Picture Mitch McConnell as a knight riding an elephant

This chess set is no joke, and it’s selling pretty well, says inventor AJ Khubani

This election-themed chess set is no joke, as Heard on the Hill discovered when we gave it a try. (Graham MacGillivray/CQ Roll Call)
This election-themed chess set is no joke, as Heard on the Hill discovered when we gave it a try. (Graham MacGillivray/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 22, 2020 at 6:30am

Maybe you’ve been up late at night watching MSNBC or the NFL Network, and through your bleary eyes have noticed an ad for a chess set featuring Mike Pence as a queen and Nancy Pelosi as a knight riding a donkey.

Turns out it’s not some waking nightmare, but instead an ad for the 2020 Battle for the White House Chess Set, an off-kilter idea from the same man who brought the world AmberVision glasses and the PedEgg, which is basically a cheese grater for rough feet.

“I was looking for a way to bring politically divided families together through rational discussion over a fun family game,” says the man who came up with the idea, AJ Khubani, the CEO and founder of BulbHead, a New Jersey-based company.

In the ad an announcer exclaims, “Each piece painstakingly designed for impeccable detail that is truly stunning.” Those pieces are made of plastic with a “pewter finish” and include Donald Trump as king and other luminaries like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as knights riding elephants; George W. Bush and Barack Obama as rooks; and Supreme Court Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Sonia Sotomayor as bishops. It totals nearly $50 when all costs are calculated (fancier versions will set you back more).

The set includes a certificate of authenticity because, as Khubani notes, “limited edition products, especially those created around a historic event, can gain value over time.” He says the company has sold 11,400 sets so far.

Khubani has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats and Republicans alike over the years, according to Federal Election Commission data, including Donald Trump in 2016 and the Senate campaigns of Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California. In 2017 he donated $19,600 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. He says he is an independent.

One final oddity: The Democratic king and queen are represented by empty podiums — customers can order the pieces for an additional $14.98 once the nominees are selected.

Khubani acknowledges there might be a gender issue similar to Pence’s if one of the nominees is a woman. “We may have a problem … if, say, Elizabeth Warren were the presidential nominee,” he says. There might be one other problem. Joe Biden is already one of the rooks.