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PRESIDENT PLAYS CHESS GAME WITH SABER-RATTLING CHINESE -- The President (Martin Sheen) engages both Sam (Rob Lowe) and Toby (Richard Schiff) in intricate chess matches that underscore the wily game of brinkmanship Bartlet is playing with the Chinese, who threaten to turn their war games in the Taiwan Strait into the real thing if Taiwan begins test-firing their new U.S. Patriot defense missiles. Meanwhile, Josh (Bradley Whitford) is edgy about every vote out of the 42 cast in a remote New Hampshire burg that are counted immediately and always predict the winner of the day's crucial state primary. Elsewhere, a mischievous C.J. (Allison Janney) tries to upset Charlie (Dule Hill) by not accounting for her copy of the President's top-secret daily schedule -- prompting a war of mischievous games and tricks.


Opening - Andrews Air Force Base, 8:40pm EST[]

The President exits Air Force One after returning from a trip to India. He speaks briefly with the press, talking about the history of chess - when C.J. (standing nearby) gets a call from Leo. He wants the President back - there is a crisis developing with China. Taiwan is preparing to test missiles and China is reacting with increased military activity in response.

Act I[]

The President and Leo come to the Situation Room to get up to speed on the Taiwan-China faceoff. The President is preparing to move ships from the Seventh Fleet into the region. C.J. is giving a briefing in the Press Room - where she is obviously being questioned on the China crisis. She sees Charlie in the hall and asks for a copy of the President's schedule. He makes her sign it out - as it has found its way into the Press Room twice. She objects to this new layer of minutia but signs out the schedule. Josh is in his office and yells for Donna. He has learned that two people in Hartsfield's Landing with whom they had contact in the last campaign are planning to vote for Governor Ritchie and not the President. Josh tells Donna to call them and see about getting them back into the Bartlet camp. He reminds her that New Hampshire politics are retail politics. She reminds him that she can't make the call from her desk - he sends her out to Lafayette Park to make the call.

Sam arrives in his office to find a chess set, a gift from the President - who arrives to challenge Sam to a game. The President gives sets to both Toby and Sam in thanks for the State of the Union message. Sam and the President talk about the India trip and the President moves the conversation to China and brings Sam inside on the issues, while playing a game of chess on the board Sam got from the President. They play 1. d3 e5 2. e4 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. a3 Bc5, and then two more moves witch can't be made out (C20 King's pawn game, Leonardis variation)

Act II[]

Nancy and Leo meet with the Chinese Ambassador over the Taiwan issue. The Ambassador makes it clear to both Nancy and Leo the moment the Taiwanese test their missiles, the Chinese will test theirs.

Donna returns to the office to report to Josh that the Flenders will not be voting for the President. Josh gives Donna some reasons why the Flenders should reconsider and sends her back out into the cold.

Charlie is looking around for his copy of the President's Private Schedule - he quickly realizes that C.J. has taken and hidden it on him.

In the Oval Office, Leo directs C.J. to leak to selected press that the USS Carl Vinson will be doing a "passing exercise" - they want the Chinese media to pick it up.

At the President's request, Toby comes to the Oval Office. The President wants to get past the fight the two of them had the other night. He challenges Toby to a game of chess on a set that he is giving to him. Toby asks what they are going to talk about (if not China) - the President tells him, "Reelection and the Bartlet psychosis." The conversation soons turn testy again when Toby steers the conversation back to Bartlet's father. They play the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. a3 Bc5 (C51: Italian Game, Evan's Gambit accepted). Very interesting thing, that this is the opening President Bartlet mentions after the first move, even though there was no way for him to know this for sure when he announced it.

Act III[]

Bartlet returns to his game with Sam and in addition to the chess game - Sam asks how the meeting with the Chinese Ambassador went. The President asks Sam how he thinks it went. Sam pretty much hits the nail on the head and Bartlet continues to tell Sam to "see the whole board."

Josh comes to see C.J. to ask her if she wants to get pizza. They are getting ready for the Hartsfield's Landing vote. She agrees and decides to call ahead - but Charlie has crazy glued her phone. She realizes that she and Charlie are now in a full on practical joke war.

Leo comes to get the President - Nancy has an update on the China-Taiwan showdown. After Nancy McNally leaves - the President tells Leo about the conversation he is having with Toby.

Act IV[]

C.J. returns to the White House with the pizza and sets off the alarms when she swipes her card. Charlie has exchanged her card with his. Leo comes to the lobby and tells the Secret Service to sign C.J. in with an appointment - and then tells C.J. to be in her office in 15 minutes.

Donna is on the phone outside the White House still trying to convince the Flenders to vote for the President. Josh comes out and tells Donna to let the Flenders off the hook. He gets on the phone and has a conversation with Mackie Flender and tells him thanks and to go and vote.

C.J. comes to her office to find Charlie - he tells her that Leo told him to be there. Leo comes in and asks what the two of them are up to. Leo tells them that it's over - the two of them agree. C.J. turns around and puts some files on her desk, which collapses, because Charlie has sawed the legs.

The President returns to Sam's office - Sam has been doing research on the long US relationship with China and Taiwan. He questions how tonight's crisis will resolve. Leo arrives with a slip of paper that has the results. Sam asks to guess what is on the slip of paper before reading it. He gets it right in all essentials.

The President ends the conversation telling Sam that he will run for president one day, that he shouldn't be scared, that he can do it, and that the President believes in him. Their chess game ends with the President putting Sam in checkmate.


Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn
Stockard Channing as Abigail Bartlet
Dulé Hill as Charlie Young
Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg
Janel Moloney as Donna Moss
Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler
John Spencer as Leo McGarry
Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman
and Martin Sheen as President Bartlet

Recurring cast

Anna Deavere Smith as Nancy McNally
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
Thomas Kopache as Bob Slattery

Guest Starring

James Hong as David
James Keane as Registrar
Gregalan Williams as Robbie Mosley
Dennis Cockrum as Military Officer


William Duffy as Larry
Peter James Smith as Ed
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
Kris Murphy as Katie Witt
Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell
Mindy Seeger as Chris
Charles Noland as Steve
Lionel D. Carson as Security Guard Tommy
Rick Cramer as Officer
Matthew Yang King as Staffer
Jeff Mooring as Phil (Reporter)
Dan Sachoff as Reporter Todd Hawthorne
Teddy Lane Jr. as Agent
J.P. Hubbell as Agent
Jack Choy as Civilian


C.J. – The anal-retentive side of you is not going to help you get girls
Charlie – I do OK
President Bartlet: Plus, guess what?
Sam Seaborn: What?
President Bartlet: The Patriot tests aren't why China is showing their teeth.
Sam Seaborn: They're not?
President Bartlet: No.
Sam Seaborn: Why are they?
President Bartlet: You ready to come inside?
Sam Seaborn: Yes sir.
President Bartlet: By the end of the week, Taiwan going to announce they are holding their first free elections.
Sam Seaborn: You're kidding.
President Bartlet: [looks down at the chess board and the game he is playing with Sam] Defend your queen.
President Bartlet: See the whole board.
Nancy McNally: Sir, the carriers are 35 minutes from the Strait now.
President Bartlet: All right. [to Leo] You can bring the ambassador back now and get Beijing.
Nancy McNally: I’m sorry, sir, it’s a formality, but...
Leo McGarry: She needs the order.
President Bartlet: The Aegis Destroyers.
Nancy McNally: Yes, sir. Just out of curiosity, what if that doesn’t work?
President Bartlet: I don’t know, but for sure we’re gonna blame you.
Nancy McNally: Yes, sir.
Sam Seaborn: I’d like to try it without looking at the note.
President Bartlet: Okay.
Sam Seaborn: China agrees to stand down the war games.
President Bartlet: Right.
Sam Seaborn: And they agree to let Taiwan test the Patriots. One Patriot.
President Bartlet: Yes.
Sam Seaborn: And we... Please, I want to be right about this. We agree not to sell Taiwan the Aegis Destroyers for a period of... I don’t know... five years.
President Bartlet: Ten years, but you’ve got it.
Sam Seaborn: Sir, the Aegis... the Aegis radar technology isn’t something that... I mean, what if Taiwan did fall to China? Now they have – plus these ships cost something like $800 million apiece. Buying four of them would eat half of Taiwan’s defense budget.
President Bartlet: And so...
Sam Seaborn: You never were going to sell them the destroyers.
President Bartlet: [shakes his head] But everybody wakes up alive in the morning and saves a little face.
Sam Seaborn: [amazed] I don’t know how you... I don’t know the word, I... don’t know how you do it.
President Bartlet: You have a lot of help. You listen to everybody and then you call the play. [rises to his feet] Sam. You’re gonna run for President one day. Don’t be scared. You can do it. I believe in you. [looks at the board] That’s checkmate.
Leo – What are you doing?
Josh – Just trying to get some pizza in an uncivilized world
Leo – It's not easy being you, is it?


  • The vote taking place at Hartsfield's Landing is ambiguous. Chronologically, the episode occurs during the primaries and not on the day of the general election. Yet Donna's conversations indicate that the voters are choosing between a Republican and the President as if they were voting in the general election. This could be because in New Hampshire, as of the episode's release date, those not registered with any party are free to vote in any party's primary election. However, this does not explain how Hartsfield's Landing has correctly predicted so many previous and consecutive elections. The results of this specific primary would have at least two victors; in this case, they would be Democrat Bartlet and Republican Ritchie. Based on the context of this episode, the residents of Hartsfield's Landing would be correct no matter who won the general election. This is likely a suspension of disbelief in order to dramatically tell a compelling story.
  • The community of Hartsfield's Landing is the fictional equivalent of Hart's Location, a small town in New Hampshire that is one of the first places to declare its results for the New Hampshire Presidential primary and U.S. Presidential elections. Dixville Notch is more famous, but the name of the town in this episode is clearly inspired by Hart's Location.
  • Some DVD versions misspell the episode name as "HEARTSFIELD'S LANDING" on the insert.
  • In one scene near the end, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) predicts that Sam (Rob Lowe) would run for President. Years later, Rob Lowe would go on to play President John F. Kennedy, a real life President that Martin Sheen previously portrayed in the '80s.
  • In the scene with Toby and the President playing chess in the Oval Office, Toby opens with 1. E4. While 1. E4 could be part of many chess openings, the Evans Gambit is a real opening and is actually played out by the two actors in this scene.
  • A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote is a reunion event featuring Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Allison Janney, Dulé Hill, Janel Moloney and Anna Deavere Smith, who reprised their roles in a recreation of this episode.
  • Aegis is not the name of a class of destroyer, but the name of a radar-guided weapons system employed on surface warfare vessels of the United States Navy and her allies. Errors regarding military units, equipment, and protocol are commonplace on The West Wing.

I PilotPost Hoc, Ergo Propter HocA Proportional ResponseFive Votes Down
The Crackpots and These WomenMr. Willis of OhioThe State DinnerEnemiesThe Short List
In Excelsis DeoLord John MarburyHe Shall, from Time to Time...Take Out the Trash Day
Take This Sabbath DayCelestial Navigation20 Hours in L.A.The White House Pro-Am
Six Meetings Before LunchLet Bartlet Be BartletMandatory Minimums
Lies, Damn Lies and StatisticsWhat Kind of Day Has It Been?
II In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part I)In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part II)The Midterms
In This White HouseAnd It's Surely to Their CreditThe Lame Duck CongressThe Portland Trip
ShibbolethGalileoNoëlThe Leadership BreakfastThe Drop-In
Bartlet's Third State of the UnionThe War at HomeEllie
Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to JailThe Stackhouse Filibuster
17 PeopleBad Moon RisingThe Fall's Gonna Kill You18th and PotomacTwo Cathedrals
III Manchester (Part I)Manchester (Part II)Ways and MeansOn the Day BeforeWar CrimesGone QuietThe Indians in the LobbyThe Women of QumarBartlet for AmericaH.Con - 172100,000 AirplanesThe Two BartletsNight FiveHartsfield's LandingDead Irish Writers
The U.S. Poet LaureateStirredEnemies Foreign and DomesticThe Black Vera Wang
We Killed YamamotoPosse Comitatus
IV 20 Hours in America (Part I)20 Hours in America (Part II)College KidsThe Red Mass
Debate CampGame OnElection NightProcess StoriesSwiss DiplomacyArctic Radar
Holy NightGuns Not ButterThe Long GoodbyeInauguration (Part I)
Inauguration: Over There (Part II)The California 47thRed Haven's on FirePrivateers
Angel MaintenanceEvidence of Things Not SeenLife On MarsCommencementTwenty-Five
V 7A WF 83429The Dogs of WarJefferson LivesHanA Constituency of OneDisaster ReliefSeparation of PowersShutdownAbu el BanatThe Stormy PresentThe Benign PrerogativeSlow News DayThe Warfare of Genghis KhanAn KheFull DisclosureEppur Si Muove
The SupremesAccessTalking PointsNo ExitGazaMemorial Day
VI NSF ThurmontThe Birnam WoodThird-Day StoryLiftoffThe Hubbert PeakThe Dover TestA Change Is Gonna ComeIn The RoomImpact WinterFaith Based Initiative
Opposition Research365 DaysKing CornThe Wake Up CallFreedoniaDrought ConditionsA Good DayLa PalabraNinety Miles AwayIn God We TrustThings Fall Apart2162 Votes
VII The TicketThe Mommy ProblemMessage of the WeekMr. FrostHere Today
The Al Smith DinnerThe DebateUndecidedsThe WeddingRunning Mates
Internal DisplacementDuck and CoverThe ColdTwo Weeks OutWelcome to Wherever You Are
Election Day (Part I)Election Day (Part II)RequiemTransitionThe Last Hurrah
Institutional MemoryTomorrow