From the President's Desk: 2003-11-06

My Trip to the 'All Irish Open'

Hello Everyone,

My two weeks spent in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, will always be fondly remembered. I arrived in Cookstown on a Monday afternoon to see the second week of the Three-Move World Title Match between Mr. Alex and Mr. Ron King. I arrived at the lovely Greenvale Hotel and was told by the front desk to go upstairs to find the kibitzers watching the match, and watching they were on a closed circuit television! A company from Belfast was hired to install an overhead camera in the player's private playing room, and the moves could be seen in the other room - a wonderful idea. :-) The referee, Mr. John Reade, used a pen laid on the table to point to the player whose move it was each time.

Later in the day, I got to meet the referee and also had several conversations with Mr. King. I was given a lovely hardbound book compiled by Mr. King that he inscribed, and I appreciate this kindness very much. Thanks, Ron!
Alex had asked me to come over for his second week, and I was glad to be able to be there for such an historic event. I found Mr. John Reade to be an interesting man as well. Nice to have met you, John. I met once more my old friend Tommy Canning, and it was great to see him again. I met too many new people to list. I found all of the players friendly and fun to be around all week long and into the second week as well.

On one evening, Mr. Danny Campbell took a van load of us players to Stewartstown to his Roadhouse Pub for drinks, music, fellowship, story telling, and poems by Mr. P. J. Fury and others. A player from Dublin played his guitar and sang many songs. Danny also got my laundry done, which can be a problem when traveling for two weeks. Thanks, Danny, for everything you did for me while I was a guest in your lovely country.

Michael Madden and Francis McNally were two other men I became close to, and their dedication to promoting this tourney was obvious from day one. It was great to meet Hugh Devlin for the first time as well. He talked me into playing in the Masters. I finished last but learned a lot and appreciated the opportunity to compete against many of the top players in the world.

I also was honored to watch Mrs. Jan Mortimer and Ms. Patricia Breen sign the contract for their Women's World Title Match and to witness some of their games. This match was very important for the advancement of women players in our game. Thanks goes to both players and to Mr. Ian Caws as referee. Once more, the games were on closed circuit television for all to watch.

During my second week, on a Monday morning, registration was taking place for the 'All Irish Open,' held in a very nice room in the Greenvale Hotel. I must say the hotel staff went totally out of their way to do everything they could to make all players feel right at home. By the end of my second week, many there knew me by my first name.

In all fairness, due to rooms being full at the Greenvale, I was booked across the street at the Glenavon House Hotel. The staff and facilities there are wonderful as well, and this hotel is highly recommended for anyone visiting Cookstown. A special 'thank you' is given to Ms. Michelle Bradley, who helped me with a billing problem the day I left for the USA. Thanks again, Michelle. :-)

The 'All Irish Open' was very well organized with large wall boards for all to see that displayed current scores, etc. Play was for two-game rounds, and each game counted something. I like this system of scoring VERY much. I also like two-game rounds as I got to meet and play more players during the week. Also, the referees had a large hat full of round pieces, and one would reach into the hat to pull out an opening. I liked this as well. Clocks were also used at 28 moves per hour. I lost one game by failing to make my final two moves. I guess I need to watch my clock a little more closely. :-)

Many players there told me they would come to America to play in our nationals if we changed to two-game rounds. I am sure to receive many comments on this from those reading this article.

It was nice to see both Lisle Cormier and his father at the tournament. Lisle is a rising young player who did very well, and I am sure all of the ACF is very proud of him for such a sterling performance.

I played well on day No. 1, then went downhill for most of the week. I met and played many fine master players and will give them all credit for playing very well. I had an excellent time and learned a great deal about my own game. I got to be part of a very well-run event.

On the final night, a dinner was provided for around 100 players and their families. Awards were presented to the different groups, and I was honored to come on stage and say a few words as your ACF President.

I took around ten rolls of film and hope to have my photos back by the weekend. I also took along ACF Bulletins that I passed out over the two weeks that I was there. I signed up three new ACF members as well. "BUILD THE MEMBERSHIP NOW".

In conclusion, if Cookstown and the tournament's main promoter, the Northern Ireland Events Company, decided to have another such tournament, count on myself to be there and to enter. I would highly recommend everyone to consider coming to Cookstown next time and to participate in a checkers / draughts event you will always remember.

A special thanks to everyone in Northern Ireland who made my trip so pleasant and so memorable.

Alan Millhone, President
American Checker Federation

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