Sixty-Four Squares in Union Square Park

T.C. holds up an article written about him. He is often approached by journalists and fans. November 29, 2020, Union Square Park. Photo by Tori Luecking

Chess has come front and center with the recently released Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit. The show follows a young female chess player and has sparked new interest in the old pastime. But for players like T.C., the game isn’t just a passing fad. 

T.C., whose given name is Ambakisye Osayaba, learned to play chess at the age of seven when he received a book about it for his birthday. A local librarian helped him learn the rules and later, sponsored him in tournaments. 

For the last 10 years, T.C. has sat in Union Square Park offering chess lessons and matches to passersby. He takes a small donation in exchange for a session. You can find him almost every day, sitting at his chess table under the same tree. He is contagiously friendly with a mischievous smile, and always has a story to share. He has a number of loyal students that have played with him for years. They come for the chess, but they stay for T.C. 

He is somewhat of a New York City celebrity, having served as the subject of multiple articles and video pieces. He knows a lot of people — from high-powered attorneys to fashion moguls.

As the colder weather approaches, T.C. intends to continue playing and teaching chess in the park. So next time you’re out walking, keep an eye out for T.C. He’s always ready to meet someone new and explain the difference between a knight and rook. 

Passers-by stop and watch a game of chess in Union Square Park on November 15, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking

When playing timed games, T.C. sets the clock to five minutes, altough he averages a much faster win-time. November 29, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking

With smoke in hand, T.C. considers his next move on the board. Union Square Park, November 29, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking

T.C. breaks a bill for his opponent. It is $10 donation to play for five minutes. November 15, 2020, Union Square Park. New York City. Photo by Tori Luecking

A long-time student of T.C. sits and watches his teacher play in Union Square Park on November 20, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking

The chess tables in Union Square Park stand next to vendors selling handmade crafts. November 20, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking

In colder weather T.C. bundles up and mans his chess table in Union Square Park in winter gear. November 29, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking

T.C. answers a phone call from his wife between chess matches in Union Square Park on November 29, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking