This article was on the front page (above the fold) of the Friday, February 1, The Denver Post newspaper. The paper has a circulation of about 300,000 daily and 600,000 Sunday. Colton received a call from the Colorado governor's office and has an appointment for a 'board' meeting with him in early March. Congratulations ! and long live Checkers...
Denver & The West
|Colton Cardie learned the game of checkers from a master John Cardie, his grandfather and personal trainer. (Mark T. Osler, The Denver Post )|
Colton Cardie carefully eyes the field of play. He squints. He sits on his hands. He flexes, stretches.
He then flicks a whippet of an arm and executes a perfect triple jump, thoroughly demoralizing his stunned opponent.
In checkers, it's good to be the king.
At age 9, Colton is the reigning world youth champion of a game that's far more complex than most people ever imagine — including the growing number of those who keep losing to him.
The national and world checkers tournaments are relatively small affairs whose limited attendance is balanced by the intensity of the organizers and players. Hopefuls gather for days at a time, with early round victories scoring points that send the leaders into the finals. A referee sits at the players' elbows, and a time clock allows five minutes per move.
Back home in Arvada, Colton pulverizes his Play Station peers, the teen wannabes, the 30-something pretenders and his septuagenarian superiors. Bring your board to Arvada or challenge him online, and in a matter of seconds Colton will have you seeing red in the blackest of moods.
Colton hones his game by playing against a pro, namely his grandfather and personal trainer, John Cardie. Cardie is a lifelong checkers teacher and competitor, offering strategy seminars at local libraries and on cruise ships, and self-publishing a book titled "How to Beat Granddad at Checkers."
Still reeling at news of a child's game evolving into world championships? Prepare to be crowned by the following: There is a library shelf's worth of checkers strategy books, and a generation of players who argue the complexities of the game make chess look easier than . . . well . . . checkers.
Checkers fascinates true gamers, argues John Cardie, because 1) You must jump an opponent if you can, requiring strategy planned out 10 to 20 moves ahead; and 2) Once you touch a checker, you have to move it.
"Would you rather do a crossword with a pen or pencil?" Cardie asks. "Chess is like doing a crossword with a pencil and eraser; you can bring something back if you make a bonehead move. In checkers, you make one wrong move and it's all over."
Colton Cardie won the national youth championship last summer in Las Vegas, and plans to defend his title this coming summer.
Truth be told, only seven players attended the national championship tourney in Colton's age group, but one of them was the fabled grandson of the president of the American Checker Federation, the official sanctioning body.
Young Solomon Reece of Ohio plays a brutal game of "speed checkers." Reece skips the five minutes of allowed time and attacks the board the second his opponent moves. "It's really intimidating," Cardie said.
A flustered Colton lost to Reece in an early round of the tournament, then employed Grandpa John's refined "sit onem" strategy: See your hands? Sit on them. Look at every piece on the board. Don't move your hands until you've decided.
Beating Reece for the championship gave Colton the right to return to Vegas last September for the world "challenger" title — the challenge winner gets to demand a playoff with the reigning world champ. But no players in his age group showed up, the Czech champ bailing at the last minute. And since the reigning world youth champ turned 19, Colton became champ by default.
Colton plays checkers from a box his grandpa inscribed long ago with the year "1952." There's something of a Beaver- Cleaver-meets-Bill-Gates quality to Colton, with his eye for the angle and his Eisenhower- era buzz cut. His test scores are high, but his daily academics don't always match up — Mom and Dad like the concentration that checkers demands, preferring it to the "Lego Star Wars II" Colton loves on PlayStation.
All four of the Cardie boys take piano lessons, and dad Heath Cardie asked Grandpa John for driving and babysitting help. John taught the boys checkers in waiting rooms, each triple-jump reinforcing John's message that thinking ahead is a key to life.
This is Colton's year to think ahead. He's being home- schooled because of "motivation issues," according to mom, while his brothers attend Faith Christian Academy in Arvada. He works with his dad's company one day a week to help earn tuition for next year's return to Faith Christian.
Tournament winnings won't pay the bill. His championship earned Colton all of $60.
Though Heath also learned under John Cardie's tutelage while growing up, he's wary these days of challenging Colton, who seems to get better at every game.
"If I make a mistake," Heath said, eyeing Colton as he finishes off a hapless visitor, "he'll win."
Michael Booth: 303-954-1686 or firstname.lastname@example.org