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Checkers Game Champion
Newell William Banks

Checkers Champion Newell Banks and Strickland

1887 – 1977

Checkers game champion Newell William Banks was an American checkers and chess master, and was thought to be one of the finest checker players of all time. Due to a long life of ninety or so years, he spent much of it facing opponents across a checkerboard.

He began playing the game very early in life and it has been noted that Newell Banks played his first game of blindfold checkers somewhere between the age of five and a half and seven years at the Detroit Chess and Checker Club.

The child prodigy obviously would have spent many hours practicing moves and playing checker games with numerous different opponents. A player may possess a natural skill that surpasses ordinary playing, but he would still have to devote serious time to develop the inherent ability and to hone the craft to the next level of expertise. This is best done through countless hours of tireless play across the checkerboard.

While studying the game of checkers, checkers champion Newell Banks also developed an interest in the game of chess, and over the years, he excelled at both board games. Newell Banks learned the moves of chess at home from his father. In 1901, at the age of 14, Banks met a Russian refugee, named Schiffman. Before leaving Europe, he had assisted two aspiring young players, who were called Rubinstein and Salve. When Schiffman saw the potential in Newell, he took an interest in the young boy, who from then on progressed rapidly in the game of checkers.

This is indeed a rare phenomenon, for most checkers players would likely favor and eventually choose one or the other sport to play in competitions. Banks seemed to enjoy devoting time to both and challenged many masters with equal time in checker and chess tournament matches.

In 1907, at the young age of 21, Newell Banks won the U.S.A. Championship in a checker match where he defeated Hugh Henderson, a strong Scottish player, now residing in the U.S. During the month of August 1912, the second American Checker Association tournament was held at the Breakers Hotel with a purse of $1000 as the prize fund. The tournament and its purse attracted the interest of forty masters and some checker players of lesser skill.

Missing from this event were the former U.S. champion, Charles Barker, who had died three years prior at age 51, and A. J. Heffner, who was unable to get time away from his position as a railway clerk. Among the contenders of the second tournament were such favorites as two "transplants" to America: the former English champion, Alfred Jordan, and a Scottish competitor for the championship of his native country, Hugh Henderson, who settled in the coal district of Pennsylvania. Henderson believed that he had been unjustly passed over as the fifth member of the Scottish team in 1905 in favor of checker master, James Searight.

The forty checker contenders were divided into four groups of ten each, wherein they played a two game round robin, with the high four from each group advancing to the single knock-out master's tourney.

The sixteen players to advance to the checker tournament finals were: Newell Banks, Alfred Jordan, Hugh Henderson, Harry Lieberman, H.B. Reynolds, Louis Ginsberg, Patrick Whalen, John F. Horr, Julius D'Orio, F. R. Wendemuth, L. J. Goldsmith, A. J. Klinka, T. J. Harrigan, Sunset Bell, H. O. Newcombe, and L. R. Winnemore.

In the second round, Henderson defeated Horr with a score of 3-1-4, Reynolds defeated Whalen, Jordan beat Ginsberg, and Newell Banks was defeated by Harry Lieberman. After this hard checker match against John Horr, Hugh Henderson defeated Alfred Jordan in the semi-finals, and Reynolds in the finals to become the first American Checker Association and National Champion. This was a feat that he had been unable to accomplish in his native Scotland.

Checkers Match
Newell William Banks Tied

Although Richard Jordan had never actually won the world checker title, he was considered as World Champion, and in 1914, Newell Banks challenged Jordan for the title, but they tied the match. Then three years later, in 1917, Richard Jordan challenged Newell again for the championship, and this time, Richard defeated checkers champion Newell Banks.

However, this defeat did not deter Newell Banks from playing against James Stewart in 1922 for the checker world championship, but unfortunately, once again Newell was unsuccessful in his game play as Robert Stewart won the match. After this game, Banks repeatedly challenged Stewart but James simply refused to play against Newell, but the reasons for this refusal are still not clear.

The following article from the March edition of The British Chess Magazine in 1922 discussed champion Newell Banks as a checker and chess player, and on this occasion Newell was in England to play for the Draughts (checkers) Championship of the World:

Mr. Newell Banks, of Detroit, U.S.A., who has come to
England to play a match for the Draughts Championship
of the World, is also a strong chess player...

At Draughts, or Checkers, as they call it in America,
he was quite a “prodigy” for he played a game blindfold at
the age of 7. At 21, he won the U.S.A. Championship by
beating Hugh Henderson, formerly a crack Scotch player.
Scotland is in fact the spiritual home of draughts
(checkers), and the match for the world’s championship,
aforementioned, is between Mr. Banks and Mr. Robert
Stewart, of Kelty. Play commences at Glasgow on January
28th, will be 40 games up, with the ‘two-move restriction”
rule in operation.

Champion Newell Banks holds the record for simultaneous play at
draughts (checkers) by contesting 102 games at Boston,
USA,in 1915. He won 74, lost 4 and drew the remainder.
All this only took two hours and 45 minutes.
Another notable performance was a combined
simultaneous display of draughts (checkers) and chess at City
Club, Cleveland, Ohio. Here, 47 games of draughts and 28
of chess were played at the same time, with the result
that the single player won 35 and drew 12 at draughts,
won 26, drew one and lost one at chess.

The match referred to resulted, after a strenuous
fight on February 9th, in a victory for champion Mr. Robert Stewart by
by two games to one while 37 were drawn. This is a record
number of draws in a championship contest. Mr. Stewart
won the fourth and eighteenth encounters, and Mr. Newell Banks
the twenty-ninth. Experts, who were present, affirm that
four chances of turning draws into wins were missed.
Whether this is so or not will be proved when the games
have been examined and annotated.

The British Chess Magazine and Newell Banks
Newell Banks newspapper article

Newell Banks also loved the game of chess and was known as one of the few board players who had gained mastery at both games. In 1926, in the Master's Invitational Chess Tournament in Chicago, Banks, the U.S. checker champion, defeated Isaac Kashdan and U.S. Chess Champion Frank Marshall, and drew with former champion Jackson Showalter, Samuel Factor, and Oscar Chajes.

Newell William Banks holds the world’s championship speed record at mixed play, which includes both board games of checkers and chess. At one time he played 75 checkers and 25 chess games simultaneously, while also completing six games of blindfold checkers in a total of four hours. The result of this complex game play was that Newell won sixty-five checkers games and drew ten, but he also won four blindfold games and drew two. At the same time, Newell Banks won twenty-two chess games, losing only one, and drawing two. This amazing display of game ingenuity and absolute skill was took place in 1932 at an exhibition that was held at the Tuller Hotel in Detroit.

Throughout his career, checkers champion Newell Banks was a notable personality discussed in many magazine and newspaper articles. By 1933, Banks held all speed records at blindfold and simultaneous checkers as evidenced by his blindfold play of twenty games at one time in a matter of two hours and twenty-five minutes in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where Newell won seventeen games, and drew three. It was also noted that he set a new blindfold speed record playing sixty-two games in the course of four hours, and here he won sixty-one with one draw. This exhibition match was played at the Convention Hall in Detroit, Michigan.

Also in that same year, at the Century of Progress in Chicago, Newell Banks played a phenomenal one hundred and forty games of checkers simultaneously in two hours and twenty-five minutes with a resulting score of one hundred and thirty-three wins, and seven draws. When the results are calculated per game, the outcome was an incredible average of about one move per second. It is doubtful that many checker masters could compete on that stage. This was also an amazing testimony to the talent and skill of this master checkers game player.

In 1934, Newell Banks claimed the checkers World Championship title since Robert Stewart would not play in the competition; however, England still considered Stewart to be the champion. Later, Asa Long challenged Newell for the checker championship and defeated Banks in this match in 1934. By this match, 3-move restriction was in use, and this rule called for the first three moves of the game to be chosen at random from a list of accepted 3-move openings. This rule was applied to prevent a lot of games ending in a draw, and allowed for a greater number of checker game variations.

To read more on Newell Banks

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Wonder Mugs Play checkers online, and enjoy drinking from this cool wonder mug.
When adding hot liquid, the colors of the mug will change, checkers cool.

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.

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