San Francisco has lost one of its more charming attractions. It used to be that pedestrians strolling down Market Street near the Powell BART station would be treated to lively blitz games played by eclectic groups of chess enthusiasts. When in the area, I would frequently find myself battling wits with investment bankers, street merchants, tourists, and homeless persons. Unfortunately, this exposition of culture has been shut down by the city.
I launched an informal investigation as to why chess players were being targeted unfairly while street performers, panhandlers, and artists are still allowed to continue their practices in the area. Apparently an order was given by a high-ranking city official to the SFPD to shut down the games on the basis of poor behavior on the part of the chess players. Indeed, I would witness some money changing hands and the occasional intoxicated chess player. But are these behaviors being caused by the chess games or the urban environment?
I believe in the positive impact the game of chess can have on individuals who are struggling do the fact that their decision-making skills are sub par. With funding for various organizations that help the homeless population being hit hard by the financial meltdown, I feel it is irresponsible if not mean-spirited for the city of San Francisco to take away one of the few possibilities left for free and legal entertainment. Furthermore, for a city that entices tourists to come on the basis of its many cultural opportunities, it does not seem fitting for San Francisco to be shutting down harmless attractions such as chess.