June 19, 2006 Article - Medina County Gazette - "Jumping into the action"

Medina - Gazette.com

Medina County Gazette On-line Edition

Mon, 19 Jun 2006 07:00:45 GMT


Jumping into the action


Staff Writer

MEDINA TWP. - While fans the world over sit glued to their television screens this week watching the world's best soccer players vie for the title of best in the world, a handful of children and college-age players came from across the country to sit in a conference room and play checkers, kicking off the start of two national tournaments.

The nine players were competing in the National Youth Checker Tournament, playing for part of a $300 purse and a chance to move on to the world youth championships in Scotland. The players were split into two divisions - one for very young players and one for older "youth" to compete at a higher level.

At the front of the Traveler's Choice Hotel conference room, the kids sat at long tables, staring across the green-and-white boards at one another as their parents and tournament officials looked on.

In the back of the room sat four older players, in their mid to late teens and early 20s. Game clocks ticked down the hours they had to play two games. They recorded their moves in brief notation, speaking little.

The tournament was organized by the American Checker Federation, a 400-member group that brings checkers players together from across the country, often from playing one another over the Internet.

Ryan Pronk, a favorite of organizers to win the youth tournament and play well in the adult tournament that starts today, flew for 3 hours from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., to compete over the weekend.

"This is like my second family," he said between games of the tournament. "I feel so comfortable with everyone here."

Pronk, who will compete in the senior tournament, has been playing for six years and got his start playing online.

"It's the sheer elegance" of the game, he said of what brought him across the country. "It's an extremely delicate game."

Corey Modich and his mother traveled three hours from Michigan to play. He said he discovered online checkers six years ago. "I've been hooked ever since," he said with a smile.

Richard Beckwith, a player representative with ACF, helped organize the youth and senior tournaments. He said the group has held its national competitions in places like Las Vegas before, but Medina is much closer to many players in the east.

The youth players came from Ohio, Michigan, Louisiana and Alabama, and the senior players in this week's tournament ranging in ages from 14 to 94 will come from even more states.

One, 14-year-old Josh Armstrong, and his father, Earl, drove 12 hours from Alabama to play checkers for a week. Earl said he understood his son's love of the game, and didn't mind the trip.

"Especially if your kid's good at it, you travel," he said.

Beckwith, whom the ACF ranks 23rd-best in the world, has been playing checkers since he was 9, and competing in tournaments since he was a teenager.

"I'm a scientist by trade. I've always liked puzzles and problem solving," said the 36-year-old chemist, demonstrating an endgame on a board with three kings and a book full of maneuvers written in tiny type. "With checkers, there's so much depth to the game. There's always something new to learn."

Bowen may be reached at 330-721-4044 or cbowen@ohio.net.




Tuesday, June 27, 2006

 Hitting the boards

The U.S. Checkers Championship was staged last week in Medina, Ohio, with 41 players competing for $6,000 in prize money.

Tournament organizers, still tallying up the gate receipts, say it's much too early to tell whether the tournament finished in the red or in the black.