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  A view from ACF Player's Representative Richard Beckwith : 2012-12-26

Recap of China

Checkers made history by competing in its first ever SportAccord games in Beijing, China on Dec. 13-19. This 2nd annual annual event is similar to the medal events of the World Mind Sports Games (WMSG) played every four years for the games of draughts (10x10, 64, and checkers), chess, bridge, go, and Chinese Chess (Xiangqi). However, the difference with the SportAccord competition is lucrative prize money with player expenses being paid (flight, hotel, meals). Consequently, the field of players is much more restricted. As the draughts program is set by FMJD, the prize money and quota of players are heavily weighted towards the 10x10 variant of draughts. Nevertheless, FMJD did invite Checkers to participate in 2012 with $5000 prize fund and expenses paid for four players of WCDFs choosing.

A dream foursome representing various continents was assembled by extending invitations to Michele Borghetti (2012 WMSG winner), Lubabalo Kondlo (South Africa, high-rated player), and World Champions Ron King (Barbados) and Alex Moiseyev (USA). The foursome did not disappoint, with the entire field finishing within two points of each other in the double round-robin 3-move format. Alex Moiseyev won the gold medal (as he did at the 2008 WMSG at this same venue) with a game record of 1-0 and 11 draws. Lubabalo won a thrilling rapid-play playoff to take the Silver Medal tiebreaker over Borghetti.

The convention center was connected to the hotel by indoor walkway (handy during December). The hotel offered 3 buffets a day. The opening ceremony was very good and included various Chinese stage performances. Alex Moiseyev was selected as one of the draughts athletes to participate in the opening march on stage. Our stay in Beijing included a free day where the group ventured to the nearest Great Wall of China visitor point. Ron King noted this was the first time he saw snow in his life!

The trip was not without its challenges. In addition to the cold weather and significant time zone difference (13 hours for Alex and me), Borghetti, King, and I battled various minor ailments throughout the week, with Ron seeing the on-site doctor during two rounds of play. King, Kondlo, and I all had flight troubles causing at least a day of delay somewhere. Alex lost his luggage on the return flight (but it arrived later).

There is much interest in Mind Sports in China. However, any form of draughts was unknown to them in 2008, a point when the 100-square folks began making inroads. At this months SportAccord competition, photographers filled the playing room after the start of play every morning at 9:30. I arrived in Beijing armed with new business cards, WCDF referee shirt, WCDF Rules booklets (including a Chinese version of playing rules), and a few books and equipment sets to give away. Alex Moiseyev also gave out a few complimentary signed copies of Sixth. Alex and I met with the SportAccord General Director, and Chinese education authority & draughts coaches. I intend to focus the next few months at maintaining communications with these folks. There is much interest in Checkers here. 10x10 started this process 4 years ago, and they already have 10x10 in many schools, plus 2 Chinese entrants in the recent SportAccord 100-square tournament. We would also like to send a few select books to China, if anyone is interested in donating any materials.

The status for Checkers as part of the 2013 SportAccord World Mind Games is unclear at present, but I made a preliminary agreement with Harry Otten (FMJD President) for Checkers to return here in 2014.

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

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