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Monday, February 7, 2011

U.S. lawmakers play traditional chess event

Chess blog for latest news and trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hi everyone,

This was a nice feature story we picked up from The Baltimore Sun.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / January 31, 2011 )
In the foreground are Sen. Ron Young playing Sen. Robert Garagiola at a table of six, in the annual chess match between members of the Maryland House and Senate, held in the senate lounge.

Put aside the competition between Democrats and Republicans. After hours in Annapolis, the rivalry is between senators and delegates. Scarcely had they arrived for the 2011 session last month when lawmakers launched this year's edition of a young legislative tradition: the bipartisan, inter-cameral chess tournament. Matches over the next six weeks will determine champions from each chamber, who will face off in the final.

It's a competition that reminds some of their day jobs during the 90-day session. "You always have to think three moves ahead," said Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, describing the link between the game and the legislative process. "You have to stay focused."


Gilchrist vs. Parrott
(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / January 31, 2011)
Shown are Delegate Jim Gilchrist (Democrat) playing Delegate Neil Parrott (Republican) in the annual chess 
match between members of the Maryland House and Senate, held in the senate lounge.

"In chess it is not just the immediate move that you are making," said Todd Eberly, acting director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland. "It is 'I've made this move. What will this give to me in terms of opportunities and limits down the road? What will this move cause my opponents to do?' "
"That is very much what politics about."
Members will be playing Monday night, but Round One began a week ago. At 8:30 p.m. — after both chambers had adjourned for the evening — a cluster of Senators and Delegates spread out in the plush Senate lounge. Six members sat elbow to elbow at a narrow table. Four other pairs nestled in corners or settled into couches to study their boards.
The room fell silent as lawmakers known for their oratory skills focused on their chessboards.
"If only they studied legislation this closely," said a non-playing senator, observing the scene.
The tournament has its roots in a competition organized after the 2009 session, when lawmakers traveled to each other's homes for matches organized by region.
Sens. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, and Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, played to a draw in the final, and the Senate was declared the winning chamber.
The matches this year are scheduled for successive Monday evenings, when the legislature typically has a light agenda. Winners of the separate brackets for each chamber will face off March 14 for the plaque.
"You are guaranteed that it will be House versus Senate," said Simonaire, who organized the tournament this year to crown not only a champion, but a winning chamber.

"We are competitive." he explained.
A little competition between bodies is healthy, says Eberly, of St. Mary's College. The bodies are designed to approach legislation from different perspectives.

You can read the full story here. Find more photos here.

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