The Wood Pushers
A close encounter with the street chess players of Washington Square Park, New York, where the game is played for money as both a spiritual anchor and economic lifeline.
A close encounter with the street chess players of Greenwich Village in New York, who play for money on the stone tables in Washington Square park.
For these players, chess is like life - a game of survival, of war, of tricks and traps - with many paying their bills and living costs from the money they win at the tables.
These are highly skilled chess players who take on the general public for money. Some are homeless - and a world away from the official tournament scene and stuffy formalism usually associated with the game. Chess is returned to its roots as a street-level pastime - fast, aggressive, winner takes all.
Watching some of them play, it's somewhere between street magic, confidence trick and the most serious tournament - snappy patter disguises the sharpest moves in quick time. These players don't lose often. The nearby Village chess shop is a hub where players can take a break on long winter afternoons, or after the parks are cleared at night. It's been a fixture of the Village for many years.
This programme - filled with the sounds of Washington Square and its nearby chess rooms - features a mix of characters who've been playing there for many years, and for whom chess is a spiritual anchor as well as an economic lifeline.
Producer: Simon Hollis
A Brook Lapping production for BBC Radio 4.