Updates have been somewhat sparing here of late as Ula and myself have been away for the last month or so. We did and saw plenty of interesting things during that time but one thing I always try to make a little time for when I am abroad is to play some chess. Chess is a game that brings people together and represents a common language for an estimated 600-700 million people who play the game worldwide.
First up was some friendly games in quite a historic venue in Poland, the famous Książ castle near Walbrzych in lower Silesia. There were a few chess players in the vicinity for an occasion on the 9th July🙂 and here is Mike O Donnell and myself sitting down for a game.
Next up was the USA and finding ourselves (somewhat unplanned) in Las Vegas for a full week I decided to check out the Las Vegas Chess Centre and their Thursday night rapidplay. Finding the venue is not trivial as it is a bit off the main strip. A good GPS or, failing that, a knowledgeable taxi driver is always helpful though. The club is run by a Cuban emigre Juan Pablo Jauregui and his wife, who are real chess enthusiasts and very welcoming to any visitors.
I hear that titled players are regular guests to the club, some of whom can be seen on their facebook page but none were present when I was there and I was pleasantly surprised to win the rapidplay on 5 from 5. If you are a chessplayer and find yourself in Vegas this club is definitely worth a visit!
From the East coast to the West coast, and my abiding image of American chess is scenes of chess hustlers playing in the parks from movies such as ‘Searching for Bobby Fisher’ so in New York I endeavored to find some. Washington Square and Union Square seem to be the main two places where chessplayers play for money. There is also a nice chess pavilion in Central Park but most people playing there seemed to be tourists or casual players.
In the game above I am playing a guy in Washington Square Park called Cornbread. I wasn’t interested in taking any of these guys money as I imagine most of them are living a fairly precarious existence. The deal was I handed over $5 for every game I lost but if I won the game was ‘for free’. I might have been a bit lucky but I won all my games with Cornbread. In fairness to Cornbread he must have been fairly tired at this stage, as he said he had been up the whole night before. I did lose a couple to a guy called Na’Shawn the Great before moving onto Union Square.
Shaking the hand of Na Shawn the Great
Maybe because it was later in the evening but the chess scene on Union Square seemed a bit more lively than on Washington Square, getting through some cans of Four Loko probably helped.
I lost and won some more games here including two against a guy with an Eastern European accent who looked scarily like Andrei Chikatilo though he said his name was Paul and seemed nice enough if a bit laconic. He also seemed like quite a strong player as was winning both games only to blunder. Ula and myself were walking across the same square two nights later on the way to the cinema when I heard a shout “Hey Mr Irishman”. We had about an hour til the movie started so I sat down to play some more. After losing 4 from 5 I was glad to be able to beat a hasty exit to the safety of the cinema.
Chess culture is a great thing. A person can be anywhere in the world and can find communities of chess players all speaking a common language: the language of chess.