With local interest in chess on the rise, chess clubs seem to be sprouting up at a previously unheard of rate in New York. These said clubs are filling to capacity, from the more party-oriented “Club Chess” scene to local staples now seeing all-time high tournament attendance. In an attempt to harmonize and gather chess lovers from every neighborhood, Bushwick Chess recently hosted its first annual NYC Chess Club Olympiad last month to put to test the best players from eight different clubs around the city.

Sixty-four players, like the sixty-four squares on a chess board, took their seats at Bushwick’s own BrookLAN, a local gaming fixture, to a massive seven-game round robin-style format, seeing teams facing a new challenging club every round. Newcomer clubs to the chess club scene like Queers Gambit and Ridgewick Chess stepped up in their high fashion chess looks and branded club shirts, putting on a stellar performance for overall scores of 13 and 14 total wins respectively. The Renegades, a misfit team filling in for a Queens based club took 15.5 points home for sixth.

The remaining five teams fought a gladiator’s fight, all vying for the coveted Championship Crown, along with handmade chess sets made by Azania Marachi among other prizes. The staples just outside of the borders of Brooklyn, like Manhattan’s Chess Meet, fought valiantly for their place in fifth, with an overall score of 28, just 1.5 points behind the Queens-based Astoria Chess.

With almost six hours and seven rounds left, three teams were left at the top; North Brooklyn Chess at third with 36 points and Bushwick Chess and Prospect Park Chess Club, both tied with 44 points each, after Bushwick Chess struck back against Prospects’ early lead with a 6-2 performance in a head to head round robin that gave them a chance to clutch the crown in tiebreaks. 

Spectators and members of the other clubs soon surrounded the finals tables, as silence hit the room. After three early wins in the tie-breaking round, it looked as if Bushwick Chess were only two victories away from the top, only to narrowly miss a few chances. It would be the Prospect Park Chess Club that would land clearly at first, with a 5-3 score in yet further tiebreaks and taking home the new, coveted “NYC Chess Club Olympiad Crown,” along with their spoils. 

There has never been a better time in New York to join your local chess club, with so many to choose from and each with their own dynamic personality. Catch me at Bushwick Chess every Tuesday 7pm at Nook Cafe, and consider leaping to new clubs elsewhere almost every day of the week.

Images taken by Mateusz Mariansk.

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