The Checker Maven

Win or Draw? It's Fifty-Fifty!

This month in our Checker School column you have a fifty-fifty chance of getting the right answer even if you don't know a thing about checkers! Here's the position we're going to consider.


Black to Play


Only two moves look possible for Black in this tough situation.

Consider: 9-14 loses quickly to 7-2 followed by 6-9, while 17-14 goes down almost as quickly via 6-10 14-17 23-18 17-21 10-14.

That just leaves 17-21 and 17-22.

One of these two allows White to win; it's known as Wardell's Win. The other obtains a draw for Black, and goes by the name Sweeney's Draw. All you have to do is say which is which! So, even if you just guess at the solution, you have even odds of getting it right!

Of course, all of you two-fisted checkerists will undoubtedly want to go on and demonstrate just how the win or draw takes place ... won't you?

Whether you work it all out or just play the odds, there's one sure thing: clicking on Read More will give you the answers, sample games, and explanatory notes, all courtesy of Ben Boland and his classic book Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

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10/27/07 - Printer friendly version
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Thirkell's Folly

It's a "Willie Ryan" Saturday today, as we continue with our electronic republication of his classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. These monthly excerpts seem to rank among our most popular columns, and with good reason: there was no one else in checker history quite like Willie; a master player who was also a most engaging writer and instructor. Here's what Willie has to say this time.

"Peter Thirkell, a prolific and talented analyst and problemist, held a prominent place as the draughts oracle of 70 years ago. But sometimes Pondering Peter, like the rest of us, pulled glaring boners. Witness his oversight in the following game, in which he passed up one of the most beautiful in-and-out shots ever to adorn the board.

10-1529-25 11-16
23-19 16-23 25-22
6-10 26-19 16-23
22-17 8-11 27-11
1-6 17-13 7-16
25-22 3-8 32-27
11-16 22-17 10-15---A

White to Play and Win


A---Given by Thirkell to draw, but it loses. 8-11 or 16-20 will produce a draw easily."

Fool around with this problem all you wish, but don't be fooled; it's no folly to click on Read More to see the very fine solution.

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10/20/07 - Printer friendly version
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An Oktoberfest Contest

It was about five in the afternoon on a fine Sunday in October, and Marvin J. Mavin was sitting in the Biergarten on the Detroit Oktoberfest grounds. Marvin, as you probably know by now, is team captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a leading team in the National Checker League. The Doublejumpers were off today, and Marvin had just finished playing a simultaneous exhibition in the Oktoberfest's Main Halle. Marvin took on no less than 48 other players, all at once, in a benefit for disadvantaged city youth, a cause that Marvin often proudly volunteered to support. Marvin, in true championship form, won 46 games, drew two, and lost none at all.

The problem was, Marvin decided that such a performance was worthy of a beer. Or maybe, beers. So after the exhibition, he had gone right to the Biergarten, and for the past hour had been enjoying the atmosphere perhaps a little too much, and, well, things like that don't usually turn out for the best...

Marvin, in a bit of a reverie, suddenly sensed someone standing in front of him, talking rather loudly. Blinking his eyes and looking up, he realized it was none other than Dmitri Tovarischky!

Now, if you recall our earlier story (found here), a little while back Marvin had gone with his girlfriend Priscilla (who was at the moment in England on business) to a champagne party, and had played to a rather tense draw in an impromptu challenge game with Russian champion Dmitri. Marvin's less than star-like behavior had led to quite a row with Priscilla, and Marvin ended up taking the bus home instead of riding in Priscilla's Mercedes.

"Checkers Boy! What you doing here!" Dmitri exclaimed. "Should be home practicing!" Dmitri accompanied the last statement with a bit of a snort.

Marvin looked up, and it was obvious that he wasn't pleased to see Dmitri, let alone listen to his remarks. "Hey Russki, I played an exhibition and won 46 out a 48. You couldn't a done that! You ain't good enough!"

"Dmitri would be winning all games, Checkers Boy! Dmitri does not drink bad American beer and get funny in head and play poor game of checkers!"

"Hey, I didn't ..." Marvin started, but Dmitri immediately interrupted him.

"You and I, we play game now, da?" And before Marvin could even reply, Dmitri had opened up a little briefcase, took out a folding board and a set of checker pieces, and had started to set up for a game. "Checkers Boy will take Black pieces," Dmitri stated when the board was ready for play.

"No dude, they're Red pieces. Red, get it, like you!" Marvin chuckled at this remark but Dmitri glowered at the impolite comment. Not receiving a reply, Marvin began the game, and it played out as follows.

Black: Marvin
White: Dmitri

1. 11-16 23-18
2. 16-20 24-19
3. 9-14 18x9
4. 5x14 27-23

"Kind of a bum move, Russki!" exclaimed Marvin.

5. 8-11 22-18
6. 6-9

"Is now your bad moving," Dmitri said.

"Will ya keep quiet and play!" Marvin, replied with some annoyance.

6. ... 25-22
7. 2-6

"American beer drinker is cooked goose now!" Dmitri said, with glee.

7. ... 22-17

8. 4-8 30-25

"Ha, ya big loser, that move ain't so hot," Marvin threw across the table.

9. 11-16

"OK, Checkers Boy, Dmitri maybe make one mistake, but now you losing game for sure," Dmitri shot back.

10. ... 25-22

10. 20-24 32-27
11. 16-20 29-25
12. 8-11 17-13
13. 11-16

"You playing bad checkers when drinking American beer!" Dmitri said, repeating his earlier remark.

13. ... 22-17
14. 7-11 25-22
15. 3-8

"Now win is here," said Dmitri. "Game is over for Checkers Boy!"


White to Play and Win


15. ... 19-15
16. 10x19 17x10
17. 6x15 13x6
18. 1x10 21-17
19. 10-14 17x10

White Wins.


White Wins

"I told you, Dmitri is winning all games," Dmitri concluded. "Checkers Boy better take taxi to home and go in his bed and sleep until next day is coming." And in an instant, Dmitri had packed away the checker set and board and was gone.

"Wha...what..." was all Marvin could say, and in the background, he heard one of the small crowd of observers call out, "Yeah, better get 'em a taxi and send 'em home!" and then added, "His coach ain't gonna like it when he shows up for practice with a big headache!"

Can you correct the play at moves 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, and 15? Dmitri did make one large error, but Marvin made many. What would you have played instead? Analyze the game and then click on Read More for complete annotations and the game in PDN format.

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10/13/07 - Printer friendly version
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Hard? Hardly!

In one of our favorite Honolulu second-hand book stores (not that there are all that many to choose from), we came across an old book that purported to contain the "hardest" problems in various genres. The book bore a very low price tag and so we decided to add it to our collection.

We weren't terribly surprised to learn two things about this book: first, that the problems were anything but "hard" for the most part, and second, that the requisite checker problem was to be found within the book's contents. The checker problem was certainly entertaining enough, but as for difficulty, we found it a suitable entry for this month's "easy" problem!

Here's the problem:


White to Play and Win


Think hard, though you'll hardly need to; and a good hard click on Read More will then bring you to a hard stop at the problem's hardy solution.

Editor's Note: Where's the Javascript clock this month? Well, we've decided that, in addition to our usual "speed" problems where you compete against the clock, we'd alternate some months with an "easy" problem that is suitable for those of us with, shall we say, lesser talents. There is no clock for the "easy" problems in order to allow our readers to concentrate on solving without time pressure.

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10/06/07 - Printer friendly version
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