link: 12/2/2021 Article

'Pretty serious business': Tulsa checkers tournament draws competitors from around the globe
Tim Stanley Dec 2, 2021 Updated Dec 2, 2021

Top checkers players from around the world are in Tulsa this week, competing for shares in over $30,000 in prize money.

The American Checker Federation’s annual national tournament, held at the Courtyard by Marriott Tulsa Central hotel, started Monday and will wrap up Thursday with the final rounds and an awards ceremony.

It’s the first time the event has been held in Tulsa.

Around 40 players, representing a handful of countries, are participating in the tournament, which includes minors, majors and masters skill levels, organizers said.

Lubabalo Kondlo of South Africa, who’s competing at the masters level, is hoping to repeat his run of 2007, when he won the ACF tournament.

Kondlo, who’s played in tournaments around the world, said he’s been playing checkers for over 40 years after starting at age 7.

“I joined a club as a boy. Then I started getting serious about it. I read a lot of books trying to become a better player.”

He’s spent thousands of hours staring at checker boards, contemplating the  possible moves.

“There’s a beauty to the board, the game, everything about it,” he said.
Vying for the masters title with Kondlo is Ron “Suki” King, who qualifies as checkers royalty.

King has won several world championships and has twice been honored as Barbados’ Sportsman of the Year.

“I come up playing for money. We used to bet a lot,” he said of learning checkers as a boy. “I set out to make a living from it. And I achieved that.”

But, King added, he’s prouder of what he’s done with his fame to raise the game’s profile in his country.

“The game was not respected, and I wanted to help it get respect,” he said.  King has helped pass it on to a new generation, teaching checkers in schools and universities in Barbados.

The oldest masters-level player at the event is 79-year-old John Webster, who is from North Carolina.

Webster, a retired large animal veterinarian, said he’s happy to be back in Oklahoma for the week. He’s a graduate of Oklahoma State University, where he got his veterinary degree.

“Checkers has been good to me all these years,” he said. “I enjoy it very much.”

He started playing the game as a boy at a country store, he said.

“I was going to the North Carolina tournaments before I was old enough to drive,” he said. “I had to ride with somebody else.”

Event organizers say the prize fund, at just over $32,000, is the most ever for any ACF national tournament.

The money will be divided among the players on Thursday, depending on where they finish.

Tulsan Joe McDaniel is one of the event’s major sponsors.

He said checkers is “pretty serious business” at tournaments, especially in masters-level games.

McDaniel has played in past ACF national tournaments at the minors level. This year, he’s focusing on just being a sponsor and host, he said.

But McDaniel still plays for fun, and he can often be found at favorite sites around Tulsa trying to drum up a game. His offer still stands: A $25 gift card to anyone who can beat him.

“Checkers is just fascinating, especially if you play somebody you don’t know,” McDaniel said. “You don’t know how they’re going to move. You don’t really know how good they are.”

“I have a lot of fun with it,” he said.

2021 Tournament Dates  |  2021 National Announcement  |  2021 3-Move National Results