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  A view from ACF Player's Representative Richard Beckwith : 2008-08-04

Playing checkers with the Amish

Roger Blaine recently gave me a tip about trying out the August 1 & 2 Mt. Hope Ohio Checker Tournament, especially since it was located a mere 80 miles to the south of me. Mt. Hope is a tiny town in the northeast quadrant of Holmes County, southwest of Canton. The approaching highway is a roller coaster-like two-lane road with Amish buggies everywhere. The checker tournament was held as part of their annual antique power show.

Now this wasn't your typical checker tournament played behind closed doors in a hotel meeting room. The contest was set up inside a multipurpose barn, with the tournament tables located in a roped off section. Flies were plentiful, but there were no problems with heat, ventilation, or noise. A cooler of ice cold drinks was provided. The organizers provided tables with 9 official tournament checkerboards and pieces, the kind of green and buff boards that Goodwin sold in the 1980s and 1990s. The tournament registration fee went to charity. The winner of the tournament would receive a beautifully done handmade wooden footstool with a "God bless our home" design in the center

The tournament consisted of five two-game rounds in GAYP. (They do 3-move restriction on odd-numbered years.) Three rounds were held Friday evening beginning at 6:00, and two rounds were played Saturday morning. Most of the players were older Amish men, including a group who traveled from northern Indiana, who came looking for some checker competition in an out-of-state tournament with no prize money! I found most of the players to be good minor to major level players who were well-versed on the basic shots, and knew a little about GAYP openings. Possible weaknesses to their game include lack of depth of published play, and ability to play endings well. However, these comments apply to most any player, as checkers is not an easy game to master. The final round came down to District 3 champ Neil Wenberg and myself on the top board. I had many requests from others during and after the tournament to try me for a practice game. I certainly had my hands full in some of these games, even losing one practice game to Kenny Miller of Indiana.

Crist Miller did a fine job of conducting the tournament. I also thank Aden Keim and his wife for putting Neil and myself up for the night. They had a beautiful home that, as you might expect, lacked air conditioning, ceiling lights (or any electric lights), outlets, fans, etc.

The Amish are very friendly people, and many show a love for checkers. There was a set of bleachers next to the playing area. At one point, there must have been thirty spectators. I hadn't seen that many spectators at a tournament since I was in Barbados for the 2004 International Match. Youth don't typically enter this Mt. Hope tournament, but some families did stop to watch. I'd be curious to know if youth checker events are offered at other times. As Amish players do not play on Sunday, the question arose as to whether a Friday-Saturday tournament (such as for Ohio state, PA state, or wherever Amish players live nearby) would draw more players than the usual weekend tournament format. Weekends are personally better for me (and perhaps others) as I am a working person. However, there is an Amish community that we are not tapping into. Food for thought!

Read more articles from your ACF Players Representative in the Rep's Corner Archive.

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