The Checker Maven

But Is It Worth Your Job?

In 1892, John T. Denvir was working at a lucrative $2,000 per year job. During the lunch hour, he would go to his checker club to play a few games in the space of the one hour lunch period. One day, he played a rather brilliant game against Lucius S. Head, which however caused him to return to work an hour late. He fully expected to be fired, and considered himself very lucky indeed to have gotten off instead with a stern scolding.

Here's the runup to the critical position:

11-16 23-18 10-14 18-15 16-19 22-17 7-10 24-20 9-13 26-22 5-9 30-26 8-11 15x8 4x11 27-23 2-7 23x16 12x19 32-27 11-15 20-16

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win
If you can solve it, you certainly have excellent visualization skills. Check your solution against our animation, which includes the whole game.

A brilliancy indeed, but is it worth your job?

04/30/05 - Printer friendly version
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Richard Pask's Revised 'Key Openings'

We are very pleased and privileged to offer for download Grandmaster Richard Pask's revision to his classic 1999 work, Key Openings. The book can be downloaded here in PDF format, which, though giving rise to a larger download, is a stable format which will reproduce in the same manner on all computers and printers.

Our thanks to Mr. Pask for the opportunity to place this work before the checker playing public.

04/29/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Masked Man is Back in Town

Continuing our monthly "Masked Man" series, this month's offering is perhaps the most difficult to date. Can you identify the problemist pictured above (posing with his daughter), and then solve the problem below?
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Draw
Forces are even, but White's freedom of movement seems limited... can you pull off the draw? No less than four "star" moves will be necessary.

Check your solution, and learn the identity of the composer, by clicking on Read More.

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04/27/05 - Printer friendly version
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A Draw Move Is To Be Made Every Time

The history-in-the-making internet match between the US and Great Britain is moving to a conclusion, with the British leading as of this writing with a tally of four wins, two losses, and 22 draws. Three board positions are still in progress. Complete details are on the official tournament site.

Here at the New Mexico office of The Checker Maven we're continuing to muse over articles published in 1926 in The Morris Systems Checkerist just prior to the 2nd International Match, played between the US and Great Britain over the board, back in those Golden Days. But things were not simple then, either; the magazine tells of quite a heated controversy in selecting the final two American players for the twelve-player team. We've simply got to requote in part a short piece that the magazine reproduced from the Lynn Item:

"...They have selected 10 players for American team and these are Heffner, Banks, Horr, Gonotsky, Long, Ginsberg, Reynolds, Lieberman, Hanson and O'Grady. There are two more to be chosen and they talk of such men as Bradford, Duffy, Lieber and Dossett.

"It would have been better had the team been held down to 10 men a side, which was the number 20 years ago. The 10 now selected are all good players although there are one or two who should do a lot of practicing from now until the opening of the match; and then play safe and sure instead of taking new lines which they have picked out for themselves and which they may think will trip their opponents. Cooks are not to be thought of in this kind of play but a draw move is to be made every time."

The piece was written by John H. Finn, who, obviously, would not have been of a mind with the likes of draughts champion Derek Oldbury or American football coach Vince Lombardi.

04/25/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Fun Shot in the Single Corner Opening: Conclusion

(Please see our previous article for the first part of this story.)

BLACK

WHITE
White to Move - and Win?
Billie stood confidently in front of the big demonstration board at the front of the crowded auditorium, squinting his face and waggling his tongue. The audience was cheering and chanting, "Billie! Billie! Billie-Billie-Billie!" Then Billie made his move. It was----

26-22.

Was that a smug look on Marvin's face? Could our hero possibly be thinking, well, less than charitable thoughts about getting even after being heckled by Billie and some of the others? Would Marvin J. Mavin do such a thing?

Marvin smiled, and said, rather loudly, "Hmmph. Well, son, that was a logical move, but unfortunately, it won't get you a win!"

Billie seemed taken a bit aback. He thought for a moment, remembering his teacher's instructions to be "on your best behavior," and then replied with a snicker, "Wanna bet, beer belly?" There was a ripple of laughter from the audience, although clearly the adults in charge seemed rather unhappy with this turn of events.

"Well, young man, I imagine I had better teach you a lesson," said Marvin in his most authoritarian tone.

The game then continued along, with Marvin and Billie moving the pieces about on the demonstration board:

17x26 31x22 1-6 28-24 4-8 23-19 6-10 19-16 8-11 16x7 2x11 24-19 9-14 32-28 5-9 27-23 11-15 30-25 15x24 28x19 9-13 25-21 13-17 22x13 29-25 13-9 25-22 9-6 22-18 21-17 18x27 17-13 Drawn.

(Click here for animation.)

"And now, my fine little friend, what do you think?" asked Marvin.

"Uh, I, well, uh, ya know, I 'spose mebbe it's like, ya know, a draw or sumthin'.....," stammered Billie.

"And INDEED IT IS! It's a DRAW!" exclaimed the hero of the Doublejumpers. "Shall I show you how you should have played it?" he added.

Billie's face had that "I'd rather be anywhere but here" look, and the crowd didn't seem very happy, either.

"Of COURSE you want to know!" continued Marvin. He reset the pieces (to the state diagrammed at the beginning of this article) and then showed the following play (neglecting, of course, to attribute this winning line to the KingsRow computer program):

28-24 1-6 24-19 9-13 19-15 17-21 15-11 29-25 26-22 25x18 23x14 13-17 31-26 6-9 14-10 9-13 26-23 17-22 10-7 22-25 7-3 5-9 23-19 2-6 3-7 9-14 19-15 13-17 7-10 6-9 27-23 25-29 10-6 9-13 6-9 White Wins.

(Click here for animation.)

"It's not a simple win, and White has to play it correctly, but the win is there IF you are good enough to figure it out!" Marvin concluded. But Billie had slunk back off the stage, muttering to himself something about how computers make funny-looking moves.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) there was no applause. The young audience was filled with frowns and sullen looks. Their school champion, Billie, had been shown up by Marvin. Now, at first one by one, and then a few at a time, and finally in large groups, the audience began to silently exit the auditorium. In just a few minutes, there was no one left but Marvin, a few teachers, and the Principal, Mr. I. B. Cylindrical. This latter august personage went up to Marvin, shook his hand, and said, "Um, yes. Well. Um, thanks. Yes, thanks. For visiting our school. Um, the children, yes, the pupils, well. It's clear how much they admire you."

There was a long, quiet pause. "Um, seems cold for April, don't you think? Yes, um, cold. It feels chilly in here." Mr. Cylindrical continued with a few more equally apt remarks as he accompanied Marvin out of the auditorium. Marvin then said his farewells and crossed the parking lot, where his 1973 Volkswagen Beetle was waiting to take him to the nearest bar.

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04/23/05 - Printer friendly version
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Crime Does Not Pay

A little while back we lamented the presence of computer-using cheaters on the major online play sites. We recently came across an article published over 80 years back in the Morris-Systems Checkerist magazine that highlights a similar problem, and how one cheater got what he had coming. We've reprinted the article below.

Illegal Move Proves Boomerang
Falls Into Graceless Trap After Double Move
The desire to win in any form of competitive sport is a very human one. Facing a man who is a degree stronger or more skillful, and submitting to defeat after defeat is a test of character, temper, fortitude--or, reduced to one word, a test of sportsmanship. Occasionally we encounter an individual for whom the hunger of victory is so intense that while he would probably shrink from attempting an unfair or unethical move in other walks of life, he has but meager scruples as to the management of his game, and in order to gain the upper hand resorts to illegitimate tactics. The number of such is of course infinitely small compared with those who would rather be riddled to pieces than surrender their principles of good sportsmanship; but even the insignificant number of sly-hand movers is to be regretted.

Not always, however, is it profitable for the sly-hander to make his moves unseen, and the man who thinks he is "getting away with it" will find now and then that he has dug a pit for himself too deep for escape.

We happened into a rather amusing demonstration of this not long ago while watching a player of good repute in a park exhibition where he was handling a number of boards simultaneously. As the exhibition player went from board to board we noticed that one of his opponents near us advanced a piece as if to test the position, then glanced up to see if he had been observed. When the exhibition player appeared at this board again the opponent made his regular move, but the piece he had advanced a minute before remained where he had placed it. The exhibitionist was plainly surprised. Evidently he had remembered the earlier position. We saw him eye his man with a keen glance, but said nothing, made his move and then went on to the next board.

Later, in the end game, the position on the board was as shown (below).

Exhibition Player--White

"Double Mover"--Black
The exhibition player had the white side. As he passed down the aisle to other boards, the "double mover," seeing himself pursued by the white king, made another illegitimate move, going from 5 to 9, with the thought of preventing white from playing 8-11 (which would then lose to 20-16 --Ed.). He scratched his head as if wondering whether his conscience would stand for it. When the checker performer returned to the board he caught the situation at a glance. He raised himself to a straight posture and looked squarely at his man, puzzled for words, but unwilling to embarrass the other while the crowd stood by. Nevertheless, his steady, searching look told the "double mover" he was discovered. Here is a picture of the board after the illegitimate move:
Black--"Double Mover"

White--Exhibition Player
White to Move and Win
Studying the situation carefully the exhibition player smiled inwardly as he became aware that his opponent had unwittingly entangled himself in the coils of a binding trap.

Had the "double mover" been content with his first illegal move he might have gained a draw, but when he repeated his offense, he apparently aroused the wrath of the checker g-ds and brought himself to swift and sorry doom.

How did the Exhibition Player give the "Double Mover" his comeuppance? Solve the problem and click on Read More for the solution.

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04/20/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Manchester Draughts Club

It's a Wednesday evening, and you've just finished a day at one of the editorial offices of The Checker Maven. You're in the mood for a good game of checkers and you wouldn't mind a beer as an accompaniment.

If you're at our Santa Fe office, you might head out to your favorite cantina for chips and salsa, and a Dos Equis Amber to go along with them, but the only checker competition you'll find is on the internet.

If you're at our Honolulu office, you can catch the live-on-the-beach sunset show on Kalakaua Boulevard, and afterwards maybe have a Hinando at Duke's Barefoot Bar; and you can even play chess at the famed beachfront pavilion at the corner of Kealohilani. But if you want to play checkers, you'd better head back to the office and go online.
If you were in Manchester, England, though, you'd really be in luck. No, The Checker Maven isn't going to be opening an office there, at least not yet. But even better, Manchester is home to the Manchester Draughts Club, which meets Wednesday evenings at The Castle.
Founded in its present form by Dr. John Reade and Bill McKay in 1990, the club chose The Castle because of its old-fashioned ambiance, good service, and fine selection of Robinson's Cask Beers. These draughts players know what enjoyment truly is!

The club was created to provide a venue for casual cross-board play, as a welcome alternative to correspondence play, which had been the only local option for nearly a decade. But under the inspiration of Frank McDonald, the club soon introduced competitive play, which quickly rose to a high level of skill and achievement.

Internally, the club sponsors both 3-move and go-as-you-please (freestyle) leagues and knockout tournaments. Winners from these competitions qualify as challengers for the Lancashire 3-move and freestyle championships each year. As of this writing (April 2005) Frank Bednall is the reigning 3-move champion, while Donald Oliphant holds the freestyle crown. In addition, the club puts on two open tournaments each year, in memory of two former Lancashire players: the Arthur Jones 3-Move Tournament, played in the spring, and the Ronald Bumby Freestyle Tournament, played in the autumn.


Donald Oliphant, 3-Move Lancashire County Champion, and Melvyn Green, Challenger
Photo by Sue Reade
But the club doesn't stop with just that. Lancashire County enters two teams for the British Counties Championship each year, and the Lancashire South team is staffed by the Manchester Draughts Club. Lancashire South won the championship in 2003, and is through to the second round thus far this year (2005).

Lancashire South (Manchester) Win the 2003 British Counties Championship
From left: Matthew Eke, John Reade, Donald Oliphant, Melvyn Green, Eddie O'Gara
Photo by Sue Reade
Dr. Reade extends his invitation to checkers and draughts players who find themselves in the Manchester area on a Wednesday evening to ring him at 0161-643-2985 and arrange for a few games at The Castle. The club plays from opening at 7:30 PM until closing at 11:00 PM, and you're certain to find top-notch competition and the best of British beer.

To be sure, chips and salsa in Santa Fe is fine fare, and the sunset show on the beach in Waikiki is a great experience, but compared with quality over-the-board draughts play and a few pints of Robinson's, you know what our choice would be.

The Checker Maven thanks Dr. John Reade for providing text and photos as the basis of this article.

04/16/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Lancashire Checker Newsletter

You've read in our companion article about competitive over the board play and excellent beer at the Manchester Draughts Club. The "rest of the story" is the Lancashire Checker Newsletter, published on alternate months, also by Dr. John Reade. This is a professional quality twelve page printed newsletter, with feature articles, news items, commented games, and challenging problems.

The best of this is that the newsletter is available by subscription to anyone who wants it; the annual cost is just 10 pounds in the UK, 15 euros in the rest of Europe, and $20 in the USA. Dr. Reade offers the first two years for the price of one at initial signup. He may be reached by email at sue.reade@virgin.net. Trust us; you won't want to miss out on this fine publication.

Dr. Reade has given us permission to feature a problem from the February 2005 newsletter. It is by American problemist Will H. Tyson, who lived from 1865 to 1928.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Move and Win
You will find this of approximately intermediate difficulty, with a nice theme, an instructive solution, and a great opportunity for less experienced players such as the editor of The Checker Maven to go badly wrong. As usual, click on Read More to check your answers.

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04/16/05 - Printer friendly version
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Hidden Beauty on a Draughtsboard

Our article title is the subtitle of Melvyn Green's Stroke Problems, a large and grand collection of original compositions by the Salford, England master of the art. Mr. Green has very kindly given us permission to publish one of what he terms the "easier" situations from his book.

Melvyn Green's Stroke Problems - #82
BLACK

WHITE
White to Move and Win
Well, easy is relative; try your luck on this entertaining and very pleasing offering. We're sure you'll be delighted, and will want to have your own copy of Melvyn's book; you can contact the webmaster for information on how to obtain it.

Oh, the solution? Click on Read More.... but only if you must!

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04/13/05 - Printer friendly version
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Richard Pask's Supplement to Oldbury's Move Over

Grandmaster Richard Pask has completed his supplement to Derek E. Oldbury's classic Move Over, and has very kindly allowed us to offer it here for download.

Move Over (which itself can be downloaded from here) is a true classic, a work that was controversial in its time and which still excites the interest of every two-fisted checker player. Now, Grandmaster Pask has provided insightful commentary on the original text, as well as solutions to the problems at the end of the book--- problems which have proven perhaps somewhat more challenging than Oldbury had anticipated.

Be sure to read Mr. Pask's latest work, which is as much a fine tribute to a great player as it is a superb elucidation of a classic text.

Note: the download at the moment is in "Word" format, meant to be printed on A4 paper, and requiring Jim Loy's checker font to render the title page illustration correctly.

04/11/05 - Printer friendly version
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Masterpiece

Here is an elegant problem by an unknown author, as originally published by Tom Wiswell. It is not easy but is worth the effort.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win
Mr. Wiswell called it Masterpiece and we're sure you'll agree when you have it figured out. His solution can be seen by clicking on Read More.

What, indeed, makes a problem a true masterpiece? Is it an elegant solution, a deep or hidden theme, a surprise ending, or other factors? We'll combine today's problem with this short survey asking what you like most in a checker problem.

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04/09/05 - Printer friendly version
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How Times Have Changed

The Checker Maven has reported on the exciting U.S. vs. Great Britain match being played on It's Your Turn at this very moment (April 2005). It's Your Turn is a correspondence style site; players take turns making their moves, just as you would do if you were truly playing by mail.

In fact, many of our readers know that there have been actual mail-based matches between the U.S. and Great Britain. Here's a short article that appeared almost 80 years ago in the September-October 1926 edition of The Morris Systems Checkerist:


Correspondence Match, G. B. vs. U. S.

The following is the score between an English team captained by D. Bryant, and an American team lead by Ray Kemmerer. It will be noted that some of the players have "crossed the bar" since starting the match a few years ago.

Great Britain --- U. S. A.

R. J. Allen 0; A. J. Schmutz 0 drawn 4
D. Bryant 1; A. R. Dosset 2; drawn 1
W. Dixon 0; A. J. Lemense 0; drawn 4
C. Probert 0; W. E. Steere 0; drawn 4
J. Hawks 0; H. D. Kaufman 0; drawn 4
D. Exeter 0; A. Jensen 0; drawn 4
C. McKean 0; F. E. Potts 1; drawn 3
F. F. Smith 1; J. Tonkin 0; drawn 3

Total -- America 3, Great Britain 2, drawn 27. The heat between J. M. Roberts and J. L. Westenberger is not reported as yet.



Times have truly changed. The mind boggles at the prospect of a multi-game correspondence match, played via mail delivered back and forth across the Atlantic by ship. Small wonder the match went on for years and that some players indeed "crossed the bar" during this time.

Today's match is being played in "internet" time and all should be over in weeks, not years. And we certainly hope that no one "crosses the bar"!

The same issue of The Morris Systems Checkerist is full of articles about the 2nd live U. S. - G. B. match, which was in preparation at the time. It makes for interesting reading, and, while today's internet match continues, we'll reprint a few of those old columns here over the next few weeks.

But for the moment, keep up with all of today's action, in internet time, at the official tournament site.

04/09/05 - Printer friendly version
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Yet Two More Easy Pieces

We continue our electronic republication of Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard with this, our third installment. But let's let Willie speak for himself.
EXAMPLE 5

White to Play and Win
'Like all other tactical schemes, the delayed smother play can occur on other parts of the board with varying arrangements of the pieces. Example 5 shows a natural-looking ending in which white can neatly bottle up black's pieces in just five moves, by a delayed double corner "jam." Examples 4 (published in a previous article --Ed.) and 5 illustrate but two types of the smother play; there are several other varieties including blocks, freezes, lock-ups, and the smother pinch. Indeed, checker ideas are as numerous as words, and each one has a meaning of its own, and a special adaptability in the course of scientific play.
EXAMPLE 6

White to Play and Win
The situation on the right (actually above --Ed.) is still another member of the smother family. To press home the win in Example 6, white must actually coordinate the germs of two different tactical ideas, employing the smother as the winning device and using the seesaw shift (as in Example 11) (to be published by July 2005 --Ed.) as the timing element by which the smother is executed. When two or more tactical ideas are woven into a procedure of force, we call it a "combination." positions are always popping up in play where it is necessary to grapple with a dozen or more ideas in order to force a scientific win, or obtain a delicate draw!'

Solve the problems and check your solutions by clicking on Read More.

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04/06/05 - Printer friendly version
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Single-Game ELO Calculations with Exact USCF Formula

This form calculates the estimated changes in an ELO rating,
for a single game, using the exact, not the approximate, USCF formulas. The rating is still estimated, though, because the USCF calculations consider an entire tournament at once, is done in two passes and requires the complete tournament cross-table.

If an event is half-K, check the appropriate box; likewise if all of your
prior tournament games were wins or losses, check the matching box.

Prior rating
Prior number of rated games
Opponent's rating
Half-K event?
All losses in prior rated games?
All wins in prior rated games?

04/03/05 - Printer friendly version
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WCC Platinum Programs/Cake Manchester Databases Soon To Be Available

Gil Dodgen's WCC Platinum II and III checker playing computer programs are now available for the cost of duplication and shipping. Testing was a complete success and we are ready to take orders. Please read our special web page for further information, prior to contacting us.
We are also pleased to be able to distribute Martin Fierz's compact 8-piece endgame database, which runs with his Cake Manchester and also with Ed Gilbert's King's Row. This will also be available elsewhere for free download, and that is far and away the preferred option for all concerned. But, if you don't want to or can't download it, you will be able to get it from us on 4 CDs for just the cost of duplication and shipping. Watch here for timing of availability and details on ordering.

Please note: The Checker Maven maintains strict neutrality and impartiality. Our distribution of checker software and databases is intended as a service to the checker playing public, and must not be construed as making any kind of statement as to the claims or relative merits of any particular program or database. Such statements are made by us only in the context of a published review or evaluation.

04/02/05 - Printer friendly version
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Speeding Into Spring

Spring is here, it's April, and time for our more-or-less monthly selection of speed problems. Remember, the clock is running. How fast are you?

No. 1 (two ways to solve, easy and very easy)
No. 2 (easy to medium)

Click on Read More for the solutions.

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04/02/05 - Printer friendly version
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