For obvious reasons, I have been avidly following the performance of Mongolian grandmaster Dul Erdenebileg at the ongoing World Draughts Championship in The Netherlands. (Previous checkers-related posting here.) In the course of keeping up on the tourney’s matches, I noticed something rather odd: the organizing body is apparently quite serious about drug testing. The complete rules and regulations, listed here in PDF format, are just as stringent as in more physical pastimes. A small snippet of what the checkers drug cops are looking for, translated from the Dutch:
The sample should be sent to an accredited laboratory from WADA for the analysis. Approximately, the laboratory will send the result of the test back within three to four week. The sample will be screened for stimulants, for narcotics, for B-blockers, for diuretics, for anabolic agents, including endogenous steroids, for cannabis, for B2-agonists, for hormone antagonists and modulators, for hCG (males only) and for glucocorticosteroids using the methods in their accreditation scope.
I find this a bit puzzling, as I question whether any of the drugs listed above can actually help sharpen performance in checkers. Perhaps B-blockers can have some small effect by combating nerves, but the other forbidden drugs seem unlikely to aid in mental acuity.
That’s not to say there aren’t some chemical enhancements that might give a checkers competitor an edge. The first drug that popped to mind was modafinil, which enhances alerteness amog those functioning on little sleep (perhaps because they stayed up late studying an opponent’s endgame weaknesses). But what about a more out-there pharmaceutical tipple such as donepezil, which is frequently prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients? It has been shown to improve performance in otherwise healthy pilots who, like checkers champs, must remember long lists of maneuvers under extreme pressure.
If there’s a Victor Conte of checkers, I am going to make it my journalistic mission to find him.
(Image of the legendary 1975 Illinois Open match between Bobby Martin and Dick Fortman via the Online Museum of Checkers History)