Marion Tinsley

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Marion Tinsley (February 3, 1927–April 3, 1995) is considered the greatest checkers player who ever lived. He was world champion from 1955–1958 and 1975–1991. Tinsley never lost a World Championship match, and lost only seven games (two of them to the Chinook computer program) in his entire 45 year career.[1] He withdrew from championship play during the years 1958–1975, relinquishing the title during that time. Tinsley once said that he had the ability to visualize 150 moves in advance.


Vs. Chinook

Tinsley retired from championship play in 1991. In August 1992, he defeated the Chinook computer program 4–2 (with 33 draws) in a match. Chinook had placed second at the U.S. Nationals in 1990, which usually qualifies one to compete for a national title. However, the American Checkers Federation and the English Draughts Association refused to allow a computer to play for the title. Unable to appeal their decision, Tinsley resigned his title as World Champion and immediately indicated his desire to play against Chinook. The unofficial yet highly publicized match was quickly organized, and was won by Tinsley.

In one game, Chinook, playing with white pieces, made a mistake on the tenth move. Tinsley remarked, "You're going to regret that." Chinook resigned after move 36, fully 26 moves later.[2] The ACF and the EDA were placed in the awkward position of naming a new world champion, a title which would be worthless as long as Tinsley was alive. They granted Tinsley the title of World Champion Emeritus as a solution.

In August 1994, a second match with Chinook was organized, but Tinsley withdrew after only six games (all draws) for health reasons. Don Lafferty, rated the number two player in the world at the time, replaced Tinsley and fought Chinook to a draw. Tinsley was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a week later. Seven months later, he died.


He is sometimes listed as "Dr. Marion Tinsley" because he had a doctorate in mathematics and worked as a professor of mathematics at Florida State University and Florida A&M University. Tinsley once claimed to have spent approximately ten thousand hours studying checkers while in graduate school. Tinsley also served as a Baptist minister.[1]

Television appearances

In 1957, he appeared as a guest challenger on the television game show To Tell the Truth.

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