Shelby Lyman on Chess: The New York Chess Archipelago
Sunday, November 15, 2015
(Published in print: Sunday, November 15, 2015)
For the young Bobby Fischer, chess was a world of enchantment, and adventure. Physically at its epicenter was a string of Manhattan sites, a chess archipelago of irresistible allure.
In a single afternoon and evening, one might find him first at one and then another of the strikingly different chess venues that stretched from Greenwich Village to Midtown Manhattan in close proximity to each other.
It was a fairyland of discovery. For a budding chess genius, it was a cornucopia of living chess.
Most august was the Manhattan Chess Club, a chess venue for the wealthy and famous. Southward in Greenwich Village, there was the more bohemian but nevertheless affluent Marshall Chess Club, where frequently lingered Marcel Duchamp, the iconic 20th century artist, or Johnny Marks, composer of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other children songs.
In between was the Flea House, a residence of all games and all social classes officially known as the Chess and Checker Club of New York.
There one could find Nick the Wrestler, Tiger, Sam the Rabbi, Freddie the Fish, Israeli Jack and a medley and motley of others.
Farthest south was Nicolas Rossolimo’s chess studio. Inspired by Fischer’s visits, Rossolimo named his dog “Bobby.”
Where did this spectacle of chess, games and life come from?
Was it perhaps the brainchild of a mischievous deity or a mysterious necromancer who played chess himself?
Or was it a normal manifestation of life made physically possible by inexpensive rents and the uncommon amount of frolicking and leisure that the ’60s allowed?
Full article here.
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