In mid-March, former long-time 3-move restriction world checker champion Alex Moiseyev will face off against Italy's Sergio Scarpetta, the reigning king, in an effort to recapture the title that Alex lost a few years back.
Alex kindly granted The Checker Maven an exclusive interview, and in this column we'll learn not only more about how this historic match has come to be, but a great deal about Alex and his own personal history. You'll also find out how you can support this match directly and become a promoter of our great game as played at its highest level.
In mid-November of 2019, Alex posted the following on Facebook:
Today me and reigning English Draughts 3-moves style World Champion Sergio Scarpetta, Italy got an agreement to play World Title match via Independent Challenge channel. Match will be hosted in International Checkers Hall of Fame, Petal, Mississippi.
Match dates: March 11 (Wednesday) -- March 19 (Thursday), rest day after 16 games -- March 15, Sunday. Referee--- Charles Walker.
Financial aspect of match is simple: Sergio will receive $7,000 and I will play for title. All Sergio transportation expenses will be covered fully. ICHF will cover all accommodation and food expenses for both players.
I am working now on broadcasting coverage and looking for any volunteers who might be interesting to step forward and do online life time coverage. Stay on for more news.
Alex continued in another Facebook posting:
Sergio will have unique chance to defend his title against all living English Draughts 3-moves World Champions: Michelle Borghetti (Italy)--- 2017, Ronald King (Barbados)--- 2019 and upcoming match. Kind of historical moment.
We know well from history of checkers title matches --- there were a good number of very strong challengers who never got a good chance to play match. It is probably something similar to "right place at right time." And this is main reason why I decided to move ahead with Independent Challenge--- now or never!
Alex then wrote to offer us the opportunity for an interview. He gave us the following opening statement.
I want personally to thank for interview Bob Newell--– Main Editor and owner of terrific, fantastic checkers blog which recently celebrated 15 years anniversary. It is my honor and pleasure to answer on his questions, share my thoughts about upcoming match and checkers fate, and more, more, more!
And now, here's our interview in full!
1. Let's start out with a little about the checker history of Alex Moiseyev. We know that you came to the US from Russia, where you played the Russian variety of checkers at a championship level. How did you get into the English form of the game? How well did your skills in Shashki transfer over?
Just for the record from my checkers biography: I started playing Russian Checkers in 1966 when I was 7 years old. In 1975 at age 15 I achieved norm of USSR Master Sport. In 1979 I switched to International Draughts (10x10) where I played until October 1991 when I left Soviet Union with my family--- just a couple months before the country collapsed at the end of 1991. Should I say the country collapsed because of my departure?
Here is an image of my "Master ID" from 1975 with picture, registration number and stamp. Isn't it cool?
For five years after my arrival in the USA I didn't play any form of checkers. I just simply didn't have time and money! It was a kind of fantastic journey in my life to fight to survive and support family. In 1996 when my life was a bit established, I started feeling that I was missing a big spot in my soul without checkers. In July 1996 I played for the first and last time in the USA 10x10 National in New York on Long Island, where I won an event (ahead of I. Kuperman!) and earned the right to play in the World Championship in the Ivory Coast.
I had already bought a ticket to Africa and had taken a very painful shot for yellow fever, but then I realized that there was no future for me to play active competitive 10x10 Draughts by living in USA where this kind of draughts is not very popular. At this moment I made one of the most important crucial decisions in my life (again)--- I made my second immigration in checkers! I cancelled my trip to Africa and in October 1996 played my first USA 3 moves National in Danville VA.
In the beginning of 1990s in USA my eldest son played chess and participated in some scholastic events. I also played few times in the Parents Division, and one of parents told me about an English Draughts and local club in New Castle PA, near Pittsburgh where I lived. My long time friend and coach was Pennsylvania's strong Master Anthony Kozenski. I played checkers in this local club in church from 1996 until 2003 when we moved to Columbus, Ohio.
2. You were a long-time world 3-move champion and part of what made you a great title holder was your willingness to take on all comers without fear. And although the championship resides in Italy at this moment, you remain part of a small elite circle at the pinnacle of checkers skill. In your estimation, who are the players most worthy of a chance at the world 3-move championship? And who do you think are potential up-and-comers who might reach that level in the foreseeable future?
As of today the maximum threat to the 3-moves throne is coming from a young Italian star, Matteo Bernini. He tied for 2nd-3rd place in 2018 Qualifying Tournament in Barbados (R. King was 1st, I was 2nd ). He also recently won the GAYP (go as you please) Qualifying Tournament in Barbados and earned rights to play a GAYP World title match with GAYP World Champion Lubabalo Kondlo from South Africa. I have very little doubt that eventually Matteo will be on top of things in the very near future.
In addition I want to mention the very talented young Irish player Shane McCosker. He rarely loses a single game and not every year! His style reminds me of legendary Irish grandmaster Pat McCarthy. But Shane needs to be a bit more aggressive. If he can do this, he will be a dangerous opponent to anyone.
From other players who may fight for 3-moves World title in the nearest future are a couple of South African players: current GAYP World Champion L. Kondlo who already won one time (2014) in the 3 moves Qualifying Tournament and played a 3-moves World title match with M. Borghetti in 2015. Lubabalo just needs to work more on 3-moves published play.
Another potential threat is coming from the excellent South African player Melikaya Nonyukela. He tied 1-3 in the GAYP QT in 2017, He finished 4th in the 3-moves QT in 2018 and from what I've seen, he continues to consistently improve.
I don't see anyone else at the moment who can compete for the 3-moves World Title in the next few years but things can change indeed!
3. You've chosen to go the route of an independent challenge for the championship, and as you've pointed out elsewhere, this is completely legitimate according to WCDF rules. Yet the "normal" route is to win the right to challenge in a qualifying tournament. How do you think the two methods compare, and why did you choose the challenge method?
I'll answer on your second question first, because this will help us to understand better the process and make for an easy answer to your first question. First of all a bit of history: after I lost my title to Michele Borghetti in 2013, I played in all the 3-moves Qualify Tournaments. In 2014 in Louisville, USA I won 6 games, lost 1 and finished 3rd, 1 point behind L. Kondlo and S. Scarpetta. In Rome 2016 I won 6 games, 0 losses and finished second 1 point behind Sergio Scarpetta. In 2018 on Barbados I won 6 games, lost 1 and finished 2nd 1 point behind Ron King.
As you see, it looks like I am becoming a "second forever" and I certainly don't want to play this role! Also scenarios and quality of games in all three events leave an open question (at least for me!) as to who is best. It is also well known from history that there are good "tournament players" and there are good "match players."
In addition, we learn from history that there were some players who didn't play their BIG match on time. You can't be "second forever" ... it's always way up or down!
And finally--- I will be 61 in February. Time is not on my side and always goes in the wrong direction!
All this together forced me to submit an Independent challenge to the current 3-moves World Champion, Sergio Scarpetta.
4. Along these lines, do you think an ex-champion who has just ceded the title should have an automatic opportunity for a rematch, rather than being asked to compete in a candidates' tournament?
No, I don't think champion should have the privilege to play automatically in a revenge match. Each time it's a very individual and personal decision from challenger and champion. As challenger you can submit an independent challenge if you think you have chances, and the champion can accept or reject your challenge with no penalty. Looks fair to me.
5. Sergio also showed himself to be a great champion by readily accepting your challenge, and you have yourself stated that he will provide tough competition. How do you plan to prepare for this match? And how do you rate your chances?
My preparation for this World Title match is standard with no difference from my preparation to other matches.
I think today my chances to win this historic match are 55% vs 45%. But with all my preparation and hard work I will try to improve this number and make it more solid--- maybe 60%-65%.
6. Can you tell our readers how they can support this match and thereby support a high standard of excellence in the world of checkers?
In order to support event, readers of your blog and article can make publications in press and online media. In addition they can make donations to this event to:
Please, specify INDEPENDENT Challenge Match on your check.
7. Are there specific publicity plans, such as live streaming, live blogging, daily summaries, etc.? In other words, how can we all stay tuned to the action?
Yes, indeed ! Mark Sokolovsky kindly agreed to perform duties of Referee Assistant and also provide services for broadcasting and online coverage for the entire course of the event. All match games will be video translated in real time on the Facebook group "English Draughts." I also plan to find someone who will copy, on a daily basis, match progress information onto the Forum on the ACF website, www.usacheckers.com.
8. You're the author of an instructional book on checkers called Sixth. The book has been very well received by the checker playing community. Can you say something about this book and how our readers might obtain a copy?
I started to write this book sometime in the beginning of 2004--- just right after I won the 3-moves World Title in my historic match with Ron King in Northern Ireland, October 2003. One of the main reasons which influenced me to write this book was to mark and highlight an important period in my life and checkers career.
So, my checkers career is divided prior to 2003 and after winning the title.
While working on this book, I had an interesting conversation with one of my Russian friends and author of some books. He asked me an interesting question:
“6 months after your book will be published, people will know everything about each game and each position in this book. Why would someone need to buy this book after 20 years ?” And then he answered to himself: “Because of the insides! (insider information)” I tried to follow his suggestion.
You can order this book today from the ACF Store:
In the past almost decade (!) I continue working on my next book which I name as “AMG”--– All My Games. It has a collection of all the games I ever played in tournaments, matches or training events. I started it in 2006, just right after I published Sixth. At that time, in 2006, the total number of games I ever played since 1996 was around 1,300. Today it’s almost 3,000 and still growing. The volume of information is really huge and I don’t know when this will be done. It seems like a lifetime project.
9. In addition to having long held the 3-move world title, you have also long held, and currently hold, the 11-man ballot world title. How do you compare the two styles of play. And who might be your top challenger in the 11-man game?
Great question! The way 11-man ballot style is organized--– remove 1 man from each side and make 1 move--– generates in total 2,500 unique openings. This make it almost or absolutely impossible to memorize all of them or any reasonable part. As result, the 11 man ballot style is strictly cross board style. Most positions generated by 11 man ballot style are unique and cannot occur under GAYP or 3-moves due to different tempo.
However, all strategical principles and basic rules remain in place under 11-man ballot style. There is a very famous Marion Tinsley quote: “We play only what we’ve seen!” This is very applicable to 11 man ballot style. My predecessor to the 11 man ballot World Title, Elbert Lowder, was one of the strongest cross board players ever.
Since 2008 when I won the 11 man ballot World Title after the great Elbert Lowder passed away, I played many World Title matches with strong players: Tim Laverty, Richard Beckwith, James Morrison, and Michael Holmes, and was able to defend my title. I am not afraid to play a match with anyone in the world (hence, it’s a small world!). But it would be interesting for me to play an 11 man ballot World Title match with Sergio Scarpetta, Matteo Bernini and Lubabalo Kondlo.
10. Do you have any interest in GAYP (go as you please) competition?
No, I don’t have any specific interest to GAYP competition. This is different game and style which requires different skills and different attitude. It looks like my personality and my skills are better matching to 3-moves and 11 man ballot types of game.
However, the great Marion Tinsley said once that GAYP openings occupy in general 1/3 of the entire 3-moves deck and you can’t be a strong 3-moves player without doing it well in GAYP.
The total number of all GAYP events I ever attended since 1996 is limited to number of fingers on both hands! I was first in the USA GAYP National in 1999 and 2003, I was 2nd after Ron King in 2001, 2005, and 2011. I played a GAYP World Title Match to a draw with Ron King in 2000 (+3-3=18) and I tied for 1-3 place (2nd in honor points) in the 2017 World Qualifer. That’s all together, and may give you and the readers some picture of where I am in the GAYP field.
11. We'd like to hear your opinion on the future of the game. Where do you think English checkers is going? Can there be a major revival? And, what advice would you give to an aspiring and ambitious player who is new to English checkers?
I have no idea where we are going and where we will be after 10-15 years, but I am pretty confident that the doors will never ever be closed--- I am a cautious optimist !!
My advice to the newcomer: it's never too late! Consider checkers as a lifetime hobby--- some people do fishing, others hunting, you play checkers! And after all, if you play checkers you are much more lucky and richer than someone who doesn't have anything to do outside of work and family.
12. Any final thoughts or comments for our readers?
I can only repeat my favorite quote: "There is only one way to prove pudding--- eat it!"
Finally, Alex shared with us a picture of his wife, Galina, and son Michael just prior to their departure for the US, in 1991. Michael was age 7 at the time. He's now 36 and resides in New York. Alex's other children, son Paul (age 24) and daughter Clara (age 20) were born in the United States.
And once again, The Checker Maven thanks Alex for this interview. We wish him the best of luck in his upcoming challenge match!
The text portions of this interview are Copyright (C) 2019/2020 The Checker Maven and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of either The Checker Maven or Alex Moiseyev.