About Me

My Background

Hello everyone,

My name is Justin. I am a born and bred New Yorker, having lived there my entire life.

I have a gazillion hobbies and interests, but when it comes to chess particularly, my fascination with it began in high school as I went to school in Union Square and played with the notoriously famous "chess hustlers" out there throughout my four years. One of the best players there, a Russian guy named Paul, even said just off my play that I would easily be rated 2000 FIDE.

I would blow so much of my allowance on paying for $5 and $10 games. I got to knew some of the regulars operating there, and we became such good comrades that I got to play for free sometimes.

I could've gone farther with my interest in chess if my school had a chess club. There wasn't enough interest to start one from scratch.

But I bought books from the library, studied vigorously on my own and even started to make an account on Chess.com (my rating has fluctuated as I haven't always had the time to play consistently).

I am a USCF member and I do have a rating. I've played in a couple of online tournaments. COVID, like with many other things, disrupted my ability and tampered my desire to try and play tournaments in-person. Plans for such things to occur are on hold for now.

But in the meantime, I'm going to run this page and hope that me sharing my love for the great, cerebral sport of chess will inspire others to take an interest or the game or to continue keep playing.

My USCF Rating

Highlight to the Union Square Chess Hustlers

This is T.C.

T.C. sadly passed away due to complications from COVID-19 during the pandemic. But I'll never forget him. Cocky, aggressive guy, loudmouth, came with lots of spice and he didn't mind people pissing off. He had a Malcolm X style chip on his shoulder. But he was all of those things in the right way. Plus, he couldn't go a couple of days without smoking something. He was the first guy there at Union I played against (and I almost beat him). Over my four years in high school, we developed a close bond as I became a regular. He became an unlikely mentor for me. He opened up to me and revealed his life story, the lessons he's learned, the mistakes he made, especially the ones that led him to prison. One of many siblings, he was from Ghana, West Africa but was Americanized like another black person. What equally impressed me as well was his natural charisma, charm and aura he had that drew women in. I definitely took note of that as well as his showmanship on the board.

The greatest lesson he taught me, one that pertained to chess and life, was to never go easy on your opponent while you're ahead. Always seek to dominate while ahead.

T.C. resided in Alphabet City, but his soul and spirit will always belong to the heart of New York City.

This is John

Along with T.C., he's probably the closest guy I developed a bond with. He would easily win the role for Black Santa with his staggering 6'3 frame. He's a father (and I actually got to meet his son one time) whose worked for the Parks Department. He's moral and honorable (won't give you a cigarette if you're under 21). Armed with a great sense of humor, John has a gentle, booming voice and is jolly as Saint Nick himself.

Guy on the Right

This is Carl

Later on in my time during high school would I come across Carl. Carl is slick, very much a sly cat straight out of a Dr. Seuss. But he's an animated character whose intentions are ultimately in the right place (and he'll definitely make a scene acknowledging the sight of a beautiful woman).

Everytime I played Karl, he would make sure to amp up the insults, the playful disrespect and brash tactics to throw me off mentally (and he often was successful). But off to the side, when the pieces were down, Karl and I would conversate heart-to-heart, man-to-man and he'd share an intriguing perspective on things, notwithstanding the false advertising behind the American Dream. Seeing that he was with his own personal cost-of-living crisis back then, I understood where his frustration was coming from.

Karl is from Guyana, and so is my dad, so we had more common, which only further enriched our connection.

In this particular photo, Carl is playing against grandmaster N.J. Burkett. I'm not sure he won or lost. That doesn't matter. Playing against one of the greats in your particular craft and gaining respect amongst said peer is the greatest reward of all.

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  • What do I like about chess?

    As I put it, chess is like football for the mind. It's quite cerebral, but it can also be aggressive and come at one with a lot. There's always another move to anticipate, a different angle to consider.

    Chess is a game, a sport where there's long stretches where nothing happens. Then the pace can pick up out of nowhere, and everything happens at once. Slowly but surely.

    But above all else, I appreciate and enjoy the camaraderie it fosters. Chess is the ultimate, proper gentleman's duel, and it's also an excellent icebreaker for strangers. I imagine many great businesses, great startups, great works of art, great trips, etc. were planned over a cup of coffee, just like sharing a cup of coffee.

  • What's my favorite opening?

    Most of the time, I play E4 to begin the game as white, so I would have to either the Scotch Game or Ruy Lopez. But the English Opening isn't that bad either.

  • Do I prefer black or white?

    Black, unironically. I like being reactive and having to be on the backfoot, responding to white's moves (although my play as black could definitely use some improvement)

  • What's my favorite type of chess match?

    I prefer blitz all day. Fast and furious. That's how I like things done.

  • What part of my game needs the most improvement?

    Definitely my openings, as black and white. Studying them more overall and mastering many of the key variations for the main lines.

  • What's my favorite moment related to chess so far?

    Watching the FIDE Grand Prix 2017 on my laptop during summer break from school. I think I was so excited simply because school was over, anything would've made me happy lol

  • Where are our products sourced?

    Passed Pawns sources its products from the sizeable e-commerce supplier known as Eprolo. They handle the shipping, logistics and delivery for every order that's placed.