Current Checkers Tournaments in the USA.
Checkers Game Champion Andrew Anderson
(1799-1861) of Braidwood, Scotland.
According to historical accounts, Andra’ (Scottish twang) was a simple man with a profession of stocking maker and weaver, who came to love the game of checkers. Although no apparent photographs of champion Andrew Anderson can be found, his close friend, John McKerrow, described him as modest and unassuming, with a placid personality and pale features set within a pensive countenance. McKerrow’s letter that appeared in the Champion Draughts Players Quarterly Review in 1895 described his first encounter with checkers champion Andrew Anderson, and it was obvious that John McKerrow was in awe of the checkers master:
"I admit I felt a little trepidation as I approached the great man, but I
was soon relieved and put at my ease by the open winning smile, which
was a peculiarity of his to the last, the quiet unobtrusive manner and
gentle tones of his voice and the kind, nay affectionate, way in which
he talked to me, an entire stranger, making enquiry as to my health and
sundry other matters...One of those rare characters which we meet
with, alas at too long intervals, as we journey through life.”
McKerrow’s description also mentioned Andrew Anderson’s air of resigned weariness evident the whole time they spoke, his ‘mild blue eyes’ and sandy brown hair ‘that "kaimed" over his brow in a primitive fashion’, and which resulted in a singularly innocent look. According to McKerrow, checkers champion Anderson’s face was an extremely interesting one that was a reflection of his character if one took the time to look closely within and study the quiet personality that was represented there. What better characteristics for a champion checker player? Unassuming, pensive, and resigned. Qualities that could easily disguise a shrewd mind and analytical personality in a checkers match.
At the time of this meeting between checkers champion Andrew Anderson and John in 1830, Anderson would have been all of 31, and yet McKerrow thought that he was closer to 40 because of his slight stoop and medium, rather slender build. Andrew Anderson did not cut an imposing figure at all and was simply an ordinary man, who enjoyed spending his leisure time developing his checkers skills.
Champion Andrew Anderson became renowned as the first World Champion the game of draughts/checkers produced, and held this title from about 1830 until 1848 when he retired undefeated. His most worthy opponent was James Wyllie, also nicknamed "The Herd Laddie". Wyllie gave Anderson a run for his money whenever they played a match of checkers, but Anderson truly demonstrated his game skills each time they met. Wyllie was Anderson’s opponent in five matches from 1838 until 1847.
In 1838, the match was played in Edinburgh for a grand prize of £10, and Anderson came out the winner; in 1840 they played yet another checkers match in Edinburgh, with a purse of £40 this time, but again Anderson succeeded as the winner; 1840 saw Anderson and Wyllie meet in the Clydesdale Hotel and play for £100, and once again Anderson was the winner of the checkers match; then in Carluke in 1844 they played for a purse of £130, but this time, Wyllie won the match, and Anderson's only loss was attributed to the death of his wife, Catherine, shortly before the match so that his concentration was truly not on the checker games; and finally, in 1847, Wyllie and Anderson met in the Robin Hood Tavern of Edinburgh and played for £40, with Anderson coming away as the winner once more.
Although little detailed historical information exists from the period between the 1830’s and 1840’s, it could be said that Andrew Anderson was the greatest player ever of that time, considering his undefeated career. It was indeed a feather in Anderson’s cap to have beaten the great James Wyllie at checkers, especially considering that Anderson defeated Wyllie four out of five matches.
In 1848, Andrew Anderson wrote the first edition of his book called The Game of Draughts Simplified and Illustrated, wherein the checkers game was discussed on a scientific basis. His book, published in Lanark, clearly displayed an analysis of the highest standard, and he showed himself to be an author of outstanding ability. Andrew carried his game skills to a new level in his written work.
In 1852, checkers champion Andrew Anderson published a second edition of his book, The Game of Draughts Simplified and Illustrated. This later printing was the important one, as it introduced a better arrangement of the play, standardized the laws of the game, fixed the nomenclature of the openings, and since Anderson was one of the finest players of the checkers game, also excelled in accuracy. In Anderson's time, little was known about the openings beginning with any move other than 11-15, and it was not until more than thirty years later that the other openings received more adequate recognition. These moves were recognized in Robertson's Guide to the Game of Draughts, and perhaps better still in Lees' Guide (1892).
Andrew Anderson, along with his friend,John Drummond, coined the practice of naming the various openings in checkers to give the game a frame of reference, and of course, this is something that has survived into game play today.
The Checkers World Champion was a skilled and superb player as well as an author of exceptional ability: as a player, Anderson demonstrated fine judgment and excellent analysis; as an author, his writing, though perhaps not an easy road to follow for all players, was always extremely popular and well used as reference material.
After his retirement as World Champion in 1847, champion Andrew Anderson still maintained his popularity and was called upon to serve as a match second and game analyst. He also gave up a lot of his personal time to promoting the game at all levels. His checker-board "always sat on the window sill beside his weaving loom", so that although he would analyze as he worked, Anderson was always willing to stop and play a game with any visitor. The love of the checkers game was deeply within him, and he enjoyed any opportunity that was offered to step onto the game board again.
Once Anderson had officially retired from match play, the title passed on to James Wyllie, who made the game his profession and traveled all over the English-speaking world to play it.
In 1854, Andrew Anderson formed the new Lanark Parish Draughts Club. The championship medal for this club appeared over 40 years later in the possession of one William Davie, a clothier residing in Lanark, and he passed it over to the club in 1896. That same year a hairdresser named Mr. Morrison won the checkers club medal, which would be passed on to the next checkers champion because the medal carried with it an old rule that it "can never be permanently won and that the holder must be at the Cross of Lanark on the last Friday in April each year at noon, to answer any challenge which may be forthcoming."
Champion Andrew Anderson Bio
Andrew Anderson died on March 1, 1861, after a long illness. Andrew was buried with the rest of his family ~ his father, William, his mother, Mary, and his son, William ~ in the old cemetery in Carluke. The first World Champion in the game of Checkers/Draughts left behind a great legacy in the level of game play, the named openings, and the quiet resolve demonstrated in his personal strategy and success.
Long after his death, Anderson’s popularity remained alive and stories continued to circulate. Thirty-three years after his passing, the Glasgow Weekly Echo of 1894 printed this humorous story about Anderson’s meeting with an ‘invincible and undefeated’ checker player:
“One morning an acquaintance met Anderson dressed in his Sunday garb.
"Hello Andra! Where awa' this morning?"
Andrew, in the course of time, reached his destination, found the young, unconquered Bailliestonian, and introduced himself, saying that he had heard he was a grand player at the "broad" (draughts board) and that he had come all the way from Braidwood to have the honor of a game or two.
"Oh! Weel I have never been beat an' ye canna beat me because I'll no play
No amount of persuasive argument could induce the ‘invincible’ one to produce the board. Anderson then proceeded to Coatbridge to holiday
with his friend, Mr. Thomas Mochrie, another excellent player.”
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Checkers is a two-player game, where one player is assigned white-chip checkers and the other red. The aim is to play checkers online, capture all of the other player's checkers or make them impossible to move.