Market Street Chess Games Shut Down

Categories: SF Oddities
Games are gone
Among the tamest symptoms of San Francisco's homeless problem were the dozen or so chess boards set up on the north side of Market Street near the Powell BART/Muni station. Anyone was free to sit down to a game, be it a 10-move checkmate by an SRO-living grandmaster or an hours-long battle royale with a player in business attire.

That problem's solved, whatever the problem was, as a police action has chased away the chess games, according to homeless advocates.

Jim Herd/SF Citizen
Happier times

SFPD had received several complaints from citizens about players' conduct -- fighting, drinking, and some outstanding warrants, according to Lt. Lyn Tomioka, a police department spokeswoman.

The warrants and also the stay-away orders -- apparently some chess players had been warned to keep away from area businesses and area merchants, including the artists who peddle their wares on Market Street near the chess games -- were the biggest problems. The organizers of the chess matches were asked to move their act a block down the way to the 1000 block of Market Street, Tomioka said, but sometime between then and now the games fell apart and are today gone.

It appears the police action was a step in a confluence of factors leading to the games' demise. Soon after the chess players were told to move, organizer Hector Torres landed in the hospital, according to Bob Offer-Westort, the Coalition on Homelessness's Civil Rights Organizer. Without Torres, nobody bothered to set up the tables from their storage home at 66 Turk Street, and the games died out.

Torres, who has no fixed address or phone number, could not be contacted by SF Weekly. But if The Snitch were to interject our opinion, we would say we're sad to see the chess games go. They were entertaining to watch, if nothing else, and breathed a spark of culture into a strip of the city devoid of little else aside from commercial ventures.

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