Three Bob Fergusons, Two Chess Masters, and One State of Confusion


Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, age 59, is running for Governor of Washington State. As a teenager, he went by “Bobby Ferguson” and was a chess master. Just before the filing deadline, two other men named “Bob Ferguson” joined him in the race to become governor. Another chess master, Christopher Chabris, co-authored a book that discusses how people are fooled, with one example being voting for a similarly named, but less qualified, candidate.

Bob Ferguson for Governor

On Friday, May 10, two men named Bob Ferguson filed paperwork to become the next Governor of Washington State. They joined Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who had filed his paperwork in September of 2023.

According to this news article, a political conservative named Glen Morgan contacted some of the 53 Washington State residents named Bob Ferguson. From those contacted, Morgan recruited, to run for governor, a retired state worker and a military veteran. Neither one has political experience, but each has the “Bob Ferguson” name.

Before Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson entered law school, he was an avid chess player. His nickname was “Bobby F.” Probably no one confused him with the more famous, and 22 years older, former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer.

Northwest Chess

In 1978, Bobby Ferguson and I shared the cover of Northwest Chess magazine. Ferguson won our “Junior Chess Match of the Year!” Later, like me, Ferguson became a US Chess-rated master. Ferguson’s FIDE rating surpassed mine as he reached 2232 in that rating system.

Nobody’s Fool

Nobody's Fool

Nobody’s Fool: Why We Get Taken In and What We Can Do about It is by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. It was published in July of 2023. The authors “studied hundreds of examples of deception of all sorts and applied [their] understanding of cognitive psychology to identify recurring features and emergent patterns…. [They] also considered strategies that may help people get fooled less.” One of those strategies is to “Accept less, check more.” To teach readers when to check more and how to go about checking, Nobody’s Fool: Why We Get Taken In and What We Can Do about It is 336 pages long with many examples.

Simons and Chabris present a story like that of the three Bob Fergusons. In March of 2021, a Republican named Frank Artiles convinced someone named “Alex Rodriguez” to file for a seat in the Florida Legislature. Rodriguez’s name on the ballot likely took votes away from incumbent José Javier Rodriguez, who lost by fewer than 40 votes. Simons and Chabris note that Alex Rodriguez “pleaded guilty to placing his name on the ballot with no intention of running.”

Chess Master

Like Ferguson, Christopher Chabris had a FIDE rating over 2200. Unlike Ferguson, Chabris kept playing rated chess throughout his adult and senior years. He will turn 58 in November of 2024 and his current FIDE rating is 2054.

Chabris is a regular participant in’s Titled Tuesday. In the following game, Chabris defeats GM Jaan Ehlvest, who peaked at number 5 in the world in 1991.

State of Confusion

As of May 10, thirty people were running for Washington Governor, including three named Bob Ferguson. After a random drawing, chess master Bob Ferguson was 13th on the ballot, whereas the other two Bob Fergusons were listed second and third.

According to Simons and Chabris, citing a study of Ohio races, “the average advantage of being listed first rather than last was 2.33 percentage points.” Being listed 13 (of 30) isn’t being listed last but a voter may vote for either Bob Ferguson number 2 or Bob Ferguson number 3 rather than searching down the ballot for Bob Ferguson number 13.

The gubernatorial race in Washington State was in a state of confusion from Friday, May 10, until Monday, May 13. On May 13, the other two Bob Fergusons — to avoid possible felony charges — withdrew from the gubernatorial race.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on

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