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Two Player Checkers

CHECKERS: A Profession or A Sport?

No matter the level of play, a game of checkers between two players is an entertaining and indeed, intriguing, mind sport enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Its popularity has grown tenfold throughout the generations and it is apparent that many gamers have spent entire lifetimes engrossed within the cross board play and the thrill of the next challenge, looming just around the corner.

So has this intense perspective brought forth ‘professional’ players within the realm of checkers? Is two player checkers then a profession, if so many are caught up in the game, over a lifetime? No, I believe that no matter how you slice the checkers cake, the game will always simply be a gaming checkers sport.

Moreover, those who are professional at the play are checkers masters and grandmasters and spend a lot of their time playing local games and traveling to tournament matches across the country or around the world following checkers championship sport tournament titles.

Checkers a Profession

Furthermore, the field of checkers or draughts has not developed to a professional status in terms of the purse awarded at tournament matches. Certainly, a monetary award enhances the prize of the winning title, but most professional championships do not offer the incentive of ‘big winnings’. Often, a trophy or plaque will also accompany the ultimate win, but checkers has not reached the pinnacle of financial merit the way many physical sports have achieved. Not that the recipients undoubtedly wouldn't mind it if the winning purse was indeed larger, but it appears that the prize is in the challenge of seeking the final win in the game or match by defeating your opponent’s strategies and board skill.

Also, research clearly indicates that the pursuit of professional checkers success does not simply fall into the category of the elite as in other sports. Checkers and draughts appeal to players from all walks of life. There are no economic, social or ethnic barriers that influence those who play in a checkers match. The only status applied to checkers is that of the player’s skill, whether it be novice, intermediate master or grandmaster.

Taking a walk into history has clearly evidenced that checker and draughts players have been ordinary people and scholars and have held many different professions. The following article from The Draughts Players' Quarterly Review in September 1893 gives mention to the various trades and careers of different checkers players from that era:

In a recent letter, Mr. Little, of Christchurch, New Zealand, informs us of a number of the old school of players who were weavers by trade. Containing the names of some of the finest exponents of the game that ever lived. We imagine that there is no other trade that can boast of such a fine galaxy of checkers sport players.

First and foremost is the renowned Andrew Anderson, then follows the aforesaid's great rival, James Wyllie, who is a carpet weaver. J McKerrow, Wm. Hay and John Miller of Baillieston (who sometimes played friendly sport games and occasionally held his own with Anderson), Robert White, of Parkhead, John King of Glasgow; last but not least, is James Little, Champion of Australian checkers.

To supplement the above, we give the occupations of a few players whom we have known. The late James Smith was a plumber, the late Harper Colthard was a schoolteacher, John Way was in the police force, Brown, of Bristol, was an engineer, Alfred Jordan, the present checkers sport Champion of England, is a tobacconist in business, E Kelly, ex-Champion of Canada and James Tonar, of Newcastle, are tonsorial artists. Willie Gardner is a boot and shoe maker, Christie of Durham and Valentine of Aberdeen are ships' platers, Beattie is engaged in the post office, Ferrie of Glasgow and Smith of Philadelphia, are in the engineering line, Robert McCall, of Glasgow and Richards, of Penzance, are compositors; and we could name a host of others, but space on this checkers online web site forbids us.

Many and varied professions and interests were represented by checkers and draughts sport players during the 18th and 19th centuries. This facet of different checkers personalities and professions has not changed within modern times. Once again, the opponents who face each other across the checkerboard represent both sides of the professional and non-professional realm: scholars, clerics, laymen, lawyers, teachers, doctors, dentists, writers, artists, farmers, pharmacists and the list goes on.

It matters not what each player chooses to do on a daily basis as a career because it is the individual mental and creative checkers sport skills that are relevant to the success of each checker player. Perhaps some professions may help to develop more skilled checker and draughts players because of the very nature of the job they must do, but only an analysis of all top checker masters would come even close to answering that query. It’s not likely that even if certain careers did impact checker sport players in a more positive way that anyone would seriously consider changing a profession to become a better checker player and analyst. The answer would more be to seek the reasons that hinder the checker player’s game and then to find ways to develop better strategy, analysis or cross board techniques.

Checkers a Sport

However, just as in many other mind sports, checker games have a set place in various environments around the town, the region, the country, and indeed, the world we live in. Checkers is not limited to the little country store, the alley out back, the warm and cozy kitchen or even to the major cultural centers that hold worldwide checker or draughts championships. Checkers games can be found just about anywhere being played with enthusiasm, intensity, concentration and for good old fashioned fun. Some checker sport clubs are more serious than others and some even offer lessons to the novice checker sport player.

The checkers game boxes and the places where checkers is played may have changed with time, but the people who play checkers are still very much the same type of personality.

The following edited version of a New York Times article from November 16, 1984, clearly demonstrates the place that board games held back during that era and when we look at the games today, not a whole lot has changed, except that more people are playing checkers and other board games from youngsters to granny’s church group to seasoned mind sports grandmasters.


At almost any hour someplace in New York City one can hear the clack of backgammon counters, the pop of stones falling onto a board of the Asian game go or the murmur of a close knit clique of chess and checkers players and kibitzers hunched over a board pondering strategies.

New York, in fact, is a city filled with players of board games. It is also a city flush with game centers, the little known clubs, church basements and corners of public parks where almost anyone can find a game suitable to his taste, schedule and level of expertise. More often than not, the seasoned players at such gathering places welcome newcomers to share in their passion. And for beginners and novices willing to invest the time and a bit of money, it is usually possible to obtain top level instruction.

Not all locales are suitable to all players, however. Chess clubs, for example, range from the old world, high pressure environment of tournament play to homey shops where people are likely to sit, snack and gossip. At some bridge clubs, players are expected to know how to play the game fast and well and must be willing to bet goodly sums. In short, it may be worthwhile to shop around for the right place to play.

The Manhattan Chess for people who take their chess seriously. Founded in 1877 and housed on the 10th floor of the Carnegie Hall building, the club is one of the country's oldest, a place where masters, even grandmasters are often found.

''The atmosphere is more or less like a library,'' Douglas Bellizzi, the club's assistant manager, said. ''We consider this a very important chess club. Whenever world class players come to New York, they will stop in here.''

Nevertheless, beginners are welcome, Mr. Bellizzi said and there are classes for the uninitiated every Tuesday from 7:30 to 9:30 P.M. Classes for intermediate players are held Mondays at 7:30 P.M. There are round robin tournaments Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 P.M. and rapid chess tournaments on Fridays at 7. The tournaments are open to players of all levels. The club also sponsors frequent lectures on chess and Saturday classes for children.

The club is open from 3 to 10 P.M. on weekdays and 2 to 10 on weekends. Membership is $200 a year. Visitors pay $3 admission. Tournament entry costs $8 for members, $20 for visitors. The Marshall Chess another old club for serious players. The big difference between the Marshall and the Manhattan, according to Nick Conticello, the night manager of the 61 year old Marshall club, is that there are generally fewer players at his club. ''They are very active over there now,'' Mr. Conticello said of the Manhattan. ''We are nowhere near as busy.''

The Marshall club is open from noon to 11 P. M weekdays and noon to midnight weekends. Lectures are held at 7:30 on Monday nights and rapid play tournaments on Tuesday evenings at 8. General membership is $150 a year; $50 for children and students. The Chess Shop, 230 Thompson Street…is one of several ''coffee house'' chess establishments where players wander in and out, stopping to play, watch, snack or schmooze, according to Kevin Clifford, one of the shop's owners.

''We are a little looser here,'' Mr. Clifford said, ''it's not a tournament environment. You can sit around, read a magazine, kibitz or play a game.'' This club also caters to backgammon and cribbage players, he said and offers chess with a computer programmed to compete on any level, from beginner sport to expert.

The club also offers instruction at various levels, charging $15 to $60 an hour. The charge for playing a game is 75 cents or $1 with a timer. The club is open from noon to midnight every day. The Chess Mart, 240 Sullivan Street (473-9564), is another one of those informal chess parlours that thrive on a steady flow of players, observers, snacks and beverages. Backgammon, Scrabble and checker sets are also available...

Chess is also a tradition at some city parks, where on sunny days, players have been meeting for years. The cement chess tables at Washington Square Park and in Central Park across the road from the carousel are two of the most popular spots. The police caution, however, that it is a good idea to leave Central Park well before sundown.

Backgammon sport, The Mayfair Club, in the Gramercy Park Hotel at 2 Lexington Avenue near 21st Street... is a well known center for backgammon players. A warning, however, to the casual player: This is an establishment where a lot of money changes hands. Players here are experts and they have a predilection toward huge stakes. According to the manager, Alvin Roth, the club's membership roster of 250 is now closed to the public, but visitors interested in playing are welcome. Lessons are available at $60 for an hour and a half. ''You can learn to play with your children in one lesson,'' Mr. Roth said, but it would take newcomers at least four lessons to be fast enough to take on old hands. The facility includes a dining room where meals are available at most hours. The club is open from 1 P.M. to 4 A.M. every day...

To the uninitiated, checkers seems to be a simple sport, folksy game, fine for the back porch on a slow summer afternoon, but hardly as sophisticated or serious as chess or bridge. Not so, say checker experts. While the rules in checkers are not complex, a good game can be extremely demanding. First rate players can think 30 or more moves ahead, so that the tiniest error in a game between champions can prove fatal, according to Thomas Wiswell, a former free style champion who has written several books on checkers.

''Chess is more complicated, but checkers is more exacting,'' Mr. Wiswell said. ''I tell people chess is almost as difficult as checkers. When you say that, you have to smile, partner.''

Organized professional checkers play in New York, however, has fallen on hard times. A long time home for checker players on 42d Street shut its doors a few years ago and the top players now meet informally at various chess clubs and at chess tables in city parks.

Mr. Wiswell says he and other advanced players often frequent the Chess Mart on Sullivan Street and the tables in Central Park. He suggested that those looking to learn from more seasoned players call ahead at chess clubs to find out if experienced checker players are in. Players seeking serious instruction can call Mr. Wiswell at 768-3552.

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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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