The Harvard Square Chessmaster

I see the Chessmaster just about every day outside of the Au Bon Pain in front of the Holyoke Center with his setup. The rare times that I see him without an opponent he has his nose in a book about chess.

“Play the Chessmaster, $2” the sign reads. The chess master, as he calls himself, has been a fixture in front of Holyoke Center in Harvard Square ever since 1982, a year before Au Bon Pain arrived. For $2 he takes on all comers, giving them a good advantage in his game of street chess: six minutes for the challenger, and three minutes for the chess master, to complete their game. Most often he wins, as he should, for Murray Turnbull is indeed a master, having reached that certified level in 1981. His current rating, just beneath the 2,400 that designates a senior master (the top category for nationally rated players) puts him in the top 1 percent of all rated players.

Turnbull discovered chess at age 11, but by his own admission didn’t make much progress until five years later, when “I encountered some literature. You have to do a systematic study or you won’t really get anywhere.”

Even later as a student at Harvard, he didn’t get seriously hooked on the game until his third year. After dropping out of school and working briefly as a metal polisher and maker of compressors, Turnbull decided to ply his skill on the street.

(via Universal Hub)


And the Chessmaster on YouTube