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  1. 24 Apr '13 01:24 / 1 edit
    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?
  2. 24 Apr '13 02:14 / 1 edit
    i think 14...Rdg8 looks wrong. I like c4 its cutting the board off, can see what he's doing. but there in no attack from Rg8 as the queen is on the wrong side of the board so the rooks no use there. he should have seen your attack on his queen coming...
  3. 24 Apr '13 08:07
    Wonderful story! And the game looks good at first sight.
  4. Standard member RJHinds
    The Near Genius
    24 Apr '13 10:06 / 2 edits
    Originally posted by Kareemelbadry
    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 g to go.
    Thoughts on the game, etc? Has anyone on here ever played in WSP?
    When I saw 7.Qa4 I thought he had played this move too early and had gotten this move and his next move 8...Ne7 out of order, because he was expecting you to play 8.c4 uncovering a bishop attack on his queen. So I decided to run it through my new Houdini 3 Aquarium chess program. I discovered that it had 1480 games in the database with 7...Qa4 with a 44% success rate. There were only 96 games with the move 7...Ne7 and it also had a 44% success rate. The move with the best success rate for Black was 7...cxd4 with 48%.

    I thought you might be interested in what I found out about this game so I have made a few comments at the appropriate places in the game. It looks like your opponent had a chance to beat you at one point. Perhaps he was better than you thought and was trying to sucker you in to play another game for double the money.

    The analysis time was 10 minutes so I don't know if that is long enough to find the best moves or not. Overall I think you played a very good game.


  5. 24 Apr '13 12:06 / 1 edit
    Hi Kareemelbadry

    Good Post and a good game.
    it does carry a wee word of warning.

    Keith Ruxton told me nearly the exact same story.
    He went there and was challenged to a game. He won but unknown
    to him you pay to play. If you win you don't pay, if you lose you pay.

    The difference being in Keith's case although he won the lad still asked for his money.
    A minor argument followed but Keith refused to pay. (Keith is Scottish)
    It ended with Keith just walking away and the unpaid hustler shouting abuse.

    In 1981 I set up at Traquair Fair 5 boards and charged 50p a game.
    If you won you got £1.00. A draw or a loss and I kept the 50p.
    There was no clock, I took White in ever game to avoid the copy cat trick.
    P.127 W.124 D.2 L.1

    Strength varied but most were home and casual players with kids tugging
    at them becuase they were bored so they moved fast.

    I beat one lad who had beaten me in a league game a few years previously.
    My loss was White in Evans Gambit to a seasoned player from the borders.

    Here, I just found this:

    http://www.chessedinburgh.co.uk/chandlerarticle.php?ChandID=229

    You will see a poster for the event.
    (A good Corner that one. Did you know on the 12th. September 1894?
    there were a grand total of 383 goals scored that day in 1st round of
    the Scottish Cup.)

    Here is one game from Traquair Fair 1981.
    I was pleased with this. Double Rook and a Queen sac.

    G.Chandler - P.Morris, Innerleithen 1981

  6. Donation ketchuplover
    G.O.A.T.
    24 Apr '13 13:17
    G.Chandler rules!!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone else drools!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  7. 24 Apr '13 17:53 / 1 edit


    He did on that day.

    Results of a later simul v Balerno and Currie Chess Clubs somehow
    managed to stay out of The Corner.

    I recall one lad saying as he was mating me: "Are you really Geoff Chandler?"
    (I scored just over 50% )

    Anybody else been to Washington Square?
    Kareemelbadry's post and game is good.
    I bet there are dozens of minor unheard of brillo's played there everyday.
    There's a blog here, maybe The Duck can pay a visit.
  8. Subscriber sundown316
    The Mighty Messenger
    24 Apr '13 22:10
    I would never play in WSP, that area of the park is the usual haunt of the low-life drug dealers that infest the place. Nor would I ever play any those hustlers, they are nothing but a bunch of cheats, for the most part. The only way to get a fair shake from those characters is to make the loser pay immediately after every game, no "settling up" after the session. You lose, they know to the exact penny how much you owe, but if you win, try and collect.
  9. 11 May '13 17:54
    Union Square Park is nicer location to play against these enterprising chess players. You can even mingle with the OWS holdouts.
  10. 11 May '13 21:26
    And I'd say Bryant Park is good too. The duck's been there !