Incognito Brooklyn chess prodigy wins the Pioneer Square Blitz Chess 2010 Championship
September 17, 2010  |  Event, Fun, PI

Guest post by a Pioneer Square resident

The Pioneer Square Blitz Chess 2010 Championship was held a few weeks ago to put some zip into the neighborhood. In blitz chess, each player has five minutes to make all the moves. A second more spells sudden death. Pieces fly across the board faster than ping pong balls.

The exciting event drew many local experts and budding Bobby Fischers but annoyed the marginalized under layers of blankets on park benches. Who were these uppity intruders to their domain?

Two indeterminate age men, unkempt hair spilling off knit caps and untied boots sticking from filthy jeans, shuffled over. “I play chess,” mumbled one, eyeing the rows of neatly laid out chessboards and digital clocks. “Fifteen bucks entry fee,” he was told. “Ain’t got money,” he growled. “I can beat your whole lot,” slurred his buddy. “Played 20 years at sea.” “Fifteen bucks,” the organizer repeated. They turned to leave. “Wait,” came a voice, his face hidden in a black hood, a bill held between two fingers. “Go sign up and no bullshit.”

Behind them stood a ruffled hair, unshaven drifter in windbreaker and backpack. The polite volunteer hesitated. “Fifteen dollars entry fee, please.” The newcomer nodded and counted out singles and quarters.

Working pro bono from a leading chess club, the tournament director glanced suspiciously at the entry form. “Your U.S.C.F. rating is 2,300?” he scoffed, a ranking of National Master in America. The stranger calmly smiled, yes. At that level, he was put on top of the leader board to begin the contest.

“You can put down any number you want,” someone smirked.

Four hours and eight rounds later, the scruffy walk-on checkmated all but a fifth grader from an upper class suburb. Several competitors rushed over to congratulate the youngster, “You beat him!” “No,” he replied sadly. “He is better by far. He gave me the game.”

Who was the mystery player? A Google search quickly turned up a NYT article followed by several screens of Wikipedia, news clips and photos on the quiet stranger.

A Brooklyn chess prodigy hustling on Washington Square before turning poker pro, he had placed fourth in the 2008 World Series of Poker and won over 3 million dollars, then toured with PokerStars.net for another million before vanishing off the radar.

“Where is the phenom today?” asks a fan online. “Rumor has it that he is traveling incognito,” comes an answer.

Indeed, someone in Seattle can add, he just won the Pioneer Square Blitz Chess 2010 Championship and walked away with $100 in cash.


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