Checkers Game Tournament
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.