Players Get Deep into Swim of Pool Checkers
Michael Jordan plays Georgia Pool Checkers Association reigning champion Calvin Monroe (far right) aka Iron Claw, as Henry Miller (gray shirt) and Robert Ringer watch Buy PhotoPHIL SKINNER/COX NEWS SERVICE Jim Auchmutey
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published: Sunday, October 17, 2004 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 15, 2004 at 11:22 a.m.
Going by their nicknames, you might think they were gangsters or ballplayers instead of older gents whiling away the time with a board game. There's Hit Man and Big Willie and Junebug and Chicken George . . .
"They call me Concrete," says George Few, a 72-year-old contractor. "I play hard." Every day, the men with the colorful handles drift into a shotgun house near Morris Brown College in downtown Atlanta to play a game that's a timeless part of black life. They call it pool checkers, and they say its distinctive rules make for a faster, more challenging contest. Compared with straight checkers -- the old-fashioned game most Americans know -- this is like pro basketball. And these guys definitely got game. The Georgia Pool Checkers Association, as the club is known, has produced nine of the last 11 national champions, including this year's grandmaster. Calvin "Iron Claw" Monroe, a retired Atlanta firefighter, took the top prize for the third time at the tournament this summer in Memphis. Second place went to Albert "East Point" Barnett, a local home remodeler, who has bagged six titles and figures he would have won again if he'd tried a little harder. "The best players are in Atlanta," Barnett says. "At least we think so." The checkers champs may be masters of a fading domain. Inside the clubhouse, on a wall of portraits paying tribute to past winners, a grainy photo from the early 1970s shows a yard full of men in fedoras hunched over checkerboards. "Back then, there wasn't enough room inside for everyone who wanted to play," Barnett says. "You could go just about anywhere in Atlanta and get up a checkers game in a barbershop or under a shade tree. Can't do that now."
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