SANDS: Power moves in politics and on the chessboard
By David R. Sands – The Washington Times
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
For you last few undecided voters still out there, here’s one more data point to consider before the polls close Tuesday.
President Obama, according to his autobiography, is a chess player, like eight of the last nine Democrats to occupy the Oval Office. (Lyndon Johnson was the exception.) GOP challenger Mitt Romney, to judge from the public record, doesn’t play the Royal Game, a trait he shares with the last four Republican presidents — Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes.
In fact, according to a 2011 survey by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, dating back to the Chester Arthur administration in the early 1880s, 89 percent of Democratic presidents have been chess players (8 of 9), compared to just 35 percent of Republicans (5 of 14).
Then again, given the level of competence and fiscal probity in some international chess institutions, it could just be that a talent for chess and a talent for electoral politics are mutually exclusive.
Turning to history, we see that Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Vaclav Havel were all chess players. Then again, so were Vladimir Lenin, Ferdinand Marcos and Fidel Castro. The strongest chess-playing politician of all time is a bit of a trick question, because former world champ Garry Kasparov’s recent effort to launch a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin barely got off the ground.
Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the few world leaders whose actual games have come down to us today, although there is some dispute about how hard his opponents were trying to beat the Frenchman when his armies were dominating most of continental Europe.