By Sam Sloan

It was some time around 1969. I do not remember the year, but it was either 1968 or 1969. I was sitting around the Flea House on 42nd Street in New York City, which was also known as the Chess and Checker Club of New York, when Cal Morris, who had taken over the management of the club from John Fursa, told me that there was an old man waiting who was willing to play anybody a game of chess, as long as he played for money. Cal Morris wanted to know if I would be willing to play this man.

Morris pointed out the elderly gentleman, who was sitting at the front desk. I approached him. His first words to me were: "Ten to One."

"Wait a second", I said. "I can't give you odds of ten to one. I don't know you. You might be a good player."
The "Flea House" in 1976

"No, I give you ten to one," he replied. We quickly agreed to play for his ten dollars to my one dollar. We also agreed to pay after every game. We sat down to play five minute chess.

It is true that I did then lose 13 games to that elderly gentleman, but I did win one game. I remembered that game and was so proud of this victory that I wrote down the game from memory after I went home that night. I did not write down any of the games that I lost, but I am still proud of my accomplishment of winning that one game.

Anyway, while these games were being played, now International Master Michael Valvo walked in the door of the flea house with Fran Goldfarb on his arm. Valvo stood and watched a few games. Finally, Valvo motioned to me and said, "Okay, Sloan. Get up! I'm going to play him."

At this time, Valvo was rated over 2400 and was much stronger than that as a blitz player. He was considered to be one of the strongest five minute players in the U.S. Therefore, without question, I stood up and let Valvo sit down to play the old man.

The elderly gentleman did not care whom he was playing, just as long as the odds were ten to one. However, Valvo won the second game on time, drew the fourth and won the fifth on time. At this point, the old man was down $18 to Valvo, so he said: "Okay, we continue. But, from now on, we play seven minutes."

Valvo made no objection. The games continued. However, the old man was able to make good use of the extra two minutes, and proceeded to defeat Valvo 17 games in a row, without a single loss or a draw. I stood there and counted the games.

While this was going on, Harold Feldheim, a notorious street gambler and hustler of every type of game, including chess, bridge and go, walked into the Flea House. Feldheim, of course, knew Valvo. Feldheim saw me watching the games, sidled up to me and whispered: "Would you like to bet on this game?"

"Who would you like to bet on?", I asked

Feldheim stroked his chin, feigned thoughtfulness, and said, "I think I'd like to bet on that young feller over there," pointing to Valvo.

"Good', I replied, "because I think I'll take a chance on this old man over here."

We agreed to bet. However, to my eternal regret, at this point I blew it. "Do you also want ten to one odds?", I asked. "What do you mean," replied Feldheim. "Well," I said, "that old guy over there is giving this young feller over here ten to one money odds. Do you want the same odds?"

At that point, Feldheim walked around the board and took a closer look at the old man, and then decided that he did not want to bet on this game after all.

I have always been mad at myself about this because, had I said nothing I about ten to one, I could have won a few dollars from Feldheim with an even money bet before he caught on to what was happening.

Now, the point to this story is that while this all was happening, I got a score pad and started writing down the moves. Only a few weeks ago, I was going through my old papers and I came across the score sheets of 13 of the 17 games in a row which Valvo lost to that old man. Unfortunately, I did not find the score of one game that I won. Now, I am trying to decide whether to go through the trouble and effort to put these 13 games on ChessBase or Chess Assistant or NIC Base and possibly to publish them. I would like to know what opinion anybody has about this. Would anybody like to see those 13 games in a row which Valvo lost?

Incidentally, every strong player to whom I have ever told this story has almost immediately realized who that elderly gentleman was. Therefore, I will not bother to mention his name just for the sake of the few of you left who haven't got it yet.

Sam Sloan

For a look at the actual flea house, see: Photo of the Flea House . Here is information about The Killing - A Movie with a scene filmed in the "Flea House" a/k/a Chess and Checker Club of New York in New York City.

This Stanley Kubrick movie starred Kola Kwariani a/k/a "Nick the Wrestler", who played chess daily at the Flea House.

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