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Grandmaster Baba Sy, Senegal

Grandmaster Baba Sy (Senegal)

Grandmaster Baba Sy is known widely in the draughts community. His tactical style appealed to the masses and he rose to the top of the draughts world. In 1986, he was declared the 1963-64 World Champion (albeit posthumously) when the International Draughts Federation ruled that he should have been awarded the title when his opponent Iser Kouperman failed to show. Draughts is also commonly called checkers, but is played on a 10x10 board as opposed to the common 8x8 board.

After dominating the international draughts scene for many years, Sy died in a car accident in Dakar, the capitol of Senegal. However, he remains a legendary cultural icon in Senegal as well as Europe and the draught-playing world. Since Sy's success, Senegal has become the powerhouse of Africa and other French-speaking countries have followed in the tradition. Many African GMs are amongst the top players in the world. One may wonder why the same is not true in chess. When looking at the dominant presence of Francophone, or French-speaking African checker Grandmasters, one wonders if this can be a source of motivation for African players (and Blacks in general) in chess. Certainly!

Of course, many will say that international draughts (played on a 10x10 board) is not as challenging as chess, but a closer inspection of draughts shows a game in all of its splendor and beauty. Draughts certainly has its own complex and scientific nature, but its image is hurt by the fact that many remember it as a game they played as a child. They may erroneously assume that it is has no subtleties.  Since  the pieces move the same way, there is a certain symmetry that makes the game appealing… especially when the symmetry is suddenly broken and a beautiful combination is unfurled.

In the following video, you will see Baba Sy set a world record in a simultaneous exhibition playing 150 boards. He played black in every game and won 112, lost 5 and drew 33. Notice the combination at the end… magnifique!

Posted by The Chess Drum: 9 December 2007