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.


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ivan3ivanovich ivan3ivanovich 2/23/2016 03:51

Really? What about 29. - Bxe3+ followed by Bxc1?
chessmozartnyc chessmozartnyc 2/23/2016 02:59
Hi all! I have played this hustler before and I would say his strength is about 1700. He is also known as Frenchie; you can see why from his accent. He is not as aggressive as the typical Washington Square Park hustler and he will stop playing you once you beat him.
ewenardus ewenardus 2/22/2016 02:24
28. ... e3 doesn't seem more winning to me after fxe3
Bombo Bombo 2/21/2016 06:55
Tune in to Part 2, where Maurice kicks a puppy in the ribs.
Reshuaggarwal Reshuaggarwal 2/21/2016 05:22
during my Visit to NY last summer, I used to frequent the union square for some chess games in the evenings. i was charged like $5 for a game or two. Interesting characters, made some friends.
KevinC KevinC 2/21/2016 03:03
Sorry, my mistake. I looked at move 23 for some reason, not 28.
ivan3ivanovich ivan3ivanovich 2/20/2016 09:08
@charles augustus

28. - e3! is indeed a very nice winning move (29. Rxc5 e2! winning the exchange for a pawn). But you have to remember that this is a blitz game in a very special setting and not a tournament game in a quiet venue.
koko48 koko48 2/20/2016 06:26
@ Magic_Knight : I would estimate Wilson's strength as well below 2000

@Rinzou Wilkerson: I don't think Maurice actually took any money from the guy
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 2/20/2016 05:36
Maurice - if you're reading - what would you estimate the strength of this Wilson to be?
ambackr ambackr 2/20/2016 05:19
@ Karbuncle, You have to embrace it man. These are my people, its not a putdown. I can tell that you are not strong because of your denial. I leave you with this Korchnoi quote, "No Chess Grandmaster is normal; they only differ in the extent of their madness"
Read more at:
KevinC KevinC 2/20/2016 12:38
@Rinzou Wilkerson, it is not like the guy lost anything. You pay if you lose, but get nothing if you win.

@charles augustus your suggestion of 28...e3 is a mistake after 29.Nf3. The game is still easily winning, but winning the full piece was easily the strongest move.
X iLeon aka DMG X iLeon aka DMG 2/19/2016 08:49
Love Maurice! Fightingchess - get out of your shell!
Chad Phillips Chad Phillips 2/19/2016 08:47
Charles...I saw that too!
ChessHulk ChessHulk 2/19/2016 07:25
1... Bb4 2. Bxd5 Bxe1 3. Bxf7+ Kh8 4. Bxe8 Bxf2+ 5. Bxf2 Qxe8 is actually worse for Black.
ChessHulk ChessHulk 2/19/2016 06:51
Regarding the sample video for "What Grandmasters don't see", after Bc6 what about the reply Bb4, attacking the R on e1? Or is that also "What Grandmaster don't see"?
Nino-sp Nino-sp 2/19/2016 05:56
Mr TambourineMan, like RaoulBertorello, I'm wondering about your phone call! If this is true, the answer He gave was really in good spirit.
fightingchess fightingchess 2/19/2016 02:40
@RaoulBertorello no i don't take your word for being a strong player and i was referring to his manner. i also don't object there are some good players among them but this guy was not one of them.
charles augustus charles augustus 2/19/2016 12:10
how did he miss 28...e3 to finish in style
RaoulBertorello RaoulBertorello 2/19/2016 12:07
Great footage ! Great little movie (it's hard for me to believe it wasn't plotted; and then: two cameras ... come on. Yet it was great). @fightingchess: I played a blitzgame against one of those guys, but not in Washington sq., it was in the Sony building atrium. He beat me, and trust me I'm quite strong as a player, yet he won ... no, no, look, they can be homeless but they are strong players too (at least on blitz game, where instead I'm not so good). @Mr TambourineMan: did he really tell you that !? I don't believe you !! Come on, seriously !? What else did he tell you ? Can you write down all the speech, please ? Please ! Thank you !
Karbuncle Karbuncle 2/19/2016 08:06
@ambackr, that's a very ignorant and stereotypical thing to say. I'm from the States, and even I thought "Wilson" was a bit weird. There's nothing special about the States that signifies only weird people play chess here.
Rinzou Wilkerson Rinzou Wilkerson 2/19/2016 04:57
Oh come on, Maurice!

Was it really necessary to beat some guy who probably makes his living playing at the park?
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 2/19/2016 02:46
I once payed 5.000 dollar to get Bobbys Telephone number. I rang him up and asked what this country needed hi said Bridget Bardot, Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren....
ambackr ambackr 2/19/2016 02:37
@fighting chess, every competent chess player is at the very least a little nuts. That is the culture on the state side.
mosherachmuth mosherachmuth 2/19/2016 02:28
"Fresh" is another interesting movie to mention here.
koko48 koko48 2/19/2016 02:19
Check out "Men Who Would Be Kings" and "For Love or Money" on YouTube...Older films from the 80s and 90s, which caught the chess circle in its heyday...You will also see footage of Vinnie Livermore, the legendary chess hustler Maurice mentions (Laurence Fishburne played him in "Searching for Bobby Fischer")
fightingchess fightingchess 2/19/2016 12:25
that was not a pleasure to watch. the guy was nuts. probably a homeless.