Roadside America, a site devoted to the cheesiest tourist attractions in the country, reports the sad news that the International Checker Hall of Fame in Petal, Miss., was destroyed by fire 10 days ago:

On September 29, 2007, a still-unexplained fire started in the tower and quickly engulfed the rest of the Hall. Everything: the giant checkerboards, the library, the statue, was destroyed. "What has been lost is one of the finest checkers collections the world has ever known," said Don Deweber, director of the World of Checkers Museum. "It is almost all irreplaceable."

Mississippi TV station WJTV has video of the house. Curiously, the station touts founder Charles Walker's charitable works without mentioning a word about his checkered past -- he's serving a five-year federal prison sentence for money laundering.

In the TV report, somebody named Scott Waldrop credits checkers legend Marion Tinsley with "some of the first algebraic equations." I have no idea what he means -- algebra has been around for 12 centuries -- but Tinsley was a Florida math professor who had an unbelievable mind for the game. When scientists at the University of Alberta announced that they had solved checkers after 18 years, which means no human can ever beat their software playing the game, they analyzed thousands of moves played by Tinsley and found only a few mistakes. Most of the time, he played the game as perfectly as their proof.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

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