Chess Restaurants, Trains, And The End Of Chess Mysteries
If there's such a thing as an "ice hotel" then surely a chess-themed restaurant can't be too outlandish, right? This month's "In Other News" has the usual smörgåsbord of offerings, including the next iteration of the famous "Chess Train," a chess takeover of a state legislature, and another chess death to note.
Cover picture courtesy of Prague Chess Club.
If we told you that a restaurant based on the royal game exists, you probably wouldn't have to make too many guesses where it is. Moscow and Amsterdam are good choices (and we supposed the "Kingside Diner" in St. Louis is a reasonable answer too!). But no, Budapest is the spot.
The simply-named "Chess Restaurant" is fine dining, with a chef's tasting menu and wines from Hungary on offer. The reviews are mostly positive, with 4.5/5 stars on Tripadvisor, making it the #110 restaurant out of more than 3,000 in Hungary's capital.
Do they have chess cake? Of course they do! Here's their modern take on "Chess Szép Heléna":
Mmmm, mascarpone. (Image from Chess Restaurant.)
The restaurant specializes in duck breast but also has pork, lamb, steak, and prawns. Yes, even GM Viswanathan Anand can eat there -- they also feature a vegetarian hot dog.
While their Hungarian fine-dining cousin is more "classical chess" the quick-service comfort food of Kingside Diner is more "blitz chess." Plus, there's an overflow room for watching big chess events.
We often hear that political theater borrows strategies from chess, but recently chess came directly to the politicians. In Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, scholastic chess players set up camp in government buildings and awaited their elected representatives.
After a statewide letter-writing campaign to invite them, several members of the state legislature stopped in to challenge the bright minds of the Old North State. Not many of the adults won their campaigns, but that was the point. In winning most of the games, the kids showed the adults what is possible.
The effort was meant to highlight the need to add more chess education to the state's schools. [Full disclosure: This author runs a scholastic chess program in North Carolina.]
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, chess has a black and white army, battling against one another. But does that also mean that people of different colors must do the same? Actually, exactly the opposite, according to one program based in Athens, Georgia.
Lemuel LaRoche believes that the game can bring together communities of kids who may not necessarily interact with each other. He said that, unlike adults, children don't have the same perceptions of skin color, and mixing them at an early age, even through a game, can help offset tensions later in life. This can also lead to their families coming together.
"When we bring these kids together, that, in essence, forces their parents to come together," LaRoche said. "Before we know it, we have a community that's really beginning to build collectively...Chess is just being used as a hook to bring them to the table."
It's not clear how much longer Czech Railways will sponsor its annual "Chess Train," but you have at least one more year to hop aboard. There's usually a few GMs that ride the rails, but with such beautiful scenery and such a leisurely schedule, you may feel it to be more of a vacation than a competition.
The schedule only requires nine rapid games over five days, and this year the train will travel its "traditional" route. The journey will stay inside the boundaries of the once-unified countries of Czech Republic and Slovakia: Prague-Olomouc-Trencin-Bratislava-Lednice-Prague.
If chess is a game of logic, no one exemplified that better than professional mathematician/logician/professor Raymond Smullyan. Best known inside the chess world for his puzzle collections "The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights," Smullyan baffled readers with backward-thinking "retrograde" puzzles.
Readers had to conjure obscure piece movements, rules of castling, and en passant possibilities, all to decipher the subtle clues that Smullyan offered. In a typical puzzle, pieces would be in disarray all over the board and a rogue question mark asked the solver to identify the only legal piece that could exist there.
It was either your cup of tea, or you hated the thought of such a puzzle (in which case, look away now!). We close with one such Smullyan creation, but if you prefer non-chess logic puzzles, here's a few he authored too.
Raymond Smullyan wants to know: On what square was the white queen captured? If you think you know, post your answer and your reason in the comments!