Quebecer to take long-awaited shot at grand-master title
By Rene Bruemmer, Montreal Gazette
August 22, 2009 9:01 PM

MONTREAL — High-level chess is a young person’s game. Despite its appearance of immobility, a confrontation between brooding statues punctuated by brief, ponderous movements of arm and wrist, top-flight players finish the three- to four-hour matches physically and mentally spent. Pulse rates rise, and professionals exercise both mind and body to be able to maintain concentration levels.

Plus, at a certain age, the synapses don’t fire like they used to.

Despite this, chess master Jean Hebert, at 51 considered a dinosaur of his species, has embarked on a quest to become a grand master, the game’s highest ranking short of world champion. It is a lifetime designation bestowed on fewer than a dozen Canadians by chess’s international governing body, and less than 1,000 players worldwide.

At the age of 20, Hebert became the youngest player to win the Canadian Chess Championships in 1978.

Last week in Guelph, Ont., 31 years after his first national victory, Hebert beat out 30 of the nation’s top players to become the oldest person in at least 50 years, if not ever, to win the Canadian championships.

“I was a surprise both times,” Hebert laughs. “The first time because nobody really knew who I was and was so young, and this time because I’m relatively old.”

He could have attained grand master status three decades ago, he said, a status he likens to a hockey player making the NHL, but life got in the way.

Now, Hebert hopes to surprise the world again.

“Even though it’s late, I think that in the next two years, if I do things right, yes, I can become a grand master,” he said. “Which could be a record as well, at my age.”

Here is the full article.

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