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Lafferty
Checkers Games

Don Morgan Lafferty

Lafferty checkers games from 1933 to 1998.

Throughout the course of checkers games history, North America and Europe have witnessed the birth of many great board players. This mind sport may not rank high on the worldwide sports scene and may not receive a lot of media coverage, other than a few random newspaper stories, but the checkers scene has definitely not yet passed into oblivion. In fact, it is still very much a part of the lives of many checkerboard enthusiasts.

Another such spirited checkers player was Grandmaster Don Lafferty. He was born August 5, 1933, in Barren County, Kentucky. Like many of his peers, Lafferty first became interested in checkers games at an early age while playing with his uncle and grandfather.

The endless game possibilities intrigued his curiosity; so much so that later he was coached in his board game by Horace Steen, who was also young Walter Hellman’s checkers games coach in Gary, Indiana, in the early 1930s.

Although checkers games became an integral part of his life, Lafferty still pursued his education through high school and into post-secondary education. Lafferty received a Bachelor’s degree in math and physics from Western Kentucky University at Bowling Green, Kentucky. Then he continued his education in graduate studies at both Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he earned a Master’s degree in Math and Physics as well as thirty hours for a Rank One Teacher’s Degree.

Don Lafferty used this educational background to establish himself as a high school math and physics teacher in Kentucky. He retired from the field of teaching in 1988. It is likely that his innate math skills assisted his checkers games much in the way that Tinsley’s math genius was in tune with his checkerboard expertise.

Lafferty was active in the checkers games circuit during the early 1950’s but took a hiatus until 1960 while he pursued his studies. However, once he was back at the checkerboard, his skills displayed a solid understanding of the game.

During his lifetime, Don Lafferty sat at the checkerboard as a willing and more than capable opponent in many different checkers game tournaments; in fact, the account of games and matches is probably not complete as not all the checkers records that were compiled appear to contain all the details from every tournament game held.

Checkers Grandmaster, Don Lafferty, also traveled thousands of miles across the U.S. as well as across the Atlantic to Britain. He also made trips to Edmonton, Alberta and one down south to Barbados to attend a variety of checkers game matches and championships.

His record shows that he played in eighteen Southern States Tournaments that were held in a variety of locations from small rural towns to large urban cities. Lafferty entered his first major checkers tournament at the age of 18 in 1951. This tourney was held in Nashville, Tennessee, and he placed really well for a young novice checkers games player by ranking 4th in Masters, behind W.Q. Gresham, Sanders and Fields.

In these tournament matches, Don Lafferty displayed a keen checkers mind and developed game skills as he placed 1st on seven occasions, ranked 2nd one time, received 3rd place once, placed 4th three times, and ranked 5th and 6th on one occasion, respectively. Lafferty also tied for 1st and 2nd twice during the match plays and tied once for 3rd and 4th place. In one match, Lafferty scored out of the prize list and that was due to illness so it could be said that he definitely wasn't on top of his checkers games at that time. These matches were played from 1951 onwards during the following years: 1953, 1960-61, 1963-64, 1969-72, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1985, 1988, 1992 and 1995.

Don Lafferty also entered twelve Northern States Tournaments in 1955, 1964, 1969-73, 1984 and 1990-93. In his first of these tournaments, Lafferty was only 22 and he ranked 9th at the end of the competition; however, he went on to play against many checker game notables to achieve the following ranking in these matches:

  • 4 ~ 1st
  • 2 ~ 2nd
  • 3 ~ 3rd
  • 4 ~ 4th
  • 3 ~ 5th

During one match, Lafferty tied Walter Hellman and then also received 2nd in honors due to twenty draws in five rounds. As with many of the champions in the checkers games arena, Don possessed a true love of the board game and as a result, also challenged different masters in other state checkers game tournaments.

In 1954, Lafferty won his first Kentucky State Tournament, which was one of 12 where he was a Masters competitive through to 1975. He placed first in each of these tournaments. Don Lafferty also ranked first in the Tennessee State Checkers Games Tournament and the 6th District Open Tournament. In 1962, he won the Florida State Open Tournament held in St. Petersburg, Florida. His 1st place was ahead of N. Wexler, Burton, Lober and Elbert Lowder. Though exact records don’t exist, Lafferty also won numerous other state, district, and local competitions.

The checkers games trail didn't end there, however. Don Lafferty was also a Masters competitor in thirteen U.S. Open 3-Move Tournaments held anywhere from Illinois to Virginia to Tennessee to North Carolina to Mississippi to Florida to Alberta, Canada and also miles away in Barbados in the West Indies. Lafferty competed in these matches during 1962, 1964, 1970, 1974 and then every two years from there on until his three-way tie in 1994.

He tied with Chinook and Marion Tinsley for first, second and third place in the title checkers games match in Garland, Texas, that Marion Tinsley began but was forced to withdraw due to poor health. Don Lafferty stepped into Tinsley’s place to finish the checkers match. Marion Tinsley received the ranking of 1st on honors.

In the other checkers matches Lafferty seated well in the Masters Division of checkerboard tournament play as he ranked the following:

1 ~ 1st
2 ~ 2nd
1 ~ 3rd
4 ~ 4th, where one was a tie with Asa Long
3 ~ 5th.

Were these many checkers game competitions the extent to which Don Lafferty committed his time and game expertise? No, indeed. He also played in five U.S. Open GAYP Tournaments held in 1981, 1983, 1985, 1993 and 1995. Don placed first in Sanford, Lexington and Nashville, but in the last two tourneys, he ranked fifth behind Elbert Lowder, Ron King, Jim Morrison, Richard Hallett and Jack Francis. However, the latter results did not reflect that Don Lafferty’s game was waning but simply that his opponents in these matches were in top form and perhaps visualized more opportunities on the checkerboard than he did.

Throughout his checkers career, Don Lafferty became a Grandmaster checkers games player with great skill and at times vision in his board play. Between 1983 and 1995, he also participated in two International Checkers Game Matches as a member of the U.S. team against Great Britain, four GAYP World Title Matches and four 3-Move World Title Matches.

During the 4th International Match held at the International Checkers Hall of Fame in Petal, Mississippi, Don scored three wins, zero losses and eleven draws in 7 Rounds and in the 6th International Match in 1995, also held at the ICHF, Lafferty’s record was five wins, zero losses and nine draws in 7 Rounds of match play. In both of these events, since the USA held a significant lead, Don graciously retired in order to give the alternates a chance to play the last three rounds.

The Grandmaster’s checkers games record for the World GAYP Title Match again gives credence to Lafferty’s checkerboard skill. In 1982, the championship match was held at Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Lafferty won the title in his play against Grandmaster Derek Oldbury with a score of one win, no losses, and twenty-three draws. Then in 1984, again at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Don Lafferty defeated checker master, Paul Davis, by an end score of five wins, no losses and fifteen draws.

The World Title Match for GAYP was held in Cave City, Kentucky, in 1986. Don Lafferty tied Jim Morrison with no wins and twenty-four draws and then in 1989, at ICHF in Petal, Mississippi, Don Lafferty played against Elbert Lowder. Once again the Grandmaster was successful in his board play and retired undefeated due to illness. He beat Lowder with a score of four wins, three losses and sixteen draws. Lafferty retained the World GAYP Checkers Games Title and was GAYP Champion from 1982 until 1991.

In the 3-Move World Title Match Play, Don Lafferty played opposite Marion Tinsley in 1987 at ICHF in Petal, Mississippi, but was defeated by Tinsley, whose end score consisted of two wins, no losses and thirty-eight draws.

1994 and 1995 saw the Grandmaster Lafferty play in the Man vs Machine checkers games title match. He played against Canada’s Chinook computer program. The first match was played in Boston, Massachusetts, where Chinook and Don tied with one win each and eighteen draws. The second match was held at the International Checkers Hall of Fame in Mississippi. Chinook defeated Lafferty with a score of one win, no losses and thirty-one draws. During this match, 30 draws were played until Chinook finally won the 31st game. It was definitely a checkers challenge to the finish and under the circumstances, Don Lafferty fared extremely well.

Then in 1996, Lafferty traveled to Barbados to play the checkers games championship match against Ron King. The match ended with a tie of five wins each and thirty draws.
Even though Don Lafferty participated in hundreds of checkers games across the country, he still had time for four other 3-Move Exhibition matches:

  • 1982 in Carrollton, Illinois, at the home of Louis Van Deven, Lafferty played a friendly practice match with Asa Long, which resulted in 2 wins - 2 losses - 8 draws.

  • 1991 in St. Petersburg, Florida, Lafferty defeated Chinook with an end score of 3 wins, 2 losses and 11 draws.

  • 1993 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Don again defeated Chinook with a result of 3 wins, 1 loss and 14 draws.

  • 1994, also in Edmonton, Lafferty and Chinook tied with no wins and 18 draws.

During the period of time between the summer of 1990 and January 1995, Don Lafferty played Chinook numerous times and leads the checkers computer program in total games of match and tournament play by the close score of 8 wins, 7 losses and 109 draws. Checkers games sources believe that Don Lafferty was the only human checkers player to have the score on Chinook and that, in itself, is an amazing legacy to leave behind for future generations of checkers enthusiasts to ponder over.

Don Lafferty loved the challenge of a strategic game of checkers and faced many master players across the checkerboard. The following list clearly indicates his commitment to the game because he was an opponent on more than one occasion to these checkers greats: Mike Loew, Ed Bruch, Elbert Lowder, Edwin Hunt, LW Taylor, Ed Scheidt, H. L. Cravens, Walter Hellman, Derek Oldbury, Jim Morrison, Tim Laverty, Basil Case, Marion Tinsley, Asa Long, Richard Hallett, Les Balderson, Joe Schwartz, Paul Davis and Ron King of Barbados.

In a little trivia called “What is Harder ~ Chess or Checkers?” there is always a debate between checkers and chess players. In a “Deep Blue Gary Kasparov” Chess match, the commentators made mention of the game of Checkers being “mastered” or “solved” by the “Chinook” computer and Don Lafferty had this comment to make:
“They must have a pipeline to heaven. The only ones who have mastered this game reside there.”
Of course, the “debate” about which game is harder, Chess or Checkers, will always continue. When facing an opponent across the board, the player must play what s(he) can see, not what is listed in a literary source in the library or in a database. Said the chess player: “We play chess, we can’t analyze it.” Said the checker player: “We analyze Checkers, we can’t play it.”

Throughout his amazing checkerboard career, Don Lafferty simply played his game of checkers. On September 23, 1997, Lafferty made the following comment as to the reasons for much of his game success:
“...I have indeed been very fortunate for many years to have had as close friends and mentors the great players; Walter Hellman, Marion Tinsley, Edwin Hunt and Asa Long. Also, my good friend, Richard Fortman, has supplied me with wonderful play and much help for a long time. Whatever I have accomplished in our grand old game of checkers in a positive way is mainly due to their kindness and endless help - many thanks old dear friends.”

”It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of Don Lafferty on June 7, 1998. As a man, Don was exceedingly kind, a great friend of the Chinook team and a fine gentleman.”
Jonathan Schaeffer, University of Alberta (Chinook Founder).








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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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