Stewart on chess: US buying nerds??

by Frederic Friedel
3/22/2015 – Remember our recent article on a clandestine effort to recruit top players from other countries to switch their allegiance to the United States, to help win team championships like the Chess Olympiad? Well, Comedy Central's inimitable Jon Stewart picked up on the New York Times report and did a five minute sketch on chess, one that is simultaneously insulting and funny.

ChessBase 15 - Mega package ChessBase 15 - Mega package

Find the right combination! ChessBase 15 program + new Mega Database 2019 with 7.6 million games and more than 70,000 master analyses. Plus ChessBase Magazine (DVD + magazine) and CB Premium membership for 1 year!


The Daily Show is an American late-night talk and news satire television program which airs on Comedy Central. The host is Jon Stewart, who started up as a stand-up comedian, but branched into television and took over The Daily Show 1999, making it more strongly focused on politics and the national media. It describes itself as a fake news program and draws its comedy and satire from recent news stories, political figures and media organizations. The Daily Show has won 18 Primetime Emmy Awards.

The show typically opens with a long monologue from Jon Stewart relating to recent headlines and frequently features exchanges with one or more of several correspondents, who adopt absurd or humorously exaggerated takes on current events against Stewart's straight man persona. In Friday night's show they picked up the news that a clandestine effort was under way to recruit top players from other countries to switch their allegiance to the United States – see our report from last week:

The Daily Show – Chess News Roundup

"This week in chess America is making a concerted effort to buy top foreign chess players in an attempt to win next year's Chess Olympiad gold medal, something it has not done in decades" Stewart says. "The United States is buying up nerds! Nerd mercenaries – nerdcenaries." He turns to his "senior correspondent" Trevor Noah, who patiently explains to Stewart what is going on.

Of course the show cannot resist poking fun at the stereotype allegation that chess is boring – but at least with the clever line: "I did not realize how boring chess was until someone else started talking about it." It is hard not to laugh an exchange, towards the end, where a chessboard floats down and the two start a game:

"Because I'm white I'll go first," says Trevor Noah. Jon Stewart does his trademark long baffled look and then replies: "All right, I guess 'cause I'm Jewish I'll go second?!"

Eagle eyed readers have bound to have spotted it already. It is our long held theory that there is a certain malicious advisor who offers his service as a "chess expert" to all TV shows and film productions, and then makes sure that the board is always set up the wrong way. The number of times this occurs cannot be attributed to pure chance.

Magnus Carlsen on the Colbert report

In our blurb spoke of "the inimitable Jon Stewart". That is not strictly accurate. A number of his "senior correspondents" have gone on to make their own shows, in a similar format – most recently John Oliver with Last Week Tonight on HBO. The late-night talk and news satire television program The Colbert Report aired on Comedy Central from October 2005 to December 2014 with a total of 1,447 episodes. The following one is memorable:

Three years ago Magnus Carlsen was invited to the Colbert Report. The show focuses on a fictional anchorman character named Stephen Colbert who is a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot." You can read our report on the above segment here. In addition we finally succumb to temptation:

We have long resisted publishing this fairly crude impersonation – but you have probably seen it elsewhere

Topics: comedy, Satire

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

runawaypawn runawaypawn 3/23/2015 08:52
Lighten up people, it was hilarious.
ex0 ex0 3/23/2015 06:36
So which daily show was this from? IE what day/date? I cannot watch clips from comedy because of 'region lock'..
flathead flathead 3/23/2015 02:53

Just once I'd like to see chess on tv or in a movie where the board is set up correctly, just once.
PaulPena PaulPena 3/23/2015 12:58
Jon Stewart has long held this opinion. When Kasparov vs. Deep Blue was going on he started with something like "In New York Kasparov the world's strongest human chess player is playing deep blue the world's strongest computer challenger, but who cares about chess..." and instantly switched to another topic.
Van_Phanel Van_Phanel 3/23/2015 12:01
Well we all here in our bubble of happiness need to get the stick out of our *ahem* behinds and realize that this is exactly how playing chess is viewed among a huge majority of people. This does not make those people bad people. This does not even make those people wrong.
cptmajormajor cptmajormajor 3/22/2015 10:54
Funny stuff . I liked it . Nercinaries could topple russia but china seem to be the ones to beat these days :)
@beachbum2 the best place to live is home :) To claim anything else without being other people and without having lived everywhere else is ... but i'm sure usa is nice place to live for those who have a nice home there :")
Anyways, I will keep an eye out for this program if I see it on UK tv
BeachBum2 BeachBum2 3/22/2015 10:00
US is still a nice (maybe the best) place to live and have busyness (would not move here myself otherwise ;) So it is natural that US represented in chess by foreign born people (Japanese, 2 Soviets and an Armenian on last olympiad, if I'm not mistaken). US will have a very strong filipino from now on. I did not read the article… more coming?

I read that chinese ping pong players play for 23 nation teams :) and there are so many ex soviets on various chess teams. It is IMHO natural - each nation has it's traditions.

In USSR, it was easy to play chess - there were free chess clubs for kids, tournaments between schools, in our class of 30 probably 5 guys played (not good enough to be competition, but "the culture", some "respect" for chess were there). I guess if I was born in US I would likely not even know the moves - there are so many other different and more fun (and/or more potentially career/money making) things to do…

My mom was against me playing chess (she thought I should do something more "useful" instead, like science or engineering - and she was absolutely right) but chess overall was kind of popular. Well - when so many over activities are repressed by communist regime, there were only a few things left to do…
BabyPfuscher BabyPfuscher 3/22/2015 06:50
reddawg07 reddawg07 3/22/2015 03:49
This is what happens when somebody is trying too hard to be funny.
Since the beginning of the 21st century all men and women world chess champions have been non-russian
except for Kramnik and Kosteniuk. Currently the top 10 men in the Fide rating are non-russian except for Grischuk and Kramnik and are much younger than their Russian counterparts. Statistically there is a good chance that the next men and women champions in the the next decade or so will be all non-russian.

KOTLD KOTLD 3/22/2015 01:04
5 per cent amusing, 10 per cent insulting, 85 per cent embarrassing for them...