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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An Exercise in Technique

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The great guitarist Andres Segovia once said, in effect, that technique either advances or retreats; it never stays the same. Of course, he was talking about the classical guitar, but the same applies to the game of checkers. We need to constantly strive to improve our technique and not allow it to slip back.

In today's Checker School entry, we divert briefly from our "gem" problems and present an exercise in endgame technique. It's a bit on the long side, but it's very instructive.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK15,K20,K28,K30:B5,K27,K29,K32.

White has a win on the board; that's probably obvious to the experienced eye. But the win takes patience and the skilled application of technique. Can you find the winning path? It's well worth your time and effort; do give it a solid try before you click on Read More to see the details.null

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05/18/19 - Printer friendly version
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Diagramless

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Diagramless.

A diagramless crossword puzzle is exactly what the name implies--- you get the clues but no diagram. You've got to figure out the diagram on your own. Quite the challenge.

Diagramless checker problems exist, too. They're not nearly as insidious as a diagramless crossword; they are simply problems published without a diagram, just a listing of what pieces go on what squares.

Now, in today's column, we won't put you through the exercise of visualizing the board without benefit of a diagram. In doing so, we're really not keeping with the 'diagramless' theme, but we suspect that you, our valued reader, will prefer this slight breaking of the rules.

This one is credited to John Tonks who was from West Lorne, Ontario, back in the day.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W9,13,15,19,21:B1,2,7,14,K26.

Now, 'diagramless' is not 'clueless' so don't be clueless yourself; the problem isn't terribly hard, although it does have a clever twist. And we'll clue you in: clicking on Read More will show you the solution.null

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05/11/19 - Printer friendly version
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Not Quite So Fast

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Hey, slow down a bit! What's the rush?

At times things just take a little longer. The driver of the car above is likely headed for trouble.

In the game of checkers, not everything can be done quite so quickly all the time, so this month we have a speed problem that, while not so hard, might take a bit longer, and we've dispensed with the Javascript clock. Take as much time as you need--- although we suspect it won't be too very much. Maybe.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W18,21,22,23,24,26,27,28,30,31,32:B2,3,4,5,8,9,11,12,13,14,15.

The procedure is straightforward, you just have to think it through a little. Mind the speed limits, solve the problem, and then hasten--- cautiously--- to click on Read More to see the solution.null

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05/04/19 - Printer friendly version
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Published in 1885

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Quite a bit happened in the year 1885. Grover Cleveland became President of the United States. The French were at war in Indo-China. Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado premiered. And last but certainly not least, a patent was granted to an African-American woman, Sarah E. Goode, for, of all things, a cabinet bed.

While much less noteworthy on a global scale, the following checker problem also first appeared in 1885. It's an interesting and practical study in winning checker technique.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W18,20,21,22,23,25,27,28,29,31,32:B1,3,4,5,8,9,11,13,14,15,16.

This is of course 2019, not 1885. Grover Cleveland is long gone, the French left Indo-China decades ago, the The Mikado has become a treasured part of operatic history, and modern variants of the cabinet bed can be found everywhere. But can you solve this relatively timeless checker problem? We think it's as fresh now as it was some 134 years ago. Put it to bed, and then click your modern mouse on Read More to see the solution.null

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04/27/19 - Printer friendly version
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Full Time

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Working full-time. It's a necessity for nearly all of us if we're to make our way in the world. It's often a chore, but we accept it as a normal part of life. Does anyone still earn a living through full-time work with the game of checkers? We doubt it, and indeed, even in the heyday of the game, few were able to do so.

We're certain that the author of today's Checker School position, one F. T. Desmond, wasn't a full-time checkerist, either--- while we don't know what "F. T." stood for, it surely wasn't "Full Time." Nonetheless, the study is a good one.

BLACK
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WHITE
Black to Play and Win

B:WK18,K23,30:B17,21,K31,K32.

White has just played 19-23. Too bad; 19-24 would have obtained a man-down draw (can you see it?). Now Black should win and it's hardly a full-time job to find the solution.

See if you can solve it, and after that, go back and show a draw after the alternative 19-24. Spend your time well and fully, and then it will be time to give a full click on Read More to see the solutions.null

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04/13/19 - Printer friendly version
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Once More Into The Breeches

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"Once more into the breeches" is a common saying, generally meaning, "let's try again." It's a misquote of "once more unto the breeches" which is in turn a misquote of "once more unto the breach" as spoken by King Henry in Shakespeare's Henry V.

Breeches in checkers has a specific tactical meaning; a king slips in-between two opposing pieces and will capture one or the other on the next move. And "breeches" may or may not be a hint for today's speed problem.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK10,13,K14,K15:B5,K16,K22,K28,K30.

Can you breach the gap and find the solution quickly? Don't get caught with your breeches (britches?) down! Find the solution and then let your mouse breach Read More to check your answer.null

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04/06/19 - Printer friendly version
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Four Kings

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Marvin J. Mavin was in Pelham, Alabama, on the occasion of the Alabama State Fair, where he had just given a simultaneous exhibition. As Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a very strong team in the National Checker League, Marvin was in great demand.

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Marvin J. Mavin

The previous evening, the Doublejumpers had played a team exhibition against the Birmingham Crimson Cross, a leading team in the Triple-A Southern League, and while the Doublejumpers took the match by a score of 8-2, the hometown crowd enjoyed every minute of it.

Tonight, Marvin's simul had gone well. Out of fifty boards, Marvin won 46 and drew 4 against mostly amateur league opponents. But, like all such exhibitions, it was hard work, and Marvin was ready to relax.

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Priscilla K. Snelson

His long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson, had a rare few days off from her corner-office executive job at a major company, and had joined Marvin in Pelham. She was eager to explore the sights and attractions of the State Fair, and while Marvin was more interested in finding a cold pitcher of beer, he did as Priscilla wished.

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It was after they had gone on a couple of rides and eaten some cotton candy that Priscilla noticed a drab tent marked Fortune Teller.

"Don't you think that's odd, Marvin?" she said, pointing to the tent. "The sign is hand-lettered and kind of crude and the tent has certainly seen better days. Seems like a strange way to attract clients."

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Marvin, who had spied the Bama Beer Garden a little ways further down the path, mumbled something and tried to lead Priscilla in that direction. But she pulled back a little and said, smiling, "Marvin, let's get our fortunes told!"

Marvin sighed. "Aw, you don't believe in that stuff, Prissy. C'mon, let's go ..."

"Of course I don't believe in it. But it's just for fun. Marvin, do this for me, would you?"

There was no resisting. Priscilla was charming and she had her ways. "Okay, Prissy," he said, "but can we make it fast? I'd kinda like to ..."

Priscilla smiled again. "Okay, Marvey, I know you want a beer. We'll just get a quick reading."

"Aw, don't call me Marvey, willya?"

"Then don't call me Prissy." She grabbed Marvin's hand and pulled him toward the tent.

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When the couple opened the flap and stepped inside, they were greeted by a dimly lit interior, with a dirt floor covered only by a cheap rug that looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since it left the factory. At the back of the tent, behind a card table, sat a large woman of something beyond middle age, dressed in a colorful robe and wearing a tired-looking turban that might have once been white. And was that a whiskey bottle that the woman was trying to surreptitiously hide behind her seat?

"Welcome, welcome," the woman said in the crackly, low voice of a heavy smoker. "What brings you here?"

"Pretty obvious, don't ya think?" Marvin said.

"Marvin! Be polite!" Priscilla hissed. "We'd like our fortunes told," she said to the woman. "Maybe just the short version."

"Fortunes ... oh, yeah, sure ... just a minute." The woman appeared to take a moment to compose herself, and then began, "Step into my realm, a place of light and darkness, in which all things can be seen by those with the power to discern events that are yet to come. Sit thee down and listen, and I shall tell thee many secrets." She made a flowery gesture toward two metal chairs by the card table.

"Corny, if you ask me," Marvin whispered, rather loudly.

"Stop it!" Priscilla commanded as she and Marvin took the proffered seats.

"How much?" Marvin asked bluntly, but the woman ignored him.

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Closing her eyes and making circles over the card table with her hands, she said, "Ah, I see much to come for the two of you. You shall go through trials but you shall survive them." She made more circles. "But just barely." She glanced quickly at Priscilla's left hand. "You shall marry, but it will not be until the sun and the moon grant their blessings. Let me see your palms," she said.

Priscilla extended her right hand, and with her left hand, pulled Marvin's own right hand forward.

The woman used a forefinger to trace patterns in Marvin's hand.

"Hey, that tickles!" he said, laughing.

"I see you are a checker player," she said.

"How did you ... oh ... the brochure." Marvin's photo had appeared in the State Fair brochure, advertising his exhibition.

"You travel much," the woman said, and then noticing Priscilla's quick glance at Marvin, "and so do you," she went on, now looking at Priscilla.

"Oh, cut the baloney," Marvin said. He pushed back his chair and sat up.

The expression on the woman's face changed. "Baloney, huh," she said, the tone of mystery now completely gone from her voice. "Listen boy, this is what I do for a living, just like you play checkers. But if you want to be rude I'll teach you a little respect."

"Whaddya mean?" Marvin said.

"Yeah, you need a lesson, and I've got a checker problem that I betcha you can't solve."

"What? I'm a champion player, and anyhow what do you know about checkers?"

"I know I got one that you can't figure. This ain't no coffee and cake deal. Now put up or shut up. A hundred bucks says you can't get it."

"Hah!" Marvin said. "Five hundred, then!"

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"Marvin, what are you doing!" Priscilla said. She was still seated and turned to the woman. "I'm sorry. We should be going. What do we owe you?"

"Forget it, lady," the woman said. "I'm taking that bet from your boy here. Five hundred it is."

Priscilla stood. "Marvin, you're a top flight professional. You can't take her money like this. It's not fair."

"Butt out! This is between me and your high-falutin' checker player!" the woman said.

"Whatever!" Priscilla forcefully said. "Marvin, if you won't come along with me this instant, I'm leaving on my own."

"Honey ... "

"Don't honey me!" Priscilla turned on her heel and strode out of the tent, letting the flap fall behind her.

The woman pulled a checkerboard and a box of pieces from somewhere off to the side. Quickly she set up a position.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W9,13,15,19,23,27,32:B3,8,16,K1,K2,K12,K20.

"There you are, smart guy. I'll give you, oh, eight minutes instead of just five."

"You're on," Marvin said. He sat back down and started to study the board. After a few seconds, he said, "Black to play and win, right?"

The woman smirked. "White to play and win," she replied.

"Nah ... Black has four kings against none! You sure you set this up right?"

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"White to play and win. Eight minutes for five hundred bucks. And the clock is ticking. Want a shot?" She started laughing, a strange deep sound that gave Marvin the shivers. "This kind of shot," she said, pulling the whiskey bottle from behind her chair.

"You ain't got a beer, do ya?" Marvin asked, but there was no reply. The woman took a swig from the whiskey bottle and watched as Marvin slowly began to sweat.


Would you bet five hundred US dollars on your ability to find a White win in just eight minutes? Do you agree with Marvin that the terms of the problem must be incorrect? Better stay away from anything stronger than coffee while you work this one out. When you're ready you can click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.null

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03/30/19 - Printer friendly version
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Vesuvius

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Italy's Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano, has a storied history; the painting above illustrates its eruption in the year 79 C.E., a catastrophic event that obliterated the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The painting is by Jacob Philipp Hackert and dates to 1845; in 2009, it sold at auction for a rather steep 138,000 Euros.

Now, in checkers, there is the famous (or maybe not so famous) Vesuvius Shot, which "buries" 14 pieces from both White (Pompeii, if you wish) and Black (Herculaneum). But there's something else that's buried here. Checker enthusiast Manon Pruitt, of Nashville, North Carolina, used the Kingsrow ML computer engine to help dig it out, and we extended the analysis to find something deeper still. The starting position comes from play in Wood's Checker Studies.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Move and Win?

B:W13,16,21,23,24,25,27,29,30,32:B2,3,5,6,7,11,14,15,18,20.

The following continuation is given in the original publication:


1. 15-19 24-8
2. 3-26 30-23
3. 20-24 27-20
4. 18-27 32-23
5. 14-17 21-14
6. 6-9 13-6
7. 2-27 25-22

At this point Mr. Pruitt found, using KingsRow, that 25-21 instead of 25-22 would draw, thus overturning the problem conditions. But we investigated further and determined that in fact the published move, 25-22, also draws! There is a flaw in the ensuing published play. Here's position after 25-22.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, White to Draw

B:W20,22,29:B5,7,27.


8. 27-31 22-18
9. 7-10 20-27
10. 31-27 25-21
11. ... 10-14

Black would now win if the above play were correct, but it's not. Your challenge is to correct it.

Don't explode or erupt. Stay calm, and you'll find the solution, after which you can let your mouse vent on Read More to see the answers.null

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03/23/19 - Printer friendly version
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The First Move

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It's clear in the picture above that those two are attracted to each other, but they are equally clearly agonizing over who should make the first move.

In a checker problem, the first move is often critical, too.

We've written before about the excellent practice site Checker Cruncher, and we do stop by there every so often to try our luck on the site's large collection of interactive checker problems. We highly recommend it.

Site creator Brooks Thomas kindly gave us permission to republish Checker Cruncher problems that we find interesting, and the one below got our attention.

Naturally, it's all about that first move. There's only one move to win; everything else will draw or even lose.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W13,19,22,23,24,28,30,31:B1,2,5,10,7,11,12,21.

Can you make the first move by finding the first move? Solve the problem, and then make your next move clicking on Read More to check your answers.null

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03/16/19 - Printer friendly version
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Miles To Go

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In his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening the immortal American poet, Robert Frost, wrote these equally immortal words:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Today's Checker School "Gem" problem is by the somewhat less immortal checkerist Miles R. Smith. It's really quite nice, and we wish history had preserved more about Mr. Smith.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK18,K19,K21:B22,23,26,K30.

Black is a piece up, but looks to be in a precarious situation; he can't avoid giving the piece back, hoping for a draw ... or is there another way? Can Black manage to still win this one? Miles to go before Black sleeps ...

See how far you travel in solving this one, then move your mouse inches ... not miles ... to click on Read More to see the solution.null

[Read More]
03/09/19 - 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 © 2004-2019 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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