American Pool Checkers and Champions
An interesting characteristic that has become
a part of the American Pool Checkers identity
is the creation of nicknames for many of
the players. These nicknames are often quick
innovative and unique. Some bear witness
to the style or personality of the player
himself. Also, in the past, mostly men played
this form of checkers, though now more women
are also stepping up to the checkerboard
to try a hand at gaining the ultimate win.
Judging by their new monikers, one might
contemplate that the names belonged to gangsters,
ballplayers, other sports figures, or musicians
instead of older gentlemen who while away
their time and enjoy a good American pool
checkers game at the checkerboard with a
friend or family member. Some interesting
nicknames include Hit Man, Big Willie, Junebug,
Concrete, and Chicken George. Though many
other names stand as well, and these players
are proud of their nicknames.
A 72 year old former contractor, George
Few, held the nickname ‘Concrete’ and
in his game, he played hard. Though the
game is played for fun, these checkers players
take each game seriously and they work hard
to achieve a winning outcome.
Since its conception, the Georgia
Pool Checkers Association has cultivated nine of
the last eleven National Pool Checkers Champions. Calvin
Monroe, who is now a retired Atlanta firefighter, has had
several first place finishes.
Calvin “Iron Claw”
Monroe vs Michael “Draw Man”
Henry Miller in gray shirt & Robert Ringer
watch the pool checkers action.
Monroe, an American Pool Checkers Champion,
learned the intricacies of a subtle game
of checkers when he was a boy hanging around
his uncle's store in Anniston, Alabama. After
he moved to Atlanta, he found it a soothing
and relaxing pastime activity during his
twenty-three years with the local Fire Department.
was a form of therapy for me. Firefighting
is a stressful job. I saw dead bodies and
all sorts of things. Playing this checkers
game was like going fishing."
Calvin Monroe always considered himself to
be a solid checkers player; however, he didn't
achieve Grandmaster status until he befriended
Vladimir Kaplan, a Russian immigrant in Brooklyn,
New York. Kaplan had won multiple titles
in the arena of Pool Checkers and for a number
of years, Monroe had the opportunity to study
the game under Vladimir Kaplan either in
person or over the phone.
Although Checkers and its variants is extremely
popular in Europe, with the exception of
Vladimir Kaplan and Iser Koeperman, and perhaps
an occasional checkers player from abroad,
American Pool Checkers in the US had traditionally
been the province of black checkers players,
so it was a rare opportunity for Monroe to
learn from a European Grandmaster.
The following scene is indicative of many similar
situations in American Pool Checkers across the country.
It might be a lazy Sunday afternoon after church, or an
evening activity after work, and yet again, a tournament
weekend at the checkers club. People are into their strategies
at the checkerboard and eager spectators watch the display.
For Calving “Iron
Claw” Monroe, it is a typical
afternoon at the club, and he is locked in
a tense match with an old nemesis, Michael "Draw
Man" Jordan, who is a former
Greyhound driver known for his ability to
snatch stalemates from the jaws of defeat.
Holyfield," Monroe says. "You
hit him and he hits back hard."
Jordan doesn't look up. After winning a couple of games
and eking out a few draws, he's lost four straight and is
focused on avoiding a fifth. One more defeat and he'll have
to buy everyone a snack or a drink ~ house rule.
But they don't call Monroe "Iron
Claw" for nothing. When he clutches his
fifth straight game, he doesn't whoop or pump a fist.
He lifts his large, intense eyes from the board and
fixes them on his opponent.
"Peanut butter crackers would be good," he says.
That's Pool Checkers for checkmate!
In one tournament, Albert "East
Point" Barnett, who remodels
homes, won second place but believed that
if he had tried a little harder, he would
have succeeded in first place. Barnett
had already won six tournament titles and
a seventh would not have hurt his pride
at all. He plays out of Atlanta, and believes
that all the best Pool checkers players
reside in his home city. Some players would
like to see that change. Barnett, whose
six titles have netted him six $500 checks,
would welcome more diversity in the Pool
Checkers tournament arena, if only to increase
the prize awards at the National tournament
more white people playing American pool
checkers. When white people get involved
in something, they figure out a way to
make money at it. Shoot, I'd go pick 'em
up and throw 'em a cookout if we could
get more white people to play."
However, there are still members within the
checkers association who are content to leave
things the way they are with the same old guys
enjoying the same old game in the same old
Within the local clubs of the American
Pool Checkers association, the game rules
are distinctive so that the players can enjoy
a faster, more challenging contest than the
ones regular checkers provides. In Pool Checkers,
unlike Straight Checkers, uncrowned pieces
can jump forward and backward and kings can
range the length of the board, jumping pieces
several squares away, which makes for quicker
movement across the checkerboard, according
to Pool Checkers players. This, of course,
is open to debate between the two factions
of American ‘Straight’ Checkers
and American Pool Checkers.
Moreover, the club rules are also distinctive: no
swearing, no drinking, no drugs and no gambling.
Sounds like heaven or a place close to it. The
from eras gone by were definitely rigid about these policies
because they did not want any distraction from their
games of checkers.
Many, like Barnett, still reminisce about
times’ of days gone by when
two pool checkers players could pick up a
checkerboard and play a quiet checkers game
anywhere they felt inclined, as in a barbershop
or under the shade of a tree. Life was simple
then, but rules have changed over the years
and the checkers clubs are where the action
now takes place.
Inside many of these establishments, a visitor
will find old photographs on the walls paying
tribute to the achievements of past members
or winners and many a checkers champion may
be the masters of this fading domain.
The Atlanta Pool checkers club once held
a membership of over one hundred, but with
time, this number dwindled as the passion
for the checkers game faded. The younger
generation did not appear to be interested
in taking up the checkers standard and some
of the clubs actually began to die out. However,
in recent years there appears to have been
a resurgence of interest in the mind sport
called checkers as new promotion is taking
place because of its inherent skill set,
and new faces are stepping into the checkers
clubs for a taste at the checkerboard. A
greater number of younger minds are finding
checkers as a good outlet for analytical
development and are realizing that there
is a challenge deep within the complex plays
if one chooses to search for them. Furthermore,
more women are also looking at the American
Pool Checkers game as a method of leisurely
enjoyment and fellowship.
In the realm of American Pool Checkers, however, most
of the membership still appears to be past retirement
age, though a fair number of players are also in their
forties and fifties. However, the game needs greater
promotion to bring in the young minds from adolescence to adulthood.