Chess at Washington Square Park, Part #1

Washington Square Park in the “Village” area of New York is a historic place in chess lore. It is the place where many famous chess players have roamed and many stories have been borne. “Searching for Bobby Fischer” featured scenes in the famous park and featured these players as did movies like “Fresh” and books like “The Chess Artist.”

I remember hanging out in Washington Square Park back in the summer of 1990. I lived at New York University during the summer while interning at Time-Warner. Maurice Ashley and I met there so I could discuss with him a chess network I envisioned (it became ‘The Chess Drum’). In the park, I learned of “Russian Paul” “Sweet Pea,” “Poe” and other characters. Chess rivalries were heated and dollars were flowing. Ernest Colding came down there too.

Russian Paul waiting for a game while Ernest Colding (seated right) is in a test.
1990 Flashback: “Russian Paul” waiting for a game while
Ernest Colding (seated right) is in a test. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

I saw some very disturbing things in the park including a large, chemically-induced Black woman who somehow came out of her shirt! 😯 I remember the staccato beat of dancehall reggae and the gruff rapping of then-king, Shabba Ranks. I made some friends and learned another side of chess in that park.

It’s amazing how many of these hustlers have to face leaving their “fame” and venture back into the harsh realities of a cruel world each night. Some of them play through the winter as well. What is it about chess that will cause a man to become so absorbed? (See Simon’s clip below)

It is amazing that some of the characters mentioned above have become “park legends.” I recently read an article on Russian Paul (tattoos and all) and it is amazing that he is still at it! (See article)

Simon discusses life in the game of chess.

Hikaru Nakamura waiting to take someone’s lunch money.

Yaacov Norowitz getting swindled.


  1. Great article ,but you can’t forget to mention the trash-talking,halarious hustler JP Morgan (also featured on a youtube video)

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever met “JP Morgan.” His play doesn’t seem as strong as his trash-talk… he’s fast though. The other guy Danny seems to be holding his own. Although Danny lost the first game (King’s Indian), “JP Morganski” gets humbled in the second game (Evans Gambit).

    Sweet Cheeks? 😆

    JP Morganski” playing “Danny” in blitz.

  3. There is also another great washington square park youtube video entitled For Love or Money.This video is featuring the late legendary chess hustler Vincent Livermore ,who was the real life inspiration for Laurence Fishburne’s character Vinny in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer.This is the oldest featured washington square park video,but the quality is great.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up! I only recently heard of Vincent Livermore from Jones Murphy. He claimed that Livermore was Master strength. Here is an excerpt:

    Livermore is not in the system at all, I think he stopped playing in tournaments in the 1960s. He was a tremendous player, and you can check with people like IM Shirazi who was a mutual friend when I hung out in Washington Square park. Cuban-American FM Luis Busquets and his family are visiting me in Rome right now, and he just laughed when I told him that someone’s querying whether Vinnie Livermore was really a master. Luis says when he first moved to NY from FL, he lost literally every penny he had to Vinnie in one session, because he couldn’t believe a black player was that strong. He’d never met a black master before. This was in the 60s. Luis himself peaked at 2398 so Vinnie was much stronger than that. Many people can verify that Vinnie was indeed a very strong player, at least senior master strength at peak, but I don’t know how to document that other than by the testimonials of the many players who played against him.

    Surprising that Luis Busquets never saw a strong Black player given that Afro-Cuban Rogelio Ortega was a past Cuban champion. Maybe he means Blacks in America, but of course a Cuban wouldn’t have been visiting America much in the 60s. Probably just an unconscious racial stereotype.

    I remember the guy Vinny is playing… Theo. He’s about an A-player… another speed demon. I remember him playing with either Johnny Woo or Russian Paul and saying, “I’m taking everything that’s not nailed down!” In the video, it looks like Vinny is giving him time odds.

    Vincent Livermore in “For Love or Money”
    CAUTION: foul language, drugs

    Vinny rolling a joint in public (and perhaps in the sight of children) … not a good way to end video. 😐 Nevertheless, here is some commentary from the video poster, François.

    Vincent and Theo. Vincent was the real life inspiration for Laurence Fishburne’s character Vinny in the film “Searching for Bobby Fisher”. Part 2 has the best game. Vincent was very enthusiastic about this little film. He though I had captured the spirit of this kind of chess. I think he was even proud of it because he asked me to show it to some childhood friends he respected. It is the only time I saw him outside of Washington Square. This video brings back a lot of memories. Sometimes in the morning, I had the great privilege of playing Vincent with no clock for $1, just for fun, talking, philosophizing. I had to leave the table when a customer would show up. We had great talks. Today, the chess corner in the Park seems to have lost all his charm and his great characters. I am glad people can have a glimpse of this golden era. I think Vincent is glad too.

    The best to all of you, François

    The position reached in the game before Vinny sacrificed his queen has come under some debate. Was it sound? Well… no, but this is blitz. Let’s look at the position:


    In this position, Vinny is a pawn up in a dominant position and could win easily with simple moves like 1.Qd7. Here he sacked his queen with 1.Qd8+? after which followed 1…Rxd8 2.Rxd8+ Bf8. White followed with 3.e6+ Kf8 4.Rd7. Around this time the taunting of “bye bye schmuck” started. Vinny then said, “It was beautiful, wasn’t it!?” Black could refute all of this with 4…Bc5+ (which Theo started to play) 5.Kg1 Qh1+, but he opted for 4…Qxd7 and they entered a drawn ending. “What’s so beautiful about it,” Theo asked. Theo made some mistakes with moving his king to c8 (attacking the bishop) allowing the white king to invade. Vinny’s sacrifice wasn’t sound, but it was fun! 😀

    New York Times (August 24, 1981)


    In the teeming street life of Times Square this summer, the largest growth industry, aside from the sale of chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches, may be an unlikely one – sidewalk chess.

    On a cooperatively owned wooden plank at the northeast corner of Broadway and 42d Street, there are seven or eight boards working on a typical afternoon, five more than last summer and sometimes still not enough to fill the demand. While denizens in doorways nearby mutter of loose joints, girls and other enticements, tourists and chess regulars take on the boards’ proprietors for a 25-cent fee plus a side bet of a few dollars. Most seem to regard the money – almost invariably lost – as fair payment for the opportunity to match wits with such locally famous players as Broadway Bobby or Freddy the Fish.

    Mr. Livermore, a 30-year-old who takes courses in sociology at the nearby City University Graduate Center, says he can clear perhaps $100 a week, playing most days from 10 A.M. to 1 the next morning. ‘’I wouldn’t say you can make a living, but you can eke out a living,’’ he said. ‘’I’m out of work so for me it’s like a summer job.’’

    Alfred McCambridge of Michigan, who was in the city on vacation, cheerfully paid $2 after dropping a contest that was hardly even close. While he played, his wife, Adele, snapped pictures to show the folks back home.

    ”After everything I read, this was about the last thing I expected in New York City,” said Mr. McCambridge, an automobile salesman. ”It’s a nice change from some of the other stuff you see around here. I tell you, it shows you how inventive people can be when they have to make a living.”

    The little corner of chess is largely the creation of Broadway Bobby, a Times Square habitue who has also been known to dabble in sidewalk Polaroid photography, and pool-shooting on rainy days. He began to play chess on a board set over a trash basket on the corner seven or eight years ago, $1 a game, winner take all, and the operation has expanded from there. These days, Bobby – who uses no other name – employs helpers to collect the board fees in a cigar box while he seeks action at chess or the adjacent backgammon games.

    ”We’re not ripping people off like they do in three-card monte,” one player, Vincent Livermore, said. ”Nobody’s cheating or threatening. If you win, you get the money. Though, truthfully, I don’t think a lot of the people expect us to be as good as we are.”

    The players are of all kinds, ranging from people with master’s degrees in mathematics to scramblers who spend as much time in the Offtrack Betting office as over the board. Most contests are of the rough-and-ready variety, featuring lightning attacks, lost rooks and never an end game. Some games are played with clocks, each player having a total of five or ten minutes to make all his moves. On rainy days, many of the regulars repair to the Chess and Checkers Club, over a pornography shop nearby, to sharpen their skills.

    Mr. Livermore, a 30-year-old who takes courses in sociology at the nearby City University Graduate Center, says he can clear perhaps $100 a week, playing most days from 10 A.M. to 1 the next morning. ”I wouldn’t say you can make a living, but you can eke out a living,” he said. ”I’m out of work so for me it’s like a summer job.”

    He learned to play as a teen-ager in St. Nicholas Park and held down fourth board on the chess team when he attended City College. He is one of the better players on the corner and gives his United States Chess Federation rating as 2,150, which would put him near the expert class – good enough to defeat all but the most serious players.

    Mr. Livermore says he never plays for more than $10, and often offers odds – two minutes on his clock, for example, to five minutes for the opponent – to regular customers whose strength he knows. ”The tourists really seem to like it,” he said of the games. ”Usually the first thing they want to know is if it’s legal, and then they want to know where I learned to play so well.”

    Police Leave Them Alone

    The police generally leave the players alone. ”They understand we’re not out to take anybody, and it’s good for the city’s image,” Mr. Livermore said. Others said that occasionally they were forced to close up briefly when there was a crackdown on the street on threecard monte, the floating gambling game consisting of shills, cardswitching and unhappy customers.

    A police spokesman said that though gambling and taking bets on the street were ”illegal, period,” there were few complaints about the chess games.

    Bobby and his helpers try to make sure there are no incidents. ”Chess players are a different breed of people than the others around here,” Mr. Livermore said. ”Most of us are very sedate. We settle the argument over the board.”

    “Roman gave him five minutes to two and beat him three games, $5 a game, just like that,’’ Mr. Livermore said. ‘’The Brazilian couldn’t believe that somebody could walk up on the street in this country and play like that. I even heard he pulled out of the tournament he was so impressed.”

    Jorge Fiengo, a 21-year-old student from Sucre, Bolivia, who dropped $3 to Mr. Livermore this weekend, agreed. ”You wouldn’t expect this in New York but it’s very correct,” he said. ”Next time, though, it would be better if I got the $3.”

    One regular at the corner when he is in town is Roman Dzindzikashvili, a Russian grandmaster who recently emigrated to the United States. Mr. Dzindzikashvili, known in chess circles for his willingness to gamble on just about anything, is currently the 12th ranked player in the United States.

    Brazilian Meets His Match

    ”Roman will give us odds, maybe one minute on his clock to five or ten on ours,” said Mr. Livermore. ”I would say we break about even. If he wins, he’ll go over and put it on backgammon. He’s a nice guy, very strong.”

    Once, the player said, a Brazilian international master (the chess rank just below grandmaster) was in the city for a tournament. ”He figured he’d come over here and pick up some easy money,” Mr. Livermore recalled. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s first customer was Mr. Dzindzikashvili, whom he did not know.

    ”Roman gave him five minutes to two and beat him three games, $5 a game, just like that,” Mr. Livermore said. ”The Brazilian couldn’t believe that somebody could walk up on the street in this country and play like that. I even heard he pulled out of the tournament he was so impressed.”

    Mr. Livermore, searching for a topic for his doctoral dissertation in sociology, has considered the street chess scene as a possibility. ”God knows, I’ve got the background,” he said. ”It’s a hard life, but there’s a lot of enjoyment in it.”

  6. A conversation on Vincent Livermore on a blog discussing “Searching for Bobby Fischer”:

    I thought the real life character of Vinnie died of AIDS not heroin OD? Barneygumble 16:42, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

    I don’t know, but I do know I played in a USCF-rated tournament (Susquehanna Valley Open) that the teenage Vincent Livermore won circa 1969. So I will correct the “never had a rating.” He should be on the 1969 or 1970 USCF Annual Rating List. Billbrock 20:16, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

    Chess Life, Oct 1971, page 586, Vincent Livermore, CT, rating of 1950. Bubba73 (talk), 01:07, 24 December 2007 (UTC)

    I also was told Vinny died of AIDS, but of course heroin and AIDS are not mutually exclusive (i.e., needle-sharing). In addition, the contention that he made Master does not appear to be true. If Vinny was rated 1950 in 1971, he was no where near Master strength in tournament chess.

    I’m skeptical of evaluating someone’s play on blitz chess. For example, Tom Murphy of the Dupont Circle legend is a strong player, but I’ve played him in tournaments and the differences between his blitz play and OTB are stark. Sam Ford of Chicago is also a Master in blitz, but both he and Murphy have only reached 2100 OTB. Blitz has its place in chess history, but we shouldn’t use blitz to evaluate overall play.

    (Note: Incidentally, both Murphy and Ford are excellent chess teachers.)

    1. Learned something very interesting from Miro Reverby who produced, “Men Who Would Be Kings,” a documentary on chess in the park.

      Vinnie was a very smart man, and well educated…He has at least one masters degree (in sociology, I think), and in his last days he had a teaching job at BMCC

      He passed away in 1991….I and the other park players all went to his funeral

      He was HIV positive, but that’s not how he died….. He had an overdose….We all wondered if maybe he wanted to get it over with, because he was HIV positive

      I’m glad I got so much footage of him, because he was a legend, a friend, and a true character. He was definitely missed…The square was never the same after he was gone

  7. The question of chess skills and ideas of what type of chess is good, bad or ugly makes for a long and very interesting discussion?! However, one knows that the difference in the type of chess played puts the question to the player immediatly. Example:Great speed chess players like tom, and sam are some of the best that I have seen and played during my travels all around, I do not want to take away from the fact that they very skilled in that reguard, but tournament chess is something different and I have noticed that speed players loose focus when it comes down to that 40/2, then you have the nieghborhood players who never leave the block and beat the same players over and over again but never go to or even are interested in tournament play, so the skills never mature, but they do not know what they are missing!

    I think that chess mastery represents all of the above, because in the end love of the game is the biggest draw, by the way I lost 6-7 speed games in a row to a distiguished chess player at the Chicago Open and you know what, I think in a 40/2 my results would be alot different.

    There should be a title or rating that identifies street masters, speed masters, tournament masters, and slow chess master, because masters come in all of these forms and the game is huge enough to encompass them all! 💡

  8. I agree John. There should be different distinctions, but I believe it is the OTB that we use to measure because it provides time for reflection and the quality is certainly higher. I don’t even bother with 1-minute or 3-minute chess unless I have a specific purpose for studying openings. As you know, there was a World Blitz Association headed by Walter Browne, but it folded. Stephen Muhammad was a member and of course is a phenomenal blitz player. He is unmatched in managing the clock.

    The best blitz player I’ve seen is Filipino GM Mark Paragua, but Nakamura is probably stronger now. Haven’t seen Jorge Hasbun-Sammour. Germany’s Roland Schmaltz was a sensation some time ago, but drifted away. Someone told me at the Chicago Open that Paragua used to get the better of Nakamura in head-to-head battles. Not sure. The strongest brother I’ve seen is Muhammad. “Black Bears” Maurice Ashley and William Morrison are right there.

    One historical tidbit… Ashley and Muhammad played a set after the 2003 U.S. Championship in Seattle. I was in Muhammad’s room and he wanted to play blitz, but I was buck tired after covering the event. He called Ashley and said, “Come on up and get your lessons.” I heard Ashley on the other end go, “Ooooooooooooohhhhhhhh!!!!” He rushed up and these brothers slugged it out for several hours and it ended in a 14-14 deadlock. Amazing… I was the fly on the wall! 😀 Muhammad plays positional OTB chess, but his blitz chess is brutal. The pic below is plain, but there was trash-talking.

    Memorable Blitz Battle! Muhammad vs. Ashley
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    However, I remember Ashley destroying Muhammad at the 2001 Wilbert Paige in a blitz set… ending the match by winning seven in a row! Ashley was taking on all comers. He destroyed Kenny Solomon and went after Michael Schliefer, the Canadian IM. Schliefer told me later they broke even. Since Ashley was not playing in the Wilbert Paige, he wanted to show everyone who was boss.

    Amon Simutowe is a blitz beast too, but the only game I saw him play at the Wilbert Paige was against FM Ron Simpson. I’ve seen Simutowe play on the ICC many times… sometimes sitting next to him. Simpson had destroyed Jerald Times several games in a row and then took care of Watu Kobese. These blitz battles were great but of course, true skill is measured in OTB during classical time controls. I only wished Ashley had played in the Wilbert Paige.

  9. Jennifer Cohen produced an interesting piece on Asa Hoffman, the legendary chess hustler or “gamesman.” His reputation precedes him and everyone talks about him in the same breath with Walter Browne and Bobby Fischer as players who gave New York its unique character in chess. Just as you have these documentaries on music genres such as jazz, hip-hop, street chess has a place of its own.

  10. How legal are the small tokens i.e lil money on the side when playing i8n a public park??

  11. The Chess Artist

    I got an e-mail from J.C. Hallman, the writer of “The Chess Artist.” He found this thread about Washington Square Park in which his book is mentioned. His book is vividly-written and gives an interesting look at the life of two chess players sharing their respective passions for the game. The other primary figure of the book was Glenn Umstead, a player some of you know from years past.

    Glenn plays in at a tournament here and there, but he is no longer very active. The first time I met him he gave me a business card that read Glenn Umstead, “Chess Master.” I last saw him competing at a Foxwoods tournament and was accompanied by an attractive Asian woman. We played a few games of blitz in an airport restaurant. He hadn’t done well in the tournament and I imagined was more interested in the potential earnings in the casino and blitz battles.

    When I heard about them going to Russia in 1998, I originally thought they were going to the 1998 Olympiad in Elista, but the trip was prior to that tournament. It is interesting that chess could take a player on such a journey, but there he was… thousands of miles away from New Jesey on old Soviet trains in bitter cold… in a foreign land with only his survival skills and a duffle bag full of dried snack foods, bottled water and sardines.

    In the book, Glenn was the center of intrigue since many in Russia and Kalmykia may not have come in contact with Black men from America. There was a young Russian girl following Glenn around, no doubt intrigued by his presence in Russia. It was interesting how the two flirted with the dangers of travel as if cast in some type of “Indiana Jones” adventure. Sleeping on trains, eating their limited rations and not knowing what tomorrow would bring is precisely what chess players are known to do. I have heard of players sleeping in the skittles rooms, in their cars or spending all night in the adult peep-shows for lack of a hotel room. Not a good recipe for chess, but the stories offer a bit of irony in the world of chess conservatism.

    Glenn no doubt spent time at Washington Square Park, but his game may only be a shell of what it was. The life of a chess hustler is an interesting one and Hallman captures the intrigue from the beginning until the end. Chess has a profound effect on people.

  12. Thanks for this kind mention, and excellent description, of The Chess Artist. You really got a handle on what I was trying to do with the book, and why our trip to Russia (actually in 2000) was a useful lens through which to consider the chess world.

    Interesting stuff on Washington Square…I was just there recently, and made my donation to one of the players there. It was a slow day–perhaps the construction in the park is hurting business? It was entirely dead when I showed up, but a crowd gathered to watch the two games I played, so I was happy to have drummed up a little business.

    To add to one of the discussions above, there was a story I looked into a little bit but did not include in The Chess Artist. Apparently, the chess players in the park were made subject to a gambling raid once upon a time–and it wound up in court. Interestingly, the court ruled that chess was not gambling because it did not include a luck component. The case was actually cited, I believe, in a later definition of gambling.

    Thanks again for the kind words,
    J.C. Hallman

  13. FM Ylon Schwartz is in the news today about his making the World Series of Poker final. I remember first seeing Ylon in New York’s Washington Square Park back in 1990. I remember him beating Michael Rohde in a blitz game, but then was losing to an A-player named “Wu.” The Chinese blitzer said, “You can beat Mike Rohde, but you can’t beat me!” It was funny.

    Ylon also came to the Wilbert Paige tournament and was analyzing with Grace Nsubuga his missed win against Michael Schleifer. I think it was a Bf5 move after he sacrificed an exchange. I ended up playing Ylon in a blitz tournament during the Wilbert Paige at Steve Colding’s club… last round draw.

    Now he’s set to win over $900,000 in the tournament in Las Vegas. Amazing how much money is in poker. Greg Shahade’s US Chess League gets a lot of funding from poker and his sister Jennifer is a strong player as well. She rarely plays chess anymore, but at least she reports on it.

  14. Amazing posts! And very enjoyable to all chess enthusiasts. I myself have made the pilgrimage to New York city’s Chess parks and clubs and have met most of the above mentioned people. I actually got the opportunity to play against JP in the Village chess shop . It was actually by accident and at the time I had no clue who he was and of course took him for anybody. He only prefered a 5 minute game and seemed to make all of his moves within the first 30 seconds. We played several games,all of which wound up in his favor. At the time …I actually found him nasty and rude but was surprised to see him the following year …….tutoring a 8 year old boy who was accompanied by his mother. He was very kind to the woman and her son and paid close attention to the child as he examined the board. He looked up and saw me observing him and to my surprise smiled and said….” Yo whats up dude”……I was shocked , said hi and walked away. This must have been about 5 years ago.

  15. Great article Daaim. Blitz chess is so much fun that players play it all night and into the morning. There are a lot of really strong speed players. When Philly traveled to play Baltimore last year they had a young man (sorry I forget your name) that I called Horseshoe. He was a strong blitz player and he beat me twice. Than he said “you don’t want know my rating”. Well sir, you are right.

  16. Blitz is a different animal. The problem I see with blitz is that it does not translate to any rating much higher than 2150. There are some exceptions, but it’s hard to play decent level of chess if your diet consists mainly of blitz. I call it “fast food chess.” Many of the players in these videos with the except of Nakamura are not strong players in classical tournaments.

    I could play blitz all night and would like to do that again. I remember Ashley-Muhammad match (pictured above). It was amazing and I was the only witness. I feel asleep briefly and they were still clock-banging. I’ve seen a few classic battles and have been a part of a few. Adu and Morrison have had some good battles too. Imagine that!

  17. Chess NYC Presents an Open Tournament at Washington Square Park

    Showcasing the New York City Chess Scene

    Saturday June 6th from 3 -6
    Free Registration
    20 Spaces Available
    5 Rounds Swiss Unrated
    10 Minute Time Controls
    Prizes for Top Finishers

    To register email with Name and Rating

  18. Miro Reverby posted a link to a “Men Who Would Be Kings” four-part series he did on Washington Square Park chess in 1988. I was two years before I first visited. It’s interesting to see all the street legends through history. Very informative!

  19. Hi. I’m Rachel. I just discovered your piece on chess hustlers of New York. Althought I am transsexual now and have only very recently come back to chess, I was there from it’s very beginning (at least around 42st). We called Bobby Haywood (an ex boxer) Bobby Dee, and we were all better at chess than he was. I remember Sam the Rabbi (who taught Sweet Pea how to play chess upstairs at the chess house), and he was a very vile, half-crazy man (at least that’s how he acted). A while ago I put a 2 part series on you tube called “Early days of chess in New York.” It’s in 2 parts so make sure you see part 1 first. By the way I may repeat myself in the video; that’s because I have a memory problem. Thanks again.

  20. Desde ciudad de Mexico saludos a Luis Busquets que aparece en el relato enfrentado a Vinny.
    La película Buscando a Bobby tiene como antecdente desconocido que Mexico promovió tres campeonatos mundiales infantiles en las ciudades mexicanas Durango, Xalapa y Mazatlan, anos aproximados 1979, 1980 y 1981 yendose el evento hasta 2010 a diversas ciudades del mundo.
    Josh Waitzkin was champion in USA after Mexico made events.
    Alfonso Ferriz Master USCF & WBCA 1975 & 1992
    co winner IX National Chess Open 1975 Las Vegas
    National Champion in Mexico same date.
    In 2000 take principal sports news in all papers & review of Mexico Country when challenge Kasparov in 8 board in 8 minutes in Hilo de
    Ariadna Chess Simultaneus Exhibition. Kasparov declined play and refused cart of principal rector of famous University Iberamericana., Dr. Enrique Gonzalez Torres. 4 June 2000.
    Tell Busquets of his Ferriz friend.

  21. Daaim, Please send me a copy when these tournaments are available such as the Hip Hop tmts or others that maybe available so that I my enter them. Happy Holiday. Jose Espinosa PS, I am out the shelter and have an apartment now.

  22. You may also be interested in viewing “Early Days of chess in New York.” Parts 1 & 2. It features street chess. If you google it you should get it, or else google “Rachel’s Primer.” You will find both there.

    by NM Miro Reverby

    Miro Reverby documented this chess history of the Washington Square Park giving a rare inside look into personalities and the life inside the small family of chess players. The park has been characters in “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and “Fresh” and have hosted American greats such as Bobby Fischer, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. The video contains a number of legendary characters in the “hustling” realm, some have long passed away. Vincent Livermore, Sammy, Po, Theo, Russian Paul are a few of the characters seen in the video. (Running time: 36:27)


  24. Howdy,

    What A BLAST From The PAST ! I was never in Washington Park. However, at that same time I was manager of Les Bale’s LINCOLNWOOD and later CHICAGOLAND CHESS AND GAMES. SAM FORD was one of our regulars. Along with PAUL, GUNTHER, and a THORNY bunch of Guys that could have fit in perfectly in WASHINGTON Park. The Language and SMOKE that Made Boxers and Londoners feel right at home. The guys at the Club My wife and I run now have moments like that Minus the SMOKING and “COLORFUL”Language.
    However all the TRASH-TALKING and BRILLIANT PLAY you can handle takes place at the local McDONALD’s here in Hammond on 169th and Columbia. Players are there after the lunch rush and play on for hours. They are there every day of the week. A bit light on Sunday. The CHESS is just like Washington Park. Some of the Chessmen are worn and even cracked. ALL of the PLAYERS there are GOOD. There are no games played for money.
    Guys like The Washington Park Crowd, Gunther, Paul, and Sam Ford do not come around but ONCE. Thank You to everyone who Shot Video and put down their words here.

  25. Hi again Daaim Shabazz
    Dear Daaim
    Now 2016 I saw you wrote to me in 2011. Until this date I read. Sorry but I say thanks you about your words and investigate where lives Louis Busquets. I founded in Mexico City the National Chess School. It’s a good institute. Please wirte me to my mail, &
    Always regards. Alfonso Ferriz
    I comunicated with Geroge Grimsley. He don’t play chess but he has a dance school in Florida. Also some times read notes of Sam Sloan. He wrote about my father in ending ches book of Norman Whitaker, former National Champion USCF. In Mississippi Goldel State Open, when I was first place, in november 1974, I beat him (Norman Whitaker). After that game Whitaker wrote in mail with Joaquìn Araiza, forme National Chess Champion in Mexico althrough 30 years (more o less 1920 to 1950), but he neve beat GMI Carlos Torre Repetto. He visited my father’s house in 1957 and gave me in my life some 8 gifts. My first intelligent class and 175 the title lik national champion of Mexico.
    I wait news of you.

  26. I can’t forget Danny Shey, He lived in Houston. He played ther in Chess Houst Club with the Babcook family (mother and son.)We travel Danny and Me since Hosuton until Las Vegas). I drive my car on roads. Amarillo, Tucson, Phoenix, Douglas,…. Also traveled with Louis Busquets, and Sergio camposortega in roads of USA in 1974 and 1975 )since New York (Ocean City, MD, there played Eugene Martinovsky, John Peters, Hans Boom, John Tisdall, Elliot Winslow, Sunil Weerematry, Christomidis was the organizer) until Las Vegas; stayed in Los Angeles in Master Jesus Mondragon home in San Isidro, Cal. Later Sergio up the car with Louise and travel since Los Angeles until Jacksonville. … Sergio died in Mexico City maybe in shoot bang like 1995, when the hampa atraped his little son. The son lives.
    I dont forgett another’s torunaments (Niagara Falls, I beat many time Arthur Bisguier… We competed with Walter Brown, Andy Soltis, Ken Rogoff, Fred Pena,) in New York Open with William Hook (capitan Garfio), from Islas Virgens, Eugene Salomon, Eugene Martinowsky (again), Robert Byrne… In Fredericksburg Open played with Robert Watchell, David Florian… After all periple I was in list ratings 1970 “Exper”t, and 1974-1975 “Master” USCF. I had many good friends…

  27. St. Nicholas Park… “One on One”

    Video features a lot of street players new and old… Poe playing Sammy in a set. Others like Farai Mandizha, Brooklyn Jerry, Rafael Calderon and a young Josh Colas can be seen.

  28. I was a homeless guy in NYC during the 1980s, and hung out in Washington Square Park playing and watching chess games. I remember Vinnie Livermore very fondly, as he was one of the nicest chess-hustlers I’ve ever met. I used to get coffee for him at Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Street while he was playing. Watching him play was amazing, as he was so good. I was very sad when I heard that he had died. There was another chess player whom I knew, a tall white guy named Dwight, who also died of AIDS. I remember grand master “Zilba” —(full name Josef Israel Zilber)— who wore dozens of rings & buttons on fingers & clothing. You can read about him at And GM Roman “Jinjin” Dzindzichashvili, who was the top USA player in 1983 & 1989. He’s written several books about chess, and posted some Youtube videos. I remember Jimmy Jam & Markus Moonbeam and another big black guy named Mark, and Poe, who I thought was “Paul” until I read about him on this internet-site. And Sweet Pea. There was a big dark-skinned Jamaican guy who didn’t play chess, but was always there, reading his worn Bible and preaching from it. And a very large black woman who ranted and raved a lot, and would get totally naked sometimes on hot days. Once she grabbed me from behind and started choking me. I don’t reckon she would have hurt me, but it scared the f*ck out of me. With kind regards, Mark Creek-water Dorazio, homeless guy in NYC, 1985-1991.

    1. Those were great days. Not sure if you were in any of the footage, but apparently Reverby had hours of it. This was simply the edited version. I’m sure if we looked at his raw footage we’d see the the Jamaican evangelist and the large woman you mentioned. I also remember them! I spent the summer of 1990 in New York.

  29. 14 March 2019
    Hi Daaim, and thanks for posting a reply. The Jamaican evangelist (Michael) is in part 2 of “The Men Who Would Be Kings” on youtube, at 3:45. Plus, the large black woman (Doris ??) is in part 1, smoking a cigarette, at 6:34.
    Where are you now ??
    Best, Mark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button