Public chess matches in New York City are about as common as pigeons; stop by any of the city’s many parks and you’ll likely find a handful of aficionados gazing intently at the board before them. But the chess match in play at the southeast corner of 48th Street and Third Avenue takes place not on a tabletop board, but on the side of an apartment building.
At three stories high, the chess board adjacent to 767 Third Avenue is the largest in the world. The pieces are embroiled in a near-perpetual match, but the moves are exceptionally infrequent; each Wednesday at noon a piece is moved via the use of a cherry picker in a slow, ponderous recreation of some of history’s greatest matches. A flag to the board’s left indicates which side has the next move or whether the game has reached its conclusion.
Curious spectators are directed by a plaque to visit the lobby of 767 for more information on the match in progress. Once there, however, they might find themselves somewhat distracted by the plaza’s unusual features, which include a stagecoach and a 1929 Ford truck.
From an architectural standpoint, 767 is noteworthy for its open plaza, its brick and oak building materials – a contrast to the surrounding buildings of steel and glass – and for its rounded design. The building was constructed by the William Kaufman Organization, whose unique touches – including a rooftop WWI fighter plane – grace properties across Manhattan. It was completed in 1980.
Know Before You Go
The board is affixed to the North wall of 212 E 48th St.