The Checker Maven

Brian's Bear Claw Still Unsolved

Brian Hinkle's challenging Bearclaw problem remains unsolved, and less than a month is left until we publish the solution. It's a tough nut to crack, but it's also a chance for the real two-fisted checker player to pull off a coup.

So don't pass up this last chance. Click here to see the problem again, and email your solution to Brian as quick as you can!

02/25/06 - Printer friendly version
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Better Than First

Take careful note of our fisherman in the picture above. In a tranquil setting, he has a calm, relaxed mind, and he has focused his attention completely on the seemingly simple task of fishing.

But these supposedly easy things can, in their idyllic appearance, mask a great deal of depth and the often unexpected need for substantial skill and experience. Such is the case with today's feature problem, a miniature that will require focus, skill, and calmness of mind to solve.

And, you'll understand the title of our article, Better Than First, when you've found the solution.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W31,19:BK4,2.

Were you able to solve it? Just click on Read More for the answer, and an explanation of the theme.

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Dead-End Duffers

Our electronic republication of Willie Ryan's incomparable Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard continues this week with two situations which Willie says he has used often to bring down less skilled opponents. Here's what Willie has to say about all this.

Drummond's Dead End

Among the relatively few pitfalls I have used hundreds of times in my exhibition demonstrations, this old acorn by bumptious John Drummond, a fiery Scotsman with a pronounced talent at draughts, ranks high. Rack up the pieces. Then move: 9-14, 22-18, 5-9, 25-22, 11-16, 29-25, 16-20, 24-19, 8-11, 28-24---A, forming the position shown on the diagram.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W32,31,30,27,26,25,24,23,22,21,19,18:B20,14,12,11,10,9,7,6,4,3,2,1.

A---No hope for white after this. The only move to draw is: 21-17, 14-21, 18-15, 11-18, 23-5, 4-8, 22-18, 20-24, 27-20, 8-11, 18-14, 10-17, 26-23, 6-10, 31-26, 10-14, 25-22, 11-16, 22-13, 21-25, 30-21, 14-18, 20-11, 7-16, 23-14, 16-30, etc. Wm. F. Ryan.

Decoy For Duffers

This eight-move plot has led countless novices of the game to a defeat begotten by careless procedure. Let's set up the pieces for play. Now move 10-15, 22-18, 15-22, 25-18, 6-10, 29-25, 10-15; at this point 25-22---A loses, bringing us up to the layout on the diagram.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W32,31,30,28,27,26,24,23,22,21,18:B15,12,11,9,8,7,5,4,3,2,1.

At A, white can play either 26-22 or 18-14 with a firm position in hand.

Editor's Note: Dead-end duffers and charging champions alike can click on Read More to see Willie's solutions to these problems.

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Easy or Hard? It All Depends...

Is this month's stroke problem an easy one, a hard one, or something in-between?

We guess it all depends: on your mood or degree of alertness on any given day; on your overall checker skill; on your ability to visualize complex situations; or on a whole host of other possible factors, including, sometimes, just taking a lucky guess.

So we won't presume to judge. We'll let you make the call.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK2,K7,K11,15,16,18,19,23,26:B6,9,12,K13,K14,17,K20,25,27,28.

How did you do? Easy or hard? Well, one thing we know is easy: that's clicking on Read More to check your solution.

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02/18/06 - Printer friendly version
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Cashing In On The Win

Earlier, we presented a series of lessons on man-down draws. Today, we'll extend that series by showing two examples on winning a won game and one more on pulling off a man-down draw.

It's more than a little interesting and instructive to look at man-up positions that ought to be a win, but aren't all that easy to carry out. Here's the first one, credited to E. McMillan. Black is ahead in numbers, but has three single men who haven't moved very far, while White has one king and may soon have another.

E. McMILLAN
WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK10,8:B12,9,2.

Now, let's look at a position put forth long ago by the legendary Joshua Sturges. Here we're to draw with a man down. Note that some key elements are in place: Black, though inferior in numbers, has two kings to White's one, and the White men are on the edge of the board.

J. STURGES
WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:WK25,13,5:BK18,K1.

In our final example, Black is ahead in the piece count but has one king against White's two, and White seems to have chances at obtaining Payne's Single Corner Draw.

AVOIDING PAYNE'S DRAW
C. ADAMSON
WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK25,K14:B26,K23,13.

After you've worked through these problems, click on Read More for Ben Boland's detailed solutions, example games, and copious notes.

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02/18/06 - Printer friendly version
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A Checker Author, Too

Fred Reinfeld is a member of the United States Chess Hall of Fame, and quite deservedly so. As a champion player and prolific writer and teacher, his gift for turning complexity into comprehensibility has brought chess lore and learning to millions of players over the years.

What is less well known is that Mr. Reinfeld, who passed away at only age 54, wrote on many other subjects; he was a checker author, and, alas, has gotten little recognition for his single work, How to Win at Checkers (which has appeared in various other forms and titles but is essentially the same item). That's a shame, as this book, still in print in an inexpensive softcover edition, provides much worthy material for beginning to lower-intermediate players (see our Book Reviews, linked in the right-hand column). If you don't have this book, you really ought to get it.

The book does, however, have a couple of rough spots (rather few, as it turns out), and today we're inviting you to work through them and gain a little of recognition for yourself (even if only you will ever know). Let's start with the easy one first, which arises from the Denny opening.

Situation One

10-1424-19
11-1628-24
16-2019-15
9-1323-19
7-1032-28
14-1821-17

Here White should have played 26-23, which maintains a very slight advantage. But now watch Black take advantage of White's error:

10-1417-10
13-1722-13
18-2327-18
20-2731-24
8-1115-8
6-31
Diagram 1
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play, Black Wins

W:W8,13,19,24,25,28,29,30:B1,2,3,4,5,12,K31.

Mr. Reinfeld concludes at this point, "Black wins. He will win the man on 8, and he has a King." While it turns out that Black indeed does win, it may not be as obvious as Mr. Reinfeld implies, at least to the eyes of a non-expert player. In fact, a beginner might attempt the following sequence:

24-204-11
30-26

which swaps off the king and maintains material equality, or so it seems.

Your task in this position is twofold: (a) show why trading off the king in this manner loses; and (b) from Diagram 1, demonstrate the Black win. Neither of these assignments are all that hard.

Situation Two

Here's another Denny opening:

10-1422-18
11-1625-22
16-2024-19
8-1119-15
4-822-17
12-1617-10
7-1429-25
3-7
Diagram 2A
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W15,18,21,23,25,26,27,28,30,31,32:B1,2,5,6,7,8,9,11,14,16,20.

Mr. Reinfeld flags this as the losing move, recommending 2-7 instead. He gives the following continuation after 3-7:

...15-10
6-2930-25
29-2226-3
8-123-8
Diagram 2B
WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W32,31,28,27,23,21,K3:B20,16,11,9,8,5,2,1.

and now Mr. Reinfeld tells us, "White wins. His King will prove too strong for the Black men."

But the problem with this is that White, despite the spectacular fireworks, is a man down! So we now come to a rather difficult threefold assignment: (a) show that the position in Diagram 2B is a draw; (b) show that, after 3-7 above, Diagram 2A, White actually does win, but not with 15-10; and (c) in the runup to Diagram 2A , find Black's losing move and correct it.

And if you really want some respect, show that 2-7 instead of 3-7 still loses (we haven't included the solution; you're on your own).

We've probably outlined several days of work, but when you're ready, click on Read More for some potential solutions.

Fred Reinfeld's photo is used with the kind permission of his son, cellist and bow maker Don Reinfeld.

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02/11/06 - Printer friendly version
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Willard Who?

Have you ever heard of problemist Willard E. Davis? Maybe not (and that's not him in the photo, either), but we'd like to show you one of his little offerings, composed over 80 years ago and still instructive today.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W28,26,24,K3:B19,15,14,2.

Black is certainly in a bit of a predicament, but the draw is there, and in fact we'd have to say this problem is a little easier than many. Can you find the solution, or will Willard get the best of you? Click on Read More to check your answer.

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What's Your Speed?

Here's a double-barrel offering which combines a more-or-less "regular" problem with a quickie. Let's start here, in a position that looks very bad for the White team.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play

W:W13,21,25,28,29,31:B2,6,14,15,16,K23.

You can check this out any way you like and see that it's a White loss; the best try seems to be 25-22 after which play would probably go something like this:

25-22 14-18 22-17 18-22 17-14 15-19 14-9 16-20 9-5 23-18 21-17 18-15 Black Wins.

But instead suppose White tries 28-24, giving this position:

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W31,29,25,24,21,13:BK23,16,15,14,6,2.

Can you find a Black win here? There is a move that looks like an instant win, yet, surprisingly enough, allows for a quick White draw. But that's the subject of the 'speed' portion of our problem.

First find the Black win above (there are two possible answers), and then click below to launch the speed problem and start our timer, which monitors your speed as carefully as the radar device depicted above. Click on Read More for the answers and a little about the problem's background.

We won't impose a time limit for this one; after all, we don't want you to get a speeding ticket.

Speed Problem (fairly easy)

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02/04/06 - Printer friendly version
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Introducing Priscilla K. Snelson

Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League, looked somewhat uncomfortable and perhaps more than a bit out of place.

The occasion was the Annual Tasting Gala of the Greater Detroit Fine Champagne Association, and Marvin had been brought to this event, despite his protests, by his girlfriend, Priscilla K. Snelson. Priscilla, who to her disliking was affectionately called "P.K." by Marvin, is Executive Vice President for Marketing at the Mighty Motor Company of Detroit. A graduate of University of Manchester and the Sloan School of Economics, she is a cultured and sophisticated businesswoman, and, well, we must admit it, rather a contrast to her boyfriend Marvin.


Marvin and Priscilla
Marvin and Priscilla were talking with a group of Prisilla's colleagues. Priscilla was just beginning to speculate on the projections for next year's gross domestic product and its influence on sales when a bow-tied waiter bearing a silver tray stopped in front of the group. "Mesdames et messieurs, would you care to try the Tour de Haut-Monde Demi-Sec?"
Everyone oohed and aahed as they gently took a filled glass from the waiter's tray. But Marvin took a quick look and then asked rather loudly, "Ain'tcha got a beer?"

The waiter glared and Priscilla hissed, "Marvin, please!" Marvin, touching her arm, whined, "Aw, P.K., you know I don't dig this Frenchy stuff.... what's wrong with a nice cold bottle a Belcher's?"

Priscilla, not deigning to answer, quickly steered Marvin away from the group and in another direction. "How can you be like that," she said in a tight and clearly displeased voice. "And don't call me P.K.!"

A small, stocky man waved from the other side of the room. Priscilla brightened and waved back. "Come, Marvin," she said, "I want you to meet Dmitri. Perhaps you can try to get along with my friends?"


Dmitri
Priscilla, of course, was referring to Dmitri Tovarischky, a recent arrival from Russia who came to Detroit to serve as director of the Greater Detroit Opera and Ballet Guild. Dmitri was sipping a glass of champagne when Priscilla greeted him. "Hello, Dmitri darling, I'd like you to meet my beau, Marvin J. Mavin." Marvin warily extended a hand to Dmitri and they shook very briefly. Dmitri raised his eyebrows. "Da, da, da, I am knowing about you. You are checkers boy!" Dmitri smirked and looked rather pleased with himself.

"Checker boy?" Marvin exclaimed, "I happen to be a top ranked professional checker..."

"Da, da," interrupted Dmitri, "checkers boy! I am myself very high rank master of shashski... shashki master can crush any silly checkers boy." (Editor's note: shashki is Russian draughts.)

Marvin was getting more than a bit red. "Marvin...." Priscilla cautioned, but Marvin had already erupted. "Listen here, Comrade Commie, hows about you put a few rubles behind your big mouth and play a little friendly game, hah!"

"How dare you insult my friend..." Priscilla began, but Dmitri interrupted, "Oh, checkers boy becoming angry checkers boy," he oozed, "da,da, we play game for one thousand dollars US, you think?"

"A thou...that's a lotta beer," muttered Marvin under his breath, and then said aloud, "Yer on, Pinko."

"MARVIN, ENOUGH!" shouted Priscilla, but he was already on the way out to the parking garage to fetch his checker set from Priscilla's Mercedes. "Be right back P.K.... er... honey," he called over his shoulder.

Fifteen minutes later Marvin and Dmitri were seated on opposite sides of the checker board, with a very displeased Priscilla standing at the side, and a crowd of onlookers, bearing champagne glasses, gathered around the table.

The play was intense, and somewhere along the line, Marvin went down a piece, with the game finally arriving at the following position.

BLACK (Dmitri)

WHITE (Marvin)
White to Play

W:WK4,K10,K13,30:B2,K19,K20,21,22.

Dmitri was clearly grinning, looking about at the crowd for signs of approval. "You see it, da? American checkers boy is down one piece. Dmitri will be winning 1,000 dollars US very soon. Will buy fine Russian vodka for all good champagne people cheering for Dmitri!"

At this, the crowd was smiling, relishing the thought of a vodka chaser to their liberally imbibed glasses of champagne. But Marvin, in contrast, looked more than a bit worried; he was fidgeting in his chair and repeating over and over, "If only I had a beer...."

Can Marvin pull this one out, as he has done in the past with so many other tough positions? Will Priscilla remain angry or will they patch things up? Will Marvin ever get his beer?

Learn the answers to these questions when we conclude the story in a month or so, but meanwhile, see what you can do with the challenging position shown above.

Editor's Note: We believe this to be quite a difficult position to work out, but we invite you to match wits with our hero Marvin and see how you do.

02/04/06 - Printer friendly version
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