A day in the life of a chess hustler in NYC

October 14th, 2022, Washington Square Park, New York. Marcel Anderson poses in between hustling chess for a living.
This is the story of a chess hustler named Marcel “Marty” Anderson. A 58-year-old man who was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Marty and his eight siblings were brought up by their single mother. His father died right after he was born in 1964.

He learned to play chess as a child in 1977 and fell in love with the sport. That’s when he first started hustling. He played for money and claims that competitors sometimes bet up to $300 per match. Marty’s style was 2-minute games, and even the most promising players would often get nervous and crumble under the pressure, but according to Marty, he was born under pressure. He was raised in a chaotic household with a single parent. Marty went to Milford Mill Academy, where he was often labeled a rebel because he would protest against the unfair treatment of black students.

“Let alone the concept of education, we didn’t have access to the same books that white kids had. Our books had their covers torn, and we had only 4 to 5 chapters compared to the normal books white students had, which went up to 40 chapters,” he said. “We had dirty classrooms, and there was no way we could study and succeed. They wanted to keep us dumb.”

After high school, Marty attended the University of Baltimore to earn his bachelor’s degree in culinary arts. It was there that he started selling drugs and eventually became a cocaine addict. Marty then went to rehab, overcame his addiction, and began working as a cook for a while, with the hope of one day starting his own restaurant. 

Instead, he began working as an instructor, teaching basic life skills to adults with special needs, be it autism or Down syndrome. 

Soon after, his mother died, and he moved to NYC to pursue acting and become a playwright. He could not find work in that field, and since he had recently married and become a new father, he took up a teaching job again to support his growing family. 

Marty says that just a few years later, his wife left him for another man, and they separated, displacing his family of eight children. 

“I got sent to Rikers because my wife falsely accused me of harassing her, and I had a bad lawyer who was of no help,” Marty said. “So I fired him and spent 10 months in jail before the judge let me out.” 

Marty attended Argus Community College to earn the qualifications to become a drug counselor, and he got a job at a drug facility in the Bronx.

When the pandemic hit, the facility shut down, and he lost his job. That is when he rediscovered his first passion: chess.

He began visiting Washington Square Park and playing for money, as well as selling weed and cigarettes there.

He hopes to make more money, buy a house of his own somewhere in New York City, finish his plays, and maybe even write a book in the future.