Chess and Checker Club of New York

That was the official name, but everybody except the owner, John Fursa, called it the flea house. I never understood the reason why.

The flea house has recently been renovated and is now "The Disney Store" located next to the Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street near Broadway in New York City.
The "Flea House" in 1976

For a story about this fine establishment, see: One Evening at 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.

This 1956 Stanley Kubrick movie starred Kola Kwariani a/k/a "Nick the Wrestler", who played chess daily at the Flea House.

Here is an: Index of Photos from "The Killing" .


Lonnie Kwartler, an old-time denizen of the Flea House, who grew up to become a reputable public school teacher, provides the following information about the Flea House:

Hi Sam,

I was glad you said you missed the fatal plane trip. I read some of your site's info. The Fleahouse (one or two words) reflects the location of a flea circus on 42nd St. There was still one down the street to the west. Saturday night TCM showed "The Killing." I saw it in a drive-in in 1958. A few year later, I met Nick. I was "one of the few" who knew his name. He told me he was born in 1900. He gave me a check in his later years that had a Queens address (which I didn't save long after his death). The self-described "Great Richmond," who died in 1970, also told me he was born in 1900. I knew his name was Sam Reichman. Muggings also shortened his life, I think. You described an old man playing speed chess against you and then Valvo. The time period you gave should still be the John Fursa era. Before John, as the movie shows, the owner was Harold Fischer, a Canadian checker player whose brother also appeared in the film. Later, Fischer had a place near 6th Ave. Cal Morris had a partner for a time. The old speed player doesn't ring true for a regular. The old guys didn't play fast, usually didn't use clocks, and were not good enough to do what this guy did. Kupchik was a regular and strong player, but didn't play clock chess. A old visitor in 1968 was Moishe Najdorf, but I didn't notice him offering such unprovoked, charitable odds. So - who was that now cyber-masked man?

Regarding Harold Fischer: I called him a Canadian checker player, but I do not recall his nationality. I remember now that he had a sign in his place stating that he won championships in Canada and New York. He had Fursa's club before Fursa. I heard that Fursa worked for Fischer and obtained the club in some unethical way. I was not able to check that. John gave up the club for health reasons. Collapsing can be convincing. His main worker, Cal, got it.

Regarding checkers: Did you know Tom Wiswell from the Fleahouse? He was the best checker player in the country and seemed to be a swell guy. I learned from Arthur Bisguier, that in recent years Tom developed Alzheimer's.

Regarding Nick: I was told calling him "Nick the Wrestler" was a bad idea. He went after someone in the Automat for that. He wanted to be considered intelligent, not just a beast. Perhaps, it wasn't just the term but calling out in public. Nick was always sensitive to disrespect, real or not. He could call someone names for hours and not tolerate one name back. You're right about his staying up for days. He would play chess, and in the last years backgammon, for days. His opponents would change, but he kept playing. He would ask me, not for the time, but, "What day is it?" That was when he was in his sixties and seventies. He told me that he was promoting a circus in Vienna during his honeymoon. Naturally, he played chess during those events. This occupied a month during which he claimed to have slept twice. I concluded that he should have been living on a planet that does not rotate in just 24 hours.


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