by Stacia Pugh, Progress With Chess | July 7th, 2021
Congratulations to Christopher Shen who won a 2021 Scholar-Chessplayer Award!
To qualify for this award, applicants must show outstanding achievement in academics and chess, complete at least one year of chess-related community service and write a compelling essay on how the award will help the recipient to further their education, improve their chess, and allow them to continue contributing to the chess community. Read the full article and see the other winners selected by US Chess HERE.
THE AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF CHRISTOPHER SHEN
Christopher Shen is an American chess FIDE Master. He clinched an IM norm by winning the 2019 Charlotte IM Fall Invitational, with a performance rating of 2505.
He finished second place in the U-18 section at the 2019 Pan American Youth Championship in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He qualified for the U.S. Junior Championship by winning the 2019 U.S. Junior Open in Chicago, IL. Christopher is also a student-athlete of fencing sport and he is a current member of the All-American Fencing Team of High School. Chris was featured in THIS ARTICLE by CityScene and also was awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations Certificate of Accomplishment.
INTERVIEW WITH FM SHEN
What are your plans in terms of your chess journey for 2021-22?
I will soon return to the chessboard starting from the Pittsburgh Open in July as a warm-up to prepare myself for the Denker National High School Championships. This year, I again became Ohio’s delegate to play the Denker National, and hopefully, I will advance further from last year’s 6th place. I will then play the 2021 North American Youth Championship in Chicago, IL, in August as the US Chess Team U18 Official Delegate.
However, the overarching chess plan of 2021-22 is to secure my International Master (IM) norms and title. As a rising senior in high school, I will face a huge challenge to balance my life between academics, community leadership, and chess. But, I’m still quite confident that I’ll achieve the IM title as long as the tournament normalcy in the country is stable.
Q: Do you have any chess goals?
My short-term goal is to play well in the upcoming national and North American tournaments. My mid-term goal is to obtain an IM title, while the long-term goal is to achieve the Grand Master (GM) title. Besides that, I will do my best to advance chess in the community and allow more children to enjoy and experience the game. In the past three years of my community engagement, I’ve actively led and observed chess as both a board game and a cultural bridge to help us make our community stronger. So, I look forward to continuing working as an advocate of chess and inspiring others along the way.
Q: Has the pandemic helped or hurt your chess and if so, why?
The pandemic adversely impacted my chess career in 2020-2021 because my opportunities for competing for IM norms have stopped since March 2020. I earned my first IM norm in Charlotte, NC, in November 2019, and I was optimistic that I would soon obtain the other two norms and ratings required for the IM title.
However, the pandemic has also allowed me to spend more time building up my community through chess involvement. Throughout the past 12 months, I launched a free weekly chess tutoring program (“Our Friday”) on the internet. The program has taught basic chess skills to numerous children from central Ohio, and it has allowed them to enjoy and interact with other chess-lovers. This spring, three members have won top trophies in entry-level sessions at the State Elementary Championship and the State All Girls. During winter break, I even found time to edit teaching handouts and authored my first chess tactics book, which is currently available. Through teaching chess, I realized the need for robust education opportunities, particularly for children in low-income communities when life transformed into an online experience.
I then came up with an idea to launch a literacy program to help disadvantaged children in K-5 grades improve their reading comprehension skills through weekly 1-to-1 meets. We also founded an Antiracist Book Club for high schoolers in central Ohio. The outcome is quite promising, and I firmly believe that equitable access to educational resources for children is one of the critical steps to achieve an equal community.
Last summer, I also organized a program, 64 People on 64 Squares, in which I invited a scholastic team of talented chess players from across the country to compete against a strong team from Canada. The US team included young players from eight ethnicity and racial groups, and ten states. This year, I co-founded the Columbus High School Chess League with the partnership of three independent schools and seven public schools from five districts in central Ohio, attracting more adolescents to explore chess culture. Because of my efforts of spreading the love of chess and helping make a more inclusive community, I was recently awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations Certificate of Accomplishment. I am grateful to be in a position to lead the community I love, and I’m excited about the future.