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Elbert Lowder
Checkers Game Tournament

Checkers Game BoardOlder Elbert Lowder

Elbert Lowder plays in checkers game tournaments from 1932 to 2006.

One of North Carolina’s greatest checkers players was Elbert Lane Lowder. He was born on March 3, 1932 in Albemarle, North Carolina and was the youngest son in a large family of thirteen born to Lawson Cornelius and Icie Jane Lowder.

Elbert Lowder started playing the game of checkers as a teenager at sixteen. He would often watch and later play the mind sport at Efird's Café, which was close to home and also where the best local regular checker players would gather for a friendly game or two.

In 1949, at the age of seventeen, Elbert Lowder entered his first checkers game event in the Southern States Tournament held at Spartanburg, South Carolina. Lowder placed fifth, and that was certainly an achievement for a checkerist so young. Later that same year, Elbert Lowder played in his first NC State checkers game tournament that was held in Asheville.

The following year, Elbert Lowder graduated from Albemarle High School but continued to play checkers in the competitive circuit. In 1952, at age 20, the young checker enthusiast won his first championship at the North Carolina State Checkers Game Tournament held in Winston-Salem.

Elbert took a hiatus from the checkers arena when he joined the U.S. Army and served actively for two years from 1952, as a Teletype operator in the signal corps in Italy. When he returned home after his tour of duty, Elbert attended Rockwood Piano Institute in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, where he trained to become a professional piano technician.

In 1960, Elbert Lowder moved to Sanford, North Carolina, where he owned and operated his own business called "The Piano House". Here Lowder sold, serviced, and moved all kind of pianos but his specialty was rebuilding the "Pianola" player piano. He was recognized as one of the best in the business for his craftsmanship in restoration and his conversion techniques. While Elbert enjoyed his business venture, he loved the game of checkers and would also spend many moments analyzing the play across a checkerboard.

Then Elbert Lowder decided to expand his business in 1979 into a partnership by bringing in his business and checkers partner, Tim Laverty. The two checker associates operated the piano dealership until Lowder’s death in 2006, thus leaving the business to Tim Laverty, who continues to run the business today.

Although Elbert Lowder made his living in the piano business, his first love had always been checkers and throughout the course of his life he developed a love of this wonderful mind sport. Much like many true checkers enthusiasts and master players, such as Marion Tinsley, Elbert practically dedicated his life to the great game of checkers. He spent two thirds of his life facing numerous challengers in over two hundred and eighty different checkers game tournaments. The North Carolina State record book confirms that from his first North Carolina State Title until his death, Elbert Lowder dominated the state checkers arena for fifty-five years. This included thirty four state title championships.

The following checkers statistics truly indicate the commitment that Elbert Lowder possessed when it came to the board game. He played against many high ranking opponents in twenty one consecutive U.S. OPEN 3-Move Checkers Tournaments since 1956 and a total of twenty nine U.S. 3-Move National Championships. In 1992, Elbert Lowder was the U.S. 3-Move Championship title, although Ron ‘Suki’ King from Barbados won the checkers game tournament. His placements in all the U.S. 3-Move checkers tournaments were as follows: six 2nd place ranks; two 3rd place finishes; six 4th place results; three 7th place scores, and Elbert was out of the prize list four times. His last checkers tourney was in June 2006.

However, the above checkers matches were only part of his amazing record. Elbert Lowder also played in fifteen, consecutive U.S. Open National GAYP, Go-As-You-Please, Checker Game Tournaments from 1977 to 2005. His results for these matches were as follows: 1st place three times; 2nd place on two occasions; 3rd ranking four times; 4th place twice; 5th rank one time; 7th place twice, and 11th rank once.

Lowder’s checkers expertise and solid game play led him on to win three National GAYP Championships in 1977, 1987, and 1993. He also became the U.S. GAYP Checkers Champion in 1989, though once again Ron King who won the tournament. Elbert’s mastery of the checkerboard led to top place finishes in all the other GAYP checkers game tournaments. Elbert Lowder's last GAYP tourney was in 2005.

The 3-Move and GAYP National Checkers Game Tournaments were not the only competitions that Elbert Lowder enjoyed during his checkers career. He was also a master competitor in forty four Southern States Tournaments from 1949, and became the successful champion of twelve of those matches, while also achieving second place or runner up in nine tourneys. Elbert Lowder also ranked 3rd in twelve and 4th in two of these southern checkers championship competitions.

Since there are gaps in the record keeping of early checkers game tournaments during the years of 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1957 and 1965 because the governing checkers bodies only listed the top prizewinners, it is quite possible that Elbert Lowder also played in some of these tournaments, but simply didn't rank with the high contenders. Elbert’s last Southern checkers match was in 2004.

Records also show that Elbert Lowder played in thirty-two Southeastern Checkers Game Tournaments. These are now called District 4, and he won the D4 Championship twenty-three times. His last D4 tourney was in 2005.

The above checkers game tournaments were not the only competitions that attracted Elbert’s attention and checkers expertise. He traveled many miles to play in at least thirty-eight Florida Open Tournaments since 1957. His checkers ability brought him championship wins with one tie ten 2nd place ranking, with one tie as well as seven 3rd place finishes. The Tennessee Open also attracted his attention, and he competed in twenty-three of these matches, though he only won the checkers game tournament once. He was out of the prize list on three other occasions.

Of course, the home state of North Carolina was his true ‘hunting ground’ for checkers competition. Lowder faced many challenging games with numerous well known checker masters, and his skill at the checkerboard brought him great success and well-earned achievements. Elbert was a competitor in thirty Northern States Checkers Game Tournaments, in which he defeated his checker opponents handily to win twelve matches, though one of these ended in a tie. The master Elbert Lowder also place 2nd seven times, and ranked 3rd on three other occasions.

Fifty-seven North Carolina Open Checkers Game Tournaments saw Elbert Lowder listed as an entrant, and many checkerboards saw the Grandmaster play against worthy, checker masters. Elbert defeated a roster of checkers champions in this State Championship to win the title on thirty-four occasions. This record included one tie, in 1996, where he held the Co-Championship with his business and checkers partner, Tim Laverty. Elbert Lowder played in his last NC Open in 2006.

In his long checkers career, Elbert did have one major upset in 1992 at the National 3-Move Championship Checkers Game Tournament, held in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Elbert Lowder should have won the tournament because he had played his checkers game so well that until the last round against Ron King, the match was his. All Elbert needed was a draw to win the title.

In the 8th round with King, the checkers opponents were in a 3 on 3 position, with two singles and a king apiece. Elbert stated three times, "agreed draw”, but King rejected Lowder’s request and answered, "let’s play". The Position was a draw. They continued the game, as a draw can only take place when both opponents agree to those terms, and King slow moved Elbert to a checkers death, causing the master checker player to step into silly endgame trap. Lowder became really upset over King’s tacky method of play. In a fit of anger, Elbert slapped the checkers off the board and threatened to quit checkers! This was indeed a heartbreak for Elbert Lowder.

Thankfully, this unfortunate loss to King was not a catalyst that caused the Grandmaster to leave the checkerboard forever. He did compete in various other checkers game tournaments after such a sad ending to a great match.

Elbert Lowder’s checkers skill was not merely confined to U.S. championship tournaments. He was a recognized member of the U.S. International checkers team that played against Great Britain in regular International Matches.

The Grandmaster’s honed checkers ability and strategic techniques were successfully put to the test in four International Matches: 1973, 1983, 1989, and 1995. In the 1973 Third International Match between Great Britain and USA that was held in Bournemouth, Hampshire, England, the U.S. team remained the World International Checkers Champions by a score of 77-22-99. In this match, Elbert Lowder by nine wins, four losses, and five draws. This was an above average individual performance, and certainly made a significant statement about the checkers skills that Lowder possessed.

During the 1983 Fourth International Match that was held at International Checkers Hall of Fame (ICHF) in Petal, Mississippi, Elbert’s personal score was 10-3-7, and the U.S. team took the checker Championship from Britain once more. When Elbert Lowder played on the U.S. checkers team in the Fifth International Match in 1989, at Weston-Super-Mare, England, he scored seven wins, two losses, and eleven draws.

In 1995, Elbert Lowder was once again chosen to play on the U.S. checkers team in the Sixth International Match against the Great Britain draughts team. This checkers game tournament was also hosted by the ICHF in Petal, Mississippi, and Lowder’s personal score was 9-0-9.

The Grandmaster’s overall game score earned during the four international checkers matches that he participated in totaled to 35 wins, 9 losses, and 32 draws, which gave him a win over loss record of close to 80%. Experts have since rated his checkers expertise as fourth behind Asa Long, Leo Levitt, and Jim Morrison. Elbert Lowder ranked fourth out of a total of 110 participants over the 100 years that these matches have been played, and that is indeed a personal achievement.

Although Elbert had a business to run, his deep love of the checkers sport and the mental challenges that it offered spawned his desire to travel across the country and overseas to attend many different checkers game tournament matches and to compete against top Master and Grandmaster checkers players.

One would think that the more than 272 or so checkers game tournament would have appeased the checkers spirit within Elbert Lowder. However, that was not the case. In the 1993 GAYP National Tournament in Danville, Virginia, the checker master commented in an article entitled, Crowning Glory, that “It’s not a big money sport, like other sports”...”but I really love it.”...”Money is not the motivation”, Mr. Lowder said. “It usually isn't enough to cover your expenses”...”I love this game. That’s why I travel hundreds of miles to play it. It is for the love of the game and the competitiveness, the will to win.”

It was obvious that Lowder meant every word of this statement because not only did he play in checkers game tournaments around the country, and across the Atlantic Ocean, but he also put his checkers ingenuity to the test in 10 World Title Matches/World Championship Matches against master players like Ed Scheidt, Marion Tinsley, Derek Oldbury, Richard Hallett, Don Lafferty, Leo Levitt, Ron King, and Alex Moiseyev.

Elbert Lowder became a Grandmaster of the game because he was a scholar at checkers and spent a lot of time studying the checkerboard and playing hundreds of challenging games. This checkers master was known worldwide in the checkers arena for his brilliance and creative play. It was his shear genius that ‘saved several mail play openings from the untenable trash can’. The Twilight Zone and Black Widow Openings are good examples of his fine analytical contribution to drawing the critical openings that rounded out the 156 deck. Many of these openings were thought to be losses by checkers experts and analysts but his draw lines were proven years later. At the time when Elbert accomplished drawing these openings, there were no fast computer search engines, phenomenal opening book databases, or even ten piece endgame databases.

The checkers community has also given Lowder the credit for instituting the checkers game tournament "Lowder Rule", which prohibits the delay of a checkers game. This rule allows the tournament referee to mandate the draw after a 40 count of one minute per moves have been completed without the advantaged opponent showing progress.

Elbert Lowder was a unique checkers player, who readily distinguished himself as the author of unusually aggressive play. It was his "double dare" style that set him apart from published play champions or mere book players. It was the Grandmaster’s forceful originality and aggressive, explosive unpublished play that attracted Derek Oldbury’s attention in their 1976 match. Oldbury was so impressed and so captivated by Lowder’s individual style that he recognized a need to preserve and perpetuate the GAYP style of checkers. DEO was so caught up in the unique checkers styles of master players at the Sanford Nationals that he actually bequeathed funds to the ACF to insure that the GAYP National Checkers Game Tournament would continue in the future.

This great checkers player traveled thousands of miles during four weeks of each year to play State, District, and the National Checker Tournaments, and he traveled twice to England with the U.S. team to play in International matches. Checkers was his passion and Elbert Lowder was always ready to support and promote checkers game tournaments. Elbert was obsessed with checkers and exuded this energy by sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with others. He never married and he said his love of this great game would probably have been a good cause for divorce because he traveled so much, and obviously, he did not have any desire to give it up.

The checkers master player was also an active member and committed officer of NCCA as well as a lifetime member of American Checker Federation and North Carolina Checker Association. It is clear that Elbert Lowder was a World-Class Grandmaster Checker Player, who accomplished nearly everything in the world of checkers. He was respected as a champion player both nationally and internationally and as one of the greatest checker players of all time.

On the debacle of the game between Lowder and King in 1992, Richard Fortman commented to Howard Gain in a letter:

“In 1992, at Hot Springs he had the championship in his grasp needing only a draw with Ron King in the final round. Lowder offered a draw 3 times, with King rejecting. I was the referee and standing by. All he had to do was appeal to me after which I would have declared the position a draw. But Elbert was stubborn and also mad, commencing to move rapidly (which King wanted) only to fall into a "cheapo" trap that lost, after which he swept the pieces off the board in despair and disgust. That was his finest hour and never repeated.”

Lowder’s checkers record is clear evidence that during his fifty-five year career, he played in more checkers events than anyone else in modern times. At the time of his death, Elbert Lowder was recognized by the ACF as the 4th highest rated player following Alex Moiseyev, Ron King, and Richard Hallett. He loved and dominated the 11-Man Ballot checkers game tournament, in which he was the undefeated World Champion until his death.

During the course of Elbert Lowder’s checkers career, he became a notable personality in the checkers arena, and was actually the subject of over 52 newspaper articles. Below are just a few examples of his checkers ‘fame’.

To Continue reading about Elbert Lowder.

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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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