Jan Mortimer – A Woman Checkers Champ in Her Own Right
Jan Mortimer is a female draughts player who was born in 1952, at Balclutha on the South Island of New Zealand. She is something of a newcomer to the world of competitive draughts, having only begun to play the game seriously fairly recently, although she did play the game informally as a child. Mortimer credits her interest in the game to her acquisition of a computer, with which she began playing the game on various Internet sites.
Due to her success in various competitive games online, her checkers skills improved enough for her to gain confidence to travel to the United States in 2002 in order to compete in the U.S. National Championship. The trip was also particularly noteworthy for Mortimer, in that it allowed her to play against some tough competitors and to meet some of the people she had played against on the Internet.
With only her first attempt, Jan Mortimer managed to earn acclaim as the highest placing woman player in the U.S. National Championship, beating the famous American player Wilma Wolverton of Missouri. With this victory, Mortimer set out to make a bid for the Women's World Title, which she did with the encouragement of her many friends in the draughts world. With this goal in mind, Mortimer’s next move then was to challenge then Women's World Champion Patricia Breen in 2003, a challenge that was supported by the American Checker Federation. The match subsequently took place in October of 2003 at the International Festival of Draughts in Cookstown County, Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Although playing brilliantly–particularly in the second half of the game–Mortimer lost the match with a score of 5 to 1 with ten drawn games. Nevertheless, her goal increasing worldwide awareness of women in checkers was realized.
Mortimer also made plans to promote the game in New Zealand by visiting several schools and starting a checker club in the country. She hoped to have more draughts players from New Zealand enter the international arena, as well as to inspire more women to take up the game.
Among Jan Mortimer’s more noteworthy accomplishments was winning the Three-move-restriction Female qualifier, in which she showed a strong performance, finishing way ahead of her nearest rival with 27 points. That rival was Joyann Branch from Barbados, who finished with 20 points. The other players in the qualifier were Kimberly Willis who finished in third place with 18 points, and Samantha who finished with 13 points for the fourth position.