From the President's Desk: 2007-08-13
Checkers Exhibition and Education
Earlier this month, I resumed by giant checkerboard exhibition, after an absence of several years, at the Decatur (Illinois) Celebration, a weekend street festival that draws around 200,000 people. This year was the 20th anniversary for my involvement with the big board, which was constructed by green and white carpet squares. The entire board is approx. 9 feet by 9 feet. The pieces are made out of foam rubber, spray painted red or white, and are moved by broomsticks or a "grabber" device. I take on anyone who wants to challenge me to a game. I will also make a second minor appearance at my parish picnic later this month.
In general, most people, especially kids, become wide-eyed when they see the big board. However, after several years of doing these exercises, it becomes evident that the majority of the general public is deficient on their checker knowledge. A few observations:
• Many players act surprised that jumps must be taken.
• Most players don't start the game with 11-15. (In fact, 9-13 is quite common!)
• Most players can't see a two-for-one shot.
• Most players play to the very last man, and don't know to put their last remaining king into the double corner to avoid being easily trapped against the side of the board.
• Many people still consider checkers more of a kids' game devoid of strategy, especially when compared to chess.
While there is much work to be done, there are little things we can all do to promote the game to raise the public perception, even just by word-of-mouth. On my exhibition sign, I list the ACF site and info that I have competed in National tournaments (a checker tournament scene – there's a new concept for some!). Also, my exhibition games demonstrate to the spectators that expertise can be learned and that there are many tricks that can be played in every game.
Alan Millhone, President
American Checker Federation
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