Legends of "Buster"

"Buster" Slips In To New York….Embarrasses Clyde "Kingrow" Black, And Then Slips Out-Without Even Saying Good-bye.

This story was told to me by an old friend, Janus "Detroit" Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead has passed on now, but his story still resonates in the Chicago Pool Checkers community. According to Mr. Whitehead, who lived in Detroit, (hence "Detroit"), New York, and then Chicago, one summer day, some times in the late fifties or early sixties, perhaps in a New York park, Clyde "Kingrow" Black was giving a simul.

For those who might not know what a simul is, it's a chess/checkers demonstration usually played by a master or grandmaster player who plays against a large number of players (usually 20 to 30) to demonstrate his/her playing acumen ship. Often times he/she wins all the games, or a very large percentage of them.

During that simul, Mr. Whitehead claims, a ‘young man' came in and took a seat at a checkerboard. Unbeknownst to anyone, untested, unassuming, and uninvited, this young man began playing. As was the case with Mr. Black (who had been known to play up to a 100 players at once), he would usually complement the different players as he went from one board to the next - "good move,", "very good move," or "You should have moved there."

Mr. Whitehead said that every time Mr. Black would come to this 'young man's table he was saying "Very good move" more than he was saying, "Good move," or "You should have moved there." Additionally, Mr. Black was spending more time at this young man's table each time he came around.

Since most of the young players had been defeated after about the twelfth move and had gone on to other things, the older players were left to try to really win a game. But, because this one ‘young man,' who was a stranger to all of them, was still playing, and given the fact that Mr. Black had giving him so much of his (and their) time, the other players began to get restless.

After a while, he and the other players stopped playing and went over to see what was taking Mr. Black so long with this unknown 'young man.' What he saw was a shocker, says Mr. Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead's own words, "The young man had Clyde Black's men tied up in so many knots, it would have taken an act of Congress to untie them."

Mr. Whitehead said that he then had to leave. Later on when he inquired with some of the other players about the outcome of that game, he was told by, one player, the 'young man' not only won that game, he won all the others they played as well.

Given the quality of player that Clyde Black is said to have been in those days, (He was said to have been the very best) it's difficult for me to believe that any player would have beaten him all of the games. But the point was made, Mr. Black had been 'humbled' Who was that ‘young man'? You guessed it! It was Carl "Buster." Smith.

Mr. Whitehead, said he never saw the ‘young man' again until many, many years later after he had moved to Chicago. And only after bringing up the subject with him, did "Buster" confirm it was he. "Buster" said he had heard about Clyde Black giving a simul, and he took a train there to play him. After it was over, he simply took the train and returned to Chicago.

And, continued Mr. Whitehead, "Buster" might have still been a teenager." NOW THAT'S SCARY! …

And The Legend Grows…

But! There will be some bumps in the road for the "Buster" steamroller... To be continued.

Editor's note: Mr. Whitehead does have some history. On page 158 of Clyde Black's Book, The Secrets of Spanish Pool Checkers (Book II), Mr. Whitehead's name is mentioned with reference to the New Special.