Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Xiangqi: Chess in Chinatown


Whether you are seriously hooked on chess or casually intrigued by it, you probably think of the tables in Cambridge's Holyoke Center as the Boston area's one big outdoor chess venue. That's, after all, where the Chess Master sets out his board a few tables down from his counterpart, the redoubtable Chess Mister. That's where you can play both regular chess and blitz, the high-speed version, most any day, for $2.00 a pop, against skilled competition. (If you win -- it does occasionally happen -- you get your $2.00 back.) And that's where, if you're learning, you can find a teacher. Of course, if you'd been bitten by the chess bug, you didn't need me to tell you about the scene at Holyoke Center. You knew.

But if you knew, you probably thought that's all there is to outdoor chess in Boston. If so, you were mistaken. There is another venue where the game is played with at least as much passion and relish -- the game, that is, if you're capable of wrapping your mind around the fact that chess speaks more than one language.