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Saturday, July 19, 2008 - "Characters abound at checkers tournament"

Characters abound at checkers tournament  (http://www.southtownstar.com/news/1064100,071908checkers.article)

July 19, 2008

By Anthe Mitrakos, Sun-Times News Group

With nicknames such as "Ham Killer," "Panama Kid," "Buster" and "Sonny," the guys gathered at a west suburban hotel might sound like a pretty tough crowd.

And they do play for keeps.

"I always thought I had the killer instinct to play checkers," said Elton "Little David" Williams. "I hate to lose."

Checkers is the game - American pool checkers, to be precise.

And the weeklong 42nd annual National American Pool Checkers Tournament wrapped up in Countryside on Friday -the first time the championship was held in the Chicago area in 25 years.

Williams didn't win. Five-time national champion Calvin Monroe did, dethroning the 2007 champ, Chicagoan Albert Lambert.

American pool checkers differs from the common parlor game in that players can jump pieces in a backward or forward direction. Other differences include variations on how pieces are "kinged."

Players contend that pool checkers makes for a more exciting game, calling for heightened creativity and imagination.

"You have to have such foresight to look ahead; it's like a puzzle that you put together in your mind before you lay it out on the board," tournament director Wayne Lockheart, 56, said.

Some games can last up to two hours. Ion Dosca, of Moldova, "once sat there for 45 minutes playing the whole game in his mind" said Aaron "Stony Burke" Johnson, 66, president of the Homan Square Pool Checkers & Chess Club of Chicago

"It's quite a beauty. On the surface it looks simple, but American pool checkers is even more sophisticated and complex than chess, which is given more status," Lockheart said.

Players compare the game to life.

"You have to be patient and not get excited," Lockheart said. "Checkers teaches you that."