Contests in Progress:
Today we won't go into the difference between breeches and britches, but we will mention that breeches are pants (or if you like, pantaloons) that cover the, um, posterior. Today that's true of most if not all pants.
What then, are double breeches? In terms of pants, we can't really say, but our Research Department did point out that the word breeches is what's known as a double plural. In old English, broc was a word which had a plural form of brec. In time the word evolved and added the usual -(e)s suffix and thus became the double plural, breeches.
If that's just a bit too complicated, fortunately in checkers double breeches has a very specific and easy to understand meaning, as you'll see in Bill Salot's 62nd World Championship Problem Composing Contest, which has double breeches as its theme. Access the contest problems here.
To get you started, here's a sample problem illustrating the contest theme. It's by grandmaster composer Ed Atkinson and was the winner of Contest 33 in June, 2017.
After you've enjoyed solving this problem, click on Read More to see the solution, and then go to the contest page to cast your vote for your favorite among four additional problems.[Read More]
It's the beginning of May, and in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather should be warming up, likely something very welcome to those of you in colder climes.
Along those lines, today we have a speed problem that is itself in the nature of a "warm up" of the mental type. It's quite easy, and may be something of a good starter to get your brain into checker mode at the start of an evening's play or study.
An experienced player will solve it in a couple of seconds; novices may have to think a bit, but in any case, it's good fun.
Were you able to get it? We thought so, but still, warm up your mouse by clicking on Read More to check your play.[Read More]
Australians Bob and Norma Meadley come from the very small town of Narromine in New South Wales, where Bob pursues his hobby of draughts (checkers) and Norma volunteers at the local library. "Narromine" doesn't refer to a "narrow mine," as you might think, but instead is derived from a word in a native Australian language which means "honey people."
The Meadleys have sent us a most unusual book, you might say a honey of a book, with permission to distribute it gratis to the checker community. It's a book they've worked on for quite a long while, pulling together a rambling, eclectic combination of materials ranging from articles on the history of checkers (draughts) to rare newspaper clippings and photos and documentation of James "The Herd Laddie" Wyllie's visit to Australia and New Zealand.
Mr. Meadley sent me the following fascinating notes about the book's cover (shown above):
"Now a little bit of history about that old board. When I was in my mid 20s I went over to the grand old man of Australian Chess Problems and he was only 3 years away from dying in 1968. He gave me the board which consists of timber strips held together by canvas cloth. It dates to the late 19th century from when he was a young man (born 1880) and played chess in rural NSW. The patina is untouched but I did have to reglue some new canvas on one rotted part. The three boxes of draughts men (left; all black and white) are 'Dreadnaught Products'; 'The National Games Draught Men' (right); an unnamed set on a fine board just called 'Draughts'(middle); and finally 'Marquis Plastic Moulded Draughtsmen' (2nd row left). The scattered red and black men are mine from my teenage years where we played in the railway workshops."
The book is lovingly assembled and runs to more than 300 pages. It will provide hours of checker entertainment and amazing insights and information. You can get it here.
Of course no Checker Maven column is complete without a checker problem, and so we've selected this one from the book.
You'll find this on page 143 of the book, but alas, without solution. Is this a "honey" of a problem? See what you think by trying to solve it, but it's a sweet thing to realize that clicking on Read More will show you the winning way.[Read More]
No, you're not seeing double, and this is not a repeat article. You did see a version of the above picture a few weeks back when we featured Jim Loy's book on Robert Jordan. Today we're featuring the other half of the picture, as we bring you Jim Loy's book, The Best Checker Games of James Ferrie.
In 1894 Ferrie took the title of World Champion from the legendary James Wyllie, holding it until 1896 when Robert Jordan won it. Ferrie played many brilliant and instructive games, and Jim Loy has gathered them together, annotated them extensively, and provided numerous diagrams. Download the book here or from the Jim Loy page linked in the right side panel.
The position above, on the cover of the book, comes from the 1896 Scottish tournament. Here it is again in our usual format.
See if you can find the win, then download the book and go to Game 101 to see how it played out. The Checker Maven thanks Mr. Loy for providing yet another of his fine publications for cost-free download.
Sal Westerman left his modest home to walk the approximately half mile to the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota.
The Provident Life Building was where the Beacon Cafe was located, a popular place for coffee, sandwiches, and some of the best baked goods in Burleigh County, produced by blue-ribbon baker and proprietress Deana Nagel. It was also the place where, at 1 PM every Saturday except for holidays and summer months, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club gathered for an afternoon of checker fun accompanied by delicious treats.
The Coffee and Cake Club members, or "boys" as Sal called them, were all over 50 years old, and some, like Sal, much older. Of course, younger players were welcome. Age was not much of an issue except sometimes a couple of the "boys" would maybe feel a little stiff after an afternoon of play.
But today would turn out to be different.
It had snowed three days ago, one of those heavy April storms that often marked the end of winter, and with a couple of days of subsequent thaws and freezes the streets and sidewalks were quite slick in places. The city and the residents did their best but it just wasn't possible to get rid of all the icy patches.
And so it happened that, just yards away from the Beacon Cafe entrance, Sal missed his footing on an ice patch and took a tumble, landing on his back and narrowly missing banging his head on the sidewalk.
Sal groaned and tried to pick himself up. It was then that he realized he was unable to stand. He tried pulling up his legs but they wouldn't respond. He tried rolling and pushing with his hands, but with his legs not functioning, it was of little use.
"Hey!" he shouted. "I can't get up!" His back felt like it was on fire above the waist, but he didn't feel anything lower down.
It was a good thing that when he fell, he had rolled right in front of the Beacon's entrance. Deana, always alert, heard him and called to the boys. "Someone fell," she said, "come and help me."
She swung open the front door and gasped. "It's Sal!" she said. "He's hurt!"
"It's my back," Sal said, his voice now a bit weak. "I don't feel anything below my waist."
Delmer and Wayne, two of the boys, were outside with Deana. "Call an ambulance," Delmer said to Deana, who immediately returned to the Cafe. "And he needs a blanket!"
"We don't dare move him if it's his back," Wayne said, and then addressing Sal added, "Hang on, Sal, help is on its way."
Deana found a blanket in the Cafe's storeroom and she came back out and covered Sal with it. Within minutes an ambulance arrived and before much longer Sal had been carefully moved onto a lifting board and was on his way to St. Alexius Hospital. Meanwhile Deana called Sylvia, Sal's wife. The boys--- Delmer, Wayne, Dan, Louie, and Tom--- all walked to the hospital to await news. They promised Deana they would find a phone and call her as soon as they knew something.
Of course only Sylvia, who arrived breathless and tearful in another 10 minutes, was allowed to be with Sal. There were X-rays taken and blood samples drawn.
It wasn't until almost 4 o'clock that Sylvia came out to report to the boys. "It's good news," she said, "at least relatively. Dr. Eriksson says that there are no broken bones. It's a pinched nerve in his spine, and Sal has already recovered some feeling in his legs. The doctor says he'll be on his feet in a few days and back to normal after a month or so of physical therapy. It could have been a lot worse. But you might know, Sal is already complaining about missing his checker club today."
"He'll be fine if he's doing that!" said Tom. All of the boys looked relieved. "Meanwhile, Sylvia, we're all glad to help you in any way possible."
Sylvia smiled. "Thank you. And wouldn't you know, Sal asked me to give you this. It was in his coat pocket."
Sylvia handed Tom a slip of paper which contained the following diagram.
"Must be the problem Sal was going to show us today!" said Wayne. "Hey ... the Beacon's open for another hour, let's go back and try it, and we can tell Deana what's going on!"
The boys of course would have rather visited with Sal, but the doctor had given him a sedative and wasn't allowing anyone to visit but immediate family. Still, it was about quarter to five by the time the boys got back to the Beacon and related everything to Deana over a quick cup of coffee and a chocolate coconut bar. The Beacon closed at five and they wouldn't have time to try Sal's problem.
"Save it for next week, and maybe Sal will be back with us then," Delmer said. "And let's drop in on him as soon as he can have visitors."
Everyone agreed. After a quick round of farewells, the boys all started for home, and Deana began to close up until her Monday morning reopening.
It had been an unusual day for the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, one that they wouldn't wish to ever repeat, but one with a happy ending.
Sal had brought along a nice problem from his Pennsylvania checker pen-pal, Ed. The "boys" will have to wait a week but you can try to solve it right now. Just don't slip--- with your line of play, we mean. Solve the problem and then slip your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Three weeks had passed since Marvin J. Mavin's disastrous experience at the engagement party put on for him and his (former) fiancee, Priscilla Snelson. In our previous story we related how Marvin refused to let the President of Priscilla's company, Rust Belt Holdings, win a game against Marvin in a 16 player simul. Priscilla was so angry she broke off their engagement and returned her $200,000 engagement ring to Marvin.
Marvin was devastated, and we can only guess how much more devastated he was when Priscilla wouldn't answer his calls and texts for more than two weeks, and yet again even more devastated when he took the ring back to Sparkly Exclusives and found they would only give him $75,000 for the "used goods."
Marvin was out $125,000 and one fiancee and girlfriend.
His team, the National Checker League champion Detroit Doublejumpers, had two days off, and Marvin was at home in his shabby little apartment trying to work out a problem in All Checkers Digest. But he just couldn't seem to keep his mind on it. His experience with returning the ring had lent an air of finality to things. He had lost his one true love, and it was time to face up to it.
He must have been on his third beer of the afternoon and was feeling sleepy. (Three beers and a tough checker problem are not a good combination.) He had started to doze off when he heard his doorbell ring. Thinking he was dreaming, he didn't pay any attention but the buzzing continued. Finally realizing that there might actually be someone there, even though he never ever got visitors, he slowly got up from his sofa, and, dodging beer cans and pizza boxes, made his way to the door.
"Hey, quit with the noise already! Who's there?" he said in a grumpy tone.
"Marvin, open up! It's me!"
The voice was familiar. Priscilla.
Marvin paused to think. Was she hear to lecture him or something?
Now Priscilla had quit ringing the bell and was pounding on the door with her fists.
Marvin pulled the door open. "What are you doing ... "
Priscilla shoved past Marvin and strode into the living room.
" ... here?" Marvin concluded.
"This place is a pigsty. There's a reason I never come here except when absolutely necessary, like now," Priscilla said.
"What are you talking about? Did someone kick the bucket or something?"
Priscilla plopped down on the sofa. "Don't you ever clean house?" she asked. "No, no one passed away. But I have a lot to talk to you about."
"Huh ... you dumped me. You wouldn't take my calls. So finally I gave up and took the ring back. And now ... "
"You did what?" Priscilla exclaimed. "Marvin, tell me you didn't. Take the ring back, I mean. Why would you do such a thing?"
"Because you told me we're through!" Marvin was on the verge of tears, something almost unheard of for him.
"Oh, Marvin," Priscilla said, her voice suddenly soft. "Here, sit next to me. I have something to tell you."
Slowly, Marvin did as she asked.
"You see, I got to thinking. Remember how President Frobtads Glulx made a comment about how the company valued dishonesty in the name of profit? Well, that was a big slip-up, and when word got back to the Board of Directors, they fired him."
"Fired him? What for?"
"For what he said. Oh, they weren't worried about honesty. They were worried about bad public relations. And then they had to choose a new President."
"Uh yeah, but ... "
"Well, guess what? They chose me! I'm the President of Rust Belt now! And then I took a cue from you and told the Board that from now on, honesty would be the order of the day. They didn't like it but they knew I meant business. And I owe it all to you, Marvy dear!"
Priscilla put her arm around Marvin and drew him close. "You see," she went on, "you were right about not sacrificing your principles, and not letting Frobtads win that game. I know I was angry at the time, but I was wrong. I should have been proud of you instead. I am proud of you!" Priscilla kissed his cheek. "And now our engagement is back on again!"
"It is? Don't I have anything to say about it?"
"Of course not! You know that I know what's best for both of us. The only thing is, you're going to have to buy another ring and it's going to cost you ... again."
Marvin sighed. "Know what?" he said, "I need another beer."
But he didn't argue with Priscilla, and on his way to the fridge a little smile appeared on his face.
It happened again. Marvin didn't get to solve that problem in All Checkers Digest as he was somewhat "busy" for the next little while, and not with checkers. But you can solve the problem. See how you do with it and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Today we have yet another fascinating checker book to offer to our readers, thanks to a gentleman from Michigan who only wishes to be credited as "A Checker Friend."
The book is the A. C. Hews classic, The Composition of Stroke Problems, extracted from Hews' 1917 classic Stroke Problems. This new edition is fully illustrated with 81 diagrams added by our Checker Friend. There's also a file with PDN notation for each position. It's a treasure trove for fans of the genre.
We know that stroke problems are not for everyone. But this little book gives us great insights into how stroke problem composers go about their business, and if you're a budding stroke problem composer, we're sure you'll find this book a useful stepping stone in your pursuit of this unusual and often spectacular art.
Just for fun, here's one of the positions from the book.
Mr Hews' idea of "easy" may not agree with yours--- or ours! But see if you can solve it without touching the pieces; it's great visualization practice. Then download the book here and look up the solution.
On a Saturday in March, 1955, Sal Westerman was getting ready to go to the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, for the weekly meeting of his beloved Coffee and Cake Checkers Club. It was about 12:45 PM and the gathering started at 1 o'clock.
A glance out the window told him that it was an especially windy day. His wife, Sylvia, sitting on a chesterfield in the living room, remarked, "They said on the radio that the wind is gusting up to 50 miles an hour and might even pick up some more."
Now, Sylvia wasn't sitting alone on the chesterfield. Next to her was her sister, Phoebe, who lived about 90 miles away in Dickinson, North Dakota, and was visiting for the weekend.
Phoebe was, well ... okay, she was Sylvia's sister, after all. But let's just say the Sal preferred it when Sylvia went to Dickinson to visit Phoebe rather than when Phoebe came to Bismarck to visit Sylvia.
"I wouldn't let him go," said Phoebe to Sylvia, ignoring the fact the Sal was in the room. "You know your husband. He's clumsy and old and likely to get blown over and get hurt, and then you'd be stuck taking care of him, and what kind of fun would that be?"
Sal, who had just put on his winter coat and was donning a scarf, looked over at Phoebe but didn't say anything. Phoebe glared back and went on, "I just don't see why you let him spend so much time on that foolish game of his. Don't you have things for him to do around the house? If nothing else, he could clean the basement. The walls need washing down there, and I'm sure there are plenty of other productive things for him to do. Checkers, indeed!" She sniffed as she said this and shook her head for good measure.
Sal had finished dressing for the weather and, deciding discretion was the best option, simply said, "I'm leaving now, I'll see you all just after five this afternoon."
"Just a minute, you!" Phoebe said in a loud, shrill tone. "Didn't you hear a word ... "
Sal didn't hear the rest as the door closed behind him and he started down the street. Or tried to. The wind really was howling and walking wasn't easy.
Luckily it was only a few blocks to the Provident Life Building. But still it took Sal a while and he was five minutes late on arrival.
Five of the "boys" (all of them over 50) were in the big booth at the back. "Look what the wind blew in," exclaimed Delmer. "Literally!" added Dan. Wayne, Louie the Flash, and Tom all laughed as Sal made his way to their location. He plopped down next to Dan and took a deep breath before saying, "I'm going to get even with you boys for that! I've got a new problem from Brian and it's really something!"
The boys groaned in unison. Brian, in St. Louis, was one of Sal's checker pen-pals and he was a top composer with his problems regularly published in All Checkers Digest. His compositions were always clever and never easy.
Deana, the proprietress of the Beacon, a top-notch baker and a great marketeer, called over, "I've got pecan brownies today!"
Now, the tradition was that if the boys couldn't solve Sal's problem, they would buy the treats, but if they could win it, Sal would buy. That meant Sal would buy for all of them, while they only had to buy for him and themselves, but it kind of evened out because Sal got to choose the problem, and he seldom chose a simple one.
Sal laid out the checkers as shown below.
"Go ahead, boys!" he said. "Thirty minutes should be enough!"
"Aw, Sal, give us an hour," said Louie. "Please?"
"Okay, sixty minutes and not a second more!"
Deana arrived to refill everyone's coffee mug but the boys had already started in on the problem
We don't know if it's windy at your place, nor do we know if you have a windy sister-in-law, but give our problem a try and see if you would have won a pecan brownie. You'll have to serve up your own coffee, though. When you're ready click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.[Read More]
The latest entry in Bill Salot's long-running series of top-notch problem composing competitions is titled Virile Variations and features devious problems with "fake" solutions that conceal the real solution. The idea is that the solver will be misled into thinking the fake solution, which is both appealing and almost but not quite correct, is the real one.
A generous selection of six settings make up the contest entries, which you can quickly access by going to contests.checkermaven.com.
As an introduction, here's a sample problem from 1892, attributed to joint authors G. H. Slocum and C. Hefter.
Give this one a try, click on Read More to see the solution (and the fake solution), and then go on over the contest page for six more challenging problems ... and be sure to vote for your favorite![Read More]
In our previous two stories, we told about Priscilla's ultimatum to Marvin, who did indeed go with Priscilla to Sparkly Exclusives to buy her an engagement ring that ran to just under $200,000 after adding in sales tax. Marvin had tried to negotiate but Priscilla told him that was gauche and made him pay full asking price, to the great delight of the tuxedo-clad salesman.
While the wedding date wouldn't be set for some little while, as Priscilla wanted to plan a very lavish affair with hundreds and hundreds of guests, Priscilla's C-suite colleagues, delighted that she had finally become engaged, wanted to throw an engagement party in her honor. They booked it for a Friday evening at Excelsior Estates, a swank country club in the Detroit suburbs where the very wealthy met to play golf on a choice of three pro-caliber 18-hole golf courses, squash in the squash racquets complex, tennis on the four outdoor and six indoor courts, or checkers in the koa-paneled Draughts Room.
It was the kind of affair Marvin would gladly have skipped, but Priscilla said they were going and that was the end of the discussion. Or rather, there wasn't even a discussion in the first place. Furthermore, Marvin would attend in black tie formal wear.
It was only while they were in Priscilla's limo, on the way to the venue, that Priscilla dropped the real bomb.
Marvin was fidgeting with his bow tie, trying to create a little space in the tight collar of his white ruffled shirt, when Priscilla said, "You know, dear, that Excelsior has a draughts room."
Marvin's face brightened a little. "Drafts room? You mean, like, they have German beer on tap and stuff?"
Priscilla gently but firmly slapped Marvin's hand away from his collar. "Draughts as in checkers, Marvin. You know, the game you play so well?"
Marvin started to say something but Priscilla continued, "Some of my colleagues at Rust Belt play in the Executive Egotist League, you know, and they are quite good."
"Oh yeah, really? I don't know about that. Good, huh?"
"Yes, and you'll have your chance to find out just how good they really are."
Marvin suddenly looked wary. "Whaddya mean?"
"You'll be giving a simultaneous exhibition tonight as part of the festivities. You'll play 16 top executives from Rust Belt."
"Oh no I'm not ... I ain't gonna be some kinda show monkey ... "
"Yes you are, and not only that, there is one of them whom you have to let win." Priscilla reached into her purse and pulled out a small slip of paper. "Here, memorize this name. It's the executive you must let win. You can go ahead and win the other fifteen games, but the man on the list is very important and we have to stroke his ego a little."
Now, Marvin was an unusual character, but if he took anything seriously, it was winning. After a quick glance at the paper he said, "Frobtads von Glulx, President, Rust Belt Holdings. Uh, Prissy honey, I ain't gonna do that. If you wanna make me play, I'll do that for you even if I don't like it much. But lose on purpose? Not gonna happen."
"Marvin, I know you and I know how you feel about your checkers. But this will really help me a lot, okay? And it's all just for fun. Frobtads will figure out you let him win, but he'll still have something to boast about. Got it?"
When Marvin didn't reply, Priscilla simply said, "Good."
Marvin and Priscilla were greeted at the ornate clubhouse entrance with much fanfare, and inside a string quartet was playing. The hors d'oeuvres were of the best quality and very plentiful. French champagne was on offer but when Marvin asked one of the servers for a can of beer, he was treated to a snooty look and told, "Monsieur, in this club we drink French champagnes and grand cru wines and only the best single malt Scotches. But if you'd like some Vichy sparkling water ... "
There were the inevitable toasts and wishes for the couple's future happiness. Marvin, who had no patience for slowly sipping expensive imported French beverages, drank uncharacteristically little, although he did find the Shrimp Dijon and Lobster Alsace hors d'oeuvres to his taste.
Then it was time for the simul. Everyone adjourned to the Draughts room, where still more champagne was served. Marvin was introduced to the players, who ranged from Alexander Antagony, Senior Vice President of Hostile Acquisitions, to Zumba Zelarkey, Vice President of Recreational Restructuring, and of course President Frobtads Glulx.
The games began. Marvin found that the players weren't all that bad for amateurs. While he easily and quickly won twelve games, three more took a little longer and wouldn't you know it, the last game was with none other than Frobtads Glulx, and it was quite tight.
The following unusual position arose, with Marvin to play.
It was interesting indeed. Marvin saw pretty quickly that there was a move that would definitely give him a win. However, he saw others that would put Frobtads in a winning position, and given that the Rust Belt President was quite a decent player, he would probably find the right play.
It was a dilemma. Should Marvin do as Prisilla asked, and let Frobtads have a win? Or should he do as he always did, which was always to seize victory when it was within his grasp? That was how he became a top professional player: By never compromising and never settling for less than the best he could do.
"Frobby, old boy," Marvin said, "you've played really well."
Frobtads smiled, even though no one ever but ever dared to call him "Frobby." He said, "Yes, I do think I have, and I'm about to hand you your only loss in this simul."
Marvin straightened up in his chair. "Now wait a minute there Frobster ... "
"President Frobtads," came the reply, "and there's no need for you to be a poor sport just because you're going to lose a game."
Marvin had had enough. "Lose? To you? Yeah, you're good but you ain't good enough to beat ole Marvin J. Mavin."
And Marvin made his move.
Can you find the winning play? Do you dare find the winning play? Luckily, no one's telling you to throw the game, so go ahead and work out the winning moves, after which you can click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.[Read More]