Chess at Washington Square Park, Part #2

Washington Park’s legendary hustler
Vincent Livermore

National Master Miro Reverby produced an interesting video documentary on a partial history of Washington Square Park. He includes footage of legendary figures in the chess hustle game in New York and provides a candid view inside the life of a small family of chess players. The park has been a setting in movies such as “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and “Fresh” and have hosted American prodigies 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 or left the park. Some of the most colorful characters in the park history can be seen in this video such as Vincent Livermore (deceased), Sammy, Poe, Theo, Russian Paul, Big Ralph are a few of the characters seen in the video.

There is a cameo appearance of GM Roman Dzindzihashvili and a segment of Larry Tamarkin playing self-proclaimed Jack “World Grandmaster of the World” Cohen in a humorous scene. 🙂 The video is narrated by “Jimmy Jam“.

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.

While the video was done as a school project and is of poor VHS quality, it is really a jewel to behold. While many of the characters in this video have passed away or have aged, the personalities in this video are brought to life once again. The magic of Washington Square Park lives! Thanks Miro!

* * *


by NM Miro Reverby


See Chess at Washington Square Park, Part #1 for other footage.


  1. Pingback: Daily Chess News Links 12/31/12 |
  2. Thank goodness’ Miro made more than one copy of this; I had posted it on YouTube some years ago (after make a primitive digital conversion), but then accidentally deleted it with all other videos I had posted. I meant to do the work of transferring the tape anew, but because of poor health, and lack of energy never go around to it – Anyway I’m really happy you guys have taken care to post it here – Truly classic stuff!

    1. Larry,

      I actually had a link to your posts on my first Washington Square Park report, but I discovered they were gone and I contacted Miro and asked him what had happened. He told me they had been deleted, but that he would send me a copy and he did. I only uploaded them yesterday because I couldn’t figure out how to get the entire 36:27 minutes in the new upload format of YouTube. I decided to try it anyway after checking some sources. Fortunately I got it up in two parts.

      It is classic footage! We should be grateful to Miro for producing such a gem. Thanks for your contribution.

  3. Thank you for posting this! Wow. What memories this brings back from my old days playing chess in Washington Square Park with all these characters. Jimmy Jam does great narration. Thank you!

  4. Classic…. I agree with you Daaim, we should be thankful for Miro for producing this. I wish there was more footage 🙂

  5. I was a homeless guy in NYC during the 1980s and hung out in Washington Square Park watching & playing chess games. I remember Vinnie Livermore and how amazingly good he was, and also a very nice person. I used to get coffee for him at Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Street while he was hustling. I was very sad when I heard that he had died. Plus, there was a tall white guy named Dwight who also died from aids. And I remember Theo, and Jimmy Jam, and grand master Roman “Jinjin” Dzindzichashvili, who was the top USA player in 1983 & 1989, and has written several books on chess openings, and has posted many videos at And of course grand master “Zilba” —(full name Josef Israel Zilber)— who wore dozens of rings and buttons, and was evidently homeless. You can read about him at And a tall black guy named Markus Moonbeam, and another big black guy named Mark, and Sweet Pea. All these guys were chess players. There was a Jamaican black guy who was not a chess player, and was always reading his worn Bible, and preaching from it. And a big black woman who would get totally naked on hot days and rant & rave. One time she grabbed me from behind and started choking me. I don’t think she would have hurt me, but it scared the f*ck out of me.

    1. Yes sir. I spent a summer in New York while working for Sports Illustrated and frequented Washington Square Park. I stayed in the Village area at New York University.

      I do remember seeing that naked woman come out of her top one day. One guy told his wife, “Look!” and pointed. I turned around and she had come out of her top baring her breasts and everything. I simply thought she had too much of whatever she was on.

      I also Jamaican “evangelist” speaking on the scriptures.

      Sweet Pea passed away a few years back. I played him a few games. Not particularly strong, but fast.

      Those were great memories. I don’t remember seeing Vinny, but remember Theo, Russian Paul and Wu.

      1. 14 March 2019
        Hi Daaim, and warm greetings !!
        Thanks for posting a reply. Both Michael (the Jamaican evangelist) and [Doris??] (the large black woman) are in “The Men Who Would Be Kings” on youtube.
        Where are you now ??
        With kind regards, Mark

  6. It was great to see Vinnie, Poe, Jimmy, Springer, Djinji, and the whole cast of characters I remember from the park in this video. I was blessed to live in the city in the early 80’s, when I was teenager and Washington Square was my favorite hang-out spot because it was a cross-section of humanity, as it intersected with chess. One time Jaco Pastorius came through the park, shirtless and raving. He could’ve just been drunk, but he was way whacked out and we found out later he got killed or something. You would see a lot of weird shit in the park in those days. Only Zilber was missing from the video

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