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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

President Gerald Ford Who Declared National Chess Day in America Dies

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (July 14, 1913 - December 26, 2006) was the 38th (1974-1977) President of the United States. Ford also served as the 40th (1973-1974) Vice President. He was the first person appointed to the Vice-Presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment, and upon succession to the presidency became the first (and to date, only) president in U.S. history to fill that office without having been elected either President or Vice-President. He was also the longest-lived United States president ever, having surpassed Ronald Reagan's record on November 12, 2006.

October 9, 1976, President Gerald Ford, the nation's thirty-eighth president, declared National Chess Day.

Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He was originally named Leslie Lynch King, Jr., after his biological father. His parents divorced when he was less than a year old, and when his mother remarried, he was given the name of his step-father, Gerald Rudolff Ford. He later changed the spelling of the middle name. Ford obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan, where he was a football star. He went on to obtain a law degree from Yale University before serving in the United States Navy during World War II. Returning from the war a confirmed "internationalist", Republican Ford defeated the incumbent in the party primary and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1948, representing the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. He was elected House Minority Leader in 1963 and served in the House until 1973. When Spiro Agnew resigned, Ford was appointed Vice President of the United States at the height of the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to Richard Nixon's resignation.

The Ford administration saw the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam, the execution of the Helsinki Accords, and the continuing specter of inflation and recession. Faced with an overwhelmingly Democratic majority in Congress, the administration was hampered in its ability to pass major legislation, and Ford's vetoes were frequently overridden. Ford was criticized by many for granting a pre-emptive pardon to Nixon, and was subsequently defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.

Other Presidents who were involved with chess:

George Washington (1732-1799) may not have played chess, but there is the story of Washington crossing the Delaware to attack the British army. Earlier, a boy had given a spy report to the British commander that Washington was about to attack. The commander did not want to be interrupted while he played chess, so put the unread note in his pocket. The note was found in his pocket, unopened, when he died in battle.

John Adams (1735-1826) taught he son, John Quincy Adams, to play chess.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) played chess. It was one of his favorite games. He started playing in his 20s and owned several 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 45/." 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. Jefferson left Paris in 1789. Jefferson was elected President in 1801. His vice president was Aaron Burr, 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.

James Madison (1751-1836) was a chess player and played a few games against Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

James Monroe (1758-1831) was a chess player and purchesed chess books from Jefferson.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was a chess player who collected chess sets. One of his chess sets is displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. He once purchased an ivory chess set and billiard table for his home in the White House. His political enemies (Andrew Jackson's democratic supporters) accused him of using public funds (it was Adams own money) 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.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) played chess. One of his chess sets is displayed in the Smithsonian. He did play an occasional game at the White House. One time he was playing chess with Judge Treat. 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. Lincoln bought a chess set for his son Tad, which is on display at the National Museum of American History.

Rutherford Hayes (1822-1893) was a strong chess player, taught by his mother.

James Garfield (1831-1881) was a strong chess player. A Philadelphia chess column described him as a first-rate chess player in 1880.

Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) 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, was with Cleveland at the time. Hendricks played Ajeeb and lost in a smothered mate.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th U.S. President, played chess during his hunting trips. He may have also played Ajeeb the automaton. In 1906 he invited the foreign masters that played in the Cambridge Springs chess tournament to the White House. He was rumored to have kept an astrological chart mounted on a chess board while in office.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930), 27th U.S. President, played chess as a child, according to the National Park Service visitor's guide for Taft's National Historic Site.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), 28th U.S. President played chess. One of his chess sets is in the Smithsonian.

Warren Harding (1865-1923), 29th U.S. President, played chess.

Harry S Truman (1884-1972), 33rd U.S. President, may not have played chess, but he 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."

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), 34th U.S. President, may have played chess. He acknowledged he received a chess set from a political supporter.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th U.S. President, may have played chess. He received a very nice chess set as a birthday gift in 1962 from a very close friend. In a Cold War statement, referring to the USSR, he said, "We play poker, they play chess." His son, John F. Kennedy, Jr, did play chess.

Richard Nixon (1913-1994), 37th U.S. President, 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, played chess. Kissinger called Bobby Fischer to encourage Fischer to play Spassky in 1972. Nixon declined to invite Fischer to the White House after Fischer won the world chess championship in 1972.

Jimmy Carter (1924- ), 39th U.S. President, was a chess player. 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 Brzeinski, was an avid chess player, who played Menachem Begin at Camp David.

Bill Clinton (1946- ), 42nd U.S. President, played chess while 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.



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