The Roanoke Times - ( Roanoke,VA) - Friday, September 19, 2014 - “Checkers players jump for Virginia's 'king me' crown Newspaper Link - The News & Advance - Lynchburg   This article on The Virginia Open ran Saturday Morning and also in both Richmond Times-Dispatch Newspaper Link and The Roanoke Times Newspaper LinkRichmond Times-Dispatch is the largest newspaper in the state.

Checkers players jump for Virginia's 'king me' crown

Posted: Friday, September 19, 2014 10:21 pm
By Alex Rohr The (Lynchburg) News & Advance

The meeting room off the Bedford Super 8 motel lobby was silent as 12 men sat in pairs on opposite sides of six green-and-white checkered boards.

The quiet atmosphere at the 97th annual Virginia State Checker Tournament hides the individual plot-lines playing out among friendly competitors.

The two-day competition, which continues today, features 10-time world champ Alex Moiseyev tuning up for a chance to regain his title at a November tournament, as well as the current Virginia champion, Ryan Pronk, looking to maintain his own. Pronk is a designer for The News & Advance.

If the tournament winner is not from Virginia, the highest placing Virginia resident will be named the commonwealth’s champion.

Most of the participants came from North Carolina, which has a stronger checkers scene.

Moiseyev traveled to Bedford from Columbus, Ohio, for the competition, his eighth to prepare for the world qualifying tournament in Louisville, which would give him a chance to regain the title he held from 2003 to 2013. He says he’s hungry.

“I feel strong and I really hope, I have got plans for Louisville, ambitious plans,” Moiseyev said in somewhat broken English.

Moiseyev and other players practice online, but say that is a completely different game. “I play online, but this cannot be replaced,” Moiseyev said.

Each tournament game — two to a match — is allotted one hour.

An online game might last only a minute.

“When you play online, most players prefer fast-paced games, so you don’t have as much time to analyze your positions as you do here,” said Travis Weddle, secretary of the Old Dominion Checker Association and the American Checker Federation.

The slow-paced games seem short on drama upon first glance. Looking more carefully, Pronk’s bouncing leg and the furrowed brows and focused eyes of the players around him, reveal the inner struggle involved in managing the smooth red and white pieces on the board.

People who only know checkers as a hobby “don’t understand how complex the game is when you’re playing someone of Ryan and Alex’s caliber,” said Weddle, of Roanoke.

He said the difference between those players and the rest is they have an extensive knowledge of strategy and strong recall during games.

During an interview before the tournament started, Moiseyev stopped to shake hands and greet his opponents and friends. The camaraderie played a part in his willingness to drive to Bedford from Ohio.

Moiseyev, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1991, enjoys the travel that comes with professional checker playing.

“For me, it’s just another way to learn America,” Moiseyev said. “Everything in 12 hours from my house, I’m driving.”

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