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THE ACF WEBSITE is proud to present this exclusive interview with "Mr. Checkers", Richard L. (Dick) Fortman, Author of "BASIC CHECKERS." In this century no man has carried the torch for Checkers like "Dick" Fortman.

Since the advent of 3-move restriction checkers, in 1934, Dick has known every World champion, with most of them his personal friends, and also has played nearly all of them.

We are proud to call him our friend.

Webmaster, AL Lyman

Mr. Fortman is a most congenial man, and would greatly appreciate hearing from you, regarding checkers or this interview. Please E-mail him at: E-Mail. Richard Fortman

Richard Fortman Please email comments to: (RICHARD FORTMAN)
E-Mail. Richard Fortman


Interview with Richard Fortman

( by Brian Hinkle )
How old are you and how long have you been involved in checkers?

I was born on Feb. 8th, 1915, in Springfield, Il. Age 83.

I was first attracted to the game while still in high school at age 15 by playing with my father, on long winter evenings; prior to television. He was what you might describe as a "natural" player (nonbook) and it is doubtful if he ever saw a checker book.

But he would beat me without mercy, much as Marion Tinsley's neighbor lady once beat him, and then laugh.

He said that the expert players had a "system" and would never lose. He also said that if I was interested, the local library probably had some books, showing this system! So I checked this out, and was fortunate to find they did have two books (among a dozen or so chess books) a "Hills Manual" and Ed Lasker's " Chess & Checkers" with A. Jordan writing most of the checker section.

This, with its numbered board, opened up a new world, even though I failed to find the elusive system!

Lacking a coach at this time, I started to memorize some of the go as you please openings without any knowledge of "why" these moves were being made. But at least I found some ideas on opening play, and within a year or so, I was able to defeat my father, who then declined to play - saying that "books" were unfair. As good fortune would have it, Springfield at that time had an active chess & checker club. Without that I probably would have lost interest. With my new found knowledge I visited the Sat. afternoon club at the old YMCA.

I can still recall my first game played there, an Old 14th with Black- right down to the fatal 9-13? and was shocked after the big shot. Of course this was in Hills Manual, but I had missed it.

Watching the game was a portly gentleman, who inquired later: "Did you know what you were playing?". When I told him I had been studying Hills Manual, he introduced himself - Harland Richards, the Ill. downstate' champion. He also invited me to his home and showed me his chess and checkers library- an immense collection to me, even though he had some 40 or 50 books.

Among these he had duplicates of Denvir's 1905 1st U.S.-G.B. match and a 6th American Tournament. which he let me use. I was fascinated with these and played over every game several times. He also gave me expert advice on cross-board and end play, in which I was very poor at this time.

We became fast friends and with him I went to my first tournament; a one day affair at Lake Wehi, In.; go as you please- one game- toss for colors- with black I moved 11-15 and replied with 23-18 against 11-15. Here again, I recall just one game, again going into a shot, this time with white, in the Slip-Cross. As I recall, I wound up about in the middle half, which Richards thought was very good. After this I was 'hooked' for life!

List your accomplishments in checkers in order of importance. Back to top

1. Writing Basic Checkers
2. World Postal Champion
3. 6 Illinois state titles
4. 3rd in the 1933 Illinois State tournament
5. Annotations- especially of the 11th American Checker Association national tournament. in Elam's Checker Board-1946-47. Also, the notes to the 3rd, 4th and 6th U.S.A.-G.B. International Matches- cross-board and the notes to the US vs.GB International Correspondence Team Matches- 1954, 56 & 58.
6. My three 8 game postal matches with Derek Oldbury (later world champion) in which I won overall: 5-3 with 16 draws.
Also, my 1948 mail match vs. Marion Tinsley, in which I drew 15 out of 16 games, against several of his cooks.

Which accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

After I had completed Part 7 of "Basic Checkers", Marion Tinsley wrote, in part:
"The checker world may not recall all of your accomplishments in the game over the past 50 years, but I am confident they will always remember you as the author of "BC". My congratulations!...
I suppose that is one reason I gave this first.

What are some of your finest crossboard accomplishments?
My earliest x-board effort which I am proud of:
Finishing 3rd in my first state ty. in 1933 at age 18. This was a double knock out played in sub-zero weather in the small town of Colchester. Playing in the local town hall; unheated except for two large coal stoves. Most playing in overcoats, looking for a favorable spot near the stoves!

In round 5 of the ty., I was paired with Oscar Apple, of Rock Island; the 1928 Ill. state champ and also Trans-Miss. winner. Oscar was a middle-aged rotund gentleman with a large red bulbous nose- much like W. C. Fields. Oscar had beaten me very easily in the prelims and no doubt thought he had an easy mark here playing this kid.

Our 1st opening was a 2nd Double Corner in which I had Black and an easy draw. But with White he was playing perhaps a bit too rapidly, and in the late mid-game, made a mistake. He knew it, as his nose became a bit redder. I happened to know it also, so I slowed down.

My coach, Richards, had finished his round and was nervously pacing behind our board. Oscar later had to play a piece short, but couldn't recover. We were playing 4 game heats and our next opening was 12-16, 21-17, 16-19 which was all Greek to me and possibly to Apple also.

At any rate he chased me all over the board in game 3 but could not win. In game 4 he played a piece short in mid-game for complications, but could not recover, and I won third. 2-0 and 2 draws. Previously, Apple had won a round over Richards, but this gave him another chance, and he won the finals over Apple to give him his first and only Ill. state ty. win. I lost only to Richards to take 3rd place.

The win over Oscar Apple was my first victory over a rated state champion, and helped Richards win his first (and only) Ill. state championship.

As a result, he later presented me with a christmas present; an autographed copy of the 2nd International Match in 1927- a book that I had long desired but couldn't afford in those bleak depression days($5.00 in those depression years was a large sum for a high school student).

Harland had a draftsman inscribe this in black ink, old English script on the flyleaf:

To: Richard L. Fortman-
In commemoration of your brilliant showing in the 1933 Illinois State Tournament, this book is respectfully presented.
Your victory over Oscar Apple, 1928 Illinois state champion proved you to be at least the second best player at Colchester.
Only the luck of the draw forced you to be content with 3rd prize in this, your first major tournament. This same victory was of especial importance to the writer of this little token, for without it I could not sign this as:
Harland Richards
1933 Illinois State Champion
Dec. 23rd, 1933.

This is one of my most prized books, and although the binding may be a bit loose, it has stood the ravages of some 65 years in good fashion.

Winning over former state champ Oscar Apple in my first state ty.. was probably my finest early achievement. However, upon reflection, I think winning the 7th game from U.S. tournament champ Edwin Hunt after 6 draws, would certainly have to rank in the top category also. We played 12 games at the YMCA in Nashville, Tenn. on successive Sundays in Jan. 1934, just one month prior to my 19th birthday.

We had draws on 11-16, 24-20, 16-19 x then draws on 9-14, 24-20, 11-15- as published in Ryan's "New Checkergram". The third Sunday produced 11-15, 23-18, 12-16 x 24-20, with both using the 9-14 defense. Hunt defended easily with black, while I managed to struggle to draw.

Then at about 9:30 p.m. our next card was the Octopus!, in which I had White first! 10-15, 21-17, 7-10, 17-14 10-17, 22-13 ( I don't recall if I knew anything about this, but I did find the proper attack) then 9-14 ( the accepted defense in those days- before Ryan's Modern Encyclopedia of Checkers!) and of course 24-20 is proper, which Mr. Hunt took in the next game to win.

But playing x-board, I went 23-19?! ( I doubt if anyone else has played this ) ... As I remember, he looked quite surprised, and played 6-10? quickly...then 25-22 and again very quickly 11-16? ( where 2-6 looks about even). Looking back across all these years, I can take pride in seeing I had some crossboard skill, to attack his double corner with 29-25, 16-23, 27-9, 5-14, and 13-9!

At this stage, he excused himself to visit the water fountain, then returned to stand in back of my chair to observe the position.

Continue: 12-16 25-21, 8-11, 22-17, 3-7, 17-13, 16-20, 9-6, 20-27 31-24, 2-9, 13-6, 4-8, 24-19, 15-24, 28-19 (if 6-2,1-6x) 14-17, 21-14, 10-17, 6-2, 8-12, 32-28, 1-5, 2-6,17-21, 28-24, 11-16, 24-20, 16-23, 26-19, 7-11, 6-2 white win.

The time was now after midnight and Richards was anxious to leave for the drive back to Murfreesboro. However, Mr. Hunt asked if we could continue and give him an opportunity to "get even" as he put it!
Richards wasn't too happy (but very happy over my win) but agreed to stay, then Hunt won the white side which concluded at 2:15 a.m.! and we both had to go to work at the airport the next morning. In the 4th session, he won 1-0 and 3 draws; winning the white side of a 10-15, 23-18, 7-10 which concluded my play against him.
Other fond memories:

Fortman's cross-board recordBack to top

What was one of your major disappointments in your career?

Back to top
When I lost to Banks 2-1 with 5 draws at the 1958 Bethlehem Nat. Ty.

After winning the white side of an Octopus, with Tinsley's new 30-26 cook, I lost with Red on the 24-19 attack. After 2 draws, in overtime, we had 10-15, 24-20, 6-10 and I drew with Red. In game 6, with White, he went into a loss.

In mid-game, seeing his position was bad, his face flushed, Banks made a motion that I thought was going to sweep the pieces off the board, but he held himself in check, and managed to draw, after I missed the win.

He had earlier lost one round to Prof. Fraser, so this would have eliminated him. He then went on to win game 7 and drew game 8. I later lost to Prof. Fraser in round 4 on a cook that Oldbury had shown him. This was my last national tournament.

How would you describe your own personal style of checkers?

Perhaps conservative, and book-ish in my prime. I held the reputation of knowing more than I actually did because I had the friendship of several grand masters. Due to this, a number of IL state champions such as Leo Sanders, Tony Gursky, H.B. Mason, and later Bill Leatherwood and Clay Beebe would try off-color moves to get me x-board - often to their sorrow!

What is your favorite checker story?
Back to top
During the past 65 years I have collected a lot; (some of which may be best left unsaid).

I doubt if there are any players living today who played Sam Gonotsky crossboard. Of course, Asa Long met him during the 1927 2nd International Match but had never played him. He told me "Sammie" wasn't a very sociable person and usually kept to his own company- except for Mike Lieber. Harland played Sammie twice; once at the 1928 Cedar Point 11-man ty.; and a year later at the 7th Amer. Ty. (rump) at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago.

Richards said Gonotsky was small in stature perhaps 5 ft. 5 or 6- and probably didn't weigh over 120 pounds. His head seemed too large for his body, with a prominent or bulging forehead. He said there was a vein running across the side of his head which one could see pulse when he was thinking.

He was always neatly dressed: shirt, tie, and shoes shined. He never seemed to initiate a conversation, but would reply to questions very politely, with no elaboration. He declined to look at any games or positions other players would offer to show him, but would comment on his own games in post-mortem, only if his opponent asked. Richards said Gonotsky rarely if ever ate in the hotel cafeteria, but was sometimes seen buying sandwiches and coffee from vending machines. He often drank black coffee when playing.

Richards lost twice; both by the same score- 0-2 with 3 draws (6 game heats). In the 11-man ty.. they had an Edinburgh which went into a colors reversed standard line of the Glasgow. It was quite hot in the playing room (before air conditioning) cooled only with floor fans.

Gonotsky, as usual was taking his full 5 minutes a move. Richards was sort of a brash individual and had little patience. The game dragged on for almost 3 hours before Sam offered a draw. Richards (exasperated) spoke up:
" Mr. Gonotsky, didn't you recognize that position?" ..." Oh yes, Mr. Richards, an old reversed Glasgow" ..."Then why in the world were you spending so much time on it?"... Came the soft reply: "Well, you see, I was looking for something new!" When Richards later told me this, he said, "Can you imagine him spending all that time, when he could have been resting, on a line that was exhausted over 100 years ago?"

He said he met Gonotsky the following year in the Chicago ty.. and was shocked at his appearance- flushed face, and his walk slowed, with frequent coughing spells that interrupted play. As we now know, he was practically a dying man at this ty.; passing away shortly afterward, but he still managed to beat Jesse Hanson, Willie Ryan among others.

More stories: Maurice Chamblee and a Marion Tinsley fish story:

My wife and I had taken a Florida vacation in Jan. 1957 and on the return trip stopped overnight in Birmingham, AL.

I phoned both Lloyd Taylor and Maurice Chamblee. Lloyd wasn't home but Chamblee was, and I invited him over for a visit. Quite naturally, the subject of Marion Tinsley came up. Chamblee had first met him at Ryan's 1946 Newark ty.; both still in their teens and natural rivals.

He said they seemed to "hit it off" and became good friends; visiting each others homes in 1947, after their Cedar Pt. match. Chamblee didn't tell me this, but Marion did later. While at Columbus, Maurice had proposed marriage to Tinsley's twin sister Mary who evidently turned him down! As Marion said: "Can you imagine us being brother-in-laws!"

Maurice went on to say that while they were in college, both were 'non-believers' although Marion was later converted by Paul Thompson after the 1950 Paxton Nat. Ty.. He also said that during this visit, Marion had mentioned that he was interested in spiritualism, and had read several books on the subject.

He had also made the acquaintance of several Columbus mediums.

Shortly after Willie Ryan died in 1954, Marion said he had visited one of the local mediums who, for a $10 fee, claimed she could contact a relative or friend who had "passed over" and would allow two questions to be asked. I suppose by this late date, Marion's belief had been wavering, since he had prepared two trick questions.

After paying the fee in advance, he asked if William F. Ryan of the Bronx, NY could be contacted- sometimes known as the "Bronx Comet"... After a few minutes, Marion was told she was in contact and that Mr. Ryan stated he was quite happy in his new surroundings. Marion said: "I have two questions to ask. First, has Mr. Ryan ever succeeded in defeating the Octopus, and secondly; if so, by means of what line?".... Of course the innocent medium assumed this was a fish story and replied, "Yes, Mr. Ryan states that after a long struggle he was able to catch the monster- using a 10-12 lb. line!"... And I guess that ended Marion's spiritualism period!

Chamblee hadn't changed too much since I had last met him at the 1948 Brownwood Nat. ty... He told me that although he still had an interest in checkers, it wasn't that burning desire he once had after winning at Paxton, and preparing to play Hellman.

He said he had a part interest in a local bowling alley, and also a good job selling wholesale light fixtures. He later played and won the 1957 Ala. ty.- his last contest. He was found dead in his car in 1958, while having lunch.

Lloyd Taylor told me his family refused to have an autopsy performed, and the cause of death was a probable cerebral hemorrhage.

Asa Long once wrote me of a visit by Chamblee to his home in Toledo, prior to Asa's title match vs. Hellman in 1948. Asa said Maurice was quite candid, saying that he was pulling for Walter to win, but still showed him several lines he had worked on. Asa said, " I considered this great stuff" to which Chamblee replied: "You haven't seen anything yet!"

Willie Wiggles to Win:

I would like to mention the 1933 Cedar Point ty.. This was my first major ty.. (aside from the 1933 Ill. state) which I attended with Harland Richards. I was thrilled to meet so many great players of which I had read about- Edwin Hunt, H.B. Reynolds, Alex Cameron Lee Munger, Stan Morey, Guy Garwood, etc. I had previously met both Ryan and Banks, as they had given earlier exhibitions in Springfield.

A few notes: During a tense game between Ryan and Morey (a protégé of H.B. Reynolds), Morey had just made his move and glanced over at Ryan. Willie was deep in thought, poker-faced, when suddenly his ears commenced to wiggle!

Morey told me he was so shocked he almost started to laugh as he had never seen anyone do this before. He said it broke his train of thought, got flustered and made a poor reply and lost the game. I was watching this game and later asked Ryan how he did this.

He said it was just a trick, that he had used many times, but was unable to explain how it was done.

So I experimented and later found I could do it, also, which later amused both my children and grand-children ..." How do you do that, Paw-paw?".....

A Bible story:

Reynolds was matched with Hunt in a 16 game exhibition match. Hunt said that Asa Long had been asked to play, but since the sponsors could not guarantee the $100 purse, he declined, and Reynolds stepped in - for $75.00 plus room and meals for 1 week.

During one of their games, Hunt had the Black side of a Switcher, against the 17-14 defense. He later made a 12-16 pitch for position, which Reynolds failed to meet properly and lost.

After the game, Reynolds said," Mr. Hunt, I don't believe your 12-16 is in ANY of my books- including the Bible!"

Reynolds was a religious man, and at the business meeting of the 7th Am. Ty.. gave the invocation, and later lead the group, singing, "Onward Christian Soldiers" in his basso profundo voice, which literally lifted the rafters.

Prior to the start of the ty.., a group of players were in the playing room looking over some play and getting acquainted, including myself. In came a scholarly looking gentleman, who introduced himself as Edwin F. Hunt, from Nashville, TN.

Later, he was showing us a game he had played against another Nashville player, in which White has a triple jump option, in which 3 numbers are necessary to describe the jumps - such as 25-18- then either 11 or 9 and finally crowning on 2... As Hunt mentioned this was a rare occurrence in checker literature.

I was just 18 and unknown but I spoke up," There is also an example of that in Master Play". Mr. Hunt looked up with a shocked expression, and said: "You are certainly right! ...and what is your name?" I guess he thought I was a young prodigy as he later invited me to his room to look over some of the games he had with Reynolds. His analysis was far too fast for me to keep up, so I wisely remained silent, only later to agree!

I thought of another little story recently that might amuse you:

At the 1948 Brownwood Nat. ty.., Chamblee was quite concerned that some of Tinsley's friends, including myself, might show him something that Chamblee wasn't in on, so he kept an eagle eye on any such gatherings, so, Marion and I decided to fix him by reversing the board, with the single corner on the right.

When we saw him enter the room, we ran up a few moves, in deep study. Maurice spotted us, so he strolled past, behind us, to take a peek at the position. He then walked on for several steps, paused, then turned and said with a big smile: 'OK, you guys!".

Those were the happy days!

What qualities do you have that have helped you become world postal champion? Back to top

Not everyone can become a world champion, but I believe every one can improve their play. First, an orderly mind is important, even being a nit picker helps. You should double check every reply received for accuracy; and also, the same for your replies. I find it best not to reply on the same day, except perhaps in the final stages.

Second, plan your replies, then check again on the 2nd day, to see if you still agree. I have always run the games up from the beginning, except for the final endings. I always used two boards when analyzing to avoid mistakes in setting up the positions.

So called "pencil errors" are just the product of a careless mind. To my knowledge, I have never committed one in over 50 years of postal play. I have all of my important match and ty.. books ( also American Checker Federation Nat. tys.) cross indexed. I also have a 2 drawer file cabinet with folders on each of the 144 openings- letters, analysis, references, etc..

Good friends are important, but remember, you are the one to make the final decision.

Paul Thompson told me when playing Alf Huggins for the world title, he was getting advice from Tinsley, Clayton, Case, among others, and in many instances they would disagree! (in mid-game & early endings)

No doubt this match, in part, contributed to his early death, as he wrote me that on many nights he couldn't sleep, thinking about the positions, and would get up at 2 or 3 a.m. to re-check his replies before sending. It is tragic that he did not live to finish this match, which he would have won.

I never would trust any new play sent me until I had looked it over to my satisfaction. Half baked 'cooks' can often prove disastrous! When I had an opponent in a certain loss I would never speed up my replies, but let him look at his position longer, which can be depressing and sometimes affect play in the other games.

This is also true in x-board play. Take your full time when you have a win and make him suffer!

One final observation:
Some master x-board players have failed at top level mail play. Two examples- Harold Freyer and Cap Howe- who lacked the patience necessary. Asa Long once wrote me that in his early years, he had little use for mail play, thinking it would be easy when using books, etc. ...that is, until he met both Oldbury and Huggins in an U.S.A.-G.B. Int. Postal Match.

Asa said, "I have completely changed my mind on this! I never realized just how difficult it could be when paired with a master opponent!"

How do you want the checker world to remember you?

I think I would like to be remembered as having a life-long romance with the game, as I have attempted to show in both my games and my annotations. Also, as a former world postal champion and the author of "Basic Checkers".

What is the best crossboard game you ever played?
Top of Page
I have given considerable thought to this question, as I have played many games worthy of that title over the past 60 odd years.

But I finally decided on the following, played in the 1949 6th. District ty. at Joliet; held in conjunction with the 2nd half of the Hellman-Ryan World Championship Match. It was played against the new U.S. Nat. ty.. champion, Marion Tinsley, in the 3 cornered semi-finals- double knock out tournament.

I was down 1 1/2 lives; losing 0-1 and 3 draws to Tinsley in Round 1, then a drawn round v. Roy Hunt. Roy was down 1 life, drawing v. Tinsley and myself, with Marion down just 1/2 life.

This played in round 6, with Hunt having a bye. Our first 2 games on 11-16, 22-17, 16-19 were drawn. Then Marion cut the 3-move deck for our next opening, 10-14, 23-18, 14-23 smiled and rubbed his hands together in typical Shylock(of Shakespeare) fashion- a habit he often used when pleased. I had black in game 3, and a draw as given in "Checkers The Tinsley Way". Our last game has been noted in a sketchy fashion, but it never annotated properly, so I am giving my comments:

Tinsley-Black: 10-14, 23-18, 14-23, 27-18, 12-16, 32-27 (in my first major ty.- Cedar Point, 1933, ignorant of published play, I tried 26-23 here vs. Stan Morey and almost won with White, after he had overplayed it- another story!) 16-20, 26-23, 11-15 (instead of this, my 6-10 in G. 3) 18-11, 8-15, 23-18 (no doubt 30-26 first is easier) 7-11, 30-26, 6-10, 26-23, 4-8, 24-19, 15-24, 28-19, then 10-14!(A), 19-15*(B), 2-7, 15-10*, 8-12, 22-17, 9-13, 18-9, 13-22, 25-18, 7-14, 27-24*(C), 20-27, 31-24, This 11-16(D) 24-19, 16-20, 29-25*, 20-24, 25-22, 24-27, 22-17, 27-31, 17-10, 5-14, 18-9, 31-27, 23-18, 27-23, 18-14, 23-16, 21-17, 16-11, 9-6 (E), 12-16, 6-2, 11-8, then with great pleasure: 10-6, 1-10, 14-7, 3-10 and 2-7 to draw, after which Marion offered his hand in congratulations. Newell Banks had been standing behind me watching this game and when I played 10-6, he tapped me on the shoulder before walking away.

(A)- This caught me completely by surprise, as I had expected 9-14 x as later played by Hellman vs. Long in the 1952 Am. ty.. ... Marion later said this was a cook he had prepared for the 1948 Nat. ty.. but it never came up there, so this was the first time he had occasion to use it.

(B)- We were playing under the 5 min. rule and Ed Ebert called time. I had discarded 19-16 in view of 2-7, and spent most of my time on 18-15x but then 1-6, 25-22, and 9-13 looked bad, so I played the text as a last resort. Tinsley later said he had wins against both 19-16 and 18-15.

(C)- Once again, I took full time. The natural 29-25 first, allows 12-16* 27-24 x and a winning ending with black piece still of 11. Later, Marion demonstrated the win.

(D)- Now if 12-16, White has an easy draw with 24-19, 16-20 and 19-16 etc.

(E)- It was here that I spotted the pitch coming up! Later, Marion said this was the same as he had analyzed it earlier. This eliminated me, but it also placed Marion on even footing with Roy Hunt. The ty.. had went over time and it was about 2 a.m. so they agreed on a draw (unplayed, although Elam's Checker Board gives 4 draws in final round) and split 1st and 2nd. Of course, had Tinsley won this game, he would have won the tournament outright, as Hunt was ready to concede! So, I was the culprit in the woodshed, but it didn't damage our friendship.

What is the best postal game you ever played?Back to top

Once again I have given this considerable thought- in view of the many postal games I have played over the past 60 years; notably in the U.S.A.-G.B. Int. team matches.

The decision wasn't easy. The game selected may not be as artistic as some, but it certainly is one of my most important wins, as it enabled me to go on and win this ty.; then later to play Paul Thompson for the US title, and finally to meet Alf Huggins for the world mail title. It was played in the 5th round of the A.C.F. Nat. single knock out mail ty.; (1955-61) as given in "Top Notch Checkers" vs. the many times Minn. state champion, Jack Mourning and later published as game 22 in this book with notes by E. Frazier (which are subject to improvement).

In this same round, I had lost my only game in this ty..; with the black side of a 10-14, 24-20, 14-18, by using a suspect defense- same as Chamblee-Hellman, game 1 in their 1951 match in "America's Best Checkers". Since Tom Colston had drawn this vs. me earlier, I presumed Tinsley was wrong(!) only to discover he was right!

He won this from Milty Loew from 9-13, 22-18, 12-16 as in "Checkers The Tinsley Way" which goes into this same mid-game- a classic win. So, unless I could equalize, I would be out of this tournament.

Here is the postal game vs. Jack Mourning (black) played in Sept. 1957. As I mentioned, it may not be my finest game, but certainly one of the most important:

9-13, 23-18, 6-9, 26-23, 1-6, 30-26, 11-15(A), 18-11, 8-15, 24-20(B), 7-11, then 23-19!(C), 15-24, 28-19, 3-8(D), 32-28(E), 11-16(F), 20-11, 8-24, 28-19, 4-8, 27-24, 8-11, 26-23, 10-14, 22-18, 6-10(G), 24-20, 13-17, 25-22, 17-26, 31-22(H) white win.

(A)- I featured 11-16 in "Basic Checkers". Marion told me he had worked up an unpublished attack in preparation for the Chinook match in London. The opening came up, but the wily computer avoided 11-16 (even though he had religiously used "BC" lines) with 11-15 x. He never told either myself or Don Lafferty what he had in mind, so I guess the cook will never be revealed!

(B)- As given in Smith's Edinburgh (1912).

(C)- Varies from the old published play in 27-24 or 28-24. This was shown to me by Maurice Chamblee in his hotel room in Brownwood Tx; just prior to the start of the Nat. ty. in 1948. Brownwood was in a dry county, but we had secured 12 cans (.50 a can) of Texas 'Blue Bonnett" beer from one of the hotel bus boys. We later discovered it was "home brew" and after 2 cans, Maurice and his bride (on their honeymoon) were feeling happy! I doubt if he would have shown me this otherwise!

(D)- Chamblee said this is what White wants and it may lose. He said, "Instead, 3-7* 27-23, then wait with 4-8* and 23-18 only draws." Instead of 23-18, White has 32-28, as in the D.E. Oldbury- M. Tinsley 1957 Eng. exhibition game.

(E)- Proper, as 27-24 lets in 9-14 to draw.

(F)- No doubt a forced win after this. Eugene Frazier in "Top Notch Checkers" claimed a draw with 11-15, then 27-23 x 8-11, 19-16 xx 26-23 4-8, 23-19, 11-15, 19-16, 8-12 and 16-11 to draw but Gene missed 22-17* 13-22, 25-11, 12-19, and 11-7 to a possible winning ending, as Chamblee mentioned.

(G)- J. Mitchell, in the 6th District News Letter claimed a draw here with 13-17* after both 25-22x and 24-20, but Clay Beebe found a white win after 19-15* to a long ending.

(H)- Mourning resigned here, as after 9-13 ( if 2-7, 29-25 WW) x is an old problem ending win after 22-18 2-7 x 11-15, 9-6, 15-24, 6-2, 7-11, 2-6, 11-15 and 29-25 etc.

What is your favorite checker problem?Back to top

I have several, but I think this is the best- by C. J. Greensword:

Black: 4, 7, 22, 26, Kg. 9 White: 17, 18, 28, 30, Kg. 23; White to move and win.

Who are the top postal players you ever played? Back to top

Perhaps this could be separated into two groups- not necessarily in order named:

Great Britain: Alf Huggins, James Marshall, E.C. "Ted" Whiting, Tom Colston, Wm. "Bill " Edward and Derek Oldbury.

USA: Paul Thompson, Harold Maine, Vern Dowsey, Jerry Childers, George Bass and Saul Weslow.

Who were the best x-board players of all time?Back to top

In the 3-move era (I have met all 12 in person and played against most):
1-Marion Tinsley
2-Walter Hellman
3-Asa Long
4-Willie Ryan
5-Edwin Hunt
6-Nathan Rubin
7-Don Lafferty
8-Basil Case
9-Maurice Chamblee
10-Derek Oldbury
11-Newell Banks
12-Milton Loew (no doubt some will disagree)

Earlier, in the 2-Move era:
Charles Barker, A.J. Heffner, Clarence Freeman, Sam Gonotsky, Mike Lieber, Louis Ginsberg, Alfred Jordan, Richard Jordan and R. D. Yates (mainly go as you please)

While A. Anderson was supreme in the early 1800's, one could hardly match him with a Tinsley, Long and Hellman.

Also, Gonotsky, who played only in the 2-move period and for just a brief span of 8 years (like Lieber; Gonotsky died 2 years prior to my start.)

Asa Long told me he had played Lieber in several Ohio tys.. but not Gonotsky. He said he had met him only at the 1927 2nd International Match in NYC. A quiet person, who rarely would initiate a conversation and who seemed to enjoy the pleasure of his own company, rather to mix in with the other players. Asa said he was told that Gonotsky disliked both Heffner and Finley, as he thought they were critical of him in their writings, and also Banks, who would call himself the "American Champion" even though Gonotsky had won the title in the 1924 tournament.

Gonotsky went to the 1929 Chicago 'rump' ty.. even though he was very ill, on the assumption this was for the US championship. He died 2 weeks after winning it.

All of them are dead except Asa Long. What do we have left today?

Who were the best players you ever met? Back to top

Marion Tinsley, Asa Long, Don Lafferty, Edwin Hunt, Newell Banks, Jesse Hanson and Elbert Lowder -whom I have played in ty.. or social games. (Willie Ryan, in exhibition play only)

I had played Banks, Tinsley and Long in ty.. play- Nat. Cedar Point and 6th district. I played Ryan 3 times, but only in his exhibitions. Same with Walter Hellman, but I did play Walter once in the 1939 Salem, IL checker picnic ty.. in which he beat me 1-0 and 1 draw on a 10-15, 21-17, 9-13 opening; the games were published in Elam's Mt. Sterling Advocate column.

Do you think it would have been possible to beat Marion Tinsley in a postal game? Back to top

Marion, as far as I know, played just two postal matches: vs. George Bass in early 1948 and against me several months later to prepare for the Brownwood Nat. ty... I lost 0-1 and 15 draws, and Bass lost 3-1 and 12 draws.

Bass said he hadn't seen the win, but Marion did and resigned! Here is the game Marion lost:

10-15, 22-17, 15-19, xx 17-13 (the feared attack in the early days; as in the 1933 Hunt-Reynolds match, and the 1924 8th Am. ty..) 5-9, 21-17, 8-11, 25-21! (here published play by J. Jack gave the natural 17-14 first, then 1-5, and either 26-23 or 28-24 to draw) The text was played by Weslow vs. Rubin in the 8th Am. ty.; a splendid move perhaps played x-board and passed over with no comment by the annotator. Continue: 4-8 ? (or 11-15 first) as played by Rubin, which loses. As we know now, the 9-14* exchange is vital. However, Marion at first thought the Rubin-Weslow draw sound.

Continue: 17-14, 1-5, 29-25, and here, as Mr. Bass wrote me later, Marion replied 11-15, then said: " If 27-24 (instead of 26-23 to draw) 8-11 and 26-22* Black resigns. Mr. Bass later told me this was one of the biggest shocks he had ever received in many years of mail play, as he had never even looked at the winning 27-24. Here was a first class cook, which Tinsley could have easily held back, but he was a great friend of George Bass and did not tell him to hold this back. As it turned out, several months later I got into this with black and also lost, after which the above story came out. I continue a few moves after 26-22 with 11-16, 14-10, 7-14, 22-17, 6-10, x 17-13, 18-22 but he soon resigned.

Prior to 1975, and the computer checker age, I think it would be highly improbable for anyone to defeat Marion by mail on the regulation 137 openings. But today, against one of the super computers, and on one of the "new" (formerly barred) openings, I would say it is certainly a possibility; for example, in the 'Rattlesnake" which Marion once? considered sound.

Who is the strangest character you have met in the checker world?Back to top

I may be the only player living that knew Morris Krantz and played a practice game with him.

I first became aware of our subject when reading Ryan's article in his "American Checkerist" magazine- Sept. 1946. Ryan had lost to Tinsley in round 4 of this double knock out Newark ty., and was paired with Krantz in round 6. Krantz scored first, then Ryan, after which Krantz missed a win that would have knocked out Ryan! But Willie then came back to win 2-1 with 11 draws. He wrote: "Iron Pants" Morris Krantz, the terror of Delancey St. is no doubt the only one of his kind and mind in the world!

A nervous jumping jack with an endless display of unusual mannerisms. His conduct at the board is as eccentric and bizarre as the game he plays. His approach to the game (if any) is a mystery, for this human enigma has never studied a checker book in his life, and many even questioned whether he could read one! There simply is no logical explanation, and no one has bothered to offer one.( 'idiot savant' -rlf)

But let there be no mistake, Krantz is a genius at the game of checkers, and on his best days, is capable of beating anyone with his screw-ball moves.

No one seems to know how he does it but Morris seems to actually put his opponents in some sort of a trance, causing them to make stupid moves.

In the Newark ty.., Weslow went into a 3x2 shot and Cameron actually gave him three pieces for nothing." (end of the Ryan article).

I first met Krantz at the 1947 Cedar Pt. ty... I had intended to play, but after arriving, I was approached by Newell Banks.

He said their intended referee for the Tinsley-Chamblee match was forced to cancel out at the last moment and asked me if I could take over. He offered a complimentary room for the week, plus a free meal ticket, so I accepted.

The morning before the ty. started, Jimmy Ricca came over and asked me if I would like to meet Krantz. Of course, I agreed, so we went down the hall to their room, which he was sharing. He rapped on the door, but no response. So he opened the door with his key and looked in.

I saw a man stretched out on a bed on his back, staring up at the ceiling. Jimmy said: " I guess we should not disturb him, as he is taking a nap"... I said: "Taking a nap? Why his eyes are open!"... and Jim replied, "Yes, he often sleeps that way when away from home."

Morris entered the playing room early on the first day of play, accompanied by his two bodyguards: Ricca and Bernstein. They approached the referee's desk, where I was sitting, to check out the entry. Ricca then introduced me to Krantz, a short, pudgy person, Jewish, with a shock of black hair, and dark piercing eyes. He was eating a large Hershey candy bar, which was getting soft in the high 80's F.- typical August weather at Cedar Point. No air conditioning. in those pioneer days- just some floor fans. I mentioned that it was a pleasure to meet him and congratulated him on his fine play at Newark a year earlier.

He was making motions with his arms and mumbled something in reply, which I didn't catch. I then proposed a practice game since the first round was not set to start for several hours. He motioned toward a table that had a board on it, seated himself, took Red(!) and put a quarter on the table, saying, "Quarter on table"... and what follows is the only game I ever played him.

Krantz went to the semi-finals of this double knock out tournament along with Tom O'Grady, Earl Brown (of KY) and some one else (whose name escapes me just now).

Anyway, before play commenced, O'Grady approached the referee, and said if he had to play Krantz, he was asking for separate boards, in adjoining rooms, with the moves relayed, as he said he wasn't about to be subjected to Krantz's weird actions at the board. Earl Brown said it didn't matter to him, so he was paired with Morris, and beat him 1-0 and 3 draws, then lost to O'Grady in the finals.

During this ty., either Ricca or Bernstein tried to keep an eye on him, but somehow he managed to escape, and catch the ferry over to Sandusky. Some time later, Ricca had a phone call from the Sandusky police, to get over and pick him up, and that "they" didn't want to see him over here again! It seems he was turned in for bothering ladies on the street with his arm motions and talking to himself. No doubt they thought he was an escaped mental patient.

I last saw him at the 1958 Bethlehem Nat. ty.., in which Ricca and Freyer brought him with them. The playing room was about one block from the hotel, and one morning in which he was scheduled to play Lloyd Taylor, he showed up about an hour late.

It seems he got out of the hotel by himself, but then turned the wrong way, and no doubt walked a mile or so, before he realized he was lost, and had to forfeit one game. I told Lloyd the night before that Krantz would try to upset him by constantly staring at him, so Taylor found a green eye-shade, which he used to good effect.

Morris didn't fare too well here, out in 4 rounds. That was the last ty.. that I ever heard he played in. Harold Freyer told me about ten years ago, that Krantz was in a Brooklyn nursing home, but didn't recognize him when he visited him. His death was never reported as far as I know.

Krantz vs. Fortman- social(?) game- .25 stake,. Aug. 4th, 1947 Breakers Hotel, Cedar Point, Ohio- Time: 8:30 am to 9:40 a.m. Temp. 85 and rising!

11-15 ( he feinted with his right, and moved with his left. The candy bar was getting a bit soft.
21-17 ( I had looked at some of Heffner's 24-19 defense before this ty., so decided to see what Morris would play against it)
8-11! (Declining with a shrug, and a comment unintelligible.)
17-14 (On the spur of the moment! seeking cross-board play.)
24-20 (I gave only the pp 24-19 in "BC" I had intended to try the text later, but never got around to it. Perhaps new, and maybe unpublished?)
15-19 (The candy bar had started to melt in his right hand, so he switched to his left, while licking his fingers.)
22-17 (I had been taking lots of time, but Morris was moving at a quick pace- staring at me mostly; instead of the board.)
29-25 (By this time, we had attracted a dozen or so spectators, including both Tinsley and Chamblee, to watch Krantz go through his paces.)
2-7 (The candy was now running down his chin, onto his shirt, which he seemed unaware of- still licking his fingers. His pieces were also getting sticky!)
8-11? (This loses. But, as I recall, he spent little or no time in making it. Marion mentioned to me later, that 7-11 was proper, then: 32-27, 9-14, 27-23, and 12-16 is OK after 30-25, 8-12, 25-22, 3-8 and 22-18 etc. to draw.)
30-25* (After I made this, tears came into his eyes, running down his cheeks, into the candy. It sounded like he said: " Morris lose, Morris lose"' Of course, he wanted the blunder with 26-22? 19-26, 30-23, then 16-19, 23-16 and 14-18 wins for Red)
8-12 (It was past 9:30 and time for the pairing for the 1st rd, and the first game of the match at 10:00 a.m. so I pushed his quarter back, saying: "It looks like a draw to me." - which brought a smile through the tears!)
After 25-22, 1-5, 22-18 etc. white win.

Have you ever witnessed a blind-fold exhibition by Willie Ryan or Newell Banks?Back to top

I first met Willie Ryan here in 1931, my first year in the game. He had been publishing his first magazine "The Checkergram" in the small town of Ashland, about 18 miles west of Springfield.

This was due to two well to do farmers and one banker, who loved the game, and offered to pay all of the printing & mailing costs, plus free room and board. He was there between his many exhibition tours; "barn storming" as he put it, often hitch-hiking or obtaining rides from his many checker friends.
He also spent a lot of time in Springfield, as a guest of Harland Richards (my coach). Harland's family had a large two-story home, which his mother ran as a "boarding house" taking in guests for sleeping rooms and meals. Willie found a home there for a long time!

He was 24 at this time, of slim build, and a brash NY accent; nice looking, with a Valentino 'slicked back' pompadour, and an eye for the ladies! Nattily dressed, often with a bow tie and two toned shoes, sport jacket and slacks.

He gave the first exhibition I had seen at the local YMCA in 1931, playing perhaps two dozen boards arranged in a rectangle, with Ryan inside. I was amazed at the speed in which he traveled down the boards; pausing for just a few seconds. Richards acted as the MC and did not play but I did, and lost the Black side of a Single Corner (with the continuation long forgotten).

He later played 4 blindfold games, also the first I had ever seen, which made a great impression on me.

Ryan was in and out of Springfield (having departed by request from Ashland after about 6 months. It was reported that one of the "farmer's daughters" was making "moon eyes" at the handsome "city slicker"!) for a year or so, before returning to NYC.

His magazine had commenced at $3.00 per issue, monthly, later reduced to $2.00 and finally to just $1.00 (!) before he gave it up.

He had little formal education, like Bobby Fischer, a high school drop-out. Still, he was a most entertaining writer, with a good vocabulary.

Ryan, in my considered opinion, was one of the most entertaining writers on checkers in history; in direct contrast to Banks, Long and many other grand masters. His exhibitions were always entertaining and colorful, keeping up a line of chatter (in contrast to Banks). Also, in his blindfold displays, where his favorite comment:" I'm looking!" always produced a laugh from the crowd.

I acted as the MC in several of his blind-fold exhibitions. He would sometimes make an error, which I would respond with: "Please check" after which he would rectify the mistake ...but this was rare, in contrast to Banks who made more mistakes.

At that time, he asked $1.00 per board to play, then would "pass the hat" at the end for any additional money. He never actually worked at any job (except for a few years in a war plant during world war two, and also for a short time at Flint, MI)but somehow managed to survive on the pittance from his exhibitions and the kindness of his many checker friends.

He loved competition, playing many stake matches, and also played in a number of Nat. tys. from the 6th (in 1924 at age 17) until Paxton in 1950; winning at Newark and also Tacoma. His final ty.. was the Canadian Open in 1952, in which he and Tinsley tied for 1st.

Aside from that, the highlight of his career was his 1949 title match vs. Hellman, in which he came back from 3 games down, to tie at 4 wins each in a 10 game overtime session. I was fortunate to see a number of the 2nd half (Joliet) games, played in conjunction with the 6th District Open ty...

Ryan had health problems, mainly high blood pressure (which also killed Capablanca), which he was aware of, but neglected.

At a Decatur exhibition in the late 1940s, he surprised me by quoting Robert Frost: "but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep". He had lost the sight of one eye in 1953 on a southern tour, but declined to stay in a hospital.

He died of a stroke in 1954 in St. Petersburgh, Fla. while giving an exhibition almost on the eve of his proposed return match vs. Hellman in Peoria. He was broke, but the players there purchased a grave site and marker. Beebe phoned his wife and offered to pay her expenses to Fla. from NY, but she declined.

He lived only for the game of checkers, and it prospered because of him and the other touring players. As is often said: "We shall never see his like again".

As with Ryan, I also met Banks for the first time in 1931, when he gave an exhibition here.

Some contrasts: Ryan was 24, Banks 44- Ryan had a slim build, Banks was heavier, with a slight paunch. Ryan dressed casually during his exhibitions. Banks preferred 3 piece suits, often gray, white shirt, four-in-hand tie with stick-pin, pocket handkerchief, and watch band across his vest.

Ryan had a pale complexion; Banks more ruddy, with blue eyes. Banks smoked only cigars- Ryan was a heavy cigarette (2 pkg. a day) smoker.

Banks would rarely discuss checkers in conversation, instead politics, or the sad state of the union, and his ideas to improve it- tending toward socialism. But Ryan talked very little, except on checkers, and also his ideas to improve on what he called the ''stodgy" A.C.A..

Ryan often hitch-hiked in his early career, or depended on the kindness of his many checker friends to drive him. But he later traveled by bus. Banks always drove his own car. In later years, he was associated with the Plymouth dealers of Detroit, and boosted their products- furnishing him with a courtesy car. They also sponsored the 1952 Banks-Tinsley 2-move restriction match in Detroit.

Banks (and later Grover & Wiswell) also played chess. Banks had a masters rating and had played in several master chess tys. in the 1920's. This handicapped Ryan, who tried to learn chess from Richards but gave it up after several months. He said: "Those backward moves make no sense to me!"

Ryan had no income except what he could garner from his ex. tours and later book sales. Banks' wife was the daughter of a prominent Detroit banker, and had money in her own name- according to Tinsley.

Both issued magazines, with Ryan much more prolific, with his "Checkergram", "New Checkergram", "Crossboard News" (just two issues!) and his final "American Checkerist" sponsored by a wealthy George Wales, of Buffalo, which turned into one of the finest magazines ever on the game, but Chamblee nosed in after the Paxton ty.. in 1950, eased Ryan out, and later was fired by Mr. Wales and the magazine died.

Both were authors- Ryan again the winner here with his, "Its Your Move", and later "Scientific Checkers Made Easy", "Tricks, Traps and Shots", "Championship Checkers Simplified", "The Modern Encyclopedia of Checkers" and his post-mortem "Big League Checkers" which Beebe financed. Banks produced, "Scientific Checkers" in 1923, and "Blindfold Checkers" in 1947, which gave many games played against an unnamed "Club" player, some played as young as age 8 (!) However, Frank Wendemuth once told me, these should be taken with a grain of salt!

Banks billed himself as: The Match Champion of America" and "11-man world champion" in view of his victories over Henderson in 1910 and over Jordan in 1917 match for the 2-move title.

Ryan modestly called himself: "The World's Champion Checker Player".
Ryan had a rather mild disposition; I don't ever recall seeing him very angry. But Banks had a hair trigger temper, and sometimes exploded- as in the 1915 3rd Amer. ty.. and almost against me at Bethlehem in 1958. It commenced when were paired in the 2nd rd; after Banks had just lost to Prof. Fraser. He said, "You are a slow player, so we will use time clocks." I replied: "I have never played with clocks and I do not want to start now". He became angry and said: "Well, you will have to find you a time-keeper." and walked away.

Of course, I could have approached the referee, to furnish one, but it so happened that a close checker friend of mine was visiting the ty..- Keith Todd, along with his wife, of Oneida, NY, who had overheard this conversation, so he volunteered to keep time. Banks was still upset, and more so after I won game 2 with a Tinsley cook (30-26) on the Octopus. He started to talk to Keith about his early matches; mainly to disturb me, I suppose; anyway he evened the score, and went on to win.

In exhibition play, Ryan was much the faster in simultaneous play, often chatting up the players as he moved down the line. Banks was slower, and very seldom talked, until the games were over. If available, Banks would shoot a game of pool or billiards and sometimes take a hand in a game of cards- rum or whist. Ryan never did this in blindfold play.

I was the MC for both in several blindfold displays, the first for Banks at the 1933 Cedar Point tournament. He visited there every year for the annual ty.. and had 6 large wall-boards, which were placed outside (in good weather) facing the boardwalk and the beach, these with black/white checkers hung on hooks. Banks would recline in a beach chair with his back to the boards, wearing a large white handkerchief over his eyes for the benefit of the tourists walking by. I would announce the players moves to him by board number and move the pieces on the wall-boards.

If he made a mistake, I would say: "Please check", after which he would rectify the error. He seldom if ever lost a game but would allow a draw or two, which gained the player a free hotel dinner. Ryan also used to make a few mistakes also, but not as many as Banks. Both would play with Red on board #1, then White on board #2 and so on, which helped.

As I mentioned, Banks really didn't discuss checkers, but he did tell me of his 1922 title match vs. Robert Stewart.

Banks had beat Jordan 3-2 and 35 draws in 1917 and then offered to play ex-champion Ferrie for the world title. Ferrie declined, so in fact he had the right to call himself the champion. When Stewart challenged him in 1920, Banks could have insisted the match be played over here, but Stewart flatly refused. Banks said, rather than to have the match canceled, I agreed to play in Scotland.

It was supposed to have been played in Nov. 1921, but Banks father ( who was also a fine player- MI state champ) died unexpectedly, so the match was postponed until Jan. 1922, Banks said: I was used to cold winters, living in Michigan, but I certainly wasn't prepared for Jan. in Glasgow, with the temp near zero and no central heating- playing in a town hall- with just two coal stoves. "I played most of the match wearing an overcoat, but Stewart seemed used to it."

Stewart won 2-1 with 37 draws and refused to give Banks a return match; in fact, he never again defended his title- until forced out in 1937 by Levy's challenge.

Ryan died in 1954 at age 47 of a stroke from high blood pressure. Banks lived to old age, dying in 1977 at age 89 of pneumonia following a fall at his home, breaking his hip.

Although Wiswell and Grover later attempted to carry on the tradition, exhibition checkers died with Banks & Ryan.

What do you think has been the overall impact of computers upon the game of checkers?Back to top

On the subject of computers, I think I may be prejudiced, since I do not have one.

Back in early 1978, I was contacted by one of the Fidelity people, in regard to their new "Checker Challenger". Burke Grandjean had given them my name and they asked me if I could review their product for the checker press if they would send me a complimentary set. Since I had nothing to lose, I accepted.

Frankly, I was amazed that this small box could play 'legal' checkers, and even spot shots, although its overall play; especially end-game play, was markedly inferior.

Still, it was capable of beating the uninformed player. I took this up to Peoria to show Clayton Beebe, who was also very impressed. In fact, he later became a salesman for Fidelity and sold a number of sets. Fidelity evidently had great plans, since it donated $5000 to the 1978 Nat. ty. at Murfeesboro, and the company proxy plus several others attended, to demonstrate both their checker and chess computers. It was officially entered in the minors; operated by Jules Leopold who told me later he had a difficult time in getting some 'agreed' draws! They also interviewed Tinsley, who had several kind comments as to the future of computer checkers, although he later told me he wasn't very optimistic!

Little did we know what would happen over the next ten years, with Chinook entering the field.

With both Tinsley and Lafferty gone, Chinook has proven in competition that it is superior to the strongest grandmaster, and with that, has retired. (Chinook's overall record vs. current world champion Ron King is 8-0 and 12 draws.

Only two human players had the 'score' on Chinook, and both are dead.) Whether that has helped the game to grow is subject to debate. Many feel the opposite way, in view of the declining A.C.F. membership.

What do you think would have been the outcome of the Chinook vs. Tinsley match held in Boston if Tinsley had been healthy and if Chinook had no computer problems?Back to top

With a healthy Tinsley, and a "bug free" Chinook, the Boston match may have well ended in a scoreless deadlock. However, had several openings been cut, on which Marion had "killer cooks" he just might have won by a slim margin. Of course, we will never know.

What do you think of Chinook's correction of Boland's 100 year old checker problem?Back to top

This goes to prove that the Chinook analysis is deeper that the human mind. With the 8 piece database, errors are nonexistent.

How would you assess the overall quality of postal play since computer programs have become regularly used?

I would be inclined to agree that the overall quality of play has improved through the use of computers. Also, this was evident in the Tinsley-Chinook and the Lafferty-Chinook matches, in which new defenses came into play.

Did you use or receive any computer analysis in any of your postal games, including your world title match with Jerry Childers?Back to top

I had suggestions from Marion Tinsley, Don Lafferty and Karl Albrecht as to opening selections, and possible attacks or defenses- this only in important matches, and only before play commenced. But no help (which I did not ask for or want) during actual play.

If you were still an active mail player today, then to what extent would you utilize computer analysis in the study of your mail games?

Since I don't have a computer, I will also pass on this. Can anyone really be happy when a computer wins a game for him, on a line he failed to see?

If the current World Title Mail Match between George Miller and Jerry Childers were being held during the pre computer era instead, then who do you predict would be the winner?

Childers, when in good health (which I hear he is not at the present time ), would surely defeat George Miller- both in postal and x-board play. I never asked Jerry if he had a computer (or received help from someone that did) when I played him. I don't think he has one.

If Marion Tinsley would have defended with the weak side of the Rattlesnake opening, 9-14, 23-19, 10-15 against George Miller with computer assistance in a postal game held today, then what do you believe would have resulted?

As you know, Marion remarked to several of his friends that he thought the Rattlesnake opening would draw. I don't know if he had intended to use my 2-6 defense or not, but if so, in the light of present analysis, I think Marion would have lost. Both Al Lyman & myself had hopes for several years that 2-6 would draw. I was disappointed!

Just for fun, would you like to hazard a guess as to what year the game of checkers will be finally solved?
Back to top

Prof. Schaeffer has mentioned "solving" checkers. Could you define for me what this really means?

(Solving checkers- means that we will know the result (win, draw or loss) of ANY checker position and can show at least one way to accomplish that result.)

I have no idea when the game will be solved! Hopefully, the year 2000 will not mess up Chinook's data bases. Maybe 2002???.

What rule changes, if any, would you propose for the A.C.F. National Go as you please and Three Move Tournaments?Back to top

No changes.

What would be your reaction to a proposal which would allow both contestants in A.C.F. World Championship three move matches to choose their openings, as is done in postal play?

Derek Oldbury once suggested this idea to Tinsley (via an intermediary) but Marion said, "I politely but firmly declined". I don't think Derek meant all of the openings to be pre-selected- just in part. Are you aware that the openings in the Oldbury-Hallett world title match were pre-selected by referee Bill Brewer? These were written on slips of paper, then placed in a container, from which the referee drew out in order. I was the referee for the 2nd half. Hallett made no objections that I am aware of. It is quite possible that Derek may have known in advance what the openings would be!

PS- At the conclusion of the 1948 Brownwood Nat. ty.., Tinsley & Chamblee had agreed to show each other their cooks that they had prepared for this ty.; and I, (as acting referee) was invited to set in. After about 4 exchanges, Maurice said: "I quit! My cooks are worth two of yours!"

Checkers evolved from the 'go-as-you-please' style directly into 2-move restriction. What would be your opinion of a two day tournament utilizing "one-move restriction"- in which both the black and the white side of each of the seven opening moves are played for a total of 14 games?

Certainly an interesting idea, which is new, as far as I know. You might mention this to A.C.F. prexy Les Balderson who would likely reject it, as it is original thinking!

Have you conducted any personal study of any of the current "Barred Openings"?Back to top

I have made no personal study of any of the new openings. I would leave that to the superior technique of Chinook!

During the last couple of years, Chinook has donated months of analysis toward the completion of the three move deck. Are you surprised that the number of "sound" openings now stands at 155?

Yes, I am surprised to see the number advance this high. Asa Long once told me that Reynolds, Horr, Heffner and himself spent one Sunday afternoon in 1930 in Reynolds home, going through all of the 3 move possibilities, and coming up with 150 which they first called the "American Restriction". This first played in the 1931 Cedar Point ty.; in which Rubin won over Reynolds, with delaying tactics! Several were later tossed out, but it was still a fine job in so little time.

Which of the new openings has surprised you the most?Back to top

Perhaps, the one that surprises me the most is the "Barred Bristol" 11-16, 23-19. First, since it has been played in several x-board tournaments as far back as 1920, and more so, since Walter Hellman once wrote me that he was "positive" it would lose! But this again was prior to Chinook, which has altered the face of the game.

What is the most difficult checker position you have ever seen?Back to top

There are many, but one in particular stands out: 11-15, 22-18, x 8-11, 29-25, 4-8, 25-22, 12-16, 24-19, 16-20, 28-24(?) 8-12, 32-28, 10-15, 19-10, 7-14, 30-25, 9-13, x 22-18, and 6-9- with White to move and draw.

I once caught Henderson Marshall in this from 9-14, 23-18x 5-9, 26-23,12-16, 30-26, 8-12, 32-27, 10-14, 18-15x, 16-20, 25-22, 9-13, 22-18? 6-9* 29-25, and 7-11x same.

Recently, Chinook worked on this and confirmed the draw is there.

What is the most entertaining checker position you have ever seen?Back to top

Again, there are many. Here is one: 10-14, 24-20 11-15, 22-18, 15-22, 25-18, 6-10, 26-22, 8-11, 27-24, 3-8, 24-19, 1-6, 32-27, then 11-16? (11-15 best) 20-11, 8-24, 28-19, 4-8, 29-25, 9-13, 18-9, 5-14, 22-18, 13-17 18-9, 6-13,, 21-14, 10-17, 27-24, 8-11, and 24-20 Draw Agreed!!- Case vs. Hellman in the 1946 11th A.C.A. Nat. Ty. My notes said, "the ending is far from clear, however Hellman needed only a draw to win the heat"... Some time later, I asked Walter about this game and he said, "Black can draw by the 'Subkow Position"- which caused me to do some research ...Have you ever seen this?

What is your favorite checker "shot"?Back to top

I have several. One of my early favorites came about in actual play- Ryan v. Lewis, 1928 Flint, MI match:

Black: 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,11,16,17,18 White: 14,15, 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32- white to move & win.

I asked Ryan about this when he was here in 1931. He said "I was well satisfied with my position after I had made 12-16 (6-9 correct) but was shocked when Lewis made the first pitch; almost at once! But after the shot, he missed the win with 27-24?.
Instead, both 27-23x or 31-26 win" Curiously enough, the "Checker Challenger" also finds this shot (as I showed Tinsley at the 1978 N. Ty) but also misses the later win, as Lewis did!

Another one of my favorites; perhaps because I discovered it, to correct Hellman and shock Edwin Hunt!

Black: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18 White: 14, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 31, 32-- Black to move.
Hellman gave the natural 16-19, with white, strong. I found 1-6 (!) instead, which Tinsley later remarked after 14-10 " a revolting discovery!"

Also, a still unpublished cook by Tinsley:

Black: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18 White: 10, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32 - White to move and win.

Black's last move was 2-6*, by Tinsley, to improve the published play 2-7 or 5-9, then 21-17 is into the shot, instead 26-23 may draw but Black has the better ending.

Do world champions know or see all the checker shots?

No. Marion Tinsley and Asa long, both world champions, missed a shot in an ending that came up in their 1981 match!
The position:
Black: 5, 7, 10, 11, 15, 18, 20
White: 8, 13, 16, 24, 27, 28, 32
White to move and win.
After due deliberation, Marion went 16-12??, allowing a draw after 18-23, xx, etc. After the game, I mentioned 8-3* to win by a shot, continue: 18-23, 27-18, 20-27, 32-23, 15-22, then 23-19, 11-20, 13-9, 5-14, and 19-15 to win which shocked both!
Earlier, I had lost a game on this line vs. Alf Huggins in our 1964 world mail tittle match, but I varied earlier to avoid this shot.
Black - Richard Fortman, White - Alf Huggins; 1964 World Title Mail Match: 12-16, 21-17, 16-20, 17-13, 8-12, 22-18, 10-15, 25-22, 7-10, 29-25(A), 4-8(B), 23-19!(C), 9-14, 18-9, 5-14, 26-23, 12-16*(D), 19-12, 15-18, 22-15,10-26, 30-23, 14-17, 25-22 17-26, 31-22, 11-15, 23-19!(E), 6-10?(F), 22-17,15-18(G), 13-9, 18-22, 17-13, 22-26, 9-6x, 10-14, 6-2, 14-18, 19-15* (which I had missed ) 26-31, 24-19!, 31-24, 19-16, 24-19, 2-7, 3-10, 15-6, 1-10, 12-3, 19-12, 28-24, White Wins. This cost me the World Title Match, 1-0-11.
(A)--In a 1969 exhibition by Hellman in Peoria, he played the early 23-19 vs. me, then 9-14, x, 29-25 and 14-18*!,19-16, 12-19, 26-23, 19-26, 30-7, 3-10, 24-19, x, 11-15, 19-16, 10-14, 16-11, and I drew with 6-10*, as I saw that both 14-17 or 1-5 would lose after 27-24*, etc. I was in fighting trim back in those days!
(B)--Innocent enough, but 9-14x first is easier, as in Oldbury-Hellman,1965 World Championship.
(C)--Caught me completely by surprise, as I had expected either 24-19,x, or 25-21 to pp Kelso draws. Huggins said later that he had not prepared this, but played it, since it "looked good"! I was unaware at this time that Tinsley had played it vs Carroll Binsack in the finals of the1948 Ohio ty, but not published!!
(D)--A lot of time spent here! I had discarded both 3-7 and 15-18, x* (which Binsack had lost), so this was the last hope!
(E)--Edwin Hunt told me later he had been over this and completely misjudged the position, in view of the cramp; playing 23-18 instead, then 8-11, 18-14 and 2-7 to a easy draw!
(F)--Again after mature consideration! I thought it was better than 8-11* after 19-10, 6-15, 27-23, 20-27, 23-18, then missed the nice 11-16!, 18-11 and 27-31 draw which Huggins sent. Here, 17 years later, when keeping score in the 13th game of the 1981 WCM- Long Black vs. Tinsley White, you can imagine my thoughts when Asa also passed up 8-11* and played 6-10? also! He said later that he recalled having looked at this with Chamblee prior to the 1951 match vs. Hellman and knew that Black had to play a piece short, but was hazy on the later play.
(G)-Asa tried 8-11 instead because he said later that he saw (across the board) the shot I got into using 15-18 ... How about that! After 8-11,13-9, 1-5, 9-6, 2-9, 17-13, 9-14, 19-16, 3-7, 12-8 and 14-18 forms the diagram. White to move and win by 8-3*, instead of 16-12?, as played byTinsley; permitting a long draw after 18-23, etc. I shocked both by pointing this out after the game. Marion said:" Even if I had had more time, I might have missed this, as the ending is deceptive. "

Can you think of any positions where grandmasters goofed?

Yes, here is an item for Ripley's "Believe It Or Not"

The position:

red - 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 20
white - 13, 18, 19, 22, 23, 25, 27
white to play and win

1. Asa Long missed the win x-board.
2. Marion Tinsley missed the win, along with 2 other mistakes, while annotating the May '55 ACFB.
3. Edwin Hunt missed the shot in analysis.

This position arose from 12-16, 22-18, 16-19, 24-15xx 25-22, 6-10, 22-17, 8-11, 29-25, 1-6, 17-13, 10-15, 25-22, 7-10, 26-23, 3-7 28-24, 4-8, 24-19, 15-24, 32-28, 9-14, 28-19, 14-17xx  then 8-12??(A)  30-25, 7-10(B)  forms the above postion: 22-17??(C) 20-24??(D)  27-20, 6-9, 13-6 2-9, 17-13(E), 9-14, 18-9, 5-14, 25-22??(F) abandoned as a draw by Tinsley, the 3rd mistake, all of this in just two lines of annotation!

(A) - Marion only said that 6-10 was perhaps best, but did not say that 8-12 was a loss.

(B) - Tinsley noted that 11-16, 22-17 would lose, white win. Marion won this from Bobby Martin at the 1950 Paxton N. ty.

(C) - The first of three mistakes by annotator Marion Tinsley.  Also, Asa Long moved 22-17?? missing 18-15*xx wins and 19-15x wins, found by Leo Levitt over H. Kelley, 1980 Nat. ty.. Jerry Childers annotated the Levitt-Kelley game but he missed the shot by 11-15! at note D too -  mentioning Tinsley's 22-17??, giving 20-24?? instead.

(D) - The second mistake by annotator Tinsley, permitting the fine shot by 11-15! 18-11, 12-16, 19-12, 2-7, 11-2, 10-15, 2-9, 5-30 draw, found by Charles Walker vs. Asa Long, 1984 Br. ty.- Charley's finest hour! He said he was crossboard ( as usual! ) and that Asa was relaxing quite comfortably in anticipation of the win after the 20-24 pitch. But when 11-15! was made instead, he said Asa quickly came to attention! and later congratulated him. No doubt a mini-second look may have been given to the 11-15 pitch and mentally discarded through lack of a waiting move.

(E) - Tinsley missed a second win by 25-22, 9-14, 18-9, 5-21, 23-18, 21-25, 18-15, 11-18, 22-6 white win, Checkers 3.0.

(F) - In a letter from Edwin Hunt in 1961, he pointed out the win missed by Tinsley with 25*21, instead of 25-22.  Once again, no mention of the shot by 11-15! at note D.

A strange case of "mass hynopsis blindness"!  where three grandmasters - Tinsley, Long and Hunt- missed a shot in a relatively simple position!

Marion Tinsley claimed that he spent at least 4,000 hours analyzing and writing his manuscript on his favorite opening: 9-14, 23-18, 14-23. He felt that this demonstrated how difficult checkers really is. Would you care to comment on this?

Dr. Marion F. Tinsley
Yes, I do believe Marion did spend 4,000 hours on 9-14, 23-18, as he had mentioned to me something similar. I know he was obsessed in trying to knock out the 14-10 line by 9-14, 23-18, 14-23, 27-18, 12-16 (5-9 came later), 18-14, 10-17, 21-14, 6-9,14-10, 7-14, 22-18, 14-23, 26-12. He felt that this offered the best possibility of knocking out this line.

But even if he had succeeded (which he didn't) then he still had the 32-27 defense (instead of 6-9) to beat- and again, could not do so.

Yes, I would agree that Tinsley's 4,000 hours is a bit too difficult to digest; however, that is what he told me (I don't recall ever catching Marion in a lie, although he may have "stretched the truth" on occasion.) working on just the 12-16 attack and the 14-10 defense, from 1946 (prior to Newark) to 1950 (Paxton) along with Hellman.
In 1949, I mentioned the 32-27 defense (instead of 14-10) and the J. Jack attack later with 1-6, as published in the Eng. magazine "Draughts Review". He said this was new to him and proceeded to work on it for the Paxton ty... Some of his play was given much later in Walker's "Checkers" magazine, Vol. 1. If a Chinook had been available, then the 4,000 hours would have been greatly diminished.

He said that on 9-14, 23-18, 14-23, that Ryan had told him at Newark in 1946 that he was prepared to play 26-19? then 11-16, and 22-17! 14-23, 27-18 but I think he may have been kidding!"

I don't know just how many hours a day that Marion spent on the game, but he did tell me it interfered with his studies at Ohio State University. From 1945 or 1946 to 1950 when he said to me: "I literally lived and dreamed about checkers". He said the oversight to Cameron at Paxton was: "a bitter pill to swallow" at the time but later he believed it took him back down to earth, and allowed him to gain his masters degree.

Back in 1975, I was invited to write an article on the game by Ted Anderson, author of Sportssource" a large 430 page book covering 210 sports, board games, etc. This is a portion of the article:

"The current world champion, Dr. Marion F. Tinsley, a math professor at Fla. A&M stated in a recent newspaper interview that he had spent an estimated 20,000 hours during a 12 year period' (1943-55) on the game of checkers. 'I don't think anyone ever worked harder on anything than I did during these years; totally obsessed with the game, to the detriment of my university studies'. "

I do know that Chamblee, prior to the 1946 11th A.C.A. and Newark, had set up a regular 8 hour a day schedule to work on checkers. So many hours in the am, then lunch, so many in the afternoon, and so many at night, after dinner. This from my coach Harland Richards, who was in Nashville at that time, and Chamblee was "boarding" with his ( Richards family ). Another case of almost total obsession, which wasn't cured until the 1951 Hellman match. Wiswell wrote me that the N.Y. players were afraid that Chamblee would have a nervous breakdown, but recovered to finish the match. Afterwards, with his loser's share of the purse, he lost most of it playing high stake bridge!

Do you believe that Tinsley would have still dominated the game of checkers if checkers had ever rose to a level of popularity equivalent to that of chess?Back to top

If checkers had ever gained the popularity of chess, I believe Marion might still have been world champion, but only in his prime years 1954-58 when he was fighting for the title. After he returned to the game in 1970, it is doubtful, since the impetus was no longer there.

Do you believe that Tinsley would have lost to Chinook if its programmer, Jonathan Schaeffer, would have had the same super computer resources as the programmers of the Deep Blue chess computer which defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov?
With increased knowledge, (Deep Blue) there is no doubt that the computer would have won- if not at that time, then in a later match, which Marion more or less concedes in his notes.

I last talked to Marion by phone in either Oct. or Nov. 1994, after he had returned to Conyers, GA from the Boston match. He had been taking chemo-therapy at an Atlanta hospital, and said, 'they are trying to kill me, instead of cure". He had some difficulty talking because of hiccups.

Among other things he said: "Even if I had been well and won (or drawn) the match, it is evident that IF Jonathan continues work on the databases, Chinook will someday be unbeatable, and that would include me too."

Do you think that checkers is as difficult as chess?Back to top

An age old debate- that may never be resolved. As for myself, I learned both games at age 16. I still play an occasional game of chess, but admit has never attracted me like checkers. Marion told me he spent 6 months studying chess when at Ohio State U. and played on the chess team. He later beat the Columbus city champion, then returned to checkers. Asa Long enjoys chess, also Walter Hellman who was the Gary city chess champion at age 15, before getting into checkers. Also, Derek Oldbury played both games, but preferred checkers.

"In my opinion, I consider checkers to be more difficult- at the master level ..."and I have one chess master to back me up! ...

Irving Chernev was a member of the Brooklyn chess & checker club back in the 1920's, during the era of Gonotsky, Ginsberg, Ryan, Mantell, etc. and played them all, and, as he said: "I was beaten like a child."

So he took 5 years to learn the game. Then, as he said: "I would still lose, but not nearly as badly". Several of his games vs. Gonotsky were given in Teetzel's "A.C.M." magazine. But, as he said, "I gave it up, as checkers is too difficult.

For example: I'm playing Banks, and developing my pieces in an approved fashion (or so I thought!) when out of a clear blue sky, he pitches me a piece, squeezes, and in two moves, I am in a dead loss!!! Now this doesn't happen in chess. If you make reasonable opening moves, you may still lose, by inferior play later, but you won't be crushed, as in checkers"...

After some 50 years, playing and writing many chess books, right at the end of his career, he wrote his final book- on checkers! ... which he titled " The Complete Draughts Player". I was rather disappointed when I read this, as I had hoped for games and stories from the old Brooklyn club.

Checkers, played on a more limited scale, often leads to disaster against a master when one move is played out of order. Chess, on the other hand, may allow an escape after re-grouping.

Checkers has never produced a prodigy such as 5 year old Sammy Reshevsky in chess, or Mozart, in music. Banks claimed to have been playing at age 6, but Frank Wendemuth told me you have to take that with a grain of salt. Few checker masters ever appeared before the age of 16- Long, Chamblee, Tinsley, to name a few.

If you had a son who was equally interested and talented in both chess and checkers, then which game would you encourage him to pursue? Back to top

Perhaps chess, as the game is more a "status symbol" over checkers and regarded by the general public as extremely difficult. When checkers is mentioned, I am invariably asked if I play chess also. When answered in the affirmative, I am then an 'intellectual', whereas, if checkers only, then somewhat lower on the scale!

What is the best checker game which you have ever seen played between two players?

One of the finest games I actually saw was the 38th, played by Hellman v. Ryan in their 1949 match at Joliet, Il.- won by Ryan with the White side of 10-14, 24-19, 7-10 and which tied the score- coming back from a 0-3 deficit.

In this game, one could almost feel or sense the tension- with both perspiring in the hot playing room (fans, no air conditioning) and Walter's hand visibly trembling during the finish, aware that he was in a loss.

Another game that I did not see was Long's win over Case in the 1954 Am. ty.. with Black in a 2nd double corner with a beautiful finish.

Here is the Hellman-Ryan game- Ryan's notes in CAPS; mine, otherwise. Played on the afternoon and early evening of May 30th, 1949, in the Moose Hall, Joliet, Il. The 6th District. ty.. had just ended and many of the players were watching, including myself.

Hellman-Black; Ryan-White: 10-14, 24-19, 7-10(A), 28-24(B), 11-16(C), 32-28(D), 16-20(E), 22-17(F), 9-13, 25-22, 5-9, 19-16!!(G), 12-19, 24-15, 10-19, 17-10, 6-15, 23-16, 1-6?(H), 26-23, 9-14, 16-12*, 8-11, 30-25, 6-9, 28-24, 4-8, 23-19*, 15-18, 22-15, 11-18, 25-22, 18-25 29-22, 8-11, 27-23, 20-27, 31-24, 2-7(I), 24-20, 7-10, 22-18, 13-17, 19-16, 10-15(J) 16-7, 15-22, 7-2, 9-13, 2-6, 22-25, 6-9, 17-22, 9-18, 25-29, 18-25, 29-22, 20-16, 22-26, 23-18, 26-23, 18-14, 23-18, 14-9, 18-14, 9-6, 13-17, 6-2, 17-22, 2-6, 22-26, 16-11, 26-31, 11-7, 3-10, 6-15, 31-26, 12-8, 26-22, 8-3, 14-9, 3-7, 9-14, 7-2, 14-9, 15-10, 9-5, 2-6, 5-1, 6-9, 1-5, 9-13 and Walter extended his hand to concede.

(A)- Both had cooks on this opening, but Ryan's proved better!

(B)- In the previous game, Hellman used a Tinsley cook with 22-18, 11-16, (I managed to survive with 11-15?xx v. Tinsley, in the 1949 6th District, but not advisable) then 18-15. Ryan missed an easier draw, but got by anyway.

(C)- Tinsley lost to Ryan at Newark after 9-13, 22-18, 3-7 etc.; missing a later draw. The text is the Case line, also featured at Newark.

(D)- Or 24-20, 3-7 (9-13 Levitt-Lafferty- Tupelo to a white win) etc. and 4-8 p.p. draw.

(E)- Best, as 9-13 is difficult. White plays for the sucker 14-18? pitch, 22-15, 9-14, then 21-17* 14-21, 24-20 etc. white win.

(F)- Following the Case var. If 22-18, 3-7, 25-33, 7-11, 30-25, 11-16, 22-17, 8-11, and 19-15 etc. to a draw- Clayton vs. Paul Thompson.

(G)- Walter told me later he had never considered this! Although Tinsley and Chamblee had went over it before Brownwood! Ryan called this " The Cook of the Century!"

(H)- Red has three plausible replies- one of the main advantages of a good cook. In watching this game (19-16 also new to me) Walter took his full 5 minutes, then chose the weaker reply, after which published play does not show a draw, although the computers may do so. Instead, Ryan considered 8-12 best, but White has scope, both with 30-25 (or 16-11!) Tinsley and Chamblee had analyzed 2-7 as best, as shown in "Basic Checkers".

(I)- The playing room was hot, no air-conditioning- floor fans only. Walter always perspired easily, and this was evident here; he had been taking full time, with Ryan sitting back in his chair, seemingly at ease! Walter now saw that his earlier intended 11-16 allowed 12-8!, 3-12, and 24-20 to win.

(J)- In post-mortem, someone suggested 11-15 as better, but it was soon dismissed after 18-11, 10-15, then 10-7*, 3-10, and 16-11 white win. The pace had now picked up, with both moving rapidly.

This tied the score at 4 wins each, and after two more draws, a 10 game play-off started which also produced 10 draws.

When Ryan came through here along with Wiswell, after the Hellman match, I asked him about this game.

He said, in part: "I am not a religious person, but it seemed that Providence (or something) was on my side during the 2nd half, when everything went right; in contrast to the first half, when every thing went wrong. I have heard of people rising from their coffins after being pronounced dead but I never thought I would be one of them!"

He also said he was satisfied with the tie result, even though Walter retained his title, in view of his play at Joliet.

What is the best game you NEVER saw?Back to top

Long v. Case- 1954 N. ty.. 11-15, 24-19, 15-24, 28-19, 8-11, 22-18, 11-16, 25-22, 16-20, 22-17, 4-8, 17-13, 8-11, 26-22, 9-14x 22-18, 1-5x 30-26, 11-15, then 19-16x (instead of the usual 32-28)12-19, 23-16, 14-17, 21-14, 10-17, 29-25.

Here old pp gave the quick draw with 17-21, 26-22x, 31-26, etc. Long told me that he and Mike Lieber had worked on 7-10 instead prior to the 1927 2nd IM but never had a chance there to use it.

I later told Asa that J. Ferrie had given this 7-10 in the 6th Scot. ty. book(1899) Since this book is quite rare- just 100 copies printed.

Asa had never seen it. After 7-10, 16-12? (It was new also to Case who made this losing move. 25-21 is also bad, with 25-22* 17-21 and 26-23 to draw as Chinook later played v. Tinsley in their London match) 2-7,25-21, 10-14, 27-23, 7-11, 26-22 x 11-16, 32-28, 6-10, 13-9, 15-19, 23-18,14-23, 22-18, 23-26, 9-6, 26-31, 6-2, 31-26, 2-6, 26-23, 6-24, 23-14, 24-27, 16-19, 27-31, 20-24, 31-26, and 14-18 red win- White literally forced off the board!

Upon second thought (and I have many!), I would also rank Levitt's win over Long in the 1974 Phil. Nat. ty. from 10-14, 24-19, 7-10, 27-24 etc. among the finest that I didn't see.

What percent difference in ability do you believe exists between the top five cross-board players you have met?Back to top

Asa Long said back in 1936 when he played Hunt, that, in his opinion, there was only about a one game difference in 40 between 4 or 5 masters. But after Tinsley entered the arena, I think this number might be increased to 2 or 3.

Do you suspect that any of the world title matches have been "fixed"?

Edwin Hunt once told me that he was certain that the 2nd Jordan-Pomeroy go-as you-please match was arranged for Pomeroy to win. Jordan was always in need of money, whereas Pomeroy was an influential business man. As Jordan mentioned to Hunt, this tittle meant very little to him, but the cash did (amount paid was unknown). Also, some felt that Hellman had 'arranged' for Ryan to come back to tie in their 1949 match. I don't believe this, as I saw most of the 2nd half. Hellman was ill several times and play had to be interrupted at least once- perhaps due to stress or late night parties. Ryan had no drinking problem. but would sometimes drink a beer- if someone bought it!

In "One Jump Ahead", Jonathan Schaeffer writes about future world champion Ron King cheating (at the 1990 National tournament in the second game against Chinook) by taking a checker off the board. On p. 162, Jonathan writes, "In disbelief I watched as those fingers (Ron King's) slowly pushed the checker toward the edge of the board and finally off. ... Later, I related the story to Herschel Smith. He told me that my story wasn't an isolated incident."

Do future world checker champions have a history of cheating in order to rise to the top?Back to top

This shows to some extent how low the game has descended since Tinsley, Oldbury and Lafferty have departed. It is sad indeed to hear that Ron King would try a stupid trick (steal a checker) vs. Chinook. I was the referee for that ty.. but Jonathan never made a complaint or even mentioned this to me. Also, King has on several occasions moved twice when his opponent has left the board for a rest break- vs. Jim Morrison. King takes advantage of his age and physical condition to wear out his opponents by refusing to concede draws in obvious conditions, and insists on late hours of play- past midnight vs. Lafferty in Barbados.

Still, he is the world champion, and whom do we have to unseat him?

What factors do you attribute to the decline in the popularity of the game of checkers?

When I was growing up in the late 1920's, the world was entirely different from the hectic pace of today. Prior to the advent of radio and TV, the family made their own entertainment to pass the long winter evenings. We played cards (rum, pitch, and double solitaire) both regular and Chinese checkers, dominos and jig-saw puzzles. Although organized checkers may have been lacking, the game itself was played in most barber shops, YMCA's, and in fire stations. We had three at that time, one Negro, and all had their 'champions' ready for a game, I seriously doubt if I could find a game here today; maybe at the local Senior Center.

Newspaper columns flourished, and several monthly magazines were published- all now extinct, as are the touring players who did so much for the game.

It was hoped that the new computer programs would help to attract the younger generation. If so, I have seen no evidence of this. We have had no potential grand masters since Tinsley, Chamblee and Rosenfield back in the late 1940's- now only a memory.

I don't think the game will ever actually die but will regress to a group of major and minor class players. Perhaps that is just as well, since few in that class ruin their lives and families over checkers.

In chess, the rules are the same world wide. However, this is not true for checkers. Do you think that the lack of a standardized international set of rules has stunted the popularity of checkers?

There is little doubt that the game of checkers has been crippled due to the many styles of play over the world. Each country considers their style superior and are reluctant to change over; in particular, Holland and Russia, with many thousands of players. Chess, with its universal style has benefited with international tys. and matches.

What do you think can be done to revive the popularity of the game of checkers today?Back to top

Checkers is in dire need of a new Messiah; a youthful prodigy who has met and conquered all human opponents, and now set to challenge Chinook for a million dollars, (akin to a Bobby Fischer) and thus, obtain front page publicity for the game, world-wide. (Just wishful thinking!)

Please email comments to: (RICHARD FORTMAN)

E-Mail. Richard Fortman

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