The Checker Maven

La Reina de Damas en Mexico

Una senora llamada Irma Sierra vive en la ciudad de Guadalajara, y ella es la reina de damas en Mexico.

Or, to paraphrase, a lady named Irma Sierra (full name Irma Alicia Sierra Noriega) lives in the city of Guadalajara, and she is the veritable queen of checkers in the warm and charming country of Mexico.

Irma granted The Checker Maven an exclusive interview, and we're most pleased to share with you a little about one of the most colorful women in checkers. This column is the first in a projected series that we're calling Contemporary Women in Checkers. We hope you enjoy it, and we hope that in some small way we can help to encourage more women to take up the great game of checkers.

Irma's native language, of course, is Spanish, but she is completely fluent in English and we present her comments here virtually unedited. Brava, Irma, you are a linguist as well as a checkerist! Irma is also a wife, mother, and grandmother, and she balances these traditional roles with a busy travel schedule which includes checker tournaments whenever possible.

Checker Maven: How did you get interested in playing checkers?

Irma: When I was 48, I started to use the computer for the first time, and a friend and I were playing checkers in Messenger, and we saw an advertisment: MSN Games by Zone. I went there and started to play checkers for the first time in my life. I kept playing because I fell in love with checkers...

Checker Maven: When did you learn the game?

Irma: There was a guy with the nickname Chumpchange in the social room of Zone, a very nice person, and he became my friend and taught me some moves.

Checker Maven: What lead you to becoming a serious checker player?

Irma: Well, when I started to beat some "guests" (those were the serious players in the social room in Zone) i decided to go to Kings Room where the serious players were. I had to beg to get a game, and there it was where I met my friends that invited me to participate in a tournament in Lebanon Tennessee, and I dared to go! Vonda Jones ("Bugs") and Ken Christan ("Redeyechecker") went to pick me up at the airport, and I had to remember how they looked just from the pictures I had seen on the NCCheckers site, they never saw me passing through until I saw them. It was very nice and fun!

Checker Maven: How is Mexico as a checker playing country --- are there many players and are there many good players?

Irma: Here in Mexico I didn't know anybody who played checkers, only my friend and I, but on the internet there are a few others and some are very good checker players, like Gilberto Cisneros. He went to the Nationals in Las Vegas in 2008, and there are I am sure others that I do not know. But you have to understand that in Mexico it is usual to play Spanish checkers, and not American checkers.

Checker Maven: Do many women play checkers in Mexico? What do Mexicans generally think about women checker players?

Irma: I don't know if many women play checkers in Mexico, but the culture here is different, not many get on the computer to play games, but I know one who is very good from Mexico City; she plays in Kurnik. And about what they think ... ha ha ha ... only my friends know there is a Mexican woman that plays checkers: ME! And they are impressed when they hear that I go to play checkers in US tournaments, but they think I am nuts! (The macho thing ... )

Checker Maven: Do you have any goals in checkers? How will you reach them?

Irma: My goal is to keep learning to play better. And I will get that playing in GoldToken, my super favorite place, and in Kurnik, with my friends that are always willing to teach me. Thank you all! And also going to tournaments to have lots and lots of fun!

Checker Maven: How would you encourage more women to play checkers? What should change in the world of checkers for more women to become serious players?

Irma: Well, there are very few women checkers players in the world, I think because traditionally it was a men's game and they never tried to play it, but they should!! Checkers is a beautiful game, and maybe it has something to do with patience to learn; it is not easy to be losing and losing, you know? And I would add the fact that some men don't take us as serious players ... the macho thing again?

Checker Maven: Do you enjoy tournament play?

Irma: I love to play live tournaments not just for the game, but also to meet all my checkers friends from GoldToken and Kurnik... I love them all!

Checker Maven: What are one or two of your most memorable moments in checkers?

Irma: Oh yes, when I beat Jan Bulstra in Ohio, he kept saying: oh Irma, oh Irma ... ha ha ha .... I loved it! Besides that, I have drawn at least one time to many Majors players, like John Acker, Teal Stanley, Ken Christian, Howard Gain, Leonard Hickman, Hollis McClard, Bill Shoffner and Howard Hoover...:and maybe I forgot some others? Another nice moment that I enjoyed a lot is drawing against Lindus Edwards in GoldToken.

To conclude, we'd like to present two games played by Irma. The first is a live tournament game, and the second, which we've turned into a problem for you, the reader, to solve, was played on the GoldToken internet game site. Annotations are derived from analysis with the KingsRow computer engine. Both games illustrate Irma's well-honed ability to instantly capitalize on an opponent's error.

Black: Jan Bulstra
White: Irma Sierra

1. 9-13 24-19
2. 11-16 22-18
3. 10-15

In this unbalanced 3-move ballot favoring White, 8-11 is the only move to draw at this point. The move played is a probable loss, and Irma takes full advantage.

3. ... 19x10
4. 6x22 25x18
5. 1-6 28-24
6. 16-20 29-25
7. 8-11 24-19
8. 11-16

6-9 or 7-10 could have been played here, but the position is pretty much lost for Black.

8. ... 18-14
9. 4-8

Going further astray. 6-9 was a better option in a bad situation.

9. ... 25-22

Irma continues to play very accurately.

10. 7-10 14x7
11. 3x10 22-18
12. 6-9 18-14
13. 10x17 21x14
14. 9x18 23x14
15. 16x23 27x18

White has a commanding position in the center. It's only a matter of time.

16. 13-17

Off the mark. 2-6 would be a better choice.

16. ... 26-23

26-22 would have forced a quicker finish after 17-26 30-23 and Black soon runs out of moves.

17. 2-6 18-15
18. 17-22 23-19
19. 6-9 14-10
20. 9-13

This is the end of the recorded game; Black resigned a few moves later. The game might have continued as shown.

20. ... 32-27
21. 5-9 27-24
22. 20x27 31x24
23. 9-14 24-20
24. 14-18 20-16
25. 18-23 16-11

White Wins.

Black: Irma Sierra
White: "Kokomo" a.k.a. Bill Shoffner

1. 11-15 22-18
2. 15x22 25x18

White opts for the Single Corner.

3. 10-15

8-11 or 12-16 are more common lines but this move can also be played.

3. ... 18x11
4. 8x15 29-25
5. 4-8 25-22
6. 8-11 24-19

23-18 is common here, though the text move is quite good.

7. 15x24 28x19
8. 9-14 22-18

The computer suggests 27-24 or even 30-25, but White's move is fine.

9. 6-10 18x9
10. 5x14

The game is being played very accurately by both sides.

10. ... 26-22
11. 11-16

One could argue that 11-15 is slightly more accurate, playing into the center.

11. ... 22-18
12. 1-5

This returns to a computer book position!

12. ... 18x9
13. 5x14 31-26?
Position before 13. ... 31-26

White to Play and Draw


We're asking to solve two problems here. First, correct White's 31-26. What should Kokomo have played instead? Second, find the winning line of play for Black after White's 31-26. How can Irma win the game?

Position after 13. ... 31-26

Black to Play and Win


When you have your answers, click on Read More to see the solutions as well as the actual conclusion of the game.

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07/25/09 - Printer friendly version
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Christie's Shot

In our photo, it looks like Christie O'Shea of Ithaca College is about to make quite a shot. Obviously, that would be a golf shot. Although we know Christie is a top-notch golfer, we don't know if she plays checkers; and our subject for today is of course a checker shot known most appropriately as "Christie's Shot." However, that's Henry Christie of Great Britain ... and we're getting ahead of ourselves. Willie Ryan, in his classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard presents both the history and practice of this deft maneuver. Let's let Willie take over the narrative.

"In the 1891 English Tourney, Champion Henry Christie hooked J. L. Richmond on the following blitzer, and ever since it has been known as the Christie Shot. However, some authorities claim Charles Hefter dropped J. P. Reed on the same scoop prior to 1891. Actually, the Christie Shot was first shown by E. Jacques of Malvern, Ont., Canada, in 1865, bringing up the stroke from a Cross game. Hence, Jacques was first. But it remained for Christie to give the coup historical significance. In this book, I have followed the policy of several authors, by labelling the stroke on the next page 'Christie's Shot,' so as to distinguish it from the Jacques Shot on page 95.

11-15 23-18 4- 8
22-18 6-10 19-15
15-22 25-21 6- 9
25-18 10-17 23-19
12-16 21-14 17-22
29-25 2-6---A 26-17
9-13 26-23 9-13
18-14 13-17 15-10---C
10-17 31-26 13-22
21-14 8-11 19-15.
16-20 24-19

Black to Play and Win


A---Black can shoot for an alternative fast win by: 1-6, 26-23, 13-17, 31-26, 6-9, 24-19, 9-13, 14-9---B, 5-14, 18-9, 2-6, 9-2, 17-22, etc.

B---Into the cauldron! The correct sequence for a draw is: 19-15---1, 17-22, 26-17, 13-22, 14-9, 5-14, 18-9, 22-26, 9-5, 26-31, 5-1, 31-24, 28-19, 20-24,1-5, 8-11,15-8, 4-11, 5-9, 7-10, 9-13,11-15, 23-18, 15-22, 13-17, 22-26, 30-23, 24-27. J. Tonar.

C---Another good game gone wrong. White should play: 19-16, 13-22, 16-12, 1-6, 27-23, 22-25*, 30-21, 7-10, 14-7, 3-26, 12-3, 6-9, 3-7, 11-16, 32-27, 9-14, 18-9, 5-14, 7-10, 16-19, 10-17, 26-31; a draw. F. C. Oakley."

1---28-24 also draws---KingsRow.

Can you "drive" to a win, or have you "sliced" off a little too much? You can always "hook" the solution by clicking on Read More to see the proper follow-through.

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07/18/09 - Printer friendly version
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The Triplets

The triplets shown above have already graduated from school, so they won't need to study today's extensive Checker School lesson... if their degrees happen to be in checkers, at least. If you don't yet have your graduate's diploma in checkers, perhaps then you might wish to pay close attention in class. The checker "triplets" we'll set out are known as the Bowen Triplets, presumably because there are three related positions with three pieces on each side. In addition, we have nine other, similar positions, all of which also involve three pieces per side.

Let's see, that's three pieces per side, six pieces total, twelve positions in all ... we had better stop there and just present our material, which comes from Ben Boland's classic text Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

Note: for the sake of consistency, in all positions White is at the top and Black at the bottom, regardless of who is to move.

Either Plays, Black WinsEither Plays, Black WinsWhite to Play and Draw
Black to Play and Win

White Plays, Black WinsBlack to Play and WinWhite to Play and Draw

White to Play and DrawBlack to Play and WinWhite to Play and Draw

Black to Play and WinWhite to Play and DrawEither Plays, Black Wins
Black to Play and Win

It will take you some little while if you wish to work through all of these, but if you take the time and put in the effort, you cannot help but improve your play. So, we suggest that you double--- or better yet, triple--- your efforts and search out the answers. And, for extra credit, if twins are two, triplets are three, and so on ... can you tell us what twelve are called?

When you're done, you can click on Read More to see Mr. Boland's usual detailed solutions and copious explanatory notes, as well as the answer to our trivia question.

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07/11/09 - Printer friendly version
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3-Move World Championship Scheduled

The following announcement is reproduced with the kind permission of the American Checker Federation. As always, this promises to be an exciting match with checkers played at the highest grandmaster level.

The World 3-Move Title Match between Alex Moiseyev (USA, champion) and Ron King (Barbados, challenger) will be played Oct. 5-15, 2009 in Medina, Ohio, with Oct. 10th as a rest day. Match is 40 games (as needed). Referee is Steve Holliday.

The Rodeway Inn Medina Conference Center, Medina, Ohio, is located on 2875 Medina Road on the Northeast corner of I-71 interchange with state highway 18 (exit 218, just south of where I-71 and I-271 merge). Hotel is a quarter-mile from interchange. Room rates are $49.95 (single or double) per night plus tax. Seven-day rates (no pro-rating) are available for $149.95 plus tax (approx. $169). Phone number for Rodeway Inn is 330-725-4571. Please indicate you are there for the checker match to receive the discount.

For additional info, contact:

Richard Beckwith

(440) 516-1284


07/10/09 - Printer friendly version
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King Me! The Movie

A major checker documentary is in the works. No, we are not kidding! It will be called King Me and you can read all about it on the King Me web site.

Professionally produced by Think Media Studios, the movie is being filmed on location in South Africa, Barbados, Canada, and the U.S. Crews will be at the 2009 U.S. Nationals in August.

No checker fan will want to miss this one. Be sure to follow the film's progress on the website linked above, or on the American Checker Federation site.

07/05/09 - Printer friendly version
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Happy Birthday America

The Fourth of July, as we know so well, celebrates America and recalls the story of the brave band of patriots who, back in the 1770s, brought our nation into existence and gave life to the American dream. We've said before, and we'll say it again, that we're unabashed patriots ourselves, and personally owe much to America.

Celebrating the Fourth of July is something we love to do, and we'd like to once more carry that over to The Checker Maven and present a checker problem from the dean of American problemists, the legendary Tom Wiswell.

Mr. Wiswell's problems are not known for being easily, but they are worth the effort taken to solve them, and they never fail to delight. Diagrammed below is today's selection.


White to Play and Win


White is a man up, but Black has a king and will quickly get the man back. How can White win this one? The solution is amazing. Don't give up too quickly; you'll be richly rewarded if you do solve it. When you've drummed up your answer, click on Read More to see the revolutionary solution.

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07/04/09 - Printer friendly version
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