The Checker Maven

Marvin Returns to St. Louis

Marvin J. Mavin was back in St. Louis on a good-will tour, working in the inner-city schools with disadvantaged children. It was one of his favorite charitable activities and Marvin took every opportunity to further this cause.

But there were other items on Marvin's agenda for this visit. Marvin was scheduled to play an exhibition game at the St. Louis Civic Society Auditorium against the countywide amateur champion, Hinkley B. Dinkley. It was rumored that a number of major league scouts would be in attendance, with their eyes on Mr. Dinkley, who had made such a showing in amateur play that a professional contract was a real possibility. Mr. Dinkley, however, was also considering becoming a tennis pro; tennis seemed to be his real love, even though a major league checker career would be far more lucrative.

It seems, however, that prior to the game, Marvin made an unscheduled and rather prolonged stop--- at St. Louis' landmark Mudvisor Brewery. The press was not allowed to follow Marvin while he took a tour of the brewery, a tour that normally lasts about 30 minutes, though Marvin was not seen to exit the grounds until more than two hours had elapsed. Just what was Marvin doing during all of that time?

But now, Marvin and Hinkley were seated before the checkerboard, shaking hands and exchanging pre-game greetings.

"Ever been to the Mudvisor Brewery, Hink?" asked Marvin.

"Um, the name's Hinkley, and yes, I've been there once or twice. Nothing really special," replied Hinkley.

"Aw, c'mon Hink," Marvin continued, rather oblivious to Hinkley's reply, "they got that Mud Light in there and they give ya samples. Lotsa samples!"

Hinkley declined to reply, as the referee had signaled the start of play. Marvin had Black, and made his opening move.

1. 9-13

Marvin leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands on the back of his neck, and chuckled, "Hey, Hink, thought I'd sorta give you a break, being as how you're an amateur and all!"

Hinkley did not reply but simply moved

1. ... 22-18

"Ah, now we're gettin' serious," said Marvin, and the game continued as follows.

2. 12-16 24-20
3. 8-12 25-22
4. 16-19

Hinkley suddenly sat up straight, staring intently at the board, with an astonished look on his face. He blinked his eyes, blinked again, and continued to stare at the pieces.

"Whaddya lookin....." Marvin started to say, but he abruptly cut off his sentence, and then muttered, "Uh-oh...."

The forced exchanges took place, and then it was again Hinkley's turn.

4. ...23-16
5. 12-19

Hinkley thought for a few more minutes, and then looked Marvin straight in the eye and said, "Marvin, I think your visit to Mudvisor was ill advised," whereupon, Hinkley made his move.

Can you figure out what's going on here? Did Marvin make an error? What move had Hinkley been expecting Marvin to make? How did Hinkley respond?


White to Play, What Result?

Put yourself in Hinkley's shoes and work this all out, then click on Read More for the rest of the story.

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01/31/09 - Printer friendly version
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Have It Your Way

We certainly don't recommend that you consume the entire triple burger shown above in a single sitting, unless you're hungry beyond belief and health considerations are of no consequence. Instead, we recommend you try out today's triple checker problem, in which you can truly have it your way.

The first setting is this.


Black to Play and Win


If you don't like the first setting, then move the Black piece on square 1 over to square 2.


Black to Play and Win


And if even that doesn't please you, move the piece to square 3 instead.


Black to Play and Win


Have it your way--- move the Black piece to any one of the three squares as shown--- and Black will still win. Can you find the correct play in all of the positions?

Try to solve them; they're really not so difficult (well, mostly). Then after you've had it your way, have it our way by clicking on Read More to check your answers.

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01/24/09 - Printer friendly version
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Strickland's Draw

We return to Willie Ryan's popular classic, Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard for today's column. In this installment, we find the Black forces in a real predicament, needing, it seems, to draw a pair of aces. But Willie shows us how to beat the odds, as he explains in his own words below.

"Another distinguished member in the checker Hall of Fame is William Strickland, who, with Willie Gardner, of Leeds, England, was among the first to introduce the art of playing checkers blindfolded. Like Dunne, Shearer, and other luminaries of his day, Strickland was a prolific analyst and scholar, discovering many of the standard positions that today are known to all advanced players. Here we present the important Strickland Draw, which can arise from almost every opening on the board.

9-14 22-17 3-8
22-17 8-11 30-26
11-16 29-25 8-11
25-22 11-15---A 26-23
8-11 25-22 5-9
17-13 15-24 32-28
11-15 27-11 11-15
24-19 7-16 31-26
15-24 23-19 15-24
28-19 16-23 28-19
4-8 26-19

arriving at the diagram.



Black to Play and Draw


A---If 16-20 is played, proceed with 19-16, 12-19, 12-19, 23-16, 11-15, 26-23, 15-19, 30-26, 10-15, 17-10, 7-14, 16-11, 19-24, 13-9, 6-13; at this point 25-22 insures the draw, but if 32-28 is employed, black hits the jackpot with 15-18, 28-19, 14-17, 21-14, 5-9, 14-5, 3-7, 23-14, 7-30."

Can you turn up the card that saves the day? Don't be skunked; solve the problem and click on Read More to shuffle over to the solution.

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01/17/09 - Printer friendly version
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In the Hedges

Today's class in our monthly Checker School series is nearly a miniature, having but three men per side; and, as usual for a Checker School entry, it's eminently practical. Our title is taken from Thomas A. Hedges, who reportedly first solved the problem when it was published well over 100 years ago. Today, it remains a good position to know for the cross-board player.


White to Play and Win


White has an advantage that can't be easily described as very large, but still, it's enough to win. Can you find your way out of the thicket, or will you be scratched by brambles? Have no fear of monsters lurking in the maze; clicking on Read More will rescue you at once and bring you to the solution, a sample game, and detailed notes.

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01/10/09 - Printer friendly version
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At the Stroke of Midnight

Did you stay up to see the clock strike twelve this past New Year's Eve? If you're like most of the Checker Maven staff, who are, after all, a little older than they once were, ten o'clock is already a late hour and waiting up for the stroke of midnight is a difficult task.

So instead, let's deal with not a clock stroke, but a checker stroke; that intriguing specimen of a checker problem that, like yogurt and opera, you either love or hate. And, since by now you've surely recovered from possible New Year's Eve revelry, we're setting out a position that is especially bewildering. Just take a look below.


White to Play and Win


Of course, we expect you to solve this one completely from the diagram --- no setting up the board and moving the pieces! When you've clocked your solution, take the time to click on Read More to check your answer.

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01/03/09 - Printer friendly version
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