The Checker Maven

Uncle Ben's Porch: Cookies and Checkers

I had missed a Saturday morning on Uncle Ben's porch, as last weekend he hadn't been feeling very well and told me he needed his rest. It wasn't very often that he canceled our lessons, and I was worried about his health, to tell the truth about it.

So, when I got home from school yesterday, you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that Uncle Ben had called and left word with Mom that he'd be delighted to have me make my regular Saturday visit this week. Of course, Mom fussed and bothered, saying that I shouldn't annoy the kindly gentleman when he was just getting to feeling a bit better, but she relented when I said that he might be a bit disappointed if I didn't show up. Still, she insisted that I take a plate of home-baked chocolate chip cookies along with me, and warned me not to be eating them on the way over!

I skipped down the sidewalk as fast as I could, given the heaping plate of cookies I was carrying, and soon arrived at the old familiar porch. There was Uncle Ben, looking chipper and pleased, with his trademark pitcher of lemonade looking icy and inviting. The checker board was ready, too. We exchanged good-mornings and how-are-yous, and I sat down in my usual place.

"I've got some good ones for you today," Uncle Ben declared, "but don't you think we ought to have some cookies and lemonade first, to get our brains working?"

I pointed out that Mom had told me quite clearly not to eat the cookies and that they were to be saved for Uncle Ben, but Uncle Ben just winked at me and said, "You just tell your Mom that I insisted!" That was good enough for me, and we each had several cookies and a tall glass of lemonade, quietly enjoying the calm Florida morning.

"All right then, to work!" exclaimed Uncle Ben. "How would you go about winning this one?" He indicated the position on the checkerboard with a wave of his cookie-laden hand, and then he gave me that smile--- the one that always told me that this wasn't going to be easy, but that I could get the answer if I tried hard enough.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W13,17,18,31,32:B6,9,10,16,20.

Uncle Ben's Porch is a fanciful and fictional characterization of the retirement years of the great checker author Ben Boland, with positions drawn from his classic Familiar Themes in the Game of Checkers. You're going to have to come up with your own cookies and lemonade, but clicking on Read More will give you the solution to this problem, a complete sample game demonstrating the theme, and a round dozen diagrammed positions and solutions based on the same motif.

[Read More]
03/31/07 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Three by Mac

For better or worse, today's Checker School episode isn't about a three-decker cheeseburger put out by a fast food establishment. Instead, it's a triple-decker set of positions by J. B. Macindoe, a fascinating progressive endgame study.

First, try the original:

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W24,20,19,17,13,K3:B12,K11,10,9,6,5.

If you are really good and you got it right, you went to this second configuration at some point:

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK28,20,15:BK6,K5,K2.

And if you stayed on track (a bit easier this time), you came up with the following third situation:

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W20,K19,K3:BK11,K10,K6.

We suggest that in solving the problem, you start with the first diagram; if that's (as we expect) a tough piece of meat, try the second diagram; and if you can't slice that particular piece of cheese, see if you can shred the lettuce in the third diagram. But to digest the solutions, no secret recipes are needed; clicking on Read More will serve up the answers.

[Read More]
03/24/07 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Better Than First

What can be better than first? You'll know the answer when you solve this delightful miniature by R. Holding.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W31,19:BK4,2.

Can you finish "better than first"? Win the prize by clicking on Read More for the solution and a more detailed explanation of today's theme. (As with most miniatures, we recommend you try to "sight solve" without moving pieces on a board, as a way to develop visualization skills.)

[Read More]
03/17/07 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

The Pied Piper's Fife

This month's installment from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard is appropriately named; we think you'll see why when you study the problem. But as usual, we'll hear directly from the great Mr. Ryan, in his own words.

'So many innocents have been lured to destruction by this hoary variation of the Fife opening that it has been appropriately tagged "The Pied Piper's Special."

11-15 23-19 9-14 22-17 5-9---A 26-23 9-13 30-26 13-22 25-9 6-13 21-17---B 13-22 26-17 2-6 29-25, forming the diagram.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W32,31,28,27,25,24,23,19,17:B15,12,10,8,7,6,4,3,1.

A---The Fife opening, developed and first played by James Wyllie.
B---The losing move. The correct moves here are: 29-25, 8-11, 25-22, 4-8, 22-17, 13-22, 26-17, 2-6; at this point 24-20, 17-14, or 17-13 will produce a draw.'

The winning path is a bit long this time, but don't be led away by the sound of the Pied Piper's fife; clicking on Read More will break the spell and bring you Willie's solution.

[Read More]
03/10/07 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Different Strokes

Normally, on the first Saturday of the month we present one or more "speed" problems, in which you get to race against our unforgiving Javascript clock. We're going to break the routine this month, and from time to time in the future, to present a "stroke" problem instead.

Our large and varied readership, predictably, has large and varied tastes. Some people love speed problems, while others don't; and the same is true of stroke problems, hard problems and easy problems, and on and on.

Presenting variety, and something for everyone at least from time to time, are our goals in presenting our weekly column. So, let's mix things up with a stroke problem that is without any doubt on the easier side.... after all, it's the beginning of March, and in the U.S. at least we'd best be thinking about working on income tax returns.... we do need a bit of a break from time to time.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK4,K14,23,24,26:B8,11,15,16,28,K30.

By all means, don't stroke out if you can't find the solution! Instead, click on Read More for instant relief.

[Read More]
03/03/07 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

ACF and GoldToken Sign Contract

The American Checker Federation and GoldToken have announced the signing of a contract agreement which will make GoldToken the official ACF online checker play site. Under the terms of the contract, GoldToken will provide a wide-ranging set of checker-play enhancements to their site.

GoldToken was chosen by the ACF via a rigorous competitive bidding process. Potential bidders were pre-qualified and those who passed the first screening were sent a detailed set of bid specifications. The responses were evaluated and GoldToken emerged as the top bidder. Contract negotiations proved successful and contract signing was completed a little over a week ago.

The exact contract terms and conditions contain vendor proprietary information, so we're not allowed to give all the details here. But we can tell you that GoldToken will be adding a lot of checker-related improvements and additions to their site in the coming months. Completion of this work is expected in six to twelve months, and we know we'll find the wait practically unbearable--- but definitely worth it.

03/03/07 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.