Former chess champion checkmates Donald Trump

by Alexey Root
2/7/2017 – On January 30, 2017, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued to block key portions of President Trump’s executive order on travel. Trump’s executive order had barred entry to the United States by refugees and VISA holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries. On February 3, a judge granted Ferguson’s request for a temporary restraining order, meaning that federal employees cannot enforce Trump’s executive order. Result: Ferguson-Trump 1-0. Report by Alexey Root, who knew Ferguson as a chess opponent.

That was a familiar score to me, as when I was still Alexey Rudolph I lost a chess match to Bob (then Bobby) Ferguson. Like the Ferguson-Trump showdown, which was on the front page of the New York Times, Ferguson-Rudolph was front page news. Except that Bobby and I were on the front cover of Northwest Chess. Its editor, Robert Karch, had decided that Bobby and I should play a four-game match. Karch put up $150 as prize money. He solicited contributions to the prize fund, and three chess players kicked in $10 each. So Bobby and I were playing for $180. Big money in 1978 for two 13-year-old kids!

Click to enlarge

Before that match in December of 1978, I had drawn Bobby twice in other tournaments. The first game of the match was adjourned at move 49, on December 29 in Seattle, Bobby’s hometown. Bobby was ill for the second game, scheduled for December 30 in Seattle. But he didn’t tell me in time. So, forfeit win for me! Unfortunately, that was my last win of the match. When the match resumed in March in my hometown of Tacoma, I lost the adjournment, drew game three, and lost game four. Here is Bobby’s fourth round win:

[Event "Chess Match"] [Site "Tacoma, WA"] [Date "1979.03.04"] [Round "4"] [White "Rudolph, Alexey"] [Black "Ferguson, Robert"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B20"] [PlyCount "80"] [SourceDate "2017.02.07"] 1. g3 Nf6 2. d3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Ne2 c5 6. O-O Nc6 7. Nd2 Rb8 8. f4 Ng4 9. Nf3 f5 10. c3 e6 11. h3 Nh6 12. d4 b6 13. d5 exd5 14. Qxd5 Bb7 15. Rd1 Nd4 16. Qc4 d5 17. exd5 Bxd5 18. Qd3 Bxf3 19. cxd4 Bxd4+ 20. Be3 Bxe2 21. Qxe2 O-O 22. Bxd4 cxd4 23. g4 fxg4 24. hxg4 Re8 25. Qd3 Nxg4 26. Qxd4 Qxd4+ 27. Rxd4 Rbd8 28. Rad1 Rxd4 29. Rxd4 Re1+ 30. Bf1 Ra1 31. Re4 Rxa2 32. Bh3 Nf6 33. Re2 Nd5 34. Rf2 Ne3 35. b3 Rxf2 36. Kxf2 Nc2 37. Bf1 Nd4 38. Bc4+ Kf8 39. Ke3 Nf5+ 40. Ke4 Nd6+ {and Black won in five more moves.} 0-1

However, I defeated Bobby in the summer of 1980, when I won the “Future Hopes International,” a six-player round robin tournament held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 5-0. Bobby, my fellow Washington State resident, was second with 3.5-1.5. Thus both of us finished ahead of Tom O’Donnell of Vancouver, British Columbia, who was third but later became an International Master.

Bob became a national master (US Chess ratings) and was also rated as a master by FIDE. IM John Donaldson emailed, “Bob won the Washington State Championship (an annual eight player master round robin) in 1984 and 1987. Here is a pretty win:”

[Event "Berlin Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "1984.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Berg, Klaus"] [Black "Ferguson, Robert"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D32"] [PlyCount "38"] [EventDate "1984.??.??"] [SourceDate "2017.02.07"] 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. d4 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Be2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. b3 Be6 11. Bb2 a6 12. Rc1 Ba7 13. Na4 Ne4 14. Nd4 Qh4 15. g3 Qh6 16. Nxc6 bxc6 17. Bd4 Bh3 18. Re1 f5 19. f3 Qxe3+ $3 0-1

Although we were over-the-board rivals, Bobby and I were friendly off the board. I sometimes stayed at his family’s home in Seattle when I played in tournaments there. He was the second youngest, with one younger brother, one older sister, and four older brothers. Since I just had two younger sisters, I marveled at his huge family. Here's a family photo, Bobby framed in the light of the window, from December 1981.

Regarding his family, Bob emailed on February 7, 2017 “I have six siblings: five brothers, one sister. All are still alive and doing well. My mom is now 88. My dad passed away a decade ago, a great father. My Uncle Bill Hausmann was a Jesuit for many decades. He passed away just a few years ago. Wonderful man and a real role model for me.”

Bobby occasionally stayed at my home in Tacoma, meeting my dad, Wallace Rudolph, who was the dean of a law school. I don’t know if my dad had any influence on Bobby’s career choice. However, Bobby got his undergraduate degree at the University of Washington and his law degree at New York University.

Other Seattle-area chess players shared their memories of Bobby with me. Former Washington Junior Chess Champion Dave Zick is three years older than Bobby. Dave remembers that Bobby and Bill Phipps (who later became an options trader and backgammon champion) were best friends.

Bobby Ferguson, Bill Phipps and Alexey Rudolph from December of 1981

The above photo is from the Washington Junior Closed 1981, provided by Philip Peterson, Northwest Chess Editor 1990-1993. It shows in the front row, left to right, Bobby Ferguson, Paul Zurybida, Jerry Prothero and in the back row, left to right, Bill Phipps, David Archer, and Philip Peterson. I was living in Wisconsin during the 1980-1981 academic year, so did not play in that tournament. Dave Zick said that Bobby signed his scoresheets “Bobby F.” a reference to the more famous Bobby Fischer. He described Bobby Ferguson as soft-spoken and well-behaved.

Similarly, Dan Marshall (who is eight years older than Bobby and a chess expert) described Bobby being very nice, smiling a lot, and generally “a bright, good kid.” Marshall recalls, “I played Bobby twice, once when he was about 15 or 16, probably very early 1980s (I won that game) and once when he was an adult and a master (I lost that one).” About Ferguson checkmating Trump, Marshall wrote, “He is getting national coverage! I have never been prouder of a fellow chess player in my whole life!”

Although Bob Ferguson is very busy now, with a hearing this afternoon (February 7, 2017) before the Ninth Circuit, he emailed: “I often use chess analogies when speaking to my team at the Attorney General’s Office. Outside of my family, the most formative experience of my life was playing chess quite intensely as a young person. That experience has shaped the way I think about the law and how to utilize the law to achieve my goals. Lastly, I wrote an article for The Seattle Times after Bobby Fischer died. I think that sick story about signing scoresheets as Bobby F. is in there!” Bob added: “My executive assistant's email is JudyG@atg.wa.gov. I would love to hear from chess players!"

Press coverage

There are hundreds of reports on Bob Ferguson standing up to President Trump's entry ban for seven predominantly Muslim countries. Go to Google News to view as many as you like.

Here are a couple of examples, and a video report on the chess master Ferguson:

Friends and colleagues say "chess is central" to understanding Ferguson, the former King County legislator who is now ten months into his job as Washington State's 18th Attorney General. He's played the game since childhood, is a two-time state champion and has the aura of intensity you’d expect from an internationally-rated chess master. His proficiency is on full display when he describes how he operates: thinking several steps ahead, studying the opponent, working a detailed plan and taking a calculated risk when the calculation looks good. Read the full story at Crosscut.

BOB Ferguson looks like the man least likely to go into battle with the President, but their David and Goliath encounter has stopped Donald Trump in his tracks. The Washington State Attorney General and former chess champion filed the challenge to Mr Trump’s travel ban from Seattle last Monday, after the ban triggered protests across the US. On Friday, that complaint saw a federal judge freeze the implementation of the President’s executive order — meaning thousands of previously “banned” people are able to travel to and from the country. Read the full article here.

Video report on Q13 Fox: One-on-one with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Watch the Q13 Fox video here


Topics Politics

Alexey Root was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.
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koko48 koko48 2/8/2017 01:13
So it's Ferguson 1 - Trump 0....but let's wait to see the final score....On this one it's very easy to win the battle and lose the war

If this thing goes to the Supreme Court, well....The 2016 presidential election was stolen for many reasons, but one of the main reasons was to keep the Supreme Court stacked right wing for the next 20+ years
Aighearach Aighearach 2/8/2017 02:03
He's still listed as "Bobby Ferguson" by USCF; rated 2146
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 2/8/2017 02:56
Well, it is true Ferguson has blockaded Trump's position. So what, unless it is for votes and publicity?
Trump holds an overwhelming advantage in force, time, and material.
Only a miracle will allow Ferguson to survive Trump's counter.
turok turok 2/8/2017 03:02
who cares I come to this site to get away from every day crap like politics. Please keep this stuff off the site so we can enjoy ourselves. I could find tons of people who played chess and in politic. Move on sheesh-any more and I am out of this place.
Pieces in Motion Pieces in Motion 2/8/2017 03:05
Although I prefer Trump over the liberal nutjobs who oppose him, it's nice to have a Chess master in the U.S. government. One of the few saving graces of Washington politics.
Heavygeardiver Heavygeardiver 2/8/2017 03:09
Please enough Trump bashing! He won you lost! Over and out! Game over lady!
koko48 koko48 2/8/2017 03:38
"Control the coinage and the courts. Let the rabble have the rest"

-Emperor Shaddam IV
kobemvp kobemvp 2/8/2017 03:55
Yes Ferguson has the upper hand right now but it's not yet 1-0 in a long shot, stop bashing Pres. Trump he won that is why this reporter is whining. (SORE LOSER)
pcuneo pcuneo 2/8/2017 04:59
I think it is a great article. Call me a sore loser if you want to (I won't mention the popular vote) But a more accurate description would be a scared loser who fears for the future of his country that has now been delivered into the hands of the most narcissistic individual that I have ever had the misfortune of encountering. The Frump does NOT know that anyone else in the world has the right to an opinion different from his own and he did not write and knows nothing about, 'The Art of the Deal'. His idea of a deal is to try to bully his adversaries into doing it his way. If I hear him say "Trust me" one more time, I will retch. What possible reason has he ever given me to trust him? Does he think he is Jesus Christ?
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 2/8/2017 05:48
I thought the piece was largely apolitical.

One should realize that the POTUS has information about national security, that of necessity Ferguson cannot have access to. The EO paused immigration for 90 days so these issues of national security could be reviewed and evaluated. That is a pragmatic request…. He has less information than the POTUS, and he thinks he can assess better than the POTUS matters of national safety? Really Bobby?

Sorry Bobby. I can only assess your move as potentially risky for the safety of Americans. You blundered.
burtmcgosh burtmcgosh 2/8/2017 07:43
Trump and Putin think FIDE is a great organization. Trump is also the guy who plays 1.e4, 2. Bc4, and 3. Ng5 and flips over the board when someone blocks those insipid moves.
geraldsky geraldsky 2/8/2017 10:09
nice
Karbuncle Karbuncle 2/8/2017 11:05
Getting a liberal judge to stand in the way of the will of the people isn't anything new in American politics, nor will it be the last word. It's far from "checkmate" and to word the article as such just shows biased political leanings. Then again, I've personally found that the vast majority of those involved in master-level chess are extreme left-wingers. It's very rare that they give a fair shake to anyone that happens to not be liberal. I remember Lawrence Trent bagging on conservatives during a live broadcast on chess.com, and that let me know that these people don't even think twice about being politically-charged in a setting where the audience is held captive. I wanted to ask him "How would you like if if you were trying to follow a world chess championship match, and you had to listen to Rush Limbaugh crack jokes about you party in between moves?" Yeah, I expect they wouldn't like that too much, but of course, they don't think twice about being hypocrites.
tom_70 tom_70 2/8/2017 11:14
First off, before you start posting Trump bashing articles(which you clearly are), you need to remember that a great many of us voted for Trump and fully support his agenda. I view people like judge Ferguson as nothing but obstructionists. I come to chessbase to get away from politics. But if you folks are gonna jump on the bandwagon and start bashing my president, i'll find another chess site to visit.
slim409 slim409 2/8/2017 11:57
The law is on Trump's side. This story is just a jab at Trump, throwing in a little chess so it would go up.
austin_guy austin_guy 2/8/2017 12:34
the comments on this article are nothing less than to be expected
DaveBee DaveBee 2/8/2017 02:54
tom_70 nails it here, and you need to stop this sort of reporting now. The article is clearly against President Trump's security measures, and like tom_70 I come here for chess: not for politics. If you turn Chessbase.com
into a website that takes a political stance, you will offend and alienate half of your readers - and you will lose many of them too. Please do not do that. You are utterly misguided to allow this type of article.
calvinamari calvinamari 2/8/2017 02:56
tRUMP's very first act ruled unconstitutional. Surprise, surprise. But Rome wasn't burned in a day. The Putin puppet will keep on trying.
koko48 koko48 2/8/2017 02:58
@tom_70 Ferguson is not a judge, he's an attorney general...Do you know the difference?

Being a Trump Boy, I'm not sure you do...At any rate you people need to learn how to read, and comprehend

We've had Trump Boys bring up politics where it didn't belong (most recently on the recent Hou Yifan forfeit article), so what goes around comes around...Politics is actually relevant to this page, because it's an article about a chess player and his legal battles with Trump

Trump does not represent the "will of the people" when he lost the popular vote by a huge margin, and rigged the decisive swing states through voter supression and electronic hacking...and if you people don't like hearing the truth, nobody is asking you to stay on this site...Your threats to leave don't bother anybody
Daniel Miller Daniel Miller 2/8/2017 03:03
It is pathetic to me how some people attain 2200 for a brief period in their lives then fall forever to the low 2100s and still call themselves a chess master. No one considers you a chess master unless you are currently over 2200. Some experts need to face reality and stop embarrassing themselves by labeling themselves what they once were.
koko48 koko48 2/8/2017 03:11
@Daniel Miller I don't see Ferguson calling himself a chess master here. I see the writers of the articles doing it

And if Ferguson is indeed a FIDE Master (which I was unable to confirm online) that title is gained for life
Researchisimportant Researchisimportant 2/8/2017 03:58
Very timely and well written article.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 2/8/2017 04:09
sorry dear, no checkmate.....simply he has blockaded trump....like a ....stone wall! let us see whether trump tears/tramples down the wall!?
mdamien mdamien 2/8/2017 04:12
Agreed, tom_70. Even if this article were completely level-handed (which it is not) politically, and simply raising and interesting chess connection, still it would give rise in the comments to the very entrenched and polarized positions that many of us seek to avoid, coming to a chess website.
David Sprenkle David Sprenkle 2/8/2017 05:07
Lots of sensitive conservative snowflakes in these comments, I see. Personally, I thought it was an interesting human interest story. If it turns out that U.S. Attorney General candidate Jeff Sessions is a chess player, I'd be equally interested in reading about it.
burtmcgosh burtmcgosh 2/8/2017 06:55
Most of the people on here commenting are Russians pretending to be Americans. Very typical, and very sad. Putin is a monster, and we need him out of American politics!
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 2/8/2017 08:31
Yes Chessbase I Googled Bob Ferguson and also followed your advice of viewing as many as I liked.
I liked Zero. So what to do now? Follow your link "See also"; Hillary Clinton: looking for Irina Krush?
mdamien mdamien 2/8/2017 10:40
@David Sprenkle

With your personal "snowflakes" attack you are an example of the spew-age some would rather avoid. It is not a question of over-sensitivity, as the term "snowflake" is typically applied, but of forum and good taste.
Teltow Teltow 2/9/2017 12:05
Much as I enjoy my international chess friends who travel to my country, and much as I understand Ferguson's "gens una sumus" motivation for his lawsuit, I do not think the Judiciary has the constitutional authority to undermine the power of the office of the president to issue such an order. Such a stay on the executive branch should only come from the Supreme Court.

Of course our Judiciary wants all the power it can get, but for any federal judge to assume the power to override the office of the president whenever any such judge has a notion simply undermines the constitutional office of the presidency and clearly indicates judicial overreach. Alexis de Tocqueville warned about the American Judiciary in his 1840 book "Democracy in America." In America, it is not acceptable for lawyers to override the will of the electorate.
koko48 koko48 2/9/2017 01:18
"In America, it is not acceptable for lawyers to override the will of the electorate."

Trump was not the will of the majority of the electorate, and neither are his policies...and that includes this blanket travel ban

"I've personally found that the vast majority of those involved in master-level chess are extreme left-wingers."

"Extreme left wingers", or just lean progressive? "Extreme" is relative, especially to those on the extreme.

At any rate I've also noticed that the majority of stronger chess players tend to lean progressive - according to my unscientific, observational polls at least (of course, we all know there are a fair amount of 'extreme right wingers' - if not closet/open Nazis - in the master/GM ranks also)

To me, the vast majority of stronger chess players leaning progressive, kind of speaks for itself....But why do you think that is?
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 2/9/2017 02:06
@Teltow Yes, obvious judicial over reach.... Polls, if you actually believe them, reveal a majority of Americans support Trump's ban.
bolocanolo bolocanolo 2/9/2017 02:49
To all the snow flakes on the left, get a life. We won, get over it. Better yet leave the country!!!
koko48 koko48 2/9/2017 02:55
Nobody's going anywhere bolocanolo...and you won't be able to intimidate or silence the true majority either
Teltow Teltow 2/9/2017 04:30
koko48 "Trump was not the will of the majority of the electorate, and neither are his policies...and that includes this blanket travel ban"

The Great Compromise of 1787 which led to the adoption of the US Constitution ensured that larger, more populated states would not be able to bully small states by simple majority votes. If your "will of the majority of the electorate" were the way our constitution was meant to work, there would never have been a United States of America.
David Sprenkle David Sprenkle 2/9/2017 01:17
@mdamien My "snowflakes" remark was ironic, of course, since it's actually conservatives in the U.S. that like to use that term as an insult for supposedly fragile and sensitive liberals. (And lo and behold, Bobocanolo shows us a good example of that sort of "spewage" later in this discussion thread). Yes, it would be nice to have less us vs them political attacks in these threads--but, for what it's worth, you'll note that I was responding to it, gently, not instigating it myself.
rheldmann rheldmann 2/9/2017 01:24
As a GW Bush appointee, the judge couldn't stomach that Jeb got crushed. This decision will be overturned, when emotions are calmed and logic returns.
koko48 koko48 2/9/2017 03:20
@Teltow Thanks for the history lesson, but you're repeating what I learned in high school....The textbook, 'official' explanation for why the Electoral College was established

Now if I may presume to teach you a bit of history, the real reason why the Electoral College was established was as a concession to the elites, the wealthy landowners and slave holders of the South...So they could have more power, and count their slaves as 3/5 of a vote (that wording is still in the Constitution....Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3)

"If your 'will of the majority of the electorate' were the way our constitution was meant to work, there would never have been a United States of America."

Well, you're certainly right about that....There may never have been the USA as we know it, but instead there might have been a true democracy

The Electoral College was based on inequity....on allowing for minority rule, and rule of the elites and slaveholders...and today we are seeing its modern manifestation
diegoami diegoami 2/9/2017 04:32
So Trump supporters ! They really exist...and play chess ! Who would believe that ? I thought only rednecks supported Trump ...
On the other hand, very strong Russian players support Putin, including Karjakin, so that's not surprising. I, for once, welcome our new alt-right overlords.
mdamien mdamien 2/9/2017 04:33
@David Sprenkle
Yes, I caught the irony and agree that your comment was rather mild. The rhetoric tends to escalate, as you have noted, and the article itself was trolling for it.
koko48 koko48 2/9/2017 04:56
"So Trump supporters ! They really exist...and play chess ! Who would believe that ? I thought only rednecks supported Trump ..."

Well yes of course, Trump supporters play chess....Though as @karbuncle suggested, they don't seem to be represented too frequently among the better players

I've noticed that as well, from playing some of the louder (in their finger notes) Trump supporters online....One of them had the nerve to tell me "You got lucky" after he was checkmated on the back rank, when he didn't see simple two move combinations the entire game!

Pal Benko reported in an earlier article, that Donald Trump asked him if he couldn't become a GM with just one or two years of study (because of course, he's such a genius)

This is just one example of the kind of thick headedness, obliviousness, and dangerous delusion that goes through the minds of Trump and your alt-right overlords....That kind of thinking is (figuratively, perhaps literally as well) from another planet