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Checkers Champion Robert Stewart

from 1873 to 1941

Scotland produced yet another checkers champion giant by the name of Robert Stewart, who was born on August 31, 1873, in Kelty, Fife. His birthplace was just ‘up the road’ about two hundred yards from Bridge House, Blairadam, where he lived most of his life. Champion Robert Stewart came by his love of checkers games naturally as his father was an enthusiastic lover of draughts and was the one who introduced the game to his son.
At the age of thirteen, in 1886, Stewart joined the Kelty Draughts Club and very quickly demonstrated an inherent skill in the game, and as a result, he became an extremely strong player within a relatively short period of time. So much so, that by the early 1890's, he had acquired a level of excellence in devising checker strategy and creating new innovative plays, which allowed him to defeat Richard Jordan in 1893.

Robert Stewart played for the Scottish Championship on several occasions and won the Championship title in 1894, 1895, 1900, 1901 and 1902. This was indeed a remarkable achievement as there were a number of great checker players on the scene at that time and they offered a high quality of opposition across the board. In the many checkers games he played against high-ranking and formidable opponents such as James Ferries, James Searight, Richard Jordan, George Buchanan, Henderson, and others, Champion Robert Stewart was able to acquire an outstanding score of that included thirty-five wins, eight losses, and one hundred and twenty-nine draws (35-8-129).

In the three checkers championship matches where England and Scotland faced off, Robert Stewart was one of the key players, and he succeeded in winning five games with no losses and twenty-six draws. Stewart was also a checker challenger on the British team in the First International match in 1905 between Britain and the US. Here he scored a total of 7-0-32.

From 1901, champion Robert Stewart’s checker career boasted an amazing feat in that he did not lose a single game in public during the next twenty-one years. Not many checker champions could share in such a phenomenal record, and one can only conjecture that his success was largely based on an insightful talent in the checkers game and a resilience to come back from a potentially losing situation with just the right strategic moves.

A crowing victory came in 1922 when champion Robert Stewart challenged the American Champion Newell Banks in a championship match and Robert Stewart emerged the winner with a score of two wins, one loss, and thirty-seven draws (2-1-37). This win secured him the World Championship in a match played in Glasgow for a purse of £500 in prize money. This victory was indeed an achievement for Stewart because not many checker masters won the World Championship title.

Of course, the hometown of Kelty was proud of its returning world champion and was waiting at the train station with playing bands and cheering crowds. However, Stewart caught wind of these festivities and left the train one station before Kelty and then walked home so he could avoid the crowds because as a quiet and reserved man, Robert preferred to leave all the pomp and circumstance to someone else.

Though a world class checker master who possessed innovative skill and an inborn ability in the game, he was still considered a somewhat eccentric personality by the locals in his surrounding community. Accounts told of times where he would be absorbed in his own thoughts and pass by a close family member in the middle of a country lane, yet say nary a word to that person. He also appeared to be a bit of a loner who spent a lot of time wandering throughout his estate but all the while, carrying a mini checker set in his pocket. This, of course, would present him with many opportunities to devise new ‘cooks’ and innovative plays that would take his opponents unawares. The serenity of these sojourns outdoors certainly allowed him timeless moments to hone his checker skill more and more.

Champion Robert Stewart checkerboard ingenuity was definitely one reason for his championship successes, but Robert Stewart also excelled in many exhibitions and checker demonstrations, thereby establishing a prodigious record within these events. One unique feat that most masters could not achieve was the remarkable ability as a "blindfold" player; that is he played without sight of the checkerboard. In order to perform in the outstanding manner in which he did, Robert would have had to not only memorize the board by heart but also the outcome of many checker moves. This indeed gave credence to a master of highly developed game skill because Stewart scored the following results in these ‘blindfold’ checker games:

Cowden Beith in 1904
14-0-0
Peebles in 1905
12-0-3
Carlisle in 1905
19-0-6

Robert Stewart’s checker career was a testimony to his amazing expertise in the mind sport with a record of 1101-0-182.
Record has it that champion Robert Stewart retired after the checker match in 1922 and thereafter, he did not play against any other opponent. However, during this same time period, sources say that the Americans tried to arrange another World Title match but claimed that Stewart would not play. But of course, Robert Stewart calmly denied this claim and offered a rejoinder stating that he had "On four occasions ...accepted proposals to cross the Atlantic. On each occasion the matter fizzled out because America could not raise the money." At this point in time, it’s hard to verify which version is truth, but the fact remained that he did not play checkers at the match level anymore.

Although Stewart retired from checker play in 1922, he was later scheduled to play Sam Levy of England for the title in 1937, but the match never took place due to Robert’s ill health. So eventually in that year, he decided to retire from the arena wherein he had thrilled many admirers by finally announcing, "I am now the retired, undefeated, world draughts champion." It was with obvious regret and poignant emotion that Robert Stewart made this decision, for he had held the World checker title for fifteen and a half years. Robert Stewart died in 1941, four years after his official retirement, and was buried in Kirk O' Beith cemetery close to his home in Fife.

Like many other checker greats, champion Robert Stewart was a master at the board game, who left behind a wonderful legacy recognized not only in his memory but by his phenomenal skill as a highly qualified checker champion.










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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