Chess in Politics

There are many skills that are equally meaningful and promising in chess and politics. It is therefore not a surprise that many of the most influential politicians in history played (and still play) chess as a balance to their legal duties.

Chessimo will introduce you to important characters in current politics who have a thing for our favorite thinking sport.


Willy Brandt (1913 – 1992)

The fourth Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and Peace Nobel Prize laureate was not only a politically clever and skilled man, but also had remarkable strategies. He was a tough fighter at the chess board too.

Angela Merkel (born 1954)

The first female chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (since 2005) is not known to be an enthusiastic supporter of checkmate. At least, she has been collecting large wooden chess pieces at her office. Every year, the collection is extended by a new piece (she currently owns eight such pieces) which is given to her traditionally by the Association of Forest Owners.

Fidel Castro (born 1926)

The former state president of Cuba has been in office for 49 years and is therefore considered the longest-governing (non-monarchical) ruler of the 20th and 21st century. He enjoyed playing chess and held an ELO-rating of 1900 points.

Ché Guevara (1928 – 1967)

The leader of the Cuban Revolutionary Movement (1956 – 1959) was a great chess enthusiast with an ELO of 1950 points.

Boris Yelzin (1931 – 2007)

The democratically elected president (1991 – 1999) of the Russian Federation is nowadays a common symbol of the overall downturn of the country for many Russians, as he led Russia into bankruptcy during his legislation period and caused poverty amongst the population. Whether his tactics on the chess board was mature than that – we will never find out. At least he founded the Russian Sverdlosk Chess Club with his friend Anatoli Karpov.

Jaques Chirac (born 1932)

France’s president from 1995 to 2007 is known for his passion for chess.

Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

As one of the founding fathers of the United States of America he signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1768 he published an essay about checkmate that is still considered one of the two most popular publications about chess in America.

George Washington (1732 – 1799)

The first president of The United States of America (1789 until 1797) was passionate about three things: Reading, writing, and checkmate. He even owned a set of ivory chess pieces that is a displayed exhibit at the National Museum in Washington, D.C.

John Adams (1735 – 1826)

After George Washington’s time in office ended, John Adams took over the presidency of the United States of America from 1797 until 1801. In his biography he wrote that he spent his evenings in France with music, card games, chess, and backgammon.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States of America, in office from 1801 until 1809. Checkmate was one of his favorite leisure activities; he even owned an impressive collection of chess sets and chess publications.

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)

16th president of the United States of America, governing from 1861 until 1865. He spent much time over chess boards. The set of chess pieces he once purchased for his son is now an exhibit in the American Historic Museum.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

The youngest president in the history of the United States (1901 until 1909) liked playing chess during his hunting trips. In 1904, he even invited some of the country’s chess masters to the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945)

The only president of the United States who was in office for more than two legislative periods (1993 until his death in 1945) liked dueling Henry Ford in chess when he visited the White House.

John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

The first catholic president of the United States of America (1961 until 1963) was given an extraordinary set of chess pieces by a friend in 1962 with whom he spent a lot of time.

Bill Clinton (born 1946)

The former president of the United States of America (1993 until 2001) played checkmate in the chess team during his studies at the University of Georgetown and still supports an American organization that supports chess lessons at schools.

Barack Obama (born 1961)

Since 2009, the first African-American president of the United States of America is in office. At an age of nine, he was taught how to play checkmate by his stepfather and grandfather. Until today, he enjoys playing chess with his wife Michelle.

written by Sarah, translated by Birthe