This is where it starts (September 2008, Medina, Ohio)
Justin Russell, Keith Potoczak and I, armed with little more than a few Panasonic HVX 200’s, some mics and the knowledge that every year grown men and women gather in groups to fight to the death……well not actually “the death” but a death of sorts over the game of checkers. No joke, we’re talking checkers folks. Unbeknownst to most of us there exists a subset of individuals whose mission in life is to get to your side of the board, “king” themselves, then systematically wipe out every checker piece on the board that belongs to you. This may not exactly qualify as blood sport to you and I but believe me, these guys take it seriously.
We sat in for the Ohio State championships and met guys like Alex “The Mad Russian” Moiseyev, the current 3-Move Restriction Checker Champion. Much like the controversial ’08 Chinese Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, Alex was trained from a very young age in cold-war-era Russia to be a Checker champion. He now calls the U.S. his home.
3-Move Checkers is a technical style of play that involves each player starting with the disadvantage of having their first 3 moves decided by a deck of cards. The Ohio State finals were a real eye opener but they were really just a warm up for the main event.
Go As You Please Checkers is the style of checkers that most people are familiar with. You know, jump your opponent’s pieces thus removing them from the board until there are none left. After the Ohio State Finals were complete we settled in, camera’s poised, for the rare opportunity to watch two men battle it out for the title of, Go As You Please Checkers World Champion.
The week-long championship bout between 19-year reigning World Champ Ron “Suki” King from Barbados and South African national phenomenon and Xhosa tribesman, Lubabalo Kondlo would open us up to a strange world full of stories and characters that we found ourselves unable to turn away from. We spent a week with these men as they battled for honor, recognition and their livelihoods and realized that the game of checkers, like life, isn’t always fair.