At a fundraiser last Sunday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson took on 18 chess players at one time in a special tournament known as a "simul." (Twenty people had paid money to play against him, but two people didn't end up making it.) After three-and-half hours of play, Ferguson had lost one game, taken three draws, and won the rest. Fourteen out of 18 isn't a bad showing for an AG who hasn't played the game seriously in almost two decades, and who only ever ran a simul once during his career as an internationally ranked chess master.
The Stranger couldn't attend the fundraiser, which was organized to raise money for Ferguson's attorney general campaign, but over the phone he said the tournament went better than he thought it was going to go. Another thing that surprised him: the pit in his stomach that developed just before the games began.
"I can hold a press conference about suing the President of the United States and I don't get nervous," Ferguson said, laughing a little bit. "But when it comes to chess—I forgot that’s how I feel before all my games, and not just the big ones. I get so nervous." Once he started he lost the anxiety, of course, but that nervousness hit him right upfront.
One of the reasons for his nerves was Derin Goktepe, a nationally ranked 10-year-old who signed up to play. Ferguson played Goktepe to a draw. "I gave him a little extra attention from move one," Ferguson said. "He played very well, but it was a game I felt like I could get an advantage early. He stayed calm and defended well."
He would have liked to play out two of the games wherein he offered draws, but he had another fundraiser in Woodinville that afternoon and had to rush off.
The one loss was to a guy named Brandon Farrell. Ferguson made "a disastrous choice in the opening" before managing to extricate himself from the problem, but said he ultimately "must have made a mistake" during the recovery. "I never really quite had a handle on the game," Ferguson added. “But he kicked my butt, there’s no point in trying to deny it."
Ferguson is not in a hurry to play another simul any time soon. "It’s more exhausting than a day at the office, and that’s not an exaggeration," he said. "There’s no break."