Hangin’ out in Harvard Square

I’m in Boston for a seminar at Harvard University and decided to venture into Harvard Square. I had heard there was chess there. While looking for a restaurant, I turned around and what did I see…

Murray Turnbull in Harvard Square

Immediately I was drawn to the sign that stated “Play the Chess Master.” It had a subtitle which amounted to $2/game. The Master’s name was Murray Turnbull. YES… he had “Chess Master” on his straw hat. His hat invites someone to sit down and make him feel ashamed of wearing it. Of course, I would enjoy the opportunity to give him a challenge, but since I don’t gamble, I merely watched. The level of play of everyone else was maybe 1500-1600 ELO and below. He was literally giving lessons to the guy above and the game wasn’t much of a challenge.

Murray Turnbull in Harvard Square

I found out that Mr. Turnbull’s father was a renown professor at Harvard and that the younger Turnbull had an aborted stint as a Harvard student before relocating to California. I was told he hit some hard times and then found his way back to Boston. The sign also stated he had been in Harvard Square since 1982. Later I heard him talk about the old days when he was the only player out there. The crowd eventually grew to about 30-40 players on the weekends. He states that there are sizable crowds even now. One thing for sure is that many strong players have played there.

Oh… and I did find a nice Indian restaurant called “Tamarind Bay,” an Indian Bistro and Bar. It was in a basement level area, but had a nice ambiance and some upbeat music. The service was fast and the portion plentiful. I had a spicy okra dish (Bhindi Adraki) and it was delicious with the roti. The only drawback was the lack of artistic aesthetics on the walls.

Generally when I travel domestically and abroad I look for Indian cuisine since I can be assured of some good vegetarian cuisine. To this day, the best Indian food I have had (not counting an Indian wedding I attended), was in Spain during the 2004 Chess Olympiad. Nevertheless, Tamarind Bay was good.

After dinner I enjoyed a nice walk back to the hotel adjacent to Charles River. The sunlight was reflecting off of the ripples of the water as Bostonians took advantage of a picture-perfect day. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go back to the Square and get some games in! Stay tuned!

Me at Tamarind Bay in Harvard Square. I recommend it!


  1. I went back to the Square last night and it was bustling. I found the chess guys again. This time there were about 20 players. There was only one table where there were decent club-level players and the rotation was five deep. There were a couple of Russian guys who were smoking like chimneys. I played a few games and after winning, I lost a couple games on time up a ridiculous amount of material. Another game I lost just out of inattentiveness. Oh well… it was good to play a Harvard Square.

    I stopped by the Harvard Coop bookstore in the Square to see if they carry my father’s book, “The Echo from Dealey Plaza” and to poke around. Lo and behold, they had two copies! I bought a book titled, “In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto” by Michael Pollan. Interesting at how the food culture has evolved over time and how the “Western” diet has replaced “food” with what he calls “edible foodlike substances.” 😐

    Pollan argues that what is considered food has changed and has led to a host of health problems that are spreading around the world… heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc. What I found impressive at the bookstore (since I am a professor) was the huge display of bookcases holding all the books written by Harvard professors. It was an interesting variety of books and it also shows how much support funding and grants flow through this school.

    Well… on to more important things, like food. I decided on a Thai restaurant “PadThai” which was also in the basement. It was busy on the Friday night, but I found a table. I ordered spinach/tofu soup and a spicy eggplant dish. Service was quick and the food was absolutely delicious! I was able to read a few pages of my new book and reaffirmed what I already knew about Western diet…

    … mom lost much of her authority over the dinner menu, ceding it to scientists and food marketers (often an unhealthy alliance of the two) and, to a lesser extent, to the government, with its ever-shifting dietary guidelines, food labeling rules and, perplexing food pyramids.

    My meal came to an end and as I left I tried to take in every bit of the environment which had a lively, but cozy ambiance. Back out into Harvard Square, I stood around making phone calls as I watched people reveling and sitting in outdoor cafes. Most people appeared to be going out since it was Friday night… many were dressed up. There was an excitment in the air and the pedestrian traffic was heavy. After awhile I took the long walk along the Charles River and watched as a Chinese group passed on a boat and waved at us on the bridge as they passed. I waved back as I crossed over the majestic bridge. It was a beautiful night.

  2. Murray was 2300 strength when I used to play him while I was in
    graduate school at M.I.T. He could battle, but yes many players
    would find it surprising how much chess theory he knows. If one is
    too casual, it is easy to become overmatched quickly. I believe he
    has fully earned his Harvard Square Chess Master status!
    Daaim, I am glad you enjoyed yourself. Peace.

  3. I am glad you checked out the chess situation while at Harvard Daaim, because as a chess player it is hard to go to places and not seek out where the chess players hook up . Back in 2003 I was doing some Social Science research for “ORC MACRO” and went up to Harvard university and played turnbull (the guy in the hat). Interesting style he has and you have to be careful because he does know a great deal of theory. I met a couple of other locals and students there, it was really a good vibe, on a food note, not to far from the campus in Chelsia Ma. I had a great meal with some friends at an Indian Cafe, I forgot the name but it is worth checking out on your next go round. Glad you kept the beat going!

  4. I’m headed back down to Harvard Square to meet an acquaintance for coffee… a Chicago-born physician who practices here in Boston. Maybe I’ll stop by and play a couple before my outing. 😉

  5. Daaim,
    I meant to comment on your photos the other day. Only to return tonight and find more and even better photos. You are slowly convincing me that I need to change my diet. I am on food alert. As John will attest to, I ate way too much McDonald’s while in Chicago last month.

    Keep the beat going!

  6. Thanks man!

    Eat to Live

    For me, it evolved over many years when I was heavily involved in team sports. My best friend during childhood found it wierd that I was eating health snacks in those days. We had grown up on Snickers, Milky Ways and Smarties just like everybody else. Eventually, I started to become more health-conscious after my older siblings had piqued my interest with Soul Vegetarian food and nutrition books. I’ve had to study a lot in order to find out what was right for my health. I became a vegan about 12 years ago. I would not suggest people adopt this lifestyle on a whim. I would suggest one thing… drink more water! Orange juice is good too is you can handle the acidity.

    During tournaments, I watch players scarf down sodas, candy and hamburgers. It’s interesting that some can still perform without being sluggish… or at least appear to be alert. I believe things are getting better and there is a bit more attention paid to a good diet at tournaments. I see more Subway, bottled water and power bars now. Kay Umeakunne wrote an article years ago about the diet and she was making inferrences to mental performance. You also remember that she made these delicious cakes! She made a vegan one for me. 🙂 Check out her article.


  7. On the subject of good eating and vegan approaches to better health, please consider more water in your everyday diet and more fruits and vegtables, while at kings Island open tournament last year, I introduced Emory Tate and Carl Boor to a drink that has the “Acai” Berry in it, it is called MONAVIE! and let me tell you it is doing wonders for alot of people including myself, but the deep underscore is the fact that I gave this drink to emory and carl before the last round of the above tournament and both have said that the drink helped in the last round of play!!!Both shared first prize!!! Now I am not saying that by drinking this you are going to win your next tournament, but both of these players took first place !! The drink itself consist of 19 fruits a great varity of the spectrum of the fruit family from all over the world. I am here to say that everyone in our chess community that I have introduced to this product has alot of positive comments, if anyone wants to check this product out let me know. And this might be the answer to a great fund raiser for Emory Tate!!!!

  8. John… I’m a Acai man. Noni, mangosteen and acai juice are the latest trends. All of those red/purple/pink fruits (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, goji berries, guava, papaya, watermelon) are high in antioxidants and bolster the immune system. Orange fruits like oranges and mangoes are great in the summer! Don’t forget about the staple dates, figs, raisins… energy boosters without empty sugars.

    I can go all day talking about these foods.

  9. It’s going on two weeks with my health conscious eating. I have known I was overweight for many years, but didn’t feel compelled to do anything immediately about it. After visiting my dad in the hospital last month, I have decided to take an aggressive position on my health.
    I haven’t regretted my decision to lay off the cheeseburgers, pizza, steaks, fish, bread (both corn and wheat) as well as most sugar based products.

    I am very interested in hearing about what health conscious chess players are eating and drinking as well. I tried John’s Monavie while in Chicago. It wasn’t bad and tasted like a variant of grape juice. It definetly tastes better than Tahitian Noni Juice.

    Daaim, maybe you can recommend some novice nutrition related reading material. Do you know of any chess related stories about Master players who watch their diet that you can share?

  10. Most people in America suffer from ailments brought on by a number of factors… pollution, stress and diet being a few. Many of us in this country have been programmed to eat three meals a day, get 3000 calories, high protein and a bunch of other marketing rubbish. We are also taught that meat is the center of the diet instead of a side-dish (as it used to be). I believe people need to study the body and make decisions based on their understanding.

    There are many type of diets including vegetarianism, veganism, fruititarianism, raw foodism and get this… BREATHATARIANISM (pure air, sunlight, mineral spring water) 😯 Google it if you don’t believe me. I will not sit here and prescribe any of these diets (even though I’m vegan). However, I have found that eating light during a tournament keeps the blood and oxygen in the brain as opposed the stomach. Eating a Big Mac during a tournament will certainly make the blood rush to the stomach to engage in the 72-hour process of breaking down beef.

    As I said, chess players are becoming more conscientious about eating at tournaments. The thing about “health” food is that it is easier to get a variety of products these days. I have not heard of any specific players making a concerted effort to watch their diet… these questions don’t come up much, but I do know that Anand has spoken about his vegetarianism. Peter Leko is also vegetarian and there are many others I’ve encountered. Of course our mutal friend Negash Bezaleel is another. 🙂

    My first book on diet was Dick Gregory’s “Cooking with Mother Nature.” It was funny and instructive, but there are tons of books out there. You can get good information from those magazines too. Here’s an interesting thread on Susan Polgar’s site.


  11. Health is big, and for chess players it is a must! Eating the right foods before, during and after a tournament is very important. I do not want to come across one sided when it comes to health and a better way of treating our bodies, but this “Acai” fruit is really taking the country by storm, now I am activily involved with “monavie” and I am recieving emails/phone calls of thank you and I must have some more “monavie” on a regular basis. I say that to say that in a capitalistic society big corporations have away of “pimping the name” “acai” and not giving the consumer the real orac values, so people go to the store and get an “acai”product because they have heard great things but are not getting the real benifits of the fruit! My research has found that taking “monavie” on the regular will have a great impact on your life because of the varity of fruits in it with the “acai berry” being the anchor fruit. I tested my research out on a couple of old timers (ty lee and roland jordan) my game was sharp, my moves were crisp, and and my tactics were sound! after drinking 2 cups of “monavie” Good health to all.

  12. Yep… I should have gotten one of your bottles of the acai blend. I read your literature…in fact I just pulled the literature from my file cabinet. I noticed they don’t have goji berries in the comparison chart.

    We certainly need to get back to the basics. In the land of obesity, the country has a lot to learn from other countries. I think they’ve booted McDonald’s out of most of the Caribbean too. I’m alarmed when I got to a large American city and see so many fast food restaurants. In fact, in Harvard Square, I don’t remember seeing many fast food restaurants. Most were sit-down restaurants.

    I believe a lot of people are skittish about buying (or investing in) their health. They say that shopping for “health” products is more expensive. The way I look at is… paying a little extra at the store is cheaper than paying doctor bills! 😕

  13. I am glad you checked out some of the marketing materials, the Acai fruit is really making big strides into the mainstream of western society! OHHHHHH by the way goji is one of the 19 fruits, further research has indicated that goji and wolfberry are the same or to say the least 1st cousins!!!

    I am so convinced of this product that I am thinking about bringing some bottles to the world open to let some like minded brothers sample the product and re-start the conversation of chess and good health!

    I happen to have run into allen stuart( winner of the 1996 world open “A”class sectin ) and bill crawford( original member of the B.F.O.C. and local private chess camp) recently and they have asked me to get them some more of that “monavie” yes I think things are moving in the right direction and just maybe this product might be the one to start a wave in the chess community as a whole.

    Great stuff man!

Leave a Reply

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

Back to top button