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Kelty miner unbeaten in draughts for over 20 years to be commemorated in new tournament

Robert Stewart
Robert Stewart's legacy will be commemorated.

A Fife miner who reportedly lost only two out of 8,000 draughts games will be commemorated at a tournament this August.

Robert Stewart, born in Kelty in 1873, went unbeaten in the game for more than two decades.

And he held the crown of World Champion from 1922 to 1933.

Now, a century after his first ever Championship win, his hometown will host a tournament to find a new Scottish Coal Draughts Champion.

Robert Stewart of Kelty,
Robert Stewart of Kelty, 1873-1941.

This will be held as part of the Scottish Coal Carrying Championship.

The Robert Stewart Tournament, aimed at adult elite players, will go ahead from August 25 to 27.

The final will be played on Saturday August 27, the day of the famous Coal Race.

And the organisers aim to not only celebrate Kelty’s history, but also raise the profile of draughts in Scotland.

Encouraging new players

An all-comers open competition will run alongside the main event.

Organisers hope it will encourage new participants of all ages and skill levels to get involved.

Donald Oliphant of the Scottish Draughts Association said: “A century on from Robert Stewart claiming the World Draughts Title in 1922, the Scottish Draughts Association is delighted to partner with the Coal Carrying Championship organisers to increase the profile of the game in 2022.

Last year's Scottish Coal Carrying Race.
Last year’s Scottish Coal Carrying Race. Picture: Steve Brown.

“This will allow the community and the rest of Scotland to see for themselves the high level of skill required to play the game at its highest level.

“Nearly everyone has played draughts, but very few move to the next level.

“And there they can begin to realise the vast depth of skill and knowledge required to become a master player.

“This competition gives an opportunity to the people of Fife to see world class draughts on their doorstep.”

The Master of Draughts

Robert Stewart was born in August 1873 and was introduced to draughts by his father, who was an enthusiast of the game.

He joined Kelty Draughts Club in 1886, with his talent quickly becoming clear.

By 1893, he had reached such a high level that he beat Edinburgh-born Richard Jordan, considered to be one of the best Draughts players ever.

Rich coal mining heritage

Kelty’s rich coal mining heritage will again be celebrated through the annual Coal Carrying Championships, founded in 1995.

In its men’s race, participants carry a 50-kilo bag of coal over 1,000 metres through the village.

Meanwhile, the women’s race sees participants carrying 25-kilo bags.

Senior Ladies Coal Race Event, 2021
Senior Ladies Coal Race Event, 2021. Picture: Steve Brown.

Children can also take on the challenge with 15-kilo bags of coal.

Irene Bissett of sponsors National Pride UK said: “We are delighted to be again sponsoring the Scottish Coal Carrying Championship in Kelty, which is such a fantastic community event.

“The Robert Stewart Tournament not only celebrates his incredible achievement, but we are sure it will inspire all generations to participate in a new annual community event and have fun.”

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