The Checker Maven

Browser Issues Fixed

A concerned Checker Maven reader pointed out to us that, using his Internet Explorer web browser, text selection didn't work properly. When he tried to cut and paste game moves from The Checker Maven into his favorite checker program, he was unable to pick out just the moves, ending up with most of the page instead!

In our editorial offices we almost exclusively use free and open-source software, and we verify new articles with the Firefox web browser; Firefox, of course, didn't have any problem with text selection. So we dug deeper and learned of an Internet Explorer bug triggered by certain style sheet elements. Not wanting to inconvenience any of our readers, we made a few style sheet changes and now text selection works properly with Internet Explorer. The appearance of The Checker Maven has changed very slightly, but it's so little we bet you didn't notice.

We certainly appreciate it when our loyal readers help out by alerting us to problems and errors. Thank you one and all!

05/28/06 - Printer friendly version
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Introducing Priscilla K. Snelson (conclusion)

We last left our hero, Marvin J. Mavin, in somewhat dire straits. Recall that in Part One of the story (click here to read it again) Marvin and his girlfriend Priscilla were at a fancy champagne party. Marvin got into an argument with Russian Draughts master Dmitri Tovarischky and a challenge game, with a thousand dollars riding on the outcome, was in progress. We pick up the story with Marvin a man down in the game and not a beer in sight.

BLACK (Dmitri)

WHITE (Marvin)
White to Play


Marvin continued to fidget in his chair and mutter under his breath. Then, suddenly, he leaped to his feet, grinning widely, and played:

... 13-17

"Why Checkers Boy is laughing?" asked Dmitri, obviously annoyed with Marvin's antics. "You think chasing my man is smart move. Watch, Dmitri is only getting another king!"

The game continued:

22-25 17-22
25-29 4-8

Suddenly Dmitri's expression changed from a satisfied scowl to a concerned and puzzled look. "Pieces on 29, 21, and 2 cannot move," he said quietly. "Why is situation so difficult now for great Russian champion?"

Marvin had settled in his chair, no longer moving about. A sly smile was all that could be seen on his face. The watching crowd, too, was silent. They were no longer even sipping their champagne. Play went on:

19-16 10-14
2-6 ...

Dmitri let out a long breath. "Ha, Checkers Boy! You see! Man is moving now and Russian Champion will win game!"

... 14-18

But now Dmitri was scowling again. "Da, da, da, man goes to 9 and gets lost when King moves 22 to 17 and then to 13. Checkers Boy is thinking he is clever boy...."

20-24 18-14
24-19 22-17
19-24 17-22
24-27 14-17
6-10 22-18

Marvin lifted his head and spoke in a manner that was, at least for him, uncharacteristically quiet. "You ain't going nowhere, are ya, Pinko!"

29-25---A ...

"OK big Checkers Boy! Now king is moving from corner!" gloated Dimitri.

... 17-13

"Nyet, nyet, nyet! Dmitri will not put king back in corner!"

27-24 ?---B...

Marvin sat up straight and exclaimed, "Losing patience, are ya now! Well take this!"

... 18-14!
10x17 13x29


A---Accomplishes nothing, but neither does anything else. 27-24 might be a little better.
B---25-29 doesn't allow the quick wrapup, but still only draws, as Black can make no progress.

Marvin jumped up, raised his arms, leaped and clicked his heels in mid-air. "Did you see that! Did YOU see that! Yeah, ya fat Russkie, you were gonna beat old Marvin, were ya! Well I showed ya didn't I!"

Marvin's girlfriend Priscilla, who up to this point had kept a bit of a distance from the playing table, was starting to get a very unpleasant tight and white look. " only got a draw and you really ought to be a little nicer..." she began to say, in a voice that was a little too calm. But Marvin could not be stopped, as he turned his attention to the watching crowd.

"And all a youse!" he said, "Hangin' around waitin' for poor ole Marvin to lose so Russkie here can buy ya all some expensive vodka! Yer all a bunch a put-ons! Ya oughta drink beer like real people!"

"MARVIN, YOU CAN FIND YOUR OWN RIDE HOME!" shouted Priscilla in a most unladylike manner. She turned on her heels and strode to the exit, letting the door slam behind her.

"Uh.... honey?" said Marvin, taken with surprise. But it was too late.

The crowd dispersed quickly, the party mood of the evening ended. Dmitri was no longer anywhere to be seen, having silently slipped away at the end of the game. Somewhat sullenly, Marvin packed up his checkers and board, and went out alone into the night, hoping to find a bar still open where he could at least get a beer.

If you are of legal age and choose to drink, The Checker Maven asks that you do so in a responsible manner. Drinking and driving is a serious and dangerous crime; please don't ever do it.

05/27/06 - Printer friendly version
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Summer Schedule

We'd like to remind our readers that from now through the first weekend in September, The Checker Maven is on its summer schedule, which means we generally publish one article per week instead of two.

05/27/06 - Printer friendly version
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The Wyllie Online Draughts Club

Make no mistake about it. The Wyllie Online Draughts Club, or WODC for short, is all about checkers (or draughts, if you will). It is seriously, determinedly, and single-mindedly about checkers and nothing but checkers. It is a home for the real devotee, the genuine enthusiast, the real maven. It is not a place for casuals, drop-ins, or dabblers. Not at all.

We've been playing there ourselves for a little while now and we're rather impressed.

There are game sites and there are games sites out there on the Net, and we've reviewed dozens of them on our review page. It is safe to say that there is none quite like Wyllie.

Wyllie is a "turn based" or correspondence style site. You make your move, and at some point your opponent moves (whether within minutes or days), and then you move again. You have a ten-day time allotment, plus one day per move, allowing you to schedule your play time and still keep the game moving. Wyllie also offers a "live play" or "head to head" option (limited to Windows computers). For live play, you would likely pre-arrange a meeting in the live play area and then play as you would over the board.

OK, you're saying, this is all well and good, but there are lots of turn-based and head-to-head sites out there, many of them free of charge, a few of them with hundreds and hundreds of players on-line at any given time. So what's so great about Wyllie?

We suggest you read our full review to get all the details, but the difference is that Wyllie is about checkers and checkers only, and some very strong players make it their on-line checker home. Wyllie's on-line tournaments, held more or less monthly, are likely the toughest "mail-play" style tournaments to be found anywhere.

Wyllie offers the things you want if you are really serious about your checkers: the full range of 3-move openings; 11-man ballot play for the daring; complete game records which are protected from random public view; and perhaps best of all, a strict "real name" policy which eliminates 99.99% of the potential pests and undesirables, making the site a pleasure rather than something to be tolerated.

Is WODC for you? It depends. If you like to play a casual game at a summer picnic while enjoying a few tall cool ones, perhaps not. If you're a regular Checker Maven reader and try to solve the problems each week, very likely so; likewise, if you're an enthusiastic competitor from the lower intermediate level and up, you will benefit and enjoy. Membership is not free, but neither is it expensive. You might wish to check it out and decide for yourself.

But enough commentary; as we said above, you can read the full review if you'd like all the details. Let's illustrate the caliber of play at the Wyllie site with a pair of sample tournament games, played between Welsh grandmaster Lindus Edwards and world mail-play champion Mac Banks. (We told you that there are elite players here!) Notes are by Lindus Edwards.

Black: Lindus Edwards
White: Mac Banks

1. 10-15 23-18 2. 6-10 18-14
3. 9x18 24-19 4. 15x24 22x6

Black to Play and Draw


6.11-16---B 20x11
7. 8x15 21-17 8. 12-16 25-22
9. 5-9 17-13 10. 2-6 32-27
11. 4-8 27-23 12. 16-19 23x16
13. 8-12 26-23 14. 12x26 30x23
15. 9-14 23-19 16. 15x24 28x19
17. 7-11 29-25 18. 11-15


A---A favourite line of Dr Marion Tinsley.

B---5-9 is published to draw. 11-16 looks a far easier route to me.

Black: Lindus Edwards
White: Mac Banks

1. 9-13 24-20 2. 11-16 20x11
3. 7x16 21-17 4. 5-9 28-24
5. 1-5 25-21 6. 3-7 23-18
7. 16-19 24x15 8. 10x19 32-28
9. 12-16 17-14 10. 8-12 26-23
11. 19x26 30x23 12. 6-10 31-26
13. 10x17 21x14

Black to Play and Draw


14. 7-10---A 14x7
15. 2x11 28-24---B


A---A saving move!

B---The draw is now simple as follows: 16-20 24-19 11-16 29-25 9-14 18-9 5-14 25-21 13-17 Drawn.

05/20/06 - Printer friendly version
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White to Move and Draw, Cowboy

Most stroke problems have as terms that one side or other is to move and win. In this month's problem, though, we're only looking for a draw, so obviously, the problem must be easier than most, wouldn't you say?

Perhaps by now you know us better than that! Today's problem will require your best efforts at visualization in order to earn the draw in the following situation.


White to Play and Draw


Just don't be too quick on the draw yourself; give the problem a try before clicking on Read More for the solution.

[Read More]
05/20/06 - Printer friendly version
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Just Ask Your Mom

Mother's Day this year is celebrated on Sunday, May 14, 2006, the day after this article is due to be published, and we hope you've remembered your Mom in whatever way might be appropriate.

While we can't really say that today's feature problem is directly related to Mother's Day, it's a real teaser, and if you're stuck, we suggest that you just ask Mom for help.


White to Play and Win

Forces are even, but White has a man stuck in the dog hole. What is to be done?

Solve the problem, and check your solution with Mom. If she plays coy, though, you can always click on Read More for the answer.

[Read More]
05/13/06 - Printer friendly version
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The Goose Walk

Today's installment from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard includes the well known "Goose Walk" trap. No doubt you're familiar with it, so try your luck and see if you can work it out over the board. The lesson is rounded out with a trap in the Ayrshire Lassie opening. Clicking on Read More is no trap, though; it will show you Willie's solutions to these interesting and practical positions.

Here's what Willie has to say.

The Goose Walk

Still another first-round knockout that has tripped many a tyro is the deady Goose Walk, a favorite coup de grace of the experts for over 150 years. It is also known as the "Old Farmer," but by any name it's dynamite to the neophyte. Here's the run-up:

11-15 22-18---A 15-22 25-18 8-11 29-25 4-8 24-20 10-15 25-22 12-16 27-24---B. See the diagram.


Black to Play and Win


A---This trade-off identifies the single corner opening. More play has been published on it than on any other lead-off. It makes an even game.

B---This and 28-24 lose, allowing the Goose Walk, first shown by William Payne in 1756. The correct moves are: 21-17, 8-12, 17-13, etc.

An Old Lassie Catch

Ever since 1800, champions have been baiting beginners with the snap-trap on the Ayrshire Lassie opening outlined on the next page. Every learner has to become familiar with the basic ideas behind these elementary snares if he hopes to reach the expert class.

11-15 24-20 8-11 28-24 4-8 23-19 15-18 22-15 11-18 26-22 7-11 22-15 11-18 30-26 8-11 26-22---A See the diagram.


Black to Play and Win


A---The bad one. The correct moves are: 25-22, 18-25, 29-22, 11-15, 27-23, 9-13, 32-28, 6-9, 19-16, 12-19, 23-16, 9-14, 24-19, 15-24, 28-19, 2-6, 26-23, 10-15, 19-10, 6-15, 16-11, 1-6, 31-27, 6-9, 11-7, 3-10, 27-24, 15-18, 22-6, 14-17, 21-14, 9-27, ending in a draw.

[Read More]
05/13/06 - Printer friendly version
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Key Themes Is Now Available

We are pleased and privileged to announce the release of a new electronic edition of Richard Pask's classic Key Themes. You can download it immediately here, or else visit the Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column. The book is in PDF format for easy and universal access, and is yours for the taking, completely free of charge.

Key Themes presents 90 pages of critical mid-game knowledge, featuring 25 "key themes" which arise often in play. Study of this material by the aspiring player will provide untold benefits in improved playing strength.

This electronic edition is not just a set of scanned images, but a newly typeset edition, with large, clear diagrams and an attractive layout.

We plan to release an electronic edition of Mr. Pask's Key Endings toward the end of 2006; in 2007 we will begin the ambitious task of publishing electronic editions of all of Mr. Pask's landmark opus, Solid Checkers. Our continued thanks and appreciation go to Mr. Pask for his generosity in making his fine material available to the checker-playing public.

There is no second problem in today's edition of The Checker Maven as we invite you instead to download Key Themes and spend some time in pure enjoyment. (Full disclosure warning: hours are likely to speed by unnoticed!)

05/06/06 - Printer friendly version
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Speedy Delivery

With the traditional Mother's Day celebration just around the corner, you'll need the services of Speedy Delivery to get your flowers there on time! Similarly, you'll need to be pretty speedy to beat our relentless time clock on this month's pair of speed problems.

The first one is quite easy. The second one requires fast thinking and good visualization. We'll give you 15 seconds on the first one and a full minute (!) on the second. Click on the links below to show the problems and start the clock.

Whether or not you can deliver the solutions, clicking on Read More will speedily show you how it's done.

May 2006 Speed Problem 1 (easy)

May 2006 Speed Problem 2 (medium)

And now here's an off-the-wall trivia question: who played the character of Mr. McFeely (the Speedy Delivery man) on the celebrated Mr. Rogers Neighborhood television show? There's a reason why we ask.

[Read More]
05/06/06 - Printer friendly version
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