Eleven Man Ballot Deck & System


This style or variation of openings for checkers is a most interesting and exciting form, and recognized and highly respected by the professional checker playing fraternity.  In this variation of checker openings, the board is set up as normal, using standard American (English) checker rules, but one piece of each color is removed, and then a move for each side is played.  The pieces removed and moves played are selected by random ballot.  This yields exactly 2,500 unique starting positions, far too much opening play to be memorized.  The Eleven Man Ballot is the true test of an accomplished cross-board player's checker aptitude and ability to visualize.

11-Man Ballot is a special deck of 8 cards, each card has 4 sections and there are 4 drawings (one for each section) Red removes a checker from any squares 5 thru 12.  White removes a checker from any squares 21 thru 28. Red's 1st move is any of the possible 7 moves made from row 9 thru 12 and likewise any possible move from White's row 21 thru 24. 

You may decide which color you start with, by a flipped coin, pick a color from the bag, or pick between two concealed colors held in each hand.  Players alternate color for each opening thereafter and play an even opening match. This only matters when deciding to play a certain opening.  All opening are played in an Eleven Man Tournament except those that lose a piece.

Red draws first to determine which man he removes and returns this card to the ballot deck so he can draw his second ballot for his first move, then White follows the same procedure.  He draws his removal and first move to complete the 11-man ballot opening position setup.  Red starts by making the first "reply move" just as first opening move in starting a GAYP game.  Each player plays both sides of this opening ballot.

Newell Banks designed and developed this deck in 1907 which is clever, easy, simple to use, and improved the scope of freestyle and 2-move restriction checker opening lines.

If you pick a move for a man who is already removed, then you move the next man behind it in the same direction.  Occasionally this means you can only move the single man because of the sides have eliminated the directional choice.  For instance: if you removed man on 11 and picked move 11-15 then you have to move 8-11, if you picked 11-16 then you have to move 7-11.  And if you removed man on 12 and picked move 12-16, then you have to move 8-12 (no directional choice).

The total number of openings: 8x8x7x7 = 3,136 is generated by this system, but some positions are repeated as transpositions; therefore, the number of unique positions generated by an 11-man ballot deck is 2,500.  

There are rumors that approximately 300 of them are losses, but no one knows for sure, because no one has ever completely studied and seriously analyzed 11-Man, and little or no published play is available.  Dr. Marion Tinsley was quoted as having said, "About 10% of them are probably losses."   Another comment from Dr. Tinsley is, "The 11-Man ballot cards create openings and landings that you would never get from the GAYP or 3-Move Openings, you might funnel a mid-game into something, such as a familiar endgame position or ending, otherwise it's all cross-board visualization; however, there are a few 3-move openings and gayp transpositions in the deck."

In our current date tournaments or match play, it should be decided at the start of the tournament if all openings are played except man down loses or players have the option to reject an opening. The rules of checkers or restriction checkers apply.

When playing an 11-Man Match it may be considered a rule: If both players agree to exclude an opening - so be it! (They are mostly the openings where one side immediately goes into a forced mandown loss?)  Red moves first so Red confers with White if he accepts the opening, if White accepts, then Red makes his first reply move and they play both sides.  If White rejects, then Red can also reject it, in which a new ballot is drawn, or Red may accept White's rejected opening as playable, and the opening is played.  A new rule was added in February 2014 stating, that the player who rejected the opening may request the opponent who wants to play it, to play the weak side.  Red usually has the advantage side opening from 11-Man ballot openings.  It was predetermined if a player continually abused this rule, then the referee would decide if the ballot was playable.  Less than 4% results in a loss of a piece; therefore, most contestants play all openings except those that lose a piece. This was the case in the 2002 Moiseyev vs Lowder 11-Man Ballot WCM, and 2008 Laverty vs Moiseyev 11-Man WCM, with the exception Alex and Elbert used this rule one time in 2002 after a few minutes of observation; they agreed that opening might be a loss for one side.  All ballots drawn were played in the 2008, Laverty vs Moiseyev (11-Man Ballot) WCM. One was rejected in the 2011, Laverty vs Moiseyev (11-Man Ballot) WCM, and a questionable opening was played with Moiseyev drawing weak side of a later analyzed loss. Both rejected opening [11-Man Ballot #494 Red Win] (OFF: 5, 27, Move: 12-16, 24-20) in their 2013 WCM which was later analyzed as a loss.

2008 Laverty vs Moiseyev (11-Man Ballot) WCM voted on this rule and 30 moves per hour by clock for the "Elbert Lowder Memorial 11-Man Nationals" in 2008.  This tourney was played in Albemarle, NC in January 2008, a befitting tribute to Mr. Lowder.

11-Man World Champions



Alex Moiseyev

2008 - Present

Elbert Lowder

1987 - 2006

Richard Hallett

1986 - 1987

Derek Oldbury

1974 - 1986

Kenneth Grover

1969 - 1974

Newell Banks

1917 - 1969

“Roll Your Own”... Perfect for generating a random number between 1 and 12 or a random number between 1 and 4. Roll the 12 sided dice to remove one of the checkers from each side, and then roll the 4 sided dice to replace the removed checker. Count squares from double corner just like the numbered board for red side. Use the white corresponding square that represents the red numbers on the white side, now replace the checker by placing it on square 1 though 4 counting from DC. Example: square 13 is 1, square 14 is 2 and so forth. Using the same corresponding squares on the white side. Example: square 20 is 1. This method creates thousands of checker starting positions was designed by William "Bill" Scott from Bowie, Texas who publish the Texas Longhorn Checker Magazine, the official organ of Texas Checker Association. He introduced the system in the early 60’s. He made a deck of cards, a set of 4 cards and a set of 12 cards. Don Brattin from Berea, KY realized he could do the same thing with 2 dice from a set of Dungeons & Dragons dice, and coined the catchy phrase. Use the top number after the roll, the triangular base pyramid dice has 4 faces and the dodecahedron has 12 faces for 1-12 selection for removing one of the 12 checkers, and the 4 face dice replacing it. This system produces 2,304 starting positions (12x12x4x4=2,304) and no transpositions. It generates more losses than Eleven Man because it may remove a key piece from the king row, second row, or an initial man-down opening, (any openings where one side "White" immediately goes into a forced mandown loss? opponents reject it and re-rolls another opening) but you play with 12 pieces, red moves 1st, play both sides, and you roll your own!  You can play "RYO-11 Man" by rolling the 12 sided dice again to select which checker to remove, if it is already gone just roll again. RYO-11 Man has 331,776 starting positions (12x12x4x4x12x12 = 331,776). You can also just play "Simple-11" by removing a checker from each side.  Simple-11 has 1008 starting positions (7x12x12 = 1008).

  GAYP has 7 starting position
2-Move Ballot has 46 starting positions
  3-Move Ballot has 156 starting positions
  Roll Your Own has 2,304 starting positions (12x12x4x4 = 2304) No Transposition = 2,304   -  some of the openings are unplayable as in 11-Man
  11-Man Ballot has 3,136 starting positions (8x8x7x7 = 3136) Less 20.3% Transposition = 2,500
Jim Loy wrote in his Lowder book, and in his 11-man matches book:  "Now, in eleven-man ballot, Red removes one of the front eight pieces (at random) and then makes one of the seven possible moves (also at random). That would seem to be 8x7 = 56 possible opening moves for Red. But there is some duplication. For example, "remove 10 and move 11-15" is the same as "remove 11 and move 10-15." Also, "remove 10 and move 10-14" is the same as "remove 11 and move 11-16," where the piece on 7 moves up to fill the hole in the front row. And so, for the eight pieces that we can remove, two of them produce no duplicate moves and have seven legal moves, while each of the other six pieces each produces a pair of duplicate moves, and so have only six unique legal moves. That is 2x7 + 6x6 = 50. The same thing happens for White, and so we have 50x50 = 2500."

2008 11-Man National    |   11-Man Time Line    |   Bob Newell's comment   |   "Get a 11-Man Opening"

GoldToken - Rules for 11-man ballot: The game is played like ordinary English checkers, except for the starting position. The position is determined by four numbers randomly selected. The first two go from 1 to 8 and the last two from 1 to 7.

First number:
1- remove red man on 5
2- remove red man on 6
3- remove red man on 7
4- remove red man on 8
5- remove red man on 9
6- remove red man on 10
7- remove red man on 11
8- remove red man on 12

Second number:
1- remove white man on 28
2- remove white man on 27
3- remove white man on 26
4- remove white man on 25
5- remove white man on 24
6- remove white man on 23
7- remove white man on 22
8- remove white man on 21

Third number:
1- red plays 9-13 (if piece on 9 was removed, red plays 6-9)
2- red plays 9-14 (if piece on 9 was removed, red plays 5-9)
3- red plays 10-14 (if piece on 10 was removed, red plays 7-10)
4- red plays 10-15 (if piece on 10 was removed, red plays 6-10)
5- red plays 11-15 (if piece on 11 was removed, red plays 8-11)
6- red plays 11-16 (if piece on 11 was removed, red plays 7-11)
7- red plays 12-16 (if piece on 12 was removed, red plays 8-12)

Fourth number
1- white plays 24-20 (if piece on 24 was removed, white plays 27-24)
2- white plays 24-19 (if piece on 24 was removed, white plays 28-24)
3- white plays 23-19 (if piece on 23 was removed, white plays 26-23)
4- white plays 23-18 (if piece on 23 was removed, white plays 27-23)
5- white plays 22-18 (if piece on 22 was removed, white plays 25-22)
6- white plays 22-17 (if piece on 22 was removed, white plays 26-22)
7- white plays 21-17 (if piece on 21 was removed, white plays 25-21)

White gets to decide first if he accepts or rejects the position. If he accepts it, red moves first and plays one game, then players switch colors letting each opponent play both sides of the opening as in restriction checkers. If white rejects it, then red can reject it in which case a new ballot is drawn, or he can accept it by making his first move and the game is played, and then they play opposite colors as in restriction checkers. The rules of checkers or restriction checkers apply.

The last paragraph is a way of getting around a rule that says that a game is not played if the position is an obvious loss for one of the players. This most often happens if a player loses a piece at once. To avoid having to program the determination, the rule (introduced in the last world championship) that both players must agree that the game is a loss (i.e. must reject the position) makes sense

11-Man Ballot 2,500 FEN Opening Positions    |    11-Man Time Line   |   2008 11-Man National   |   "Get a 11-Man Opening"

2002 Moiseyev vs Lowder 11-Man  WCM

1990 Lowder vs Levitt World 11-Man WCM

1969 Grover vs Banks World 11-Man WCM