The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

Published every Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

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Logical Checkers 2: Freestyle Expert


Today we're pleased to announce the release of the second volume in Grandmaster Richard Pask's projected five-volume Logical Checkers series. Volume 2 is entitled Freestyle Expert.

Following on the heels of the highly successful first volume, Checkers for the Novice, the new book delves deeply into tactics, endgames and mid-game formations as well as landings and various freestyle (go-as-you-please) openings.

You can get the new book in its first electronic edition from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right column, or directly here. Through Mr. Pask's generosity the book is provided completely free of charge. The book runs to about 180 pages with over 150 diagrams and numerous illustrative games.

To demonstrate one small part of the content of this wonderful new book, here's the run-up to a sample tactics situation.

11-16 24-19 7-11 22-18 3-7 25-22; 10-14??---A 22-17 7-10 17-13 16-20---B, to the diagram.

A---Mr. Pask here quotes Richard Fortman: "This radical departure might be classified as a 'coffee-house' move, but impractical against a former world champion!

B---2-7 29-25 16-20 25-22 14-17 21x14 10x17 19-15 12-16 28-24 17-21 24-19 8-12 15x8 4x11 19-15 7-10 15x8 White Wins---Ed., with KingsRow.

White to Play and Win


To see the solution, simply download the new book and turn to page 123. Our thanks as always to Mr. Pask for according us the privilege of editing and publishing his work.null

01/19/19 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Tommy's JV Debut


Tommy Wagner had, with the help of Uncle Ben (a retired checkers master who wasn't really Tommy's uncle, even though it seemed like it), worked through his disappointment at not making the Varsity Checker Team when he started high school a little earlier this year. Although Tommy was a Class A player, he wasn't yet ready to complete with the experts and the titled master who made up the Varsity.

Tommy Wagner

But Tommy had easily made the Junior Varsity, and, in competition with no less than three other Class A players, had won the role of Junior Varsity Captain. Uncle Ben, who tutored Tommy most Saturday mornings, told Tommy he was very proud of him.

"But you've got your J.V. home opener coming up on Thursday night against Jacksonville Central," Uncle Ben reminded him.


It was indeed a Saturday morning and Tommy was sitting on Uncle Ben's porch, sipping from a glass of Uncle Ben's famous lemonade.

"Yes, Uncle Ben, and I hear they're pretty tough."

"Scouting reports say they have an Expert ranked player on their top board. That's going to be a challenge."

"I'm not afraid, Uncle Ben. I'll give it everything I've got, and I won't let her scare me."

Letitia Wong

"Leticia Wong is said to be a rising star." Uncle Ben didn't add that the scouting reports said the same about Tommy.

"Hopefully, she'll bring out the best in me," Tommy said.

"Very well, then, let's get to practicing."

# # #

Tommy and Uncle Ben practiced longer and harder than usual that Saturday, and Tommy worked hard during the coming week, too. But Thursday rolled around pretty quickly, and on that evening, Tommy found that Leticia was indeed a formidable opponent.


There was a big crowd in the stands. Out on the field, under the lights, the score was tied at 2-2, and Tommy and Leticia's game would decide the match. Tommy really wanted to bring in a win for the home team, and he had White in the following position.

BLACK (Letitia)
WHITE (Tommy)
White to Play, What Result?


It was Tommy's move. He knew he could get a draw, but his team needed a win. The clock was ticking and Tommy was low on time. He had to decide quickly.

Are you a rising star like Tommy or Letitia? Your standing doesn't matter; solving the problem will be a good exercise. Give it your all--- your team is depending upon you--- and then click on Read More for the conclusion of our story, and no less than 14 examples of the theme, including the problem solution.null

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12/15/18 - Printer friendly version
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Double Down


Doubling down: You're playing Blackjack at some fabulous Las Vegas casino and you think you've got two great cards. So you "double down" --- double your bet in the hopes of doubling your winnings.

Alas, it's not that simple. While under the best circumstances your chances of winning are almost 2 out of 3, most of the time you'll just double your losses. Those bright lights and free drinks are paid for by someone.

So, how does "doubling down" apply to this week's Checker Maven column? Read on.

Our Checker School columns for the last few months have featured "gem" problems by G. M. Gibson. Today we bring you the concluding entry in the G. M. Gibson problem series, and it's a practical one.

White to Play and Win


There are two ways to for White to win this. If this were found in a problem competition, that would be kind of a bad thing; dual (or "double") solutions are frowned upon.. But as a teaching position, doubling down (or should we say doubling up) can be instructive, and we're asking you to find both winning lines. Can you double down and do that? Can you find at least one solution? They're closely related, and if you find one, you might just find the other.

Try it (at least twice), and then--- wait for it--- double-click your mouse on Read More once to see all the answers.null

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10/13/18 - Printer friendly version
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The Year of the Checker


1987: Korea and Iran were in the news (sound familiar?). Reagan was President. The stock market had a giant meltdown. And IBM's John Akers declared 1987 to be "The Year of the Customer" leaving us to wonder what other years might have been.

But did you know there was "The Year of the Checker"? Well, those exact words weren't used, and it was only the thought of one writer, but the following quote makes our point.

"... this season finds checkers fast becoming one of the leading popular pastimes, with checker clubs being formed in almost every large city in the country. Team matches are going on, checker columns are appearing in the local papers and the year XXXX will witness the greatest checker gathering of all time ..."

Taken from a checker book, we think this rather effectively declares that "The Year of the Checker" was in progress. We challenge you to name the book and the author, and replace "XXXX" with the year that the author referenced. What year was "The Year of the Checker"? (Hint: It certainly wasn't 1987.)

Although the fortune of our game has declined since, some things are timeless, such as the following problem, which appeared in the book cited above.

Black to Play and Win


The problem isn't especially difficult, though it might be better suited to a more advanced beginner than to a novice. See if this is "the year of the checker" for you; find the solution and then click on Read More to see the winning moves and the answers to our questions.null

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07/28/18 - Printer friendly version
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Checkers for the Novice Now Available


Richard Pask's Checkers for the Novice, the print edition of Logical Checkers Volume 1, is now available from CreateSpace and Amazon[1], and is also available from Amazon UK and Amazon Europe. The 170 page book has been priced very modestly at US $7.49 (exclusive of shipping).

You can download a free PDF version by clicking on the link.

Checkers for the Novice includes substantial corrections and improvements and is the definitive modern guide for newcomers who wish to play checkers well.null

[1] Amazon lists the book with "Richard Pask, Author" and "Bob Newell, Author." This is incorrect. Richard Pask is the sole author. Bob Newell is the editor and publisher.

06/11/18 - Printer friendly version
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We're Dunne


In our long-running Checker School series, we've featured Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. We're almost to the end of that book and this will be the last study from that source. Later, we'll move on to other positions and books of a suitably didactic nature.

It's fitting, then, to be "Dunne" with a position attributed to old-time checker great Frank Dunne.

White to Play and Win


This isn't especially easy, and in Mr. Boland's notes, he points that out but is most unusually judgmental of a player who didn't find the win. In defense of the fellow that lost, this is an 11x11 position and it's easy to stray from the path.

Fortunately, The Checker Maven will never judge; we only encourage, and in this case, we urge you to find the solution. Don't stop until you're Dunne, and then click on Read More for the usual sample games and analysis.null

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05/12/18 - Printer friendly version
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Logical Checkers, Volume One

Photo courtesy Katherine Pask

Richard Pask has retired! Actually the photo above dates back to mid-2017, when Richard did indeed retire from his position as an educator.

But retired, for Richard, may mean something very different from what it means to others; this gentleman has been very busy indeed. Last week we published his revised edition of Complete Checkers, and this week we're proud to put forth the first book in his new series, which is called Logical Checkers.

The series, expected to consist of five volumes, will present a layered approach to checker tuition, from novice through master. Book 1 is the "Novice" guide but it contains much of interest even to a more experienced player. Rules and basic principles, tactics and strategy, common endgames, and an initial opening repertoire (for Go As You Please players) are all presented in 127 full-size pages illustrated with 128 diagrams.

Down the road, after the series is completed, we plan to once again offer a combined edition in both electronic and print formats.

We predict that Logical Checkers will do no less than revolutionize checker tuition.

Richard, once again, is very generously giving us his work free of charge. It can be downloaded here or from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column.

Here's one of the tactical examples given in the book.

White to Play and Win


It's not that hard; this is, after all, a book aimed at relatively new players. But it's nonetheless pleasing. See how quickly you can find the solution and then click on Read More to see how you did. And be sure to grab your copy of the new book. Thank you, Mr. Pask!null

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03/17/18 - Printer friendly version
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Complete Checkers, 2nd Edition

Photo by Katherine Pask

The weather in the Dorset area, on England's south coast, hasn't been so great this winter. The photo above is of a frozen-over window in Richard Pask's home. Brrr!

But if the cold weather has kept Richard indoors, we are the beneficiaries, for today we're pleased to announce the immediate availability of the second edition of Richard Pask's landmark work, Complete Checkers. This edition incorporates about 100 changes, updates, and corrections. The Checker Maven thanks Mr. Pask for the continuing privilege of publishing and presenting his work to you, the checker players of the world.

Of course, the revised book can be downloaded in PDF format, completely free, either here or from our Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column. The printed edition has also been updated and can be obtained from Amazon's US, UK, and European outlets (although going to the expense of replacing your first edition printed copy is by no means necessary).

Here's an example of a new idea in the new edition.

1. 11-15 24-20
2. 8-11

This is Ballot 102.

2. ... 28-24
3. 9-13 22-18
4. 15x22 25x18
5. 3-8 26-22
6. 5-9 30-26
7. 1-5 32-28
8. 9-14 18x9
9. 5x14 22-17
10. 13x22 26x17
11. 11-16 20x11
12. 8x15

Several moves draw here. In the 1st edition, with play attributed to Willie Ryan, Richard showed a draw after 29-25, but in the second edition, 24-19! is presented (also attributed to Ryan). The computer tells us that 24-20 and even 17-13 are also probably draws, although the draws are definitely more difficult than in the line of play after the brilliant 24-19. (For subsequent play after 24-19, refer to the book, game #1748 on page 482.)

But what if White tries a hasty and badly mistaken 31-26? Then we have this:

Black to Play and Win


It doesn't look so good for White, does it? Black indeed has a win. But can you show it over the board? It isn't especially difficult if you know the technique, but it's one of those highly practical things that you simply must know if you're to succeed at the upper levels of the game.

See how you do (are you stuck indoors too?) and then click on Read More to view the solution.null>

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03/10/18 - Printer friendly version
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A Trap With A Tale, Part 4: A Narrow Draw


The photo above shows a very narrow drawbridge somewhere in Holland. Now, in checkers there are bridges and draws, and some of those draws are narrow indeed. Today, we'll look, not at a bridge, but at a narrow draw, which we'll define loosely as one that is difficult to find over the board and requires precise play, hewing to a "narrow" path.

We've been exploring the final part of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard with a series of variations on some rather tricky play. Today, we ask you to join Willie in helping the White pieces find a narrow draw.

Here's the run-up one more time, with just a couple of notes as reminders.

1. 11-16 24-19
2. 8-11 22-18
3. 16-20 25-22
4. 9-13 29-25
5. 11-15 18-11
6. 7-16 22-18---A
7. 20-24 27x11
8. 10-15 19x10
9. 6x29 28-24
10. 29-25 32-27
11. 1-624-19---B
12. 6-9---C

A---Loses. 28-24 and several other moves would draw.

B---Willie claimed that this draws, but the game was lost earlier.

C---Black's winning move was 25-29; now White can draw.

White to Play and Draw


This one is tough, no doubt about it, and the path is indeed narrow and long. Still, it's a really terrific study, filled with checker wisdom. Do give it more than a narrow try before clicking on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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01/27/18 - Printer friendly version
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The Evil Twin


Last month we presented a "twin" problem by Brian Hinkle. Today's Checker School entry is a bit reminiscent of the "twin" idea. Originally found in Ben Boland's classic Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers, Mr. Boland showed a position in which, supposedly, if Black plays then White wins, while if White plays, then Black wins.

But much to our surprise, we found that, in the original edition of the book, the second member of the twin was in error!

The first problem, which Mr. Boland says isn't that difficult for top players, requires quite a lot of nuanced play.

Black to Play, White to Win


The second problem, which existed for many years without the correct solution being found, may prove difficult, but honestly, we thought it was relatively straightforward--- if and only if you find the correct first move, something that eluded the experts. (We understand that the problem terms and solution were corrected in a later edition of Mr. Boland's book.)

White to Play and Draw
(originally White to Play, Black to Win)


It's not a "twin" problem; it's more like the "evil twin." Can you solve both parts? If you can, consider yourself a top player, but in any event, clicking on Read More will show you the solutions, several sample games, and detailed notes and analysis.null

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01/13/18 - 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 2004-2021 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.

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.

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