Outhustling New York Chess Hustlers

NM Flicflac
Oct 6, 2016, 12:56 AM |

Sup chess fans,

The last couple posts have been kind of heavy on the chess theory/improvement side, so I wanted to break it up with a lighter post this week. This summer I went on a two week vacation to the east coast. I started off in Washington DC where I saw a middle school friend who recently graduated from undergrad and was working at a government think tank while preparing to apply to law school.

Friends for 13 years, can you believe that???

The first time I visited our nation's capital was in 8th grade when I qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee (yes, the one on ESPN). At the national spelling bee, I distinctly remember being eliminated after misspelling the word "flicflac" in round 4, which landed me 45th place out of 275 contestants. That is also the reason why I always choose "Flicflac" as my username on all the chess websites. Luckily I was able to snag that username here, but whoever stole "Flicflac" from me on lichess, darn you!!!!!!!

After three days there, I took the Greyhound up to Philadelphia where I visited one of my best college friends. I was lucky because he lived in a frat house and it was mostly empty during the summer months as students were out of town. He was in Philadelphia studying medicine at Penn, and since I visited him soon after he finished his first year in medical school, he had almost no work or obligations which was nice as he showed me around town. I did not get very much sleep in Philly, so by the time I had to leave for New York to visit my brother, I just wanted a more chill time, which he was more than happy to accommodate.

Visiting the Magic Gardens in Philly


I've been to New York a couple times now, and I never had the time to really check out the chess scene there, or visit the famous Marshall Chess Club. On my last day though we ended up at Union Square park, and it was the last place I was planning on checking out before heading home and packing for my flight back.

After taking some pictures at Union Square park, I saw that there was actually a line of chess boards off to the side, with a decent number of people hanging around and a couple games going on. I probably looked interested because I obviously play a lot of chess, and I think this one hustler saw that and immediately stood up and called me out, waving for me to come over and play. So I did, and my brother and girlfriend wanted me to play, probably because they knew any pictures and videos they recorded would rake in ALL the likes on facebook and instagram.

A selfie of me, my brother, and his girlfriend we took on the subway

I don't think this guy was homeless, but he was definitely a bit of a shady guy. He was smoking a cigarette and blowing smoke in my face the entire game. A lot of these characters are also not that honest, which is why I don't like playing these NYC street hustlers. He definitely looked like all he did was sit there and sucker tourists into playing chess and take their money. If I had to estimate his strength looking back, I'd say he was probably about an 1800 player, which was actually pretty strong for some random hustler out on the street.

When I sat down, he asked if I wanted to play 3 minutes or 5 minutes, and I said 5 minutes because I didn't want this to just turn into a contest to see who could hit the clock the faster (since these hustlers are pretty good at moving pieces at lightning speed). It turned out that it didn't matter because I was ahead on time against him the entire game anyways. Then right before we were about to start he said he wanted to play for money, winner takes $5. I was about to object because I didn't really feel like playing for money, but right before I was about to say anything, my brother cut me off and was like "Alright $5 it is" and laid down the $5 for me. Maybe the lesson was my brother was the real hustler out of all of us, because he saw a chance to make a quick buck by pitting his NM brother against him Cool

I don't remember the full score sheet of the game, but I tried transcribing as much as I could remember of the game here:

In the final position I had 30 seconds to his 10 seconds, and I was up a queen and rook and about to mate his lone king. He didn't even resign; he just waved his hand and started resetting the chess pieces. Not a classy player, but what do you expect from a park hustler? Laughing After I beat him, I stood up to leave because I have better things to do then beat hustlers all day. When I stood to leave, he was like "You gonna just hit and run?" but I wasn't about to be provoked into more games because I still had to pack for my flight the next morning. On the train ride back to his apartment, I asked my brother if he was ever scared he'd lose the $5 and he said he knew I was gonna win all along. That's faith right there :)

Anyways, I thought I'd end with a link to a video of the end when I won. My brother filmed the end for snapchat but saved it, and I'm glad he did because after I shared it on Facebook, my friends thought it was hilarious. I've probably watched this video at least 100 times on repeat now. Enjoy!


Until next time,