CHELSEA, Manhattan (PIX11) — Commuters call him Subway Sam.
You can find him just outside the 14th Street L train station Monday through Friday, with his chessboard. He’s ready to play while New Yorkers wait for the train.
He sets up his folding table and offers a free game of chess for any New Yorker who will meet the challenge. For him, it’s more than a game of chess: it’s about bringing community together.
Commuters in the area are usually in hurry, but Subway Sam, a Harlem man, said it’s become the perfect place to meet and compete with the best chess players in the world.
“Ninety percent of playing chess is paying attention. In New York, we pay attention even when we pretend we are not paying attention,” Subway Sam said.
Chess is more than passion for subway Sam, it’s his obsession. Five years ago, Subway Sam says he learned how to play to help relieve stress. When COVID hit the city, he hit the streets with his board and books he sells. Now he’s here for hours everyday.
Subway Sam says with every opponent, there’s also a lesson in humanity. In a fast paced world, a New York minute can mean the world to someone.
The average game length is 2-5 minutes. Subway Sam says most people want to stay longer, but they have a train to catch. He just started an Instagram page.