Ndiaga Samb hails from Senegal, West Africa, which is a country rich in the heritage of board games such as checkers and chess. The Senegalese people are descendants of the great Moorish Almoravids, and are known as a powerful nation in checkers, a board game originally known as “el-Quirkat” in their ancestral history. The Senegalese play the checkers variant of International draughts that uses the 10X10 board and each side starts with 20 men, but the basic rules for checkers apply. For the novice, draughts has locks, pins, traps, and tactics just like chess.
Senegal has produced one of the world’s top players in Grandmaster GM) Ndiaga Samb,who is currently ranked at 30th place among a long list of checkers players in the world by the FMJD or World Draughts Federation. Ndiaga Samb is a professional checkers and chess player, who now resides in the Netherlands.
Samb is a young man who possesses a very aggressive checkers style. No matter whether his opponent is a fellow countryman or the reigning checkers World Champion, he always tries hard to gain a winning combination. This personality trait has earned him a reputation as a ‘dangerous’ challenger to world champions of some repute.
Ndiaga has developed strong tactical crossboard skills and is currently one of Africa’s best checkers/draughts players. He is now ranks #8 in the world.
Ndiaga Samb 1991
Samb’s first regional level checkers competition took place in 1985. The following year, he became the regional champion and winner of the first mind games international festival of Dakar. He participated in the Senegal national checkers tournaments of 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1992. He placed third in the championship matches of 1987/9 and became the Senegal National Champion in 1990 and 1992.
The Senegalese checkers master played in Le Championnat d’Afrique/Africa Championship of 1992 and placed second in the tournament. He also competed in the Challenge Mondial in France in 1997 and was a tournament finalist. Ndiaga’s tactical checkers skill led him to victories in five International tournaments where he won first place in Mémorial Diouf (1991), Brunssum (1991 et 1999), Nijmegen (1998),
Bijlmer (2000) and Zeeland (2002).
The checkers champion from Senegal earned the titles of International Master (MI) in 1992 and International Grandmaster (GMI) in 2000, and has shown his inherent board talent and analytical skills in very tough world competition over the years.
Ndiaga Samb also displayed his unique style and checkerboard techniques in fourteen main tournament events between 2001 and 2003, and numerous others until the present time: 1st ~ Zeeland (2001/2), Leeuwarden (2003), 2nd ~ Brunssum (2001/2), Bijlmer (2001), 3rd ~ Bijlmer (2002), 3rd ~ Ordina Open (2001), Den Haag (2001/2), Orap Open (2002) and Bijlmer (2002), 6th ~ Orap Open (2001), and 9th ~ Ordina Open (2002). Ndiaga also travelled to Curacao for the 2003 Curacao Open and placed third in that checkers match. Then in 2005, Samb ranked fifth at the end of the tournament play in the World Championship match held in Amsterdam.
Other than the International field of checkers games, Ndiaga Samb also continued to challenge fellow Africans in championship matches. In 2006, he played in the Africa Championship tournament hosted in Cameroon, and placed second just behind Léopold Kouogueu from Cameroon, and ahead of Jean-Marc Ndjofang, also from Cameroon, Souleymane Ba from Mali, and Bassirou Ba from Senegal. This past year, Samb played a very strong first round in checkers at the 40th National Senegal Championship, but lost his edge in the following round, and the final result for Ndiaga by the end of the tournament was a second place rank behind Modou Seck Gaindé.
Apart from regular checkerboard competition, Ndiaga was also intrigued by chess and checker playing computers, so in August 2001 he agreed to play against the first Man-Machine in the history of International Draughts (checkers), against the French computer program, BUGGY. The match was sponsored by Le Damier de l’Opéra, Kolsloot, Turbo Dambase, and Crédit Mutuel and was held during the French Draughts National Championship.
Samb won the two-set match with scores of four wins to two, and then eleven wins to nine. Of course, the team behind BUGGY was eager for a rematch and revenge. This was set for the prestigious Palais des Festivals in Cannes, during the International Games Festival in 2003.
The rematch was sanctioned by the FFJD (French Draughts Federation) and the FMJD(World Draughts Federation) and the ICGA (International Computer Games Association).
Ndiaga Samb vs Mark Podolski SNS
Zeeland Tournament 2002
Samb in Leeuwarden Tournament
In 2005, the First unofficial Unique Draughts Blindfold World Championship was created and hosted in Schiedam, Netherlands. Ndiaga Samb represented Africa in this championship and played in a roster of master checkers champions including Alex Schwartzmann, Anatoli Gantwarg, Harm Wiersma, and Alek Georgiev. All nine players in this tournament match would play a round robin of one rapid game and one blindfold game with the other players. The unique aspect was that the scoreboard that would count was not only the scored points but also the ranking based on the quality of the checker games played by each master. Aggressive and creative board play would receive bonus points.
Alek Georgiev, Alex Schwartzmann, and Anatoli Gantwarg all scored 21 points and Ndiaga Samb followed these champion checker masters with 18 points, and that was quite an accomplishment when one considers the nature of this championship.
Ndiaga intent on the massive checkerboard
at the Unique Blindfold Championship
Ndiaga and other tournament players in this
2005 World Match
Ndiaga intent on the massive checkerboard at the Unique Blindfold Championship
Ndiaga and other tournament players in this 2005 World Match
GM Samb has led other African notables in the checkers arena for a number of years now and this board game has created a strong contingent of players from Sénégal, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and other African countries. These checkers masters grace the charts of the top one hundred players in the world. Joining GMI Samb is GMI Bassirou Ba, IM Gaoussou Sidibe, and GM As Malick El-Hadj Diallo. West African nation, Côte d’Ivoire, has at least six players in the top one hundred: NM Lancine Cherif, FM Houphouet Niamke, IM Ehire Eugene Aman, NM Oscar Lognon, NM Jean Claude Ahon, and NM Edmond Beugre.
However, before this current African checkers contingency appeared on the International scene, other notable masters and Grandmasters from Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Congo, and Mali have taken part in many regional and national checkers tournaments as well as World Championships. MI Fidèle Nimbi (Congo), GMI Mamina N’Diaye (Mali), and GMI Djédjé Kouassi (Côte d’Ivoire) have each participated in numerous checkers competitions since the 1970’s. Arriving later in the tournament arena were master players MI Léopold Sekongo (Côte d’Ivoire), GMI Léopold Kouogueu (Cameroon), GMI Jean-Marc Ndjofang (Cameroon), and GMI Flaubert Ndonzi (Cameroon), who now resides in Reims, France, and plays with a French checkers club there.