The Checker Maven

Back to School, 2009

Yes, it's that time of year again, when to the general dismay of young folks everywhere, school opens again for another seemingly endless academic year. We counsel students to take courage and persevere--- it isn't really all that bad, and you will be repaid many times over in the years to come.

Our continuing Checker School lessons also offer much reward, and the effort involved is most enjoyable. This month, as we continue with studies drawn from Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers, we look at three positions that seem unlike each other, but have a definite relationship that you'll understand as you study the solutions and notes.

In Mr. Wardell's study, Black has even material but a position that looks hard to defend, yet somehow must manage to draw


Black to Play and Draw


In the second study, by Mr. Grey, Black is a piece down and seems to need a miracle.


Black to Play and Draw


In the final study, by Mr. Hennigan, Black has even material but a rather tough-looking position, yet the draw is there.


Black to Play and Draw


Spend some time on these; after all, good lessons require effort! When you're ready, click on Read More for the solutions, sample games, and detailed study notes.

[Read More]
08/29/09 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Monty's King-Pinch

In the English language, the word "pinch" has a couple of different meanings. The young lady above is demonstrating the most common meaning, pinching her cheeks in a manner that we're sure she finds amusing. But today, we're going to consider another meaning of the word, namely, "to steal."

In our continuing series of excerpts from Willie Ryan's famous book, Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, Willie talks about Monte Schleifer's clever way of stealing, or pinching, a king, via a most interesting stratagem. Willie tells us more below.

"When I was a schoolboy of 13, I learned that the City College of New York had organized a checker club for students, and were holding weekly meetings every Friday afternoon. On my initial visit to this club, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time Monte Schleifer of Brooklyn and Jack Cox of the Bronx. Today, they rank high among the nation's leading player-analysts. As a special contribution to this book, Monty offers this attractive morsel of brilliant play, showing a clever drawing idea. For the diagram, move:

11-15 10-14---A 4-11
24-19 27-24 24-19
15-24 16-20 6-10
28-19 31-27 29-25
8-11 7-11 12-16
22-18 19-15 19-12
11-16 2-1---B 10-15.
25-22 15-8

White to Play and Draw


A---The following unusual shot came up in a mail game between Joseph Viera of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Fred Butterworth of Passaic, New Jersey: 4-8, 22-17, 8-11, 17-13, 16-20, 26-22, 11-16, 29-25, 9-14, 18-9, 5-14, 22-18, 14-17, 21-14, 10-17, 31-26, 7-10, 18-15, 3-8, 23-18, 16-23, 26-19, 17-22, 25-21, 10-14, 18-9, 1-5, 15-11 (what's going on here?), 8-31, 30-26, 5-14, 26-1; a draw. A well-played crossboard game.

B---Strongest, but 4-8, 29-25, 2-7, 24-19, 7-10, 32-28, 12-16, etc., also seal the draw."

Can you figure out how Monty pinches a king? When you've worked out your solution, click on Read More to let Willie show you how it's done.

[Read More]
08/22/09 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Smaller Than Life

On the opposite end of the "larger than life" spectrum is the "smaller than life" world of miniatures. We're fascinated by the tiny books shown in the photo above, although we do know that unfortunately they aren't checker books. However, checkers has its own world of miniatures, and today we're pleased to bring you another miniature problem. We like to publish these from time to time; while they are not everyone's cup of tea, they are elegant, entertaining, and nearly always applicable to practical play. Shown below is one that we think merits all of the previous adjectives.


Black to Play and Win


Give the problem a "good little try" and then click on Read More to see the "little old solution."

[Read More]
08/15/09 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Atomic Marvin

Marvin J. Mavin
Captain, Detroit Doublejumpers

Marvin J. Mavin, checker star and captain of the major league checker team, the Detroit Doublejumpers, had been in Santa Fe, New Mexico, doing training work with the local semi-pro team, the Santa Fe Salsa. As an exciting conclusion to his visit to the Land of Enchantment, Marvin was invited to come up to Atomic City to take on its supercomputer, nicknamed "Road Rager," which ran a top-level checker program with the erudite name of "Plutonium Bomber Instantiation," or simply "PBI." It was rumored, however, that Marvin was at least as interested in trying out the local microbrews, especially "Atomic Ale," as he was in playing checkers.

On the Road to Atomic City, New Mexico

There was little time for diversions, however; Marvin finished up his training work in Santa Fe around noon on his last day there, and was due to begin his match with PBI just two hours later, at the "Nick the Geek" supercomputer center at the Atomic City Laboratory in Atomic City. Without further ado, Marvin drove up the mountain roads to his destination and was soon badged in at the supercomputer center. The auditorium was completely full as Marvin made his entrance to enthusiastic applause.

Everyone knew that this was something of an historical event. PBI was known to be one of the world's top computer programs (although there was some debate as to which one was really best). It would be playing against one of the top major league checker players. How would it all turn out? PBI's programmers were hoping for the best for their creation, but it seemed that the audience had much sympathy for Marvin.

Marvin sat in front of the Black pieces, ready to take on the silicon giant. "I hear that Atomic Ale is a real blast," Marvin said to one of the PBI programmers, chuckling at his cleverness. The programmer, seated on the White side with a computer console to his left, seemed to wince at Marvin's trite pun and muttered something under his breath to the effect that he thought Marvin was here to play checkers, not drink beer.

But just a moment later, the contest began.

Black: Marvin J. Mavin
White: Plutonium Bomber Instantiation

1. 9-13 21-17
2. 5-9 25-21
3. 11-15 23-18
4. 1-5 18x11
5. 8x15 30-25
6. 3-8 24-19
7. 15x24 28x19
8. 7-11 26-23
9. 9-14

Perhaps the best move here, but 11-16 or even 11-15 should also retain equality.

9. ... 22-18
10. 13x22 18x9
11. 6x13 25x18
12. 11-15 18x11
13. 8x24 27x20
14. 10-15 31-26
15. 4-8 20-16
16. 12x19 23x16
17. 8-11 16x7
18. 2x11 26-22
19. 11-16 21-17
20. 5-9 32-27

Marvin was looking pretty happy with himself. Up to this point the game had been very well played by both sides with no mistakes being made. He concentrated on the position for a while and then said, "Bomb Boy .... I think you've bombed out this time!" He made the following move.

21. 16-19

Marvin rocked back in his chair, folded his arms over his chest, and grinned. "What'll you do about that, Bomb Boy?" he asked. "You might be a real smart computer, but you ain't a match for Marvin J. Mavin! I think it's just about time to try out the local brew, because this game is sure over soon!"


White to Play, What Result?


Has Marvin indeed defeated one of the world's mightiest computers? Has he truly earned his beer today? Analyze the position and decide whether White should play on, or simply resign. When you have your answer, click on Read More for the high-yield solution.

[Read More]
08/08/09 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Beat the Heat

August in most of the Northern Hemisphere brings some of the hottest weather of the year. We know that here in our Santa Fe offices, located in New Mexico's high desert country, it's hard to think about moving very fast in the blistering heat of summer. But nevertheless, we invite you to "beat the heat" with our August speed problem, an offering that isn't so easy and is perhaps a little over the top for speed solving.

Taking all this into account and allowing for the summer heat, we'll give you extra solving time. In fact, we'll go so far as to allow you three minutes to find the solution. Generous, aren't we?

When you're ready, click on the link below to display the problem and kick off the red-hot Javascript timer. Come back and click on Read More when you're ready to see the solution.

August Speed Problem (moderately difficult; 3 minutes)

[Read More]
08/01/09 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.