Your move, officer: homeless ‘knight of the road’ finds novel way round begging laws – playing ‘tramp chess’ with students and locals on the streets of Cambridge

A homeless man has found an inventive loophole in begging laws – playing “tramp chess” on the streets of Cambridge.

Slide Martins, a self-proclaimed ‘knight of the road’, is offering ‘free chess’ to all-comers including the city’s ‘brightest and best’.

Accompaied by his two dogs Check, 13, and Mate, 3, the 61-year-old sets up his chessboard on the city’s streets with a cardboard sign saying ‘free chess’.

Slide, who claims to have been given the name at birth by his mother because he was conceived in a playground, says he is a master of strategy – which also includes avoiding police.

He said: “Offering chess for free means the police can’t arrest me for begging because I am offering something – and I always carry spare pieces in case someone steals one.

“I do get beat occasionally but I do mostly win. They are not very bright in Cambridge – they wouldn’t have to go to college if they were.

Although Slide doesn’t officially charge for a game of chess, he makes money “from donations gratefully accepted”.

“I play with the students in the park if the weather is good. Otherwise I set up in streets in Cambridge and challenge people to a game.”

The former chef has been tramping Britain’s highways for more than 30 years.

He said: “I am a proper old tramp in the true sense of the word and have been travelling all over the country for 35 years and been from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

“Slide is my birth name. My mother told me she named me Slide because I was conceived in a playground and she didn’t want to call me Swings or Roundabout. Who wants to be called Swings?

“Check and Mate are my companions. Mate is Check’s granddaughter. I pass through Cambridge a lot and am here at the moment because a close friend was taken ill and I am helping out.

“I don’t take drugs but I do like a drink and the drunker I get the better I play chess.”

Other homeless people in Cambridge are also using the loophole and ‘playing’ penny whistles or other instruments in a bid to get around the law.

One homeless woman said: “If I hold my penny whistle then I can say that I am busking. I actually can’t play a tune on it. I just make a noise and hope the police will go away.”

Sgt Kevin Misik, of Cambridgeshire police, said: “The acts described are not offences of begging under the Vagrancy Act therefore are not enforceable by police officers.

“Although they are not begging, there may well be issues with people acting in an anti-social manner and if this is the case we would urge people to report this to police by calling 101.”


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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