Street fighting

Thursday, January 14th, 2016
  • Street Chess in Melbourne

    Eddie from Hong Kong ponders his next move against Carl from Ireland as the pair, who had never met until a few minutes earlier, play chess on the giant chess board in front of the State Library in the heart of Melbourne, Australia.

    With his girlfriend Nicole, Eddie has been in Melbourne for three days visiting from their home in Perth. “It’s better here,” Nicole tells me as we watch Eddie pick up a piece and move it. “It’s not as boring, Perth doesn’t have all this stuff,” she explains.

    He’s losing what looks like it will be a fairly swift battle against Carl who stepped off a plane from Ireland just a day before. It was 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) when Carl arrived in Australia from an Irish Winter, but today, as can often happen here, the temperature gauge is barely reaching 20 degrees Celsius (35 Fahrenheit).

    “You actually appreciate the cool weather after a day like yesterday. You take any kind of cool weather after a day like that,” he tells me with a smile.

    Carl isn’t here for the summer sun though. The Irishman tells me he’ll be in Australia for just 10 days to see his brother who is flying down from Queensland to Melbourne so the pair of them can go and watch the tennis at the Australian Open.

    He steps onto the board and moves one of his knights. I ask him if he’s good at chess. “No no, just very average, but when it’s there to walk by there’s always the temptation.”

    It’s not going well for Eddie who seems to lose pieces with every move he makes. I comment that the match might be short. “There’s no point prolonging the agony is there now,” Carl says as he watches Eddie move another piece into a position the Irishman is about to punish. “You’ve got to admire the fighting spirit fighting on though.”

    Another piece falls for Eddie and pretty soon the match is over. The two men shake hands and thank one another then Eddie walks away, not beaten, but instead pleased to have played chess on the streets of Melbourne. A bearded man who had sat watching the match stands and takes his place at the board to do battle with Carl.

    I ask Carl how long he thinks he will stay there and play. He looks up at the clouds then says in that distinct Irish accent, “Ah, until it rains maybe.”