BUCKHANNON — The Caring Manor welcomed National Checkers Champion Ted Williamson from Kenova, West Virginia to compete against soon-to-be 92-year-old resident, Laco Harrison last Thursday afternoon. The two took turns winning and ultimately enjoyed their shared love for the game of Checkers.
Noticing his interest and skill level, Owner and Operator of The Caring Manor, Robin Criss, had been posting on Facebook for months seeking a challenging competitor for Harrison. With no luck, Harrison mentioned two brothers he’d heard about from Charleston; however, Criss could not find them online, but instead found an article about Ted Williamson and promptly contacted him. Excited about the proposal, Williamson decided to travel to Buckhannon the next day.
“Laco was very excited… but then he had this little nervous look,” Criss explained. “I told him, ‘There’s no need to be nervous; this is just for fun.’” She said Harrison replied, “Well I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m very excited.” Harrison said he plays with his friends occasionally, but none are as challenging as Williamson.
Williamson has been seriously competing at Checkers since 2007, but he has been a fan of the game since he was a kid. “When we were kids, everyone played Checkers,” he explained. After recovering from a heart attack, Williamson’s son downloaded software on his computer in order for him to compete online. Once he recovered, Williamson decided he was going to compete in tournaments that he discovered at www.nccheckers.org. Thus, for the last 13 years, he has been competing across the United States, with wins in three of the tournaments. Winning tournaments in Alabama, Indiana and most recently in Lebanon, Tennessee in 2017, Williamson now competes at the Master level.
Although it is a relatively small gaming community, Williams explained that there are approximately 25-30 competitors at any given tournament. These numbers are low compared to the 50+ participants that he said would attend when he first started competing.
Since COVID-19, there have not been any physical tournaments; however, people are still competing in virtual tournaments online, which Williamson explained has helped participation. Most of the new competitors joining Checkers have honed their skills online, according to the champion.
He has competed against others from Barbados, Italy, China, Mexico, South Africa, and other areas of the world. At his most recent tournament, Williamson competed against others from 14 different states, Canada, Barbados and South Africa.
Williamson is a member of the American Checker Federation. He pays monthly to maintain membership, which also provides magazines that offer information regarding games and competitors of particular interest to Checkers buffs. For example, “On the 28th move, so and so made a blunder… so everyone can read it and see what they would have done different,” he explained. “But Checkers is just like the Monday morning quarterback… everyone says what they would do different in that situation, but they don’t know until they get there.”
Williamson was impressed with Harrison’s skills, especially given that Harrison has never competed in tournaments before. “When you play a guy like him, and you make a mistake, he’s going to catch it,” he explained about his competitor. “He caught one of my mistakes earlier and I know he was rubbing his hands together… But he tries to stone face you, like there is no emotion about it, but I know he was jumping up and down on the inside,” Williamson joked about Harrison. “If Mr. Harrison were to play in tournaments, he would be in the middle of the Major level, which is just a step below the Masters. He plays a real cautious, defensive game… He’s not looking for the kill shot unless you give it to him.”
“It’s a game that every kid in middle school ought to learn,” Williamson emphasized. “It teaches you that what looks like a good move, isn’t always necessarily a good move. If you move in haste, you can repent in leisure. If you move too quick and you don’t look it over, you’ll stick one out there and you’ll get it taken from you, then you have all the time in the world to say, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that.’ Sometimes, you must sacrifice a man in the short term, to get ahead in the long run.” As a former teacher, Williamson realizes these valuable life lessons that can be learned from the game of Checkers.
Harrison and Williamson played Checkers for three hours and the two shared a lot of laughs, losses, wins and draws.