111710chess.jpg
A. Strakey’s flickr

We’ve long maintained that chess is one of the least aggressive gentleman’s sports, just a wee bit behind Horseshoes on the blood-and-sweat chart. Who could find fault in benign chess players? But no minor infraction is too small for the NYPD: according to DNAinfo, seven chess players are due in court this month after they were arrested in Inwood for the grave offense of playing chess…on chess boards…in a park…illegally! Hey, it’s not like the NYPD have anything better to do.

The seven men were given summonses for being inside of Emerson Playground, a children’s play area off limits to adults unaccompanied by minors. But the men were in an area filled with stone chess and backgammon tables, completely separated from the play area by a fence. Inwood residents were angry upon discovering what happened, because many of those ticketed were the same people who taught their children how to play chess in that very park over the past several years. “Crime is on the rise in the Inwood area according to the news and in addition to what we see and hear about in the neighborhood, is chess really something that should be considered a threat to the neighborhood?” one mother, whose 7-year-old son learned how to play chess there, wrote the 34th Precinct, the City Council, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg (and presumably, President Obama, Spongebob Squarepants and Dick Van Dyke).

Captain Jose Navarro of the 34th Precinct told DNAinfo he had reviewed the ticket and stood by his officers giving the seven men summons for “Fail[ing] to comply with signs.” “Under my direction, uniformed officers routinely enter the parks to enforce closing times and other regulations; all designed to protect the community,” he wrote in an email. “There is a problem in this area with drug dealing, but the police have time to write tickets to people playing chess?” asked Yacahudah Harrison, 48, one of the men who was ticketed. Yeah, but the piece of the puzzle that everyone is ignoring is that this was a direct attack on chess as an institution—because everyone knows chess is a gateway drug to some seriously aggressive sports, such as Squash, Polo, and the pure evil that is Jai Alai.