Public piano propagator makes chess move

Last year the placing of pianos in public places became a huge hit in Prague and other Czech cities. Now the man behind the project, Ondřej Kobza, has made a fresh move – on Monday the urban activist and café owner unveiled a public chess table at Prague’s Náměstí Míru, with other sites are set to follow soon.

Photo: Jakub Urban, ČRoPhoto: Jakub Urban, ČRo A year ago Ondřej Kobza put a public piano – free for any passers-by to play – on the busy Náměstí Míru in the Prague 2 district. On Monday morning, he returned to the scene with a new project – unveiling the city’s first public chess table on the square.

The chess table has the form of a hollow concrete cube and comes with two concrete seats. At five other places in Prague including the Regierovy Sady and Gröbovka parks, old school desks will serve as chess tables. Kobza, who is 35, explains the thinking behind his latest move.

“I love chess, and I was thinking about what could come next after the pianos. They have chess tables in many cities around the world, in New York, Paris and other places, but not in the Czech Republic, and I didn’t understand why.

Ondřej Kobza, photo: Tomáš Vodňanský, ČRoOndřej Kobza, photo: Tomáš Vodňanský, ČRo “So we are starting today at six places around Prague and we hope that in two years’ time, there will be many cities and towns with public chess tables.”

Kobza, who owns the trendy Prague Café v Lese, made headlines in Czech and international media last year with his free pianos at Prague’s main station, Václav Havel Airport, the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University, and elsewhere. All in all, around 30 pianos appeared around the country.

They have since become highly popular, and a couple of videos capturing impromptu performances have gone viral. Most recently, a clip showing a Lebanese man’s rendition of the piece Für Elise by Beethoven at Prague airport has received over nine million hits on YouTube.

The mayor of Prague 2, Jana Černochová, who attended the launch of the chess table in Náměstí Míru on Monday, says she hopes they will take off just like the pianos did.

“I’m very glad that Ondřej Kobza has moved to Prague 2 and that such a man with so many thoughts about public space approached us with his idea of chess tables.

Photo: Czech Television.czPhoto: Czech “Here in Náměstí Míru was where one of the first pianos was installed, and we also wanted to make it possible for people to play chess here, besides listening to music.”

Ondřej Kobza and his friends have even provided a set of chess pieces, which will be removed for the night. A Czech chess-making firm has promised to replace any missing or stolen pieces but Kobza hopes people will eventually start bringing their own.