The Checker Maven

Trouble In The Old Fourteenth

From time to time, we like to recall a classic position, one that in a way is like excellent brandy. If you've experienced it before, you will anticipate the fine flavor and be glad to enjoy it again; and if you haven't previously had the pleasure, you're in for a sophisticated and memorable treat.

Today, we're bringing back a trap in the popular go-as-you-please Old Fourteenth opening, said opening so-named simply because it was the fourteenth item in early editions in the ancient and venerable checker books of Payne and Sturges. Here's a run-up to the position of interest:

11-15 23-19 8-11 22-17 4-8 17-13 15-18 24-20 11-15 28-24 8-11 26-23---A 9-14---B 31-26 18-22?

A---25-22 might be considered the main line but this move is perfectly sound.

B---3-8 also draws.

The situation now looks this way:

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

B:W20,14,13,12,10,9,8,7,6,4,3,1:B32,31,30,28,27,26,23,22,21,19,18,11.

Over the board, and without your computer or your opening books, can you find the line of play that wins for White? Can you correct Black's losing move? We're guessing that the more experienced readers will find their way here, but for the rest of us, it could be a bit of a challenge.

No matter where you stand, you can uncap the solution and drink deeply of traditional checker knowledge by clicking on Read More.

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06/24/06 - Printer friendly version
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Hefter's Triple Play

This month's lesson in Checker School is due to Mr. Charles Hefter, famed analyst, problemist, and player, who held forth in the last part of the 19th century. We present three positions, closely related but with slight changes from one to the next. Yet, as we well know, subtle differences matter a great deal in our game. These studies were originally published decades ago in Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers, but remain fresh and interesting today.

No. 1
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK15,17,29:B5,9,27.

No. 2
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK15,17,29:B5,6,K31.

No. 3
WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W21,K18,17:BK27,9,5.

Try out these problems and see if you can retire the opposition by turning a triple play. Then, clicking on Read More will bring you Ben Boland's complete analysis, notes, play, and variations, all without missing a single pitch.

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06/17/06 - Printer friendly version
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A New Book And A Great Quote

It's no secret that here at The Checker Maven we invest in as many checker books as our funding allows. This week, we received a new book by Dr. Harold Schneider, with the unusual title Board Game Tournaments for the Fun, Profit, and Professionalism of the Public. (The associated web site is here.) It's a book that is every bit as unusual as the title, covering a wide variety of game-related subjects, but concentrating, of course, on checkers.

We'll publish a full review on our Book Review page in due course (though with our current large backlog, it may be some little while). But we can't resist transcribing a line from the back cover of the book, wherein Dr. Schneider gives us what is very likely the most quotable quip in the entire history of our game:

Excluding the game of romance between men and women, it is the number one fun game in the world.

Just try to top that one! We think, in fact, that Dr. Schneider is right on the money with his assessment.

06/17/06 - Printer friendly version
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Bumped Off

It's time for another installment from Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. This month we'll see a practical example of the "run-off" tactic, and one of the earliest "gotchas" ever published. But we're sure you'd rather hear from Willie directly.

Bumped Off on the Run-Off

As a general rule, it is sound strategy to attack an advanced piece by squeezing or running it off. In the following example we have a good illustration of what can happen when a player tries to maintain an advanced piece against tactical pressure.

11-16 24-20 16-19 23-16 12-19 22-18 8-11 27-23 4-8 23-16 8-12 32-27 12-19 27-23 3-8---A.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W18,20,21,23,25,26,28,29,30,31:B1,2,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,19.

A---Black gets a rude awakening after this plausible push. The right route to draw is: 11-16, 20-11, 7-16, 18-15, 9-14, 15-11 (25-22, 6-9 draws), 6-9, 25-22, 9-13, 22-18, 10-15, 18-9, 5-14, 29-25, 15-18, 26-22, 18-27, 31-15, 2-6, etc.

The Scrub's Delight

11-15 23-19 8-11 22-17 4-8---A 17-13 15-18 24-20 11-15 28-24 8-11 26-23 9-14 31-26 6-9 13-6 2-9 26-22 9-13---B.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W19,20,21,22,23,24,25,27,29,30,32:B1,3,5,7,10,11,12,13,14,15,18.

The illustrated layout was one of the earliest standard pitfalls to be recorded in checker literature, being first shown, in 1800, by that pioneer chronicler of the checker art, Joshua Sturges. Appropriately labeled "The Scrub's Delight," it has probably dropped more novices than any other trap on the board.

A---Completes the Old Fourteenth opening, one of the first and most popular developments tackled by the learner. Winning chances are about equal.

B---Time-tested standard play to here. The text loses, forming the Scrub's Delight. The correct play to force a draw is: 1-6, 22-17, 18-22, 25-18, 15-22, 23-18, 14-23, 27-18, 9-13, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14, 6-10, 30-25, 10-17, 25-21, 22-26, 21-14, 26-31, 19-15, 31-26, 15-8, 26-22, 32-28, 22-15, 24-19, etc.

Don't get bumped off and don't be a scrub. Try out the problems and then click on Read More to check your solutions.

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06/10/06 - Printer friendly version
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What's Your Excuse?

"There are various excuses made by checker players as to why they were beaten. It may have been the arrival of a new baby; the unexpected arrival of his mother-in-law; it might have been the toothache the previous night; the baby may have kept him awake all night on account of its having the colic; the weather may have changed suddenly and brought on a twinge of rheumatism; he may not have had the kind of board to play on to which he is accustomed; a spectator may have smiled at a time when smiles were out of order; some one may have opened a window causing a draught; he may have used a line of play given in the book as sound and it turned out otherwise. The foregoing and many others may all be good and valid excuses, but the finest one of all is, the other fellow was a better player."

Printed more than eighty years ago as The Art of Alibi in the Seattle Times, and still relevant today.

06/10/06 - Printer friendly version
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Faster Than A June Bug

Actually, we're really not sure how fast a June bug might be, but you'll need to be at least as fast to solve the June speed problem. Although not conceptually difficult, it does require good visualization. Click below to show the problem and start the clock. You have 60 seconds!

June Speed Problem (Easy to Medium)

Try the problem, and if you're stuck, don't be bugged! Fly your mouse over to Read More to reveal the solution.

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06/03/06 - Printer friendly version
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Two Exciting On-Line Developments

The Checker Maven has two items of interesting news about on-line checker game sites.

First, the upcoming World Mailplay Championship match, between defending champion Mac Banks and challenger Bill Carter, will be played via the internet, on the Wyllie Online Draughts Club site. Members of the site will be able to follow the games as they take place, and a fantastic competition is to be expected. In the qualifying rounds, Challenger Carter didn't lose a single game, so Champion Banks, a competitor with great skill and knowledge, will have to play at the top of his game.

Second, and this is a Checker Maven exclusive, we've learned that the GoldToken turn-based game site is in the process of implementing three-move restriction play, and we understand that they plan to do it right, setting up games in pairs and using the 156 opening "hard" deck. We're told by their site manager that this new option could be available as soon as late summer of this year. We're always glad and appreciative when online game sites take checkers seriously and present our game in an accurate and professional manner.

06/03/06 - Printer friendly version
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