Friday 24 January 2014

Street Knights

Street Knights is a great documentary about chess on the streets of New York. These guys play for money and the amounts they have earned is surprisingly high. It's a side of the game that isn't really shown that much and yet these guys are pro players as much as the Kasparovs and Carlsons of this world. The individuals shown in this film are street grand masters who know themselves, their park and their game well. Look out for the photographer who doesn't ask permission before attempting to take a few photographs.

Baron's film captures not only the characters who play in Washington park but it also show the game of chess in a different light, away from the usual clubs and professional tournaments. The chess often appears to be played in a blitz style - fast decisions and moves made against a short time limit. The conversations with the players also reveal a lot about them and their love for the game. Often they are almost poetic as they talk about the chess pieces and what they represent. 

Matt Baron's use of black and white is not only apt, considering the game involved, it nicely removes  any colourful distractions from the frame leaving the viewer to concentrate purely on the chess and paint a portrait of the players. Although money is often a key motivating factor with games, the lessons with the young players are especially touching as they encourage the young kids to play and win. 

Sadly the positive aspects of these park chess players didn't stop the park being closed. I just hope that it was opened up again or they found another place to play.