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The Washington Square gambit: Grandmaster to play ‘chess simul’ vs. 20 players at once

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | If you’ve watched “The Queen’s Gambit,” the hit Netflix miniseries, you’ve seen chess phenom Beth Harmon play “simuls,” in which she amazingly bests multiple opponents in simultaneous games.

Now local prodigies, along with players of all ages, will get a chance to test their skill against an American chess grandmaster in Washington Square Park.

The Washington Square Association is organizing a chess simul with Maxim Dlugy on Sun., Oct. 24, from noon to 4 p.m. Dlugy was born in Moscow and graduated from Manhattan’s Dalton High School. He was awarded the grandmaster title in 1986. Known for his speed chess playing, he currently runs a chess academy on the Upper West Side.

Chess grandmaster Maxim Dlugy will play multiple opponents in Washington Square.

What the association is dubbing an “afternoon immersion in chess strategy” will start with a lecture by the grandmaster, after which he will compete with 20 players at once. There are 18 concrete chess tables in the park’s southwestern corner and two more tables will be temporarily added for the event.

The chessapalooza is dedicated to the memory of longtime Greenwich Village activist Doris Diether, who died at age 92 on Sept. 16. Diether, who lived right off of the park, was a volunteer with the Washington Square Music Festival for more than 20 years and the park, in which she was a regular presence, was her backyard.

All ages are welcome to participate in the Washington Square chess simul, though five spots will be reserved for players age 12 and under. Registration, which is already open, is on a first-come, first-served basis and the slots are filling up.

Erika Sumner, a W.S.A. board of directors member, said, “We’ll have a wait list. If people on the wait list don’t show up, we’ll take from the people on site.”

The format of the simul will be what’s known as “last man standing.” Dlugy’s opponents will be trying to topple him and be that last person.

However, Sumner said that since Dlugy is a chess teacher, they expect he will also make the event an educational experience for the players, helping them to better understand the finer points of the game.

W.S.A. is also looking for 10 volunteers to help during the day in various roles, including ushers, game monitors and crowd control. Children ages 14 and older are welcome to help out and can do shorter shifts, if desired, and can also volunteer for school credit.

Maria Passannante-Derr, another W.S.A. board member, said Will Morrison, the park’s deputy administrator, has said that he wants there to be positive programming in the park.

“I think this is positive programming,” she said of the chess simul, adding that a lot of parents nowadays are giving their kids chess lessons.

Sumner said the association hopes to do “a bigger event” with chess in the park next June but they are not publicly sharing details about it yet.

She said the inspiration for the chess simul actually was not “The Queen’s Gambit” TV show, but her mother, Anne-Marie Sumner, the association’s former president, who has always wanted to do a children’s chess tournament in the park.

For more information, contact Erika Sumner at 212-777-1703 or visit washingtonsquarenyc.org/events.

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