The joys of New York City’s outdoor chess scene

There are few games as intellectually stimulating and universally loved as chess, and New York City has embraced the game in all its glory.

A trip to the big apple offers the chance to take part in this iconic pastime – simply find one of the city’s many outdoor parks complete with chess tables and find a player to challenge.

NYC’s chess scene

Chess subcultures have been thriving in Manhattan since the mid 19th century, making it a vibrant part of the area’s history as well as a wonderful way to while away an afternoon. To take part in this traditional, New York pastime, simply brush up your skills and make your way to one of the parks and cafes frequented by the city’s players. Chess NYC has a comprehensive list of locations to get you started.

Blogger Michael Goeller has also created an excellent list of some of the best tourism destination for chess lovers. Consult his list of chess hot spots before a trip to New York and know that you won’t miss a trick during your break. The New York Times also devotes a significant amount of space to keeping up with chess trends in the city, well worth a read if you’re a fan of the game.

Chess: a great equaliser

New York’s outdoor chess scene isn’t confined to a particular age group. In fact, thanks to the nature of the game, it’s enjoyed by a wide range of young and old people, all keen to put their skills to the test. There’s also no class barrier when it comes to outdoor chess and players are invited to take part no matter how much money they have or what their background. This differs from many other leisure activities, which require a certain amount of cash to get players started.

However, there are certain rules of etiquette that you’ll be required to follow both as a player and a spectator. The BBC has complied a useful collection of things to remember when settling down to a good game. You’ll also want to make sure you’re up to date with the rules and these illustrated instructions from Chess Variants could help.

Enjoying outdoor chess in the UK

Recreate the NYC vibe at home by trying your hand at outdoor chess UK-style. Involve the whole family in a fun activity by buying a large garden chess set that requires some real physical interaction. Companies like Mega Chess and Regency Chess have plenty of oversized, lightweight chess sets to choose from.

There are also a few UK cafes and pubs that have embraced the outdoor chess trend, including Holland Park Cafe which offers a welcoming spot for chess players in its outdoor area. Chess enthusiasts tend to gather at around 2pm and, in the summer, carry on playing until 9pm. If you’re based in Scotland and are looking for a chess challenge, have a look at the Chess Scotland calendar and explore your competitive side.


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Mother of three grown-up daughters I am the ultimate multi-tasker and am passionate about my role as Silversurfers Website Editor and Social Media Manager. Always on the lookout for all things that will interest and entertain our community. Fueling fun for the young at heart!

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