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Marvin At The World Series: Part One

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The Detroit Doublejumpers had done it again. Led by their captain, Marvin J. Mavin, they had made it to the top of the American Division of the National Checker League, and were playing the National Division winner, the Los Angeles Leapers, for championship honors in the World Series of Checkers.

The Spring Classic was set at the best four out of seven, and the Doublejumpers and the Leapers had won three each. In the seventh match, the lower four boards had split at 2-2 with only the first board game left to be decided.

Tension was high in Doublejumper Park, all 60,000 fans on the edges of their seats.

Marvin needed to win this game and bring the crown to the Doublejumpers. It was a very big deal. A draw wouldn't do, for in that case, there would be a sudden death playoff the next day, consisting of five-minute speed games between the team captains. The first captain to win a game would carry home the championship on behalf of his or her team.

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Marvin J. Mavin

Marvin was one of the best, if not the best, at checkers played at the professional time control of two hours per game. He was good enough, but not tops, at speed checkers.

The opposing captain, Hyun-Mi Park, never lost at speed checkers. Never.

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Hyun-Mi Park

Ms. Park had originally played for the North Korean National Team, but at an exhibition match in Los Angeles, she had defected and was granted political asylum in the United States. It was a bold and courageous act, and in fact Ms. Park was now protected by a full-time security detail.

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Ms. Park had gone on to join the ranks of professional checkers, and before long had risen to the captaincy of the Leapers.

However, Marvin, at least at the moment, didn't care about any of that. He just had to focus on winning this game. And he had a strong position.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:WK6,9,32:B3,12,17

He didn't think Hyun-Mi, who was on move, could find a draw. Or maybe he was just hoping she couldn't. He just desperately wanted this to be over so he could celebrate with a few beers.

Hyun-Mi was a model of concentration. She, too, knew what was at stake. The clock continued to tick down but her focus was unbroken. Finally, she uttered a soft, "Danggeun!" and made her move.


How would you do if the stakes were so high? Would you be able to find a draw? Unlike Hyun-Mi, you have as much time as you wish. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the Part One.null

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05/30/20 - Printer friendly version
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Memorial Day 2020

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Memorial Day has a long history. Once called Decoration Day, it began in various forms after the Civil War, at least as early as 1868, but it wasn't until 1971 that it actually became an official Federal holiday in the United States. Originally it was celebrated on May 30, but it is now observed on the last Monday of May. (There is even a Confederate Memorial Day celebrated at the end of April in a few Southern states, but apparently it's not "politically correct" to mention it.)

Memorial Day is an important observation, a day to honor and remember those who gave everything to safeguard our freedom. As is so often said, freedom isn't free.

On Memorial Day weekend we like to feature a checker problem by a celebrated American composer from the past. Often it's Tom Wiswell, but this year we turn to Charles Hefter, who as a keen analyst specialized in problems that represented corrections to actual play. This makes Mr. Hefter's offerings practical as well as entertaining.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,K9,14,20:B5,7,15,K23

The White win proposed by the problem terms might look a bit--- problematical-- but it's there, and not really all that difficult to find. Can you solve it? See what you can do and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

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05/23/20 - Printer friendly version
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CV-5: Brian's 8x8 Mindbender

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Our special Wednesday CV series is intended to provide a little extra checker entertainment during difficult days. Our fifth problem, CV-5, comes from master composer Brian Hinkle. He didn't give this composition a title, and just points out that it's an 8 by 8 (eight pieces per side). We call it a "Mindbender." Keep in mind that the CV problems are intended to be challenging!

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK5,K11,12,16,K19,21,25,28:B2,3,6,K10,13,14,20,26K

You'll have two weeks to solve it, at which time we'll publish the solution. Good luck, and stay safe and healthy, checker fans, wherever you are.null

05/20/20 - Printer friendly version
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Solution to CV-4: Donnybrook

CV-4: Donnybrook
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W6,13,20,21,24,28,31:B4,5,7,14,K22,K23,26

24-19 23x16 20x2 14-17---A 21x14 22-17 31x22 17x1---B 28-24---C 4-8 24-19 8-12 2-7---D 5-9 13x6 1x3 22-18 3-7 18-15 White Wins---E.

A---Black has a wide variety of possible moves here, but this 2 for 2 may give him the best chance for a draw over the board.

B---White seemingly has a crushing grip on the game, but in fact very precise play is necessary.

C---Moving the piece on 22 or playing 2-7 would give Black a 2 for 1.

D---But now White can and indeed must give Black a 2 for 1.

E---Winning with the move.

Problem composer Ed Atkinson notes that all White moves are star moves, and says of his problem, "This one has been described as 'weirdo' by a well known problemist and as 'psycho' by an expert player and solver."

We'd prefer to just call it "unique and entertaining." We hope you enjoyed it, and our thanks to Ed for sending it our way.null

05/20/20 - Printer friendly version
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A Bittersweet Day at The Beacon Cafe

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It was Saturday, May 21, 1955, and for Sal Westerman of Bismarck, North Dakota, it was a bittersweet spring day. His beloved group of checkerists, The Coffee and Cake Checker Club, would meet today as they did every Saturday, at one o'clock at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building.

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Sal was always happy to have Saturday come around, and spend some good checker time with the "boys" (all of them over 50) who made up the club. Yet it was the Saturday before Memorial Day, which this year fell on a Monday and made for a long weekend. That meant this was the last meeting of the club until the Saturday after Labor Day--- more than three months away.

Summer in North Dakota was short, and pretty much all regular activity, outside of work and church, ceased. There were no dance groups, no crafts classes, no book clubs ... and no checkers at the Beacon.

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Ted Harman

There was a good turnout for the closing meeting of the season. Wayne, Tom, Dan, Louie, Sam, Delmer, and even infrequently seen Ted were all there. That made eight, counting Sal, and they overflowed into a second booth adjacent to the large booth in the back that they always occupied.

Deana, the proprietress, would miss the club as well. They brought her some good business on slow Saturdays. In fact, she would even close on Saturdays from mid-June through mid-August. Today, though, she had baked a large tray of one of her all-time favorites: chocolate chip almond bars. She charged a little extra for them--- they were twenty cents a serving instead of fifteen cents--- but no one complained.

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When everyone was settled in with mugs of Deana's coffee, Sal announced that he had a problem from Ed in Pennsylvania, one that Ed said would go well with next week's Indianapolis 500 auto race. "Ed calls it 'Photo Finish'," Sal remarked. "He originally had in mind the Kentucky Derby, but you'll see when you solve it." Sal paused and chuckled. "If you solve it, that is." Sal turned and looked over at the baked goods case. "Those bars look really fine."

That got a smile out of Deana. "Sure are," she said. "A real deal, too."

Sal laid out the problem setting, once in the big booth and then again on another board in the adjacent booth.

WHITE
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BLACK
White to Play and Win

W:WK4,K21,27:BK1,14,K29

"How long should I give you boys?" he asked, and then answering his own question, said, "Twenty minutes. After that, one of you buys the bars. And more coffee, too."

At first there was silence as the boys examined the position. Then there was discussion, starting with a few suggestions but becoming more and more lively as time passed. Delmer was arguing with Wayne, Sam was getting impatient with Louie, and Dan, Ted, and Tom were trying to solve as a trio.

Finally, it was Ted who spoke up. Over eighteen minutes had passed and Sal was closely watching the clock.

"I have the answer," Ted said, but his voice didn't sound confident at all.

"Glad to hear that, Ted," Sal said. Was there a tiny note of sarcasm? "Let's see it."

"Uh, sure," Ted said, and started to move the pieces.


It's the last chance until September to win some of Deana's famous bars. Can you do it? Do you think infrequent player Ted has found the solution?

You can take your time--- there's no need to race to the finish--- and when you're set, click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of the story.null

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05/16/20 - Printer friendly version
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Logical Checkers Volume Four

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It's here! The fourth volume of Richard Pask's projected five-volume Logical Checkers series, entitled Checkers for the Three-Move Expert: Balanced Ballots is available to download in PDF format here or from the "Richard Pask" page as linked in the right-hand column. Of course, the book is completely free of charge, as are all the ebooks in the series.

Volume Four provides in-depth coverage of selected endgames, advanced tactics, mid-game landings, and of course balanced three-move ballots. The book is over 200 pages in length, with many examples, illustrative games, and diagrams.

Looking forward, we anticipate seeing Volume Five as early as the end of 2020, with a mammoth print volume of the whole series projected for later on in 2021.

Our thanks go to Grandmaster Pask for the opportunity to publish his works, and for his generosity in providing them gratis to the world-wide checker-playing community.

As a teaser, here's a position found in the book.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play, What Result?

W:W13,15,18,32:B3,12,20,K22

For the solution, see page 123 of Richard's new book.null

05/09/20 - Printer friendly version
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CV-4: Donnybrook

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Our ongoing series of special Wednesday columns, intended to provide a little extra checker entertainment when we need it the most, continues with another fine and tough problem from master composer Ed Atkinson. He named it after Donnybrook Fair, which was known for its frequent brawls. If you solve this problem, you'll see why the title is appropriate.

CV-4: Donnybrook
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W6,13,20,21,24,28,31:B4,5,7,14,K22,K23,26

Be forewarned; this is a doozy! Once again, you have two weeks to work on it before we publish the solution.

We hope you are enjoying this series. Stay safe and healthy, checker fans, wherever you are.null

05/06/20 - Printer friendly version
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Solution to CV-3: Sturges Remembered

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Two weeks back, we presented Ed Atkinson's "Sturges Remembered" problem. We said that the title might give a slight hint toward the solution. Judge for yourself.

Problem CV-3
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B5,K2,K26:W10,23,29,K17

1. ... 23-19 2. 26-23 19-16 3. 23-19 16-11 4. 19-15 10-6 5. 15x8---A 17-13 6. 2x9 13x6 7. 8-12 6-10 8. 5-9 29-25 9. 12-16 10-15 10. 9-14---B 25-22 11. 14-18 15-11 White Wins---C.

A---The order of the jumps is immaterial.

B---Ed informs us that this is now into a problem by--- Joshua Sturges!

C---18-25 11-20 winning with the move, or 16-7 22-15 likewise, with the single man trapping the king!

Ed points out that all of White's first 10 moves are star moves--- no other moves will garner the win.

Our thanks to Ed for this fine composition.null

05/06/20 - Printer friendly version
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The Merry Month of May

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It's May and summer is just around the corner. We're writing this in March so we don't know how late winter and early spring unfolded, but we're hoping that everyone came through it in good health and spirit. We trust that some merriment will be in order, perhaps such as a beautiful walk in the park, followed by this nice checker problem sent along by Josh and Lloyd Gordon of Toronto.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:WK4,14,19,26,30,32:B3,6,11,17,24,28

White has the first king but it's trapped in the corner, so maybe Black can pull off the draw. The problem itself isn't all that tough, although it's a little bit beyond the strict "speed" category. So take as much time as you need, after which you "may" click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.

Stay safe and well, checker fans, wherever you are.null

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05/02/20 - Printer friendly version
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April in Bismarck

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The year was 1955 and it was the first Saturday of April. In the city of Bismarck, North Dakota, that day had special meaning.

No, it didn't have anything to do with April Fool's Day, which only fell on Saturday once in a while. It had to do with raking up your yard after the winter season.

It was practically an unwritten law. On the first Saturday of April, you raked up your yard. Period. It didn't matter if there were still some lingering piles of snow, or even that it was likely to still keep snowing during April. You raked up your yard, and if you didn't, you'd get glares and stares from your neighbors, who were out there doing their duty while you were ...

... playing checkers at the Beacon Cafe?

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Yes, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, led by Sal Westerman, met every Saturday afternoon from September to May at the Beacon Cafe, where they enjoyed a few hours of checker fun and the outstanding baked goods produced by the proprietor, Deana.

Now, Sylvia, Sal's wife of some 45 years, understood. She knew that Sal was 70 and not up to a lot of yard work, so she hired it out to Ted, an enterprising young man in their neighborhood. But it wasn't so simple for the rest of the boys--- Sal referred to the other club members as 'the boys' even though they were all over 50 themselves.

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Young Ted

So when Sal made his way to the big booth in the back of the cafe, where the 'boys' always gathered, there was no one present except Wayne and Dan.

"Raked our yard this morning," they both explained, in more or less the same words. "Got up early to get 'er done. Too bad the others are stuck doing it this afternoon."

Of course, the idea of not raking your yard on this appointed day would never occur to any of them. In Bismarck, that was unthinkable.

"Well, okay," Sal said, with a sigh of resignation. "Less treats for the losers to buy, I suppose."

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Deana, who missed nothing that went on in her cafe, called over from her counter, "Too bad, I have peanut butter bars today. Really good."

Sal smiled. "I'm sure they are, and in a little while Wayne and Dan are going to buy me one."

"We'll see about that," Dan said. "And hey, did you rake your yard this morning?"

"You know Sylvia hires young Ted to do that."

"Ah, cop out. Anyone who doesn't rake their yard ought to buy treats for those who did, don't you agree, Wayne?"

Wayne nodded. "Sure do. But let's see what Sal has for us today."

"Something from Brian," Sal said, "and he says it's very instructive."

"That's another way of saying 'hard', right?" Dan said.

Brian was Sal's St. Louis checker pen-pal, and his checker problems always puzzled and pleased. But they were seldom easy.

Sal set up the position on one of the checkerboards on the booth's table. "Here you go. Fifteen minutes ought to do it."

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK4,20,K21:B3,6,9

"Fifteen minutes! No way!" Wayne complained. "An hour, for sure!"

"Half an hour," Sal said, "and that's final." He crossed his arms over his chest and feigned a severe look.

But the boys were already deep in contemplation.


Peanut butter bars sound good, and you can have one if you can solve the problem (or if you've raked up your yard). When you're done, rake your
mouse over Read More to see the solution.null

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04/25/20 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i, as a completely non-commercial public service from which no profit is obtained or sought. Original material is Copyright 2004-2020 Avi Gobbler Publishing. Other material is the property of the respective owners. Information presented on this site is offered as-is, at no cost, and bears no express or implied warranty as to accuracy or usability. You agree that you use such information entirely at your own risk. No liabilities of any kind under any legal theory whatsoever are accepted. The Checker Maven is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bob Newell, Sr.

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