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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 Return of the Square
 Nathan Smolensky
  April 2019

There was no guarantee things would work out well. When Manhattan’s Washington Square park underwent changes some years ago, the disruption was too much to overcome. The hustlers moved to Union Square, some of the casual players moved to Bryant Park, and the old scene disappeared.

In Harvard Square, fortunately, the players didn’t have very far to go when the iconic Au Bon Pain, and Harvard’s Holyoke Center, closed in 2015. The tables behind the subway station, on the island at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Brattle Street, held the players during the warmer months. During the winter, the Garage – a mini-mall a short way down JFK Street with some common table space – was enough to hold the diehards. So the players made do playing in the new spaces, and they waited. And they waited.

Finally, in the late summer of 2018, the gate around construction came down, and the new Smith Campus Center opened where the old Holyoke once stood. The building was clean and modern, the seating was comfortable, the café served good food, and the bathroom was open to the public. The worst fears of the chess community, forged over years of waiting for the new space, were assuaged.

One month later, after the flock of Harvard students had arrived for the fall semester, the outdoor area was finally completed and opened, and the new chess tables arrived. It was time to celebrate. 

Lara Adams, the director of Common Spaces, and Bryan Hu, the president of the Harvard University Chess Club, set to work with yours truly to begin planning events. An open play night, for students and the casually interested, seemed logical. A simul, held by local GM Larry Christiansen, was a no-brainer. But we needed tournaments. And I had just the idea.