915 dupont toronto

Toronto has a hidden new Japanese cafe and bar that hosts a recurring chess club

There's a chess club hidden inside 915 Dupont, Toronto's newest listening bar.

It's organized by Ben Courtice, a graphic designer better known as Boring Friends around the city, who wanted a low-key place to play chess with like-minded people in the city. 

On every other Sunday of the month, the space fills up with players of all levels and ages.

The idea began when Courtice visited during the day and started talking to co-owner Nigel Wang over a cup of coffee about their mutual love of the game.

915 dupont torontoCourtice tells me it's a welcoming space, and hopes the atmosphere of the bar encourages rather than intimidates people to join.

It's a bring-your-own-board system and players rotate naturally among tables and couches, striking up conversations with strangers about an ongoing game or starting one of their own.

915 dupont toronto

During the day, the space operates as a cafe but at night, it serves whisky and cocktails set to the dulcet tones of carefully curated music, which Wang is responsible for. Note: evening operating hours are still in flux.

915 dupont torontoCourtice himself is a novice player with an honest passion for the game. While spending time in New York last year, he was inspired by the chess community there and hopes to re-create that here. 

"Having a space where people can get together on a Sunday to relax and play is really the goal," he tells blogTO.

915 dupont toronto

In fact, during our visit, a child walked in and sat down with his father to play. Hani Abbasi tells us he and his wife are regulars of the coffee shop and big fans of the vibe.

915 dupont torontoWhen they saw there was a chess club here, Abbasi thought it would be a good idea to bring his 5-year old son to play with other people so he could take a break. "I play with him all the time, it's our favourite past time - I promised him he could play with other people which would be a first."

915 dupont torontoCourtice ultimately hopes the Club could be someone's great first experience playing chess or someone's recurring weekend activity.

915 dupont toronto"You're basically sitting down opposite a complete stranger, you get to know them in a weirdly intimate way if you see them week after week," explains Courtice.

915 dupont torontoIt's an idea that firmly aligns with Wang who believes in "creating experiences" in all of his establishments through a fine eye for design. 

915 dupont torontoJapanese paper lamps hang moodily over tables, all the furniture is vintage, and there's even a stone garden in the back where people can sit to play.

915 dupont torontoWang hopes the space is an irreplaceable place in the city where people can come to slow down and enjoy good music-while playing chess of course.

915 dupont toronto915 Dupont is located inside an industrial building near the corner of Dupont and Ossington.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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