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  A view from ACF Player's Representative Richard Beckwith : 2012-06-12

What was new at the Pennsylvania Tournament?


I had an enjoyable weekend in Carlisle, PA for the PA State / District 3 Tournament (June 9 & 10). It was also good to see faraway NC friends Tim Laverty and J. R. Smith at the event. Tim Laverty was dominant and placed first in the tournament, followed by myself and Michael Holmes. (None of the three of us lost a game). Joe Moore was not able to repeat as tournament winner, but, nevertheless, retained the PA State & District 3 title. Young Alex Holmes (age 13) originally signed up as the only “Master”, but graciously moved up into the tough “Grandmaster” group, where he drew 7 out of 12 games. (At age 13, I hadn’t even entered my first state-level B-division group!). Congratulations also go to other division winners of Jason Solan, Ray Shelly, and Hunter Kane (youth).

A number of new ideas were implemented this year regarding how to conduct a checker tournament that are interesting to think about. But first, I give some historical background.

I first started playing in the PA state tournament in 1997, which is where I first met Alex Moiseyev, who was just becoming active in American checker tournaments with help from Tony Kozenski. The three-day tournament in State College, PA was held in August and was top-heavy with many great regional Master players such as Ed Bruch, Louis Cowie, and Tony Kozenski. Strong southern masters (Lowder, Laverty, Webster, Lindsay) were also frequent visitors. The tournament featured other regular Major/Minor-level players such as Meron Shegda and Donell Guy. The tournament was played at one division of Swiss, so there usually were a few rounds were a master player played a minor-level player. Don Deweber traveled from Iowa to do scorekeeping. Prize fund was typically around $500. When Don became unable to travel that great distance, I took over as tournament scorekeeper. Over time, attendance dwindled down to 11 players in 2003, our last year in State College. The tournament was reduced to 7 rounds over two days (four-game rounds were eliminated). Tony moved the tournament from central to Western, PA since most of the eastern players discontinued coming. Tony, as district manager, merged the state and district tournament together. (District 3 includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington DC.) We played in Grove City (two different nearby hotels) for several years until Tony regrettably passed away. I kept the tournament going (booked hotel and refereed), but admittedly did not do anything extra to promote it, given numerous other ACF and WCDF duties (and a full-time job). The low point was 2010, where we had 8 players and prize fund of $190. Over a period spanning several years, several promising young players from eastern PA emerged, such as Jason Solan, Billy Runge, LaVerne Wray, Joe Moore, and Bobby Loewen (NJ). In light of the continuing shift in demographics, PA resident Jason Solan (our ACF webmaster) began to take ownership of the tournament and moved it back east to a nice Days Inn location in Carlisle PA (near Harrisburg). That 2011 tournament featured many new friendly faces (13 players in total) who were in no hurry to drive away as tournament games concluded on Sunday afternoon.

Ray Shelly from Maryland was elected new District manager after Tony’s passing. He worked with Jason for several months to implement a number of experimental changes this year including:

• Increase in entry fee; ACF membership requirement enforced

• Pre-registration option by division (Grandmaster, Master, Major Minor, Youth Minor)

• 8-spot limit for each division.

• Each division plays their own single round-robin, although fewer than the traditional 7 rounds might accomplish this. In 2012, an extra 5th round was squeezed in Saturday, which allowed an earlier Sunday departure.)

• Tournament closing ceremony (must be present to receive prize money)

• Significant prize fund increase. 2012 bid also included one complimentary hotel room.

• All players receive cash prize. The last-place prize in a given division is higher than first-place prize in next lowest division. (In 2012, it seemed all players voluntarily sorted themselves into the appropriate division.)

• Games are recorded. Jason had all games transferred into pdn format before I got home in Ohio. (I’ve been volunteering a PA “Select Games” document since 2010.)

• A small $10 “vendor fee” was implemented for anyone selling checker items, with 10% sales going to ACF. (Didn’t seem to produce any issues.)

The reviews have been coming in on the forum. Overall, I was very happy with tournament, and many players commented on the increased professionalism. Ray and Jason stepped up in a big way to prepare for tournament and lend a professional appearance. We had 12 players, plus four players in a youth division. Prize fund was $1910 (!), largely due to a combination of Ray Shelly’s fundraising talents, increased entry fee, and increased Keystone Trust interest rate. Other out-of state tournament players might take note of this significant prize fund increase for next year’s event. The closing ceremony was very nice. Medals for volunteer service were handed out by Ray to ACF officers and to Jason Solan. Each tournament participant was called up in turn to sign for prize money, receive a framed certificate, and have their picture taken with ACF president Alan Millhone. All prize money was pre-sorted into envelopes.
There has been contention from a few players that five divisions may have been too many. We had instances of several entrants traveling to Carlisle and only playing 1-3 rounds to complete their official tournament game experience while having to wait until Sunday afternoon for masters to finish. It’s easy to say in retrospect that maybe two divisions of 6 (plus youth group) could have been arranged at last minute. However, I also understand registrants had expectation of playing only people of their own skill set and not being thrown in a division with tougher players. There were also many potential entrants who expressed interest in attending, but did not show, leaving some divisions more sparse than expected. During the tournament opening, Ray Shelly spoke that we were in transition and would take our experiences this year into the design of the 2013 tournament. I anxiously await!

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

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