The Checker Maven

Merry - Strickland

There's Merry Hill, and the Merry Hill Shopping Mall, on the Dudley Number One canal, perhaps 10 miles from Birmingham in the U.K. It looks to be a nice setting; we suspect it might tend a bit to the industrial side, but we've not been there to verify.

And there's the Strickland Avenue waterfall, a most assuredly beautiful setting located somewhere in Tasmania. Of course we haven't been there either.

Image courtesy Alex Wise Photography

Now, we know for sure that checkers is played in the U.K. and in Tasmania. We know that in the 1880s, checkerists Merry and Strickland published various items of checker analysis (hence today's Checker School lesson). Therefore, a little deductive logic tells us that since Merry published in the American magazine Turf, Field, and Farm he was very likely an American checkerist, and hence Merry Hill is surely not named after him. Checkerist Strickland who published in the Glasgow Weekly Herald, was undoubtedly from the British Isles, making it most unlikely that a street in Tasmania was named after him (although one never knows).

What we can say is that the Merry and Strickland checker settings do indeed possess checkeristic elegance and appeal. Here is the main position.


White to Play, Black Wins


Black is a piece up and of course that is supposed to mean an eventual, if not a straightforward win. But given White's centralized king positions, Black is going to have to work hard and patiently to achieve victory. The winning procedure in fact requires a high level of technique and is very much worth mastering.

So, sail down the canal but don't go over the falls; instead, make Merry and find the solution. Then click on Read More to see detailed notes and explanations as well as a sample game.

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04/24/10 - Printer friendly version
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The Big Squeeze

There's nothing so good as fresh-squeezed juice as a morning pick-me-up; it just can't compare with cardboard cartons, concentrates, or powders. However, we do recommend a somewhat different squeezing method than that shown in the photo above; at the very least, you might wish to squeeze your juice into a cup or glass instead of onto your hands or onto the table.

There are squeezes in checkers, too, and although they don't directly produce juice, they just might produce a nice victory. Willie Ryan, in his classic work Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, has a page or two on squeeze plays, and he's here in print to explain to us just how it works.

"One of the most unusual games I ever won was the strange coup I sprung on the renowned John T. Bradford of Philadelphia, a member of the American International Checker Team of 1927, in the American Championship Tourney of 1937; and I believe it is the only win of its kind on the published record. The game leading up to this peculiar situation is reproduced on the next page, exactly as we played it.

10-149-14---A 15-24
23-18 18-11 28-19
14-23 7-16 2-7
27-18 26-23 31-26
12-16 4-8 1-6
32-27 22-17 22-18
16-20 8-12 14-17
26-23 25-22 21-14
6-10 3-7 10-17
30-26 24-19 25-21
11-15 7-11 6-10
18-11 17-13 21-14
8-15 11-15 10-17
23-18 29-25 19-15---B

Black to Play and Win


A---First introduced by me at the 1937 American Championship Tourney, departing from the usual line by 7-11.

B---The wrong one. A draw is gained easily with: 18-14*, 7-11, 13-9, 17-21, 9-6, 21-25, 6-2, 25-30, 2-7, 11-15, 19-10, 16-19. After 19-15, black starts the biggest squeeze play on record, going all the way from square 7 to square 22 before regaining the sacrificed piece."

Willie certainly gives a giant hint in his second note, but we still believe you'll have to give this one a little thought to squeeze out the solution. Find the Black win and then squeeze the mouse button over Read More to see the answer.

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04/17/10 - Printer friendly version
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Two-Fisted Checkers

No fooling around, no sir-ee. What we have here today is an honest-to-goodness two-fisted, hard-core, serious checker problem. This week, wimpy checkerists need not apply. Do you think you're good? Do you have what it takes? Prove it. Have a look at this one. Read 'em and weep.


Black to Play and Win


This problem was first published, as far as we know, something over 85 years ago, and it was variously listed as "advanced," "extra diffcult," and other such things. They weren't a-kiddin', folks. If you can solve it, you're good.

If you can't, there's always the Read More link, which will solve it for you. But you don't want that, do you? Stay in the fight and solve it on your own!

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04/10/10 - Printer friendly version
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Relocation Complete!

Our containers have been offloaded and unpacked, and the relocation of our main Checker Maven office from Santa Fe to Honolulu is at least relatively complete; there's always more to do and we wonder if anything like this is ever really quite finished. It took a little longer than expected, which again is not a big surprise, but we're happy to be here and to have a long and complex move behind us.

As we've said before, our parent company, Mr. Fred Investments, couldn't continue to maintain two locations for a subsidiary that was never intended to make a profit (and surely doesn't!). This has been our second downsizing, but it's been, we hope, without sacrificing content or quality. And now, with the economy beginning to come back at least somewhat, we look forward to a bright future. Thanks for staying with us.

04/10/10 - Printer friendly version
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April Showers

It's said that April showers "bring May flowers." Certainly, that's true at least in certain parts of North America, where, after a long winter season, the arrival of spring as a harbinger of warmer days is much awaited and indeed can't seem to come quickly enough.

And speaking of "quickly" it's our first column of the month, which brings neither showers nor flowers, but a speed problem. This one requires a little more thought than some others, and so we'll set the clock to 60 seconds. Can you solve our one-minute mystery? Click on the link below to set the second hand in motion and reveal the problem. Then, come back and click on Read More to have the solution rain down upon you.

April Speed Problem (medium difficulty)

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04/03/10 - Printer friendly version
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