September 15 , 2004
20 Greatest American Pool Checkers Players
Of All Times
(Written by Charles ‘Pecan’ Thompson)
#7 - Momodou Faal
Mr. Faal was the second of that dynamic duo who challenged Carl "Buster" Smith's dominance in the early eighties. About the same age as Elton Williams (both were about 30 years old at the time). The two mounted a serious challenge to the then accepted champion, after the surprise retirement of Vladimir Kaplan in 1979.
He came to America in the early or mid seventies as an exchange student from Africa. It seems he got bit by the ‘Pool Checkers bug,’ and as a result, his studies took the hit. Although he was from Gambia, Africa, he lived in several cities in America-New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, among others, after coming to this country.
My most impressionable remembrance of Mr. Faal was in Flint, Michigan in the mid eighties. He defeated Elton Williams by the score of 3-0 in a 14 games match. In that match, we saw as good a venue for showcasing the game of American Pool Checkers as I can recall seeing anywhere. Using a large demo board and with the contestants on stage (away from the onlookers) Mr. William "Bill" Langley and myself alternated in showing the games move-for-move to the viewers who was sitting in a theater-like setting and eating popcorn in the audience. I have not seen that scenario duplicated since. And Mr. Wardell "Champ" Moore, the Flint Club's president, can be thanked for the setup.
The thing with Momodou was, he was equally as good on the 100 square board (Big Board) as he was on the 64 square board (Little Board). This was a rare combination. The 1991 Big Board Tournament in Jackson, Mississippi was another sitting in which I had a chance to watch Mr. Faal, first hand, playing the 100 square board. The tournament, I think, might have produced the greatest conglomeration of Big Board-Little Board players to have ever set foot on America soil.
Among them were many mainstays of my 20 Greatest series. There were Iser Kuperman, Vladimir Kaplan, Carl Smith, and Momodou Faal. And also, there were two players from Haiti (both names were Pierre) who were at the time living in New York. I was told, they too, played a 'mean' game on the 64 square board. While Mr. Kuperman won the tournament, Momodou finished in a tie with Vladimir Kaplan for 2nd, and Carl "Buster" Smith finished 4th-a mere two points off the pace. The two Haitians players finished 5th and 6th and I finished 7th out of a field of thirteen.
Momodou had me to thank for his 2nd place tie with Mr. Kaplan. In the very last game of the tournament, (all others had finished), I was pared with the Grandmaster Vladimir Kaplan, who needed a win to finish in an undisputed 2nd place behind Mr. Kuperman. My Friend, Mr. J. C. Wills, a top 100 square board player in his own right, who was an onlooker at the time, reminded me just recently. He said "Pecan," did Momodou ever buy you that steak dinner he promised you if you would just draw Kaplan?" My answer was, "No Mr. Wills, he never did; that is one steak dinner that guess I will never get." You see, I did draw the Grandmaster even though I didn't even consider myself a Big Board player. I just happened to enter the tournament because it was hosted in my home city of Jackson, Mississippi and I had just won the Major's Division the previous year.
Momodou, of whom I indicated earlier had lived in several cities while in this country, was reported to have been traveling somewhere in Texas when he met his untimely death. One report was that he was heading to Houston, Texas when there was some incident with a bus (perhaps a Greyhound) that caused his fatality. The report was never made completely clear. Whatever the case, the game lost one of its greatest player ever.
For the record Mr. Faal won or tied for the APCA championship in at least 3 years. And he had multiple 2nd and 3rd place finishes in his approximate 15 years of tournament play.
And so, at the #7 spot, I will select the name of Momodou Faal.
#7. Momodou Faal - Gambia, Africa
#8. Elton "Little David" Williams - Flint, Michigan
#9. George "Lil George" Ramsey - Detroit, Michigan
#10. Freddie "The Hawk" Owens - Baltimore, Maryland
#11. Andrew Frazier - Nassau, Bahamas
#12. William "Bill" Langley - Detroit, Michigan
#13. Ollie "Shot Gun" Howard - Bronx, New York
#14. Victor "Vic" Krafft - Chicago, Illinois
#15. Charlie Brown - Baltimore, Maryland
#16. Moses "Headchopper" Lightfoot - Macon, Georgia
#17. Charles "Little Charles" McDuffie - St. Louis, Missouri
#18. Tony Rivers - Bronx, New York
#19. George Robinson - Toledo, Ohio
#20. Clyde "King Row" Black - New York, New York