The Checker Maven

Thanksgiving Weekend

In the United States it's Thanksgiving weekend, bringing one of our favorite times of family, food, and celebration. In the spirit of the weekend, we'd like to bring you an especially elegant checker problem which we're sure will provide you with much pleasure. It's part of our Checker School series and looks like this.


White to Play and Win


The problem is due to R. Martins, and while the solution is not overly long, it may surprise you; and, like Thanksgiving dinner, the problem is incredibly rich in content. Take your time, have a slice of pumpkin pie and a cup of coffee, and enjoy. When you're all done, click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and detailed explanatory notes.

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11/24/07 - Printer friendly version
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A Little Deceiver

Willie Ryan, possibly the only checkerist ever to achieve anything close to "rock star" status, takes us back to his youth in this month's installment from Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. Let's listen as Willie tells us about a trap he learned in those early years. Editior's note: the photo above is definitely not Willie Ryan!

"When I was just a boy of 13, I learned this trap on the Defiance opening by John Drummond, which enabled me to win more than a few games. The basic germ or idea utilized in this example is known as the "Brooklyn"--- a tactical device that has almost as many variations of application as the versatile in-and-outer.

11-15 29-25 15-24
23-19 11-15 28-19
9-14 25-22 4-8
27-23 7-11 22-18
8-11 24-20A 6-9
22-18 15-24 18-15B,
15-22 28-19 forming the
25-9 11-15 diagram.
5-14 32-28

Black to Play and Win


A---The old and somewhat difficult Andrew Anderson defense. A better defense for white is: 22-18, 15-22, 26-17, 11-15, 24-20, etc., as given in my book, Scientific Checkers Made Easy.

B---To the gallows! The correct play here is: 31-27, 8-11, 18-15, 11-18, 21-17, 14-21, 23-5, 2-6, 27-23, 10-15, 19-10, 6-15, 20-16, 12-19, 23-16, 15-19, 16-11, 19-24, 26-23, ending in a draw."

Young or old, one thing is certain: clicking on Read More will show you the snappy and pleasing solution.

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11/17/07 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: An Argument with Mom

I had a bit of an argument with Mom this morning, and that's never a good way to start off the day. It was Saturday morning, and nearly every Saturday for more than a year I'd gone over to Uncle Ben's for a couple of hours, to sit on his porch, drink his wonderful lemonade, and learn something new about checkers.

But Mom had said that we're two months into a new school year, I'm in fifth grade now, and I need to spend a few extra hours hitting the books, as I hadn't exactly gotten off to a good start in English and math. Besides, she said, you can't be bothering Uncle Ben all the time; the elderly gent can't be expected to entertain children every single week!

I pointed out that Uncle Ben seemed to really look forward to my visits and that he might be disappointed if I didn't show up. Besides, I said (repeating back a few lines I'd heard from Uncle Ben himself), checkers helps a student with logical thinking and the application of reason. (I'm glad Mom didn't ask me to explain what all of that really meant, though.)

After a little while Mom relented and let me go, with a final caution to not stay too long and wear out Uncle Ben's patience or hospitality. Still, I didn't feel very good about the whole incident, and when I arrived at Uncle Ben's and sat down in one of his porch chairs, I couldn't help but blurt out the whole story.

"Well, Tommy," Uncle Ben said after hearing me out, "listening to your Mom and doing as she says is very important, and I shouldn't discourage you from doing so."

At these words, my heart started to sink and I was sure Uncle Ben was going to send me straight home. Certainly, he realized this as he added, "No, no, Tommy, I'm not going to send you off. But we need to make a little deal, one that you need to tell your mother about when we've shaken on it."

"Deal?" I said, unsure of what was coming.

"Yes, a nice gentleman's agreement. The one part of the deal is that you can come here and visit every Saturday that you wish ... but the other part is that your grades have to all be above whatever mark your mother decides. So if she says that you have to have nothing less than a 'B' in every subject, then you have to do that well in school," Uncle Ben concluded.

"But ... but ...." I stammered.

"No 'buts', Tommy! I know, you're worried that your mother will ask you to get all "A"s or something really hard. But I know your mom and I know she'll be fair about it. She'll just expect you to do your part. So, is it a deal, then?"

"Yes, sir," I said, and we shook hands on it. Uncle Ben was right, Mom would be fair, and I did want to keep my grades up, though I knew it would be hard work.

"Well then!" exclaimed Uncle Ben, "all this business talk makes a man thirsty!" And before you could blink twice, Uncle Ben had placed glasses of frosty lemonade on the table in front of us, and turned his attention to the checkerboard.

"You've been coming along fast," he said, "and so today we're going to try something a little harder. It's a bit like school; as you move up in grades, the work gets harder, but you learn more and more all the time. What do you make of this? Here's one in which whoever moves first will win."

This was the position Uncle Ben had set up for me.


Either to Play and Win


I took a long, careful drink of lemonade, and all at once, everything seemed clear. "Hey, Uncle Ben, I've got it!" I said proudly, and began to move the men to demonstrate the solution.

What do you make of this problem? Work it through and then click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and a large helping of additional illustrated examples.

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11/10/07 - Printer friendly version
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Maybe Not Quite A Speed Problem

The first Saturday of each month we often offer a speed problem, featuring our relentless Javascript clock, and this month we return to that theme. But today's problem might not be quite a speed problem.

To be sure, the better checkerists out there will likely come up with the solution in short order. But others may perhaps need a little more time. And so, to accommodate everyone, we're being especially generous and allowing a whole two minutes for you to find the solution before the clock runs out. Aren't we the kind ones?

Click on the link below when you're ready to give it a try.

November Speed Problem (moderate difficulty)

Whether you were speedy or not, clicking on Read More will show you the solution in a jiffy.

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11/03/07 - Printer friendly version
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