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Checkmate for Drunken Hobos

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Filed: Other Country: United Kingdom
IN Hyde Park, it's not the ivory Queen that's the biggest danger. It's the self-styled kings of the public chess pit that threaten to destroy the classic game.

Smelling of cheap wine and stale tobacco, a band of drunken homeless people have taken over the arena beneath the trees - and are scaring off chess players and tourists with abusive begging and violent antics.

It's a battle lost for Sydney's serious chess players who have been pushed out to play in the catacombs of the Town Hall shopping centre.

"For years people would come down during lunch or after work to socialise and play a couple of games and at weekends parents would bring their kids to practice against masters from over the world," chess player Jelle Marechal said.

"That's all gone because of one vocal, alcoholic homeless guy. In time more gravitated towards him and they all just sit there and drink."

To aficionados, the Hyde Park pit - built in 1972 - put Sydney on the map alongside New York's Washington Square and Paris' Les Halles as international parks with public chess facilities.

A City of Sydney Council spokesman said they had moved to address the concerns of the chess board users.


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