An Open Letter to Gavin Newsom

Mayor Newsom,

San Francisco has lost one of its more charming attractions. It used to be that pedestrians strolling down Market Street near the Powell BART station would be treated to lively blitz games played by eclectic groups of chess enthusiasts. When in the area, I would frequently find myself battling wits with investment bankers, street merchants, tourists, and homeless persons. Unfortunately, this exposition of culture has been shut down by the city.

I launched an informal investigation as to why chess players were being targeted unfairly while street performers, panhandlers, and artists are still allowed to continue their practices in the area. Apparently an order was given by a high-ranking city official to the SFPD to shut down the games on the basis of poor behavior on the part of the chess players. Indeed, I would witness some money changing hands and the occasional intoxicated chess player. But are these behaviors being caused by the chess games or the urban environment? 

I believe in the positive impact the game of chess can have on individuals who are struggling do the fact that their decision-making skills are sub par. With funding for various organizations that help the homeless population being hit hard by the financial meltdown, I feel it is irresponsible if not mean-spirited for the city of  San Francisco to take away one of the few possibilities left for free and legal entertainment.  Furthermore, for a city that entices tourists to come on the basis of its many cultural opportunities,  it does not seem fitting for San Francisco to be shutting down harmless attractions such as chess. 


Chris Torres

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5 Responses to “An Open Letter to Gavin Newsom”

  1. Chess Disappears from Market Street « Chess Musings Says:

    […] Chess Musings Your quality source for everything chess! « An Open Letter to Gavin Newsom […]

  2. San Francisco Chess Players No Longer Welcome on Market Street « Chess Musings Says:

    […] Francisco Chess Players No Longer Welcome on Market Street By chessmusings Since my initial letter to Gavin Newsom expressing concern over San Francisco’s Market Street chess ban, a web-based movement has […]

  3. Polly Says:

    I was shocked to read that the chess had been shut down. I played there on my last trip to SF in May, less then a month ago. It was the first time that I had even seen it. I guess on previous trips to SF I never got to that part of Market St.

    I had a couple of interesting games that I lost to one the regulars. My mind now goes blank as to his name. However he used to be from NY and we compared notes on players that we both knew.

    The crowd seemed like a well behaved group overall, though there was one guy whose elevator did not go all the way up. Every other word was f^%k and he was very loud. Perhaps he was part of the cause of the clean up.

  4. San Francisco Street Chess: Poof! Says:

    […] I wasn’t aware of this until I saw this post on James West’s blog.  He linked to a letter written by Chris Torres of Chess Musings.  Torres has several articles about the closing, and […]

  5. A Tale of Two Cities « Chess Musings Says:

    […] and the removal of the chess games is yet another move to sacrifice the lowest of pawns. My “Open Letter to Gavin Newsom” remains unanswered and I am getting the feeling that Mr. Newsom has no intention of […]

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