Day 120: Playing street chess with a stranger in NYC

I started playing chess in high school and loved it. I wasn’t too bad at it either, but because of a lack of playing over the past few years, I was recently defeated by an 8 year-old. I decided I needed to get back into the swing of things.

Today I was in NYC with some friends and was planning on doing some street performance, when all of the sudden a glorious sight caught my eyes. A chess board. And not just a chess board, but a ready-to-play chess game with only one seat filled. Hmm, I thought to myself, do I want to sit down in that chair? Sitting down in that chair could cause me a lot of embarrassment.

There were a few games already going on, and by the looks of it, these guys were no beginners. These were hardcore, “chess or die”, kind of guys. By the looks on their faces and the speed at which they played, it wouldn’t surprise me if they told me they were playing chess int he womb.

I took a seat.

I introduced myself to my opponent, who was all excited when he learned my name was ‘Sarah’. “Ah, Sarah, we were meant to play. My name is Saravuth (sarah-voot).” While saying this he pointed to a CD that was taped to the table and looked like it had seen better decades. He then proceeded to tell me that the game was by a donation of $5 and that it went to a good cause. When I asked him what the cause was, he said, “for displaced people” and then told me about his background. At first I wanted to be like “Spare me the lie sob story, I’m planning on paying and playing anyway.” But, in all honesty, it was a really interesting story, and instead of explaining it all, here is an article on him. (He told me to look him up online. Turns out it’s all true. Or he’s just really good at making up lies and sticking to them for years. Google ‘Saravuth Inn chess’ and wow!)

Anyways, before we started the game I asked him, “Could you not beat me with all those under-10-move wins? I’m really not that good.” His reply? “If I see something open, I’m going to take it.” Of course, he said this with a smile, because we were buddies. I hoped.

I made my first move and immediately knew I shouldn’t have done it. I was actually kind of proud of myself, because the move I was going to make was the one he made first. So I at least know I can start off well. But after the start off, things just went downhill. His rook came in and then his Queen invaded, and before I knew it, “Check.” Crap.

I repositioned my King (with what I thought was some good strategy), and in 2 more moves, “Check”. Dang! I looked at the open spots around my King… hmm… I can’t go there… and I can’t go there, or there… wait a second… Hey! I can’t go anywhere!

I looked up at him. “Isn’t that check mate?” He smiled at me. “Yep. I just wanted you to look.”

I’m not going to lie, that $5 was worth the game. All 5 minutes of it.

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One Comment on “Day 120: Playing street chess with a stranger in NYC”

  1. Paul Schoneveld Says:

    You and I need to play chess together sometime, if you are interested in getting your game back at least. I haven’t played since high school either and would love it if I had someone to play against.


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