A 17-year-old from Saint-Lambert, Que., is heading to Belarus in 2020 to compete for the Women's World Chess Cup, after winning an international chess competition in Mexico earlier this year.
Maili-Jade Ouellet is a CEGEP student at Champlain College.
In November, she travelled to the Women's North American Continental Championship, an invitation-only tournament in Aguascalientes, Mexico — and one of only two qualifying championships for the Women's World Cup in chess.
Ouellet won it handily, beating the runner-up by a wide margin. She was the youngest competitor in the tournament.
"I was really surprised at first. I had set up goals for myself, but it was a bit unrealistic. I was disciplined throughout the whole tournament," she said. "I know I deserved it, but it was still really, really cool to win it."
Ouellet has been playing chess since she was five years old and competing since she was seven.
She and her family realized early on that she had an aptitude for the game.
"I beat my mom when I was only five, so that helped," she said. "And when I started winning chess tournaments, that, too."
"Chess is a game that leaves very little room for luck," said the Quebec Chess Federation in a statement, congratulating Ouellet on her recent win.
"Good mental discipline is a fundamental characteristic to succeed in chess. There's no doubt the new champion has this trait."
Ouellet was also awarded the St-Lambert prize in culture.
Hopes to go into law
Ouellet is a regular competitor, both in Quebec and nationally, although since starting CEGEP, she's been focusing on her studies.
She organizes her life so that she does her school work during the week and is available to play chess on the weekends.
"It's not much of a hassle," she said. "It's more like I have my school schedule ... then I do everything around it."
She said her CEGEP schedule is actually more forgiving than her high school schedule. She's managed to do everything in part because she says she requires less sleep than others, sleeping about six hours per night.
Ouellet is looking forward to the competition next September in Minsk, Belarus, although she's not sure what will come of her chess-playing in the long term. She hopes to go into law.