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 Post subject: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:09 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:08 pm
Posts: 26
Why are there so few (if any) chess cafes in England today? I think it’s a great shame that ‘social’, as opposed to ‘competitive’, chess rarely gets linked up with hospitality and cuisine.

I must confess that I only really know London and the South East [famous quote from Dr. Johnson can be supplied on request! :-)], but a trawl around the Internet is most uninformative, and there certainly aren’t many references to chess cafes on this site.

It’s perfectly true that there was such an establishment in Camden in the late 1980s [can anyone remember the exact name and location?] but it didn’t last for very long. I remember that the chess side of this enterprise was reasonably successful, but I also recall visiting it in passing on a weekday afternoon and it was completely dead and I was the only customer. [I must have had some now forgotten - but important - reason for visiting that part of the world on non-chess business; I distinctly recall that it wasn’t a scouting expedition, anyway.]

I fear I may be waffling. Let’s cut to the chase.

This small piece of evidence, and a strong intuition on my part, tells me that a chess cafe has to work as a catering business without the chess element, and that the chess has to be worked in as an element of the enterprise, rather than the raison d’étre. And I think this probably directs us to the nub of the problem; the kind of person who is attracted to (and skilful in) catering and hospitality probably isn’t going to be that interested in the noble game; and the warriors of the sixty-four squares are usually followers of Fischer, not Floyd (Keith). But clearly the problem is not insurmountable, because chess cafes flourish in other countries, and the famous phrase ‘the coffee house style’ entered the lexicon long ago.

So ‘What is to be done?’ - as Chernyshevsky and Ulanov once put it. I have my own theories, but I wanted to hear from you guys (and guyesses). Why else post here?

All thoughts and contributions gratefully received.

C

***

‘I have nothing to declare but my genius’ (Oscar Wilde)

‘The problem with you Clive is that you’re not as good as you think you ought to be.’ (Sandys Dickinson).


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:39 pm 
The basic problem is that too many chess players will want to spend hours playing chess in the chess cafe, with their flask of coffee and tupperware box of sandwiches sat next to them :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:59 pm 
There used to be a great chess cafe in Amsterdam, the name of which escapes me. The first time I visited I was the only customer but when I told the waitress that I was hoping to play some chess she offered to play me herself. She turned out to be pretty good (perhaps 130 ECF) and took a couple of games off me. She said that there had been a strong English player who spent a lot of time in the cafe the previous week and had beaten the best of the local players. A few questions established that the Englishman was Mark Lyell, who was a bit of a demon at blitz chess in those days. A Dutch friend of mine recently told me that the place folded about two years ago.

Perhaps a way to ensure that any chess playing patrons actually spend money is to charge for chess set and clock hire. I think that's how it works at the Wargrave Arms.

I held a blitz tournament at an Oxford pub a few weeks ago, and one of the people who played brought his own flask of weak lemon drink and drank from that all evening, never venturing anywhere near the bar! I bought twice as much beer to make up for him.


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:04 pm 
That would be Gambit cafe, I've been there myself http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=1507


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:11 pm 
Yes, that's the place. A quick google suggests that it closed less than a year after that report when the owner, Menashe Goldberg, died.


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:11 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 9:33 pm
Posts: 849
Location: Oldham
I went to the Gambit cafe in 2005 whilst playing the Amsterdam tournament, the following year it had closed down

I think it closed due to the owner passing away, and his family decided to sell the prime real estate, but I may be mistaken


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:17 pm 
Yep, I think there was an article on Chessvibes saying a bar somewhere had picked up the chess culture in Amsterdam and started holding tournaments, can't find it at the moment though.


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:22 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:38 pm
Posts: 428
Location: Sevenoaks, Kent, if not in Costa Calida, Spain
The Camden venue Clive refers to was called Chequers, if I recall. It was on Chalk Farm Road, just north of the market. It did OK on Camden market days and had a smattering of chess players most evenings. I left the area in 1986, and I don't remember how long it lasted.


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:32 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2009 5:14 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Maybe not a chess cafe, but a chess Chinese Restaurant. 'The Golden Swallow', West Percy Street, North Shields, hosts chess matches for the Tynemouth Chess Club, Mondays in the season. Proprietor, Keith Pun, is a chess enthusiast as well as running the best Chinese Restaurant on Tyneside. Last year and earlier this year he even had a 'two for one' offer for members of the Northumberland Chess Association - one which many of us were very pleased to take advantage of!


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:50 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2007 3:01 pm
Posts: 2761
Location: Hayes (Middx)
Justin Hadi wrote:
That would be Gambit cafe, I've been there myself http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=1507


Maybe, but it could equally have been Het Hok or De Twee Klaveren.

My favourite was Het Hok, used to drink duikertjes there (pilsener in a flute with a shot glass of jenever divebombing...) and get absolutely plastered on Friday evenings. Glad I've grown up! Well a bit, anyway...!

Gambiet was on the Bloemgracht, near the Westerkerk, Het Hok was on the corner of the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat and the Leidsekruisstraat, behind the Leidseplein, whilst de Twee Klaveren was further out on De Clercqstraat. "Twee Klaveren" is naturally the strongest bridge opening bid, Two Clubs. Gambiet was predominantly for chess, het Hok and de Twee Klaveren had other games, too. Het Hok could get a bit rough, as backgammon was played there and some cretins sometimes ran up big debts and then didn't pay up.

Het Hok and de Twee Klaveren are both still open, both worth a visit. They have websites.

I understand that Gambiet closed, but the nearby Cafe Laurierboom has taken over its role in the Jordaan. See the following YouTube clip: http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=sfO72__6O ... re=related


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 5:29 pm 
Paul McKeown wrote:
Justin Hadi wrote:
That would be Gambit cafe, I've been there myself http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=1507


Maybe, but it could equally have been Het Hok or De Twee Klaveren.



Did they both fold two years ago as well?


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:35 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2007 4:46 pm
Posts: 555
One in Surbiton

http://www.surbitonpeople.co.uk/local-p ... story.html


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:00 am 
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"That would be Gambit cafe, I've been there myself http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=1507 "

The 1972 British Champion visited there as well.

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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:11 am 
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Posts: 2761
Location: Hayes (Middx)
I met Brian Eley on several occasions at het Hok. I didn't know who he was, just a very, very strong player who hustled for money. I knew there was some controversy regarding him, but didn't know the full story. Many of the Dutch players seemed to regard him as some sort of victim of British injustice. Undoubtedly if the Yorkshire constabulary wished to proceed with a criminal case against him, they should apply to the Dutch government with a warrant for his arrest and extradition. He is likely still to be resident in Amsterdam.


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 Post subject: Re: Chess Cafe Culture
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:04 pm 
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Posts: 1148
"Undoubtedly if the Yorkshire constabulary wished to proceed with a criminal case against him, they should apply to the Dutch government with a warrant for his arrest and extradition."

Presumably, they would have held on to him in the first place, if they had wanted to proceed... Menashe Goldberg said he saw no reason to turn BE away from the cafe as he had never been convicted of anything.

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