Election Day in the United States is not far off, and The Checker Maven urges all of our eligible American readers to get out and vote, whether by mail, in-person, or however it works in your particular place of residence. We're not going to express any opinions on how you should vote. Cast your vote as you see fit, but definitely vote!
The story below may perhaps be taken as a bit of a cautionary tale. It is of course purely fiction but may highlight what can happen when the wrong person gets elected ... something for which the voters are directly responsible.
Marcy Baloner was a United States Senator from a state quite distant from the nation's capitol. (She was the older cousin of Mary Baloner, whom we met in another Checker Maven story some years ago.)
Now, Senator Marcy wasn't quite the brightest lightbulb in the chandelier, and she wasn't the most stable person, either. In fact, some of her critics called her "Crazy Marcy" because of the way she acted during Congressional hearings. She was always outraged over something and didn't hesitate to express her emotions.
Little known to those outside of her advisory circle was that each morning, her staff briefed her on what she ought to be outraged about on that particular day. They even had assigned outrage themes to the days of the week, much like the old Mickey Mouse Club had daily themes. For instance, Monday was Gender Identity Outrage Day; Tuesday was Evil Capitalism Outrage Day, and so on.
At nine o'clock on a Thursday morning, Senator Marcy sat down in her conference room for her daily briefing. "What have we got for today?" she asked her assembled staff.
Her Chief of Staff replied, "Well, Thursday is Microaggression Outrage Day. The St. Louis newspaper's checker column has a checker problem by Brian someone or other, and it's filled with microaggressions."
Senator Marcy thought for a moment. "St. Louis? Is that in my constituency? Where is St. Louis, anyhow? Did they vote for me in the last election?"
The Chief of Staff, accustomed to such questions, replied calmly, "No, Senator, St. Louis is in Missouri. You represent ..."
"Oh, right, of course," the Senator replied. "Well, anyhow, what's my stand on this?"
"Brian refers to the checkers as 'men' and 'kings.' Obvious microaggressions. Your position is that checkers is a misogynistic, racist game that has no place in America."
"Oh, racist, too?" the Senator said. "That sounds great. I can get really mad. Two things at once to yell at people about."
"Well, Friday is Racism Outrage Day, but I see no problem in advancing that to Thursday and combining it with Microaggression Outrage Day," the Chief of Staff said. "After all, Brian also calls the checkers Black and White, and he even dares to capitalize White!"
Marcy shook her head. "Terrible, terrible. Something must be done about checkers! Maybe I should introduce a bill. Like, eliminate the teaching of checkers in the schools and substitute something else. Except I don't know what."
"You can make your usual point about Mindful Woke Pronouns," the Chief of Staff suggested.
"Oh ... is that my usual point? You would know better than I would," the Senator said. "Write a speech for me and tell me when I should yell and frown and throw stuff. It's going to be a great day. And make sure the networks and newspapers all cover it."
"I'm on it, Senator," the Chief of Staff said. Gosh, but how she loved her job, working with such a distinguished Senator.
Brian's outrageous checker problem is show below, and we hope you're not too offended or outraged yourself to give it a try. Brian says it's about 7 out of 10 in terms of difficulty, and he notes that some skilled solvers are having a little trouble with it.
When you're outraged enough to see the solution, click on Read More to see the winning moves and composer's notes.[Read More]
The Checker Maven runs on a modest budget and occupies a modest space in a modest building. Your editor's quarters, above, reflects our every-inch-counts working environment.
Every so often we run an "Editor's Choice" column. These don't follow any particular schedule or theme and are not part of one of our ongoing story series. They are simply a presentation of a checker problem or situation that we've found interesting, instructive, or both. Generally it's something from our library but at times it's a contributed problem.
We've always admired the work of past problem great Fausto Dalumi and today we reprint one of his problems from something like 90 years ago. We think it's as fresh and interesting today as it was way back when.
Whether you attempt this problem in a small and crowded space or a large and spacious palace makes no difference. It's a nice problem either way. Mr. Dalumi noted that every White move is a "star" move.
Space out your efforts (or crowd them in at your choice) and see if you can find the solution. When ready, do allow room to click your mouse on Read More to see how it's done.[Read More]
In one of our recent Checker School columns, we met Mr. Hatley, his son Ned, and Farmer Sneed, all characters in Andrew J. Banks' charming 1945 book Checker Board Strategy. Today, Mr. Hatley and Ned return. Mr. Hatley is telling his son about the first checker book ever published in English. Mr. Hatley then goes on to show Ned a long series of instructive problems that we suppose are in the spirit of that early book rather than necessarily contained therein.
In the reading room of the Rare Book Section of the Library of Congress sat a short elderly man. He put on his horn rimmed glasses and squinted his dark eyes as he spoke to his son.
"Ned, I want you to see the first checkerbook printed in English," said Mr. Hatley, pointing to a small rare volume, "Guide to the Game of Draughts," by William Payne, Londdon, England.
"Why father, it was published in 1756." Ned counted some 50 games and 38 problems.
"Look at the quaint old English!" he exclaimed.
You will find some of Payne's problems in practically every checkerbook.
One of the problems that Mr. Hatley showed Ned on that day, some 75 years ago, was the one below, credited to A. E. Clow of Ontario.
Mr. Hatley also gave Ned a second example in the same vein, credited to David Kirkwood way back in 1875.
How would you do as Mr. Hatley's student? You don't need to journey to the hallowed halls of the Library of Congress; you can solve these in the comfort of your own home. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solutions.[Read More]
It seems as though this young lady has taken a deliberate tumble into a pile of autumn leaves, a fall into fall, if you will. We wonder if she has tumbled to something here, as she looks relaxed and content.
We think you'll be quite content, too, after solving this month's speed problem, provided by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto.
We'd rate this one as "very easy" for most experienced players, and good practice for the rest of us. Don't take a fall; see how quickly you can solve it, then click on Read More to verify your solution.[Read More]
Excitement and electricity were in the air, for today began the new season of the National Checker League. Each and every team was hopeful, their eyes set on unseating the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers and claiming the crown for themselves.
It would take a lot of good checkers and maybe a few breaks to accomplish that, but the Pennant Race would soon be on.
No team was more optimistic than the Dallas Defiance, led by their new captain, a young lady who went by the name of Sunny Sunshine. She was a bit, shall we say, theatrical, but she had earned her team captaincy by showing skill and daring at the checkerboard.
Today, in the Dallas Checkerdrome, she would face Marvin J. Mavin, superstar leader of the aforementioned World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers.
The Checkerdrome was packed with a sellout crowd of over 50,000 rabid Dallas fans. Soon the players and umpires were introduced and the teams stood at attention in front of their dugouts for the playing of the National Anthem.
Then the players took the field, and the season was on!
But where's this Sunny lady? Marvin asked himself as he stood in front of first board, his playing position. His opponent seemed to be missing--- oh, you've got to be kidding me! he thought.
For here came Sunny Sunshine, riding a unicycle in from the outfield! The crowd roared its appreciation and Sunny waved and blew kisses and she made her way toward first board.
She rode straight up to Marvin, jumped down from her unicycle, and cast it aside as she offered Marvin a handshake.
"Pleased to meet you, Marvster!" she said. "Ready to get your pants handed to you?" As attendants cleared the field of the unicycle, Sunny laughed and slapped her knees, and the crowd laughed with her.
Marvin, for once, was speechless.
"Lost your voice, Marvster?" she asked as she did lively dance steps over to her side of the board. "Doesn't matter. Won't change anything. But you're going to look pretty silly without pants!"
Finally Marvin spoke. "Oh yeah, well you're going to ... "
"Ah, watch what you say, Marvster," Sunny interrupted, "wouldn't want to get charged with Misogynist Microaggression Offending, now, would you?"
Marvin stopped mid-sentence. MMO would be a very serious thing indeed, and could even tank his career. The National Checker League had become very careful about staying on the good side of the LTBO (Looking To Be Offended) Movement.
"Hey," he finally said, "how about we just, you know, compete over the checkerboard?"
"You're on," Sunny said, "that's just what I had in mind." She grinned. "But I'd still hang on to your pants."
Before Marvin could either attempt a reply or realize that he had best stay silent, the whistle blew and the call "Play checkers!" resounded through the stadium.
The game was a tough one and for the most part it went on in silence. Finally Marvin, playing White, felt he had an advantage in a very complicated and unusual position.
But at that moment, Marvin forgot himself. "Well there girl, looks like I just might win this one and keep my pants." Marvin, thinking he had been very clever, chuckled.
"What did you call me?" Sunny exclaimed. "Did you call me girl?" She stood up behind her board, hands on her hips.
Marvin replied, "Well, yeah, uh, I mean you are a ... you know ... "
Sunny interrupted. "After a remark like that you still think you're going to win?"
"Well, look here young .... um, person, I got eight men to your seven, even though you got a lotta kings ..."
"Men," Sunny said in a clearly derisive tone. "And Kings. It figures. You know what this game is called in French and German? Bet you don't because you're not exactly educated. It's called Jeux de dames and Damenspiel--- the game of Queens. So don't you ever call me girl or any sexist term again. From now on you'll either call me Ms. Sunshine or Queen Sunny, is that clear?"
"Uh, yeah. Clear as Sunshine on a Sunny day. Well then, Queen Sunny, watch this."
Marvin made his move. Sunny quickly sat back down and studied the board, a frown on her face.
What will happen next? Can Marvin pull off a win? How will Sunny react? Is Marvin in hot water?
Solve the problem as best you can and then click on Read More for the solution and some answers to these questions.[Read More]
It's here! Grandmaster Richard Pask's fifth and concluding volume of his Logical Checkers series is now available for free download here, or from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column. (Earlier download problems have been resolved.)
Over 300 pages in length and filled with diagrams, the book provides the crowning touch to this unprecedented series of instructional volumes, designed to take the player from novice to expert, fully prepared for master level studies.
As a sample of the new book's content, here's an illustrative game leading to a problem position, with Mr. Pask's commentary.
Illustrative Game 150: 9-13 24-20; 10-14 22-18; 5-9 27-24; 6-10 25-22; 1-5?! (although impossible to criticize in general terms, analysis has shown that this should be avoided, with 10-15! preferred) 31-27!; 14-17 (10-15? 23-19; 14-23 27-18!; 7-10 26-23; 3-7 30-25 is a quick win scored by Pat McCarthy over Ken Lovell) 21-14; 10-17 29-25; 17-21 18-14; 9-18 23-14; 11-15 27-23; 8-11? White to Play and Win.
15-18 and the resultant 3 for 3 would have drawn. Can you find the White win? Of course, as would be expected in an advanced study, you may not find it easy. For the solution, download the book and refer to page 167.
Now that this landmark series is concluded, we plan to prepare and publish a comprehensive single-volume edition of all five parts of Logical Checkers, a mammoth book with over 1,000 diagrams and likely running above 800 pages. An electronic version will as always be provided completely free of charge. The trade paperback print edition is estimated to cost around $30.00, although that has yet to be finalized. The book will take quite some time to bring to press, but look for it in the latter part of 2021.
The Checker Maven thanks Grandmaster Pask for the honor of continuing to publish his work and for his unparalleled generosity in providing it to the checker playing public completely free of charge.
Saturday, September 10, 1955: It was the first Saturday after the Labor Day weekend. For Sal Westerman, a retired actuary in Bismarck, North Dakota, the day held special meaning, for at 1 PM, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club would resume its weekly meetings after the summer break.
Sal missed those get-togethers at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building. It was the highlight of the week for the elderly gentleman. Oh, he understood that during the all-too brief North Dakota summers, pretty much every organized indoor activity came to a stop so that people could enjoy the long hours of daylight and spend time outdoors. But he missed his club nonetheless.
His wife Sylvia sensed his eagerness and served an early lunch so that Sal could be on his way and not be a minute late. Sal walked much faster than usual from his home to the Beacon that afternoon, and arrived a full five minutes early.
When Deana, the proprietor and the best baker in a dozen counties, greeted him, he felt a warm flow of contentment. Looking to the back of the Cafe, he was even more pleased to see that a few of the boys (all of them at least 50 years old) were already in the big booth that the Club always used. Delmer, Dan, Wayne, and Larry were on hand, and look! even Tom was present.
There were greetings and handshakes all around, and by one o'clock two more members had arrived: Louie and Ron. It was a great gathering and Sal couldn't have been more pleased.
"Welcome back, boys!" he said. "I hope you all had a great summer and are ready for some checkers!" There were words of assent all around and Larry and Louie even gave out a little cheer. But it was Wayne who asked the inevitable question.
"What've you got for us today?"
"Oh," Sal chuckled, "a real nice one from Ed." Ed was Sal's checker penpal way out east in Pennsylvania. "Ed says you have to find 18 star moves to solve it."
"18 star moves!" Dan exclaimed. "That's darn tough!"
Behind her counter, Deana, sensed her moment. She was as good at marketing as she was at baking. "Zucchini chocolate chip bars today," she said. "Fresh and hot."
"Sounds great!" Sal said. "I'll be happy to have the boys buy me a couple when they can't win this one!"
"Says who!" exclaimed Tom. "Lay 'em out, Sal!"
Sal set up two checkerboards, one in the big booth and one in the adjoining booth. With such a great turnout, one board would hardly be enough. He arranged the pieces in the following position.
"Golly," Dan said, and then added, "gee."
"Since you have to find 18 star moves, I'll give you some extra time," Sal said. "How about half an hour?"
There was a great clamoring of disagreement. "An hour!" Louie demanded. "Play fair!"
"Okay, an hour. But not a minute more!" Sal looked over at Deana. "We're going to need a lot of coffee," he said.
"Gotcha covered," came the reply but the boys paid no attention. They were already deeply engrossed in Ed's problem.
We're certain you're glad the Club is finally meeting again, and no doubt you'd like one of those zucchini chocolate chip bars. Can you solve the problem and win one (virtually, of course)? Take as much time as you like. Put a pot of coffee on the stove and try to work it out; then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.[Read More]
Labor Day is another of those holidays that we, as Americans, enjoy celebrating. It's a great opportunity to honor the contributions of the vast numbers of hard-working members of our society who form the backbone of our nation. From CEO to technology professional to trucker to gardener, and all the many and varied other occupations, each and every one of you is important and deserves respect and recognition.
But in these Covid-19 days, many have fallen on difficult times as jobs have disappeared, businesses have closed, and there is more than enough hardship and grief to go around. We can only wish for a recovery that is as speedy as possible given the seriousness of the situation. We look forward to a future Labor Day when we all have reason to celebrate in happiness and prosperity.
We once again turn to Tom Wiswell, an American who lived through difficult days, too: the dark days of World War II. Mr. Wiswell used checkers as a means of helping to keep up our spirits, and we can use a little of the same today. He called the following problem "Imagination" saying that he could not imagine a good player without imagination.
Mr. Wiswell says that "ordinary methods" won't do here, so indeed use your imagination to labor away, and when you're ready, click your mouse on the (non-imaginary) Read More button to see the solution.[Read More]
You may never have heard of him, but Theodore "Ted" Bullockus was one of those well-rounded fellows who was good at both checkers and chess. Mr. Bullockus was born on May 29, 1917; we don't have any further information about his life and career, although he apparently was born in the Bronx, where his Lithuanian parents lived. Mr. Bullockus passed away on October 11, 2008, in Sun City, California (now part of the Menofee retirement community).
We could only find one grainy photo of this gentleman, taken during a chess tournament some years back. But he must have been quite capable. We located this checker study of his, based on a Wood Mail Tourney game (players unknown). Here's the run-up.
26-22 would have drawn, but now Black has a win. Can you find it?
Match wits with Mr. Bullockus and see how you do. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
It was Saturday morning and as usual, Tommy Wagner was sitting on Uncle Ben's porch for his weekly checker lesson. Uncle Ben wasn't really Tommy's uncle, but everyone called him that. Tommy had much potential as a checker player, and the kindly old retired checker professional had been tutoring him for several years.
But Tommy surely didn't look happy this morning.
A month had passed since Tina had caught Tommy at the movies with Letitia. Although Tommy had apologized, Tina was continuing to give him the cold shoulder, barely even responding to his greetings when they passed in the hallways of their central Florida high school.
Tommy, knowing his chances of getting a date with Tina were about zero, had called Letitia a couple of times, not realizing that if Tina ever found out, he might as well forget about Tina for the rest of his life. But Letitia, although receptive to Tommy's calls and polite enough, had refused multiple requests to go out with him, and finally Tommy stopped calling.
Tommy was feeling pretty down about the whole situation and his checker playing suffered. He had risen to Team Captain of the Junior Varsity team, no small feat for a 9th grader, but lately his performance had been well below his usual standard.
Uncle Ben noticed Tommy's diminished focus, and said, "Still having girl trouble, are you Tommy?"
"Yes, Uncle Ben, I sure am. I did what you said and apologized but it didn't really make a lot of difference, I guess."
"Didn't it? Do you mean that your apology was wasted?"
"Well, kind of ... I mean ..."
"You thought they would just forgive you and everything would be as it was."
"Yes sir, I suppose I did."
"Well, Tommy, there are two reasons to apologize. One reason is for them, and the other is for you."
Tommy continued to look confused. "I'm not sure I understand, Uncle Ben."
"You apologize to them because you did something to offend or hurt them, and they deserve to hear that you recognize that you did something you shouldn't have, and regret having done it. But you apologize for yourself so that you can do better in the future, and that can only happen when you accept the fact that you had gone wrong."
"Sure, Uncle Ben, but ..."
"... but you have to recognize that actions have consequences. If Letitia and Tina remain angry with you, or perhaps have lost faith and trust in you, then you'll have to accept that."
"I know, you're right, but it's so ... miserable!"
Tommy turned his head away. He didn't want Uncle Ben to see the tear in the corner of his eye.
"It can be miserable. But on the other hand you can't let it take over your life. You did the right thing by apologizing, and if there's nothing more you can do, you have to move on and try not to let it affect things that are important to you. One day, perhaps, your apologies may be fully accepted, but until then, you must deal with things as they are."
"You mean ... oh ... I haven't been playing very well lately, have I?"
"Honestly ... no, and no doubt your coach has noticed."
"Yes. He's talked to me. He told me I need to pull out of it and get my head together, although he doesn't know anything about Letitia and Tina."
"Well then ... nothing like some good hard practice. Are you ready for a challenge? Accompanied by some fresh lemonade?"
Tommy managed a smile. "Yes sir, I'm ready."
"Okay, young man. You just take a look at the position on the checkerboard while I pour us some refreshment."
Tommy did as he was instructed. Very shortly thereafter, Uncle Ben handed him a tall frosty glass. Tommy took a sip and then refocused on the checkerboard.
"This is a hard one, Uncle Ben. I think ... aha! That's the idea!"
"Show me, Tommy." Uncle Ben smiled inwardly. He knew there was nothing like a good mental workout to chase away worries. And he knew that, given time, Tommy would have internalized a difficult life lesson, and have become a better person by it.
We can't say if you've been on-track or off-track lately, but we can say that a mental workout is good for all of us no matter what the situation. Can you solve this one? Focus! With or without lemonade, give it your best effort and then click on Read More to see the solution, notes, a sample game, and numerous additional examples of the theme.[Read More]