Derek Edward “DEO” Oldbury

Derek Edward “DEO” Oldbury

Death 9 Jul 1994 (aged 70)
Burial Torquay, Torbay Unitary Authority, Devon, England
Plot grave number FX 25563
Memorial ID 104324907 · View Source
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"On Thursday 14th July 1994 a group of mourners attended the funeral of a man virtually unheard of by the general public, but who was a giant in his own field...Those who knew Oldbury have lost a friend, but British Draughts has lost its heart and soul. He will be sorely missed." Quote from: Dr. Martin Bryant, Exec. Dir., British Draughts Federation.

Derek Edward Oldbury, was a paraplegic and lived all his life in a wheel-chair. "DEO" as they called him was born at Hendon, England. He was the son of Howard Edward "Teddy" Oldbury (1890-1940) and Dorothy Alice Edkins Kreutzberger Oldbury (1890-1978) he died at Kingskerswell, England. Derek had an older brother, Victor Howard Edgar Oldbury (1921-1946).

It was in the autumn during a visit to the International Club where Derek first met Joan White (1920-1980), who also was bound to a wheelchair. She was playing crib according to her own account. They soon found they shared many interests especially the love of good music with "Scheherazade" being their favorite. They became engaged with Derek giving Joan a beautiful diamond ring set in platinum. Their quite wedding took place before Christmas in 1962 at St. Marychurch Roman Catholic Church where Joan worshiped regularly.

Regarding Derek's occupation, GM Richard James Pask (b.1961) has written: "I believe Derek bought and sold rare stamps for some time, but latterly was backed financially by John M. Napier (1905-1983) from Exeter."

Derek was a British Grandmaster at English draughts (a.k.a. checkers). He played chess first and was a champion for his county. He turned to draughts some time before 1946.

Derek wrote 2 computer programs for playing draughts. Firstly, Checker Hustler, which took 6th place in the 1st Computer Olympiad in 1989 at London, and secondly, in collabo-ration with Adrian Millett, Checkermate, which took 3rd place in the 2nd Computer Olympiad in 1990 also at London.

Derek was also a prolific author of books on draughts. His works include the following:
1. A Game of Draughts (1946-47, a journal).
2. The Hand of D.E.O. (1947).
3. Scottish Draughts Championship (1950).
4. Move over, or how to win at Draughts (1957).
5. International Draughts and Checkers (1959, in co-authorship).
6. The Square World (1965,1966,1967).
7. World Checkers Championship : Hellman versus Oldbury (1965), limited of 478.
8. Checker Chiaroscuro (1966).
9. The Students' Encyclopaedia of Draughts (1978).
10. The Complete Encyclopaedia of Checkers in 6 volumes (1978-83).

Derek was a Life Member of the ACF (American Checker Federation), entering in 1976. His highest ACF rating was 2631 and the lowest was 2445 (in 1975). In 1979 Derek's rating was 2500 with the qualification as an International GM. Derek was also an Honorary Life Member of the IDA (Irish Draughts Association).

Derek captured his first major tournament win in 1950, at the age of 26 years, when he won the Scottish Open thereby becoming the Scottish Open Champion.;
He was English Open Champion in 1953, 1955, 1957 and 1963;
British Open Champion in 1956, 1962 and 1988;
Irish Open Champion in 1978 and 1982;
3-Move USA Champion in 1976; and
11-Man Ballot Stake-Purse Champion in 1967.

Derek became the 11-Man Ballot World Champion in 1974 and held the title until 1986.

Derek was an ardent supporter and promoter of the oldest form of tournament play, known as Go-As-You-Please (GAYP) a.k.a. unrestricted or freestyle draughts/checkers.
In 1976 reigning GAYP World Champion Tom Wiswell who had held the title for a quarter of a century retired, leaving the title vacant. A five day, 20 games match was arranged between Derek and Leo Levitt (U.S.A.) to decide who would take Wiswell's place as champion. The match was set to be played in April upon the stage of the Farmers Electrical Cooperative Auditorium in Glasgow Kentucky. It had been agreed to, by contract, that should the score be even at the end of the 20th game, additional tie-breaker games would be played in blocks of 4. With the score tied after 20 the match continued on for an additional 4 games and the score remained even at 1 win each and 22 games drawn. Levitt at that point had to return home due to work commitments thereby forfeiting the match to Oldbury by default.
In 1979 (Dublin, Ireland) Derek successfully defended his title in a match against Elbert Lower (U.S.A.) winning 7 games to 2 with 10 games drawn.
August 2-7, 1982 Derek defended his title for the second time against Don Lafferty (U.S.A.) this time losing a close match and the title to Lafferty with a score of 0 wins, 1 loss and 23 games drawn.
In a 1992 Derek played his last GAYP World Title Match, this time against the then reigning champion, Ronald "Suki" King of Barbados. His attempt to regain the "Crown" was unsuccessful. The match ended 5 wins to 5 with 14 games drawn with King retaining the title.

At a time when nearly all players in the UK rejected the 3-move restriction format of play Derek embraced it and in 1958 he played the first of his three, 3-move world title matches. This 1958 WTM (London, England) was against the reigning World Champion, Marion Tinsley, considered by most to be the best to ever play the game. Derek, famously won the first game of the match and this game is 1 of only 2 games Tinsley ever lost out of a total 237 world championship match games played by him. Tinsley won the match with 9 wins to the 1 lost game, there were 23 games drawn. This same year Dr. Tinsley decided to temporarily retire from active play. Derek, has largely been given credit for having pioneered the way for the acceptance of 3-move restricted play in the UK.
In 1965 Derek played his second challenge for the 3-move title this time against Walter Hellman, who had capture the title after Tinsley's retirement. Hellman retained the title with a match score of 7 wins to 1 with 27 games drawn.
In 1991 Derek, as the reigning British Match Champion, had again earned the right to challenge Dr. Marion Tinsley, who had regained the 3-move title in 1979 after having returned to active play following the death of Hellman in 1975. A match was arranged to be played in England the coming October. Tinsley however resigned the world title for a second time in May. Richard Hallet (U.S.A.) was given the chance to play Derek for the title and the match was played. Derek won the match with a score of 7 wins to 4 with 27 games drawn and in so doing Derek became the first World Checker Champion from England since Robert Martins defeated James Wyllie in 1859! Derek retained the title up until his death.

Many thanks goes to Slava Gorin for his work on the above bio.

Family Members





  • Created by: Pal Bucker
  • Added: 28 Jan 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 104324907
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Derek Edward “DEO” Oldbury (21 Mar 1924–9 Jul 1994), Find A Grave Memorial no. 104324907, citing Torquay Cemetery, Torquay, Torbay Unitary Authority, Devon, England ; Maintained by Pal Bucker (contributor 46791628) .