This week The Checker Maven celebrates its ninth publication anniversary, publishing every week without fail for all this time. As always, we thank our many readers for making this weekly column a success beyond all expectations. If all goes well, we hope to continue to publish for years to come.
And now, to celebrate our ninth anniversary, we present the final chapter of our serial, The Checker Murders
Without giving us any advance warning, our webhost moved the Checker Maven site to a new server.
Now, we've noticed that the site's response time is very much faster than it was before the move, and we're most appreciative of that.
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King Me, a film from Think Media Studios of Cleveland, mirrors its subject. Like checkers, the film is filled with subtlety and punctuated with explosive moments.
Checkers is no simple game, and King Me is no simple movie. Humorous and serious, compelling and moving, writer/director Geoff Yaw has made a work of significance out of a game that few adults ever think is more than something for kids or old folks.
After watching King Me you'll never think about checkers the same way again. You'll experience a story about hope, courage, triumph and loss. It's Rocky and Cinderella and maybe even a little Chariots of Fire.
On one level, the movie tells the story of Lubabalo Kondlo, a black man from an impoverished South African township. Kondlo plays checkers at the grandmaster level, but due to disputes with white-dominated Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA), the national governing body for games such as checkers, he was blocked from competition on the international level.
Is the leader of MSSA racist? Or did Kondlo flout MSSA's rules? King Me strives to present a balanced picture, and herein lies one of the movie's subtle touches: you'll draw your own inevitable conclusions, but you'll draw them from the facts, not from a skewed or agenda-driven presentation.
Alan Millhone, President of the American Checker Federation, managed to pull international strings, line up sponsors, and break through bureaucratic roadblocks. Kondlo came to America to compete, and ere long he was the challenger for the world championship of what's known as "Go As You Please" (GAYP) checkers. This is the version of checkers that we all grew up with.
Enter Ron "Suki" King, reigning GAYP champion since the 1990s, a superstar in his home, the island nation of Barbados. King's personality looms large on camera; he's flamboyant and more than a little egotistical. But he's also very, very good. Challenger Kondlo was facing an uphill battle.
It's the classical underdog vs. establishment scenario. Kondlo is poor, short on resources, and struggling. King enjoys tremendous support from both government and business in Barbados. He's wealthy and confident.
Director Yaw makes real drama out of the 24 game King vs. Kondlo match. Can checkers keep you on the edge of your seat? You bet it can, and the emotional content in the match sequences is high. You'll find yourself cheering for the challenger, and you'll share his feelings when the match is ended.
Yaw and crew traveled to both South Africa and Barbados to film on location. The poverty of the South African townships and the lingering after-effects of apartheid come through all too clearly. The contrast with the sequences shot in Barbados is another of the film's subtleties. Barbados is hardly a wealthy place but Yaw captures the differences in a way that you can't help but notice.
There's a lot of color content about checkers, of course. Many of the "big names" in American checkers appear in the movie, although unfortunately a number of them aren't identified by name. Yaw portrays them as a largely eccentric lot. While there is certainly truth in this characterization, it seems overemphasized. Checker players, unlike chess players, tend to be of the man-in-the-street variety.
If you're a checker fan, King Me is an obvious must-see. If you know a little about checkers and want to learn what it's all about at the uppermost levels of play, watch this movie. Even if you're not especially interested in the game, but you enjoy real-life drama and are moved by the heights to which the human spirit can soar, there is much here for you.
Geoff Yaw has done extraordinary and unexpected things with King Me. A documentary about checkers? You're going to be amazed.
Stills from King Me are used with the kind permission of Geoff Yaw and Think Media Studios. This review originally appeared on Mr. Victor Niederhoffer's Daily Speculations website.
Here is a problem situation from game 24 of the King-Kondlo match, as seen in King Me.
Click on Read More to see the run-up and solution.[Read More]
The acclaimed 2012 documentary King Me is now widely available on-line at a price much lower than the average movie ticket.
King Me, as described on the iTunes website, "explores the surreal world of competitive checkers play as seen through the eyes of South African township resident Lubabalo Kondlo."
Checker fans the world around won't want to miss this outstanding film. Get it from iTunes:
It is also available for purchase or rental from the VUDU streaming service:
Over the next several months we hope to roll out a bit of a "new look" for The Checker Maven.
The idea isn't to change our layout just for the sake of change. But we want to introduce a move animation feature, and our current page arrangement simply isn't suitable.
Please bear with us as we incorporate dynamic new content and design into what we hope is your favorite weekly checker webzine.
If you're in the Oklahoma City area, and you have an afternoon to spare, we can use your help. It's a purely volunteer assignment, of course, but you would be able to assist The Checker Maven in bringing more content to its readership.
If you're interested and can help out just write firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Checker fans around the world know and appreciate John Acker's efforts to bring us the best in checker tournament reporting. In 2011, John took his coverage to a new level providing live internet streaming of the Moiseyev - Borghetti world championship match.
This coming June, Alex and Michele will meet again to contest the world 3-move championship, with the venue moving from the US to Italy.
John naturally plans to be on hand to provide professional quality coverage of the event, including another live video stream.
The only problem is that this will be an expensive undertaking, running to about two months of John's salary. John is requesting the help of checker fans to defray these costs. Just a few dollars each from potential viewers would make a big difference.
Please help make John Acker "go away" to Italy! John explains how you can do just that:
"Thanks in advance for your consideration--- feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 217-778-3451 if you have any questions. As always, you can donate online via the ACF Store (http://www.usacheckers.com/store), or you can send a check or money order to the ACF at P.O. Box 3488, Columbus, OH 43210-3488. Just write "Acker travel fund" on your check, so we know where you want the money to go. I'm really looking forward to visiting Italy, and to making this the best World Championship Match yet!"
With today's publication, The Checker Maven completes eight years of publication without a single missed edition.
We've mentioned before that our new business plan calls for fifteen years of publication rather than the ten years contemplated in our original plan. We hope to be blessed to continue to reach our annual milestones, and we thank all of our many readers for making us the most widely read Anglo-American checkers publication on earth.
Anniversary celebrations at The Checker Maven often involve the publication of a new work of checker fiction, but this year instead we're able to release the long-awaited reissue of Grover and Wiswell's Let's Play Checkers. Continue on to the article below for all the details.
Veteran player and problem composer Bill Salot is sponsoring the second in a series of checker problem composition contests. The first competition produced a pair of very fine problems. You can get all the details of the new contest and a look at the entries in the previous contest here.
You're sure to enjoy these elegantly-crafted problems, but why not make a try at it in your own right? If you don't know where to begin, take a look at some of your own games; surely in one or more of them, either you or your opponent made some nice play that could well be the basis of a problem. It's an entertaining exercise and a great way to learn more about checkers.
We congratulate Mr. Salot on his efforts in promoting the art of checker problem composition.
We have been experiencing ongoing database problems and "Read More" links were out of service this morning. We've fixed this and apologize for the inconvenience.
Our long-term solution is a complete rebuild of our database. That's in progress but it's a big job. In the meanwhile, please bear with us and do let us know if something isn't quite right.