Our Masked Man problem series draws to a close with this month's article. We hope you've enjoyed it. Perhaps we can run another similar series sometime in the future.
If you can identify the problemist in the photo below, you're doing really well at this sort of thing.
Check your solution by clicking on Read More. Intended to be of "medium" difficulty, this one packs a surprise. Even if you solve it easily, though, by all means read the commentary which accompanies the solution.[Read More]
We continue again this month with our "summer light" series of easier-than-usual stroke problems with this offering for June, which is, as you will see if you figure it out, a bit mis-labeled. And be forewarned, after this series concludes it's back to the hard ones!
After you solve it click on Read More to check your answer.
In brief, the controversy is over the exclusion of venerable grandmaster Leo Levitt from the US team. As near as we can determine from the BBS postings, Mr. Levitt was originally asked to play, but a vote by a team selection group determined that Mr. Levitt should sit out in favor of a possibly younger, more recently active player.
This type of discussion is nothing new. Let's turn back to a publication we've quoted before, The Morris-Systems Checkerist for September-October 1926. At that time in checker history, the US team was being chosen for the 2nd International Match between the US and Great Britain.
The lead story in the Checkerist was titled "International Team Will Select 11th and 12th Men at Once" and bore the telling subtitle "Matches Called Off Due to Lack of Harmony Amongst Players." An article titled "An Old Timer Comments" by John H. Finn of the Lynn Item stated:
"Yes, the hand of time bears heavily upon all of us and none can escape its fierce grip. The American players are growing old, too, and sooner or later all of the great ones will be too old to get a grip on the game and hold that grip for many moves ... it cannot be said that an old man is one who would be preferred for team play. This applies generally to all who have reached that stage in life when they prefer rest rather than excitement...."
With all due respect, Mr. Finn, we think you were somewhere out in left field with your comments, and as the saying goes, you confused "retired" with "tired." And you tragically underestimated the immeasurable value of the older generation.
The Checker Maven editorial staff cannot support Mr. Finn's 1926 position vis-a-vis the 2nd International Match and likewise cannot support the 2005 decision to omit Mr. Levitt from the US team being assembled for the 100th Anniversary Match.
We base this position not on our knowledge of checkers, which our readers know is limited at best, nor on our familiarity with the players and their abilities, which is likewise circumscribed. Nor do we intend our position to be a criticism of the American Checker Federation or the team selection officials, who we believe to be acting according to what they see as their mandate. They are in an unfortunate no-win situation and will face criticism regardless of their final decision.
We base our position instead on what we learned from our father, of blessed memory, who taught us checkers many decades ago.
We learned that there are things more important than winning. While we learned to play to win, we learned to lose with sportsmanship and grace. We learned that checkers is all about honor, respect, perseverance, humility, hard work, ethics, and ultimately, wisdom. Over time, we've come to see these attributes in the checker community at large and it's cemented our relationship to the Game of Kings.
In the light of these precious principles, which make checkers much more than just a game, and all about much more than just winning, we ask if the exclusion of Mr. Levitt from the US team upholds and serves these principles; and we fear that it in fact does not. We ask whether disappointing an aging grandmaster who has contributed immeasurably to our game, and likely has much more still to offer, is in our best interests. (Mr. Levitt's record of 32 wins with only 1 loss and 45 draws in previous International matches speaks for itself.)
We do not know how this will all turn out in the end. But we will close with this question: if, in pursuing the goal of victory, we sacrifice our principles, what do we really win?
"You 'ave made a vehree bad ligne of play," remarked Louie with a curling of the lip and a bit of a sneer. "Maintenant, I will 'ave to show you zee ehror of zis ligne by giving you zee beating!"
Here is how the game had played out so far. Marvin, who was commanding the Red pieces, and Louie, in charge of the White forces, had indulged themselves in this line of the Single Corner:
1. 11-15 22-18
2. 15x22 25x18
3. 12-16 29-25
4. 10-14 24-19
5. 16-20 25-22
6. 7-10 28-24
7. 8-12 32-28
8. 4-8 30-25
9. 3-7 18-15
10. 9-13 19-16
11. 12x19 23x16
12. 10x19 24x15
13. 8-12 15-11
14. 12x19 11-8
15. 7-10 8-3
This resulted in the following position, with White to play:
What do you think? Try your luck and skill on these questions:
1. Can White (Louie) find a win in this position? What might it be?
2. Does Red have something up his sleeve, or did Marvin perhaps have a little too much pre-game beer?
3. What do you think of this line of the Single Corner? Did Red play well? Did White?
Watch The Checker Maven for the conclusion of this story, and the answers to all these questions and much more, in a few weeks' time.
ligne line, as in "line of play."
maintenant now, as in "now I'll show you!"
Note: In this article, we're trying out a different diagram style and using the term "Red" instead of "Black" --- all in response to reader feedback. Let us know what you think.
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]