, “King Endgames – Opposition” for endgames, “Sicilian Defense – English Attack” for openings, “Middle Game – King Structure Weaknesses” for middle games.
Each concept was assigned a category of “basic” if I reviewed it and understood it at a basic level, “intermediate” if I knew all of the lines and all of the required information or “mastered” if I UNDERSTOOD it enough to teach it to others and it became part of my natural chess playing. So I’d keep reviewing things over and over until I understood it well enough to teach it. This made sure I wouldn’t forget concepts, and didn’t move onto many new things until I had mastered the foundation concepts first.
How has playing the game of chess impacted other areas of your life?
The thought processes I’ve learned at chess I’ve been able to apply to everything else I do. Thinking through problems, identifying the issues, brainstorm solutions, analyze and choose the best path is something I used in school, I use this thought process in my job and everything that I try to solve or do.
The method of learning is the most valuable thing a person can learn in my opinion. Learning chess is not unique, learning everything requires the same process. You practice, you study, you identify areas for improvement and then do it all over again. You get used to thinking before you move.
Besides chess, what other sports or activities do you do?
I compete at video games and have traveled internationally to compete at various games. I have been in a candle pin bowling league for a long time. I enjoy golfing and biking.