Current Checkers Tournaments in the USA.
Checkers Champion Newell Banks Continued
One of checkers champion Newell Banks comments appeared in A
Chess Omnibus, where he stated that‘Draughts
is 80% memory, 20% intuition; chess precisely the
reverse’. This statement came from an article
by Banks that was entitled ‘Chess and its Sister
(1) ‘Chess is played with 32 pieces on 64 squares, draughts (checkers) with 24 pieces on 32, so that obviously there must be many more possibilities in chess, and consequently more complications. Complications do not always mean science.’
(2) ‘Chess is a game of the opening and middle game; checkers of the ending. Four out of every five games of chess are decided in the first 30 or 40 moves; only occasionally does a player wrest a win out of an originally even endgame. On the other hand, middle game combinations in draughts are rare, at any rate between good players, most games being decided only in the concluding stages.’
(3) ‘A chess position is easier to size up. You can often find the weaknesses in one player’s game at a glance, he has a bad pawn position or an exposed king, or such like. At draughts a weakness may be most subtly concealed, only to be exploited by one single delicately timed sequence of moves.’
(4) ‘Draughts (checkers) has been the more exhaustively explored, and it is in this connection that I think it must most definitely acknowledge the superiority of its rival. For instance, the “Single Corner” opening must have been played countless millions of times in the past 500 years, and is known inside out, to ten or 15 moves on each side.’
(5) ‘... Of the two games, which do I prefer? This is a question not to be answered lightly. Although as a draughts (checkers) player I held the American championship for 25 years, whereas my best achievements at chess were probably my isolated victories over Marshall and Kashdan in one tournament, I have to admit that I get more enjoyment out of my chess. Mainly for its greater variety.’
In 1947, at age 60, checkers champion Newell William Banks played for forty-five consecutive days at four hours per day, and this incredible display at a senior age brought forth a result of 1387 blindfold checker games, wherein Newell won 1331 games, lost only two, and had 54 draws, all the while playing six games at a time. These outcomes in checker scores once again demonstrate the acumen and prowess that this great master had acquired after so many years facing a checkerboard against many different opponents.
Also in 1947, Newell William Banks wrote a feature entitled ‘Chess vs. Checkers’ in Banks’ Blindfold Checker Masterpieces, from which the above photograph is taken. The following depicts some of his thoughts on the great game of checkers:
“In the course of 50 years of checkers and 45 years of chess, after a careful study of both games, I have reached the following conclusions. Checkers is a game of the endings or as it is often called a game of [scales] or balance, while chess is a game of time. In view of the fact that checkers is played with 12 pieces on a side, on 32 squares, while chess is played on 64 squares with 16 pieces a side, one does not have to be much of a mathematician to prove that chess has at least 100 times as many possible moves as checkers. This fact, however, does not detract from checkers since neither game has ever been mastered. However, if a mastermind could completely unravel the mysteries of both games, checkers, undoubtedly, would be mastered first. The end play in checkers is more subtle than chess, for while the moves are more restricted, the timing is, nevertheless, more profound. ... The overwhelming beauty in chess lies in the opening and the middle game, both of which fields, in my opinion, are unquestionably far superior to those in checkers.’
‘A beginner can learn to play a fairly competent amateur game of chess in one-third the time he can learn checkers. This does not mean that checkers is the more difficult game. What it means is that since checkers has been analyzed at least five times more thoroughly than chess, the beginner at checkers is called upon to absorb a formidable amount of book. It also means that checkers is a great game of memory, a point in its favor, from an educational point of view, since it is plausible to deduce that this practice would tend to stimulate the memory processes in other fields of endeavor.’
‘... As a youngster I learned more about chess looking over [Morphy’s] masterpieces, for about six months, than from any book I ever studied. I recommended the wholehearted study of Morphy’s game to the chess beginners. By all means let them delve into the Steinitz closed system of horizontal play, but, first, let the student be exposed to the principal of mobility, the beauty of dazzling sacrificial combinations and the open game.’
‘It may be wondered why I do not stress the merits of the endgame in chess. The reason for this is that 90% of all match games, as well as international tournaments, are decided in the opening and middle game, and it is indeed a rare occasion when a game is won by superlative endgame play.’
‘It is my contention that chess is a great asset to a checker player’s opening and mid-game strategy, while checkers is of great value in improving a chess player’s sense of timing in the endgame. For these reasons alone, I advise serious students, of either game, to study both chess and checkers.’
‘An important point stressed by most checker players in favor of checkers is the fact that you must move forward at all times until the King Row is reached, the slightest mistake usually being fatal. In chess, on the other hand, if a minor error is made, you can retreat (except in the case of pawns) and in many cases by doing so avoid disaster. Another point often made to stress the greater precision evolved in checkers is the fact that one piece down in any normal position will lose, while in chess even king and two knights will not win against a lone king. However, in actual practice, the fact remains that compared with checkers very few chess encounters are drawn, due mainly to the tremendous scope of the middle game, which has been aptly termed “The soul of chess”...’
The photo above depicts an aging great
grandmaster at checkers and chess, checkers champion Newell
Banks, 65, sitting to the right playing against
25 year-old checker wizard, Marion Tinsley,
in his 1952 match games. Tinsley eventually
won the sponsored match, but not without
being challenged many times over in a good
fight for the win.
“Mr. Banks has traveled over 1,000,000 miles in the past 45 years and played about 600,000 checkers and chess games. During this time, he has played over 80,000 blindfold games, which is a number that probably exceeds more than that of any three blindfold players combined in the past.
It is important to remember that Newell W. Banks is the only living master at both chess and checkers and also one of the leading promoters of both games in America. He is also one of the few men in history who can play both chess and checkers blindfold.”
When checker master, Richard Fortman, was asked what the biggest disappointment of his career was, he answered that it was when he lost to Newell Banks at the Bethlehem National Tournament in 1958 where Banks won two games to Fortman’s one, with five draws. He said, “After winning the White side of an Octopus with Tinsley's new 30-26 cook, I lost with Red on the 24-19 attack. After two draws, in overtime, we had 10-15, 24-20, 6-10, and I drew with Red. In game six with White, Banks went into a loss. In the mid game, seeing his position was bad, his face flushed, Banks made a motion that I thought was going to sweep the pieces off the board, but he held himself in check and managed to draw after I missed the win. He had earlier lost one round to Professor Fraser, so this would have eliminated him. He then went on to win game seven and drew game eight. I later lost to Professor Fraser in round four on a cook that Oldbury had shown him. This was my last national tournament.”
Veteran checker player, Newell Banks and
chess master, Leon Stolzenberg, plot a move
for the Monarchy team on the strategy board
before signaling directions to the living
In May 1959, Newell W. Banks, who was a
nationally renowned checkers and chess master,
gave another simultaneous checker exhibition
at the NCR Club, sponsored by the Dayton
Chess Club. Newell won nine games, drew 11,
and lost none. At age 72, the grandmaster
was still at the top of his game.
‘Finally, in answering the question, “which is the greater game – chess or checkers” – I must, in all frankness, favor chess. This statement, coming from the blindfold checker champion of the world may be received with real surprise by many checker players. However, I feel sure that any fair-minded person, reading this article, will understand the reasons that have led me to this conclusion.’
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