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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chess forges friendships among the unlikely - feature story

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hello everyone,

We would like to share this nice feature story about a friendship forged across the chess board! Naomi Nix writes in the Chicago Tribune:

Shawn Hu and Alexander Pinkston might seem like unlikely chess buddies.Hu, 26, is an immigration lawyer who works alongMichigan Avenue in the Loop. Pinkston, 57, sleeps outside the building next door. But one day in May, after watching Pinkston play chess, Hu decided to sit down for a match.

"I started playing with him and he would beat me," Hu said.

Pinkston's winning streak didn't last long. About a month later, Pinkston taught Hu his killer move: how to achieve checkmate with a king and a rook. "I am trying to figure out a way to charge him for that," said Pinkston, who first learned how to play chess when he was in jail on a burglary conviction.

Almost every weekday, Hu and Pinkston perch themselves on plastic crates outside a building near Hu's office and play for an hour or two. They don't talk much during the matches, and though they don't bet money, Pinkston will ask his opponents for donations. He says he is terrible at panhandling, and he uses the money for food. In late October, Pinkston left his usual spot on Michigan Avenue to appear in court on a trespassing charge. When he returned, his suitcase, MP3 player, notebooks of poems he had written and, most important to Pinkston, his chessboard had disappeared, he said.

When Hu heard of Pinkston's loss, he didn't hesitate. He ordered a wooden chessboard online and gave it to Pinkston. He also has given Pinkston MP3 players, a Chicago Transit Authority pass and cash, among other items. "I don't see him as a homeless guy. He doesn't see me as a young attorney. We are just friends," Hu said. "I don't give it out of charity, but I do it out of friendship."

That chessboard didn't last long. Pinkston left it unattended in a backpack last week, and it also disappeared, he said.

But apparently Hu isn't Pinkston's only benefactor. Brandon Haskins, 48, who chats up Pinkston during his breaks from his job in the technology department at a nearby bank, heard about the loss of the second chessboard and gave Pinkston a board from his office.

"I couldn't bear to throw it away, and I was like, well, maybe I can find someone to use it," Haskins said. "And lo and behold, the opportunity arose."

Hu was pleased to hear that others support Pinkston's love of chess. And Pinkston said he is grateful. "I am extremely glad he did that," Pinkston said, speaking of the board from Haskins, a sentiment he echoes when talking about Hu.
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