By Jeff Vorva
A fellow by the name of Joe Moore from Pennsylvania runs a checkers blog and he almost sounds like late comedian Rodney Dangerfield when he talks about the perception of the game he loves getting no respect.
“I believe that the single most reason checkers is underrated it because it gets compared to chess,” Moore wrote on his World of Checkers website. “Most people, especially chess players, cannot imagine checkers being taken seriously.
“Fact is, people are right in that checkers is very easy to play. What they don’t understand, however, is just how hard it is to play at a high level.’’
A fellow by the name of Mike Erickson from Evergreen Park is working at the local level to help give the game some respectability and popularity.
He is hosting the first Evergreen Park all-ages, village-wide checkers tournament from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 19 at the Hamilton B. Maher Community Center, 3450 W. 97th St. in Evergreen Park. There is a $5 entrance fee and the tournament is open to all ages. Proceeds will go to the Village Food Pantry.
“If you’re old enough, you’re never too old,’’ is the tournament’s motto.
Erickson is hoping for a big turnout. Ramon Dionisio, the Illinois State Checker Association president, will be making a guest appearance at the event.
“We want to have as many people as we can in the center,” Erickson said. “We’ll have brackets in age groups and at the end, all the champions of each age group will compete against each other for one grand champion.”
The grand champion will receive funding to play at a state competition.
Erickson is also involved in a new venture of creating and selling checkerboards with painted golf balls used as checkers. He went to a local play rehearsal and was surprised at the response.
“I took some sets with me to play practice and some of the kids are in high school I found out that some of them play checkers online with their phone,” he said. “I brought in three sets and everybody was playing during a break. The kids love it.’’
His company, Golf Ball Checkers, Etcetera, is getting off the ground and Erickson made an appearance at the Tinley Park Golf Expo in early February. He invited patrons to stop by and play and he watched as kids, adults and even some nuns had fun kinging and double jumping.
Living near golf courses helped give him an idea for the checker designs.
“I live across from Beverly Country Club and I always found really good golf balls,” he said. “I would pocket those. I used to go up and down the tracks between the two courses which included the nine holes at Evergreen until they closed it. Village Hall asked me to be in an art presentation so I made a checkerboard and that was the first iteration.”
Photo by Jeff Vorva
Evergreen Park’s Michael Erickson is forming a checkers tournament in the village in April.