GM Baba Sy: World Checkers Champion

I have written a few stories about draughts (checkers) on The Chess Drum. What is amazing is that players of African ancestry have a formidable presence in the game with many Grandmasters in French-speaking Africa. One of the best players ever is Baba Sy (pronounced “see”), a Senegalese master who would become World Champion. I recently found a YouTube video of him giving a world record simul. I was astounded by a couple of combinations on the video. The video is in Dutch.

You can read more about Grandmaster Baba Sy at the links below:

World Draughts Forum

The Chess Drum, “GM Baba Sy: 1st African Checker World Champion

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

15 Comments

  1. Lovely video!! Baba sy opponents is reminiscent of the hypermoderns of chess with their suspiciously classical ideas, The Chess Drum stirkes again!

  2. That does it…I am going to master checkers! This video is out
    of control. I have never seen checkers played with so much
    vision. Also, I have never experienced a checker tournament
    so I am truly inspired!

    Great thanks!!!!

  3. Charles Covington told me the following story:

    He and William “The Exterminator” Morrison were having a chess/checker debate. Covington, a chess master and checker expert, was discussing the complexity of 10×10 checkers (draughts). Morrison, a FIDE Master, thought he could figure out the variations over the board and challenged him to a game of 10x10checkers. The FM didn’t last very long. Covington told me, “He wasn’t even close.” Then he started giving Morrison all types of odds. Still no progress. I’m sure William got the point… checkers is not the same game we played at the kitchen table as kids.

    Some years back when I came across Baba Sy, I looked at some of his games and they were amazing. I suppose people say the same thing about chess Grandmasters when they uncork an eight-move combination with mate. However, there is something different about checkers… especially on the larger 10×10 board.

    That video really inspired me is so many ways. It proved to me that if Africans are among the top competitors in international draughts, then why not chess? The learning curve is higher for chess than draughts, but to play at Baba Sy’s level one still had to invest a lot of time. There are many similarities between the two worlds.

    The combinations he threw on the board were done quickly. The first guy he beat quickly was probably equivalent to falling for a book trap, but the last one was amazing. That guy was so arrogant and did not know what was happening until Sy’s very last move where he jumped several men. Following is another combination of Sy’s:

    https://dammeur2.free.fr/Baba%20Sy/preface.htm  

  4. Here is a fantastic find which appears to be the segment from which the above video was taken. I cannot understand Dutch but the narrator at the Holland Sport Museum basically described Baba Sy origins and pointed out players in the photos, one of which was World Champion a young Ton Sijbrands, who once followed Baba Sy around tournaments and took score for him. On the other side, a more mature Sijbrands grew up and was seen playing his mentor.

    What realized amazed me here (and take note) was how Baba Sy meticulously recorded his games and analysis. The book titled, “Baba Sy: The Secrets of a Grandmaster” is a marvel!! The narrator pointed out the precision of his recording. He also mentioned World Champion Iser Kouperman of the Soviet Union, so he may have mentioned the famous scenario where he forfeited his match against Sy.

    Here is the documentary (in Dutch). Enjoy!

  5. They played different board games, but In terms of talent, I would say that Baba Sy, the Senegalese Draught Wiz and World Champion, was probably equally talented as any of the big names in chess. The video speaks for itself.

  6. Why can’t we tie together the chess talents in the African community? Interesting question. In my opinion, one of the reasons is because in the African community we appreciate talent, but a lot of us are unwilling to help if it means to reach in our pockets. Secondly, some of us are still hauling the state of mind of misery Loves Company and will tear you down each time you try to take a step forward instead of helping you move forward. Thirdly, the mentality of wanting to remain the only one remains an impasse. Lastly, with few exceptions, we have to understand that others are not going to enthusiastically help nurture the chess talents of our community; that’s our job.

    1. It is hard to market chess in Africa and even in more affluent countries such as the country we live in. Chess has been a fixture in English-speaking Africa while draughts has been a fixture in French-speaking Africa. If Senegal can produce a World Champion from the dusty back roads of Dakar, then there must be a world-class talent on the vast continent of Africa.

  7. @ Daaim, for sure Baba sy was a genius! since seeing his video, I took a picture of him and had Josh post it in his room.

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