The burgundy and white squares play as the plateau for the eagerly awaiting warriors. The Queen stands proudly as though she is surveying each piece. The King stood by her side while being protected by those in his court. No matter what transpires, he must not fall. Although they hold great power in this age old realm, their fate lies in the hands of the craftsman that is the chess player.
For most of the clientele, it is just a place to meet and socialize. The coffee and like drinks are constantly flowing; and the food is hot, steamy, and flavorful. The savory aroma blankets the entire establishment on the inside and the outside. It is very easy to get caught up in the scenery of ivy covered brick walls. They sheath the patio and deliver a welcoming atmosphere to all who dwell there.
However, the Old Soul Café, located in Mid-town between H and I Streets on 21st, is more than just a place to indulge the discriminating pallets of its customers. It is home to a number of Sacramento regulars who inhabit there simply indulge their daily vice to play “the game of kings”; chess.
Even on the coldest day, they can be found out on the patio braving the elements of the seasons just so they can plot and scheme their next move to assure game victory. They are of all ages, genders, and colors. In the midst of the maneuvering baristas, studious students, and maraud of other regulars; the typical chess player doesn’t miss a beat. There is complete focus, proficiency, and determination on each of their faces as they hover wisely over their pieces.
Marianne Kookan, 39, has been playing chess seriously for the last two years. She became interested in the game when she was in high school. She got mad, at all of her then friends, took a stroll down the high school hallway, ran into a chess game going on with some students and a teacher, and the obsession began.
“I love the game”, says Kookan. “Even when I’m not playing, I can see moves in my head.”
Another dedicated regular that plays at the Old Soul Café is Jim McFarland. He has been a regular since the 1990s. He became engrossed in the game at the very young age of 5, due to his father’s teachings. Yet, he is still learning different maneuvers for the game.
“I like the patterns of it”, says McFarland. “The geometry also something I like.”
The appeal of chess is not just for the long time player. Even some of the newbie’s that hang out at the café have caught the chess bug. Michael Steez, 25, has also found himself highly enamored by the time transcending sport. He has only been a committed player for 8 months. Yet, he still gives his all when playing with some of the more seasoned players.
“I’m a pretty competitive person and probably play too much”, says Steez, drummer of New Humans, a local Sacramento band. Steez is in a relationship but says being as dedicated to chess as he is, he says it can take its toll in a relationship.
“Because it is so time involved, it can be hard on a relationship because I spend a lot of time with my head in a laptop”, says Steeze with a hooded glance and a smile.
Whatever their reasons are, the dedicated chess players that hang out at the Old Soul Café are very interesting people who are personable, warm, and very interesting. However, be for warned; do not try to talk to them when they are on the battlefield of the chess board. All you will receive is a quick head nod, a fast glance, and, if you’re fortunate a smiling hello. The game is just that serious.