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March 29, 2012 at 11:50 AM

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Chess geeks rally for Bob Ferguson

As contributors to Bob Ferguson's campaign for state attorney general, August Piper and Dave Kelly will be identified in public campaign records as a doctor and engineer, respectively.

But that's not why they came to the Westin Hotel at 7 a.m. Thursday for Ferguson's campaign fundraiser. Piper and Kelly were there as president and vice-president of the Seattle Chess Club.

To them, Ferguson, a Democrat and King County Council member, is something special -- as a chess player.

Kelly was quick to say he knew all about a match Ferguson, now 47, played in Berlin as a teenager. "He sacrificed his queen and beat a chess master. It was spectacular, daring, flashy," said Kelly.

Hardly the words many would use to describe Ferguson today. "Depending on where you stand, he's remarkably tenacious or stubborn as hell," King County Executive Dow Constantine told the breakfast crowd. (The 680 in attendance included Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, City Attorney Pete Holmes and King County Council members Larry Gossett, Joe McDermott and Larry Phillips.)

Though the chess club had six people at a table, contributing $100 each to Ferguson, it's not a partisan group, Kelly said. "We don't have any particular leaning. We lean all over the place."

But this subset of the club's 100 members believe Ferguson's chess skills translate well in politics. An internationally rated chess master, Ferguson could beat the sextet "playing blindfolded and simultaneously," Kelly said. His tenacity is important in both chess and politics, Piper said.

Ferguson recalls well the match Kelly talked about. It was followed by a more impressive 10-hour draw, he says, against a grandmaster, Gyozo Forintos from Hungary.

Chess taught him about discipline, responsibility for his decisions, and planning ahead, Ferguson said.

The biggest difference between chess and politics? "In chess you are on your own," he said.

chess.jpgAt the age of 19, Ferguson says, he seriously thought about becoming a professional chess player. "But at the end of day, chess is a fairly internal profession. I wanted to have a broader impact," he said.

In keeping with their passion, Kelly and another chess clubber, Joe Davis, couldn't help themselves during the speeches at Ferguson's breakfast. Using just a small slip of blue paper (at right) -- passed back and forth over their mini-quiches -- Kelly and Davis envisioned the board and pieces in their minds.

In nine moves, Davis won. Kelly blamed it on the early hour.

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