Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Checkers, called Draughts in most countries, has been traced back to the 1300s, though it may indeed stretch further into history than that. Checkers is not a game of random chance, but rather a game of skill and strategy when played well.

My father was a rather good checker player back in the early 60s. He was an OK chess player, and he knew his way around a deck of cards, but his master game skill was checkers. You don’t see people playing checkers much these days. I’ve only seen it being played by old men in city parks. I recall seeing rows of regulars playing every morning in Honolulu, but elsewhere it is a game you just don’t see any more.

I don’t know where my father picked up his skill since he was never in places where people pick up the skill of playing checkers. I recall seeing him dethrone local champions that learned to play in the military or in fraternal organizations. He once told me that he could anticipate six moves ahead.

One day a guy came over to play him. His name was Charley. Charley was a tall wiry fell with a bald head with a band of hair that went around the back of his head from temple to temple. He also had one eye that was partially closed. I recall Charley sitting at our kitchen table calmly smoking Chesterfields. The first game Charley beat my father handsomely. The next game he beat him even faster. The third game was a brutal beating. It was after the brutal beating of the third game; I could see a look come over my father’s face. It was a look that one has when they figure something out.

My father set up his checkers for a fourth game and looked over at Charley and said, “You’ve done some hard time, haven’t you, Charley?” Charley didn’t even blink his good eye and he replied, “Attica.” With this my father said, “I guess I won’t be winning any games today.” Charley replied, “Probably not.”

I later asked my father what that was all about. He told me that people that people that learn to play checkers on the streets, or at clubs, or in the military could only get so good because they eventually had to get away from the board and do some work, but the guys serving hard time have nothing to do all day but play and play and play and get better and better. There was no beating an ex-con in checkers.


Blogger darev2005 said...

Must be a New York con thing. I never see inmates playing checkers. Dominoes, mostly. But I have seen hand made decks of cards and dominoes and Monopoly boards and even once a handmade scrabble set with all of the tiles made from soap. They have nothing but time on their hands.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Never mind an ex-con - a five year old can beat me at checkers. And has.

7:59 AM  
Blogger RobbKidd said...

I remember playing him regularly, then I started beating him. I'm not sure if he let me win, but I got really excited when I did.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Kama said...

Wow! Thank you for this very interesting & insightful post. As a kid, I remember playing checkers, and I never did again as I grew up. We were expected to "graduate" to more "intelligent" and "challenging" games and if you could master chess, you would be well respected. Maybe I should go back to checkers and rediscover it with a new eye.

4:27 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Darev, it was probably more like a 1950's thing.

Beth, practice makes perfect.

Robb, Trust me, he let you win.

Kama, Good! I haven't played in years myself. I think I'll try an on-line version before I ever challenge anyone. Hey, you're a Canadian! Cool Welcome to Rust!

5:24 AM  

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