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Checkers Game Champion
George M. Tanner

Throughout the course of checker history, there are many stories of great achievement and phenomenal success within local game play and tournament matches, and there are also tales of sadness where checker greats die early in life due to illness or accident, but perhaps one of the most tragic stories belongs to a checker great, who was not recognized for his gift within the game because of the time and place in which he lived.

Checkers game champion George M. Tanner was born in 1885 in Illinois, and lived most of his life in Chicago. His game history and successes in checkers speak for themselves. Champion George Tanner was a gifted checker player who became the Chicago Checker Champion in five successive years between 1911 and 1918.

In 1914, champion George Tanner defeated the famous Internationalist, Jesse B. Hanson, by a resounding score of five wins to none, with eleven draws. This was indeed a feat for George Tanner because Hanson had once defeated the great Alfred Jordan in a match, after which Jordan had proclaimed that Hanson was "the equal of any player in the world." So, the fact that Champion George Tanner was able to beat Jesse Hanson was a testimony to his champion checker skills indeed.

Unfortunately, however, though Champion George Tanner qualified for the majors in the third American Tournament of 1915, he lost to Hanson in a match with a score of one win against Hanson’s three wins, and two draws. George Tanner’s checker ability still reigned high in these two matches because he outscored Hanson with six wins to three and thirteen draws. These games certainly do speak loudly for the game skill of this fine checker player. Tanner continued to play numerous checker games on the American circuit, and in 1919, George beat Stewart S. Bell by a score of four wins, two losses, and 9 draws, and this was the exact same score that defeated Spielman. A year later, George Tanner again challenged Stewart Bell to a match and came out victorious with a score of three wins, one loss, and fifteen draws. At this time in checker history, Stewart S. Bell was a well-known, skilled checker player so once again. Tanner also became the Illinois State Checker Champion in 1919, 1920, 1923 and 1924, defeating the renowned player and author, Preston H. Ketchum in 1924. Therefore, his wins were definitely reflective of his innovative play and game ingenuity.

In 1922, checkers player George Tanner placed 9th in the fifth American National Tournament, slightly ahead of H. B. Reynolds, who finished 11th. He lost to the great checker champion, Asa Long, who became the eventual winner of this tournament. However, during this tournament match, George Tanner forced Asa Long to fourteen games before Long finally beat him after thirteen hard draws. In the playoffs of this tournament, champion George Tanner beat Internationalist checker player, H. B. Reynolds with a score of one win, no losses, and three draws.

In the sixth American Tournament, George Tanner ranked 7th, just behind Stewart, who tied for fifth and sixth place.

Then in a sixteen game Match for the Chicago Challenge Cup, George Tanner handily defeated Morton B. Spielman with an end score of four wins, two losses, and nine draws.

In 1924, George M. Tanner won 7th prize in the sixth American National Tournament, where he defeated the great checker internationalist player, Mike Lieber by one win, no loss, and five draws. Lieber placed eighth and H. B. Reynolds placed twelfth.
George Tanner’s greatest desire and ultimate goal was to become a member of the American team in the second International Match against Britain, and if not as a lead player, then as an Alternative, at the very least. Tanner’s checker ability was recognized on page 83 of the sixth American Tournament book, in the following quote,
"With such a splendid record in match and tourney play, we might venture to state that he has surely earned a right to be considered as worthy timber for the International Team."

This is where the story of checker player, George Tanner, becomes a little more speculative. When the research was first completed on champion George Tanner, a major source stipulated that George did not make the American checker team and did not play in the second International Match in New York in 1927. This was, of course, most unfortunate because Jesse Hanson had the second worst score on the American team, winning only eight games while losing five, and Heffner, who was the captain and coach of the team, won only six games and lost five. Further speculation suggested that although George Tanner possessed a great checker prowess, he did not make the U.S. team because he was an African American player living in a time of racial turmoil.

Yes, in 1927, America was a country that was racially divided, bigoted, and socially biased. Champion George Tanner lived in an era that was blatantly prejudiced and as a result, was segregated. The source could only surmise that the fact that he was a black man who played checkers in a higher realm and not just as an entertainment at the local store or with friends in the neighborhood would have been cause not to invite him to play on the American team.

George M. Tanner had certainly earned the right to play checkers at a higher level and deserved a place on the U.S. International Team, even if it was only as an Alternate player. I know that there are several sources that believe that it was an injustice and a disgrace that George Tanner was not selected to play on that team; if fact, it was a sad testimony of the times that he was not even considered to play the part.

Tanner’s story also suggests that it was a grave loss for the American team, but worse, yet, the whole situation broke Tanner’s heart, and destroyed both his pride and self-esteem. It’s been said that this total lack of consideration for his checker skill and sportsmanship hurt him so much that he never played another game of checkers. He quit the game completely and stepped away from the checker arena for good.

Oddly enough, however, as the writer researched other checker players, two pictures were unearthed that definitely contradict the latter part of George Tanner’s tale.
Apparently, he was chosen as a member of the American team to participate in the second International Match against Britain. At least, this is what the two photographs taken of the American team in 1927 would suggest. George Tanner is standing in the back row of the first photo and on the left side in the second photo, both taken during the International Match. Could he have been an alternate? Yes, that is possible since no discussion exists on him or his play during the tournament, but he certainly did take part. Whether or not he quit checkers after this match is uncertain, and the rest of George Tanner’s story is mere speculation since no other checker sources have written any accounts on this American checker player.
Scenes from the 2nd International Match:

American Team of Checkers Officials
American Team and officials

Bottom: left to right. T.J. O'Grady, John F. Horr, A.J. Heffner, Harrah B. Reynolds, Newell Banks. Center Row: Harry Lieberman, Mike Lieber, Sam Gonotsky, Louis Ginsberg, Jessie Hanson, Andrew Dossett. Back Row: John Bradford, Asa Long, John Finley, Joseph Lanin, Will Tyson, Saul Weslow, and checkers champion George Tanner.

Checkers Champion Officials Game








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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