Checker Grandmasters and Masters

Checker Grandmasters and Masters

 Derek Oldbury Obituary in London Times

Derek Oldbury Obituary written for the Times newspaper.
Martin Bryant
(Executive Director, British Draughts Federation)

     On Thursday 14th July 1994 a group of mourners attended the funeral of a man virtually unheard of by the general public, but who was a giant in his own field. Derek Oldbury, reigning World Draughts Champion, died at the age of 70, on July 9th.
     Oldbury's story is quite remarkable. Crippled at birth he was given only a few weeks to live. Only I guess nobody told him! After many years fighting against societies prejudices, his years of studying the game paid off when he won his first major tournament in 1950 taking the Scottish Open. Then in 1953 he won the English Tournament Championship with a massive score of 17 wins, 6 draws and no losses! Two years later he rested the English Matchplay Championship from the great Londoner Sam Cohen and then the British Matchplay Championship from the four times winner James Marshall. He then proceeded to retain the title, which he made his own for nearly four decades, against all-comers until retiring undefeated due to failing health in 1993.
     On the World stage he also proved a formidable force by winning the World Freestyle Championship in 1979 and later the World 3-move Championship in 1991 (at the age of 67!) against the American GM Richard Hallett.
     Oldbury's style of play was always exciting too. He was definitely a tactical fighter like Kasparov, trying to win every game. His games may have been objectively 'less perfect' than some other GM's but they were certainly entertaining!
     Oldbury was also not content with just playing the game. He authored several books and magazines including his 6-volume masterpiece 'The Complete Encyclopedia of Draughts'. His writings are full of life and humour as was the man.
     Derek constantly reminded me of the great physicist Stephen Hawking. Both men had physical limitations which they just accepted and then excelled in their mental endeavours. If Oldbury had found an early interest in theoretical physics he'd have been another Stephen Hawking. But would Hawking have been able to make the grade in top class Draughts play? Not with Oldbury around!
     I once had a conversation with Derek about several other board games (which he also studied to a lesser degree!) and we concluded that we would need a lifetime to study and master each one. Perhaps if there is such a thing as reincarnation he'll come back as a great chess player next time and get the public recognition for his work as well.
     Oldbury was an inspiration to all those who knew him. He especially seemed to strike it off well with the younger players in the game, perhaps because he always seemed young at heart. In his sixties he bought himself a computer, not just to practice against, but he learnt to program it as well and wrote his own Draughts program! Oldbury never thought he was 'too old' or 'too anything' to do exactly what he wanted!
     Those who knew Oldbury have lost a friend, but British Draughts has lost it's heart and soul. He will be sorely missed.

(English Spelling as is)  

Derek Oldbury (1924-1994)

A Great Checkers Player despite All Odds

Derek Oldbury was born in 1924 (the exact date of birth is unknown) and was a British draughts champion from Devon, England. Commonly known in the checkers world as DEO, he was a rival of fellow checkers great Marion Tinsley for many years. Throughout his long and illustrious checkers playing career, Oldbury displayed a strong interest for the Go as You Please or GAYP variation of the game of draughts, a version in which the players have the option to choose the opening moves that they would like to make.

Derek Oldbury was an extraordinarily prolific checkers writer, and many of his written works are considered to be definitive guides to the game of checkers to this very day. One of Oldbury’s more notable works was the 6 volume guide The Complete Encyclopedia of Draughts. This particular work is still considered an important reference material for students of the game of draughts.

Aside from his interest in Go as You Please or GAYP variation of the game, Derek Oldbury was also an avid supporter of the Chinook computer checkers program and counted many of the people on the development team of the game as some of his closest friends and colleagues in the world of checkers.

Derek Oldbury was born a paraplegic, and all of his 71 years were spent in a wheel chair. This proved no handicap to him however, and he managed to rise above his physical condition in order to accomplish his lifelong goal of becoming a World Champion checker player. It was in 1991 that he published his now classic "The Complete Encyclopedia of Checkers", which was comprised of a staggering 6 volumes. It was also that year that he won the world's title in checkers.

As if all of these accomplishments weren’t enough, Derek Oldbury was also heavily involved in the writing of his own version of a checker playing computer program in his spare time.

One of the things that most checkers players remember about Oldbury was his lively sense of humor and many of the checkers events that he played in were filled with the sound of his characteristically loud peals of laughter. He was definitely one of the greats in the checkers world, and is missed by many of his friends in the field.

Among Oldbury’s other literary accomplishments were “Move Over”, which is an online book that serves as an excellent introduction to the game, and “The Unknown DEO”, which is a collection of 62 draughts columns written for the Rotherham Advertiser.

Derek Oldbury passed away in July of 1994.  from


Rare Picture of Derek Oldbury from OMOCH by Jay Hinnershitz

Derek Oldbury by

1st Derek Oldbury Memorial 'Man v Machine'

2nd Derek Oldbury Memorial 'Man v Machine'

Chinook v Oldbury practice match in 1994

Pal Bucker & Slava Gorin - Derek Oldbury Bio at  Slava Gorin - Derek Oldbury Bio

Oldbury bequeaths ACF

Grandmasters, Masters, & Players Obituaries