Tuesday, June 22, 2010

San Francisco Street Chess: Poof!

On my recent trip to San Francisco I had the opportunity to play chess on Market Street.  On previous visits to San Francisco I've managed to not see this, so I didn't even realize it existed until I walked by it one afternoon.  Like most street chess venues it has it share of colorful characters.  Some of the colorful characters tend to use very colorful language, but that just goes with the territory.  Unlike Washington Square Park where the street players get upset if you take their pictures, here they were cool about it.  After my experience in Washington Square Park, I decided better to ask first, shoot later.

I played a few games of blitz with this guy, pictured below.  I lost all the games, but didn't break my budget.  We played for $2.00 a game and I only played 3 games.  It turned out he was originally from New York and played in the various parks there.  We compared notes on New York chess people we both knew.

Unfortunately I did not write down this guy's name, so I don't remember who he is.  It's too bad because I wanted to tell some of the New York people he knows that I played with him out in San Francisco.  I didn't get an opportunity to have someone take some pictures of me playing.  I figured I would get some pictures on my next trip to San Francisco.  However I may be wrong.  It seems the good folks of San Francisco's City Hall don't think much of the chess cast of characters and forced them to move out.  I wasn't aware of this until I saw this post on James West's blog.  He linked to a letter written by Chris Torres of Chess Musings.  Torres has several articles about the closing, and The Chess Drum has written on the topic too. 

Maybe they got tired of arresting the Bushman on Fisherman's Wharf.  He's good for a few laughs.  He hides behind a bush and shakes it as tourists walk by.  Some of the reactions of the tourists are pretty funny.  I had fun watching and taking pictures.

Waiting for his next victim.

Hopefully they'll get it sorted out.  They should spend more time going after the overly aggressive panhandlers, and less time bother a few street chess people.  IMHO.  End of social commentary.  Now back to our regular scheduled programming.  Next on the schedule is the 23rd Thursday Night Action Championship.  Hopefully I can improve upon my results of the past couple of years.


chesstiger said...

It is a pitty that the folklore has to go for narrow minded people of city hall.

Like you said,it would be better if they would go after more and real crime then just bother a few chess playing men and women.

I hope your chess playing friends have found another spot to play chess so that one day you ... .

CMoB said...

That bushguy is pretty funny. I bet he would have me scared :)

The American street chess scene is cool! To my knowledge we don't have anything like it in the Netherlands, except for the giant chess board at the Max Euweplein where chess players gather to do battle. But i'm not really into that giant chess thingy, so it doesn't attract me. At one time there used to be chess tables on the Dam square. But they have been taken away. So much for our street chess scene.

Polly said...

The only street chess I have found in Europe outside of the large chess sets in some squares, is in Paris. People bring their own sets and clocks and play in the Luxembourg gardens near the tennis courts.

It was hard to get a game though. People played in little groups of three people with the loser going out after each game. Nobody really wanted to add a 4th to their group. I finally was able to get someone to let me play a few games.

tanc(happyhippo) said...

Hi Polly,

I encountered the bushman on my trip to San Fran as well. While he garners a few laughs from time to time, I think the presence of these people who sometimes haggle you for money is annoying.

Maybe playing chess isn't cool compared with begging and scaring the local folks and tourists which the city seems to close a blind eye to....

One of the problems with chess I'd notice is how often it seems to draw in the drunkards. On the whole, it's mostly a peaceful sport but when it gets out of hand, the image of the game tends to suffer a tenfold backlash.

This scenario is not uncommon. We used to have a smaller area to play chess down at City Hall (even though Hyde Park is available for the chess folks) but it too got chased away by the local council.

Polly said...

HH: I don't like being hassled for money. He didn't ask me but, I gave the bushman a couple of dollars because I I was entertained by his antics, and I got a few good shots of the tourists' reactions.

When I was playing chess on Market St. there was one guy who was constantly yelling out "F%^#k this, F%^#k you". That did make me a little uncomfortable, but I never felt like I was threatened by his language.

It is annoying and can be scary to be hassled for money, however at at street chess venue it's clear what one is playing for so I don't find it scary.

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