Anyone who has seen the film "Searching for Bobby Fischer" knows of the legendary chess hustlers who play for money on the stone tables in NYC's Washington Square park. Bobby Fischer played there, Samuel Reshevsky played there, Roman Dzindzihashvili played there, Vincent Livermore played there, Nakamura has played there, Caruana has played there, you get the idea.
I happened to be in Manhattan last weekend with some time to kill, so I thought I'd take a shot in the footsteps of the giants.
When I arrived, there were about 10 games going on, some on the stone boards inlaid in the tables and some on normal portable tournament sets. Most of them were 5/0 or 3/0, but one game seemed to be about G/60, and another didn't have a clock at all.
Most of the people who play there play blitz for several hours every day. They seem to play mostly unconventional openings, hoping to catch their (usually inexperienced) opponents who are just passing through by surprise and win a few bucks. Some of them are homeless, others seem to make enough money playing to support themselves (or they have other jobs). This is total speculation, but given how much they play, it seems conceivable to me that a few of them could be among the best blitz/bullet players in the world.
I watched from the sidelines for about twenty minutes, until a black man who looked to be his late sixties or so approached me and asked if I wanted a game. I ask what the standard procedure was and whether I had to pay him, adding that I didn't want to play blitz. He asked what my previous experience with chess was, and I told him I had played a lot in the beginning of high school but hadn't played in years. This was slightly dishonest, (I've started playing tournaments again in the last couple of months), but I wanted to seem like as little a threat as possible.
We agreed to play G/30 "for $5." It seemed like a good deal to me - I figured I'd probably lose but would get a game cheaper than I would at a tournament, and it seemed like he needed the money more than I did.
He started taunting or making fun of me from move 2, telling his friend that based on how well I was playing, I must be at least 2000 (this was after I'd played literally four moves). I used most of my time, but for the first pat of the game, he didn't seem to be paying much attention, and he continued his conversation with his friend. Anyway, here's the game: (I'm white).
I didn't expect to do nearly as well as I did, but again, he didn't focus on the game as much as I did. I think 9...c4, which releases all the pressure on d4 and leaves the Q looking stupid on a4 is just the wrong idea, as it allows me to do whatever I want on the kingside if I like. 21...Nf7 is the first actually bad tactical move, though.
I talked to him a bit after the game. His name is Marcus, and he's been playing in the park almost every day for six years (he usually only plays blitz). Like many of the people there, he learned to play chess in prison. He isn't rated, he says, though I'd probably guess he's about 1600 USCF. He lives in a homeless shelter, but makes $60-80 a day playing chess to buy food and other stuff. He was quite a nice guy, really.
When I asked for my $5, he explained that the rules were that if I got to win, I could keep my $5 - not that he would have to pay me $5. I figured it wasn't worth arguing over.
He offered a rematch, but unfortunately I had to go.
Thoughts on the game, etc? Has anyone on here ever played in WSP?