I am not very good at chess, but whenever I have the time, I visit Washington Square to play a few games. Aside from being fun, it's great brain-training exercises.
Chess players at Washington Square are easy to spot. Once you get near the south-west corner of the park, you'll hear questions things like "Chess players? Chess players?" fairly quickly.
Yesterday I played with Jerry Gateway (pictured) and he taught me how to play the French Defense. Jerry has been playing at Washington Square Park for about 15 years, before that he was playing in Harlem for about five years. He started playing chess when he was fifteen, and currently has a rating around 2300.
People at the park play for money, which goes for $2-$3 for a 5-minute blitz. For many of them, hustling chess at the park is their primary source of income. Jerry told me that he makes around $100 a day doing just that.
I don't play for money. I prefer to give them a flat fee and learn a few openings instead. I prefer queen-side openings, and I normally play Sicillian Defence even though I never quite like it.. Jerry taught me how to play the French Defense. It goes something like this:
- e4 e6
- d4 d5
- e5 a6
- Nf3 c5
- Be3 Qb6
- Qc1 Nc6
- c3 Bd7
- Nd2 Rc8
- Bd3 dxc4
After pawn takes c4, my massive army on the queen side can attack effectively. Castling so late seems awkward at first but the lesson pays off:. I used it on the same day against other folks and actually won a couple of games using this strategy.