August/September 2009 issue in Dublin Life Magazine - dublinlifemagazine.com
Article published in Dublin Life Magazine in issue August/September 2009
This publication is one of very few articles in the past several years,
where I am completely satisfy with tone and subject contents.
show checkers players as clowns and/or strangers. Several times I canceled
an interview in newspaper or on TV when I see from their questions - how
they build a dialogue and what message they try send to readers.
PROFILE: Alex Moiseyev
Dublin resident owns world and Olympic checkers titles
By Alicia Kelso
The game of checkers is more than a kid’s game or pastime for retirees.
It’s also an international phenomenon, a fierce competition between world-class players who have mastered the game so well, some even make their living from jumping, kinging and capturing.
Although Dublin resident Alex Moiseyev can’t live off of his checkers earnings (“Not yet, but I hope that changes,” he says), he can lay claim to the world and Olympic checkers titles.
Moiseyev, 50, was born in Moscow, Russia. He learned how to play Russian draughts – checkers is called “draughts” in almost every country but the U.S. – when he was 7 years old, picking up the basics from his father. By the time he was 15, he was considered a “Master,” a title based on ratings from tournament finishes. He has since earned the “Grandmaster” designation.
In the early 1990s, when the political climate in the Soviet Union was tumultuous, Moiseyev and his wife Galina decided to immigrate to the United States, where they had many family members and friends.
They arrived in New York City in 1991, the same year the USSR collapsed. Shortly thereafter, they found jobs – both are computer programmers – in Pittsburgh and relocated. In 2002, Galina was transferred to Columbus. The entire family, including their children Michael (now 26), Paul (now 13) and daughter Clara (now 10) settled in Dublin per the suggestion of one of Galina’s coworkers.
“It was mostly because of the school system and we just liked it here in
Dublin,” Moiseyev says.
Throughout the family’s acclimation, Moiseyev wanted to continue mastering his checkers game. It was difficult, however, because he was experienced in a completely different style than what is played in the United States (there are many different types of draughts). He learned the American version from scratch and began his training again from the beginning.
“When I moved here, I had to change my game because that’s what was here. Nobody was playing any other kind of checkers,” he says. “At first it was very hard. I have many friends who have tried to learn it but couldn’t. It’s just a different game with different skills. But I felt I didn’t have a choice, so I studied and learned and memorized and worked at it.”
It didn’t take him long to get the hang of the new style – in 1996 he played in his first American checkers tournament and by 2003 he earned his first of five consecutive world championships. Moiseyev is only the sixth person in the competition’s history to hold the title.
In October 2008, Moiseyev and his fellow elite “brain gamers” competed at the Olympic Mind Games event in Beijing, which included chess, bridge, checkers (draughts), Go and Xiang Qi (Chinese chess).
“We weren’t official (competitors) of the Olympic (Games). We were more like honored guests. But I felt the committee was watching closely and will hopefully consider adding our sports in 2012,” Moiseyev says. “But I represent the United States and I am the Olympic champion and I will continue saying this unless someone objects.”
Moiseyev practices two to three hours every day. He travels to state tournaments seven to eight times a year, and he’s gearing up for the annual national tournament in August in Lebanon, Tenn.
He plays internationally whenever the schedule calls for it, seeing some of his Russian friends for the first time in decades. Competition is his favorite part of the game.
“I am a competitive man. I am very ambitious and I can satisfy some of my ambitions through checkers better than I can in real life. I like the knowledge and logic components,” Moiseyev says. “It takes a lot of time and work and I am a professional. Everything I do for checkers is the same as any other professional sport except for the money.”
Although tournament wins translate into a few hundred dollars here and there, Moiseyev says he and other players are constantly in search of sponsors to offset the frequent travel and practice time.
“I don’t think in this country people pay enough attention to brain games, unfortunately,” he says. “But I’m an optimist and I think that will change eventually. Part of my job as world champion is to raise more attention and that is what I always try to do.”
Two of his biggest fans are his younger children, Paul – who will attend Dublin Jerome High School in the fall – and Clara, a student at Eli Pinney Elementary School. Both enjoy traveling and cheering on their dad, as well as playing the game itself.
“It amazes me sometimes that he is the world champion. It’s very rare if he doesn’t bring home a championship trophy,” Paul says. “I told friends about his gold medal and a lot of them didn’t believe me, so I had to take a picture of it and show them. I’m extremely proud of him.”
Clara adds that she also tells her classmates at school about her father’s successes, and that she likes the game of chess because of the colors and the “people.”
“I think checkers runs in the family because my favorite Webkinz game is checkers and the hard level is sometimes easy for me,” Clara says.
Moiseyev says he’s happy his children have taken interest in his game and enjoy learning more about it.
“I don’t think it’s necessary for my kids to become a world champion, but to have an interest in something is very important. And in checkers you’re using your brain, which is such a great gift,” he says.
Moiseyev wrote a book published in 2006 titled Sixth – Volume 1: The Way to the Crown (because he was the sixth world champion to be named). In it, he details two of his world championship matches and provides analysis of 50 of his best games. He also includes illustrations, annotated notes and diagrams.
Moiseyev’s game’s strength is his midgame, he says.
“It requires calculation and understanding. My style is very sneaky,” he says.
His main opponent, Ron King from Barbados, however, has a very different style of play.
“He is opposite. When I am trying to find the best move, he is trying to find the winning move. He is aggressive and I am sneaky,” he says.
It’s obvious his vast knowledge and passion for the game are also strengths. When asked how much longer he’ll play, he laughs.
“I have no limit. It is out of the question to think about when I’ll stop playing,” Moiseyev says. “I cannot quit this game.”
Alicia Kelso is editor of Dublin Life.
DID YOU KNOW?After Moiseyev’s first world championship title, the City of Dublin named April 29, 2004 "Alex Moiseyev Day" via proclamation.