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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Dangling

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Our heroine above is dangling above --- well, we don't know what. A bottomless ravine? A pit filled with rattlesnakes? A fiery inferno? We can only hope that she finds a way to safety.

Similar situations come up in the game of checkers. Sometimes, a piece is dangling and can't be rescued. Or it might suffer a different fate, or something else altogether.

There's a point to all this. Today's Checker School entry is a very old problem from Joshua Sturges. It isn't especially hard; indeed, it's just about a ten second speed problem. But it's very instructive and rather neat. After you've solved it, you may see why this column has the title that it does, and that "dangling" can have an alternative meaning.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK25,K32,28:BK31,K23,20

The problem is found (among many other places) in the "Problems for Beginners" section of Andrew J. Banks' Checker Board Strategy. We're not sure if a complete beginner could solve it, but it's within reach of anyone above novice level.

Don't let the solution dangle; find it and click on Read More to verify your answer.null

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01/16/21 - Printer friendly version
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On the Banks of the Jordan

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The banks of the Jordan River are fabled, from the days of biblical history right down to the present. The connection with checkers? Well, none, really, except that whenever we hear "banks of the Jordan" we think of the famous Jordan-Banks championship match, which although of biblical proportions, took place during the relatively modern days of November, 1914.

Played in Kansas City, Missouri for the then-fabulous prize of $1,000, the games were memorable and indeed commemorated in a fine match book. Let's take a look at the very first game, which was played after suitable fanfare and ceremony.

Banks had Black and Jordan had White. The 2-move ballot was 10-14 24-20.


1. 10-14 24-20
2. 11-15 22-18
3. 15x22 25x18
4. 6-10 26-22
5. 8-11 27-24

The game continued from here and went on to an eventual draw, as might be expected. But what if White had played 5. ... 28-24 instead? Would that have been a mistake, or just one of several alternatives?

5. ... 28-24 would have led to the following position.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W18,20,21,22,23,24,27,29,30,31,32:B1,2,3,4,5,7,9,10,11,12,14

Would Banks have been able to bank on a win in this case? Of course, Mr. Banks never had to cross that particular Jordan, but it would certainly have been interesting. See what you make of it and then cross your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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01/09/21 - Printer friendly version
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Happy Holidays 2020

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Image courtesy greetings-day.com

This column will appear on December 26, 2020, and we hope you are all enjoying the holiday season. Whatever holidays you may (or may not) celebrate, we do hope this time of year will bring you whatever you may wish for, be that time with family and friends or just a chance to have a little break from the usual.

We like to draw from our favorite historical composers at this time of year, and today we turn to a prolific composer of days past, L. J. Vair. Mr. Vair originally lived in Denver and was known as "The Kolorado Kowboy." He also lived in Ohio, and in his latter years in Auburndale, Florida. Here is a problem that is said to be of a type in which Mr. Vair specialized back in the day.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,K2,K20,24,25:B9,K13,K15,18,K32

This problem is bound to give you holiday cheer, even if you don't live in Colorado, Ohio, or Florida, and even if you're not a "kowboy." Take the time to work it out; it's a real pleaser. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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12/26/20 - Printer friendly version
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A Holiday Visitor at the Beacon Cafe

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The second Saturday in December would mark the last meeting of Bismarck's Coffee and Cake Checker Club until after the start of the New Year. The holidays were a busy time and The Beacon Cafe, where the Club met, would close down so that the proprietor, Deana, could visit her family out in Gackle, North Dakota.

Sal Westerman, the unofficial Club leader, arrived a minute or two after one o'clock and made his way to the big booth at the back of the Cafe. There was a good turnout, with Mike, Dan, Wayne, Sam, Louie, Tom, and seldom seen Old Frank on hand. Sal referred to the group as "the boys" even though they were all over fifty.

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Old Frank

"I hear your daughter Joyce is visiting," Mike said as Sal took a seat.

"Yes, she is," Sal replied, "she hadn't taken any vacation in quite a while so she's here for a little over three weeks. It's really nice to see her."

"Washington must keep her busy," Dan said. "Isn't she working for some sort of fancy law firm?"

"Not only that, she just made partner!" Sal said with obvious pride. "Being a partner at Dark Darker & Darkest was something she'd always dreamed about, and she made it all come true!"

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Joyce Westerman

Just then the door of the Cafe swung open, and a blast of cold air swept in a diminutive figure.

"Joyce! You made it!" Sal exclaimed. Then, turning to the boys, he explained, "Joyce used to play for the Bismarck High School checker team, though she hasn't had a lot of time to play out there in D.C. But she said she wanted to meet everyone at the Club."

The boys offered Joyce the best seat in the booth and introductions were made. "Pleased to meet you at long last," she said. "Dad speaks highly of you and loves his Saturday afternoons here."

Deana, over at her counter, called out, "Hey, aren't you going to introduce me too?"

Joyce got up at once and went over to greet Deana. "I've heard about your baking," Joyce said. "Everyone says there's nothing like it."

Deana pulled a plate from under the counter. "Here, on the house for our special guest," she said. "Holiday cinnamon bars." Deana made sure she said the latter loud enough for the boys to hear.

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"Thank you," Joyce said. She carried her plate back over to the big booth and retook her seat.

"Cinnamon bars," Old Frank said. "I could use one of those. Why don't you show us what you have for this week, Sal? Then you'll be buying after we solve it!"

Sal smiled. "Something from Ed," he said. Ed was Sal's checker penpal out in Pennsylvania. "Not so easy. Cinnamon bars for me, I think."

"Lay it out," Tom said, "and we'll see about who buys!"

Sal arranged the checkers on a couple of the awaiting checkerboards. "Here you go," he said, "you can have half an hour."

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W9,K14,K17,20,K30:B5,11,K19,23,26


Deana's cinnamon bars look really good. Can you win a virtual one? See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.null

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12/19/20 - Printer friendly version
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St. Maurice

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St. Maurice may or may not have been a real person, with the real truth buried by centuries of elapsed time. Whether fact or legend, the story goes that he was the commander of the Theban Legion in the late third century CE. The legion was stationed in Agaunum, which today is known as St. Maurice en Valais in Switzerland. As a testament to the reach of the Roman Empire, the legion was actually raised in Egypt. The story continues that this legion, itself made up of Christians, was martyred for refusing to persecute local Christians. Oddly enough, St. Maurice became more honored in Germany than in Switzerland although his supposed remains were eventually returned to present-day St. Maurice en Valais.

The composer of today's Checker School problem is one C. E. St. Maurice, about whom we could find no ready information. Is he in some way connected to the famed St. Maurice? With a gap of 16 centuries and a potentially mythical story, it seems unlikely, but one never knows.

What we do know is that Mr. St. Maurice's problem is clever and satisfying, and illustrates a couple of important tactical themes. We rate it as on the lower edge of medium difficulty.

C. E. St. Maurice, 1892
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK14,15,22,26:B1,6,13,K30

The solution to the problem is real, not mythical, and neither do you need to be a saint to solve it. Some "real analysis"[1] will bless you with the solution. When you're ready, click on Read More to check your work.

[1] We're of course talking about checker analysis, not the "real analysis" branch of mathematics.null

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12/12/20 - Printer friendly version
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Yin and Yang

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Yin and Yang. Opposites that are bound together as a whole. This ancient Chinese philosophy encapsulates the concept of dualism, wherein seeming opposites can actually be interconnected and interdependent, the one giving rise to the other. We'll leave it to you to explore the ideas of dialectical monism and how Yin and Yang are reflected in Taoist, Confucianist, and other philosophical realizations. It's a deep topic indeed and could form the basis for a lifetime of study.

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Alex Moiseyev

Champion checkerist Alex Moiseyev has created a checker problem which he says embodies concepts of Yin and Yang. It's an amazing problem, itself deep and difficult. In fact, master problem composer Brian Hinkle has this to say about it, and it is through Brian's auspices that The Checker Maven is presenting the problem in its first-ever public appearance.

This 9x10 bridge with five Kings called 'Yin And Yang' composed by Alex Moiseyev is one of best checker problems I have ever seen. Master checker players may find it challenging to solve. I enjoyed the pretty solution so much that I looked at it about four times a day for a week!

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W6,7,10,11,12,K15,16,24,25,28:B1,3,4,9,K17,K19,K23,K26,27

No, it's not easy, but yes, it's really something and well worth taking the time to study and appreciate. See how far you can go with it. Search for its echoes of dialectical monism. Discover its inherent, interconnected dualism. Finally, click on Read More for the solution, notes, and some background on the problem's genesis.null

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12/05/20 - Printer friendly version
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Thanksgiving Weekend 2020

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It's Thanksgiving weekend, our favorite holiday time of the year, and we recognize that we have much to give thanks for. While it's been an extraordinarily difficult year for all of us, and many have suffered loss, there is always hope for the future. Our society hasn't collapsed. Our nation is intact and will eventually heal. At The Checker Maven we believe that if we all do our part, work together, and take care of each other, we will come out stronger in the end.

So we give thanks and we are grateful for what we have. We mourn our losses but we carry on undeterred.

Thanksgiving is often a time for us to turn to American checkerist Tom Wiswell for one of his wonderful checker problems. We think Mr. Wiswell's life and work embodied the spirit of this holiday and of our times, for as we've noted before, he too did his part to help America through dark days.

Mr. Wiswell titled the problem below "Companion Piece" because it relates to another similarly-themed problem in his book Checker Magic. It's a bit of a complex setting, making it a good candidate for a holiday weekend.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:WK2,20,21,23,24,29,31:B3,5,7,8,11,14,22

See how you do, then click on Read More for the solution, notes, and run-up to the position.null

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11/28/20 - Printer friendly version
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Hopeless: A Speed Problem

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Some situations are just plain hopeless. In real life, we still need to carry on and make the best of things. There's no other way.

But over the checkerboard, sometimes it's truly game over. In this respect we're glad checkers doesn't mirror real life. It's a game. A great game, but fortunately, a game.

Here's just such a situation. It looks pretty tough for White, but there is indeed a ray of hope--- a pretty large one, as it turns out.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W14,16,20,26,28,30,32:B5,7,8,12,18,19,23

This one is actually pretty easy. Sometimes when things look down there is a simple answer right in front of us, if only we can see it.

We hope you can find the solution, but in any case you can always click on Read More to see how it's done.null

[Read More]
11/07/20 - Printer friendly version
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Editor's Choice

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Checker Maven Editor's Office

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.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK8,26,K30:B16,24,K29

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.null

[Read More]
10/17/20 - Printer friendly version
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Mr. Hatley in the Library of Congress

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Mr. Hatley

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.


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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.

A. E. Clow
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK3,26,K32:B18,24,25

Mr. Hatley also gave Ned a second example in the same vein, credited to David Kirkwood way back in 1875.

David Kirkwood
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W9,12,15:BK1,3,K31

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.null

[Read More]
10/10/20 - 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 2004-2021 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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