Friday, July 10, 2009

Chess-playing couple in the White House

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Frank “Boy Pestaño

THE last time the Americans had a chess-playing couple at the White House was when they had the Carters—Jimmy and Rosalyn—who also taught their daughter Amy how to play the game.

In fact, Carter was quite serious in improving his game that he bought a chess computer hoping to reach master level.

Despite his known high intellectual skills, he realized he could only reach that much and gave it up. He is featured on the May 1998 issue of Chess Life .

In Obama’s first book, he wrote of playing chess often with his grandfather and step-father as a sort of bonding with them. Also, Michelle Obama and her brother were expected to fill their time with books, chess and sports by their parents.

It would be neat if the Obamas also taught their daughters, Malia and Sasha, the game so the Americans can have a chess-playing family again at the White House.

The “Obama chess set” limited edition, is now on sale for about $395 and it has pictures of Obama and his wife as Queen and King. It is handcrafted by renowned artist and sculptor Igor Valega and made out of marble. The king is 5.25 inches long.

Chess in the White House is not as well known as the other “games” played there. However, a great majority of the occupants played chess and a few were considered of expert level.

Robert John McCrary wrote of an interesting episode in 1885, when both the US president and vice president visited a chess event together. The incident was described as follows in the September 1885 issue of The International Chess Magazine:

“Ajeeb, the Chess Automaton,is now giving exhibitions at Eden Musee, 23rd St., New York. We learn from the evening telegram that President Cleveland and Vice-President Hendricks paid a visit recently to Ajeeb’s room and the latter had a neat version of the so-called Philidor’s Legacy or smothered mate.”

James Madison played chess, as did Thomas Jefferson. John Quincy Adams also played and his set is displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Abraham Lincoln, considered as America’s greatest president, enjoyed chess. According to McCrary, “There are several stories about his enjoyment of the game. One of those stories was that he once played in the White House, when his little son, Tad, called him to supper. He told the lad to wait, but the tyke did not handle frustration well and was probably hungry.

So he swept away the position, whereupon his presidential dad dutifully headed to supper.”

By the way, Lincoln’s first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, enlisted in the Maine Coast Guard while serving as US vice president and served two months as a cook! (Apparently there is truly little for a vice president to do in Washington!)

I believe that majority of American presidents have, at one time or another, played chess in their life. Perhaps the Americans should take a note of this and check more carefully the ratings and openings of future aspirants to the White House.

MICHAEL JACKSON. Most of us at Cepca belong to the generation of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Abba, Frank Sinatra and the Bee Gees.

I thought Elvis was beyond compare until I checked out the artistry of Jackson just recently. The man-child is a music phenomenon! Michael is simply the greatest entertainer of all time.

I came across an article of Jackson buying a one-of-a-kind chess set years ago allegedly costing $3,000. It was a marble chess table supported by four parcel gilt horses on marble pillars.

Apparently, he was on an “insane shopping spree” and bought it just for fun.

Jackson has been seen on video playing chess with his son but he was not a good player because he did not know whether he was black or white!

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