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Checkers Champion James Wyllie

Checkers Champion James Wyllie

The legendary Scottish world checkers champion James Wyllie (left), was almost invincible in the period 1860-1900, in one of his matches against his opponent Robert Martins.

James Wyllie was another Draughts-playing from Edinburg. Wyllie also set the checker world on fire with his ingenuity and personal charisma. Champion James Wyllie left a legacy in this mind sport that is still apparent in the game today, and as a result, the world owes this unique character a tremendous debt.

Authorities are not quite sure as to the actual date of his birth but place the day as July 6, though some say he was born in 1818, while others claim his birth year to be 1820. This would make James Wyllie about twenty or so years at the Andrew Anderson’s junior. The fact that such a young checker player was able to challenge a great checker champion like Anderson is indeed amazing.

The Young champion James Wyllie: He was born at Piershill Cavalry Barracks, Edinburgh, as his father was a trooper in the Scots Greys. In 1826, Wyllie’s father was discharged from the Army and returned home to Kilmarnock with his wife and family. The young Scot was brought up in Ayrshire, and it quickly became apparent that James Wyllie possessed a retentive memory and a mathematic ability.

In the early 1830's, he saw some youths near his own age playing draughts, (or checkers as we know it) and the game caught his interest as well. However, after approximately three months of practice the others informed him that he was so stupid in the game and would never become a "dambrod" player. The advice, instead of discouraging Wyllie, spurred him on to renewed efforts, and after a lot of practice, he was soon able to give the best players in his locality a real challenge in a game of checkers and defeated them with ease.

Though Wyllie was apprenticed in Kilmarnock as an apprentice in the trade of a carpet weaver, this occupation did not suit his personality or interests and so he abandoned it for the nomadic life of a peddler. With a stock of hardware, he traveled through the surrounding countryside, selling his wares while at the same time displaying his checkers’ skill. His wanderlust had him always on the lookout for a new checkers challenge.

As soon as the young checkers game player arrived at each village and small community, champion James Wyllie would keep his eyes open for a "dambrod" or skilled checker player and then invite the owner to play. One of his first matches was at Kirkconnel, where he played the district champion, Mr. Lees, for a small sum. Most believed that James Wyllie did not stand a chance against the master, but they were wrong because the 12 games ended with a tally of Wyllie having won nine games, Lees winning only one game, and two games resulting in draws.

After this match, the young Scot played against strong checker players in Douglas, where he faired very well. However, the most difficult test James Wyllie faced was at Biggar, where he challenged the local champion, a farmer named Core. Once again, luck or fate was on champion Wyllie’s side as he succeeded in the match yet again.

It was during this phase in his checkers career that champion James Wyllie acquired the nickname of the ‘herd laddie’, one that would be part of his persona for the rest of his life. While at Biggar, he met a stock cattle farmer, Mr. Porteous, who was a keen checker player. Porteous saw the youth's expertise at the board and devised a plan to give the "cracks" in Edinburgh a pleasant surprise so he offered James Wyllie an opportunity to drive Porteous’ cattle to market in Edinburgh, and the young checker player readily agreed. Just as Wyllie rounded up cattle and drove them to market, he rounded up game after game and drove them into checker championships and made them into the checkers ring.

At the capital, Porteous met with someone he knew, a Mr. Bertram, and arranged a match between James Wyllie and Bertram for a shilling per game. Bertram easily agreed to this match, not realizing that he had been caught in a snare.

Soon stakes were doubled as Wyllie won game after game, though Bertram did occasionally secure a draw. It was obvious that Bertram was outclassed in this match. Wyllie profited greatly from the checkers games. Although some accounts of this match state that Wyllie scored 59 wins out of more than 60 games, it is not really known whether this story is accurate or has simply improved with every telling. One thing was certain: Bertram had been soundly beaten.

The account goes on to say that despite the defeat, Bertram was eager for revenge and so another match was arranged, but on the terms were not equal this time. Champion James Wyllie had to win 10 games before his opponent won one. However, this new game rule didn't alter the outcome ~ another defeat for Bertram. Wyllie's exploits in Edinburgh were not yet over. Other players came forward to challenge him. In 10 game matches and a £10 stake, he defeated one checkers player named McFarlane 8-0-2 and another player names Smith 9-0-1. Word of his exploits quickly spread the countryside and he became the hero of the Edinburgh players, from whom he received support and encouragement. Unbelievably, these game achievements took place in the early 1830's when champion James Wyllie was only in his teens.

Continue reading about Checkers Champion James Wyllie, Page 2








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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