The Village Chess Shop has been at 230 Thompson Street since 1972. And now it's gone. A tipster sent in these photos of the empty windows and the "for sale: everything" signs. "They were cleaning out everything on Sunday and this is the empty storefront today," writes the tipster, who heard from the management company: "They were evicted."
The Chess Shop's Facebook page has officially announced: "Chess Shop is now closed however, it was a great 40 year run but while we attempted to preserve it, The Chess Shop became more of a curiosity or portrait than viable retail environment...Indeed, those who thoughtfully bid us farewell in the final days, admittedly had never set foot in the place lol...The Chess Shop lives on though. We'll be opening several smaller different type of sites for play, learning, competition and laughter...stay tuned."
|photo: New York Magazine|
I don't know how to play chess, but I always marveled, when walking on Thompson Street, that a little block could sustain not one, but two chess shops. I thought it made the street seem more gemutlich. Turns out, the two stores were bitter rivals. A former Chess Shop partner opened Chess Forum in 1995. Reported the Times, "Not since Bobby Fischer declared his last checkmate in 1972 has the downtown chess world been so torn asunder."
But The Chess Shop was there first, a classic. Its sidewalk was lined with battered tables and chairs for players to come together, its windows cluttered with odd and interesting chess sets. It had character. It felt like New York.
Here's how The Observer described The Village Chess Shop's owner: "Well into his 70′s, Mr. Frohlinde walks with a cane and speaks slowly with a thick German accent. He wore a brown leather jacket and the kind of bulky nerdy glasses sported by hip 30-somethings in the neighborhood; his thick, shoulder-length white hair hung messily under a wool hat. The outfit is one you’d see all the time in the East Village, but you get the sense Mr. Frohlinde was wearing the same thing well before it was cool. He was friends with Yoko Ono; casually references a conversation with Bertold Brecht; and had no idea who Russell Crowe was when the actor bought a $500 board a few years ago."
|photo: Anomalous A's Flickr|
The owner of the rival Chess Forum is hanging on, but as their owner said in 2008, "We are en route to vanishing." The Internet, of course, has been devastating--many people would rather play digital chess than to put their hands on the real thing.