The Checker Maven

The Bear Trainer

Despite Brian Hinkle's generous $100 prize offer, no correct solutions were received to his admittedly difficult Bear Claw problem, and the prize offer has now expired. However, we still would like to see someone solve the problem prior to our publication of the solution, and to that end, Brian has sent us what he calls a "trainer" position.



White to Play and Draw


Here are Brian's comments on this position:

"There are 4 solutions to the Bear Trainer position.

We can't say if Brian's rating system is accurate, but we can say that you should give the position a try, and then complete your training by clicking on Read More for Brian's solutions.

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09/30/06 - Printer friendly version
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In one of Tom Wiswell's many fine books, Mr. Wiswell published a number of situations which he referred to as "checker brilliancies." We have to agree with him, as in these settings, the winning player invariably comes up with a move or a sequence that is, well, brilliant, both in concept and execution.

Today, we challenge you to match wits with James P. Reed, in a game played back in 1889 against Charles F. Barker. The move Mr. Wiswell calls "Barker's Blunder" allowed Mr. Reed to find an astounding win. Here's the run-up and the game position:

Black: Charles F. Barker
White: James P. Reed
10-14 22-17
7-10 17-13
3-7 25-22---A
14-17 21-14
9-25 29-22
10-14---B 24-19
6-10 22-18
14-17 27-24
1-6 19-15
10-19 24-15

A---24-20 can be played here.
B---This move doesn't lose, but it could be argued that 11-15 or even 10-15 is better.
C---This is the "blunder" that loses.


White to Play and Win


Can you match Mr. Reed for brilliance and find the winning move? We'll warn you, it's really something and takes a truly skilled player to find. How about correcting Mr. Barker's "blunder" and instead demonstrating a draw?

Work it out and then click on Read More to see if your play really shines.

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09/23/06 - Printer friendly version
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Double Barreled Action

It's double barreled action in today's installment of Checker School, as we continue to bring you interesting situations from Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

Let's look at one that you might find challenging. It's by F. W. Drinkwater, and the solution contains a number of "star" moves. (A "star" move is a move for which there is no alternative, and it's often rather hard to spot.) Fire away!


Black to Play and Draw


If you missed the target on that one, prime the second barrel and try this easier position, which arises from a variant of the first problem's solution. It's credited to A. Sinclair.


Black to Play, White Wins


No matter how well you've aimed, though, you won't get shot down. Trip the mouse trigger on Read More and score a bullseye with Ben Boland's solutions, illustrative game, and detailed notes.

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09/16/06 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch

As I made my way down the sidewalk, a trace of early morning coolness still lingered in the air, but the temperature was on the rise and I knew that another hot and humid Florida day was ahead. But it was still, in every respect, a fine Saturday morning, a day free from school and a morning free of chores; and on many a Saturday morning such as this one I would make my way over to Uncle Ben's porch.

He would always be waiting for me there, usually with an ice-cold pitcher of fresh-made lemonade or sometimes sweet tea. And his checkerboard would be set up and ready.

It was no different this morning. I called out a greeting to him. "Mornin', Uncle Ben!" Of course, he wasn't really my Uncle, but we all called him that. We didn't know all that much about him, just that he had lived in the New York City area until his retirement, and that he was a famous checker expert who had written a lot of books.

"Mornin', Tommy," he replied. "Ready for a little checkers today?" Uncle Ben had that wry grin that told me he was expecting me this morning and that he was ready with something new to challenge me.

"Sure am", I answered as I climbed up the old stairs to the porch. Uncle Ben had been teaching me checkers and he told me I was making good progress. I thought so, too, judging by the number of games I was winning in the schoolyard, but then Uncle Ben would always encourage me to learn more and do better.

"What do you think of this one, Tommy?" he asked. I pulled up a chair and looked at the checkerboard. Uncle Ben had set up this position:


White to Play and Win


"Can you work it out, Tommy?" Uncle Ben inquired of me, "It isn't as hard as some others, you know!" Uncle Ben's idea of "hard" was a little different than mine, I can tell you, but I wasn't going to quit without giving it a good try.

Well, I sure had to spend a few minutes thinking. After a bit, Uncle Ben asked, "Would a glass of lemonade help?" He didn't wait for my reply but went ahead and poured me a tall, brimming-full glass of his delicious, cold lemonade. He always seemed to know just the right time to offer refreshments or give a hint. He was a natural-born teacher and I often wished my teachers at school had his ways.

I took a few sips, thought a little more, and suddenly the idea came to me. Another few moments and some additional mental effort convinced me that I was on the right track. Finally, I offered, "Yep, Uncle Ben, I think I'm ready."

"OK, then, young man, show me how it's done!" he exclaimed.

"Well, here's my idea," I said, as I started to shift the checkers.....

What solution would you have proposed to Uncle Ben? Unfortunately, you'll have to make your own lemonade, but when you're ready, click on Read More for the solution, commentary, a sample game, and over two dozen fully-diagrammed additional examples of this common and important checker theme.

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09/09/06 - Printer friendly version
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Labor Day Race

This article will be published on Labor Day weekend, a time to kick back, relax, enjoy a beverage, and recognize the ordinary working guy and gal; the people who through their daily hard work and perseverance make America great. We know that many of these folk are checker players, as checkers is the mind sport of the common man; and today we salute all of you with our September speed problems.

September Speed Problem 1 (easy enough but a bit odd; one minute)

September Speed Problem 2 (moderately easy; two minutes)

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09/02/06 - Printer friendly version
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