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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Street chess never fails to charm

Chess news and chess trivia blog (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2010

Hello Everyone,

The charm of street chess is never going to end. Well! The charm of chess is never going to end. So, do read this really sweet article about Market Street in San Francisco.

It’s not often that a 93-year-old, a trapeze artist, a kid from the Sunnydale projects and a DJ from a gentlemen’s club can find something in common.

In San Francisco, that something is chess. The Mechanics’ Institute is the oldest chess club in the nation. Reporter Sam Harnett is a chess enthusiast himself, but it’s been quite awhile since he last played. So he went out to rekindle his spirit for the game by talking with the city’s chess-obsessed, both on the streets and in the Mechanics’ club, for this segment of Meet Your Neighbors.

SAM HARNETT: There are ten chess games running out here at the corner of Market Street and Mason. It doesn’t take a chess master to see who the regulars are.

I’m watching a Latino guy in a wheelchair destroy a college kid. He’s showing him how he’s losing on the chessboard, and he’s right. That blocked bishop is useless. But that’s easy to say from up here. When you are sitting down, it’s a whole ‘nother chess game.

The competition is stiff, the five-minute-a-side speed format unforgiving and the game completely absorbing. That’s what draws people out here to play, but they also eat, smoke, socialize and gamble.

JORGE LOPEZ: You don’t want to play me man?

HARNETT: No, no.

LOPEZ: Come on, just one dollar, it’ll be fun.

HARNETT: Alright, sure.

I’ve been spotted – or fished as they like to say here. It’s normally $5 a game, but the man in the wheelchair thinks I am an easy catch, so he reels me in for a dollar game. Before I can sit down, I have to pay John Powell. He’s in charge out here.

POWELL: So each individual player gives me one dollar for one hour. However many games you can get in that hour that’s up to you.

Powell learned how to play chess hanging around the tables. Now he comes everyday to make a living.

POWELL: Well yeah, I do sustain myself in modest … very modest means, you know, because right now chess is a luxury. The way we do it out here is a luxury.

There’s nothing luxurious about these games. The tables and plastic chairs are worn, the stretch of street is dominated by empty storefronts and strip clubs, and the players range from quirky to rag-tag. But even so, people of all kinds come to play chess here.

Go on read it in full here. Enjoy!

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  • At November 11, 2010 at 9:13 AM , Anonymous Sebastian Wolff, New York said...

    how true been there done that and keep going back to play more street chess. sometimes much greater fun than tournaments or internet chess. :)


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