Oct 15, 2014: Seventeen year old Tanraj Sohal from Surrey is undoubtedly the best chess player in the state. He was crowned the Champion at the BC Chess Championship 2013 and 2014 held in Richmond, BC in February.
However this is only his latest accolade. Sohal has to his credit numerous national and international championships in what seems to be his childhood passion; chess.Born in Vancouver and raised in Surrey, Sohal attended Coyote Creek Elementary School and the Fleetwood Park Secondary School. His journey towards victory began in 2003 when he was six years old and in the first grade – and wanted to join the school chess club. Although players had to be in grade 4 and above to participate, the school chess club made an exception for him. Sohal has dominated junior chess in Canada ever since then.
He won the Fraser Valley Regional and BC Provincial Chess Championships in his grade level from 2003 to 2014, a record twelve years in a row. He represented BC at the Canadian Chess Challenge, held over different cities all across Canada from 2003 to 2014. He won the Canadian Chess Challenge (National Championship) in his grade level for a record of nine times. Sohal also won the 2013 BC Closed Championship in October, 2013 making him the youngest person ever to win this championship in the 98 year history of the tournament.
For Sohal, winning nationally was not enough. He went on to represent Team Canada at the World Youth Chess Championship in Vietnam in 2008, in Greece in 2010 and in Slovenia 2012 and finally the Pan American Youth Chess championship in Peru in 2012.
“It was a wonderful experience as I went on the stage with the Canadian Flag to receive my gold medal. It feels great to do something on an international stage and make your country proud,” he recounts.
Sohal has also travelled across the border to participate in several chess championships in the USA. His most notable win there was the North American Open Championship in Las Vegas in 2011 which secured him a cash prize of $6600. Besides that he has also won the 2013 Susan Polgar National Open Championship in New Orleans, Louisiana and a $56000 Scholarship for Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. All these achievements have earned him the National Master Title from the Canadian Chess Federation.
The son of a family physician and scientist, Sohal says he owes his passion for chess to his father who was his first teacher and his family has been quite supportive of his endeavours.
“They have always been there for me and have been a great source of encouragement. As I have said my father is a huge chess fan and felt great pride in my winnings. Chess involves extensive travelling; going to various tournaments nationally and internationally. My family was always there to travel with me to various tournaments all around the world, we had so many memorable trips,”he says.
For Sohal his biggest inspiration is Magnus Carlsen who is the current World Chess Champion from Norway. “I take inspiration from him because he is so young yet he is so talented and strong that it is unbelievable,” he says.
Sohal is now planning to attend Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University this fall to pursue his education in business administration, however he says that his journey towards success in chess and winning honors for his country will continue.