For some people, a chess club or chess cafe becomes a dead end.
The chess club of my teenage years was a vibrant place frequented by exceptional people who had rich lives outside of the venue. But a few were there from opening to closing, month after month, year after year.
“Did they have another life?” I wondered.
In the 1972 book The Chess Scene, David Levy and Stewart Reuben describe such behavior in extremis at the Chess and Checker Club of New York.
Known as the “the Flea House,” the chess emporium attracted players from the surrounding boroughs, Long Island, Westchester County and New Jersey.
“Most of the inhabitants just fritter away a lifetime there,” Levy and Reuben wrote, “playing friendly games or for the board fee. For quite a number, this seems to be their whole life. Without fanfare or posing, without regrets or good-byes, they are true dropouts, never to escape from a lazy indolence, working only when absolutely necessary.
“Few seem to spring this trap, if trap it is. Few seem to want to, and who can blame them?”
The hypnotic effect of the cafe, the coffee shop and the game room is a universal phenomenon. It fosters a seductive environment of play and sociability that provides both succor and entrapment.
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– GM Susan Polgar