The Checker Maven

Tina and Joey


"Hey there, Sweetie!"

The raspy voice cut through the thick Florida air and Tina's arms and face burst out in goose bumps as she involuntarily shuddered. It was that horrible boy Joey again, pestering her as he did nearly every morning. No doubt he would ask her out for lunch ...

"Wanna go for lunch with me, Sweetie?"


Tina kept her head up and her eyes straight ahead as she walked by, refusing to answer. As she passed Joey's position, he blew a lungful of cigarette smoke in her direction. Tina's eyes started to water and she couldn't help but cough.

"Wassa matter, Sweetie, got a cold and lost your voice?" Joey started to chuckle, self-amused.

"Joey, you are a disgusting boy, and if Coach Hovmiller catches you smoking, he'll throw you off the checker team ... and good riddance, too! I just think I'm going to report you this time!"

"Aw, Sweetie, you done that before and it didn't do nothing. It was your word against mine and ole Hovmiller couldn't take no kinda action. Why dontcha just go for lunch with me and kiss and make up?"

"Joey, I'm going to wipe that grin off your face! Just wait and you'll see!" Tina strode along the path as quickly as she could and soon reached the safety of the school building. Inside, breathing hard and on the verge of tears, she balled her fists and proclaimed, "I'm going to fix that boy good!"

Tina knew that Joey had cheated his way on to the checker team, and continued to cheat to keep his place. Coach Hovmiller, although a rather stern leader, had yet to catch on to Joey's tricks.

But the school day passed as it always does, and soon it was three o'clock and time for team practice. Today Coach Hovmiller had scheduled the next round of the team board placement tournament. And, wouldn't you know, Tina was paired up with Joey. Tina sighed when she saw the posting on the wall chart. Why couldn't she be matched with Tommy Wagner, or even that nice boy Kevin? Tina smiled a little when she thought about Kevin...

"Sweetie! Hey, Sweetie! You ready for some action?" Joey snickered as he said the last words.

"Don't you be fresh with me, Joey!" said Tina, "or I'll ... I'll...."

"You'll what?" replied Joey. "Turn me in to the Coach like you said this morning? Oooh, I'm so scared! Hey, let's play our game. Tell ya what, how's about winner gets to ...."

"Oh, you just keep quiet, you awful boy!" said Tina. "Let's play our game and get it over with!" Without further discussion, they sat down at their assigned table and began to play. Tina had the White pieces; Joey lead off with Black.

1. 10-14 24-20
2. 6-10 22-17
3. 11-15 17-13
4. 1-6 25-22

A weak move; 28-24 is much better.

5. 14-18 23x14
6. 9x25 29x22
7. 8-11

Black is somewhat better off here.

7. ... 27-23
8. 4-8

This gives up the advantage; 15-19 would have kept a comfortable lead for Black.

8. ... 23-18
9. 15-19

The tide turns in White's favor. 12-16 would have kept things even.

9. ... 32-27
10. 10-14 18x9
11. 5x14 22-17
12. 6-9 13x6
13. 2x9 17x10
14. 7x14

After the exchanges, White might have a win.

14. ... 26-22
15. 11-15 22-17
16. 14-18 17-14

17-13 was more accurate. White lets her lead slip quite a bit.

17. 9-13 27-24

14-9 would have been better. White has completely dissipated her advantage.

18. 8-11 14-10
19. 18-23 10-6
20. 23-27 6-2
21. 27-32 2-6
22. 32-27 6-10
23. 27-23 10-14
24. 3-7?

12-16 was correct here.

24. ... 30-25
25. 12-16?

23-27 would have been better.

Tina's heart leapt. Could it be? Yes... if she just moved here and then after that she'd move there. It looked like it would all work out! Satisified with her plan, she made her move.


White to Play and Win


If you were Tina, would you be able to teach Joey a much-merited lesson in this position? Don't be intimidated; work out the solution and be sure to click on Read More for the correct answer and the unexpected conclusion to our story.

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05/30/09 - Printer friendly version
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Jacob's Jinx

Things don't always go right; our soccer players in the photo above are finding that out, it seems. Sometimes when things go wrong over and over in the same situation, we speak of a "jinx." In today's episode from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, some skilled checkerists seem to encounter a bit of a jinx of their own. We'll let Willie tell us the story.

"It was in 1905 that two very distinguished Englishmen of the draughts world, Harry Jacob and J. H. Strudwick, of London, produced a fine work on the Kelso opening, showing play on all white replies to 10-15 as an opening move. When the authors arrived at the position diagrammed on the next page, they pulled one of the most glaring boners in checker literature by overlooking the shattering shot revealed at the point of illustration.

The diagrammed position is reached by:

11-164- 815-24

White to Play and Win


A---Recommended by Jacob and Strudwick for a draw, but it loses. The following, however, will gain a draw easily: 11-15---1, 19-16, 12-19, 23-16, 2-7, 16-12, 7-11, 26-23,15-18, 22-15, 10-26,17-10, 6-15, 30-23, 11-16, 21-17, 8-11, 17-14, 15-19, 23-18, 1-6, 18-15, 11-18, 27-23, 19-26, 31-15, 3-7, 15-11, 6-10, etc. Wm. F. Ryan."

1---Deep computer analysis supports this line of play. Willie, of course, did it all on his own---Ed.

Can you find the win that Jacob and Strudwick missed, or will you be jinxed as well? Try your luck and then click on Read More to see the action-packed solution.

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05/23/09 - Printer friendly version
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Three of a Kind

No, we don't know what they are either! When we think of "three of a kind" playing cards come to mind first, followed by a few other more ordinary images. Our photo is definitely "three of a kind" but the mystery of their identity will remain unsolved.

Today's Checker School entry is also three of a kind; or, at least, three variations on a common checker theme. In each setting, Black has three kings to White's two kings and a man, and it is up to Black to demonstrate a win. It's not an easy task, but the situations are very practical and knowing this theme will score you many an extra point in competitive play.


Black to Play and Win



Black to Play and Win



Black to Play and Win


In a sense, if you can solve one, you can solve them all; but it's easier said than done. As a small hint, you may wish to do these in reverse order, starting with the third diagram.

Give it a try, and note that as usual one thing is no mystery: clicking on Read More brings you the solutions, sample games, and many explanatory notes.

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05/16/09 - Printer friendly version
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Baseball Season: The Horror Of It All

This year's baseball season is well underway, and we're certain that old-time checkerist Harvey L. Hopkins would be horrified. Mr. Hopkins, you'll perhaps recall, was an attorney in Chicago in the late 1800s, and published a checker pamphlet called Home Checker Companion: Our Boys at Home.

We've teased a lot in our columns about Mr. Hopkins' pedantic, moralistic approach to checkers; we've even made him a part of the back-story to the alternative reality of Marvin J. Mavin's world. In his little booklet, he put forth the thesis that going to baseball games was a rather unsavory activity, perhaps even leading to a life of crime! How much better it would be if "the boys" stayed at home and played checkers, under close parental supervision, to be sure.

We can't deny that staying home and playing checkers is a good thing. Neither can we deny that parental supervision is equally good. But as fans ourselves, we have trouble with Mr. Hopkins' theory about the evils of baseball. Still and all, it's a fact that Mr. Hopkins was a skilled checkerist, and today's problem (which Mr. Hopkins attributes to Ralph D. Banks) is a clever and instructive study.


Black to Play and Win


It's a common occurence: Black, being a piece up, should win handily, but his position is cramped and demonstrating the win over the board is necessary. Can you do it, solving by sight alone? Never mind that ball game, you've got a checker problem to work out! Do your best and then click on Read More to see the solution.

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05/09/09 - Printer friendly version
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A May Day Problem

May Day, the first of May, has its presumable roots in the ancient fires of Beltane, but is today celebrated in a number of different ways. In England, May Day is a substantial civic celebration, with traditions such as the Maypole, the May Queen, and much more.

In France, it's customary to give a lilly-of-the-valley to your lady of choice.


In Germany, Walpurgisnacht is celebrated on May Day Eve (Faust, anyone?).

May Day is also a Roman Catholic holiday. And finally, May Day is celebrated by the international labor movement as a day of the worker, and in some countries, military parades are held.

While we don't in any way accord with the philosophies of these aforesaid countries, most of whom repressed and exploited the worker while pretending to act in his interests, we think a checker problem that Tom Wiswell originally called "Victory" is appropriate. On May Day, the ancient traditions celebrated the victory of light over darkness, with the advent of spring and the coming of longer days. And we note that in the end, when the Communist system collapsed some years ago, the worker really was the victor---1.

So here's our celebratory problem, and as usual for a Tom Wiswell piece, it's a dandy. It's anything but easy, but it's worth the effort.


White to Play and Win


1---The Checker Maven makes no apologies for its pro-democracy position.

March on to victory, but if it rains on your parade, click Read More to see the delightful solution.

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05/02/09 - Printer friendly version
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