16 October 2014

A:'Playing Checkers' vs. B:'Playing Chess'

While writing my previous post, Geopolitical Yahoos, I started to wonder about the phrase 'A is playing checkers while B is playing chess'. Who are the the most popular choices for A and B? A Google search on '"playing checkers" "playing chess"' (PC/PC) brings up many sporting and political references, especially the Obama vs. Putin relationship. The same search on images brings up a number of Obama vs. Putin cartoons where the American is invariably playing checkers, the Russian playing chess.

How about adding 'Obama' to the PC/PC image search. Are there any insights to be gained there? The top composite image below shows the first page of Google results. The first of the thumbnails (top left corner) shows Obama caddying for Putin, followed by two Obama/Putin cartoons. Other images show Obama playing chess against John McCain, chess(?) against the Republicans, checkers against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, and chess against Hillary Clinton.

Obama 'chess vs. checkers'

Putin 'chess vs. checkers'

The bottom composite image is the same PC/PC search, this time substituting 'Putin' for 'Obama'. Many of the thumbnails are the same, but there is a smaller variety of other chess opponents. My favorite is in the middle of the bottom row, showing Putin in a simul against Obama who is sitting next to European leaders David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and François Hollande.

The thumbnail showing Putin stroking his chin (Top: left of the second row; Bottom: upper right corner) depicts another chess cliché often attributed to Obama vs. Putin, called the 'pigeon quote':-

[Negotiating, discussing, arguing, etc.] with [fill in the blank] is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, craps on the board, and then struts around like it won the game.

The origin of the analogy is uncertain, although it definitely predates Obama vs. Putin. Expanding the thumbnails in any of these Google image searches leads to more 'Related images', many of them having something to do with chess.

Then there are the other games. The third row of the Obama results, with two views of the same image featuring an American flag, leads to a page that says, 'When it comes to diplomacy, Russia is playing chess, Syria is playing checkers and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is playing tiddlywinks.'

No comments: