Chess at Domino Park

Chess at Domino Park

Dec 14, 2016, 1:53 AM |

In the heart of Miami, nestled in the international district of Little Havana, there's a place where domino players, card sharks, and chess hustlers meet to test their wits and wile away the hours. I poked my head into the chess games of some old gentlemanly Cuban players and though I couldn't understand the language they were speaking, we clearly understood each other through chess. It wasn't long before I got the invitation to play after patiently watching a few games. I managed to pull out a few victories from an older gentleman, though I have to admit, I played with a nervous excitement and got myself into some trouble. Luckily my opponent missed an intermezzo capture and I safely escaped with a string of wins.


After he had enough there was a buzz amongst the players and a younger man than my previous opponent was sitting across from me. In some broken english my new opponent and the small group that formed around us let me know in so many words that this was the park's top dog affectionately referring to him as Capablanca. I smiled and was all thumbs as I said, "Then I'm Alekhine".


Old Capa (with the black pieces) barely waited for me to make the first move before he threw me the first surprise and was making me eat my words!


I'm ashamed to say I lost the first game after allowing a simple mate in one! Though I had an extra piece I found it extremely difficult to find good squares for my pieces and lacked an overall plan. After castling queenside my opponent somehow wrenched open the a file. I made a silly Bishop retreat for lack of a safe square and boxed my King in allowing my opponent to mate me with ...Ra1. I was hungry for another game and a chance at revenge. The second game was no less surprising. My opponent must have gotten too much of a rush after his first win however because his next surprise was clearly too much!
It truly is a joy to play chess in the park. The fresh air, the people, and the movement of the city all around you really heightens the experience. Not to mention you get to experience a different kind of chess. After awhile you can start to believe you've seen it all, but then you meet a player like this who shows you what it means to be truly original. The third game, we both agreed, would be for all the marbles. A tie breaker to decide who really deserved to be top dog that day in Domino Park. My opponent was happy to repeat the opening from the first game and after having calmed down a bit and seeing how this man played, I was also happy to be up a piece on move two. The game was going a lot smoother for me this time around. I decided to castle kingside this time despite the fact that his Rook stood menacingly on g8. I really wanted to call the bluff on his whole opening and let him know I wasn't scared of open files. The light squares were weak around my King as the pawns stood on f2, g3, and h2 but all was going swimmingly until I had a complete an utter brain fart and decided to "attack" his Queen on c7 by moving my Bishop to f4. Imagine my surprise when I was quickly brought back to reality as he simply answered with ...Qxf4 and the g pawn is unable to capture since his Rook and my King still stood on the open g file. Well I took several minutes to internally chastise myself, but the game was far from over. I had started the game up a piece but suddenly found myself lacking one! A true testimony to never giving up and fighting to the bitter end I managed a miracle in the position that followed. See if you can find the winning move! White to play and win!
Here's a few more photos from that day and the answer at the end.
Just wanted to share a swell day in the park and this moment in chess that meant a lot to me. Thanks for reading!