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A historic New York City chess society has suddenly found itself in check after demanding its members be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The Marshall Chess Club of Greenwich Village — where a 13-year-old Bobby Fischer played his famous “game of the century” in 1956 — booted longtime member Anthony Kozikowski after the chess pro led a demonstration outside the West 10th Street clubhouse to protest the vaccine mandate.
“I am heartbroken that I have been thrown out of this club, but I would be thrown out of this club 10,000 more times if that’s what it takes to stop vaccine passports in this country,” he shouted during an April 28 protest, one of three he’s staged since the club formally reopened on April 15. “I will not live in a country of vaccine apartheid.”
Members who wish to enter the club must upload a copy of their vaccine card to a “secure portal” on the club’s website — a policy that any private social club has a right to do, an expert said.
“This has absolutely no First Amendment implications because it is not the government,” said free-speech attorney Barry Covert. “In a private club or organization you have the right to choose your membership based on any criteria you choose.”
“I am 39 years old and I have passed COVID tests. I don’t think I am a blight upon society for breathing oxygen,” Kozikowski told The Post. “Forty percent of the coronavirus deaths in New York came from Cuomo locking grandma in the nursing homes.”
He insists he is not “anti-vax,” but worries about potential side effects, citing a lack of “longitudinal data” on coronavirus vaccine outcomes and his general distrust of Big Pharma. He said he’s happy with immune boosting natural supplements. He doesn’t get flu shots either.
Kozikowski, an amateur stand up comic, makes his living teaching chess and meditation. Growing up in Bayonne, N.J., he said he got his start in the game when his aunt bought him a chess set for his 4th birthday. By age 8 he was beating his father, and by 14 he was sneaking into Manhattan to beat chess hustlers in the park.
He’s not a grandmaster like Fischer was, but has a World Chess Federation rating of around 1,900, which makes him skilled well beyond most players.
In 2016 he joined The Marshall, which was founded by US champion Frank Marshall in 1915 and moved into their current home in 1931. Legends of the game have been regulars in the building, including José Raúl Capablanca. The game’s reigning champ, 30-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen has also visited.
The club has stood by its decision to slap Kozikowski with a five-year ban, saying that his protests disrupted games and violated bylaws.
“This is a situation entirely of Mr. Kozikowski’s making,” club president Noah Chassin told The Post, saying Kozikowski’s punishment has nothing to do with his views on the vaccine.
“He showed up the day that we reopened, and he along with 15 or 20 others held a protest outside of the club with loudspeakers and mega phones making enough noise that the tournament going on in our great hall was disrupted and the players had to pause their games and move to our downstairs location,” Chassin said. The protest was first reported in Our Town.
In the weeks leading up to his expulsion, Kozikowski also sent club leaders a flurry of bizarre, sarcastic emails, which did not help his case. in one he wrote, “Greetings comrad!!!! [sic] Heil coumo and Noah our beloved president!!!!”
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