Knights were felled, queens were crowned and pawns were trampled in a Greenpoint park on Saturday as artists dueled to the death in a cruel battle of human chess.
The two local artists/chess lovers, Douglas Paulson and Santo Tolone, yanked their 32 fully costumed human chess pieces across the makeshift board in a vicious attempt to be the champion of Greenpoint’s first annual “human-chess-to-the-death” competition.
Tolone played the first move after winning the coin flip, but it was Paulson who landed the first blow by attacking Tolone’s knight. “Let’s take this moment to reflect on the history of feudalism,” the moderator announced into his loudspeaker, mourning the death of the black-clad guy on a fake horse.
The undertaker grabbed the knight by the scruff of his neck and threw him to the sidelines, much to the delight of the crowd that had gathered to see the spectacle at Sgt. Dougherty’s Park at the intersection of Anthony and Vandervoort streets.
The game was long and intense, yet periodically interrupted by short bursts of dancing, trash talking and costume malfunctions.
“I broke my horse’s balls,” one female white knight said sadly after her Christmas ball ornament crashed to the pavement, leaving the second intact ornament dangling alone on a string.
The rooks hopped around from square to square wrapped up like burritos in tin foil castle cut outs, while the queens wore floor-sweeping wedding dresses and face paint.
“I saw this event on a random listserv, and I thought, ‘Why the hell not?’ ” Steve Melis, one of the white bishops, said. “I’ve played chess before but never human-sized chess.”
That was precisely the idea, according to Paulson, who plays chess every day online or in parks, and two-time Milano Chess Invitational Champion Tolone.
“There’s a chess board in every park in New York: Union Square, Morgan Park. But this was an opportunity to play the game another way,” Tolone explained.
The event was actually part of the graduation ceremonies for The School of the Future, which is basically a free intergenerational month-long summer camp that teaches a myriad of artistic classes from guerilla gardening techniques to astrology lessons.
After a grueling two hours of combat under the scorching July sun, Paulson finally went in for the kill and dethroned Tolone’s king.
“It was really intense,” Paulson said. “But then someone turned on the boom box and turned the chess board into a dance floor.”