Great Players-Featuring Willie Ryan Panorama Of Great Players-Willie Ryan

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Ryan's "American Checkerist Magazine" ran from 1939 to a few issues in 1950. Complete bound sets of these are still available. The above issue is the "Silver Anniversary Edition" from August 1941.
All of Ryan's books and magazines are collectors items, and among the most important ever printed on the game. His GrandMaster status is not denied. Dr. Marion F. Tinsley told me the best he ever played was Walter Hellman, the Asa Long, then Willie. Ryan is one of the few to have an "even score" with the great Tinsley-their match record being 2 wins each and the rest of their games draws.
Ryan plays blindfolded (notice the scarf around his eyes) against several opponents, moving from board to board! He was the "Blindfold Champion of the world." Marion Tinsley could play blindfolded also, playing 15 different boards-simultaneously! Many have expressed doubt about this so here is the proof!

8th American Tournament. Held at the Hotel Jamestown, in Jamestown, NY-1934. Seated at the boards are: (Left board) Nathan Rubin (left) vs. Asa Long. At the right board: E.F. Hunt (left) vs. William (Willie) F. Ryan (wearing the "spats!"). Edwin F. Hunt won the Ty. and became World Champion. Later in the year, Asa Long won the title from him. Rubin and Ryan never became World Title holders, but remain 2 of the greatest players of all time.

Here, Willie "shows off" in one of his many exhibitions. He traveled the country throughout his career, in a tireless effort to
promote the game. He was cocky, brash and confident.

At an exhibition in Washington D.C., in 1945, he gives
some pointers to the ladies.

Above, Ryan hams it up with famed Band leader, Benny Goodman. Goodman was a good checker player, and delighted in "beating the boys in the band." Ryan claimed the boys were buying checker books in order to learn to "beat the boss!"

Boxing great-Jack Dempsey, (in the uniform) loved the game. In the 2nd world war he gave many exhibitions.

Comedian-Actor Jimmy Durante also loved the game. Photos from Ryan's A.C. Magazine. Circa 1945.

In 1949, Ryan got his shot at the world title. On the left is a photo of an actual game in that match. Ryan is on the right, vs. World Champion (then) Walter Hellman. Referee, Tom Wiswell with the stop
watch, making sure neither players violates the time limit per move, is Problemist, and writer extrodanaire, Tom Wiswell. Standing is GrandMaster and former World Champion, Newell Banks. John Dale Heath is the other spectator, an Illinois promoter and player. Ryan never realized his dream of being the world champ. After 30 games of a 40 game match, Hellman led 4-1! With 10 games to go, Ryan bit the bullet, and won 3 of the remaining games!, nearly winning the last one. The greatest comeback in the history of the game. Deadlocked at 4 wins each, Hellman retained the title by virtue of a drawn match. Ryan campaigned hard for a re-match, and began calling himself the undefeated challenger, which he was. Finally, in early 1954, the long awaited match was announced. But fate intervened. 10 days before the match, Willie Ryan died suddenly, at age 47, of a cerebral hemorrhage. The Checker world was shocked and stunned. It has lost it's most prolific star. Willie was given a simple funeral, and on his headstone it reads:
"William Francis Ryan"
"A Checker Player. "
Ryan had an undeniable flair about him. For many, who never met him, just reading his books and magazines would cause them to adopt him as their "hero." (Including yours truly) As long as the game is played, he will live forever.

The Catalin Checkers were popular in the 1940's where
this add appeared in nearly all Ryan's magazines.

Above is a finely crafted "Inlaid" board. It is inlaid with ceramic tile, inlaid in a beautiful wooden frame. These are still carried by many tournament players, as they were in great demand-strictly collectors items today. Notice the hinges where the board folds.