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  Interview with ACF Player Representative Lisle Cormier ACF Website Journalist conducted the following interview with ACF Player Representative Lisle Cormier by phone in late February 2004. Thank you, Ryan!

ACF Player Representative Lisle Cormier

  Question No. 1: On Being Selected as Player Representative
Ryan: How does it feel to be selected as the ACF Player Representative?

Lisle: I was taken completely by surprise when World Champion and former Player Representative Alex Moiseyev called me to announce his resignation. Although I had expected Alex to finish out his term, I understood his need as World Champion to devote the time it takes to stay at the top of his game. Alex is also interested in writing a book, his "new baby" as he calls it. I'm honored that Alex requested my appointment as his replacement, an endorsement with which the majority of the ACF Executive Committee concurred.

The biggest change in my new position is having a vote as a member of the Executive Committee. This is a tremendous amount of power to hold as there are only four members in this committee, the other three being the President, Secretary, and Treasurer. ACF President Alan Millhone and I, the two newcomers to the ACF administration, see eye to eye on most issues. This virtually eliminates any gridlock in writing new policies and improving old ones. The ACF's enormous task is to create programs, guidelines, and a professional image that will attract new members without alienating players who have been with the ACF over several decades. We are becoming masters of compromise.

One project Alan and I discussed recently was outsourcing the printing of the ACF Bulletin. ACF Treasurer Anthony Bishop sorts and prints all of the Bulletins, an extraordinarily time-consuming task for one person. Sir Speedy Printing, who created the official ACF foldover notes, business cards, and return address labels available in the ACF Online Store, would like to produce the ACF Bulletin for us. They sent us a proposal that I am positive will improve the Bulletin substantially while saving the ACF thousands of dollars every year. Sir Speedy's bar-coded postage system would cut our shipping costs by 75 percent while allowing the Bulletins to be mailed first class. The savings would allow the ACF to increase the size of every issue as well as to redirect money to other projects. Sir Speedy has already submitted a professional prototype for the Bulletin that I guarantee will knock your socks off.

Another project of the ACF is sponsorship. The ACF administration is delighted to have Michael Holmes, who was appointed to replace me as Second Vice President, on board. Alan immediately assigned Michael to the role of a PRO (Public Relations Officer), and Michael has already submitted several excellent plans for the ACF to seek out sponsorship from corporations. Michael demonstrates a voracious appetite for hard work. Volunteers like him are hard to come by.

For anyone interested in making some extra cash, President Millhone is offering a commission on monies procured through sponsorship for the ACF. Sponsorship is the ACF's primary agenda at this point. We have plenty of ideas but need the finances to see them through.

  Question No. 2: On Filling Alex's Shoes
Ryan: Will you try to follow through Alex’s short-term goals?

Lisle: I've always liked Alex's ideas even if I didn't always agree with them (ie: scoring by games versus rounds in tournaments). Alex is a brilliant man with a sly sense of humor that can be offensive to those who don't know him well. His ideas are refreshingly maverick and draw strongly from his tournament experience in Russia. As a player, he has become unstoppable, but Alex never claimed to be a politician. Behind the sarcastic jabs and realism, though, is a kind and thoughtful individual who truly enjoys helping other people.

My favorite proposal by Alex is the State Cup, a nationalistic tournament where small three- or four-member teams from each state compete with teams of other states. This idea reminds me of world cup soccer, my favorite sport to watch on television, because each state (nation) has its own culture, traditions, and rivalries.

Another excellent idea of Alex's is to create official ACF Grandmaster and Master Titles. Players who earn these titles will receive a passport-like booklet with their photo and certification enclosed. To win an official ACF title, a player must earn points according to tournament performance. For example, a player might earn one point for winning the British Open or doing well in an International Match and earn two points for winning the U.S. Nationals. If a player's point total is high enough, he or she will be awarded an official title.

  Question No. 3: On Long-Term Goals
Ryan: Do you have any long-term goals in mind?

Lisle: Making all ACF dealings open to the public is one of my major long-term goals. Members have a right to know about ACF finances, officer voting records, and current ACF projects, for example. As an officer, I try to make myself as available as possible to all ACF members. We can accomplish so much through an easy flow of ideas between members and officers.

Another very important long-term goal is standardization. I would like to see all tournament directors come under the umbrella of the ACF by conducting tournaments according to the Official Tournament Guide that ACF National Organizer Richard Beckwith has written. This guide will be posted on the ACF Website and sent to all tournament directors in the near future.

The ACF would like to see all tournaments require ACF membership for all competitors. As an incentive, the ACF is willing to donate money to the prize funds of those tournaments that check membership. Alan, Secretary Matthew Clark, and I are working on membership cards that will make checking memberships easy for directors.

Some portions of the Tournament Guide will be phased in over time such as requiring clocks and the recording of games. Many members aren't accustomed to time pressure and writing down their games. We want to make the transition as painless as possible for them while moving in the direction of complete standardization. This ultimate goal will make ratings meaningful, increase the professionalism of the ACF, and attract sponsorship.

Speaking of standardization, the ACF voted in August 2003 to include twelve new ballots in the three-move restriction deck. The ACF administration has created the layout of the new deck and is currently awaiting a quote from Sir Speedy Printing on printing costs. We're hoping to send tournament directors several decks each so that they can include the new openings as soon as possible. We are far behind the times as Europe has had this deck in play for some time now.

Another vision of mine is to see more GAYP (Go-As-You-Please) tournaments around the country even though this is not my strongest style of play. Most players are extremely strong in either GAYP or three-move restriction play but not both. Albert Tucker, for example, is a force to be reckoned with in GAYP but plays at the weak master level in three-move restriction. Having more GAYP tournaments would cater to players like Albert and allow the ACF to maintain separate ratings for GAYP and three-move restriction play.

  Question No. 4: On Multitasking
Ryan: Studying checkers, maintaining the American Checker Federation website and, more recently, receiving the honorable post of ACF Player Representative. How is this working for you?

Lisle: Checkers takes a huge amount of my time, but I enjoy devoting myself to it. I am lucky to be in a work environment that allows me to use computer resources after hours to maintain the ACF Website, write ACF policy, and so forth. I have no family and can stay at work as late as I want, usually until 9 or 10 pm. I also come in on the weekends to complete any large projects such as the new ACF Online Store.

I recently completed my latest article for Draughts Razoo, this one about my experience in Cookstown at the Irish Open. This upcoming Razoo may be a little late, but it will be well worth the wait. I've seen some of the material. Wow!

I am trying to cut down on the vast chunk of my time that is spent answering emails. I receive mail daily from prospective and current members, journalists, third-party vendors, and, of course, other ACF officers and volunteers. Whenever I get a short breather from my workload, I try to add something to the ACF Website that will answer common questions about the ACF so I don't have to type the same emails repeatedly. All of those emails add up!

All of these activities definitely detract from time that could be spent studying checkers. If ever I want to make a serious challenge to any of the top players today, I will need to drop everything else in my life. Winning the World Title has always been a dream of mine, but I'm not sure it's worth two to three years of exclusive study at this point. The money just isn't there, and scientific checkers isn't well known. For now, my goal is to put checkers on the intellectual map for the general public.

  Question No. 5: On Youth in the ACF
Ryan: There have been allegations of setting up a youth ACF representative, with 16-year-old John Post posing as an advocate leader. What are your thoughts about this?

Lisle: Alan and I both heard from John. We are always excited to have badly-needed volunteers. Kris Gordon is ACF Youth Director and undoubtably needs help in organizing fund-raising activities and tournaments for youth. We would welcome John as part of Kris' team.

The Executive Committee has so much work coming at us that we can't focus heavily on areas outside of budgeting, sponsorship, advertisement, and standardization. We certainly don't want to leave youth behind and need people like Kris and John to take an active role.

  Question No. 6: Personal Tournament Goals
Ryan: What are some of your tournament goals this year?

Lisle: This year will be my first experience playing in the Master Division in all tournaments. My primary goal is not to make a fool of myself. Given my limited experience at this level, I am content to finish in the middle of the pack.

I'm planning to attend the Barbados Open in June if I can get the vacation time. I was happy with my performance against Ron King and Jack Francis in Ireland and feel I can perform respectably against the Bajan players in three-move restriction. Competing against Ron and Jack anchored my suspicions that the endgame separates Master players from everyone else. I'm currently studying Ben Boland's Border Classics and making headway. This was the book that Marion Tinsley endorsed above all others to be successful at the Master level.

  Question No. 7: On Volunteers
Ryan: Any other comments?

Lisle: The ACF is always working to further the game of checkers. Alan is wonderful boss. He lends an ear to all suggestions, but he makes tough decisions when needed. I don't believe the ACF has ever had a President with this combination of adaptability and decision-making skills.

Alan recently signed a contract with Blue Chip Films on behalf of the ACF. This film company intends to produce a documentary about checkers using footage from ACF tournaments. Alan has also been in talks with the makers of the computer program Blondie and hopes to establish a mutual advertisement scheme.

The ACF has made tremendous progress since the last election, but we are not yet where we should be. Our most precious commodity is volunteers - not just people who are willing to help until the going gets tough - but people who will see a job through and do it well.

  Question No. 8: Personal Interests
Ryan: Any interesting facts about yourself?

Lisle: My favorite opening is the Tyne (10-15, 21-17, 9-13). At least it is today. My preferences change as I learn new lines. The Tyne is interesting because besides lending itself to moderate transposition, I've found that if Red meets White's strongest attacks in the midgame well, Red can achieve an advantage in the endgame. This property is unique among the weak openings I have studied thus far.

The only portion of my manuscript that is complete is the Bristol (11-16) openings. Most of these are fairly even but include very important landings such as the Pioneer and Bristol Cross. Since I stopped playing online several years ago, I hardly spend any time on GAYP as I strongly prefer critical openings. At this point, the majority of my opening study is spent on the weak side of the Octopus, Double Cross, Skullcracker, and the like.

Regardless, I feel that the endgame must come first and foremost. I don't see how a player can possibly understand their preferences in opening formations if he or she has no ending objective or comfort zone. I see two stages to Master play. The first is to find ways to draw every game. That's the stage I'm in. The second stage is to find ways to win against Master players who know how to draw. That's the stage that Alex Moiseyev is in. How much work does it take to move from the first stage to the second? A lot!

Outside of checkers and my work at the Atlanta Fed, I train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Romero "Jacare" Calvacanti of Alliance Jiu-Jitsu. I have a brown belt, purple belt, and two-stripe blue belt in hapkido, taekwondo, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, respectively. Training under Jacare is one hell of a workout and leaves bruise marks every time.

I also train in Latin and ballroom dance under Lenn Ambanta of Dance City Ballroom. My preferred dance is salsa. I enjoy being in a club or party situation with the ability to do more than standing near the bar and staring at the dance floor.

I play classical piano on occassion. I'm playing some Alkan, Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin at the moment. At one point, I thought of making a career in music and actually began college at Indiana University in Bloomington as a horn performance major. Throughout my primary and secondary education, I competed successfully at the state level in both horn and piano. There is certainly a positive correlation between the parts of the brain stimulated by music and checkers. Many of my study methods in checkers come straight from the lessons I learned at age six on the piano.

All the best,

Lisle Cormier
Player Representative and Webmaster
American Checker Federation

This interview was kindly submitted by ACF Website Journalist . More about Mr. Pronk is available in his biography.

© American Checker Federation 2007
This website was created by the ACF Website Team. Original site design by Clint Olsen.
Official ACF Logo design by John Acker and Lisle Cormier.
All checker board images courtesy of Vinco Online Games.