Pechefsky beats me at chess — but does he have a full deck?

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He came. He saw. He kicked my butt.

Now, if running a third-party political campaign was as easy as beating an editor with an eighth-grade aptitude for chess, David Pechefsky would be cruising to victory in the free-for-all to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio.

Chess is “a bit of a gimmick,” Pechefsky admitted, as he set up rooks, bishops, pawns and those horsey pieces in my office the other day. Running as a Green Party candidate in a Park Slope-Carroll Gardens-Windsor Terrace district where there are probably more dead registered voters than Republicans, Pechefsky realizes he has to get his name out there quickly.

And chess accomplishes a few things quickly: It shows that Pechefsky is a geek (which helps you in Park Slope), that he’s smart, and that he’s got some flair (and he’d never gut the “Chess in the Schools” program, either).

Last weekend, he took on all comers by setting up a chess board at the Ninth Street entrance to Prospect Park. The meet-and-beat went well enough that Pechefsky has put aside more time for chess this Sunday, which is why I summoned him to our Downtown Brooklyn office to take the measure of the man (Pechefsky), the myth (that a Green candidate can’t get elected) and the legend (my chess skills).

First, Pechefsky. Despite being a former City Council staffer, the 41-year-old Pechefsky is no company man. In fact, whenever he talks about his three stints on the legislative side of City Hall, he talks about all the “institutio­nal reform” he’d seek if elected. When reminded that voters tend to nap whenever a candidate talks about institutional reform, Pechefsky said his priorities would be getting more pre-K seats in the district (good luck), cleaning the Gowanus Canal (hopefully not personally) and finding a long-term fix for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (actually, a state responsibility).

Then, the myth. There’s a reason why there are no Green Party — or any real third party — members of the Council. One is brand recognition, of course, but the liberal Pechefsky is facing an even greater challenge than convincing Park Slope Socialists to abandon the Democrats to vote for a Green: he has to get on the ballot.

Arcane state rules require him to collect 2,700 valid petition signatures between mid-July and mid-August. If you know anything about the residents of New York’s tony neighborhoods in the summer, you know that there aren’t many residents of New York’s tony neighborhoods in the summer.

Worse, anyone who signs a petition for a Democratic candidate — who collect their signatures a month earlier — can’t sign for Pechefsky.

If he gets on the ballot, it’ll be a miracle.

Less miraculous, of course, is that he beat me bad in chess. I’m not going to say I didn’t challenge him — at one point, I was one move away from check-mating him (but what move was it?!!?). But I let him slip away. First, his Avella took two of my Fidlers. After that, his Quinn and Weprin continually outflanked my Bloomberg until I finally spitzered after move 29.

Man, I have to do a better job protecting my Yassky.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at

Play chess with David Pechefsky on Sunday, May 24 at the Ninth Street entrance to Prospect Park (Ninth Street at Prospect Park West in Park Slope) from 10 am–1 pm. For info, visit

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Lawrence Gordon says:
If you want to learn more about chess and politics, I suggest you read "The Immortal Game" by David Shenk.
May 21, 2009, 6:21 pm
Michael E from Bay Ridge says:
Very nice article, but I'd like to point something out. In reference to the statement that it would be a "miracle" to get Pechefsky on the ballot, let me remind Mr. Kuntzman, and indeed all readers, that the Green Party has successfully gotten a candidate on the ballot in the 39th Council District each time that someone has come forward to run against the two-party (one, really, in the 39th) system.

There will be scores of volunteers in the district during the 6-week period from July 7 through August 18 gathering signatures to put Pechefsky on the ballot. If you want to see David on the ballot in November, please save your signature for him. You can pledge to do so on his website. I'm not sure if we're allowed to post websites here, but a quick search under his name will find his campaign website. Good Luck, David!
May 22, 2009, 9:55 am

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