Montreal teenager becomes first world junior chess champion in Quebec

An 18-year-old from the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood of Montreal was crowned the World Youth Chess Champion this year, becoming the first Quebecer and only the second Canadian to win the title.

Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux took home the trophy after beating players from 54 countries at the Under-18 World Chess Championship in Romania last week.

He scored nine of the eleven points: seven wins and four draws. Among those he defeated was Kazybek Nogerbek from Kazakhstan, who finished second in the standings. He recorded a draw against Marius Fromm from Germany, who finished third.

“It’s not really what I expected,” Rodrigue-Lemieux said of his historic victory. “The start of the tournament wasn’t that great, but suddenly the wins kept coming and at the end it was great.”

Rodrigue-Lemieux was pictured last Friday with his trophy after beating players from 54 countries at the World Under-18 Chess Championship in Romania. (The Canadian Press)

With this win under his belt, the teen is just two wins away from becoming a grandmaster – the game’s highest honor.

“He could become the youngest Quebecer in history to earn the title of grandmaster,” said Richard Bérubé, general manager of the Quebec Chess Federation (QCF).

According to the QCF, some 1,200 players are international grandmasters, including Quebecers Kevin Spraggett, Pascal Charbonneau and Thomas Roussel-Roozmon, who received the title at the age of 22..

VIEW | Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux shows CBC reporter a thing or two about chess:

Simon Nakonechny of CBC takes on chess champion

Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux, 18, of Montreal was crowned the World Youth Chess Champion this year, becoming the first Quebecer and only the second Canadian to win the title.

‘I never expected it to lead to this,’ says mother

Rodrigue-Lemieux did not grow up in a chess-obsessed household, but began learning at the age of six in an after-school program.

“I just decided to register to learn what chess was and [I’ve] liked it ever since,” he said.

But Rodrigue-Lemieux’s mother said this was never meant to be. Isabelle Rodrigue said her son was very energetic and that she had hoped the game would help him focus. She didn’t care if he excelled at it or if it became a passion of his.

“Those weren’t my expectations,” she says. “It was really just that he would stay calm and sedentary and develop his concentration a little bit… I never expected it to lead to this.”

Isabelle Rodrigue says she put her son in an after-school chess program to help his concentration. She never expected him to become a champion of the game. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC News)

Those in the local chess world say they hope Rodrigue-Lemieux’s win will give the game a boost.

Larry Bevand of the Chess’n Math Association says they’ll be in his corner as he tries to rise to the rank of grandmaster.

“Now that Shawn has won the World Championship, we are already planning to subsidize him for the rest of the quest,” he said.

As a social studies student with a specialization in law at the Collège de Maisonneuve, Rodrigue-Lemieux said he wants to continue that study, but does not rule out a career in chess.

“I want to go to university, but chess is also part of my future,” he said.

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