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My Visit to the Washington Square Park Chess Scene!

  • erik
  • | Oct 31, 2007 at 1:05 PM
  • | Posted in: erik's Blog
  • | 8824 reads
  • | 18 comments

My wife and I have been planning a much-needed vacation together without the kids, so we decided to visit New York City this last week while my parents watched the little ones. And, what trip would be complete without a visit to famous Washington Square park to play chess with the gentlemen (and husslers!)? So off we went! I brought some cash, and she brought a book and the camera.

I have to admit - I was really intimidated. I felt like I was walking into a tiger's den. I mean, these guys sit and play chess ALL DAY! I was very nervous. Anyway, I sat down first with one guy who was blasting some pleasant jazz music. He said "I don't gamble, so games are $5 for 2 games." Fine with me! I was just there for the experience. He set the clock and off we went. Surprisingly, he didn't start picking me apart tactically like I thought might happen. It was a more closed position (which I like). Pretty soon I was squeezing him. Then I was grabbing pawns. And much to my surprise, I won!! Then we played again with the same result!?! He was really upset and asked me about my rating, which I disclosed is about 1500 USCF (or something like that - I'm not sure). He said $5 for 2 more games which I was happy to oblige (these guys need the cash more than I do...). In the third game we had a bloody battle attacking opposite sides and his reached me first, giving him the win. The fourth game he crumbled, gave me his queen, and then stomped off blaming the losses on distractions and lack of coffee. So I moved over to another table.

The next guy was SO much nicer. But that didn't help his chess. I gave him a solid beating in the first game (which were all at 5|0 time controls). Then in the second I was up by 2 pawns and massive crushing attack when I suddenly sacrificed my knight in a tragic almost-brilliancy... until I remembered that rooks can move sideways and my advantage disappeared and I came undone and lost.

I moved on to the best player who was there that day (admittedly it was a smaller crowd - only about 8 people playing and none of the best guys were there). Game 1 with the new guy (still at $5 per 2 games) was a tough battle where he was losing, then swindled me, and then I re-swindled him with a clever perpetual check sequence to save the game with a draw. But in the next 2 games I just destroyed him.

Overall, I was happy with my 6.5/9 performance, but I was also a little sad that I had come in and busted these guys up on their own turf, and was disappointed that I didn't get the beating I was hoping for (I actually like to lose against stronger players). So while Washington Square Park is still a legend in my mind, it isn't the impenetrable fortress of chess prowess I thought it was. Hopefully next time some of the power players will be around to crush me like the patzer I am!

Click here for the pictures!


Comments


  • 7 years ago

    Lord-Svenstikov

    My family and I are going to New York this summer. Is this park worth seeing (bearing in mind that I will have to drag 3 non-chess players along if I want to see it)?

    While I'm at it, can anyone recommend anything else in the New York area that we could visit?


  • 7 years ago

    sk8erkid

    ya
  • 7 years ago

    charles797

    sounds rather intresting not that i would play them
  • 7 years ago

    chessiq

    Interesting. Thanks for the info.
  • 7 years ago

    shadowc

    Like bucks for entertainment... mmm.. That remainds me of something... lol
  • 7 years ago

    erik

    it means i pay $5 to the guy i play with, but he keeps it no matter what the outcome is.
  • 7 years ago

    chessiq

    Thanks for sharing.

    BTW, what does "I don't gamble..." but "... 2 games for $5" mean? who do you pay/give the $5?

    Thx. 


  • 7 years ago

    Kevin

    In NFL football, home field advantage moves the line by +/-3 points.  I wonder how much of an advantage it is to play on your home turf in chess... or at a minimum, on your home board... especially the ones where the bishops and pawns look similar.
  • 7 years ago

    erik

    wow! thanks for sharing that DeepNF3!!
  • 7 years ago

    DeepNf3

    you didn't meet any of the guys who are actually part of the chess legend that makes washigton square park a famous chess stop in the New York erea, the thing about washington square park chess players started back in the late 70s, although there was a period in the 60 in which even Bobby Fischer used to played there, the washington square park chess legend was started by a group of chess players who used to meet first at the Brooklyn prospect park, they Called themselve the black bears, they were very strong chess players, then they started playing all over the New york erea including washington square park, Bryan park, central park etc, among them were chess players who used to beat New York erea chess masters, many of them became famous like in the case of " the Book" (this guy was so good that when techies started working on chess computers back in the 70s they looked for this guy to test their computers against him , the guy beat them every single time), there was also "flash" this guy was so good he played time odds in which he gave his opponents 5 minutes and he played with one minute in his clock(few people could beat him) later in the early 80s, more players joined the famous husslers of washington square park among them it was   william morrison (the exterminator) (this guy became an IM and champion of Baltimore years later), Maurice Ashley also used to play among these players before becoming a master, Roman Dzindzichashvilli also hussled there for a while during the 80s (at the time not many people knew who he was), there were also some other very strong players among them at the time, who later became business men or got a college career like in the case of Greg and some others, others is been said their life went down the drain (because of too much drinking etc), nowdays there are still some strong players that play at New York parks, like for example a guy known as "Russian Paul" (there was a article about him at chessbase a couple of month ago), a guy known as "Gill", there is also a master rated 3400 at the ICC who also plays at washington square park and gives chess lectures etc, his handle at the ICC is YaacovN (very strong chess player), and there are many others who nowdays don't play at the park anymore (they have good jobs, family etc), they mostly play at chess clubs around the city when they have the time, yes you are right! the days when you could go to the New York parks and find GM strength like players is long gone, lucky for me I was in the military around the New york erea when most of these strong players were available and you could get to play them for just a few bucks, I got to play them many many times, and some of the things I am telling you in these post I also learned them from them as they told their stories, and talked about chess hussler like humphy Bogart (who use to play chess for quaters back in the 40s), I still sometimes feel nostalgic of those times, the only place I can go now to remember those times is the Maurice Ashley page at chessgames.com and read the forum and look at some pictures...

    many of the strongest players in New York now play at this club  http://www.bronxchess.com

    now located in Manhattan or atleast that's what I was told

    but you don't need to go to far, when you feel like playing a new york erea strong blitz player just finger "Brea" (Andres francis Brea former Army chess champion) at the ICC or "YaacovN" (blitz USCF rated 2300+ and ICC rated 3400, professional chess trainer) and send them a message inviting them for an unrated friendly blitz game, good luck! Smile


  • 7 years ago

    shadowc

    Nice... Man I've been there and never payed attention to those guys... Those were times off chess I think...
  • 7 years ago

    Don1

    maybe these guys should get out of the park now and then & get on chess.com!
  • 7 years ago

    jay

    Good times! Definitely my favorite activity each time I visit NYC. Both times I've been there I've seen several masters and lots of people above 1900. But glad you put on a good show for chess.com.
  • 7 years ago

    littleman

    hahahaha maybe being on this site has improved u more then u thought or maybe its a case of peoples ideas that proved to be wrong. well presented mate and well done on your wins.... Cool
  • 7 years ago

    likesforests

    How unexpected! I always imagined the players there would be stronger than that... must be from all the movies... but congraulations on your victory.


  • 7 years ago

    Patzer24

    haha, nice description of your experience at Washington Square Park. Quite interesting!

     

    I think all the Chess.com staff should take a trip out there equipped with their Chess.com gear and crazy blitz skills to become "chess husslers" for the day to bring in some pocket change for the Chess.com site  Laughing


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