Meet Old Street's Resident Chess Player

Lizzie Thomson

London Writer

Old Street is home to many colourful characters, including 67-year-old Tony Richards, a loveable homeless man with a unique talent for chess. Tony has been homeless for 28 years and loves nothing better than tempting passersby with a game on his chessboard and a friendly chat. It’s not often you get to play a game of chess on the roadside and Tony makes it his aim to put a smile on strangers’ faces.

Tony developed a skill for chess back when he worked on a fishing trawler, operating in minus 30-degree weather. Due to the arctic conditions outside, he played with his crew every day and developed an incredible knack for the game. Back then, Tony confesses, he would often play against his boat’s Captain and lose. One day, he finally beat him at a game; he’s improved more and more each day since then.

This unique chess player has been homeless for nearly two decades. Twenty-eight years ago, Tony’s uncle was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and he gave up his flat to care for him during his final months. Shortly after his uncle passed away, Tony was unable to secure social housing and ended up living on the streets.

Tony loves Old Street’s kind community spirit and says the locals look after him extremely well. Many cafés offer him free coffee and sandwiches, and shops provide him with showering facilities. Old Street locals are familiar with Tony’s talent for the game; his friendly personality and cheeky laugh have resulted in him becoming a hit with East London folk.

Tony says his passion for chess stems from the strategy involved in the game, the need to anticipate your opponent’s moves as well as your own moves. He loves how chess is a game of the mind and enjoys being challenged by strangers every day on the street.

If you’re in the Shoreditch area and fancy stretching your mind with a tactical game, look out for Tony, the most charismatic chess player in the whole of East London.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article