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Chess tables in York are about bringing together 'thinkers' from 'all walks of life'

York Daily Record logo York Daily Record 10/11/2018 Paul Kuehnel

In the past, you might have seen people gathered around a chess board on the sidewalk in front of Po's Bookstore in York in the first block of South George Street.

Kevin "Po" Bertram wanted to expand the concept to permanent tables on Continental Square.

a man sitting at a table in front of a building: Kevin "Po" Bertram, right, asks his 3-year-old daughter, Queen Amyriah, what the names of the chess pieces are on one of three permanent chess boards recently installed on Continental Square in York. He sees the game, and the tables, as a common ground for different people to make friends. He adds that while the game is competitive, it's civil, with competitors always shaking hands before a competition. © Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record Kevin "Po" Bertram, right, asks his 3-year-old daughter, Queen Amyriah, what the names of the chess pieces are on one of three permanent chess boards recently installed on Continental Square in York. He sees the game, and the tables, as a common ground for different people to make friends. He adds that while the game is competitive, it's civil, with competitors always shaking hands before a competition.

Recently, three chess tables created by Richard Craighead, of Inclusive Arts, were installed on three different corners of Continental Square. The sturdy metal tables are bolted to the sidewalk, each with its own artistic paint scheme. The base of each table forms a "Y" for York. 

Anyone can play. Just bring your own chess pieces.

Bertram, who grew up in New York City, said that permanent chess tables in public places are a common fixture in big cities.

"Chess brings together all walks of life...it brings together strong thinkers," Bertram said.

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He sees the game, and the tables on Continental Square, as a common ground for different people to make friends. He adds that while the game is competitive, it's civil, with competitors always shaking hands before a competition.

On a warm October Wednesday morning while walking back from the courthouse on business, Bertram set his chess pieces on one of the tables on the southeast corner of the square to see if he could attract a game.

He called out to two members of his chess club walking by to see if they were attending an upcoming tournament. After a short time, he flagged down a friend named Smitty who settled in across from him for a game of chess, while the noon lunch hour unfolded around them.

a man sitting on a bench: Kevin "Po" Bertram, right, plays a game of chess with friend Smitty on Continental Square in York Wednesday October 10, 2018 on one of the permanently installed chess boards. "Chess brings together all walks of life...it brings together strong thinkers," Bertram said. © Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record Kevin "Po" Bertram, right, plays a game of chess with friend Smitty on Continental Square in York Wednesday October 10, 2018 on one of the permanently installed chess boards. "Chess brings together all walks of life...it brings together strong thinkers," Bertram said.

Coming up

Bertram is hosting the Touch a Piece, Move a Piece chess tournament at McDonald's, 142 S. George St. in York at 3 p.m. on Oct. 20. He expects about 20 people from his chess club to compete. Participants are "all genders and races from age 8 to 78." Bertram encourages anyone interested in playing or watching to attend.

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