Hamilton students 'smashed' record for most people playing checkers at once: teacher
Hamilton school board celebrates 50th annual checkers tournament
More than 900 children bent over checkers boards on Tuesday — strategy in brain, candy in hand— unofficially breaking a world record for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board
"We not only broke it, we smashed it," said teacher Bill Forrester, who organized the Guinness World Record attempt — the current record is 540 checkers players in Nevada.
This was the school board's 50th annual checkers tournament, where 910 people played the classic game simultaneously.
The room at the Ancaster Fairgrounds buzzed with enthusiasm — and some were clearly there to win.
"Focus!" shouted one Grade 3 student, as the tournament launched.
Students from Grades 3 to 8 took part, from first-time players to four-time champions.
"It's really fun," said Grade 4 student Noor Derwi, from Ray Lewis Elementary School. "You take everything out of your mind and just focus on the game."
.<a href="https://twitter.com/HWDSB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HWDSB</a> celebrating unofficially breaking the Guinness World Record for most people playing checkers at once! Final tally soon. <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCHamilton?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCHamilton</a> <a href="https://t.co/R6XFwbauxd">pic.twitter.com/R6XFwbauxd</a>—@LauraHowellsNL
Started small in 1969
Ken Shoesmith never imagined the tournament would grow so massive when he started it in 1969; he just wanted to get checkers into schools.
There were only seven teams that first year, he said. But five decades later, there were 146 teams from 30 schools.
"I'm just blown away," Shoesmith said.
"It takes a lot of checkers boards," to break a world record, said 10-year organizer Nick Trikoupis. He played in tournaments when he was a Hamilton student; now his three sons have won a number of tournaments.
But can they beat their dad?
"Not yet," Nick says with a smile.
Checkers 'twice a day'
Easton Donn, age 8, plays checkers "a lot," he said. "Like, twice a day."
"I always beat my mom, I always beat my dad, I always beat my friends," said Donn, who started playing when he was three. He claims he hasn't lost a game yet — at least this year.
Farhan El Mohammad learned to play checkers from his dad in Syria.
After moving to Canada, he kept it up — and now plays on the Grade 4 team at Cootes Paradise Elementary School.
"It's a really fun game," said El Mohammad, adding that he won against his dad yesterday.
The checkers culture is "huge" at Franklin Road Elementary School, said teacher Astra Ireland.
"They have to try out, there's playoffs," said Ireland. She brought 50 students with her to the tournament, but would have brought more than 100 if there wasn't a limit. Last year they came in third — and the pennant is hung up in the gym.
Teachers start coaching checkers in January, said Trikoupis, and some kids re-schedule family vacations because they want to be part of the tournament.
Teaching to 'look ahead'
Checkers teaches kids "to think carefully, to look ahead, " said Shoesmith, who used to own 100 books about the game.
Plus, it's accessible. A child in a wheelchair "can take on the biggest, strongest player" with no disadvantage, Shoesmith said.
Strategy: 'to win'
You've got to have a good strategy, said Sawyer Hutchison, a 9-year-old Yorkview Elementary School.
"At the end of the game when the board starts to clear up, I just get goin' on my attack. I just start jumping kings and getting guys," Hutchison said.
Focus. <a href="https://t.co/lYA5XImgQb">pic.twitter.com/lYA5XImgQb</a>—@LauraHowellsNL
Paula Huang has a different approach.
"I don't move the back where you can get kings, so they can't get a king." said Huang, a grade 4 student at Franklin Road.
For Jaycee Gordon, "my strategy is just to win," he said.
"But it's got to be a fair game," said the Grade 4 student.
This is the longest-running checkers tournament in North America, Trikoupis said. They now await official verification on their victory from Guinness World Records.