John Adams (1735-1826) (1797-1801) may have been exposed to chess from Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) while in France. The Immortal Game by David Shenk mentions that John Adams played chess. However, John Adams, by David McCullough, writes that John Adams did not know chess, while Benjamin Franklin played chess with his fashionable friends, including Madame Brillon while she bathed in her tub. John Adams wrote in his autobiography that his evenings in France were devoted to music, cards, chess, and backgammon. John Adams may have taught his son, John Quincy Adams, how to play chess.
John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) (1825-1829) was a chess player who collected chess sets. One of his chess sets (Barleycorn design) is displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. In 1817, after a seven-week sea voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, he wrote that a game of chess surpassed all other resources for killing time at sea. He often played chess with a passenger from Boston named A. G. Otis. (source: "The Lives of the Presidents, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams," by William Stoddard, 1887, p. 270). In 1829, Adams purchased a $23 ivory chess set for his home in the White House. His political enemies (Andrew Jackson's democratic supporters) accused him of using public funds to buy the chess set and a $61 billiard table that appeared on the White House inventory list (it was Adams own money that purchased the chess set and the billiard table was never bought at all) to buy and install gaming furniture and gambling devices in the White House. It was part of a theme (negative campaigning) that may have cost Adams the election in 1828. (source: Senate, 1789-1989, vol 1: Addressed on the History of the Unites States, p. 96.) John Quincy Adams said that chess was the best way to occupy time during long sea voyages. When he was in Berlin, Germany, he found an apartment near the Brandenburg Gate, and played chess with the landlord. When he stayed in New York, he stayed at his sister's house, Nabby Smith, and they played chess with her and his nephew, Billy Smith. John Quincy Adams and his James Madison, his Secretary of State, played chess at parties or when his wife wasn't with him. In her diary, Mrs. Adams wrote, "When he mingles at parties in Washington, he often leaves my side to escape into a library to play chess..." (source: The Secret Diary of Mrs. John Quincy Adams by Beatrice Cayzer, 2015, p. 84) John Quincy Adams also played chess with his sons, George, John II, and Charles. (source: John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A private Life by Paul Nagel). He may have learned chess from his father, John Adams, or Benjamin Franklin, who he stayed with while in France. Henry Clay (1777-1852) was a chess player. He was a US Senator from Kentucky and US Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams.
Chester A. Arthur (1829-1886) (1881-1885) may not have been a chess player, but one of his best friends, John C. Fremont (1813-1890), was a chess player. He was also a friend of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), who was also a chess player. During Arthur's presidency, George Henry Mackenzie (1837-1891) was U. S. chess champion and Paul Morphy died (July 20, 1884), which made headline news. Arthur's home was in Manhattan and the most active chess club in America was the Manhattan Chess Club.
James Buchanan (1791-1868) (1857-1861) may not have been a chess player, but his rival candidate for the presidency was Republican Colonel John Charles Fremont (1813-1890), who was a chess player (he had a game published in the Chess Monthly). Buchanan was President when Paul Morphy won the American Chess Congress in October 1857 and during Morphy's chess success in Europe.
George Herbert Walker Bush (1924- ) (1989-1993) George H.W. Bush may not play chess, but in 1989, President Bush and his wife, Barbara, visited Budapest and was introduced to the Polgar sisters. A picture of George Bush and his wife with the three Polgar girls appeared on the cover of "Inside Chess." In 2004, Boris Spassky wrote a letter to President Bush appealing to let Bobby Fischer go free and not be subject for arrest because he played chess in Yugoslavia. Spassky received no sanctions from the French government. (source: ChessBase magazine, August 10, 2004). The George Bush Library contains a Desert Storm chess set, a gift from one of the soldiers in 1991.
George W. Bush (1946- ) (2001-2009) may not have played chess, but he posed for pictures with former world chess champion Garry Kasparov on September 23, 2008 in New York. One picture shows Bush holding Kasparov's book, "How Life Imitates Chess."
Jimmy Carter (1924- ) (1977-1981) was a chess player. In 1979, he invited the National Championship Chess Team from Vaux Junior High School in Philadelphia to the White House. He wanted to become a chess expert after he left the White House. He bought numerous chess books and a computer chess program. He finally gave up on chess around 1997, saying: "I found that I don't have any particular talent for chess. I hate to admit it, but that's a fact." Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), was an avid chess player, who played Menachem Begin (1913-1992) at Camp David. He hand-carved his own chess sets and contributed hand-carved chess sets to the Carter Center to be auctioned for charity (source: The Jimmy Carter Library by Jimmy Carter, 2014)
Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) (1885-1889, 1893-1897) was a chess player. In September, 1885, he visited the Eden Musee in New York while the chess automaton Ajeeb was being displayed. Cleveland's Vice-President, Thomas Hendricks (1819-1885), was with Cleveland at the time. Hendricks played Ajeeb and lost in a smothered mate. In September 1885, Grover had one of his chess games published in the "International Chess Magazine." In 1893, he consented to become a patron for the New York Chess Congress (Columbian Chess Congress) and was to present to the winner of the tournament a $500 gold medal. This is the first time in the history of American chess that the game had been honored by the gift of a prize for a tourney from the head of the republic. However, the "Panic of 1893" overtook events and the tournament was cancelled. (source: British Chess Magazine, Volume 13, 1893 and Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb 9, 1893).
Bill Clinton (1946- ) (1993-2001) played chess while an undergraduate at Georgetown University. He played for the Georgetown University's chess team in 1968. He is a supporter of the Chess-in-the-Schools program and has met with Garry Kasparov. When Clinton contributed a President's Day recipe, his recipe was Lemon Chess Pie. His daughter, Chelsea, also plays chess and has played chess on the Internet. In his book, "My Life: the Presidential Years," Clinton wrote: "...I had a cousin in Arkansas who played chess twice a week on the Internet with a man from Australia..." In 2007, Clinton wrote "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World." He mention the Chess-in-the Schools program and how it was a classic example of a very good idea with no chance of becoming a reality without private support. Clinton pointed out that playing chess helps students develop thinking and analyzing skills, concentration, greater self-control, and self-confidence.
Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) (1923-1929) played chess. In his diary in 1886, he wrote, "played chess with Dal and beat him every game (February 25). (source: The Tormented President: Calvin Coolidge by Robert Gilbert, 2003, p. 14)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) (1953-1961) may have played chess. He acknowledged he received a chess set from a political supporter. In 1958, in a speech to the United Republican Dinner in Chicago, he said, "Americans must never and will never let the issue of security and peace become a pawn in anyone's political chess game." (source: Dwight D. Eisenhower: Containing the public messages, speeches and statements of the President, 1953-1960/1, Volume 1, p. 18)
Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) (1850-1853) played chess but did not encourage it with his son. In 1842, Millard Fillmore's son wrote to his father about how pleasant it was playing chess after a long day of studying in school. Millard Fillmore wrote back to his son and told him he would rather see him doing something else than playing chess while studying. He thought chess was too sedentary and that sitting all day playing chess would make you crooked (source: Millard Fillmore by Robert Scarry, 2013, p. 112). In one letter that he wrote while in Florida, Fillmore mentioned that he played chess. He wrote, "In the evening he [Major General Thomas Jesup] suggested we play chess, a game of which I am most fond, but I found my concentration somewhat disrupted by the Indians he repeatedly saw lurking in the bushes behind me, and lost three games in a row." (source: The Remarkable Millard Fillmore by George Pendle, 2007)
Gerald R. Ford (1913- 2006) (1974-1977) may not have been a chess player, but he did declare October 9th, 1976, National Chess Day (the second Saturday in October). Senator Strom Thurmond encouraged President Ford to declare a National Chess Day after a letter was sent to Thurmond by my old friend and neighbor, Bill Dodgen of North Augusta, South Carolina. Dodgen was president of the South Carolina Chess Association, regional vice president of the United States Chess Federation and Chairman of the National Chess Day – 1976 project.
James A. Garfield (1831-1881) (1881) was a strong chess player. In 1863, during a war campaign in Tennessee, he wrote "The chess board is now indeed muddled and no man sees through it (source: James Garfield and the Civil War, by Daniel Vermilya, 2015). A Philadelphia chess column described him as a first-rate chess player in 1880. He played chess with Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873), who was Ohio Senator and Governor, U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Chief Justice of the United States. An article in Chess Life in 2003 suggests that James Garfield was perhaps the strongest chess player who was President. Author Arthur Hosterman, in Life and Times of James Abram Garfield, wrote, "At one time, he became a chess player. He enjoyed the game to the utmost, but perceiving that its playing carried him to late hours, he denied himself even the pleasure of this game."
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) (1869-1877) was a chess player. There is a picture of him playing chess with Mrs. W.B. Dinsmore. He played chess at his army outposts and sometimes traveled 10 miles from his post to find a chess player. He may have learned chess while he was at West Point. When he found a chess player who was stronger than him in a match, he persisted in playing the match until he "tired out" his opponent, and finally beat him. William Crafts, author of Life of Ulysses S. Grant, wrote of Grant, "His characteristic persistency was illustrated at West Point not only by his application to studies, but by his playing the game of chess, of which he was fond." One of Grant's chess opponents was an old friend named Melancthon Burke (1831-1919). They played chess at Gran's home in Galena, Illinois (source: http://www.granthomepage.com/intburke.htm).
Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) (1921-1923) played chess. William T. Kerr (1868-1953), who founded the American Flag Day Association and is considered the founder of Flag Day played a correspondence chess game with Harding (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1649104/posts). At the moment that Harding died in San Francisco on August 2, 1923, the Western Chess Championship, now known as the U.S. Open, was being played across the street at the Mechanics' Institute. A rumor circulated that Harding was poisoned by one of the chess players in the event.
Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) (1889-1893) may not have played chess. He was elected to the presidency in 1888, defeating chess player Grover Cleveland. He was President when William Steinitz was world chess champion and living in New York. He was President during the 6th American Chess Congress in New York and was in New York during the tournament. Harrison attended the centennial celebration of George Washington's inauguration.
William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) (1841) perhaps was not a chess player, but author David Whitney, who wrote "The American Presidents," wrote on page 95-96, "Senator Clay...believed he could treat Harrison as a pawn." Harrison was nominated by the Whig Party over chess player Winfield Scott. His Attorney General, John J. Crittenden, was a chess player.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) (1877-1881) was a strong chess player, taught by his mother. He wrote about playing chess in his diary. He wrote "Somehow my faculties are so dull that nothing but chess seems to excite the attention..." He mentioned that his sister, Fanny, was a skillful chess player. His chess set is in the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio. William Howells, in "Sketch of the Life and Character of Rutherford B. Hayes," wrote, "His greatest amusements were fishing and chess." On November 29, 1861, he wrote to his uncle, "I wish you were in health. It would be jolly for you to come up and play chess with the colonel and see things." (source: Conspicuous Gallantry: Civil War Diary and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes, 2016.)
Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) (1929-1933) played chess. An acquaintance of Hoover remembered him as "a quiet, introspective nontalkative lad who played a little chess and a little checkers." (source: Herbert Hoover: A Public Life, by David Burner)
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) (1829-1837) was a chess player. One source (Gerald Leavitt and Tom Standage) states that Andrew Jackson played chess against the Turk chess automaton. Jackson was described as an excellent chess player. He would sometimes observe his houseguests play chess and frequently directed the moves for one side or the other. Jackson had a chess set at his home in The Hermitage in Nashville and played chess with guests. (source: "The American Lion," by John Meacham, 2008, p. 37.) In 1836, Jackson was a subscriber of the book "A Selection of Games At Chess, Actually Played in London, by The Late Alexander M'Donnell, Esq" by William Greenwook Walker.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) (1801-1809) played chess. It was one of his favorite games. He started playing in his 20s and owned at least six nice chess sets. Dr. William Small probably introduced chess to Jefferson around 1762. Dr. Small was a professor of mathematics at the College of William and Mary who taught Jefferson. He usually played chess in the evenings with his friends. The earliest dated reference from Jefferson came from his diary on August 18, 1769, when he wrote "gave James Ogilvie to buy me a set of chessmen" (source: Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Volume 1: Accounts with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, p. 147). On Nov 26, 1777, he wrote in his account log, "Charge him [Charles F. Eppes] for chess-board to Purdie 3-12 pounds" (source: Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Volume 1: Accounts with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, p. 455). On Nov 12, 1783, he wrote in his account log, "pd. Mentz for chess board 35/" (source: Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Volume 1: Accounts with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, p. 538). In a letter to Eppes on April 22, 1786, Jefferson sent one of the two chess sets he bought in London to Francis Eppes (source: Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Volume 1: Accounts with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, p. 617). Friends gave him chess sets or he gave them chess sets as presents. When he moved into Monticello, he was concerned about his ivory chess sets that had disappeared in the move. He collected chess books as well, and one of his favorites was Philidor's Analysis of Chess. He also had chess books by Greco and Stamma. Jefferson's hobby was book collecting and he had over 6,000 books in his library. His books later became part of the Library of Congress when the original Library of Congress was burned by the British in 1814. In his later years, he played Benjamin Franklin, also a keen player. He would write letters about Franklin and how popular he was in France because he played chess with beautiful or powerful women. Jefferson would tell friends that he and Franklin were equal in chess playing strength. He also told friends that he played four hour games of chess against James Madison. In 1784, Jefferson moved to Paris. Before leaving, he sold some of his chess books to James Monroe. When Jefferson was in Paris he joined the Salon des echecs chess club for 96 francs in 1786. He did not renew his dues in 1787, saying he was too busy. David McCullough, in his book on John Adams, says that Jefferson was so decisively beaten at the chess club that he never went back. Jefferson left Paris in 1789. Jefferson was elected President in 1801. His vice president was Aaron Burr (1756-1836), also an enthusiastic and strong chess player. They may have played chess together. Jefferson taught his grandchildren how to play chess at Monticello. Jefferson left two undated sheets of paper concerning chess. The sheets of paper were how to play an endgame with a Rook and Bishop against a Rook. The analysis came from Philidor's Analysis of Chess book. A letter of December 4, 1818 was his last writing on chess. It was about the recollection of Franklin and chess.
Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) (1865-1869) may have played chess and was a checkers player. In debates, he would compare a bill to Maelzel's automaton chess player, as deceiving no person save those wishing to be deceived. (source: "The Life and Public Services of Andrew Johnson," by John Savage, 1966, p. 168.) He was vice president under Lincoln, who did play chess.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) (1963-1969) may not have played chess. He did acknowledge the Thomas Emery Military Chess Championship and sent a message of congratulations in 1967.
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) (1961-1963) may have played chess. He received a very nice handmade chess set as a birthday gift in 1962 from a very close friend and major supporter. Kennedy's secretary, Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln wrote that Kennedy was an avid chess player. (source: http://hailtothechiefs.com/product/chess-set ). In a Cold War statement, referring to the USSR, he said, "We play poker, they play chess." Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, a chess player. His son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. (1960-1999), did play chess. There is a picture of John F. Kennedy, Jr. playing a game of chess while on a visit to Moscow State University Chess Club.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) (1861-1865) played chess. One of his chess sets is displayed in the Smithsonian. He may have played an occasional game at the White House. Some years before becoming President, Lincoln was playing chess with Judge S. H. Treat, Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Lincoln's son, Tad, was sent by his mother to say dinner was ready. When his father continued with his chess game, Tad went over to the game and kicked the chess board off the table or laps of the two players. The judge was speechless, but Lincoln said mildly, "Come, Tad," and they walked away together to have dinner. (American Chess Magazine, Volume 2, 1898). Lincoln bought a chess set for his son Tad, which is on display at the National Museum of American History. In The every-day life of Abraham Lincoln, author Francis Browne wrote, "Mr. Lincoln was fond of playing chess and checkers, and usually acted cautiously upon the defensive until the game had reached a stage where aggressive movements were clearly justified." In Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan, there is a story that Abraham Lincoln and a family friend, George Harrison. Harrison wrote of their time in the militia during the Black Hawk War, "We [Lincoln and Harrison] passed our evenings by jumping, playing checkers, chess, swimming our horses..." Salmon P. Chase (1864-1873) was the governor of Ohio, the Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln, and the 6th Chief Justice of the United States. He was a chess player.
James Madison (1751-1836) (1809-1817) was a chess player who played several games against Thomas Jefferson. "James Madison" by Jeremy Roberts mentions that Madison was fond of chess, and that he studied the moves carefully, considering every step before proceeding. "James Madison: Builder," by Abbot Smith, mentions that Madison once attended a fancy ball in Washington D.C., but spent the evening playing chess with John Quincy Adams. In March 1802, a British diplomat tried to enlist Madison's support for an English translation of Philidor's "Analyse du jeu des Echecs." (source: "Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America," by David Stewart, 2016, p. 203.) In 2011, chess pieces (two pawns) were unearthed at the estate of James Madison. An 18th century ivory chess set is on display at Madison's Montpelier drawing room. (source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8301887/James-Madison-chess-pieces-unearthed-at-US-estate.html)
William McKinley (1843-1901) (1897-1901) may not have played chess. He was president when several members of the House of Representatives played a cable match with members of the English House of Commons in 1897. He was president when former world chess champion William Steinitz died in 1900. John W. Griggs (1849-1927) was governor of New Jersey and US Attorney General under President William McKinley, was an avid chess player. (Source: American Chess Magazine, 1897, p. 467.)
James Monroe (1758-1831) (1917-1825) was a chess player and purchased chess books from Thomas Jefferson (including Philidor's manual of chess) when Jefferson departed for France according to "James Monroe, The Quest for National Unity," by Harry Ammon. He played chess against Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Monroe was an avid player in chess, checkers, poker, whist, and dominoes. (source" "The Last Founding Father: James Monroe," by Harlow Unger.) The James Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia has a chess set that belonged to Monroe that was a gift from Thomas Jefferson.
Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) (1969-1974) may have played chess. However, in a 1983 interview, he admitted he never understood chess. He named his dog checkers. His Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger (1923- ), played chess. Just before the 1972 world chess championship match in Iceland between Fischer and Spassky, Harry Benson was at the White House to photograph the Nixons. President Nixon said to Benson, "Please give Bobby a message. Tell him he's doing a great job." (source: http://www.newsweek.com/bobby-fischer-i-knew-67937) Kissinger called Bobby Fischer to encourage Fischer to play Spassky in 1972. Kissinger started out the conversation by saying, "Bobby, this is one of the worst chess players in the world speaking to the best." Nixon declined to invite Fischer to the White House after Fischer won the world chess championship in 1972. Nixon did write to Fischer congratulating his victory over Tigran Petrosian in Buenos Aires.
Barack Obama (1961- ) (2009-2017) plays chess. So does his wife, Michelle. A New York Times article stated that "Mrs. Obama and her brother were expected to fill their time with books, chess, and sports." Obama mentioned chess in his book "Dreams from My Father" and talked about learning chess from his grandfather and Indonesian stepfather. He learned chess around age 9 and played chess with his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro (1935-1987). In 2009, President Obama spoke at the New Economic School, a graduate economic school in Moscow and used chess as a metaphor. In his speech, he said, "The days when empires could treat sovereign states as pieces on a chess-bard are over." (source: Senauth, The Making of a President, p. 235). While in Moscow, Obama met with former world chess champion Garry Kasparov. In 2009, Henry Kissinger (a chess player) was interviewed by Spiegel Online. He said this of Obama. "Obama is like a chess player who is playing simultaneous chess and has opened his game with an unusual opening. Now he's got to play his hand as he plays his various counterparts. We haven't gotten beyond the opening game move yet. I have no quarrel with the opening move." In Afghanistan, Allied troops have been playing Osama vs. Obama "terror chess." The traditional pieces have been replaced with late terrorist Osama Bin Laden and U.S. President Obama as respective kings. The rooks have been replaced by the World Trade Center towers. The Statue of Liberty is the queen. A map of Afghanistan is superimposed over the classic checkerboard pattern. The chess board game was produced by an ex-Canadian Special Forces soldier.
Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) (1853-1857) may not have been a chess player, but his rival general (they both teamed up to invade central Mexico), Winfield Scott (1786-1866), was a chess player who once played Paul Morphy (1837-1884). Winfield Scott ran for president against Franklin Pierce in the 1853. If Scott had been elected, he would have been a chess player that became president and who once played Paul Morphy.
James K. Polk (1795-1849) (1845-1849) may have played chess. In one of his correspondence letters to Samuel Laughlin (1796-1850) on May 9th, 1844, he wrote: "From what Cave Johnson writes, I think the recent occurrances (sic), on the chess-board, have decidedly improved my prospects." (source: "Correspondence of James K. Polk, January-August 1844" by James K. Polk).
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) (1981-1989) may not have played chess, but he talked about chess with Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ) during their summit meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, the site of the 1972 world chess championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. In his diaries, Reagan wrote that he met with some school chess champions on May 23, 1983. In 1984, Victor Palciauskas (1941- ) of the United States won the 10th World Correspondence Chess Championship. President Ronald Reagan sent him a note of congratulations.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) (1933-1945) played chess. When Henry Ford (1863-1947) was Roosevelt's luncheon guest at the White House, they would spend the whole luncheon hour playing chess. (source: "That Man: an Insider's Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt," by Robert Jackson, John Barrett, and William Leuchtenburg.) Franklin Roosevelt's personal chess set was auction in 2011 by Heritage Auctions, but not sold. (source: https://historical.ha.com/itm/political/presidential-relics/franklin-d-roosevelt-personal-chess-set/a/6066-38248.s)
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) (1901-1909) played chess during his hunting trips. He may have also played Ajeeb the automaton. In 1904 he invited the foreign masters that played in the Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, chess tournament to the White House. He offered a trophy as one of the prizes at Cambridge Springs. In 1905, he donated a copy of his photograph to the winner of the New York vs. Berlin cable match (New York won). He was rumored to have kept an astrological chart mounted on a chess board while in office. Theodore Roosevelt once described living on his ranch. "The long winter evenings are spent sitting round the campfire, playing checkers or chess, in the fire light." (source: "Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Work," by Frederick Drinker, 1919, p. 56). Theodore's cousin, George Emlen Roosevelt (1887-1963) was an avid chess player and chess patron. In 1938, he was elected President of the Marshall Chess Club.
William Howard Taft (1857-1930) (1909-1913) played chess as a child, according to the National Park Service visitor's guide for Taft's National Historic Site. He taught chess to his son. His son, Robert, was described as a slightly obnoxious whiz at chess. It was his favorite game. Doug Wead, author of "All the Presidents' Children," wrote, "On April 17, 1900, the Taft family boarded the army transport Hancock, bound for the Philippines. President McKinley had just appointed William Howard Taft, Sr., as the civil governor of the island nation. Eleven years old at the time, Robert [Taft's son] had taught himself to play chess from a book. He promptly beat all the army officers on board." His grandson, William Howard Taft II (1915-1991) was an avid chess player.
Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) (1849-1850) may not have played chess, but one of his best friends, General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), was a chess player who once played Paul Morphy. In a private letter to General E. G. W. Butler, General Taylor wrote, "These [level land] extended along and near the base of the mountain for about two miles, and the struggle for them may be very appropriately compared to a game of chess." (source: "A Life of Gen. Zachary Taylor," by Reese Fry, 2009, p. 317.)
Harry S Truman (1884-1972) (1945-1953) played chess as a child, learning from his uncle, Harrison Young who was a strong chess player. (source: "Harry S. Truman: a Life," by Robert Ferrell, 2013, p. 9 and "The Autobiography of Harry S Truman" by Harry S Truman.) Truman mentioned chess in some of his speeches. In 1947 he said, "International relations have traditionally been compared to a chess game in which each nation tries to outwit and checkmate the other."
Donald J. Trump (1946- ) (2017- ) probably doesn't play chess. In June 1994, the quarterfinals matches in the PCA chess championship was held at the Trump Tower in New York City. Trump made the first move in the chess match between Nigel Short and Boris Gulko. In 1997, Trump participated in a principal-for-the-day program at Public School P.S. 70 in the Bronx. Trump stopped by a bake sale the chess team was hosting to raise money to go to the Super Nationals Chess Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee. As a joke, he handed a fake $1 million bill to the parents, and their coach, David MacEnulty, running it. He later gave $200 to the chess team, which was trying to raise $5,000. His visit did prompt others to call up and donate money for the chess-playing students. One lady donated the $5,000 to the school, saying, "I am ashamed to be the same species as this man." (source: https://thenewstalkers.com/community/discussion/26936/.) In 2016, at a rally in Pennsylvania, he wrongly said that the United States does not have any chess grandmasters (he incorrectly said "grand chess masters"). The US had 90 grandmasters (and 142 International Masters), the third highest number of GMs in the world, behind Russia and Germany. It is possible that his son, Barron, plays chess.
John Tyler (1790-1862) (1841-1845) probably never played chess. His Attorney General, John Crittenden, was an avid chess player, until he resigned in 1841 (along with most of his Cabinet).
Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) (1837-1841) may have played chess and taught his son. His son, John Van Buren (1810-1866), greeted Paul Morphy when Morphy returned from Europe to New York in 1859. On May 29, 1859, at the University of the City of New York, it was John Van Buren who first toasted Paul Morphy and ended a testimonial presentation by proclaiming Morphy as "The Chess Champion of the World" to 1,500 guests. It was the first time that expression had been used. John Van Buren later wrote that he could not understand why men wasted time and thought on chess, even though he did play it. He considered politics the greatest game in the world and open to all.
George Washington (1732-1799) (1789-1797) owned an ivory chess set that is now housed in the U.S. National Museum in Washington, D.C. During the Revolutionary War, he was dining one day at headquarters when Mrs. Washington asked him what entertainment he had recourse to. George responded, "I read, my lady, and write, and play chess...." On the night of December 25-26, 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware River with his 1,400 troops on the way to Trenton, New Jersey. Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall (Rahl) (1726-1776) and his Hessian regiments were camped in and around Trenton. The Hessians had supposedly let their guard down to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Earlier, an English settler (John Honeyman) sent a small boy to General Rall that Washington was about to cross the Delaware River. According to one account, the colonel was so immersed in a chess game that he put the note from the spy n his pocket unopened. When Washington's army attacked, Rall was mortally wounded. The note informing the colonel of the attack was later found in his coat pocket. If Rall had not been playing chess and read the note from a spy, George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, James Monroe, John Marshall (future Chief Justice), Alexander Hamilton, and others may have been killed.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) (1913-1921) played chess. One of his chess sets is in the Smithsonian. Carol Dommermuth-Costa, author of "Woodrow Wilson," wrote that Woodrow Wilson (called Tommy as a boy) and his father shared many hours playing chess and billiards. Bainbridge Colby (1869-1950) was Secretary of State from 1920 to 1921 under Woodrow Wilson. He was a chess player.
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