Checkmates take over elevator

Courtney Maragh takes one of Ryne Gottlieb pieces, setting up a check mate. The pair play chess in the elevator most Sunday nights in Pearson elevator #3. As they finished their game, the elevator stopped in the basement for the first time. Lindsay Brown//News Editor

A bishop, a knight and a queen walk into a Pearson elevator.

No, it’s not the beginning of a bad bar joke. On Sundays, the Pearson Residential College elevator is used for more than just moving people.

Sophomores Courtney Maragh and Ryne Gottlieb play chess every week in the elevator. Last semester, Maragh and Gottlieb, who are roommates in Pearson, were playing in their room and thought it would be funny to play in the elevator as a joke.

“At first, people thought we were crazy,” Maragh said. “But now people have gotten accustomed to us and some stay and watch for a little while. Eventually we want people to see us and say, ‘Oh, it must be Sunday.’”

Sophomore Saramati Narasimhan, a friend of the chess-playing pair, isn’t surprised by their elevator antics and occasionally joins in the games.

“They love playing chess,” Narasimhan said. “They play everywhere- their room, the dining hall and in the elevator.”

Gottlieb and Maragh’s unusual ideas don’t stop at chess. Gottlieb has passed out slices of pizza in the elevator while they play and on Halloween they decorated the whole elevator, dressed up in costume and had a bowl of candy for elevator riders with a sweet tooth.

“Maragh dressed up as the Old Spice man with the sweater and body wash and everything,” Gottlieb said. “He even recited the entire commercial each time somebody new came on the elevator for them.”

Gottlieb and Maragh bring two small chairs, a small table and a small chess set that they set up in the back of the elevator next to the door in the rear. They have had to move when the door opens only a few times, but they said they haven’t had any issues getting out of the way of incoming riders.

The two students have been questioned a few times, but they have never gotten in trouble.

“People have asked us plenty of times, ‘Why are you playing chess in the elevator?’” Gottlieb said. “Where do you play chess?”

Maragh credits the idea completely to Gottlieb, but that doesn’t mean he gives him the match. Maragh has a slight edge over Gottlieb in play, but the matches are always close.

“Courtney has the more abstract strategies,” Gottlieb said. “Last time, he had just a knight, pawn and king and was able to keep them together, get a queen and come back to beat me.”

Trevor Scales may be contacted at