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Political chess set by Douglas Pearce

Election knight. 

All the political favourites do battle in this rare chess set, created by sculptor Douglas Pearce as a souvenir of the 1983 federal election. The pieces are carefully sculpted in the likeness of prominent politicians inviting players to face off as Labor and the Coalition.  

The set is both a functional game and a kind of 3D cartoon, caricaturing the people in power. The kings are, as you’d expect, outgoing prime minister Malcolm Fraser and his successor Bob Hawke. The contenders for Liberal leadership, John Howard and Andrew Peacock, are a bishop and a knight respectively. Hawke's leadership rivals Bill Hayden and Paul Keating are knights; his reliable deputy Lionel Bowen is a rook. 

The queens are the wives of the prime ministers, Tamie Fraser and Hazel Hawke. The outgoing cabinet had one woman as a minister, Margaret Guilfoyle, while Hawke’s new ministry included Susan Ryan, but neither are represented. At this time women were still uncommon in federal parliament and the choice of Mrs Fraser and Mrs Hawke as the queens reflects their high profile.  

It is believed only 500 of this limited-edition set were produced. MoAD’s set once belonged to the Hon. Dr David Kemp AC, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister and one-time Chair of the Old Parliament House council. 

How to play

Millions of words have been written on how to play chess. Move pieces in turn according to each piece’s movement pattern, the objective being to capture an opponent’s king.  

A chess set featuring politicians carved from a stone. The faces of the black chess pieces are visible and the backs of the white pieces.
A chess set featuring politicians as each of the pieces.
Newspaper advertisement for an 'Australian Political Chess Set' depicting Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser and Tamie Fraser as chess pieces.

The Canberra Times, 9 March 1983, p.30