My Visit to the Washington Square Park Chess Scene!

My Visit to the Washington Square Park Chess Scene!

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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!


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Yes, I am the guy who started (along with Jay, Igor, Piotr, and many others). I have 3 amazing daughters, one wild son, and a wonderful, patient wife! I learned chess when I was 8 years old. Since then I have been playing, studying, and enjoying it regularly. I prefer semi-open and closed positions that blow up tactically (like the Closed Sicilian, King's Indian, Glek etc). 

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