How to Save Checkers

General Discussion about the game of Checkers.

How to Save Checkers

Postby jpost on Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:48 pm

Hi everyone,

I know I have been away from the game for a while (and my time will be further occupied since I have a kid on the way), but I have kept up with the ACF from a distance during my years-long hiatus.

What I have seen is troubling. The organization seems to be stagnating, and membership declining. I see cause for concern for the future of the game, and through conversations from fellow players, it seems many feel the same way.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve thought quite a bit about what the ACF could do to right the ship. I think the first step is the drafting of a five-year strategic plan for the organization that would set goals to increase membership and revive interest in the game. Here are some thoughts below:

-Form a funnel to recruit players: This a three-pronged approach that includes school outreach, community outreach, and bridging the online and in-person player communities.

-Reaching out to schools, particularly mathematics classes, and trying to get kids involved in checkers. I know we have some people who do this, but we need to ramp up these efforts.

-To help educate kids, we should write and publish a short guide on checkers that we could hand out to students that outlines the rules of the game and basic concepts (we may just be able to use Robert Pike’s book, as apparently he has written some introductory books). Somewhere in the book, we can have links to the ACF website, which will need to be redone to accommodate more new players (more on this below).

-Start more community checker clubs. We should try to find checker players in metropolitan areas across the country and get them to start community checker clubs to try and get community members involved in the game, with the idea of growing these player bases into annual state tournaments.

-We could also hand out the short guides on checkers here as well.

-Host online, ACF-sanctioned checkers tournaments to be streamed online: 1 min./1 sec., 3 min./0 sec., 15 min./0 sec., etc. Have both GAYP and 3-move tournaments that offer decent prize money. The first few tournaments would be free for those online (in a sort of trial basis), but we would educate them about ACF and the benefits of joining it. With current technology, it should be possible to have them hook up a camera to their computer and have a referee that is watching each game to make sure no cheating is occurring. Another cool aspect of this is we could have GAYP and 3-move national champions for speed checkers. We have a fairly active online scene of young checkers players, and we need to find ways to involve those players in the ACF and integrate them into the organization.

-Another facet of this is we need to select one online website as the ACF-sanctioned website for checker playing. That way, we can ensure we are pulling interested players to one site, as opposed to possibly scattering them across several on the Internet.

-If we’re going to make a serious, sustained effort to recruit new players, the ACF website needs a facelift. We need to reimagine the site from a marketing perspective to accommodate both new and current players. A big problem with checkers right now is there is a fairly wide gap between a skilled player and an unskilled player, and we don’t do a great job of getting new players from Point A to Point B. We need to have a more streamlined, user-friendly website that can help take a new player visiting the site for the first time to resources to learn the game and meet people on an online community.

-Revive interest: A lot of the stuff above falls under this category, but I think we should look at republishing old seminal checker books, similar to what we did with Basic Checkers (we may already be doing this with other books). I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to republish nice bound editions of Lee’s Guide, Kear’s Encyclopedia, Gould’s Problem Book, etc. There may be copyright issues I’m not aware of, but we should be able to find a way to do it the same we did with Basic Checkers.

-This would also serve as a moneymaker for the ACF, as they could sell them on their website.

I realize that I pop in at random times after I’ve been gone from the game awhile and spout this stuff, but I mean for this post to be the start of a conversation, where others may be able to chip in with their own ideas on what we can do to improve visibility of the game. I may not have played much in the last few years, but I still care deeply for this game and am concerned for its future.

I think a new president should run on a platform similar to this and find some officers who can help make these things happen - or, at least, focus on the same results as these initiatives do (i.e. recruiting players), even if it’s through different means.

Honestly, achieving these goals will take a lot of people who are passionate about the game and patient in teaching and mentoring new players. We need to find good stewards of the game who can promote it in a way deserving of the game's stature.

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Re: How to Save Checkers

Postby John Acker on Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:58 pm

Hear, hear!
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Re: How to Save Checkers

Postby chipschap on Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:31 pm

At present I see a handful of people fighting an uphill battle against all odds. Jim Loy, who never seems to tire, keeps putting out high quality ACF Bulletins. J.R. Smith continues to report the news and keep us informed. Bill Salot organizes world-class problem composing events. Another handful organize tournaments, but if you take a key measure, the number of people who have played in tournaments in any given year, you won't come up with a number that requires a lot of digits to express. Similarly for the number of ACF members.

For my part, I've spent the last 13 years writing about checkers only to see my weekly readership drop in half from its peak times.

It's a discouraging picture but giving up and saying it's over is not an option I'm willing to accept. I hope a lot of others feel the same way and will back that feeling with positive action.
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Re: How to Save Checkers

Postby Ed Trice on Sun Apr 30, 2017 12:52 pm

I think it's no secret that I've been working on a new checkers program for a while now. So far I solved "Perfect Play" databases for all of DB-7 (4x3, 5x2, and 6x1) some of DB-8 (4x4 and most of 5x3, should be done in a few days), DB-9 5 kings vs. 4 kings and 4 kings + 1 checker vs. 4 kings, and DB-10 5 kings vs. 5 kings.

What I'm also building is a robotic arm that can physically move checkers on the checkerboard in response to moves made by the program, connected to a USB port to the computer. When the program and robotic arm are both completed, I was thinking about taking it on a "tour." The press loves robotic gadgets and I figure visiting schools to have kids taking turns against the machine might be fun way to get some exposure for the game.

What I don't think should happen: Having any newfound enthusiasts running smack into a discussion of 3-move restriction upon entering a checkers website. Newcomers can probably play freestyle (abolish the term GAYP please, it sets itself up for jokes about homosexual urination) for years before seeing the need for 3-move. Maybe the new definition of the Novice section can be for freestyle players, and the Minors can be former Novice 3-move, or however it was named.
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Re: How to Save Checkers

Postby George Hay on Mon May 01, 2017 7:07 am

Ed Trice, I am encouraged by your computer work on checkers. I agree with you on changing GAYP (Go As You Please) to Freestyle. Actually, that is going back to the future. While the terms "Go As You Please" and "Unrestricted" have been around a while, the great Tom Wiswell vs Millard Hopper match of 1951 was for the "Unrestricted World Title." Yet Tom Wiswell, who won that match, signed a postcard as "Fraternally, Tom Wiswell (Mr. Checkers) Free Style World Champion."
The below link shows the postcard on ebay. ... 1978479118

Aslo, the term Freestyle implies exciting competition, such as Freestyle Swimming, or Freestyle Checkers. Tom Wiswell knew something about salesmanship!

--George Hay
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