A 40-minute documentary about a Mason City man’s journey to a national checkers tournament could be nominated for an Academy Award.
“The Checker King” Harold O’Brien is a former Iowa state checkers champion who played in the national tournament last year in Toledo, Ohio. The idea for the film started when O’Brien contacted his nephew Kevin Kelly in Iowa City, who had just completed a documentary about Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable. The 82-year-old asked his nephew to drive him to the checkers tournament, and hence the idea for a documentary about the widower preparing for and playing in the tournament. The film has qualified to be nominated for an Academy Award after playing in the International Documentary Association’s “Doctoberfest” in Los Angeles, where members of the Academy watched it. O’Brien ended up placing eighth in his division, but says arthritis has crippled his hands enough so he won’t be able to play checkers competitively ever again.