Friday, 14 November 2008

CHEQUE or preferably CASH MATE

The colourful array of chess hustlers in Washington Square Park are the outdoor equivalent of pool sharks. But how good are they and should we chance our arm? "They're good enough to hustle, good enough to take the money off unsuspecting customers but not good enough to be professionals," says Victor Frias, an international master who has been watching the players in Washington Square Park for fifteen years.

Although, Mr Frias adds that of the 15 or so hustlers who frequent the park, probably three or four might be able to qualify as masters. But he also warns that the hustlers are considerably stronger when playing speed chess, where each player has only five minutes to play the entire game.

However, many who challenge the hustlers expect to lose. "The hustlers are funny, they talk well, and the challengers are playing for fun," says Mr Frias, who knows many of the regular chess sharks, like "Sweet Pea" and "Uncle Ralph," by name. "But they will never play me," he said.
I do not buy into the view that chess is a waste of time but am a fervent adherent of the belief that time is worth wasting sometimes and what more atmospheric and pleasant arena to do so than Washington Square Park.

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