The Checker Maven

Beeswax Block Buster

The one and only Willie Ryan, checker great, showman, and all-around character, would have been 100 years old this month, we're told. Who knows what he might have added to his many accomplishments had he not passed on far too soon? But in any event, in celebration of this milestone anniversary, we continue our series from what is arguably Willie's best book, Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard with an entry Willie calls Beeswax Block Buster. Here's what Willie had to say on the subject, way back in 1950.

"Early in my checkered career I took a strong fancy to the Old Paraffin opening, developing much new play on it, and with it defeating many prominent stars of the board. Eventually, my contemporaries got onto it, and I dropped the opening from my repertoire. Here is one Beeswax ambush that I used with wide and telling effect:

11-15 24-20 8-11 27-24---A 3-8 23-19 9-13---B 26-23 6-9---C 23-18 1-6 31-27 9-14 18-9 5-14 forming the diagram.


White to Play and Win


A---Forms the Old Paraffin opening, nicknamed the Beeswax. When properly met, it is somewhat weak for white, though drawable.

B---If 9-14 is tried, continue with 22-17, 5-9, 26-23; now 1-5 is drawable. If 15-18 is taken, it can be nailed neatly by 19-15*, 18-27, 32-23, 11-27, 20-16, 12-19, 24-15, 10-19, 17-3, 27-32, 3-12, and white wins by stealing the piece on square 19.

C---This is where black goes wrong. The only move to draw is: 15-18*, 22-15,11-27, 32-23, 6-9, 25-22, 9-14; now 22-18 or 31-26 will draw."

But don't get "waxed" yourself! Try the problem and then click on Read More for a honey of a solution.

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01/27/07 - Printer friendly version
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Alex Moiseyev is the reigning World Champion of 3-Move Restriction Checkers, the sixth in a line stretching back over seventy years to the first generally acknowledged 3-Move World Champion, Asa Long. However, with the notable exception of Derek Oldbury, these champions didn't write instructional books about checkers. Mr. Moiseyev has changed all that with his recent book, appropriately titled Sixth, with the subtitle Volume 1: The Way to the Crown.

World Champion Alex Moiseyev and his book "Sixth"

At first glance, the book looks like a college textbook: it's a sturdily constructed hardcover, nearly 400 pages in length, with the printed paper over boards casing style adopted by many text publishers. In fact, the book is in a way an advanced checkers text, though it's far too entertaining and lively to have been published by the typical publisher of college texts.

The book was printed and bound in the Ukraine, perhaps as an economy measure, and our only complaint is that the inking in our copy is uneven, with some pages dark and others quite light. But it's the content that matters, and that really shines.

Mr. Moiseyev presents two complete World Championship matches; his encounter with Ron King in 2003, and his contest with Elbert Lowder in 2002. He also gives us a selection of fifty of his best games from the 1996-2004 timeframe. The games are illustrated and annotated in a way seldom if ever seen in a checker book. Each page has at least one diagram, often more, and diagrams are always near the text section in which they are referenced, making for extraordinary ease of use.

In total, the book contains over 500 diagrams, presents 114 games, and treats 66 openings directly and 114 more indirectly. And you won't want to miss Mr. Moiseyev's coverage of the 3-Move World Championship Title controversy, which stretched out over the 2001-2003 time period. Checkers too has its moments of drama!

But when it comes to analysis of play, which is the real heart of the book, Mr. Moiseyev left no stone unturned. In addition to his own elucidations, he adds commentary and analysis by notables such as Richard Fortman; and finally, he verifies everything with the strong Nemesis computer engine. The result: annotations that are insightful, complete, detailed, easy to follow, and above all, interesting and engaging.

Who can use this book? The play analysis is deep and uncompromising, and there's no doubt that expert players will benefit most fully. But intermediates and even beginners will benefit as well, and will obtain untold enjoyment in playing over these fine games, learning as they go, with more of the analysis becoming accessible at each replaying. We ourselves are certainly at the lower end of the skill spectrum, yet Sixth has already given us numerous hours of entertainment and education, with many more to come.

We surely hope that the subtitle Volume 1 will mean that Mr. Moiseyev will publish additional books in the future similar to this outstanding edition.

With Mr. Moiseyev's kind permission, generous extracts from the book are reprinted here; just click to see them. Mr. Moiseyev has also selected two problems from the book, which we present below for your solving pleasure.

You can order the book through the American Checker Federation Online Store or direct from Alex; write to Alexander Moiseyev, 5676 Springburn Drive, Dublin, OH, 43017 USA. The cost of the book is US $48, or US $78 if you would like an inscribed, personalized copy.

And now, here are the problems:

Problem One

White to Move, Black to Draw


Problem Two

White to Move and Draw


We didn't say they were easy! But clicking on Read More will lead you unfailingly to Alex's solutions.

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01/20/07 - Printer friendly version
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A Midnight Encounter

A reader recently asked us if we had a bibliography of checker-related fiction; we didn't, and so we decided to research the topic a bit. It was an interesting exercise; on the internet, we found out about Checkers restaurants, auto parts, taxicabs, hockey teams, and much more, but disappointingly little checker-related fiction.

Of course, there's the Sliders T4 story, certainly the best modern example. And we found references to a few more stories in old fiction magazines: Altruism and Checkers, by Jessie Bartlett Davis, in Poker Chips, #4, September 1896; She Played Checkers, by Sam Allison, in Western Action, Vol. 19, #6, May 1956; Back to Checkers, by Edward Leonard, in Western Story Magazine, Vol. 37, #1, August 25, 1923; and The Checkers Match by 'Gepruitt', found on Blogit, which will cost you about ten dollars for an access subscription. (Checkers, the novel by John Marsden, is about a dog, not our game of checkers.) In addition, we found the Chess N Checkers Restaurant in Allentown, Pennsylvania, hardly fiction, but a place we really must visit some day!

Still, wanting to give you a story to read and a couple of problems to boot, we dug through our own collection and found our single item of checker fiction, a short piece called A Midnight Encounter, attributed only to an author named 'Martin'. We hope you enjoy the story and the problems contained therein.

A Midnight Encounter

The game of checkers, to one who can comprehend its deeper mysteries, is one of the highest intellectual amusements. In my own estimation it occupies the first place, and chess owes its superior reputation to the complexity of its manceuvers rather than its opportunities for scientific play. But my intention is not to write a panegyric upon my favorite game, but to narrate a most singular event, which made an impression upon my mind that many years have failed to efface.

At the time of this occurrence I was about twenty, and enthusiastically fond of checkers, in which I had attained such proficiency as to conquer all players in my own New England village. A signal victory over an old sea-captain, who alone disputed my supremacy, determined me to make a journey to England and cultivate my talents under the instructions of the London masters. That I did not carry out this design is owing to the following remarkable adventure:

A short time before my intended departure, I was seated in an old country inn on one of the dullest and rainiest days it was ever my fortune to see. I had been playing checkers with mine host, but found him such a mere tyro, that there was no sport in beating him. I therefore dismissed him and proceeded to solve a problem of Sturges; but the old master of checkers had constructed so difficult a position that I could see no solution to it; but I scorned to refer to the book for assistance. Suddenly happening to look up, I perceived a tall old man gazing upon me with an air of triumph. Seating himself opposite to me, he solved the problem with a few simple moves, and offered me the choice of men.

I looked at him with some surprise, and beheld a really handsome man, although much beyond the prime of life, with a grave, studious sweetness of look. I moved 11 to 15 and the struggle commenced. The game occupied nearly an hour, for I was determined to do my best against this strange antagonist, and played with great deliberation. He moved apparently without a moment's thought, but so skillfully, that in several instances only the greatest concentration of my power enabled me to save my game. At length the following position was brought about:

BLACK (Myself)

WHITE (Stranger)
White to Play and Win


Here, it being my antagonist's turn to move, he uttered a low, musical laugh and said: "Sir, you have played this game very prettily, but you will now lose every one of your pieces in just eight moves." Of course he was right and I was beaten.

We fell to conversation upon the game, when the stranger related anecdotes and displayed problems that filled me with amazement. The colloquy was so interesting that I should never have desired it to cease, had not the stranger broken off, exclaiming: "Favor me, sir, with one more game, for my time is short, and I have not played for many years."

Again we engaged. The game was most absorbing, and I had strong hopes of victory. I was surprised at myself, and my adversary no longer played with the careless rapidity of the former game. With beating heart I sternly determined that I would win, if any skill would enable me to do so. At length this was the position:

WHITE (Myself)

BLACK (Stranger)
Black to Play and Win


Here, considering my superiority in kings, I thought myself sure of victory; but my rival, whose turn it was to play, said mildly. "You lose every one of your pieces, sir, in just nine moves."

The nine moves followed, and I again yielded to superior skill. I asked the name of the stranger.

"Joshua Sturges, friend. Farewell, with thanks."

He was gone with the first streak of dawn, and I gave up my voyage to England and my game of checkers.


But this need not be the end for you; clicking on Read More will show you the solutions to the problems.

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01/13/07 - Printer friendly version
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Easing Into The New Year

The holidays have ended, leaving us perhaps a bit weary from all the merry-making and festivities. And so, we'll start the year out with a pair of speed problems taken from actual play, that will give us some entertainment without taxing our tired heads too terribly much. We rate both problems as "easy" but in fact they are most likely "very easy." Still, in the spirit of post-holiday rest, we'll allow a full 15 seconds for each and go "easy" on you.

January Speed Problem #1 (easy)

January Speed Problem #2 (easy)

If somehow you find this all just too much for so early in the year, you can always click on Read More to clear things up at once.

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01/06/07 - Printer friendly version
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A Joe Job

The Checker Maven has suffered from what computer geeks call "a joe job." It's an almost universal spammer's trick: they take an email address or domain name found on the internet, and then use that address as a phony "from" address for millions of spam emails. The idea is that bounced and undeliverable mail, and especially angry complaints, won't get forwarded back to the spammer, but instead go to the address that the spammer "borrowed."

Believe us when we tell you The Checker Maven hasn't been sending out solicitations to buy pirated software or the like! Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about this rash of spam mail which some low-life has sent out in our name.

01/02/07 - Printer friendly version
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