Maurice Ashley: trash talk chess in NYC park

by Frederic Friedel
2/18/2016 – In Washington Square Park, to be precise, where masters set up chess boards and clocks to play people at $5 a game. Traditionally the master trash talks the opponent – deprecation and humiliation are part of the experience. But what if the hustler inadvertently challenges a grandmaster? It was recorded as part of a "Tim Ferriss Experiment” and is a great pleasure to watch.

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Hustling in the park

Washington Square Park is a public facility in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, a meeting place and center for cultural activity. One such activity is chess, with outdoor tables installed in the southwest corner of the park [photo Wiki] and featured in the films Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) and Fresh (1994).

In the video, which you can watch below, the chess hustler, unbeknownst to him...

... has challenged a grandmaster, Maurice Ashley ...

... who is probably 600 points above him on any rating list.

Initially Wilson (the hustler) complains that his opponent is hardly looking at the board. There is an amusing sequence 2 min 20 sec into the video, where it looks a bit like Wilson (the hustler) is trying to take two knights with a pawn – the move is repeated in slow motion. At around 2:20 min Maurice is starting to talk about mate in 23 moves.

After resigning Wilson (at 4:10 min) asks his opponent for his name, and is stunned
to hear that it is Maurice Ashley, the well-known grandmaster. Now watch the video:

“I was schooled by the best hustlers back in the day!” Ashley wrote in the video caption. “This was actually in Washington Square Park, where the late great Vinnie Livermore used to beat my ass at the same table!” Here's the moves of the game for you to replay.

[Event "Washington Park"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.02.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Hustler Wilson"] [Black "Ashley, Maurice"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2002.07.26"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] 1. b4 e5 2. a3 Nf6 3. Bb2 d6 4. d3 Be7 5. Nd2 O-O 6. Rb1 a5 7. Ngf3 axb4 8. axb4 Nc6 9. c3 Re8 10. e4 Bg4 11. Be2 Bf8 12. O-O d5 13. h3 Bh5 14. exd5 Nxd5 15. Nh2 Bxe2 16. Qxe2 Nf4 17. Qf3 Qxd3 18. Qxd3 Nxd3 19. Nhf3 Ra2 20. Bc1 e4 21. Nd4 Nxd4 22. cxd4 Nxc1 23. Rbxc1 Rxd2 24. Rxc7 Rxd4 25. Rxb7 Rxb4 26. Rxb4 Bxb4 27. Rb1 Bc5 28. Rc1 Re5 29. Kf1 f5 30. Ke2 g5 31. g3 Kf7 32. Rb1 Re7 33. Rb5 Rc7 34. Kf1 Ke6 35. Ke2 Kd5 36. Rb1 Ra7 37. Rd1+ Bd4 38. Kf1 Ra2 39. f4 0-1

ChessBase DVDs by Maurice Ashley

Maurice Ashley is an International Grandmaster well known for his dynamic brand of chess commentary and effective coaching style. He was a commentator for the Anand-Kasparov World Championship match as well as all of Kasparov‘s epic computer matches. He has produced a number of training DVDs for us.

Many times, when a top player blunders, it is routinely described by the esoteric term “chess blindness“. In this series What Grandmasters Don‘t See, chess trainer and worldclass commentator Maurice Ashley strips away the myth and for the first time explains why the root of these mistakes is more often based in the psychology of human learning.

In this DVD, the third volume of the three part series, Ashley completes his idea of Protected Squares from Volume 1, showing that squares seemingly guarded by pieces are often the breeding ground of amazing tactical oversights. He also blends the themes from all three volumes to give a thorough picture of the key ways that the viewer can exploit the typical mistakes by players of all levels. In the first half of the DVD, Ashley uses brilliant games and positions to explain each lesson in his dynamic commentary style. The second half of the DVD is filled with examples to test the viewer, with a series of exercises of increasing difficulty. The material is drawn both from classic and from recent games. Video running time: 3 hours 45 min.

Review by Steven B. Dowd: No matter what your level, this is a fun product where you will also learn something. And since these really are things grandmasters don't see, even higher-level players will benefit from the information as well as the excellent lecturing style of the presenter. If I could ever afford lessons from a grandmaster, I would pick GM Ashley, no question. Luckily, I can have him as a teacher for about thirty bucks with this DVD; let's hope he makes more. My assessment of this DVD: Great (five out of six stars).

Sample video



Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.