Quebec's teen chess grandmaster ready to play best in the world

Maili-Jade Ouellet is at the top of her chess game, the world of strategy, discipline and little room for chance.

"I was five years old when one of my uncles taught me how to play," she said.

Ouellet started playing in chess tournaments when she was seven and, at 15, won the North American Youth Chess Championship (NAYCC) in 2016.

She continues to play all over the world.

In November, Ouellet was invited to the 2019 FIDE Women's North American Continental Championship in Mexico and won the women's grandmaster title, the second Canadian to do so.

Winning means she qualifies for the 2020 Women's World Chess Cup in Belarus in September.

"I was really happy," she said. "Throughout the tournament, you get a feeling if you're going to win or not."

A Google search or YouTube tutorial will teach most chess openings, but the middle of the game is where Ouellet shines.

"Middle game is more about strategy and planning and attacking or defending, and it's really where everything happens," she said. "There's a lot of studies that were made on end game and they're very complicated and they're very hard to master and everyone is bad at it. Everyone."

Ouellet spends hours going over online databases studying her opponents' past games in preparation for meeting them on the board.

"You can anticipate what they're going to play in the opening and you can counter that and play according to this, and there's a lot of theory, so if you prepare well, it could be a lot of moves," she said. "It's really about out-prepping your opponents and having the psychological and positional edge over the board."

Even though she juggles chess with CEGEP, work and family, Ouellet said it's all worthwhile because she has so much fun.