Lives Remembered

Draughts champion who promoted game around the world

Con McCarrick (left) in action for Great Britain & Ireland against the US in 1989, a match featuring most of the world's top players. Picture courtesy of the Online Museum of Checkers History.

Con McCarrick was Ireland's best known draughts player and one of the world's greatest enthusiasts for the game.

As a player he won numerous titles - including medals at the 'Mind Olympics' - and represented Irish, British and European teams on the international stage.

He also held the world record for draughts games simultaneously played and won, taking on 154 opponents in Dundalk in 1982 and winning 136 times, drawing 17 and losing just once over four hours and 20 minutes.

Ten years later he was chosen to referee a famous match between world champion Marion Tinsley and an "unbeatable" computer programme called Chinook. The American maths professor won.

In a game with 500 billion billion permutations, it helps to have a good memory.

Con had that, as well as the stamina and determination required for the gruelling days of tournament play.

Born in 1927 in the foothills of the Ox Mountains in Co Sligo, where learned draughts at home by candlelight, he was a talented Gaelic footballer and athlete, setting an unofficial Irish record as a 17-year-old for running the mile.

A few years later he defied doctors who said his leg would need amputated after accidentally shooting himself while hunting pigeons. He would later win trophies for ballroom dancing.

Con worked as a journalist with the Sligo Champion, in Dublin for Aer Lingus - where he played draughts with future taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald - and in London for the Irish Post, where he was active in socialist politics.

He settled down in his wife's native Dundalk in the 1970s and helped set up the Irish Draughts Association, travelling the country playing exhibition matches.

A lifelong teetotaller - "You can achieve so many things when you don't drink" - he enjoyed a flutter on the greyhounds and retained his sharp mind into old age, passing on his skills to young players.

Con McCarrick died aged 88 on May 22 and is survived by three daughters and a son.

Lives Remembered