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]
The sculpture above is found near the Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a city we've visited a few times. We don't know what the young lad is musing upon; could that be a book of checker problems next to him?
Whatever he's contemplating, it's unlikely that it's today's checker problem, another fine entry sent to us by master composer Ed Atkinson. He calls it Thinking It Over. Let's let him describe it in his own words.
"Here is the problem. It is only the unusual setting and the first few moves that are original. The resulting end game can be traced back through the centuries to the very first problem published in English, a 262 year time line.
The references can be found in Boland's Border Classics, page 59 and Famous Positions, page 8. Closely related material was published by several in the mid 19th century."
What's this? White is up two pieces, so where's the problem? But it won't take you long to realize that White's big advantage is greatly at risk, and getting the full score is anything but easy.
Okay, you know what we're going to say: think it over, and find the winning moves. As often is the case, the key is to find the right first move. After you've given this enough thought, think about clicking on Read More to see Ed's solution and notes.[Read More]
Checker history is about to be made starting April 20, 2018, when an all-star team of American players travels to Rome, Italy to face top Italian players. While US vs. Great Britain matches have taken place numerous times over the last century, with the US largely dominating, this US-Italy match-up is a first, and the Italians are very strong indeed.
The US team faces significant costs, and you can help by following this link to the American Checker Federation on-line store, and donating whatever you wish.
Of course, The Checker Maven is US-based, so we're behind our US team, but we wish the best of luck to all in what we're sure will be a spectacular event.
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Four: Second Move
It was quite a while until Reggie was able to get out of his seat. He stayed in the empty classroom, numb, nearly unable to process what had happened to him. But finally, students started arriving for the next class. He must have sat there for over an hour, right through lunch and into the following class period.
He folded Katieís note and stuck it in his backpack, stumbled to his feet, and left. He went straight to the bus stop. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was skipping classes, and even worse, skipping draughts practice. He didnít even want to talk things over with his friend Jack. He just wanted to go back to his rented room, get into bed, pull the covers over his head, and never get up again.
The next day was Friday, and there were no classes and no practice. It was just as well, and although Reggie did manage to get up in the morning, he had no desire to see Katie in Chaucer class. It would have been more than he could have borne.
He had a lot of homework to do and no wish to do that, either, and in addition, he was supposed to go through his opening repertoire and do some problem practice, as the draughts match with Lyme Regis was just five days away.
He knew he had better get out of his room, even though he didnít want to; he couldnít let himself become paralyzed with depression. Maybe, he thought, it was best to leave the pursuit of women to people like Jack, who had the right skills. If it had been anyone but Katie ...
She was intelligent, she had a sense of humor, and she played draughts besides. What could get better than that? Oh, and of course she was beautiful, but to Reggie that was almost a sort of afterthought. Who cared what she looked like? She was just this amazing ...
Stop it, Reggie told himself. Maybe sheís all of those things but forget it, you lost your chance, now move on, youíve got a lot of things to get done and not a lot of time to do them.
Reggie sighed and put his books into his backpack. He looked wistfully at his Chaucer book and wanted to rip the pages out of it. But that went into the backpack too, along with his book of draughts openings and draughts problems.
Heíd go to the school library. With no classes on Fridays, the library would be pretty deserted, and he could work quietly. Maybe heíd even be able to get his mind off Katie and concentrate a little.
Reggie went outside and took the bus to the college.
The school library was indeed as empty as Reggie had expected it would be. The many long wooden tables were virtually unoccupied. Students generally left homework until Sunday; Friday and Saturday they avoided the campus as if it were off-limits.
Still, Reggie went down to the very end of the main hall and sat at a table in the far corner. He decided he'd work on his differential equations class. That would keep his mind off ... other things. Then maybe, just maybe, he'd face up to it and crack open his Chaucer book.
A couple of hours must have passed by when Reggie finished his homework assignment, hoping that he'd never again in his life have to do a problem set on the Method of Frobenius.
Fine, he said to himself, now it's time to confront reality. He pulled out his Chaucer book, vowing to himself that he would study and not think of ... her. "I shall have no fear," he said to himself. "I shall look the beast in the eye and ..."
"Reggie, who are you calling a beast?"
Had he actually spoken out loud? And who was ... no, it couldn't be.
Katie sat down in a chair on the other side of the table. She wore a big smile.
"I thought ... I mean, there was no one here and I wasn't ..."
"I know, Reggie. I was just teasing."
"Wh--- why are you here?"
"Because we need to talk a little, and because I knew there would probably be no one here on a Friday except maybe you. So I took the chance. I wanted to talk in person, not over the phone."
"You did? I thought ..."
"Yes, I know what you thought after that 'Goatgetter' note I sent you. Reggie, I'm really sorry about that. I went too far and I was too harsh. But I was just trying to get a message across."
"A message ... I got the message that you were angry and didn't want to see the movie with me any longer."
"Yes, it was that, but I lost my temper. I thought you were making fun of my family origins, in a poor mill town. Didn't I tell you about that?"
Reggie had long ago turned red, but he made a valiant effort to regain his composure. "Yes, you did, but I thought Maid of the Mill would be a kind of tribute, and then there's the Suffolk Fair Maid. I hoped you would be pleased. I'm sorry too, I didn't mean to offend."
"I believe you, and as I said, I regret what I wrote. So I'd like to make a suggestion."
Reggie leaned on his elbows, moving forward in his seat.
"What?" he asked eagerly.
"How about we start over. You go home and write another note to me, and bring it to class on Monday. I'll answer you, and then everything should be smooth and we can go to that movie. I'm sure it will still be playing next weekend. What do you think?"
"Great idea!" Reggie said. "I know I'll get it right this time!"
"I'm sure you will, Reggie. Now I'll let you get back to your Chaucer." She looked pointedly at his open textbook. "I just know how much you love Dr. Rowan's class!"
They both laughed, and Katie took her leave.
Reggie knew he wasn't going to be studying Chaucer. He had something else to work on.
Fortunately it was a Friday and the buses still ran frequently. Reggie couldn't make it home fast enough. He was on a mission.
But he found that it wasn't a mission easily accomplished. He had to get it right this time. After having started half a dozen notes and in the end tearing up every single one of them, he found himself wishing that Katie had given him some idea of what to write instead of what not to write.
He made himself stop for dinner, another cheese and pickle sandwich, but he didn't care. He was hoping that a short break would provide him with some inspiration. Then he took a short walk around the neighborhood to clear his head, feeling very proud of himself for having thought of the idea.
Somehow, it worked, or, at least it worked in combination with Reggie's next activity; for when he got back to his room, he thought he would solve a checker problem before returning to his note writing.
He didn't find it very hard. And then he realized that he had found two solutions; one to the checker problem, and one other that was about something quite different.
He knew what to write to Katie.
Smiling and chuckling, he put pen to paper and wrote out his note. Okay, he had made a mistake the first time, but this was perfect. Quickly, he consulted his Chaucer book. Was Katie ever going to love this!
Finally, the note was completed. Reggie went back over it and made some corrections, then wrote it out again as neatly as he could on a fresh sheet of paper. He folded it, wrote "Katie" on the front, and put it in his Chaucer book to keep it safe and to be sure he wouldn't forget it.
And that was just the first half of Reggie's plan.
To be continued.
Can you solve Reggie's checker problem? We're sure you can; it's not that difficult and it's rather pleasing. Set aside your love notes and cheese and pickle sandwiches and give it a try, then click on Read More to see the run-up and the solution.[Read More]
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.
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![Read More]
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.
This is Ballot 102.
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:
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.>[Read More]