Last week’s quiz asked about which bit of New York Go history is referenced by one of these shows: “Hong Kong Phooey”, “Underdog”, “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales” or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” The answer is “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales”: Chumley was the name of Tennessee Tuxedo’s walrus sidekick. (click here for this week’s quiz)
The New York go history connection is Lee Chumley, a Greenwich Village resident who had been a soldier, artist, writer and covered wagon driver, and who played a pivotal role in New York go history when he founded his speakeasy in 1922. Chumley’s, frequented by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, E.E. Cummings, John Steinbeck and Dylan Thomas, became a bohemian incubator of the AGA, which held its early meetings on Monday evenings at the bar.
A report in the January 13th 1934 issue of The New Yorker describes the go scene at Chumley’s, including some of its early practitioners, including Edward Lasker, Karl Davis Robinson and Fritz Kastilan, and observing with The New Yorker’s usual wit that “The Public Library has two books on Go. One hasn’t been taken out since 1916 and the other has never been taken out. Mr. Robinson, of the Chumley group, is writing another one now, but he doesn’t quite know why.” Chumley’s and the AGA Monday night club can be seen in this 1942 photo in Life magazine; Edward Lasker, on the left at the third board from the bottom, was one of the earliest proponents of go in the U.S.
By 1951, meetings had moved to the Marshall Chess Club, but Chumley’s would be a must stop for the attendees of the U.S. Congress this August except that it’s been closed since 2007 for repairs. It was slated to reopen this year, but according to a report in The New York Times last February, local residents are attempting to block the reopening, claiming, ironically, that there are too many bars in the neighborhood to open a “new” one. By the way, Chumley’s is also the originator of the term “86” used in the restaurant business to indicate that something — or someone — should be thrown out. Chumley used it as a means to alert his patrons that a police raid was coming — based on tips usually provided by the police themselves — and customers should exit through the door on 86 Bedford.
Although no one chose the correct answer, the fault doubtless lies with poor wording and editing at our end, and we hope you have enjoyed this trip down New York’s go memory lane. Please send us any memories you have of the place and we will try to preserve this piece of go history.
This Week’s Quiz: Who said this? “The rules of go are so elegant, organic and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe they almost certainly play go.” Was it Albert Einstein, John Nash or Edward Lasker? Click here to submit your answer.
We look forward to seeing all of you at the 41st Maryland Open this weekend in Baltimore. While not as old as Chumley’s, the Gilbert W. Rosenthal Memorial Baltimore Go Club is one of the AGA’s oldest chapters, and has sponsored the Maryland Open go tournament for many years. See you this weekend!
- the editors; photos courtesy Life and the New York Times (Librado Romero)