Check Mate

by Marinka on November 8, 2010

This weekend Young Ladrinka and I went for a walk and stopped by Washington Square Park. If you’re not a New Yorker, it’s a small park at the bottom of Fifth Avenue, with a magnificent arch, a fountain pit and two sets of playgrounds, for the babies and for the bigger kids, a dog run and what I can only assume a bustling drug trade.

It’s a great place to people watch. There are New York University students, tourists, and the pseudo-homeless. This weekend there was also a demonstration protesting the city’s animal shelters and imploring everyone to adopt a pit bull or ten.

And then Young Ladrinka saw the chess men. These are the fifteen or so men who sit at the tables at the west side of the park, with chess boards before them, waiting for customers. I’ve seen them for years, for decades and never once stopped.

“Maybe I can win,” Young Ladrinka told me. “They may be stupid enough to fall for my tricks.”

I approached one of the men. It’s $3 for one game, $5 for two. I sprung for the double. They played for about half an hour. The guy was fantastic and taught Young Ladrinka a lot, before check mating him.

Young Ladrinka is on the near left.

But the scene around us was what fascinated me.

Of course all the men knew each other.

“Hey, where the hell have you been?” they asked a man who sidled up on the bench and took his chess board out.
“I had motherfucking appointments,” he explained, smiling toothlessly. “I had the dentist and I had my psychiatrist.”

A new game started next to Young Ladrinka. They were two chess pros, waiting for a customer, killing time by playing each other.
“God damn it, cocksucking hell!” The one sitting next to Young Ladrinka exclaimed when he lost a pawn. I saw that his rook was in trouble and worried about what he’d say then.
“I’m going to have to wash your mouth out with soap,” his opponent laughed.
“Sorry, guys,” the cursor turned to us. “I hate to lose.”
“You should be more used to it,” his opponent took the rook.
“Fuck this shit, motherfucker!”

After a while, Young Ladrinka told his opponent that he wanted a draw. They shook hands and we left.

“Are you upset because you were losing?” I asked, ready to launch into the whole learning process line of bullshit.
“I didn’t want to stay around people who cursed every five seconds,” he told me. “It’s okay to curse occasionally, but this was nonstop.”

My baby!

It was the best $5 I’d spent all day.

One year ago ...

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

christy November 8, 2010 at 7:39 am

Totally endearing, the post and your son. I’m impressed that you could tell his rook was in trouble! I havent played chess for years and years – but the last time I did, I beat a russian guy who was sure I was a shark! 🙂


Prima Mama November 8, 2010 at 8:41 am

Good job, Mama! That’s one of those rare pats-on-the-back your kids don’t realize their giving you. Enjoy.


dar November 8, 2010 at 8:55 am

Totally a cool kid!! Good Job!!!


barbara sigelbaum
November 8, 2010 at 9:19 am

I am relieved to know that young ladrinka was on left. full beard would have surprised me.


Lisa November 8, 2010 at 9:22 am

Omg I was laughing so hard — he is too cute! Story was great. Thx for sharing.


November 8, 2010 at 9:35 am

I went to the post office with my son a few weeks ago, on a Saturday after closing time, to pick up my mail. Behind the PO boxes, two workers were having a very loud F-bomb-heavy argument. My son was dying to say “Hey, there’s a kid in here!” Was great to see him react like that.

Loved this story.


Fairly Odd Mother
November 8, 2010 at 9:52 am

I’m laughing too that you felt the need to point out which was your son in the photo.

My little guy loves chess and unfortunately wouldn’t have been phased by the swearing, I’m sure. Instead he would’ve adopted those words as his own and probably would start asking for his cocksucking motherfucking bagel, mom. Sigh.


the mama bird diaries
November 8, 2010 at 10:09 am

That ladrinka is a smart boy. I’ve seen those chess guys a million times and never knew you could pay to play with them. They should put up a sign or something.


November 8, 2010 at 11:57 am

Ok so your well-behaved son is totally not allowed anywhere near my 2 year old. His favorite new phrase? “What the hell!!?” I really don’t know where the hell he got that from…
Seriously though, great job! I need some tips!


November 8, 2010 at 12:00 pm

He is just plain awesome.

I am 30 years old and I still don’t understand chess. It kills me that your nine year old is good enough to go play random people in the park.


November 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm

My girls are dying to learn chess. Ok, maybe not dying, but REALLY want to learn. And I suck. So, now I know where I’m taking them next time we’re in NYC. And it’s perfect, because I cuss just as much as these guys do apparently, so my girls won’t even be offended.


Kimberly November 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

What the fuck?


annie November 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Really? The lower left? I swear the upper one on the right could be your twin!


November 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Great kid, my son loves chess but I can’t imagine he’d be brave enough to throw himself in there. My littler guy came home from flag football camp all upset that the coach had said a bad word, told them to kick a-s-s…he refuses to even say it, it’s so cute. In a move he’ll turn to me and say, he said a-s-s. Had to explain it was one of the lesser swear words so not so bad 🙂


Slow Panic
November 8, 2010 at 7:28 pm

so i’m sitting here trying to figure out a comment when i hear from the living room “f- it” coming out of my 8 year olds mouth. think your son could come over and be a good influence on him?


ladyday November 8, 2010 at 7:42 pm

So when my eldest was in 1st grade I picked her up from the after school program and they gave me a piece of paper whereupon she had been instructed to write: “I will not say crap in Extended Day” (Extended Day was the name of the after-school program). EVERYONE I showed it to gave the exact same response, “Well at least she didn’t say shit!”


magpie November 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm

that is rather cool and brave, playing the chess dudes. and so new york.


anna see November 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm



Scary Mommy
November 9, 2010 at 6:24 am

Awwww! So cute! And I’m so glad you pointed out which one Young Ladrinka was in the caption. I was entirely sure he was the back right.


dusty earth mother November 9, 2010 at 11:04 am

You KNOW how much I am loving your son right now.


November 9, 2010 at 2:13 pm

brave mother. good example for me, a future city dwelling mom. nice kid you got.


Barbara November 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Love you and love, love, love your son. You have absolutely made my day. Sitting at home feeling sorry for myself because i don’t want to go outside today. Not that I can’t go out it is just that I have two black eyes and a big zorro type “Z” slash on my nose from some stupid basal cell removal. So, I have been trolling my favorite blogs. I love it when we as parents are all prepared to turn something into a learning experience and our child turns the tables on us. Reminds me of the time I took my three year old over to see my father and he asked her “How are you today, sweetheart?” and she replied “I am so fucking tired, Grandpa” I could hear him screaming my name in the bathroom where I was hiding.


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