Summertime chess in iconic Paris park

by Dhananjay Khadilkar
7/20/2019 – Today, July 20th, is International Chess Day! To mark the occasion, Paris-based journalist DHANANJAY KHADILKAR brings us a scene from the famous Jardin du Luxembourg (pictured, the French Senate) where permanent chess tables have been a fixture for two decades, and you can always find a blitz game or two. Around the world, some chess aficionados take to the great outdoors and some new chess maps can help you find chess wherever you are. | Photos: Dhananjay Khadilkar

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Bastille Day blitz!

If you happen to be in Paris and are passionate about chess, there’s no better place to enjoy the game, either as a player or as a spectator, than at the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

During the summer, on average, more than 25 players match wits daily in the 17th century park that is located in the tres chic 6th arrondissement of the French capital. 

Twenty years ago, the French senate decided to provide a dozen tables — five fixed, seven mobile — with chess boards painted on the surface using screen printing technique. These table tops are made of enamelled lava stones that were extracted from the volcanic mountains in the Auvergne region of central France. 

Volcanic rock squares

Volcanic rock from the Auvergne region

Blitz players

Everyone is welcome

The table tops are large to accommodate chess clocks adjacent to the boards whose squares are alternately painted in sepia and white.

Almost everyone here plays blitz chess, with the 3-minute time control being the most popular. These fast paced encounters demand a certain skill set from players who have to constantly think on their feet.

This format guarantees entertaining chess as pieces tumble and clocks take severe pounding as the two rivals try to make the best moves by using least time. 

While many games are decided by the clock, there are some that produce a checkmate like this one, played on Sunday, July 14th (Bastille Day!), between 1900-2000 Elo rated players, which you can watch in real-time below. White delivered checkmate with just two seconds left on his clock!

 

These chess tables are located in a corner of a huge garden that spreads over an area of 25 hectares. The garden boasts a host of other attractions, so it's suitable for a visit by anyone.

Statues

(Left) Statues in Luxembourg park depict French queens | (Right) Author Stefan Zweig

Find places to play

There are new initiatives to help players and fans alike find chess destinations wherever they are. The European Chess Union has launched ChessWhere.com, which is focused on Europe but has aspirations to expand.

At the moment, the chess tables at Jardin du Luxembourg are not on the ChessWhere map, but you can find them on the recently re-branded Chess Map app (formerly Le Chess Connection) for iOS.

Chess Map tweet

A growing catalogue of chess tourist destinations, courtesy Chess Map

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Dhananjay is a Paris based journalist and a chess enthusiast. While he enjoys playing the game, he is more fascinated by the drama and history associated with it.
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