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Checker Champion Alex Baljakin Contests World Championship

In 1994, he contested the World Championship in Den Haag, Netherlands and faced a roster of knowledgeable checkerists in this checkers arena. However, he was outplayed by Guntis Valneris, who placed first and Harm Wiersma, who ranked second and then Alex tied for third place and the bronze medal with Macodou N’Diaye at 24 points. Then the following year, Alex Baljakin participated in several checkers competitions at the club and national level. His checkers skill led to yet another prize and title, as he placed first in the Grandmasters 1995 competition also held at Harderwijk. Here he defeated Harm Wiersma, Bassirou Ba, and Alex Schwarzman in checkers matches in a run for the championship title.

He also faced skilled opponents across the checkerboard in the Maars Tournament held by the Gelderse Dambond (Checkers Club) that year. His challengers ranked high in the checkers world: Guntis Valneris, Ton Sijbrands, Alexei Tsjizjov, Vadim Virni, Iser Koeperman, Alexander Dibman, Alexander Schwarzman, Auke Scholman and Macoudou Ndiaye. It was a field of high caliber games, wherein checkers strategies and game board tactics abounded until the final round. Guntis Valneris placed first with 19 points, followed by Alex Baljakin in second place with a final score of 16 points. Sijbrands ranked as 3rd, Alexei Tsjizjov and Vadim Virni finished in a tie for 4th.

Following this competition of skill and ingenuity, Baljakin played in the Heijtings Damtoernooi or tournament hosted by his home checkers club, DV VBI Huissen. Alex’s games were part of Group A and again many of the familiar European faces were there. Guntis appeared to be on a winning streak because once again the Latvian Grandmaster took first place and the championship cup with a score of 15 points. Alex ranked third for Bronze with 9 points.

Baljakin also enjoyed the challenge of meeting opponents at the checkerboard in the Russia-Netherlands Championship match in Rotterdam in 1996. One of his competitors was Harm Wiersma and the challenge was on for the win.

Checkers Champions Alex Baljakin vs Harm Wiersma Picture

Alex Baljakin vs Harm Wiersma
Russia-Netherlands Championship, Rotterdam Netherlands.

Checker Champion Alex Baljakin

The World Checkers Championship path led the master players on a sojourn to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa for 1996. The list of contenders recorded leading players arriving mostly from Europe. Familiar checker faces, familiar checker styles, so who would take the winning prize this time? Challenge after challenge one round at a time and eventually the leaders set the trend at the checkerboard.
In the last round, Rob Clerc defeated Alex Schwarzman to end his tournament play in a tie position with Alexei Tsjizjov with a final score of 15 points. Schwarzman followed just behind the competition leaders with 14 for a second place finish. The next in line was Alex Getmanski and then Guntis Valneris also tied with Anatoli Gantwarg. In this world play, Alex Baljakin ranked somewhere around 5th, also tied with Edvard Bouzinski.

The final decision for the World Championship checkers title did not take place until early in 1997 when Rob and Alexei fought it out across the checkerboard for the honor of being World Champion in the International checkers arena. During this match held in Groningen, Tsjizjov defended his title and successfully defeated Clerc nine to seven to remain the World Champion for yet another year in the field of checkers.
Alex Baljakin continued to play the mind sport at various levels and faced numerous opponents in challenging and perhaps not so challenging checkers matches over the next couple of years. Then he entered the World Rapid Draughts Championships in 1999 and by displaying his inherent checkers techniques, finished the competition in second place and received the Silver Medal as reward for his skill in the tournament.

Alex Baljakin in the 21st Century Checkers Arena

The 21st century brought another time of change for Alex Baljakin and also a period of increased checkers activity, as he participated in a variety of checkers matches. From the beginning of his Russian checkers journey in the 1980’s through to Minsk, Belarus in 1990’s, Alexander Baljakin contested many European competitions and several World Championship tournaments. Although he won first prize in quite a few checkers matches, the ultimate place as World Champion has so far eluded the Russian/Dutch Grandmaster.

Considering the number of checkers games Alex has so far played and the number of places he has traveled to in order to participate in competitive play, it is obvious that he has a true heart for the mind sport and a natural drive to compete with skill and finesse, while seeking the ultimate win. If the unsmiling face usually seen in his photos is any indication, it would be easy to surmise that Baljakin has always been very serious about his checkers game. His visage is usually one of deep concentration and focus on the action on the checkerboard and only a break from the strategic or tactical moves on the game board will draw him away from that attention.

Over the years, Alex has been very successful in the checkers realm and has acquired numerous top level placements and awards, but he has yet to see first place in the World Checkers Championship. Baljakin is one of several checkers Grandmasters who has favored this mind sport for almost two decades. In 2000, he continued to travel the checkers circuit and entered a number of different tournaments, primarily in Europe. He placed first in the Nijmegen Orap Open Dutch Championship and won the Gold medal after a play of ten rounds with an end score of 16 points, followed closely by Alexei Tsjizjov, Alexander Schwarzman and Guntis Valneris with 15 points.

Then in the Bijlmer 2000 Open, Alex Baljakin was one of three master players who shared 2nd to 4th places. Schwarzman and Valneris were his checkers partners in this rank. The winner of the competition was Ndiaga Samb, an African Grandmaster now playing in Holland and showing the wealth of game knowledge acquired in Africa.

The following year, sometime in 2001, Alexander changed his domicile again as a result of a conflict with the Minsk Checkers Association. Baljakin came to Canada but found that the Netherlands was more interesting because of the major checkers clubs competitions. He acquired a temporary residence visa for the Netherlands and by the following April had lived in Holland long enough to then received his Dutch citizenship.

Within a short period of time, Alex Baljakin quickly reached the ‘A’ class status for a sports figure. This national level secured Baljakin a position in a sports career as a ‘profdammer’ or professional Dutch checker player wherein top sportsman in the Netherlands are paid an income, or scholarship, to live on so that he could now focus on his particular sport ~ namely, International draughts/checkers. This salary has allowed the Dutch Grandmaster to pursue his specialty in the mind sport. Alex also became a coach within the Huissen checkers club and over the years has earned a reimbursement or income from that as well, which has allowed him to maintain his checkers profession.

In an interview a few years ago, checker champion Alex Baljakin stated that this remuneration as well as the winnings he has acquired through his checkers tournament and championship play has given him enough to sustain a decent living for his wife and daughter in Arnhem.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, Baljakin has availed himself of numerous opportunities to meet and defeat high caliber opposition at the checkerboard and he has been rewarded with various gold, silver and bronze medals, as well as trophies and cups to signify his accomplished career as a Grandmaster checkerist.
In the Netherlands Orap Open of 2001 held in Den Haag, Alex was one of five master players to contend for first place with a score of nineteen points and in other competitions, the end result has often been a point or two differential.

In some checkers tournaments, the high level of competitive play across the checkerboard leaves the referees with the ultimate decision of final ranking and often, in later years, the result has become one score for many players. Who ranks where? The ultimate wins and draws take precedence over any loss in match play and the final checkers total score determines the finish. Often it is merely a point that separates the rank in a tournament play or the difference between the medal positions.








DeerLake Online Store Items

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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