Good Morning Obots!
This week will feature Champions of the 3 c’s – Checkers, Chess and Cards!
Today’s Champion: Ron “Suki” King
Ron “Suki” King’ (born 1956) is a checkers (or “draughts” as its known worldwide) player from Saint George, Barbados. He has won United States titles and twelve World Championship Titles at the game and is considered one of the strongest players of the game. He has been honored by his homeland being named Barbados‘s Sportsman of the Year in both 1991 and 1992. He also made it into Guinness World Records in 1998 for playing against 385 players simultaneously and beating them all. He has been called the Muhammad Ali of the checkers world for his “trash-talking.”
A native of St. George, Barbados, Ron King has been playing across the checkerboard since he was about six years old. He says that he first learned the great game amongst the back street clubs and rum shops of Barbados as a young boy looking for things to do. Ron is married to Hazelin, and they have two daughters and one son. His daughter, Ronelle, is already also involved in the checkers game and has attended an international tournament with her father.
As with many checkers enthusiasts, King has traveled extensively within the West Indies, the United States, and across the Atlantic to Great Britain to play in the various styles of the checkers game. The Bajan King has traveled widely in promoting checkers and draughts, participating in contested matches within the USA, Barbados, Ireland, and England, and undertaking promotional tours in the Caribbean Islands, South Africa, and Ireland.
Early in his checkers career in Barbados, Ronald Suki King began playing the preferred freestyle game or Go-As-You-Please or GAYP format that is popular in the island. He quickly realized that the 8 x 8 checkers game he so enjoyed was the type of game that was prevalent in the United States, both in the GAYP tradition and the 3-Move Restriction style becoming more popular on the International checkers stage.
King first traveled to the United States in 1986 to compete in his first major tournament where he shocked established American checkers masters with his easy, flamboyant style. The Bajan checkerist entered the National 3-Move Championship tournament in Tupelo, Mississippi, and surprised the spectators and gamers by placing fourth after Don Lafferty, Jim Morrison, and Asa Long. These Grandmasters were well established in their game and King was a ‘novice’ player on this circuit, only 30 years old, and totally unfamiliar to the regular faces within the checkers arena.
In 1988, Ron traveled to Danville, Virginia, to play in the 36th 3-Move National Championship tournament, and tied for 6th, 7th, and 8th places. The following year, the GM was back in the US in Tupelo, Mississippi, for the National GAYP Championship, wherein he defeated GM Elbert Lowder and won the tournament, though Lowder became the U.S. GAYP Champion.
The Bajan GM was back in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1990 to participate in the 37th 3-Move National Championships, but this time he faced a tough field of checkers contenders including seasoned player, Marion Tinsley, and only ranked 18th. In the next checkers season, ‘Suki’ was the challenger in the World GAYP Title match and played against the U.S. National GAYP champion, Jim Morrison. Ron defeated the Grand-master with a score of four wins, one loss, and eighteen draws to take the Championship title and become World GAYP champion for the first time. It was not to be his last time coveting that title.
That same year, Ron King traveled to Britain and participated in the 1991 English Draughts Open tournament, and defeated all his checkers opponents to become the English Champion. Over the next decade, ‘Suki’ King crossed many miles between Barbados, the U.S. and Europe playing the game he loved in GAYP and 3-Move national tournaments and championship matches.
GM Ron King was honored by the Barbados Draughts Association and awarded Sportsman of the Year in both 1991 and 1992. As well, in 1992, the Bajan government awarded the checkers master the Barbados Service Star, which is the highest national honor that can be bestowed upon a citizen for outstanding service and achievement.
Also in 1992, King came back into the national checkers arena in the U.S. and played against a solid field of checkers experts in the 3-Move Championship, held in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In this tournament play, Suki defeat Elbert Lowder Checkers 3.0, Hallett, Lafferty and Chinook to take first place; however, over the years, sources have since commented on Suki’s style of sportsmanship in this mind sport match. Richard Fortman was the referee who later wrote:
“1992 National 3-Move; Hot Springs, AR Aug 10-15th (Ronald Suki King, Lowder, Checkers 3.0, Hallett, Lafferty, Chinook, Laverty, Davis) Elbert should have won. He had the tourney in the bag with only Ron King in the last round with a game up and all he needed was a draw heat with Ron King in 8th Round. It was a 3 on 3 position, 2 singles and a king apiece. Elbert said, “agreed draw, but Ron replied, ” let’s play.” The Position was a draw. They proceeded and Ron slow moved Elbert to death, causing him to step into a silly endgame trap. Elbert got really upset over Ron’s method of play, slapped the checkers off the board, and threatened to quit checkers! What a heart break for Elbert!”
Richard also commented that if Elbert had only referred the decision of the play to the referee, then the ref would also have called it a ‘draw’. The game position at the time was a draw and it was certainly an unfortunate way to end the game. No win is worth bitter feelings and poor sportsmanship.
Back in paradise, Ron King defended his GAYP checkers title in a match against the great British GM, Derek Oldbury, in Barbados. The final score was a draw of five wins, five losses, and fourteen draws apiece. The game result of the draw position allowed King to retain his title of World Checkers GAYP Champion.
The next year, King was busy within the International checkers circuit as he entered both the National GAYP Championship tournament in Danville, Virginia, and the English Open Draughts Tournament. He placed second behind Elbert Lowder in the GAYP competition but defeated his opponents once again in the English Open to retain the Championship title.
Between 1994 and 2000, Suki King continued to trek back and forth between his Caribbean homeland, the States, and Europe joining many checkers masters at the checkerboard for numerous challenging games, each player testing skill against skill, technique against technique, and checkers strategy against checkers strategy.
Ron “Suki” King earns $40,000 a year by teaching the game in university classrooms in Barbados and $15,000 by tutoring prison inmates. A statue of him stands in front of the grade school he attended.
Here Suki beats this novice down in less than 3 minutes