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Monday, July 30, 2012

New Chess Table: How Much Joy's That Worth?

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2012

Hi everyone,

We found this interesting story about a new chess table. Just the thought that more people would find the joy of chess for a lifetime is enough for us to feel happy and carry the story. The article appears in The Bulletin, Toronto. A lot of chess has been happening in Canada lately.

César (right) studies the board as Leslie (left) and Joel Dick look on. Dick has raised half the cost of a fifth table.

In front of Metropolitan United Church on Queen St. between Jarvis and Church, they gather every day to play chess. A diverse crowd, all male, brought together by their life on the margins of society in Toronto—some homeless, some physically disabled, some with emotional issues, some just down on their luck—and by a need for companionship and a common love of the game.

There are far more potential players than the four tables can accommodate. Downtown lawyer Joel Dick wants to do something about that. Talking to The Bulletin among a group of players around the tables, Dick says, “I decided to run for council in Ward 27 in the 2010 election. While I was out looking for votes I got to know these guys, and they told me they needed more tables, and I promised to do something about that. I didn’t win the election, but decided that I could do something about the tables anyway.”

Leslie, one of the regulars, came to Toronto from Eastern Europe about 23 years ago, and immediately found the place where the chess players hung out. In those days, it was outside Sam the Record Man at the corner of Yonge and Gould, and there were 10 tables.

When Sam’s finally closed down and was demolished in 2007, six of the table and stool sets–all substantial pieces of concrete permanently sited–were moved by the city to Nathan Philips Square. The other four went to Metropolitan United where they are filled to overflowing.

The ones in front of city hall don’t get much use: “You feel like a tourist attraction, going there to play,” contributes one of the regulars.

The front of Met United isn’t much less public, but the scuffed lawn under the trees has a more homey feel than the monumental square three blocks west. It’s identifiable turf.

Dick says that trying to get the six Nathan Philips tables moved would be an exercise in bureaucracy that is probably doomed from the outset. So, with permission from the church and the city who respectively own and administer the grounds, he will keep his campaign promise one table at a time.

To date he has raised about half the price of one set, which must be purchased from a city-approved vendor’s list since they have to be sturdy and non-movable. Any donation over $10 qualifies for a charitable receipt from the Lions’ Club of Toronto. More information about the project can be found at

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