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Checkers Game
Player Sam Gonotsky

Sam Gonotsky Game

Sam Gonotsky Checkers 1902 - 1929

Another dynamic American checkers player from the early 20th century was Samuel Gonotsky, born in Poland in 1902. Unfortunately, Sam only lived for a very short time but checkers game player Sam Gonotsky was still able to leave his mark on the checkers world through his meteoric career as a checkers champion.

Player Sam Gonotsky and Willie Ryan knew each other well as they grew up together and became friends. They understood each other and shared a common interest in the great game of checkers. It seemed that Willie knew his buddy, Sam, better than anyone else.

They both enjoyed playing checkers and devoted a lot of their time to developing solid skills. A bonus for these two friends was the reward of making money while playing against opponents in checkers. Checkers player Sam Gonotsky was Ryan’s mentor and teacher, and according to checkers sources, it is believed that Willie Ryan thought highly of Sam, and wrote in his books that Gonotsky was one of the greatest checkers players in the history of the game, even if he only blessed the checkerboard scene for a few shorts years.

This statement certainly bears credence considering the fact that Ryan and Sam Gonotsky played over 800 checkers games together, and sources say that Sam won over 100 of those games against Ryan. Throughout Willie Ryan’s early checkers career, Sam Gonotsky was the one who encouraged him to develop techniques and analytical skills, and in consequence, Willie gave Sam the chance to practice the checkers game with regularity and thus had constant practice and very good competition. They were both a bone for each other and Sam Gonotsky, without a doubt, provided a constructive and positive influence for Ryan. However, during these early days, Willie was no match for Gonotsky. He came into his own much later in 1939.

However, during their close relationship, Sam Gonotsky quickly developed a checkers mindset and used all available resources to his benefit. Sam was a man of small stature, and yet, it is said that with a protruding forehead, he struck terror in the hearts of his peers as he displayed a "sphinx"-like appearance at the checkerboard.
His sharp features would indeed lend a certain stern or even harsh look as Sam concentrated on a checkers game, and he took his play very seriously so that his intensity would also cast a certain demeanor over the checkers champion.

It would appear that there are no known checkers games between checkers game player Sam Gonotsky and the two other recognized great players of that era; namely, Asa Long and Newell Banks. It is only a hypothesis that the other checkers champions may have avoided challenging player Sam Gonotsky because of his fierce checkers reputation. Or it may also be possible that Sam avoided playing the others or that time simply didn't allow for checkers matches with Asa Long or Newell Banks, as they, too were caught up in their own lives and checkers championships. However, some sources believe that Sam Gonotsky was the most feared checker player in the world, and if this was indeed so, then it is conceivable that the others may have had their own reasons for not wanting to play Gonotsky. Of course, this is only speculation and unless there are records to the contrary, checkers enthusiasts will not glean the true answer to this theory. Checkers player Sam Gonotsky was unquestionably one of the strongest natural cross board checkers players who ever lived, and may even be considered one of the greatest all around checkers champions in the history of the mind sport.

Unfortunately, Gonotsky was denied a chance at the World Championship title because the World Champion, Robert Stewart, was unable to defend his title at that time due to ill health as he had contracted Alzheimer’s. Sam Gonotsky and Sam Levy did challenge the title, but Stewart was never in a position to defend his title and it basically went unchallenged for sixteen years. Perhaps the world checkers community should have formulated an edict that if the champion was unable to defend the title after a certain period of time, then the championship title became ‘open’ to new defenders. Using this philosophy, it is feasible that Sam Gonotsky could have successfully claimed the title. Considering this, player Sam Gonotsky could certainly be considered the Uncrowned World’s Checker Game Champion from 1927-1929.
Checkers became Sam’s life and in 1924, he entered his first national checker tournament This was his first major checkers success because he outplayed and beat Alfred Jordan, to claim the title of American Champion by winning the 6th American Checkers Tournament in New York City.

Then during the following year in 1925, checker great, Louis C. Ginsberg, challenged Sam to a 30-game match played in Brooklyn, New York. The purse of $500.00 was offered and this was substantial for that period of time. Sam Gonotsky won the match with two wins, no losses, and twenty-eight draws.

These games clearly indicate the level of checkers play that player Gonotsky had developed over the years because both Alfred Jordan and Louis Ginsberg were world class checkers players of their time, and Sam Gonotsky was able to beat his opponents without much quibble.

Always studious, Gonotsky and another friend, Mike Lieber, continued to work on their checkers game and readily used the great resources at the Brooklyn Library where the finest checkers library existed.

Then, in 1927, the 2nd International Match between the U.S. and Great Britain was held at the "Hotel Alamac" in New York City. By this time, many strong checkers players had been born in the U.S. and the U.S. team consisted of such great checkers players as Asa Long, Mike Lieber, and Sam Gonotsky, and these young men were all in their early twenties. The World Title was still back in Scotland with the World Champion, Robert Stewart, but the American team had an opportunity to play against other great players from Great Britain.

During this international match, Gonotsky clearly showed his checkers ability, where he scored a total of thirteen wins, no losses, and twenty-seven draws for the U.S. Team. His performance in the 1927 2nd International Match was indeed amazing and he was the high man for the U.S. Team. This record had only been achieved once before in the 1st International Match in 1905, by Richard Jordan, the World Champion at the time, who also had a high score of 13-0-27. However, checkers player Sam Gonotsky claimed that his record was better than Jordan ’s score because Richard was in several losses and missed several wins during that 1905 match, but player Sam Gonotsky was not in any losses and did not miss any wins.

Of course, checkers experts have questioned Gonotsky’s claim over the years, and some have reviewed Sam’s games from that tournament and have stated that his claim wasn't quite accurate. However, he truly believed that his record was better than Jordan’s. "This ties Dick Jordan's record (in the 1st International Match games) but mine is better as I was in no losses, and missed no wins." Time may have tempered that statement, but regardless, Gonotsky’s result was amazing.

His checkers ingenuity and cross-board skill in the 1927 tournament qualified Sam Gonotsky as the best player in the world, a fact that was acknowledged by everyone in checkers during that time period.

The following year in January of 1928, U.S. team member and friend, Mike Lieber, also a world-class checker master who was undefeated with a score of 8-0-32, challenged Sam Gonotsky to a 40-game match that offered a high stake of $1000.00 wherein the winner takes all. This was unheard of in 1928. The checkers match was played in Long Island, New York, and the result had and unusual outcome of 40 draws. This result certainly made an impact on the checkers world at that time because Mike Lieber was reportedly very well prepared with a whole manuscript of cooks and a personal coach, Jesse B. Hanson, whereas Sam Gonotsky was not prepared at all and actually played the checkers match with very little notice. However, checkers great Sam Gonotsky relied on his great cross board ability to see him through and it did because he was able to tie his counterpart, manuscript and all.

Later on that year, Sam entered his second National Tournament that was held at Cedar Point, Ohio. This match was for the 11-man ballot championship of the world. Once again, Sam’s checker play was successful and gained him another win in this National Tournament. In this event he was in three known losses, but winning two games in which he was in a loss and drawing the other one, and thus exhibiting cross board ability of the highest caliber, rarely seen before or since.

Then in 1929, player Sam Gonotsky entered his third National Tournament, which was the Seventh American Checker Tournament, also known as “The Rump Tourney”, held in March at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. He won the tourney much as everyone expected but not without working for it, and little did the public know that this was to be Gonotsky’s last tournament.

In Round 4 of the tournament, Sam defeated Jesse Hanson with one win, no losses, and five draws, and then, in the final round, he defeated Hanson again with the score of two wins, one loss, and three draws. However, Sam Gonotsky was not a well man during this tournament; in fact, though he did not know it, he was literally a dying man. He coughed a lot and began spitting up blood, and they actually stopped the tournament play on six separate occasions due to his severe coughing spasms. However, this did not stop him from offering a stunning performance by playing game after game of magnificent checkers.

After his win, Gonotsky returned to Detroit, where he was employed by Chrysler, and shortly thereafter, he was hospitalized. Unfortunately, a mere seventeen days later, Sam Gonotsky died in Hurley Hospital, Flint, Michigan, on April 5, 1929, from Pleural Tuberculosis. He was only twenty-six, and the real tragedy was that his death followed that of his friend and checker companion, Mike Lieber, who had died as a result of the flu epidemic only two weeks prior to the tournament. With the death of Sam Gonotsky, America lost one of the greatest natural cross board checker-playing talents ever developed in this country. To this day Gonotsky is considered to have been one of the best to ever play checkers.

The following account, entitled A Gonotsky Gem, was written by Bob Podoff, who personally knew Samuel Gonotsky. In it, he sheds some insight into the young checker player from 1920’s, and discusses the quality of his checker prowess and cross board skill.

“When I was 16 years of age, I was Junior Checker Champion of Brooklyn. I had played 4 draws with Willie Ryan; I had defeated Ben Boland in a short match 2-1-3; I had won one game from Monte Schleiffer; I beat Louis Burt in a 10 game match 5-2-3. All the games were of course GAYP, as I didn't know any other style then! The time was 1946 and I frequented Harold Fisher's (not Fischer) checker club, called "The New York Academy of Chess & Checkers" in Time Square every Saturday. It was there I met my first mentor, A. J. Mantell. We soon became good friends. One Saturday we were talking about Sam Gonotsky. We both admired him very much. Abe said to me, "How would you like me to run up a game for you that I witnessed in the rooms of the old Brooklyn Checker Club about 1924 or 1925? This was one of the greatest endgame wins I ever saw in my life." I then proceeded to copy down the moves and put it away in an envelope and completely forgot about it all these years.
I was clearing out all my old papers and envelopes full of tons of old checker games in preparation for the 2001 ID's, when to my surprise and pleasure I ran into this old masterpiece that I had long forgotten about. It is a real beauty. It highlights the pure simplicity and elegance of Gonotsky's brilliant style much better than I can say in words. He was playing Hershkowitz (or Hershkovitz) a well-known member of the club, not known as a book player, but a very dangerous and strong cross board player who was also famous as a champion Spanish Pool player. It was for 50 cents a game Gonotsky never played a game (unless it was for money), and of course Sam had to give him the draws. Nobody at that time ever played checkers player Sam Gonotsky unless he got odds.
This game illustrates Gonotsky's clean, clear, simple, open style of play. This game may be the ultimate Gonotsky game, showing his great endgame ability and his superb cross board prowess for which he was very famous and feared.
All I can say is that this game has never before been published, and I am proud and honored to be the one to finally show this great masterpiece and example of Gonotsky's true great ability and genius to the checker fraternity.”

To Play Dyke Checkers Game 1924 Click Here










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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