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Obama Plays Chess Against McCain September 23, 2008

Posted by Jennifer in : chess,politics , trackback

Four years ago, GM Pascal Charbonneau, John Fernandez and I created a fictional chess game between John Kerry and George W. Bush. Here we go again…

September Surprise!  Instead of tonight’s scheduled debate, Barack Obama and John McCain will face off in a chess game. And what a match up it will be! Barack Obama just defeated an overly aggressive World Women’s Champion.  McCain lost his last World Championship Candidates match to a two-time champ consumed by fears of exploding rooks, but just made his comeback against a bishop-obsessed candidate. McCain’s greatest strength is fighting spirit: No one can stop talking about how he defended a pawn down rook endgame for seven years straight. Critics of Obama site his lack of experience on the international circuit, but his talent is indisputable. We have over 225 million opinions on the relative strengths of Obama and McCain, but tonight, chess seems a more appropriate decider than democrazy.

 Barack Obama- John McCain

I am Barack Obama and I am the future winner of this game. I stand on the shoulders of my great American Chess predecessors who favored 1.e4. Who would have thought that a young boy from Brooklyn, without any ties to the Russian chess elite, brought up by a single Jewish mother would one day stand in front of the American public as World Champion? And that 150 years before the levees broke, a self-taught New Orleans genius would claim the first unofficial World Championship? But on the other side of American triumph is American tragedy. Paul Morphy went crazy and died alone in his bathtub while Bobby Fischer was exiled from America for tax evasion and became a raving Anti-American and Anti-Semite. Too many on the fringes of our society, the sick and mentally ill as well as the brilliant are promoted as strong pawns on the top of their game but discarded as isolanis when past their prime. Under my presidency, no pawn will be left behind, and in contrast to my not so great predecessor, I am not talking about more standardized tests, underpaid teachers and uninsured children. I want to help pawns before they even arrive at the board. We’re not talking under-promotion, we’re talking pre-promotion. With 1.e4, I promise you  I will not let America down.

With his first move, the popular 1.e4, Obama takes immediate initiative.

1…. c6

I am John McCain, and I am the future winner of this game. I will restore economic vitality to this country so that all pawns will have a merry Christmas. Meanwhile, my opponent has made one move, but said 100 words. Typical of a man who owns all of Dvoretsky’s books but hasn’t solved any problems.  For my first move, can you expect me to play any other opening than the Maverick Variation of the Sicilian? Oops, I played the Caro. My eyesight is not what it used to be. (McCain excuses himself and returns) Gata Kamsky plays the Caro Kann, so with 1…c6 I profess my undying support for America’s troops. If you currently support Obama, I urge you to consider the Iranian Attack. Unlike my passive opponent, I have an immediate tactical refutation.

Obama: I don’t need to play with a queen. This may be the most important decision of the game, but I’m going to replace the most powerful piece on the board- with another rook, a talkative straight shooter who won’t try any sneaky moves on me after we win the game. (Barack takes his queen away, and replaces it with a rook on d1.)

In a startling move 2 play, Barack seizes the center but gives up his queen for a rook.

John McCain highlights Obama's early queen sack with a queen move of his own, Qa5 check.


McCain: The difference between pushing pawns and moving your queen is that a queen has actual responsibilities.
3. c3
McCain: Under a McCain presidency, every pawn will be powered at the rate of $2.22 a square. And not only that, the standing on a square tax will be reduced for all Americans.

Position after 3...e5

Obama: Pawns should pay no more than $2.21 to push a square, and only the king and queen should pay more for square rental. The people of America can’t afford more expenses at this time of crisis, but we do need to rollback some of the cuts that allow the top 1% gold encrusted borders.
McCain: Did you hear what he just said? Obama wants to raise taxes on  hard-working Americans!
Obama: I think you need to work on your hearing as well as your eyesight, Senator McCain.
5.Bxf4 Ke7 6.Bd6+
McCain: After abandoning your bishops and Jeremiahs, what will you do next? Pray five times a day that you’ll beat me?   

Position after 6...Kxd6

Obama: This is a tight race and I think it’s high time I follow the textbook advice, "invite everyone to the party", including my g1 knight. We once had disagreements, in fact, some said that  the king’s knight and I were dividing the party. But now, we must pull together. KNO McCain, KNO How.
7.Nf3 Na6 8.Bc4 Ne7 9.0-0 b5 10.Bb3 Nc7 
Obama:   I’d like to thank my opponent for a tough fight. Moreover, I’d like to recognize all 305 million pawns including those who are too young to vote, incarcerated or even voted against me.  Without you, I’d never be able to say this: Checkmate, John McCain.

The final position, in which McCain finds himself checkmated by a pawn.


Also see my Chess Life Online post where I solicit more fictional games, and Jonathan Rowson’s take on Elizabeth Vicary’s blog.


1. John Fernandez - September 23, 2008

It was more politically balanced 4 years ago…

2. Daniel Jones - September 24, 2008

Where can I find the one from four years ago???

3. budda - September 24, 2008

I find it ironic how Obama was white and McCain was black. xD

4. Jennifer - September 24, 2008

The Kerry-Bush game is at http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2001

5. anon - September 24, 2008

liberal rhetoric.

6. curt brock - September 24, 2008

You can’t win chess games without a specific plan. You certainly can’t fix our economy without one. Sorry, but Obama would’ve lost in both arenas.

7. Richard Barber - September 24, 2008

How come the democrats always win these games and lose the election. (hint: chess isn’t a requirement for a successful candidate)

8. webegeeks - September 25, 2008

*7 (Richard) we lose elections, because republicans have rigged elections with the help of Diebold.

9. anon - September 25, 2008

lighten up people, its just for fun
i thought it was pretty funny, although the writing could have withstood some comic revision

10. anon - September 26, 2008

Shouldn’t Obama have the black pieces? It is a slight disadvantage, but not like it was 50 years ago, when he would have had black with white getting four moves before he got one. :)

11. anon - September 26, 2008

Continuation of above: When those games were played 50 years ago, white’s moves were most often e4, Qh5, Bc4, Qxf7#. When Black complained that it was unfair, white gave him a break by playing Bxf7# instead.

12. castlerook - September 26, 2008

This was great, thank you. Incidentally, the shenanigans concernings tonight’s debate remind me of the Topalov-Kramnik match.

13. McCain, Obama face off in chess. | Science Cheerleader - September 26, 2008

[...] women’s National Chess Champ Jennifer Shahade, just launched this fictional (very clever) online chess game between McCain and Obama. Jennifer writes: September Surprise! Instead of tonight’s scheduled [...]

14. Slawomir - September 26, 2008

Why did Katie Couric make Sarah look bad? What happened to the sisterhood? The Pythia is angry.

15. UGH - September 27, 2008

that Muslim joke was really cute.

16. Mikhail Golubev - September 27, 2008

I am protesting. 11 moves is too long for McCain. I hope that Obama will win the elections even more easily. The world is really, really tired with U.S. Republicans. It is impossible to imagine that they would stay longer.

17. Taj - September 27, 2008

This is awesome

18. aperson - September 27, 2008

Painfully unfunny. Hardly any thought seems to have gone into it — only a couple of the “moves” reflected real-world events, and the dialogue was sheer torture to read. Already in my mind I’m coming up with a dozen different ways this could have been better made, but it’s already published and the opportunity’s been squandered. Oh well.

19. Mahmood - September 27, 2008

I think it was nice novelty in caro can defence-Advance Variation …
and Knight-C7 & b5 & Bishop-b3 was …:-)
I am not disposed to call in question anything that John says.

20. rubinstein - September 27, 2008

caro can is very passive defence better is french

21. Anonymous - September 27, 2008

Shouldn’t Obama be black?

22. Loonier - September 27, 2008

A much better game to illustrate political viewpoints would have been the (formerly) dreaded Hammarschlag, featuring the newly-discovered refutation from Rybka 3:
1. f3 c6! 2. Kf2 Qc7! a spritely battle of ebbing and flowing forces would then follow…

23. Maverick - September 27, 2008

It isn’t surprising Hussein Obama got rid of the Queen. His aversion to females in power is well noted.

24. James Stripes - September 27, 2008

Obama writes about playing chess in Dreams from My Father. Perhaps you can track down one of his games, or someone that has played against him and can comment on his style. Or you might have let one of the players get a rook on the seventh, then give it some lipstick.

As Presidential debates go, I thought that last night was better than most.

25. Derek Odom - September 27, 2008

I thought this was great; I got up early Saturday morning and got to wake up with a giggle. Good job, very original!

26. Derek Odom - September 27, 2008

I loved it! I got up early Saturday morning and got to wake up to a giggle or two. Very original, well done!

27. Slawomir - September 27, 2008

If Obama wins half your paycheck will go toward his social programs.

28. Joshua - September 27, 2008

The writing was about as poor as in Chess Bitch.

29. Terrier - September 27, 2008

To all the contrarians:
“Ridicule can do much. For instance, embitter the existence of young talents – but one thing is not given to it and that it to put an end permanently to the incursion of powerful and new ideas.” – Aron Nimzowitsch

30. Steven - September 27, 2008

I would rather give half my paycheck to social programs than to a misguided war and wall street bailouts! And I am conservative, thank you.

31. from Finland - September 27, 2008

So sorry to see you americans only have 2 candidates to choose from. This Mr Alabama seems to be like a movie star (remember the earlies movie star Reagan). Second candidate is ready to move to the home for the elderly. Best choise would be to chooze tha Alaska lady direct. Not wait for Mr gray hair to retire for health reasons.

32. Ferdyrojo - September 27, 2008

Jennifer prefers candidate Barack Obama, no doubt!

33. qwerty - September 27, 2008

According to the chess rules Obamas Queensac was against the rule and the game should go back to this position and they shall play it from this position.

34. Alberto - September 27, 2008

This could have been funny. Too bad Jennifer is such a poor writer.

35. Rodgie San Luis - September 27, 2008

This is relly funny and interesting!Kudos to the one who created it!!you guys are the Best!!more Power!!

Zabarte Chess club Philippines

36. satdiver - September 27, 2008

My X-girl friend works for Obama. She said he only played once in his life and he fell for a FOOLS Mate!! Take that , Jenny!!!

37. inky - September 27, 2008

Jen, Pascal and John,

What a delightful game. I hope the real one has the same ending.

Thank you for the good laugh.

38. Mikhail Golubev - September 27, 2008

You inspired me to wrote some unrelated chastushka (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chastushka), just the first attempt…

We will always help Ukraine,
Not a problem, says McCain.
To Georgia, we helped too,
And asked How Do You Do.

39. t h - September 28, 2008

boring. you guys can do better than just put up a weak liberal statement like that can’t you? very boring.

40. GG - September 28, 2008

Obama 2008 :)

41. Nigel Davies - September 28, 2008

Alice Cooper took a dim view on rock stars campaigning for thier candidate of choice. Fortunately we chess players are incredibly smart (after all, we can play chess) and get up really early in the morning to read the papers.

“If you’re listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you’re a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we’re morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal.”

42. ZXCV BnM - September 28, 2008

Some parts were interesting, and the game itself was ridiculous enough to be amusing, although the text definitely could have been improved. Sounds too much like a political meeting and not enough like a chess game.

43. Champ-unknownx - September 28, 2008

I challenge any conservatives to beat a former world champ. They just don’t have the brains…

44. Champ-unknownx - September 28, 2008

I challenge any conservatives to beat a former world champ. They just don’t have the brains…

45. John G. - September 28, 2008

Why does Black move his king to e-7 on move #5?

46. Mike - September 29, 2008

Your book title is appropriate. Very witty, same old democratic attack “all Republicans are stupid”. Very original, try to find a new line of attack. If you (democrats) ever want to have a debate about issues let me know!

47. Jean-Michel Pechine - September 29, 2008

Dear Jennifer,

I would like to present to our readers a photograph of the chess parody Obama-McCain. Could you help to get the photographs in high resolution + the context of this very special game: where and who got the idea!?
Kind regars,
Jean-Michel Péchiné
Europe Echecs – International Chess Magazine since 1959

48. Jennifer - September 29, 2008

Hi everyone, Thanks for all the comments especially the poems. I am off to China for Mind Sport Games… I guess I will miss the rest of the debates. I thought they both did OK but not spectacularly in the first debate, but of course was laughing hysterically at the “difference between tactics and strategy” exchange. XO, Jennifer

49. Kris - September 30, 2008

The queen was swapped for a rook in the commentary. The photo shows otherwise with a queen still in position.

50. henrik mortensen - September 30, 2008

I root for Obama, but this one was just boring.

51. Juarez Belém - September 30, 2008

When American Elections will occur?

52. Quorthon - September 30, 2008

Ridiculous,tyical american bullshit!
Pity Americans that one of this losers must win the elections.It’s choosing between two evils.
Help them God.

53. Joe Momma - September 30, 2008

Wow! This is by far the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard of comparing chess to life but this is just wishful thinking for some liberal retard. Jennifer, stick to playing chess because this is bad!

54. Slawomir - September 30, 2008

I’ve never been to China, lots to see there; got any extra sky miles? Have fun Jennifer. Go Sarah!

55. geller--from Warri Nigeria - October 1, 2008

I really liked the whole idea—but i really think it could have been a whole lot funnier

56. Anonymous - October 1, 2008

“I find it ironic how Obama was white and McCain was black.”- yeah they should have made some kind of comment about that.
“Meanwhile, my opponent has made one move, but said 100 words. Typical of a man who owns all of Dvoretsky’s books but hasn’t solved any problems.”- LOL this guy realy knows what he’s talking about.

57. Din - October 1, 2008

Obama can’t even win a chess game without cheating! His latest dirty tricks are using Acorn to do voter fraud in battleground states & fixing the VP debate in Biden’s favour by having the disgraced, pro Obama book writing G. Ifill as the moderator. Pathetic! Now the whole world can see what a con man the big “O” is.

58. plymove - October 2, 2008

Great idea.
But there should be a draw proposed by Obama accepted by McCain.

59. Franchess Port - October 2, 2008

Vry good. That’s why you’ve got so many comments!

60. kayla - October 27, 2008

hi oboma i am going to vote for you becuse i think you are great for presedent

61. Chuck Jaeger - January 12, 2009

The fictional Obama-McCain match was paradoxically both political and beyond politics. If anything, the fictional match understated the intellectual divide between the candidates. The idea of having leaders who didn’t even know there is only one “u” in nuclear, advocated war, did not know where countries were, and regarded diplomacy as a bad thing was frightening and the thought of whom they might appoint to the federal judiciary including the Supreme Court was depressing. How refreshing that in only eight days we will have both a President and Vice president who are intelligent, familiar with our constitution and it’s amendments and will hopefully respect rather than trample them. The differences in intelligence and intellect are stark. Though I have not found a political party that champions individual sovereignty with compassion and am registered independent I always vote. Out of the 12 presidential elections I have voted in, this is the first time someone that I voted for won and the first time I have ever felt hope for our future. There was a disparity between the candidates with the willingness to put politics aside, listen, and try to get along with others in and in the recognition of truth. In the end those are some of the very reasons I like chess. People can say all kinds of outrageous things, but the position on the board is stark truth. After playing alot of games one learns to appreciate the beauty of positions and combinations whether one is on the winning or losing side of them. McCain was checkmated both in fiction and reality because of a failure to recognize, understand, or even try to find the truth. I pray that President -elect Obama will help us and the world put aside our differences and build rather than destroy. Chess is a good example of harmony for the politicians of the world to emulate. We can disagree but put politics and religious differences aside while thrashing out problems with friendly civility at the table together. Peace and hope, chuck jaeger :-)

62. Obama plays chess. - Chess Forums | Free Online Chess Game & Forum - January 20, 2009

[...] Obama plays chess. Today the U.S. has a new president. Chessbase or someone probably during the summer created the following: jennifershahade.com Obama Plays Chess Against McCain [...]

63. MLG XxTeHSicilianxX - March 23, 2009

Great work Jennifer, this had me laughing my head off! I look forward to read more from you.

64. Rafi Chowdhury - March 23, 2009

Very funny lol

65. Rearnilia - June 8, 2009

I should notify you about it.

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