October 27, 2010, 4:37 PM
A Sideways Strategy for a Flawed Chess Board

On a recent Saturday, Jean Manas and his son, Mateos Haile-Manas, were playing chess on one of the three public tables on the East River promenade, a raised platform on the Upper East Side between the water and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. There were plenty of distractions — the strong October wind, the traffic hurtling by — but another factor was affecting their game more: They were forced to play sideways.

This was because the lower right square of the board had been painted brown (the parks equivalent of black in this case), when it should have been white.

“If it’s not, everything is thrown off,” Mr. Manas said. For beginners, he added, “it’s a common, but fatal mistake.”

Mateos, who is 6 and learned to play chess nearby in kindergarten at the Dalton School, chimed in with further explanation. “You have to put the queen on a square of its own color,” he said.

As a quick fix, the two set up the board so they were flanked by the pieces, instead of being directly in front of them. The other option would have been standing up, but as Mr. Manas said, “I doubt the city’s intention was to have the players standing and the spectators sitting.”

The city’s intention was never to have flawed boards in the first place, and the parks department rectified the problem last week, after Mr. Manas, 45, the head of a financial services company, sent a note to City Councilman Dan Garodnick. “You don’t mess with a serious chess player,” Mr. Garodnick said. (Mateos, who won the game against his father, said he liked chess because “it’s kind of like fighting.”)

Here is the full article.

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