In modern time there is the title of the draughts or checkers grandmaster. In earlier time there was no set of rules for it. Lets find out who would be a member of this elite club from the early days of draughts to 1920.

Draughts Trophies

In this article I will try to establish which of the players would have been grandmasters and deservingly so on what basis. One might have a different opinion but I think the base I propose
is fair and credible.

For starters we have to set some ground rules:

  • Winning the Scottish Tournament until 1913 is a grandmaster title.
  • Winning or drawing for the World Title in a match.
  • International Match UK vs USA 1905 a positive total score and among top finishers of their respective team.

Win one of those tournaments or match the other criteria at least twice:

  • English Tournament
  • American National Tournament
  • Scottish Tournament after 1913
  • Scotland vs England match be among top scorer of your team with at least 50% total score.

or a drawn/winning score in regular 10 games or more match play with at least two of the other listed grandmasters.

Ignored were match series where one player had a handicap.

There is a exception made to players before 1900. If they do have positive or drawn scores in serious match play against the top players of the time. C. H. Freeman fits this bill with credible scores against James “Herd Laddie” Wyllie, C. F. Barker and August Heffner.

Scottish Trophy

Something everybody can agree on

Lets start with the initial three everybody agrees on

  • Andrew Anderson – the first World Champion (WC) 1840-1844, 1847-1849
  • James “Herd Laddie” Wyllie – WC 1844-1847, 1864-1876, 1882-1897
  • Robert Martins – WC 1859-1864, English born but did play internationally for Scotland.

Someone might make a play for John Drummond but his matches while outstanding in score just lack the high caliber opposition. So he doesnt get the nod.

So lets see who else is deserving until 1920.

List of Grandmasters

  • James Ferrie – Scottish Tournament 1897, 1903-04, 1908, 1911, 1913 – WC 1894-96.
  • Richard Jordan – Scottish Tournament 1896, WC 1897-1913.
  • George Buchanan – Scottish Tournament 1905-1907.
  • A. B. Scott – Scottish Tournament 1914, 1918, 1920.
  • Harry Freedman – Scottish Tournament 1898-1899.
  • Robert Stewart – Scottish Tournament 1894-1895, 1900-1902.
  • George M. Bonar – Scottish Tournament 1909&1919, 50% Scorer England vs Scotland 1910.
  • William Bryden – Scottish Tournament 1893.
  • James Searight – Performance International 1905, 50% Scorer England vs Scotland 1894, 1899 etc.
  • Alfred Jordan – English Tournaments 1893, 1907-1909, Scottish Tournament 1912.
  • Willie Gardner – English Tournament 1898 and 50% Scorer in the England vs Scotland 1894, 1899.
  • William Strickland – 50% Scorer England vs Scotland 1884 and drawn match with Willie Gardner in 1885.
  • James Smith – English Tournament 1885 and draw with J. P. Reed 1887.
  • Robert D. Yates – World Champion 1876-1882.
  • C. F. Barker – Wins First American Tournament 1907, Draw World Title match R. Jordan, Performance International 1905. Win over James Wyllie.
  • August J. Heffner – American Champion, Performance International 1905.
  • C. H. Freeman – winning a match American Champion from
  • Newell Banks – World Champion 1917-1922 according to English Draughts Association and ACF. Disputed.
  • Hugh Henderson – Scottish but Immigrated to the US – US Tournament 1912, 1915.
  • J. P. Reed – Matchplay wins C. H. Freeman 1893, C. F. Barker 1889, A. Jordan 1895, draw James Smith 1887.

There are always some things up for debate.

On the American side might include R. E. Bowen but he was more into correspondence play. Yet if he had tried long matches he would shows a lot of promised given victories in exhibition games against James “Herd Laddie” Wyllie and C. H. Freeman in exhibitions. Yet without this he is more of a Correspondence Grandmaster.

Melvin Pomeroy did beat Alf Jordan in match play and claimed the World Title but was just recognized by some Federations and the match was surrounded by pay off rumors and sketchy. He did lose a close match with Harry Freedman but Pomeroy is therefore left out due to the lack of definite results. He was more of a mail player. Same as R. E. Bowen more a Correspondence Grandmaster. If someone has more sound results and further data for me he or she is welcome to attorney.

This list is always debatable as one can adjustable criteria will always exist, and one might make points for a Birkenshaw, Barker Woolhouse of England, M. C. Priest of the US among others. I found their results against the listed top players were not up to par as one must expect if you want to be in this “Elite” club. Therefore I would say a the best category for them would be borderline strong masters. But if someone has good arguments for me then please advocate.

This article is opinion based so one might come to another conclusion but this is my conclusion.