For more than fifty years, thousands of stately kings have been checkmated at Chicago’s famed “Chess Pavilion,” just west of the lakefront pedestrian path between the North Avenue and Oak Street beaches. The pavilion was built in 1957 thanks to a $90,000 donation from Laurens Hammond, whose famed electric organ became a key ingredient in an anthology of classic rhythm-and-blues recordings during the 1960’s. Fabricated primarily from limestone, the pavilion includes three rows of bleacher seats embedded with chessboards and shielded from the elements (often ineffectually) by a wing-like overhang. Naturally, the players bring their own pieces, although many of them supply their own boards too, as well as their very own chess clocks.
The regulars lurk around the pavilion, patiently lying in wait for a tender little fish who fancies himself skilled enough to win a small wager (typically a couple dollars), particularly when his opponent offers to restrict himself to a seemingly insurmountable time deficit. the fish, typically a tourist or other naif out for a casual stroll, almost always gets broiled at the hands of a wily veteran whose openings, gambits, combinations, and defenses unleash themselves in a hurricane of hand motions.
Anyway, there’s no rule that says you have to wager and no rule that says you have to make all your moves in five minutes. Plenty of folks play conventional matches for just for pride because there’s nothing quite like the thrill of a friendly intellectual competition in such an idyllic Chicago setting.