The Checker Maven

Basic Checkers, 2010 Edition

We're giving over much of this week's column to unabashed advertising, but when you read the rest, you'll surely support our efforts, and will be confident we haven't abandoned our non-commercial policies.

For years, Richard Fortman's Basic Checkers has been the veritable bible for 3-move checker players. Certainly, new works such as Solid Checkers, The Golden Dozen, and others, have come on the scene to correct, supplement, and expand upon Mr. Fortman's original work, going beyond the 137 opening ballots in use 30 years ago. But every serious checkerist is likely to have studied Basic Checkers at some point, and may even have a copy of the original seven self-published, typewritten, spiral-bound booklets.

The Checker Maven is proud to announce that a newly typeset, professionally bound and printed edition of Basic Checkers is now available. Your editor, in conjunction with Jim Loy, John Acker, and artist Louisa Gilani have combined forces to produce this new 2010 edition, with all seven volumes in one 6x9, 504 page trade paperback, which is being sold at a price that nearly anyone can afford. Completely reformatted and set in clear, readable type, it is our hope that this work, which is now hard to find and expensive even if found, will once again be placed in the hands of checker players everywhere.

100% of net income will go to the American Checker Federation Youth Fund in honor of Mr. Fortman.

The book will be sold at the Nationals this August for just $25.00. If you can't be at the Nationals, you can get a copy online through CreateSpace. Additionally, the book will be available in a few weeks directly from Amazon or by special order in bookstores, for $30.00 plus shipping.

And now, let's look at a problem position taken from the book. It stems from the 9-13, 24-19, 6-9 opening.

Game: 9-13, 24-19, 6-9, 22-18, 11-15, 18-11, 8-24, 28-19, 4-8, 25-22,8-11, 22-18, 9-14, 18-9, 5-14, 29-25, 11-15---A, 19-16, 12-19, 23-16, 1-6---B, 27-23, 7-11,16-7, 2-11, 25-22, 3-8, 32-27---C, 8-12,27-24, 11-16, 24-20, 16-19, 23-16, 12-19,22-17, 13-22, 26-17, 14-18, 20-16, 18-23,16-11, *6-9, 17-13, 9-14, 11-8, 23-27, 31-24, 19-28, 8-3, 15-19, 3-7, 10-15, 7-11,14-18, 30-26---D.



Black to Play and Draw


Notes A to D below are excerpted from Basic Checkers with minor editing.

A---Instead of 1-6.

B---Instead of 1-6, Freyer v. Zuber in the 1981 Florida Open played 14-18, into Banks-Hellman, 2nd National Checkers Association Tournament.

C---Here 31-27 is usual, then 8-12, 27-24, 11-16, 24-19, 15-24, 23-19, 16-23, 26-19, 13-17, 22-13, 14-18, 30-26, etc., drawn. Credited to Denvir and Bradford. The text would seem to be a fine vary, used by the late Colorado master on mail play.

D---Forms a fine problem to arise in play--- Black to move and draw.

Basic Checkers, despite the title, is a rather advanced work, but the problem above isn't as difficult as you might think. Solve it and then click on Read More for the snappy solution ... and then order your copy of the book!

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06/26/10 - Printer friendly version
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Willie's Windmill

Willie's title for this entry in his fabled Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard is appropriately named, for at least two reasons. One is that the solution to Willie's position resembles, in an imaginative way, the action of a windmill as represented on a checkerboard. The other reason is that Willie seems to have been tilting at windmills a bit, and makes a most atypical misjudgment of the final outcome. Let's have a look and a listen as Willie sets forth his premise.

"This time we have a combination in-and-out shot of the type most frequently missed in actual play. The experts seldom 'muff' a straight or ordinary in-and-outer, but there are many kinds of in-and-outs, and the more complex varieties are often overlooked, even by top-flight champions.

11-1619-16---1 2-7
22-1812-19 22-18
16-2023-16 8-11
25-225-9 32-27
10-14 16-12 14-17---A
29-25 7-10 21-14
8-11 27-23 10-17
18-15 10-19 23-19
11-18 23-16 9-14
22-15 1-5 18- 9
9-13 25-22 5-14
24-19 6-10---2 31-26---B,
4-8 26-23 results in the diagram.

Black to Play and Draw


The original terms of this position were Black to Play and Win---Ed.

A---If black plays 13-17 here, white brings home the draw with this timely stroke: 13-17, 18-15*, 11-18, 12-8*, 3-26, 31-22-15-6, 7-11, 6-2, 11-15, 2-6, 9-13, 6-9, 14-18, 21-14, 15-19, 30-26, 13-17, 9-13, 17-22, 26-17, 19-23. Wm. F. Ryan.

B---Caught and caged! Black now executes a whirlwind shot with a double-action in-and-outer. Of course, 30-26, 17-21, 26-22*, 21-25,19-15, 11-18, 22-15, 14-18, 15-11, 7-10,12-8, 3-19, 27-24, will corral a draw easily. Wm. F. Ryan."

1---28-24 might be better here as Black now gets a small advantage---Ed.

2---14-17 would have held Black's small edge---Ed.

Can you find the combination shot that draws (not wins) for Black, or will you tilt at windmills yourself? Work it out and spin your mouse to Read More to see the solution and a bit more analysis.

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06/19/10 - Printer friendly version
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Believe It Or Don't

You probably recognize the device shown above; it's called a Tesla Coil. It delivers a very high voltage but an extremely low current and so is a relatively safe gadget, and was used back in the day to do all sorts of "shocking" and "unbelievable" tricks such as making a woman's hair stand up and other stunts of a similar ilk. Of course, shining the light of scientific explanation on these parlor tricks demonstrated clearly how it was done and provided a modicum of education as well as amusement.

So, we weren't sure whether to call this column "Shocking" instead of "Believe It Or Don't" because today's problem contains an element of both sharp surprise and incredulity; and it's entertaining as well as didactic. Let's go straight to the diagram.


Black to Play and Win


Although you may not believe it at first glance, Black has an easy win in this position! As with many such "unbelievable" things, a little deeper look usually reveals the truth of the matter. Still and all, Black seems to be in as much of a jam as White; how can he pull off what might be seen as a rather shocking quick win? As they say, believe it and make it so.

When you've come up with your answer, click on Read More for the electrifying and completely believable solution.

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06/12/10 - Printer friendly version
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Croon in June

Croon, June, spoon, moon ... these were the rhymes used in many a song during the days of what was known in the music business as "Tin Pan Alley," which had its reign during much of the same era that the game of checkers had its own, from the late 1800s through perhaps the 1930s. Though the songs of Tin Pan Alley might seem trite and shopworn to a modern audience, in their own day they were, as they say, "The Cat's Meow."

You certainly aren't reading our column, though, because you think checkers is shopworn or trite; we're certainly of the opinion that it remains as fresh and interesting as ever a game could be. So, to help you croon at the start of June, we've brought you an especially pleasing speed problem. Bit we won't give you the typical three or so minutes that a Tin Pan Alley song would last; you've got only 20 seconds--- maybe just enough time for a quick chorus.

When you're ready to croon, click on the link below to display the problem and start the clock ticking. When you're done, come back and click on Read More and we'll sing out the solution.

June Speed Problem (20 second time limit; fairly easy)

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06/05/10 - Printer friendly version
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