By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Some may say checkers is child’s play, but few in the world have mastered the game the way 14-year-old Alex Holmes has.
The Sellersburg resident and Silver Creek High School freshman captured the 2013 World Checker Draughts Federation youth world qualifier championship in October in Barbados.
He’s ranked 37th in the world, and for an extra challenge Holmes even plays blindfolded from time to time.
Holmes, as is the case with the game’s best players, knows the checker board by numbers, and likes to set traps for his opponents.
“My strategy is just to figure out the opponent’s weakness and wait for them to make a mistake,” he said.
Even without being able to see the board, he can simply be told the number of the space where his opponent moved and counter attack.
Holmes bested a field of 11 in last month’s world youth championship, or the minor’s bracket as it is also called, and even qualified to compete in the master’s division, which is reserved for the top checkers players in the world regardless of age.
Holmes was actually knocked out of the master’s division by someone he’s quite familiar with — his father Michael Holmes.
Michael Holmes is also among the top rated checkers players in the world, and he had Alex playing the game by the time he was 4 years old.
Holmes said he studied his father’s strategy and adopted some of his strategy into his own game.
Holmes was by far the youngest player in the master’s division in Barbados, and was able to win a few games before being knocked out of the tournament.
In the youth division, he defeated an Italian player in the championship match. The victory qualifies him for other tournaments and he was also able to compete in the United States versus Barbados for the team championship.
Typically a match for Holmes lasts about 90 minutes, but of course that depends on who he’s playing. Pretty much the only competition he can find locally is with his father and a group of his dad’s friends that play regularly.
His mother, Sherrie Holmes, said she’s lucky to get four moves in before Alex finishes her off.
“I quit playing him a long time ago because I’m no competition for him,” she said.
Back at Silver Creek High School, the news of Holmes’ feat came through the intercom system.
“I haven’t told a lot of people yet but they heard about it during announcements and they were all cheering me on,” he said.
Holmes plays soccer at Silver Creek and enjoys math, which he said helps him in checkers.
He spent two weeks in Barbados, as he flew out ahead of the tournament which lasted five days.
Checkers has quite a following in Barbados, and Holmes was featured in local media stories after winning the world tournament.
“It’s a lot more intense how people play in Barbados,” he said.
After realizing he can compete with the game’s best players, Holmes said he’s even more inspired and believes he can rise higher in the rankings.
“I’ve been progressing slowly but surely from the minor’s all the way to the master’s,” he said.