From Tibet To Prisons To Cannabis Lounges, Chess Is Played Everywhere

From Tibet To Prisons To Cannabis Lounges, Chess Is Played Everywhere

| 22 | Misc

Location is key in this month's edition of "In Other News."

Past chess games have been played in space, underwater, and just about everywhere in between. Today we reveal a few locations you may not have thought about: behind bars, whilst under the influence, and in an ancient place.

Chess Helps Pass The Time For Imprisoned Murderers

I once asked an international arbiter when was the most stressed he had been while running an event. He said that during a prison chess tournament, the warden called "lights out" just as many of the games were in time trouble.

Perhaps even more troubling could be arbitrating a chess match between two of the most famous criminals in the United States. Nearly three decades ago, brothers Erik and Lyle Menendez killed their parents. Their trial captivated the American public.

The Menendez brothers in the early 2000s. Lyle (left) and Erik (right). | Photo: Beverly Hills Police Department.

Now in prison for life, they aren't allowed to see each other, but a recent article explains that they do play chess by mail. They'll never get to shake hands after the game though—Both are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. 

Legal Marijuana Lounge Offers Exclusivity, Chess

Woody Harrelson take note. Two of the star's most favorite things, chess and marijuana, have become one. A private lounge in San Franciscso, called Harvest, is now open and allows members to enjoy their favorite ganja while enjoying their favorite gambit.

That should soften the blow for Harrelson (who is open about his usage) whose application for a Hawaiian marijuana dispensary was reportedly denied. He is often also spotted playing chess in public places, including this author's home city of Charlotte, N.C. while filming the "Hunger Games" and Asheville, N.C

The members-only lounge, Harvest. Those tables don't look suitable for chess! | Photo: Justin Gordon, Special to the San Francisco Chronicle.

To merge the two passions, California's laws are the most amenable. The cost of membership is $100/month, but for that money, you could get a year of diamond membership on (drugs not included). It's your choice, members!

Tibetan Chess Played In Ancient Capital

Much talk in recent years has focused on the dilution of Tibetan culture by outside influences, but their version of chess is hanging on with school children. Tibetan chess, known as "mimang," is a portmanteau combining two words and literally translates as "many eyes."

The playing boards in this article look more similar to "go," but like chess, there seem to be variants of the game. One major difference between mimang and both chess and go is that the game can have more than two players.

Two kids enjoying mimang. But the question remains: Will GMs Tiger Hillarp Persson or Alexander Morozevich add the game to their next match? | Photo: Jigme Doje, Xinhua.

In late August, the Tibetan Chess Association was created in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

Lady Gaga, Your Next Girlfriend?

Ben Finegold, hold on to your chair. Pop star Lady Gaga revealed recently that she'd like to date a chess player

"I like to play chess, I think that it's fun," she reportedly said.

Several years ago, the U.S. Championship closing ceremony ended with a Lady Gaga impersonator serenading then-St. Louis GM Ben Finegold, who was a big fan of hers.

The 2010 U.S. Championship closing ceremony had this Lady Gaga impersonator and Ben Finegold take over the dance floor. | Photo: Betsy Dynako for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

How big is his fandom? Finegold once said Lady Gaga helped him get his third GM norm in 2009: "I listened to her music before every round. This gave me so much energy and inspiration to go for the win in every game. I could not have done it without Lady Gaga. I owe everything to her."

"The Rookie" Chronicles Three-Year Chess Odyssey

Steven Moss, a feature writer at The Guardian, didn't just want to see the chess world for his book. He wanted to be an intrinsic part of the chess world.

During his multi-year quest around the globe to chronicle top tournaments, he also played in several to experience some of the highs and lows of professional chess. (Full disclosure: This author assisted Moss with several clerical tasks like arranging contacts and interviews.)

What resulted is found in his book, "The Rookie: An Odyssey Through Chess (And Life)," which is now available from Bloomsbury.

Moss seeks to understand why readers like you devote so much time to the game. Does chess "annihilate a man" as H.G. Wells asserted?

Read English Chess Federation President Dominic Lawson's review here.

Ginger GM Plays 6,000 On Twitter

The headline for this one is misleading. Yes, GM Simon Williams lost a game to the masses on Twitter, but only after he won two others, one of them blindfolded.

GM Simon Williams at the recently-concluded Isle of Man International.

That's not quite as good as GM Garry Kasparov beating "The World" in his 1999 online match, but one can safely assume that many in the Twittersphere had access to something not available in the 20th century—3000+ rated chess programs!

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