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In the middle of a Covid-19 lockdown two years ago, Olga Mushtaler decided to celebrate her birthday by gathering in a local Toronto park with a few friends to play chess.

The modest experiment is now a genuine phenomenon in Toronto, with more than 800 people following her Chess in the Park Facebook group. Every week between 25 and 30 people answer the call to play chess in one of the city’s parks.

Mushtaler scopes out a new park each week, checks the weather conditions and posts the location to the group. Everything is free, and she even bought sets and clocks at her own expense.

“It’s good for people to bond together,” she says. “We have a great time. I enjoy it, and it’s a good social thing.”

Mushtaler is busy teaching Grades 1-3 at a Montessori school during the week, but loves unwinding with a game of chess on the weekend. During the winter months, the group heads indoors to a cafe.

Moving from park to park allows players to explore different parts of the city and attract new participants. She has also experimented with chess on the beach and on rooftops.

Mushtaler also hopes to contribute nationally to chess in her position as vice-president of the Chess Federation of Canada.

Jeffrey Vollmer v. Jim Davies, St. Louis (outdoors), 2020

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Black just blundered by playing Re8. How does White win?

White played 25.Qxd7 Nxd7 26.Bxd5+ Kh8 27.Bc6 and Black resigned.

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