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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Checker Maven Special Edition

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Many of us in the checker community are older and may have underlying health issues that put us at higher risk from the current virus epidemic, so we need to stay at home. Many others are under mandate to do the same. But no matter who we are or where we are, it's a good idea.

That gives us a lot of potentially unoccupied time. Correspondent Brian Hinkle suggested that this would be a good moment for checker fans to attempt deep and difficult checker problems.

Hence this special edition, in which we present one of Brian's own compositions, one which he considers to be challenging indeed. We won't be publishing the solution for two weeks in order to give you a chance to really dig into it.

Even if you're closer to novice than expert, this problem is worth your while. Maybe you'll solve it, maybe you won't, but you'll likely pass quite some time with good checker entertainment, and perhaps be distracted a little when you need it the most.

Here's the position, without further commentary. Good luck!

Problem CV-1
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK2,K4:B5,9,12

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

03/25/20 - Printer friendly version
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Fatal Squeeze

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This woman is either brave and skilled, or courting disaster, risking a fatal squeeze from a huge, powerful snake.

Today in our Checker School series, we return to the adventures of Skittle and Nemo, as found in Andrew Banks' Checker Board Strategy. The title of our column is a big hint for the solution to the problem below, so we're not giving much more away when we note that Skittle warned Nemo, "Always look well before you squeeze a piece."

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W14,K24,28:BK19,K22

White has just blundered badly by playing 27-24. (White really should have won, so for extra credit, give a better move for White.)

This one is super easy and probably will be solved at once by players of any level above novice. (We like to have a balance in our columns; we don't want to squeeze anyone out by just publishing difficult positions.) When you've found the solution, check your work by squeezing the mouse button with the cursor on Read More.null

[Read More]
03/14/20 - Printer friendly version
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Some Things Don't Work Out

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Looks like something didn't work out in the photo above. Maybe whoever is responsible needs to try again, or try a little harder in the first place.

This month's speed problem--- we'll call it that because it's on the easy side, if not quite in the 10 second category--- illustrates the concept. Not everything works out. If you can see what doesn't work out, you'll find the solution right away.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W14,15,19,23,31:B6,7,8,12,16

Once again we won't use our Javascript clock; just do the best you can to sort out right from wrong. And something that's right for sure: clicking on Read More will show you the solution.null

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03/07/20 - Printer friendly version
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Leap Year Day

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It's a rare occurrence for The Checker Maven: we're publishing a column on February 29, or Leap Year Day. It's something that will happen only once every 28 years.

Leap Year is an interesting and rather brilliant concept. You can read about it online, so we'll only say that it's the way our calendar, the Gregorian calendar, keeps in amazingly close synchronization with the solar calendar (we'll perhaps discuss the concept of 'leap seconds', which deal with the gradual slowing of the earth's rotation, at another time).

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What has this got to do with our game of checkers? Well, we think Leap Year Day is a great occasion for a checker problem with a lot of leaping--- namely, a stroke problem! So, without further ado, here's today's position.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W12,K14,15,K17,19,23,24,27,K32:B1,4,5,7,18,20,K21,26,K29

We'd have to rate this one as quite high on the difficulty scale, especially if you try to sight solve without moving the pieces. But the solution is very pleasing--- if you can find it. And yes, there's lots and lots of leaping.

So take a leap of faith (in your powers of analysis) and jump right into this problem. Later on, when you've either solved it or become hopping mad with frustration, pounce on Read More to see the solution.null

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02/29/20 - Printer friendly version
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02-22-2020

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This column will appear on a very interesting date, in a very interesting week. How often do we see dates like 02-20-2020 and 02-22-2020? There will be another such repetition in 2022, but then we'll have to wait until 03-03-3003 for something similar. Perhaps The Checker Maven may have even ceased publication by then, although one never knows.

This week's dates give a bit of a hint toward today's problem and today's theme. See if you can figure it out. Here's the position.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B10,17,20:W30,31,32

This is definitely not an easy problem. Although it will be made easier if you can correctly identify the theme, it may still be at or near master level. But no matter what your skill level, we urge you to try it. And no matter how much or how little progress you make, please take the time to click on Read More to see the solution and one of the most interesting sets of notes and commentary we've published in recent times.null

[Read More]
02/22/20 - Printer friendly version
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Symmetrical

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Symmetry. We've featured this before, and it's worth featuring again, as it's a powerful concept. In art, symmetry is well-known, but the idea occurs in many realms, even including philosophy. And symmetry can be a very effective tool in the sciences, enabling us to demonstrate something such as the fact that the gravitational force between two isolated objects has to be in a straight line between them.

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All of this brings us, in a certain way, to today's Checker School study, shown below.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W16,K18,19,23:BK13,K17,22

Today's position exhibits a certain kind of symmetry, at least in overall appearance, although forces are unbalanced. And there's the challenge: how is Black to achieve a piece-down draw? It's all a matter of technique and knowledge, and yes, it can be done, as unlikely as it may appear.

So give this a balanced look and see how you can even things up. When you've found a solution, move your mouse--- symmetrically--- to Read More to check your work.null

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02/15/20 - Printer friendly version
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Barker's Triangle

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In our modern day, a certain Jack Barker has written a book about "The Conjoined Triangles of Success" which supposedly will guide you to running a startup company that thrives. Engineering and Manufacturing meet Sales and Growth along the hypotenuse of Compromise.

We can't really speak to this methodology, but there is another Barker and another triangle that predates the modern interpretation by over 100 years. It's a study by the famed checkerist C. F. Barker, and his position, shown below, is often known as Barker's Triangle.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W11,K15,K22:BK4,5,23,28

We've got to say this problem is one of the most instructive we've ever come across. Why it's called a 'triangle' will become clear when you find the solution. So, give it a good effort and then triangulate your mouse on Read More to see how it's done.null

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01/18/20 - Printer friendly version
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A Winter Saturday at the Beacon Cafe

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The holidays were over and now North Dakota was in the depths of winter. With even daytime temperatures often well below zero and plenty of snowy days, residents of Bismarck tended to spend as little time out of doors as possible.

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Sal had arrived early at the Beacon Cafe for the regular Saturday afternoon session of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, and he was warming himself with a steaming hot cup of Deana's coffee. Deana, the proprietor, made good coffee and even better desserts, surely the best for miles around.

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Sal

The boys--- that's what Sal called the other members of the club, even though they were all over fifty--- were still stinging a little from the beating they took when Sal challenged them, just before the holidays, with his friend Brian's 6x6. Sal chuckled to himself. They were going to get another surprise today.

The boys started to file in out of the cold, all of them wearing winter parkas, wool caps, heavy gloves, and fur-lined boots. One by one they joined Sal at the big booth in the back. Wayne, Louie, Larry, and Delmer were there, and to everyone's surprise, so was Kevin, who only showed up a couple of times a year.

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Spooler

"Hey Spooler, seeing you're here for a change, you buying today?" Wayne asked. Kevin went by the nickname Spooler for reasons not really known to anyone.

"Buying what?" Kevin asked innocently.

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"Caramel rolls," Deana called over from behind her counter. "Just baked a fresh tray of them. Great with coffee, especially on a day like this." Deana was, among many other things, a great promoter of her wares.

Everyone looked at Sal. "Okay, what've you got?" Larry asked. "Make it a good one so Spooler can buy for everyone."

"Just so happens," Sal said, "there's one from Ed that he calls 'Code Breaker.'" Ed, from Pennsylvania, was Sal's other checker penpal.

"Is it as hard as that one from Brian last month?" Delmer asked.

"See for yourself," Sal said, as he set up the following position on his favorite checkerboard.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B2,3,12,13,20,22,26,K27:W10,16,24,25,K8,K18,K19

"Oh, that doesn't look too ..." Spooler began, but then he stopped. "Uh ... wait a minute ..."

Everyone laughed. But only for a moment, for they were all soon busy examining the checkerboard.

"Fifteen minutes I'll give you," Sal said, but the concentration was so deep his words went unheard.

"Time's up," Sal said a quarter of an hour later.

"I've got it," Larry said. "Let me show you. It's just like ..."

"NO!" Wayne, Delmer, and Louie shouted all at once. "We want Spooler to pay today," Delmer pointed out.

"Aw, c'mon guys, I don't know how to do it," Spooler said. "You just want me to pay because I don't come every week.

Heads nodded in unison. "Not even every month," Wayne pointed out.

"But, okay," Spooler said. "I'll buy ... if Larry really has it right."


This really fine problem by master problemist Ed Atkinson is challenging but solvable, and the promise of one of Deana's caramel rolls would be too much for anyone to resist. Can you solve it? We urge you to give it a good trial. Now, we don't know if anything like The Beacon Cafe is in your area, but coffee and cake are certainly in order if you make a genuine effort. When you're ready, click on Read More for the solution and the rest of the story.null

[Read More]
01/11/20 - Printer friendly version
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Starting the New Year

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The New Year 2020 is here and we've already been subject to all too many jokes about 2020 vision and so on. So let's skip all that and, while wishing all our readers the best of the New Year, we'll jump right into a nice little speed problem sent by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon. We won't use our Javascript clock this month. The problem isn't at all difficult but we thought we'd give you a chance to "ease" into the New Year.

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK7,19,28,29,32:B3,8,10,11,22,K26

Black is a piece up but White is about to even the count. How can Black win?

Even if you're still feeling the results of your New Year's Eve party, you can solve this one. Find the solution and then click on Read More to check your work.null

[Read More]
01/04/20 - Printer friendly version
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Marvin's New Year's Eve

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Priscilla Snelson, Chief Operating Officer for the international conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings in Detroit, was putting on an exclusive New Year's Eve party at her upscale condo in the swanky suburb where she resided.

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Priscilla Snelson

The party was what you would expect from someone of her business standing. Only top executives and wealthy friends were invited. The food was catered from a company run by a three-star Michelin chef. The music came from Priscilla's ten thousand dollar custom audio system.

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Marvin J. Mavin

Of course, Marvin J. Mavin, Priscilla's long-time boyfriend--- although she referred to him as her "beau"--- was there. Not exactly by invitation; high end parties weren't his thing. More by fiat. Priscilla had told him that he was to be there or else, and that was the end of the discussion.

Everyone was circulating around the huge living room and kitchen, drinks in hand, making small chitchat.

Marvin was bored out of his mind. As Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, one of the top teams in the National Checker League, his interests definitely didn't run to the price of scrap tin in Kurdistan or the molybdenum futures market.

No, Marvin liked a good beer or two. Or more. And this party was definitely one of those "more" occasions.

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So, at some point into the evening, Marvin was on perhaps his fifth beer--- he had lost track of the exact count--- and he was starting to feel pretty loose and relaxed.

At that moment Priscilla, who until now had been far too busy with her guests to pay much attention to Marvin, came over to where he was standing, a young girl in tow.

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Harriet Liang

"Marv," she said, "I'd like you to meet ..." Priscilla stopped in mid-sentence when she saw that Marvin was in a somewhat zozzled state.

"Oh, dear," she said, "maybe another time."

"Oh, no, no, Auntie Prissy!" the little girl piped up. "I want to meet Captain Marvin! He's my hero! Some day I'm going to grow up to be a checker star just like him!"

"Another time, dear," Priscilla said, but Marvin interjected, "Yeah, Prissy! She wants to meet her hero! Ain'tcha gonna let her?"

Priscilla scowled, but she knew she was trapped. "Very well, then," she said, "Marvin, this is Harriet Liang. She plays for her grade school checker team over in Dearborn, and she's very good."

Marvin leaned down to shake hands. "Nice to meet ya," he said, his voice a bit slurred.

"Auntie Prissy, why is Captain Marvin talking so funny?" Harriet asked.

"Oh, it's just because ... well, never mind that," Priscilla said. "Now, why don't you show Uncle Marvin your problem."

Harriet beamed, "Oh wow, yes!" She pulled a sheet of paper from the pocket of her dress. "Here, Captain Marvin. It's a checker problem, and my uncle Brian said to try it out on you!"

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play, White to Win

B:W10,K20,22,30:B13,14,K19

Marvin looked at the diagram and then looked puzzled. "Hey, what's a little kid like you doing at an adult party ..."

"Her Uncle Brian, from St. Louis, is working on a major deal with us, and he asked me if I would introduce his niece to you."

"I see," Marvin said. "The old you scratch my back I scratch yours routine, hey?" He reached for Priscilla's arm but she stepped back away.

"Okay, okay." Marvin turned to Harriet. "Well, let's see now, this should be easy, you just ... hmm, no, I guess you don't. Suppose you ... nope, doesn't work either."

"Captain Marvin, I solved in four minutes and my coach told me I was very smart!" Harriet said.

Marvin now regretted having those last couple of beers. If only he could think straight! Then Priscilla, as if she had read his mind, said, "I hope you learn something from this. Come on, Harriet, let's get you a soda and a snack. I think Captain Marvin is going to need a while."


It's pretty clear that drinking too much didn't lead to a good outcome; after all, it never does. Can you keep a clear head and solve the checker problem that Marvin, in his "zozzled" state, couldn't handle? Little Harriet won praise for her rapid solution. How well can you do?

Try it out and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.null

[Read More]
12/28/19 - 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 © 2004-2020 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.

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.


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