Friday 19 November 2010

Drop That Bishop and Come Out With Your Hands Up!

Most of us have reluctantly accepted that chess is not part of the culture in either the UK or the USA, but since when did it become a crime? Here's a weird example of the NYPD showing zero tolerance towards the playing of chess (which Ukrainian GM Mikhail Golubev spotted in the New York Post):

A squad of cops in bulletproof vests swooped into an upper Manhattan park and charged seven men with the "crime" of playing chess in an area off-limits to adults unaccompanied by kids -- even though no youngsters were there.
Amazingly, charges were not dropped after the police discovered what the men were doing and they still have to face criminal charges in the Manhattan Criminal Court in December.

This reminded me of an incident from my youth when, with two other youngsters, I happened to be emerging from a building in an ill-lit backstreet of High Wycombe one night. A police car suddenly hove into view and stopped rather abruptly alongside us. An officer wound down the window and barked out a question: "where did you three spring from?" Acting as spokesperson for my "gang", I replied "the chess club". He responded with a somewhat disappointed "oh!" and was gone as suddenly as he arrived. Any young offenders or other ne'er-do-wells reading this might like to consider the "chess club" line as a useful cover story for their nefarious doings though I must reiterate that, in this instance, it was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Back to the story: an NYPD spokesman later tried to justify the heavy-handed treatment of the 'Chessplaying Seven' on the grounds that one of them had 'a bit of previous' (as they say on cop shows): "One of [the] men had priors for reckless endangerment, grand larceny, drug possession, and criminal mischief." Reckless endangerment? Well, we're all guilty of that, aren't we? You should see the way I play the Ponziani.

1 comment:

  1. As a veteran of many a night out in Wycombe, which contains far too many 'ill-lit backstreets', I reckon I've found myself in that situation at least six times. I might try that one next time, even though the club is now in Hazlemere.