Chess, Mahjong and Pi


My friends always swore by Café Pi. I never really shared their opinion (its food isn’t great and neither is its coffee) but I could at least appreciate it, since Pi’s customers are an odd mix of students and chess players, all of whom pack into the café’s jarring red-and-black confines until they are kicked out at midnight — closing time. The chess players, nearly all men, are impossible to categorize by appearance or origin, but they all share the same seriousness and the same intensity. This becomes obvious a couple of times a year, during the St. Laurent street fair, when Pi spills out into the street.



This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday September 21 2008at 12:09 pm , filed under Canada and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to “Chess, Mahjong and Pi”

  • Zvi says:

    Yes, chess players certainly can be an eclectic bunch. One time in Washington Square Park in NYC I teamed up with some Puerto Rican character to teach a cute young woman how to play chess. Good chess players usually are not very boastful about their abilities but this guy was going on and on about him taking on the old guys who really are grand-masters. I didn’t take him very seriously and we weren’t playing a serious game so there was no way to tell….

    I happened to pass by the park again a few days later, and there he was, taking on the old guys just like he said. He even had a handicap since apparently he was the favourite.

    The only other time I can recall a chess player ‘showing off’ was a Brazilian guy who was basically just trying to ‘toy with me.’ He over-extended himself one match and I almost beat him. Then he told me that he actually had been ranked number 3 in Brazil at some point. For real. Not that Brazil is a chess powerhouse or anything….

  • I ended up studying at Café Pi last night, it was my first visit. The chess players are indeed a diverse bunch. Heavily accented Montreal English seemed to be the language of communication between most of these very intense gentlemen. There was actually one woman in the chess crowd, but she made it clear that she was there to watch and she didn’t play.

    The cream of vegetable soup I ordered was absolutely terrible. I’ll go back though, just for the atmosphere.

    On a side note, I overheard a very attractive girl (there for coffee not chess) explain to a young man that a great way to kill someone is to secretly release a venomous snake into their apartment. Interesting idea, no?