The Last Chess Shop in New York City
The Last Chess Shop in New York City

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“I came here to get a PhD in American literature, and here I am, with pictures of American writers on the wall—a chess vendor.” That’s Imad Khachan, owner of Chess Forum, the only remaining chess shop in New York City. A Palestinian refugee with no family of his own, Khachan has become “the father of everybody” to a community of chess enthusiasts, those curious to learn more about the game, and those whom Khachan describes as the city’s “invisible people.” “When no other place will welcome you, you have a seat [here],” Khachan says in Lonelyleap's short documentary, King of the Night. The film depicts the chess shop as more than a home for chess players; Khachan’s open-door policy has provided refuge for many patrons with difficult lives at home. According to Molly Brass, one of the film’s directors, some Chess Forum regulars have no home at all. “There are very few places in New York that accept and welcome anyone—really anyone—to sit and spend as many hours as they want to, at negligible or no cost,” Brass told The Atlantic. “It's almost a revolutionary idea at this point.” "King of the Night" was produced by Lonelyleap. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.


les : My wife and I visited this shop last summer in search of a chess set for my cousin’s teenage boys having been directed there by one of the regulars in Washington Square. We spent an hour talking less about chess and more about the immigrant experience in America. He told me his story and I told him of my family’s history. A moving connection!

Dimi Shahbaz : What a warm, philosophical man. Great video.

Viceroy Duskren : "At night, this, whatever this material that gives us this blackness around, it's a nice companion. In a city like New York, when it's hustle and bustle, and millions of people. Here you are the king of the night, in the store. Outside you are the king of the city. And now you see each street has its own double life. A curtain is raised, and you see the homeless, the Con Edison guy, the garbage guy, the rat, the bat. All the creatures of the night. And 5, 6 o'clock in the morning, and somebody pulls a curtain, and all that theater of the night is gone. That theater, I find, this is my place. These are the people that- you become invisible like them." -- Imad Khachan

Emre Koçak : Vice should learn from The Atlantic.

RosstaFloss : “Maybe the lack of not having got married and have children, you become the father of everybody.” Such a wonderful and wise man...inspiring!

Luboman411 : Wow. I cried a little. I don't know why. I guess when the owner cracked up, and disclosed that he knows how it feels to be mistreated, to be an outcast. That hit me right in the feels. I live some blocks south from this shop in Manhattan. I just sent a link of this video to a good friend and neighbor. We just started playing chess at a chic lobby of a new SoHo hotel that has some chess boards. Now we will go to this shop instead.

In Otter Words : This is a great example of a special interest piece. It finds an entire new world hidden away in a small corner that most people are entirely unaware of.

F Matta : Damn! We need more people like Imad in today’s society. I’m gonna go to his shop just to shake his hand and thank him for what he does.

NegatingSilence : I don't know how you packed so much emotion into a video like this, but you did. When I was a kid I read books on chess, memorized famous games, watched Searching for Bobby Fischer, entered school tournaments, and despite having very little money I saved up and bought a chess clock from a shop just like this one. For me it was computers. When every computer could beat every human, I felt the game lost an element of exploration, magic and allure. And this wasn't even that long ago. To think of a time when there was a market for a 24-hour chess shop saddens me greatly.

Indy Cyclist : It wasn't that long ago that a wonderful mini documentary like this would've been limited to a NYC based film festival or maybe shown in some art theaters in the greater NYC metro area. I'm glad this made it onto YouTube as it was a very touching documentary. I never really knew about chess culture until I visited St. Louis and interesting to see a small part of that culture still living in NYC.

magomezga : 1:00 Sebastian Ospina is a famous Colombian actor. His brother Luis Ospina is one of the most important names in colombian cinema.

Sean Delaney : Did not know Kasparov's brother owned a chess shop..

Jahangir Laskar : this breaks my heart

David Summers : And we shall play a game of chess, Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door. -- T.S. Eliot "The Waste Land"

? malpertuis : I wanted more, but it was so concise I know that it was perfect.

Alex Partridge : This was powerful

Akshat Singh : This video made me unexpectedly emotional. I wish the best of luck to this guy. And now I guess I have a place to play chess when I'm in America :)

BTassie : He seems so melancholy. I wish I could make him feel happy. If you're reading this, I wish you success, love, community and happiness! ✨❤️

John Wayne : I feel the loneliness in his heart. New York city has a way of doing that to you. Next time I go I will have to visit that shop.

Rick Silva : What a great person, I will go there when I visit New York, I find that chess unites people and stores like this one or even libraries should never close.

IcySlime : Played one game here, they let me just walk in and play for free. You could really feel the community: kids running around and playing chess against the adults. And there’s only 4-5 boards there. It’s amazing, really.

Tracy Williams : I remember being shown this place by one of my chess playing friends from Union Square Park. (he frequently impressed actor Alex Baldwin with his ability to teach small children how to play chess) They are refugees from Washington Square Park which you see at the end. They had to flee the increasing crime. We went to the forum to replace a missing chess piece. It was very late at night yet you could go to the Forum to find a single chess piece that matched your set.It was that kind of place. That night a tall young African manned the desk and greeted us with a sparkling ivory smile. He would drop by USQ to play from time to time. I remember how he greeted Eric by name. The Forum was a lot like Cheers from always knowing your name to having that warm, snow lodged in the wooden window panes Bostonian feel about it. How I combed the walls which are covered with chess history. I was amazed by the black and white photos of chess luminaries I saw. One thing I learned from my time in the chess world is how accessible even the biggest names are. One night in USQ a tall bearded older man came and sat down among the boards. He was dressed modestly in tube socks and shorts and puffed on his cigar while discussing his latest theory on the state of the world. Everyone showed him utmost respect. Later I was told he was the GM who trained Fischer for Reykjavik! As I learned he would often drop by to talk, play or give tips. We discussed this places impending doom. How it would be replaced by a slick chess room for people who are not serious players. They would serve quiche and nouvelle cuisine along with long neck beers. The crowd would be there to hook up for sex with the inevitable skinny young blondes in black pencil skirts and stilletoes. Outside it was possible there may be a bouncer and a velvet rope. You know. To keep out the wrong element. People like the eccentric geniuses of the chess world.

selcouth86 : A place that attracts so many characters, the doorway as inviting as that first moment before cracking open a good book.

Kelly KitKat : He needs a website, given his selection, eye for quality.. to share with customers afar. I need X in order to do Y... Sometimes you can do Y without X.

Jacksirrom : A good reminder on how tenuous our relative liberty and safety is. I hope it can remain that way and that we can return to welcoming people like this man to the USA.

kudikamo : Beyond beautiful, things like these make me open my chess board in the middle of the night. It is the last universal multicultural game in the World.

Komala Hayes : Chess teaches you how to think. That each action has a consequence. I'm a lousy player, but carefully considering my actions is something I do all the time.😊

1CME90 : Damn, they used to be open 24hrs?! Someone must have been playing some serious chess. I learned how to play chess when I was a kid and still play to this day.

Oki 156 : What a wonderful shop I want to go 😍😍😍

hardc00re10 : 1948 he said... and still so close to tears, he must have experienced so much pain and loss...

mcsuchnsuch : Even though English is his second language, his words weigh heavy.

Domenic D : Man this dude hit the nail right on the head. I always had this strange feeling whenever i was out at night in a big city (i'm from a small town so i'm not used to it), like you are seeing something special, that no one else has seen or will ever see. At night, you find the special people, and you somehow feel like you are all conected, because you are all still out there, even at the late hour. But i could never explain it... Imad put that feeling into words perfectly. Amazing.

Vironnikka : I never expected this video to be very emotional. Love it

Mo Scott : I have known and had dealings with Imad for the last twenty plus years. It has always been a great pleasure meeting an talking with him, I only hope he can keep Chess Forum going. It is such a unique place.My very best wishes to him.Duncan Scott

Black Sun : This right here is quality journalism. Absolutely we need to know what's going on in the world, but the 24/7 spit spewing over race, gender, sexuality we usually get has made people so tired, so angry, and so alone. I dream of a day we turn on CNN or Fox News and see stuff like this. Stuff that keeps us in touch with our common humanity. Thank you, The Atlantic.

Patalo : 2:18 Hey that's the thing to park your horse in rdr2!

Parth Patel : Randomly came across this shop a couple years ago while walking to a restaurant. Definitely want to come back soon!

David P. McEntee : Its beautiful, one of the best things on this platform. I have come back countless times- and will continue to, can't explain how much I love this.

peter tuann : very nice, I've played chess since age 6, never heard of a chess shop.

Amorphous Root : There used to be another chess shop next door and they were fierce competitors. I thought the video was going to end with him closing down the shop forever. Hope it continues for years to come but the high rents in Manhattan are driving out all the places that had unique character. All full of chain stores so no point to live in a homogenized NYC. Outer boroughs still have ethnic character.

The Peoples Person : For all the new York chess players a lot of the chess players on union square go to this location and play each other. That guy talking is hands down one of the coolest ppl you'll talk to.

Jack Wilsher : I have never played chess, don’t know anything about. But after watching this, I kind of want to start playing

Magneto Rex : the world moves on whether we like it or not, but there is something romantic, tragic and inspiring about the person who is the last man standing in their world

Zeros DaBast : This is the first video that I have ever liked...

Alejandro Gutierrez : Chess is one thing my father teached me, and i'll always be thankful to him for taking his time, I've just went to hug him after writting this.

roboliño schmidt : 3:20 this kid is the best 😂 ..

African Rule : Imad may not have gotten a PhD in Literature but he got one in Wisdom and how to live a beautiful meaningful life. And with Honors I might add. I salute Sir.

WanderingShyGuy : I have never met this man, but I have learned to love him dearly in less than 7 minutes.

Louis Rafael Rosenthal : This is a masterpiece.