In order to avoid reuse of the "golf stroke" pun, we've gone with a tennis stroke instead. The point is that winter in North America seemed especially tough this year (or at least so we hear), and we'd bet that many of you are happy to be able to get out and make a few strokes on the tennis court or golf course.
But, as a checker fan, surely you'll come back in at the end of the day, and, perhaps after dinner, want to take on a checker stroke, one of those mind-bending fantasy problems that may not be practical but certainly provide great visualization practice. With that in mind, here's one that we would not call easy.
Take a swing at this rather entertaining position, then swing your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.
 This year we did not have snow in Honolulu(!) although the temperature did get as cold as 62F/17C.[Read More]
Although your editor's degrees are in engineering, he's definitely not the kind of engineer shown above. Those engineers certainly earn a very nice living, and we suspect that quite a number of them play checkers while on the road.
Today's little problem was published decades ago by someone who simply called himself "The Engineer." We have no further information on who he might have been. Did he design bridges? Refine oil? Drive a train? Perhaps someone out there on the internet might know, but for now it remains an intriguing mystery.
His checker problem, though, won't stay a mystery for long.
Despite the sometimes unfair (and annoying!) "what result" terms, the problem is fairly easy if you take an engineering approach and do a little organized analysis. No slide rules required, just some orderly checker thinking. Do your calculations and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
New privacy regulations soon go into effect in the EU and, given that we have a worldwide readership, we're publishing this privacy notice.
Your privacy is important to us. Information that we don't have can't be disclosed or stolen. To this end, and to respect your rights, The Checker Maven collects NO personal information about you.
Please note that our host provider, GoDaddy, does log data about IP addresses and pages accessed, and we have no control over their actions. (Your own internet service provider almost certainly does the same thing.) However, The Checker Maven neither accesses nor makes use of this data.
But do browse safely. Unfortunately not everyone respects your right to privacy the way we do.
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Six: Third Move
Reggie stumbled wearily out of the Security Office. He had been there for several hours and it was nearly time for draughts practice. The big match with Lyme Regis was to take place on the next day.
But all he could think about was Laird and Lady Refused. That was even worse, if such a thing could be imagined, than the humilation he suffered in front of his class--- in front of Katie--- at the hands of first Dr. Rowan and then the security officers.
Then he thought about the embarrassment Katie had been subject to, and he wanted to die. Literally. His life was over, there was nothing left. He had started with what he thought was a great idea and turned it into the most horrible experience of his life. Perhaps of Katie's life as well.
But his feet had taken him, seemingly unbidden, to the practice room.
Fine. He would go through practice, play the match at Lyme Regis tomorrow, and die afterwards. He supposed dying could be put off for a couple of days. After all, it was a really important match.
Coach Talovich noticed that Reggie was playing today's practice games in a rather aggressive manner, not in terms of draughts play, but physically. Never before had he seen Reggie slam the pieces down on the board when making a move. The coach watched over Reggie's shoulder for a few moments and decided against saying anything. Other team members were beginning to notice, too.
When practice was over, Jack, who had also observed Reggie's highly atypical behavior, caught Reggie at the door and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Do we need to talk, old chum?" Jack said.
Reggie shook his head and pulled away.
"Didn't your little stunt go well?" Jack asked, having no idea as to what had actually happened.
Reggie ran off into the parking lot without answering. Jack watched him for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders and gave up.
Katie had gone right back to the flat she shared with Barbara. There was no way she could have faced an afternoon of classes.
Barbara, who had no classes on Monday afternoon, was home when Katie arrived.
"My goodness, what are you doing home?" Barbara asked when Katie entered. "Was there an earthquake that swallowed up the school? Seems like that's what it would take to get you to miss classes."
Barbara was sitting on the living room settee, eating a buttered roll, a huge anatomy text in her lap. She was in the nursing program and was busy nearly all the time.
Katie turned toward Barbara, let her backpack fall to the floor, and at long last lost control. "I hate that boy!" she said, tears falling in streams. "I hate him, hate him, hate him!"
"Whoa, whoa, easy now," Barbara said. She pushed aside her textbook and stood, walking over to Katie and embracing her in a warm hug. "Something's seriously wrong, isn't it?"
It took a little while for Katie to stop crying. Barbara led her over to the settee and got her seated, then sitting down alongside her.
"So who do you hate so badly? Is it that boy Reggie?"
Katie nodded her head and looked as if she were about to resume crying.
"What happened now?" Barbara asked.
It took a little while, but Katie told Barbara the story.
"Unbelievable," Barbara said at first. But she was smiling.
"It isn't funny!" Katie said angrily.
"No, it isn't funny, and I'm not laughing."
"Then why are you grinning like that?" Katie said, clearly upset. Wasn't Barbara supposed to be her best friend?
"It's called a smile," Barbara said. "Look, I know you're very angry and you have every right to be. But not with Reggie."
"After what he did? After what he put me through, I'm not supposed to be angry with him? Are you crazy? I hate him! I don't ever want to be in the same room with him again!"
"Slow down now. Think a little. Who should you really be angry with?"
Katie gave Barbara a withering look.
"Not with me! Don't be silly! But look at what happened, what really happened. Reggie went way, way out of his comfort zone to try to make an impression on you, in a way that was clearly meant to please you."
"Being humilated in front of everyone doesn't exactly please me!" Katie snapped.
"No, of course not. But did Reggie humilate you?"
"What do you mean ... oh." Katie's expression changed and her voice dropped. "You mean ..."
"Yes. Reggie went to a lot of trouble to stage an elaborate scene. Dressing up in a Knight's costume so he could appeal to you with words from Chaucer. Picking out the appropriate draughts moves to correspond to his theme. He probably even thought Dr. Rowat would be pleased and amused."
Katie was silent for a few moments. "It's him," she said. "And I thought he was so interesting, so intellectual."
She furrowed her brows. "It's Dr. Rowan that I should be angry with, isn't it? He's always picked on Reggie. He's never liked him. And given the chance, he did everything he could to embarrass him in front of everyone."
"And you were collateral damage," Barbara said. "He may not have intended that, but the fact is that all of this grief would have been avoided if Dr. Rowan had shown some sense--- some decency."
All of a sudden Katie started to laugh.
"What?" Barbara said. "Now you think it's funny?"
"No, no, not at all. But poor Reggie, getting hauled off by Security officers! What a sight!"
"I'm sure he wasn't amused."
"No, I suppose not." Katie stopped and thought once again. "But ... still, I think he ought to apologize."
"Oh, yes, he should. No doubt about it. And maybe you should reach out to him, too."
"What do you mean?"
"He's been hurt at least as much as you have. And he's certainly thinking that he's lost you forever."
"Well, hasn't he?"
"Only you can answer that question, Katie."
The next day, the draughts club took one of the school's buses over to Lyme Regis. Reggie was in quite a state of mind. He had resorted to an over-the-counter sleeping remedy the previous evening, and he was still a bit groggy. He had been drinking coffee all day long, which meant constant trips to the restroom. Fortunately there was no English class on a Tuesday, and he did manage to get to the rest of his classes.
For someone who felt like he wanted to die, he thought he had done pretty well. He was quite proud of himself. In fact, he was even starting to rethink the idea that he would rather be dead. It did seem pretty drastic.
But try as hard as he could, there was no way to get Katie's stinging refusal out of his mind. Two refusals, actually, but he had blown his second chance with that ridiculous stunt. He should have known better, but it had just seemed like such a good idea at the time.
Never mind. Concentrate on the match. Put off the idea of wanting to be dead at least until he won his match. He was going to win and nothing was going to stop him.
It wasn't long until the bus arrived and not much longer until it was time to start the match. Reggie reached out and shook hands with his opponent, Sydney Miles, the captain of the Lyme Regis club. "Ow," said Sydney, pulling his hand back, "you don't have to break my fingers."
Reggie grinned, enjoying the look of fear on Sydney's face. Reggie was focusing all of his anger and all of his pain on the upcoming match. Someone was going to pay, and it would be his opponent.
The match began, with Reggie playing White. It must have been fate. The opening moves formed "Laird and Lady." That only served to increase Reggie's focus.
Reggie smiled inwardly. Sydney had blundered; he should have played 6-10 or 7-10, but now Reggie had a win. He made his move, and a few more moves later, the game was over. Reggie offered to shake hands again. "I don't think so," Sydney said. "My fingers still ache from the first time."
Reggie gave a little bow and walked over to the team seats to await the completion of the other games in the match. He accepted congratulations from the coach, but then needed to make another trip to the restroom. "Excuse me a moment," he whispered to the coach.
On the way back from the restroom, Reggie, for some reason, decided to check his cellphone. It wasn't something he was in the habit of doing. He had turned it off last night when he got home, not wanting to be disturbed. Of course, it wasn't like he got a lot of phone calls or text messages.
He waited a few moments while the phone powered up.
For the second time that evening, fate struck.
A half dozen messages flashed onto his screen.
Katie had called him not less than three times, and then left three text messages.
"Trying to reach you."
"Reggie, I want us to talk. Please call me back."
Reggie, stunned, quickly gave up the idea of being better off dead.
To be continued ...
Can you find the White win in the diagram above? It's a well-known position, but nonetheless elegant and pleasing despite its being published many times throughout checker history. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
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.
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.[Read More]
Sometimes, it all gets to be a little too much, and we need a break. We're not sure what the poor fellow in the picture above is working on; could he perhaps be doing a manual transcription of the 10-piece endgame database?
Today we have a speed problem, provided by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon, that will give you a break in checker terms: it's definitely on the easy side. While some may disagree, we believe that easy problems have a clear purpose: to improve both sight-solving skills and speed of analysis.
See how quickly you can solve this one, and then break over to Read More to verify your solution.[Read More]
Above, a group of Morris Dancers are performing Maid of the Mill at a festival in Newcastle. Maid of the Mill spans many genres: dance, art, literature ... and draughts.
In our ongoing serialized story, Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance, our protagonist made an unfortunately timed reference to the Maid of the Mill opening. Today, we'd like to offer something quite substantial in the play of that opening.
The following is based on the 15th game of the 2014 World Championship Go As You Please match between Sergio Scarpetta (Black) and Ron King (White). The game, as played, ended in a draw, but there was an interesting winning possibility for Black.
Forms Maid of the Mill.
24-20 is definitely better, but it isn't clear that this move loses.
Back into the KingsRow opening book with a pull for Black, but not clearly a win.
23-18 also draws.
Loses; 23-18 should draw.
Mr. Scarpetta didn't find the win. Can you? We realize that's a lot to ask, and in fact it's a very difficult problem, but the solution is as surprising as it's good, and we think that any effort you put into this problem will be amply repaid. So do try it, and then click on Read More to see the answer.[Read More]
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Five: Second Interlude
This time, Reggie was going to play it to the hilt. It would be a one hundred percent effort.
Luckily, he had the weekend to prepare. He even telephoned his friend Jack to ask him about the idea.
"Seems a bit over the top, wouldn't you say?" said Jack after Reggie explained everything. "But I'm glad you didn't give up. That first mistake --- the Maid of the Mill thing --- that really wasn't completely your fault. Of course, you're pretty clueless, but this time I think you hit a sore nerve. A spot of bad luck for you."
"Over the top, perhaps, but don't you think she'll like it?" Reggie said. He didn't say anything about his being clueless; he actually was too painfully aware of it.
"Depends. You say she's a literary type as well as a draughts enthusiast? Impressive, you must introduce me some time." Jack laughed.
"Now look, Jack, you have a million girls already ... "
"Just kidding, old chum. Look, I've got to move along, I'm scheduled for doubles tennis with three lovely ladies ... "
"See what I mean? Give us less fortunates a break, will you?"
"Sure, Reggie, best of luck. So long now!"
There was just enough time on Saturday to visit the campus and look up a friend in the arts department.
"Yes, we have that," Grant said. Grant Pearson was a friend of Reggie's from a class in the previous semester. "You can borrow it if you return it right after you're done. For Monday, you say? Sure. Just bring it back later on in the afternoon."
Reggie hauled a substantial parcel back to his rented room. Fortunately the Saturday buses weren't as crowded as they were on weekdays.
Almost everything was ready. Reggie just had to write his note, and that was going to be easy this time.
Fortunately there was no draughts practice this weekend. The club coach didn't believe in weekend practices just before a big match; he thought it put too much pressure on non-professional players. That suited Reggie just fine. He was able to get some homework done, and make sure his note and everything else was ready for the next morning.
It's safe to say that Reggie didn't sleep all that well Sunday night. He was just too excited. Everything was just perfect!
Monday morning finally rolled around, and for once Reggie didn't have to drag himself out of bed to go to class. He had math before Chaucer, and he was going to skip it today. He wondered what was becoming of him ... skipping class again. But he didn't care.
He opened up the parcel and got everything ready. When he was fully dressed, he grabbed his backpack, double-checking to make sure the note was safely inside, and then made his way out to the bus.
He got some odd looks, first from the driver and then from the passengers, one of whom complained to the driver about whether Reggie should be allowed on the bus. But the driver just shrugged his shoulders, closed the doors, and put the bus into motion.
When the bus stopped in front of the college, Reggie rushed straight to his classroom, attracting still more attention from the students on the grounds and in the hallways. He quickly reached the relative safety of the classroom and took his seat, which fortunately wasn't in a direct line of sight from the doorway.
A couple of students came in and started murmuring to one another. Then Katie came in, looked in his direction and gasped. She took a few steps toward Reggie and said, "Reggie, what on earth---"
She was interrupted by the entry of Dr. Rowan, who also did what was, at least for him, a double-take.
"Well, Mr. Pastor, this is certainly going to be interesting."
Reggie normally would have reacted with anything between mild embarrassment and utter mortification. But not today. He was on a mission and would not be deterred. Totally ignoring Dr. Rowan, he went over to Katie's desk and with a deep bow and a dramatc flourish, laid down his note.
However, Dr. Rowan was not accustomed to having his remarks ignored, and his expression showed it.
"Just a moment, Mr. Pastor. This is a serious classroom, and perhaps you might explain yourself."
Reggie, just turning back toward his desk, replied, "Sir?"
"Your outfit. The note you just left on Miss Walton's desk. Is this some sort of elaborate but highly out of place courting scheme?"
Reggie was struck silent. This was not going as he intended.
"Nothing to say? Well, then, perhaps you might come to the front of the room and read the note aloud, after which you can explain your costume."
All of the class members were now present. There was a bit of quiet snickering, but all eyes were on Reggie.
And on Katie, who was turning redder by the second.
Reggie knew he didn't dare defy Dr. Rowan any further. Reluctantly, he moved to the front of the classroom, stopping to pick up the his note from Katie's desk. She favored him with a frosty glare.
"Whenever you're ready, Mr. Pastor. Or should we say, 'Sir Pastor'?
Everyone laughed except Katie and Reggie.
Reggie began to read, his eyes down.
"To my dearest Ladye Katie, I bring these words:
11-15, 23-19, 8-11, 22-17, 9-13, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14."
Dr. Rowan interrupted, "Those are not words, Mr. Pastor, those are numbers. There is actually a difference."
Reggie glanced at Katie. From the look on her face, he knew she had understood. But still, she looked very angry.
Reggie continued reading.
"Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
There was a duke that highte Theseus.
Of Athens he was lord and governor,
And in his time such a conqueror
That greater was there none under the sun.
Full many a riche country had he won.
What with his wisdom and his chivalry,
He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie."
Reggie stopped reading. "Um, well, that's all, sir."
"How interesting, Mr. Pastor. I must say you deserve credit for reading from Chaucer's Knight's Tale and dressing up in a very detailed knight's costume, complete with sword and helm. I imagine you attracted a lot of attention this morning.
"But really, the last line, 'He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie' ... did you bother to ascertain the meaning prior to addressing this phrase to Miss Walton?"
Dr. Rowan didn't wait for an answer. "You see, Mr. Pastor, 'the regne of Feminie' doesn't mean conquering a woman's heart. The 'regne of Feminie' actually refers to a race of Amazons, whom Chaucer's knight claims to have conquered. Are you suggesting that Miss Walton is an Amazon?"
The class roared with laughter and Katie looked as if she was about to cry.
"So," Dr. Rowan said when the laughter died down, "I ask you, Miss Walton, what is your reply to this somewhat misinformed suitor?"
Katie stood up and picked up her backpack. She looked straight at Reggie and said, "25-22." Then she stormed out of the room, trying valiantly to maintain control.
Reggie, horrified, made as if to go after her, but just at that moment, two uniformed security guards entered the room.
"There's a report of someone wif a weapon," one of them said. "There 'e is!" said the other, pointing to Reggie. "Come quietly with us now. You're in a 'eap 'o trouble fer carryin' a sword on campus. Don't make us get rough wif ya."
They took Reggie's costume sword and backpack, and marched him over to the Campus Security office. After searching his backpack, making him remove his costume, and searching his person, they asked him to explain himself.
It all took quite a little while, but Reggie was finally able to convince them that a wooden theatre sword, painted silver, wasn't a real weapon. The security officers then pointed out that it looked enough like the genuine article to be used to threaten others. But they realized in the end that Reggie was just playing a part, as it were, and they let him off with a lecture about not doing foolish things that could get him in hot water.
They wouldn't return the sword or the knight's costume; they told Reggie they would get it back to the Theatre Department themselves. "Best you not be seen wif that no more, eh?" one of them said.
Reggie got out of there as soon as they let him. But now he had to face what to him was the real problem.
He thought he had been clever. The draughts moves he had read corresponded to the Laird and Lady opening sequence. Katie obviously knew that. But when she replied simply "25-22" Reggie had his answer.
That was the line known as the Laird and Lady Refused.
To be continued ...
We wonder if Katie knew that Laird and Lady Refused is now known to be a White loss; and did Reggie realize, in the moment, that it was a Black win? Is there a hidden meaning in all of this?
You'll have to continue to follow the story to find out, but in the meanwhile let's have a look at this line of play.
Of course Laird and Lady Accepted, with 17-14, would have been best, both in terms of checkers and for our hapless protagonist. But, much as Reggie must strive to win Katie, winning Laird and Lady Refused is not so simple. Can you do it? Here's the position.
Accept the challenge and see if you can find the win. Just because it's difficult, don't refuse ... make the attempt and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
A Guest Column by Kookaburra
I live in Adelaide which is the capital city of the state of South Australia and I play checkers / draughts. South Australia is quite remote as it is in the middle of Australia, and within a short distance of Adelaide is total wilderness: The Outback.
Here we have extremely hot summers with stretches over 40 degrees Celsius and winters that are mild by world standards--- no snow but a little frost. The wildlife is wonderful and unique.
I started playing chess about four years ago after a health problem and also tried a stack of other games: Backgammon, Scrabble, Four in a Row, etc., and also Checkers. Thanks to a nice and skilled checker player I met online, I became a devotee of the game.
The reality of being a checker enthusiast today is that many of us are isolated. I play checkers (or draughts) in a country where checker players are as thin as kookaburraís teeth. This however should not stop any of us from enjoying this great and beautiful game. The fact you are reading this from far away from where I live is evidence that the tyranny of distance can be overcome.
Indeed, there arenít many serious checker players here in Australia at all. I have made contact with a couple and hope to play them crossboard at some point. For the most part, I play online, and have met some amazing people that way. Checkers is unique in that it offers a friendly, accepting fraternity who have embraced my presence as a new player.
It is difficult being isolated but checker players are not so common any longer, even in more populated parts of the world, and so all of us are becoming more isolated. My goal is to be the best I can at this beautiful game and not worry about other people or the isolation but to focus on the game and my skills in it. Then it doesnít matter.
One of my role models in checkers is the late Jan Mortimer, from New Zealand, who overcame the isolation of living in this part of the world to be a world class Checker player. I donít think enough women play this game and wish more did although I think checkers needs more players; more women, more men and definitely more beginners as it is tough when you first start and it takes a big leap to go from a recreational player who knows very little to a serious player who studies the game. And I am grateful to those who have and are currently helping me leap across this great divide.
I am hoping to promote the game whenever and wherever I can and help others learn about this beautiful underrated game even from this isolated area of Australia. I play online under the name Kookaburra.
Here is my advice for any modern checker player who may not have anyone around close by to play against.
Obviously the internet is extremely useful. Play turn based and speed games both to gain as much variety and experience of playing. Turn based sites are great for the social aspects of meeting and chatting to other players from around the world. Checker players are friendly and ask them about checkers and they chat and advise and online Iíve met some amazing players Also play speed games as thatís the way proper games are played. Start to end. Makes you think about strategy and think on your feet.
Start a checker book collection. There are great books out there. Start with beginner books and work your way up. There is enough out there to last a lifetime.
Research checker history. Some of the books I have now are from the 19th Century. The oldest is 1886. Reading them gives a fascinating incite into how the World was back then.
Join a checker association. The newsletters are great and it is worth it to hear news and make contacts from around the world and get to know who are the current and past checker champions.
Use social networking tools. Make a connection with other players.
If you want to play crossboard and canít find any checker players, join a club for another game with a similar board and use it to practice playing face to face.
Here is an exerpt from an old checker book dated 1911: Draughts Praxis or Modern Match Games, by Frank Dunne.
Check the last rule proposed to players over 100 years ago:
LOSE WITH GOOD TEMPER, AND WIN WITH SILENCE AND MODESTY
Amazing advice, I think!
And now I'd like to share my favourite problem. I like the fact Dr Marion Tinsley almost got stung with it, making for a connection to checker history.
Can you solve Kookaburra's favorite (or should we say favourite) problem, one that gave pause to Marion Tinsley? It's not as hard as you might suspect. Don't be left out (back); give it your best and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Snow can still come in April in many parts of North America, and if it does, you had best be careful and not suffer the type of mishap that of the unfortunate lady above.
Perhaps it's simplest to show you the diagram and let you find out for yourself.
Watch your step, and solve this step by step. The next step? Clicking on Read More to check your solution.[Read More]