"Chess in the Park" theme under attack

There are not too many combinations that are as natural as chess being played in a public park. A park seems to be the ideal place to draw attention to the board sport which captures the intrigue of pedestrians and bystanders. While neighborhood officials see the appeal of chess and market it as a form of prestige, city authorities have waged a war against chess by banishing players in order to "improve" the image of the area.

A week ago in Harare, Zimbabwe, the Rezende Chess Club is in jeopardy due to a municipal "cleanup" campaign designed to kill blackmarket activities. Years ago, Chicago players waged a battle when the concrete chess benches were removed from the popular chess spot known as "Harper Court." Portable tables have been allowed, but for all practical purposes, chess at Harper Court is dead. Proprietors claimed it was hurting business while others claimed a racial motive.

The $545,000 chess park in Los Angeles cost has 16 tables, a stage and a separate area for gatherings. Photo by Tom Bonner.

The $545,000 chess park in Los Angeles has 16 tables, a stage and a separate area for gatherings. Photo by Tom Bonner.

In a recent story concerning the famous Washington Square Park, players fear that current plans to renovate the park will mean that chess players will have to leave the historic chess spot where Bobby Fischer once played. There is no guarantee that the famed chess tables will return in their prominent position at the edge of the park. There has long been a concern of illegal activities taking place in the chess section of the park. In Chess Life (June 2005) an article titled "Spring Chess in Washington Square Park" describes players gathering for chess activities in what appears to be a promotion to save chess at the park.

There was also a recent controversy of a $545,000 chess park built in Los Angeles along Brand Boulevard. While natives appreciate the artistic appeal of the chess park, many argue that it is not worth the money. Of course, LA players are beginning to filter into the park and activities are being planned. DuPont circle in Washington, DC is still thriving, but how long will it be before it meets it fate?

Posted by The Chess Drum: 8 June 2005