The Checker Maven

Marvin Visits Manchester

It was the All-Star break during this year's National Checker League season, and as part of the week-long festivities, Marvin J. Mavin, checker star and team captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, was doing a promotional tour in Great Britain.

Professional Checker Star Marvin J. Mavin

Certainly it would come as no surprise to know that one of the stops on Marvin's tour was the city of Manchester, truly one of the checker--- or should we say draughts--- capitols of England. Marvin had undertaken to play a simultaneous exhibition against the members of the British Amateur Championship team, the Chorley Checker Chaps. A fivesome made up of star draughtmen, their roster was impressive: Matthew Eek; the eminent mathematician and team captain Dr. John Algeeber; Donald Oligarch; Melvyn Emerald; and Eddie O'Gollie.

The Championship Team, The Chorley Checker Chaps

The match was taking place at that noted local enterprise, the Multicorn, where it was said that the beer and ale were of the highest quality and the atmosphere most suited for a serious match of draughts.

The Multicorn, Site of the Match

When told of the arrangements, we understand that Marvin approved wholeheartedly, even though his coach had warned him to maintain a positive image and keep in mind the public relations purpose of the tour: in other words, keep away from the beer, stay sober, and play winning checkers.

There were a couple of problems with that directive, however. First, Marvin, being more than a bit of an iconoclast, always had shall we say a bit of a problem in following the directions of higher authorities. Second, as we all unfortunately know, Marvin was rather partial to a good pint of beer, and was known to partake at inappropriate moments, and in fact at any moment possible. (Recall our earlier Checker Maven story in which Marvin lost a game to his arch-rival, Dmitri Tovarischky, after having enjoyed Octoberfest beverages a little too freely.)

Marvin was in full form for today's exhibition, and he would need to be at his best; the Checker Chaps were no easy targets, being the best amateur players in England. The playing room was ready; the Checker Chaps were seated at their boards, and the room was filled to overflowing with enthusastic fans.

The match was about to begin when to everyone's surprise (or perhaps to no one's), Marvin suddenly called for "a pint of Base Ale all around."

The Checker Chaps did their best to mutter polite refusals but not a few of the fans, and Marvin himself, soon had in hand a frothy mug of ale. Play began, and it quickly became evident that the Checker Chaps would provide Marvin with stiff competition.

Marvin quickly won his game on Board 4 after taking advantage of a positional error. Board 5 ran into a quick draw, as did Board 3. On Board 2, Marvin lost a piece in a tricky exchange and graciously (at least by Marvin's standards) resigned the game, quickly calling for another pint of Base Ale to assuage his disappointment with the loss.

The game on Board 1 with Dr. Algeeber would decide the match. It had played out thus far as follows:

Black: Marvin J. Mavin
White: Dr. John Algeeber

1. 9-14 24-20
2. 5-9 22-18
3. 11-15 18x11
4. 8x15 25-22
5. 7-11 22-17
6. 4-8 17-13
7. 2-7 29-25
8. 1-5---diagram

The situation was tense. Dr. Algeeber wanted to win the game and take the match on behalf of his team and the home town fans. Marvin, of course, as a star professional player, had a reputation to uphold. But Dr. Algeeber was an expert in his own right and an opponent not to be taken lightly.

Of course, one had to ask if Marvin should really have called for that third pint of Base Ale, "to clarify his thinking" as he told the barmaid.

Dr. Algeeber had again declined, this time noting in a somewhat pointed manner that "draughts of ale and draughts over the board really don't mix all that well, you know." The British team captain was now on move, and realized that he had chances to perhaps pull through with a win. The board position was as follows.


White to Play and Win


Marvin, as usual, was fidgeting in his chair, taking frequent sips from his mug. Though he found this all more than a bit annoying and distracting, Dr. Algeeber, being the gentleman that he was, refrained from complaining. Finally, though, he allowed himself a bit of a smile as he made his move.

Would you have been able to win this position against someone with Marvin's finely honed professional skills? Would you have been able to keep cool despite Marvin's constant fidgeting, muttering, and slurping of ale, or would you have been tempted to dump a water pitcher over his head?

Well, we certainly wouldn't recommend something so impolitic as the latter, but we do recommend that you try to find the winning move, and then click on Read More for the conclusion of the story and the solution to our problem.

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06/28/08 - Printer friendly version
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A Study In Structure

In this month's excerpt from Willie Ryan's unmatchable Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, we see a situation that Willie characterizes as "not so impressive as most of the other items." Of course, Willie has extremely high standards, but we can certainly say that we're impressed with this little gem! Add in the fact that it is of practical use, and you have something that certainly ought to command our attention. Here's Willie to explain it all to us.

"The following stroke theme is not so impressive as most of the other items in my compendium, but it is one of major importance, and of a type most likely to be overlooked in crossboard play. The game itself was adapted from one I played with 15-year-old Leonard Rosenfield, of Boston, who has all the promise of a future World Champion.

9-13 15-18 6-15
24-20 28-24 32-28
6- 9 11-15 12-16---A
22-18 26-23 30-26
10-15 8-11 16-19---C,
18-14 23-19 forming the
9-18 2- 6 diagram.
23-14 19-10

White to Play and Win


A---If 4-8 is moved, follow with 30-26* (not 24-19,15-24, 28-19, 11-15, 19-10, 18-22, 25-18, 5-9, shot), 12-16---B, 26-23, 8-12, 25-22*, 18-25, 29-22, 16-19, 23-16, 12-19, 22-18* (not 31-26, 1-6, 14-10, 7-14, 27-23, 14-18*, 23-14, 6-9, 14-10, 9-14, etc., black wins), 15-22, 24-8, 3-12, 27-24, 1-6, 20-16, 12-19, 24-15, 22-25, 28-24, 25-30, 24-19, 30-25, 31-27*, 25-22, 27-24, etc., ending in a draw. Leonard Rosenfield vs. Wm. F. Ryan.

B---18-22, 25-18, 15-22, 26-17, 13-22, 27-23, 11-15, 23-18, 8-11, 24-19, 15-24, 28-19, 1-6, 19-15, 22-26, 31-22, 7-10, 14-7, 3-19, 29-25, etc., accomplishes a draw. Wm. F. Ryan.

C---Down the wrong alley! The correct thrust is 4-8, 26-23, 8-12, making the draw play shown in Note A."

Can you structure a solution, or is your thinking perhaps too rigid? Clicking on Read More is a predictable part of our weekly structure, and you know that it will bring you straight to the solution, and an interesting computer addition to Willie's original analysis.

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06/21/08 - Printer friendly version
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Small, Square, Two Inches of Ivory

The famous British novelist of the late 18th and early 19th century, Jane Austen, spoke of her writer's canvas as a "small, square, two inches of ivory." By this she seemed to have meant that her works were limited in scope and in some sense "miniatures" based on the society in which she lived.

But this is a checker column, not a literary review, and we bring up Miss Austen only as a point of comparison to miniatures in checkers. They too deliberately limit their scope, but, like Jane Austen's famed novels, have no lack of intricacy, depth, and ultimately, charm.

Today we publish a Checker School study taken from the pages of Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. It's indeed a small square of ivory with much appeal and value. Here's the position.


White to Play and Draw


Can you find the White draw in this deceptively simple setting? You needn't be a Victorian gentleman or lady to find the answer; pure skill at checkers is what's required. When you've arrived at your solution, click Read More for the correct procedure accompanied not by harpischord or pianoforte, but instead a trio of sample games and extensive explanatory notes.

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06/14/08 - Printer friendly version
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Send in the Marines

When a rapid response is needed in times of crisis, we often hear the expression, "Send in the Marines!" And indeed, the United States Marines are renowned for their ability and willingness to take on tough problems and solve them quickly.

This month's speed problem doesn't require a rapid response force of the military kind, but does indeed require quick wits and checker skill. It's a problem that mid-20th century checker great Millard Hopper demonstrated to members of the United States Marines while Mr. Hopper was on a USO tour during World War II. The Marines learned to solve it; can you?

Ten seconds on our Javascript clock is all we're giving you, so snap to attention and take off at double time!

June Speed Problem (easy)

Check your solution by clicking on Read More, and that's an order, checker player!

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06/07/08 - Printer friendly version
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