By Norris Chambers

             The folks out in the country areas played several games. Dominoes was the most popular game and was played by almost every family. The two domino games were just plain dominoes, for two, three or four players and forty-two, strictly a game for four players. Then there was the old checker game. This was a board game that was played by two persons. Checkers was a family game but was also an important public game, played at barber shops, service stations, blacksmith shops or anywhere else where two people could get together with a couple of chairs and a makeshift table to support the board. Often there were spectators and maybe even a bet or two.

            Clifton and I, along with others of our caliber, played these games. We were not experts but played well enough to enjoy the game. We were especially intrigued by checker games, especially after an uncle began playing checkers by mail. I believe he belonged to some club or mail association and the group sponsored tournaments that the members entered and determined a winner. Some tournaments required an entrance fee and the top winners received an award.

            Each contestant was matched with an opponent and three games were to be played at the same time. The games were numbered one, two and three and a penny postcard was used to signify the moves of each opponent. The checker board has each playing square numbered and a move would be described as (1)2-17, or whatever the move was. The number in parenthesis was 1 to 3 and indicated the game the move was meant for. The opposing player set up his board and responded with his counter move. The contest continued until one of the players won two of the three games. The winner was then matched with a winner from another group and the play continued until a tournament winner was determined.  The early losers could either play someone else for fun or enter another contest.

            Brownwood and Brown County boasted many top checker players and some State Champions. We had a school superintendent, Mr. A. H. Plummer, who wrote a book on advanced checker playing. It was called “100 Single Corner Games”. Methods of play in checkers were given a name. For instance, the single corner game received its name from the first few moves of the game. The first few moves of the game began on the single corner of the checker board. By studying the moves and the counter moves any serious student could become a better checker player.

            Clifton and I learned several of the games in the book and were able to defeat just about anyone who had not studied some of the classic plays. I was told that to be a master player it was necessary to know at least 1700 positions on the board and the proper move to make. If the opponent knew his positions and counter moves just one bad move on your part could lose the game for you.       
In the fifties and sixties I played a few games by mail. I won a few and lost a few but I never became a master checker player.

            For those interested in playing checkers and improving their skill the computer has now replaced the postcard for game playing. There are several sites where you can play the computer at various skill levels or play with a live person on the screen. This site is a good place to begin:  You can start as a rank beginner and beat the computer almost every time. There are ten games of increasing complexity. Unless you are an expert, select No. 1 and work your way up. As you select more difficult play you will lose one now and then. You will likely reach a point where you will lose every game. When you reach this stage it is time to get some checker books and start studying.

            As youngsters we never got into chess. We had heard of the game but it was not one that our country folks played.  It was many years later when the game was introduced as a lunch time

diversion where I worked. I learned how to play the game and even won a few, but I never became even a poor expert.

            Is playing checkers fun? Like any game, it is fun to win. If you are a sore loser perhaps you shouldn’t get involved. But if you do get involved every time you win you will have fun, whether you beat a computer or another player!