The Crime of Chess?

“My Large Chess Table” © R.L. Herron

One of My Prized Possesions
I was looking for a way to use this picture of a prized possession — the one-of-a-kind ceramic chess set my wife made for me, and the chess table my father-in-law built for it — when I ran across a very strange article.

In my chess magazine, of all places.

I’ve been a member of the U.S. Chess Federation for thirty-nine years and have never seen one like it before.

It seems seven chess players in New York City’s Inwood Park were ticketed recently by the NYPD. Many reports incorrectly stated the men were charged for playing chess, which would have been ludicrous in itself.

But truth, in this case, is indeed “stranger than fiction.” In actuality, the seven men were charged with being adults unaccompanied by children in a playground area.

You didn’t mis-read that.

Seven men had to hire attorneys and appear in court for violating a city ordinance. Simply by being adults, playing chess in the park on city-provided cement chess tables, unaccompanied by children.

Arrested. For playing chess.

If I thought, for one moment, the arrest of those chessplayers was justified, I would not write this article. But there was not a single child in the park — at all — when the men were arrested.

Theater of the Absurd
It would almost be funny, if it were not so absurd. Fortunately, the local community was outraged by the incident and fully supportive of the seven men.

It makes me wonder what the world has come to, when something like this can be considered a crime?

Has the constant bombardment of vile things in the news media in pursuit of ratings and readers made us so paranoid we would disallow an activity that adults and children have shared for decades?

As the article pointed out, chess is a rare discipline. Like music and math, it creates prodigies. The idea that adults and children and chess can’t mix is ridiculous.

I can hear the obsessed in the community arguing that such separation “protects the children.” I have one comment for that.


I raised three sons who are marvleous young men, and I now have the pleasure of wonderful grandchildren in my life. I would do whatever it took to protect them.

And if there is anything I know is true, it’s this:

Watching your children protects them.

Encouraging them in intellectual or athletic pursuits protects them.

Allowing them to experience other generations protects them, and puts a richness in their lives they won’t get from all the XBox consoles in the world.

Put that in your ordinances, New York.

Quit being a country of overly worried people, and simply get involved. Everyone’s life will be better for it. Including people who like to meet and play chess in the park.


4 Responses to “The Crime of Chess?”

  1. Sue Says:

    Great post. Enjoyed reading it. And, I agree!


  2. Sandra K. Behnke Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree!!!


  3. Ron Herron Says:

    Thank you, John.


  4. John W Says:

    Well said Ron!


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