Monday, July 03, 2006

A Chess Tourist in New York City

If you visit New York City this summer, you will probably want to stop at these "chess tourism" destinations:

1. The Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway at 12th Street. Open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. and Sundays 11:00 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. Phone 212.473.1452.
This is always my first stop on trips to New York City, since I don't want to purchase anything at another shop that I could have for up to 70% off at The Strand. You will find their table of "Chess Specials" around the middle of the downstairs area, next to lots of books on baseball. Many of the books there are remaindered for a reason (meaning you probably wouldn't want them either), but I never walk away with fewer than three titles when I go. Check their excellent website for their current inventory (where you can also order direct online). Last time I was there, I found The Birth of the Chess Queen ($7.95 hardcover); practically every book on Fischer, including Bobby Fischer Goes to War ($5.95); every book on Nigel Short, including the excellent Profile of a Prodigy ($4.95 hardcover); lots of New in Chess Yearbooks (50% off); and a variety of interesting cast-offs, including The Lost Olympiad: Stockhold 1937 and a book on the late midwest master Billy Colias (which I will be discussing in a future post).

Chess Books at The Strand

The chess table downstairs at The Strand

2. Fred Wilson Chess Books
80 East 11th Street, Suite 334. Open Monday through Saturday from 12-7. Call 212.533.6381 for information or to ask for specific titles.
If you love chess books (especially out of print books), then you will have to stop at Fred Wilson's, where you will usually find the man himself in his packed office space (which he took over from the legendary Albrecht Buschke). Fred is well known for his wonderful interviews at ChessFM. He is also a master chessplayer, lecturer, and published author (whose credits include historical works such as A Pictorial History of Chess and several titles for beginners, including 303 Tricky Chess Tactics). Fred mentioned that his website will soon be more current with his inventory (which numbers about 3,000 books I'd guess), but I think there is nothing like going in person to make that odd discovery and, of course, to chat with the erudite Mr. Wilson, who is a very helpful guide and chess bibliophile. When I was there recently, I was lucky enough to find two large unopened boxes of books he had recently purchased from a collector, which contained several sought after out-of-print titles. The prices for everything were very reasonable and lower than you are likely to find at E-Bay or elsewhere. Fred also sells new books, old journals and magazines (including old copies of Inside Chess, Chess Life and Chess Review), and some chess sets. If you are looking for something particular, odds are fairly good you will find it at Fred Wilson's. And, in any event, you will likely find more books of interest than you can carry.

Fred Wilson Books

Fred Wilson at his chess book shop.

3. Washington Square Park
Washington Square and 4th Street, about three blocks west of Broadway.
The chessplayers gather in the southwest corner of the park, near MacDougal and W. 4th Street, in a hemisphere of chess tables. There are many "chess hustlers" here, looking to make a few bucks from blitz opponents. And, if you have the right attitude, it might even be fun to drop a few games to them (usually winning in material but losing on the clock). But whether or not you play a game, you ought to stop by this classic chess tourist destination, at least on the way to nearby Thompson Street where you will find two more chess shops (see below).

Chess in Washington Square Park

Chess players in Washington Square Park.

Washington Square Park chess

Chess hustlers and "artists."

4. Village Chess Shop
230 Thompson Street. Open 11-midnight every day (call 212.475.9580 for information).
Serving practically as a casual chess club for the community, the Village Chess Shop sells used and new books and chess sets. But I usually see more people playing chess than shopping when I go. It is located just a few blocks down Thompson Street from Washington Square Park.

The Village Chess Shop, New York

The Village Chess Shop

5. Chess Forum
219 Thompson Street. Open 11-midnight every day (call 212.475.2369 for information).
If you are looking for a chess set of any kind, you would do well to stop first at the Chess Forum, which carries a wide variety of both standard and unique pieces and boards. You will also find a wide variety of chess software and some books. The staff is very professional, friendly, and helpful and visitors just interested in looking at their wide variety of amusing theme sets are welcome. The shop is located just a little ways further south from Washington Square Park than the Village Chess Shop, on the opposite side of the street.

Chess Forum, New York

Chess Forum

Chess Forum, New York

Chess sets at Chess Forum.

6. The Marshall Chess Club
23 West 10th Street. Call 212.477.3716 for more information.
Regular office hours: Monday - Friday 6:00 p.m. - 12:00 midnight and Saturday - Sunday 12:00 noon - 12:00 midnight, but members will often open up at other hours.
Though only members have a key to the club, most anyone is welcome to visit for a look around and, if you're lucky, a casual game (though I usually find that there is more interest in rated play than casual play). See the website for membership details and activities.

7. The New York Public Library
5th Avenue and 42nd Street
The main humanities and social sciences library carries most of the 1000+ chess holdings of the New York public libraries. Check their catalog ahead of time to request specific volumes. Copy services on the premises.

New York Public Library, exterior

New York Public Library

8. Coliseum Bookstore and Cafe -- NOW CLOSED!!!
11 West 42nd Street, between 5th and 6th. Open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Saturday 11-8:30 p.m., and Sunday noon - 7:00 p.m.
Formerly located across the street from the main branch of the New York Public Library (see above) and Bryant Park, Coliseum Books had one of the largest selections of new chess books of any store in the city. But it closed within months of my visit....

Coliseum Bookstore

The Former Coliseum Bookstore and Cafe

Thus concludes my brief itinerary for a "chess tourist's" visit to New York City. Please use the comments area to list any sites I left out. I welcome "chess tourist's" guides to other cities and invite my fellow chess bloggers to provide them on their own blogs.

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Anonymous John Powers said...

Might also mention Bryant Park, adjacent to the New York Library, where the chess scenes in Searching for Bobby Fischer were filmed. Just got whipped by Asa Hoffman there this week as I was passing through.

Thu Jul 27, 09:57:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Tom Panelas (Chicago) said...

In keeping with my well-deserved reputation for promptness, I'm just getting around to reading this now.

This is a marvelous post. That's all I have to say. The photos are a really nice touch. (Okay, so that wasn't all I had to say.) Thanks.

Tue Sep 12, 05:26:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your chess tourist.I'm manager of KIMSON Handicraft Co., lTD
.I would like to know some chess local shop in US and send our product to them for test in selling.Your informaiton is very helpfull
Thanks you very much,

Best regards,


Tue Oct 31, 10:20:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your chess tourist.I'm manager of KIMSON Handicraft Co., lTD
.I would like to know some chess local shop in US and send our product to them for test in selling.Your informaiton is very helpfull
Thanks you very much,

Best regards,


Tue Oct 31, 10:24:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can find some cool pics of the Marshall Chess Club online. That's the one thing you're missing in an otherwise great presentation!

Wed Nov 29, 10:25:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Central Park's Chess & Checker kiosk? I had a lot of fun playing chess there recently

Thu Jul 26, 11:46:00 AM EDT  
Blogger katar said...

Very helpful.

I've printed this itinerary for my trip to NYC this weekend. thx

Mon Oct 22, 09:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger mariejo said...

Also, I would suggest checking out the "Fat Cat" bar on 75 Christopher St. It's a little underground, cozy bar not far from Washington Square Park. When I would play in the park, and the weather turned crappy, we would head to the Fat Cat, where they have chess boards, alcohol, live jazz, ping pong and pool. So you literally sit there for hours and have a really great chill time.
I would recommend it highly!

Sat Jan 12, 09:33:00 AM EST  
Blogger Luciano said...

Great post! I was looking exactly for this.


Tue Mar 11, 11:56:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Russell said...

Check out

It is a community of chess players in NYC

Mon Mar 23, 11:29:00 PM EDT  

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