William Edwards: Tournament King
by Lindus Edwards

William John Edwards was born on the 28th of January 1915 in the small coal-mining village Penrhiwceiber, Mid-Glamorgan, Wales. At twelve years of age his father, John, taught him the rudiments of Draughts and paid him a penny for each elementary problem he could solve. It was not long before young Edwards had a rich harvest of pennies in his collection box! At 15 years of age his father introduced him to William Morgan, an expert player, at a Draughts Club in Mountain Ash where he was taught the finer points of the game. At only nineteen years of age Edwards entered the Glamorgan Championship, his first major tournament, and won it amid a talented entrance of players. A serious coal-mining accident which crushed his left foot took him away from Draughts for a few years. Following recuperation and with only a few weeks preparation he entered his first Welsh Championship in 1938, winning it from a very strong field of players. These heydays of Draughts attracted such greats as Alf Huggins, Graham Davies, Ivor Edwards (all winners of the British Open) and Ernie Rees to name but four. Following several more tournament victories he joined the Royal Engineers and distinguished himself by being invalided out of the army after a six year tour of duty in World War Two. With little preparation he entered the English Open at Bolton in 1948 and was runner-up to Percy Crabbe. After winning three more Welsh Championships in 1953, 1954 and 1955 he married and retired from the game for seventeen years until his son, Lindus, persuaded him to enter the British Open in 1972 at Pwllheli, North Wales. With no knowlege of three-move openings and only four months preparation he finished as runner-up with twelve wins and no losses.

A year later he entered and won the Scottish Championship ahead of Jimmy Grant, James Marshall, John McGill and Tom Watson. His finest achievement in Draughts was possibly his winning of five consecutive English Open Championships, an unprecedented number of times which gained him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 1994 only months after the death of his dear wife, Gladys, he travelled alone to Scotland to win the Centenary Scottish Open. In 1995 at the age of eighty he won the British Open with no losses ahead of Pat McCarthy and Tom Watson. Following this event he challenged for the World Championship despite rapidly deteriorating health and journeyed alone to Ireland in an ill-advised attempt to wrest the championship from Ron King. Disgracefully provided with substandard accomodation in an inadequately heated room which he shared with another player who kept him awake throughout the nights with incessant moaning as a result of toothache, his only thoughts were of returning home as expeditiously as possible and consequently played the poorest Draughts of his life. Seeing his plight and deterioration in health the manager of the hotel at which Ron King was cordially treated in the lap of luxury took pity upon the octogenarian and insisted he stay at his hotel free of charge.

With literally only weeks to live, in chronically poor health, and suffering great pain, the man who won nearly thirty major championships attempted to win the Droitwich Open. After only a few sessions, however, he was forced to withdraw from the event, but not before winning his final game with a classical touch so typical of his wonderful crossboard ability.

William "Bill" Edwards died very peacefully at Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tidfil, Mid-Glamorgan, during the early hours of Thursday, 23rd July, 1998. Only hours before his passing he asked me if I knew how the British Open at Stonehaven was progressing; an indisputable testimony to his deep love for the game of Draughts.

Pat McCarthy was to later write to me saying "Your father's play had a touch of genius about it." Coming from a player whom my father regarded as a "phenomenal crossboard play" this was a moving eulogy indeed.

Lindus John Edwards