Chess, as an Obsession

It’s 2020 and like most other New Yorkers I’ve already run through every puzzle in my ever-shrinking Bushwick apartment at least twice. My roommates and I had baked ciabatta bread and fought over every board game we could find. I had remembered the first time I played chess, when I was something of a child prodigy myself. My father’s drinking buddy, a thirty year old electrician, had taught me how to play one afternoon when I was eight, only to refuse to play me ever again when I beat him in our first game. I had never played since, but started playing again online during the pandemic and got hooked quickly, while watching Queen’s Gambit, released in fall of that year.

Online, I hit a wall hard and fast, so I needed to do the work to improve. The next year, I spotted a new chess tournament in Bushwick, at a local cafe called Nook.  The tournament, in fact, turned out to be life changing. After the first one, in which I placed fourth, I was hooked. From that day you wouldn’t catch me anywhere on a Tuesday but Nook. Bushwick Chess, as the club is known today, is now home to some thirty attendees every Tuesday night, from doctors with the day off, to teachers stretching past their weeknight bedtime, to queer nightlifers pregaming before the party. Club nights, which alternate with tournament nights and invoke a more jovial air, featuring clock-less casual games and alternate chess-playing formats like bughouse, a four player alternative that involves playing in teams of two.

It’s the last day of February and now I’m sitting across from the unnamed irishman, wearing a green beret. I’m playing white and the game opens with the Petrov: 1.e4, e5 2.Nf3, Nf6. It’s one of my favorite openings. The Petrov can lead to the unsound but sharp Stafford gambit, so I press on hoping my opponent plays it, though (3. Nxe5) is met with a standard line (3… d6 4. Nf3, Nxe4). 

I play a sideline I’ve seen a couple times. (5. Qe2, Qe7 6. d3, Nc5.) This leads to our queens staring each other down, both protecting their king while blocking their respective bishops. After finishing up the movement that we can (7. Nc3, Nc6) I throw in an odd move, hoping to damage my opponent’s line of pawns structure kingside and it works (8. Bb5, f6). Somewhere, I can imagine Ben Finegold is screaming. These wins aren’t enough to risk trading queens, so I back up (9. Be3) and the Irishman pins my knight down. (9… Bg4). After making some threats against his queen, (10. Nd5, Bxf3 11. gxf3) I feel pretty comfortable switching my bishop for knight while maintaining the attack. 

After taking a moment to collect himself, he plays what I believe to be the losing move (11… Qe5), afterwhich my knight immediately takes up the square the queen once protected (12. Nxc7+, Kd7 13. Nxa8) This wins me a pawn and a rook. But the counterplay of Qe5 is seen (13… Qxb2) and my rook is threatened.  Then I realize the mistake he made in putting his king where he did. 

I launch a new attack and castle away safely (14. Bh3+, Kd8 15. O-O),  protecting my rook on a1.  The final set of moves feels right around the corner. His slow response to my newly placed bishop seals the deal (15…g6 16. Re1, f5).  My final swing comes strong and fast (16. Bxc5, dxc5 17. Qe8#). 

For more chess content find Micah Jameson on Instagram, Twitter, Twitch and YouTube.

Top image taken by Anthony Cosme.

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  1. Great article Micah! You are a piller of our little chess community and we appreciate you immensely.

    Bushwick chess at Nook is a blast! Never too late to come and play, we meet at Nook every Tuesday!