A recent addition to the library in our Santa Fe office is an item we've sought for quite some while: W.T. Call's Midget Problems, published in 1913. We think the following quotation from the preface to this little booklet is revealing:
'Are not these little problems easy?
'Yes, when you are looking at the solutions.'
Over the coming months we'll be featuring some selections from this work, which features nothing but problems with two pieces per side, hence the title, Midget Problems. But as the preface warns, these are small only in size, not in challenge.
We'd like to start out with an offering that you might consider trite; and frankly, we'd have to agree, yet there is a method to our madness. It is a setting of First Position, credited to Dr. T. J. Brown of Limerick, who put this forth around the year 1870.
And when you've worked through this setting (you can click here for an animation of Dr. Brown's trunk solution), answer this trivia question, also credited to Dr. T. J. Brown. What is the earliest published example of First Position? Can you name the author and year? If you can, you really know your draughts history.
But before you're done, tell us, if you can, what White's last move might have been, and then draw a conclusion from your answer. (Thanks go to Brian Hinkle for this one.)
As usual, click on Read More for the answers.[Read More]
As a special Saturday extra for our readers, we offer this Tommie Wiswell Prize Problem, which is actually somewhat easier than most Wiswell offerings, but certainly no less elegant.
Click on Read More to check your solutions.
(We are always in need of speed problems. If you have any that you'd like us to publish, please contact us using the contact link in the left column. We are looking for problems that are much harder than the ones we've been publishing but still easy enough for an experienced player to solve in under five minutes.)
Problem No. 1. Very easy.
Problem No. 2. Easy.[Read More]
Reminder: we have switched to our summer publication schedule, which means we don't always publish a Wednesday edition.
By far the most asked-for feature was current checker news and annotated games from recent tournaments and matches. This may actually turn out to be the most difficult request to deliver upon, as tournament and match games generally have specific ownership and publication rights and limitations. But we're going to try to recruit a network of volunteer "stringers" and we'll make every effort to provide this type of content in the future. Bear with us; it may take some time to put this together.
Problems proved quite popular; you were about evenly split on whether they were too hard, too easy, or about right. This tells us that our mix is good; but we agree that the speed problems are usually too simple.
Book and computer program reviews have their audience as well, although these appeal to a more focused group. Still, the response certainly indicates that we should continue with this type of material.
The most controversy seemed to be over the Marvin J. Mavin stories. Most folks thought they were at OK or better; a few people really loved them; and others--- well, let's just say that they and Marvin have a bit of a personality clash. The bottom line for us: we'll continue to run these stories but we won't focus on them or publish them more than every month or two.
The "Masked Man" features garnered one negative mention as well; we didn't get a reason but it might be that the quality of the problems in those articles tended to be lower than in the other problem features. We'll run the one or two more that are already in the publication queue, and that will probably be the end of the line unless we can upgrade the caliber.
Various and varied suggestions included requests for: easier to read diagrams, a return to the click-and-type system of commenting on articles, better indexing, and RSS syndication, among others. We plan to work on all of these over the next weeks as time allows.
Publication frequency of once or twice a week seemed about right to most of you, although there were a couple of requests for daily publication! Alas, that just can't be in the cards for the forseeable future.
As we publish this summary, we're completing a half year of regular, on-time, uninterrupted Checker Maven publication. Our thanks to our nearly 1,000 regular readers for making this webzine a success far beyond anything we ever had a right to expect. We'll do our best to continue to please and to be responsive to your suggestions and input.
After today's play (27 May 2005) Alex is leading Ron 5 to 2 with 13 draws. This is spirited, fighting checkers - how often do we see 7 out of 20 grandmaster games end in a victory? But no matter who finally emerges from this battle as the present-day Number One, we're seeing checkers at its very best.
(Editor's note, 01 June 2005: Alex wins the match with a score of 8 wins, 3 losses, and 25 draws!)
Right now, though, we want to take you back to an earlier contest for the claim to the title of Number One, a match held in the U.K. in 1958 between the American great Marion Tinsley and the British grandmaster Derek Oldbury. Tinsley walked out the undisputed world champion with nine wins, one loss, and 24 draws. Despite the seemingly uneven score, the match was hotly contested and produced some very fine play.
Here's a position from the very first game of the match:
Now let's leap ahead to Game Seven. Here's the situation:
Click on Read More to see how your play stacks up.[Read More]
The May installment of our ongoing "Masked Man" series will give our readers a bit of a reprieve, and a chance to perhaps actually guess the identity of our featured problemist.
Check your solutions by clicking on Read More.[Read More]
A little while back we came into possession of a number of 1950-era issues of California Checker Chatter (CCC). The checker scene in California certainly seemed to be active in those days; the magazine talks of clubs in Oakland, Santa Monica, and other places around the state.
Out of those yellowing but fascinating pages from the past we've chosen our topic for today: the CCC "Prize Problem" for November, 1948. But, subsequent to publication, the "star" line was found to be faulty, and the problem flawed.
The original premise was this.
Our title, predictably, doesn't refer to an easy par-three golf hole, but to our desire to present a short series of stroke problems that, frankly, aren't quite as difficult as some of our earlier offerings.
Try your hand at this first one and decide for yourself if it's a spring breeze; then click on Read More for the solution.
We're really pleased to present this stunning Tom Wiswell problem. As usual, it is not easy, but it is elegant, entertaining, and instructive, and illustrates the depth and scope of our game of checkers. The setting is below; we think this is among the finest problems we've put forth to date.
Solve it if you can, and then click on Read More for the surprising solution.[Read More]
As we continue our electronic republication of Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard we wish to thank those readers who pointed out typos in the original book. We also recognize there are some readers (your editor at times among them) who don't think these pieces are all that easy! But we'll let Willie carry on.