The Checker Maven

Uncle Ben's Porch: Tommy Goes to Brooklyn

It was a hot Saturday morning in June, hot and humid the way only Florida can be. Tommy and Uncle Ben were, as usual for a Saturday morning, sitting on Uncle Ben's porch with a checkerboard and a pitcher of Uncle Ben's incomparable lemonade.

"So, Tommy," began Uncle Ben, "I take it you've never been to Brooklyn before?"

"No, sir," replied Tommy, "but I'm really looking forward to it." Tommy's grade school checker team had done really well the past year in the Southeastern Checker District, and had been invited to play in the Eastern U.S. Regionals, to take place in July in Brooklyn, New York. Tommy, as Captain of the Junior Varsity Team, would be going along as a substitute.

"You know, Tommy, that I spent much of my life in Brooklyn, prior to my retirement. I wrote most of my books while I was there. I think you're going to enjoy your visit, and I hope you'll have time to do a little touring."

"Yes, Uncle Ben, Coach Hovmiller has given us an extra day at the end of the tournament to see the sights, and he's even arranged for a bus to take us to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building!" Tommy paused for a moment. "But most of all, I'd like to get a chance to play, and maybe do well enough to make the Varsity Team next year."

"I was thinking about that," said Uncle Ben, "and today I'd like to give you some practice in visualization that could come in very handy. We're going to take a look at, of all things, something called 'The Brooklyn Stroke.' Quite appropriate, don't you think?"

And with that, Uncle Ben set up the following position on the checkerboard.


Either to Play and Win


"It's rather unique, Tommy," he said, "in that whoever plays first will win! Can you show me how? Start with White, and then try it with Black."

But Tommy was already deep in thought. It took a little time, and half a glass of lemonade, before he spoke. "Here you go, Uncle Ben!" he said excitedly, and began to move the pieces.

How will you do with this problem? Will half a glass of lemonade do the job, or is it a bit harder than that? When you've solved it--- from both sides, mind you--- click on Read More for the solution, a sample game, and over a dozen additional examples of this theme.

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06/27/09 - Printer friendly version
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Not Quite PC

Today's offering in our monthly series of excerpts from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, entitled Freeman's Flashback, is another entry that in modern terms can't be called "politically correct." Reflecting the approach of a different era, Willie makes a comment that, while innocent in intent, would no longer be considered "acceptable."

We note that we're not ourselves offended by remarks that mean no harm and in fact cause none, and it's our humble opinion that the notion of needing to be "politically correct" has been taken way too far. But that's a topic for a different forum, and we'd much rather let Willie show us another gem of the checkerboard.

"Here is how 'World Beater' Clarence Freeman of Providence, Rhode Island, polished off 'Stonewall' Barker of Boston, Massachusetts, in an American Championship match game, many years ago. Freeman, a full-blooded Pequot Indian, required no tomahawk to 'scalp' almost all of the leading players of his day. Like Reed, he was a brilliant cross-board player.

24-1925-21See the

White to Play and Win


A---Barker walks right into the net. The only moves for a draw are: 2-7*, 18-14, 17-22, 13-9, 10-17, 9-2, 7-11, 15-10---1, 11-16, 19-15---2, 22-26, 30-23, 16-19, etc."---3

1---2-7 draws as well---Ed.

2---Or 10-7---Ed.

3---23-16 12-28 27-24 20-28 32-23 to a clear draw---Ed.

You don't need to be "PC" to solve this problem; you just need to be a good checkerist. After you've sought the "correct" expression of the solution, no one will dispute that clicking on Read More isn't the best way of seeing how it's done "correctly."

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06/20/09 - Printer friendly version
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A Graham Cracker

Undoubtedly your school lunch (whether that applies to the current era or to yesteryear) at times contains (or did contain) some Graham crackers. This popular snack was originally invented in New Jersey something like 180 years ago by a Reverend Sylvester Graham, who thought that white flour lead to all sorts of evils not suitable for mention in a family-oriented publication, and that his graham-flour based preparation would save many a wayward soul. But today, sad to say, many so-called Graham crackers don't even contain graham flour! Such is the way of the world.

Today's continuation of our on-going Checker School series, though, is the real thing: a position attributed to a different Graham, old-time checkerist R. Graham, that's a cracker of a problem. While far from being trivial, it's less difficult than most of the problems in this series; and as usual, it's eminently practical.


White to Play and Win


White certainly has the better position here, including the "move" or opposition. Can you crack this one and bring the White side through to a win, or will you slip up and fall into a crack? Clicking on Read More will show you the solution, a sample game, and the customary explanatory notes.

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06/13/09 - Printer friendly version
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A Gentle Stroke

We thought we had completely run out of puns on the word "stroke" until the one above finally came to mind. Now, the Checker Maven offices have a strict no-pets policy, but it's hard to resist the charm of the photo above.

Today's problem is indeed a stroke, but is gentle in that it's less difficult than usual. We invite you to practice your visualization skills on the diagram below.


White to Play and Win


When you've worked it out to your satisfaction, stroke the Read More button to see the solution.

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06/06/09 - Printer friendly version
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