San Francisco Bans Chess Playing In Public

I wish I was kidding about this, boys and girls, but I’m not. It’s true, San Francisco, once thought of as a bastion of liberalism in a largely provincial and backward America, has banned the playing of chess in public.

The ban began on October 1st, with the actual confiscation by police of chess gear, including tables and chairs. Chess, you see, attracts illegal gambling. Well, that is the excuse used by city officials for the ban. I know this internet loudmouth spent many a night down in the dark and smoky chess dens before he got help, blowing the rent money and making his wife think she married poorly—which, of course, she did. One time, I even lost a whole $800 on white. I chalked it up to Affirmative Action and soldiered on, looking for that big pay-off I knew was just around the corner. The kids, though, didn’t get anything to eat that entire week, apart from the occasional can of dog food and whatever the little lady dug out of the Safeway dumpster.

Actually, I’m kidding. No one bets on chess, not even in San Francisco. Why they really banned public chess playing is anybody’s guess. Boredom, I’d bet. You see, when you elect a group of people to do nothing but sit around in a room and think up rules, rules is what you’re gonna get, both metric and standard shitloads of them.

People aren’t happy about the ban either. This past Sunday they staged a big chess protest, gathering in their favorite spots and playing the game openly, right in public. Like any protest these days, it won’t change a damn thing, but at least it lets people believe they still live in a free country.

"Land of the free!" they cry. "Check!" But they go home that night still outlawed from playing chess in public.


San Francisco mayor Edwin M. Lee says chess promotes violence. “It’s a very war-like game. One of the pieces is even called a knight. A game of chess is nothing but simulated bloodshed.”

When it was pointed out to the mayor that the official excuse for the ban was illegal gambling, he replied, “Oh, yeah. But, whatever. Did you know that one of the pieces is actually called a bishop? I’m pretty sure that violates separation of church and state. And why do you suppose white always gets to move first, huh? Think about it.”

Homeless man Kyle Carnuba, who plays chess with other homeless people along Market Street, says the ban won’t stop him from playing the game outside, simply because there’s nothing else to do. “What do they expect us to do, look for jobs?” Throwing his head back and laughing, he added, “Yeah, right!”

Violators of San Francisco’s public chess ban could be fined up to $1000 and/or sentenced to 30 days in jail.