The Ronald ‘Suki’ King International Checkers and Draughts Festival has been given the thumbs up by Dr Richard Beckwith, president of the World Checkers and Draughts Federation.
The competition officially got under way yesterday at Divi Southwinds Resort, three days after the proposed start date.
But Beckwith, who is officiating at the competition, told MIDWEEK SPORT that despite the delay, he was satisfied with how the event had progressed.
King, the world go-as-you-please champion and tournament organizer, had earlier complained that a lack of funds had caused him to postpone the start of the festival, which was slated to begin last weekend.
However, Beckwith confirmed that despite a reduction in both the number of players and competing countries, a record number of women were participating in the one-week event.
“. . . Things are coming along okay and I am looking forward to a good week of checkers,” he said.
Beckwith revealed that eight women were scheduled to compete, including reigning three-move restriction champion Nadiya Chyzhevska of the Ukraine.
He noted that in previous qualifiers, the organizers normally attracted only five or six women.
And with the participation of previous qualifier winners, American Jim Morrison and Italian Sergio Scarpetta competing in the men’s division, Beckwith expected the competition to be intense and exciting.
“The women have gotten really strong in recent years . . . and with a very strong men’s field, which includes Scarpetta, Morrison and Jack Francis, it is anybody’s tournament,” he said.
The 29-year-old Chyzhevska, who is on her first visit to the island, is seeking to become the first woman to hold both titles simultaneously.
“I am well prepared and I think I have a 50/50 chance of winning. I prefer the three-move restriction format, but I will be trying my best to win this competition,” she said through an interpreter.
Morrison, who lost to King in the 1991 world title match, insisted that he was up to the task this time.
“I’ve already played Suki three times, and I’m looking for the fourth. I think this is my time,” he said.
Players from the Ukraine, Italy, Netherlands, United States and Barbados will do battle, with the winner of the men’s division earning a right to challenge King for the world title next year.
In addition, new champions will also be crowned in both the women’s and juniors’ divisions.
The winner in the men’s will also receive the Andrew Lewis Trophy, the women will be awarded the Pat Alleyne Trophy and the junior champion will walk away with the Keith Rayside Trophy.
There is also a scheduled match between the United States and Barbados, and the winner of that match will win the Hazeain King Trophy.