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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ben Franklin Chess Player

Benjamin Franklin

I have been reading a fascinating book entitled The Immortal Game: A History of Chess by David Shenk. He talks about the origins of chess somewhere in India 1500 years ago, and shows how the game evolved through cultures and time to its present form and strategies.

Right now, I am reading the chapters that deal with chess during "The Enlightenment" which covers roughly the latter half of the 17th Century up to the end of the 18th Century, give or take a decade or two. One person who figures prominently in that era was Benjamin Franklin who loved the game and became so good at it, he outstripped most good players in America. Some have seen his willingness to live in France as the American ambassador as partly due to the fact that he could find more worthy opponents there.

Franklin even used chess in his diplomatic efforts to persuade the French to aid the Americans in the Revolutionary War. Once Franklin was playing chess with a woman who made a move that exposed her king. Franklin then proceeded to capture the king. The duchess, knowing the proper rules to chess, said, "We do not take Kings so." Franklin responded, "We do in America."

Chess set owned by Benjamin Franklin

Franklin also wrote an essay called "The Morals of Chess":
Ben Franklin on "The Morals of Chess

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