News & Politics

The Tale of the Parks Department’s Chess Board Blunder


The New York Times‘s City Room blog has a piece today that will unite the city’s Bobby Fischer geeks. It zeroes in on a six-year-old and his father, who were playing chess on the East River Promenade one day when they realized that the city had painted the chess boards on wrong, “forcing” the father-son duo to “play sideways.” Oops.

Via City Room:

This was because the lower right square of the board had been painted brown (the park’s equivalent of black, in this case), when it should have been white.

“If it’s not, everything is thrown off,” Mr. Manas said. For beginners, he added, “it’s a common, but fatal mistake.”

Mateos, who is six and learned to play chess nearby in kindergarten at the Dalton School, chimed in with further explanation. “You have to put the queen on a square of its own color,” he said.

As a quick fix, the two set up the board so they were flanked by the pieces, instead of being directly in front of them. The other option would have been standing up, but as Mr. Manas said, “I doubt the city’s intention was to have the players standing and the spectators sitting.”

The Times spoke with a parks department pawn, who told them the chessboards had been “messed up” when a maintenance worker put the stencil on upside down to re-paint the tables last month.

Not surprisingly, the paper says that of the city’s more than 2,000 chess tables (scattered throughout 536 of the city’s 1,700+ parks, apparently), the most popular are still — surprise! — in the village’s own Washington Square. Ha! Your move, East River Promenade.


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