The Checker Maven

Triple Threat

The term "Triple Threat" has a number of meanings, arising at least originally in the world of sports. The one we knew about was a football triple threat--- someone who can run, pass, and kick, as we recall. Apparently there is a triple threat position in basketball, with which we are wholly unfamiliar. And other uses abound, both in and out of sports, but with similar intent. Above, we have pictured a band called Triple Threat, who have played in the Boston, Massachusetts area. We imagine they base their band's name on the fact that there are three members. But when we tried to find out more, we soon discovered that numerous other bands around the United States are also called "Triple Threat."

Our checker school "Triple Threat" follows a similar pattern. We have three different checker positions, which have some similarities: Black has four pieces to White's three, and the formations are at least somewhat alike. But as we know, small differences are everything in checkers, and so in two of the positions White can draw but in the third, White is lost.


White to Play and Draw



White to Play and Draw



Black to Play and Win, 2 Ways
Black shown at top for consistency
with other positions


Are you yourself a "Triple Threat," which in this case means you can solve all three positions? Or are you a "Double Threat," a "Threat," or "No Threat At All"? Solve the problems, and we promise not to threaten anything if you click on Read More to reveal the solutions, a sample game, and detailed notes.

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08/28/10 - Printer friendly version
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Goldsboro's Guillotine

Off with their heads! Madame Guillotine was a very busy worker during the time of the French Revolution, and many a poor victim was lead out to encounter her deadly embrace. Fortunately, today's Checker Maven column uses this imagery in a much more peaceful manner, as Willie Ryan, in his book Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, brings us a checker position which fits the metaphor to perfection. You'll see what we mean when you play through the game and solution. Willie is a bit brief about this one, perhaps because it does indeed speak for itself.

"Tailor Tom Goldsboro, one of England's foremost living players, does a nice job on this Dundee shot, which reveals a novel series of exchanges seldom seen in stroke tactics:

12-16 24-15 10-14
24-20 10-19 18-9
8-12 18-15 5-14
28-24 11-18 29-25
3-8 22-15 14-18
23-18 13-22 20-16---A, 1
9-13 25-18 19-23
21-17 7-10 16-11---2, which
16-19 26-22 leads to the

Black to Play and Win


A---Heading for a fall. The following sews up a draw without strain or pain: 30-26, 2-7, 22-17, 12-16, 20-2, 1-5, 2-9, 5-30, 27-23, 18-27, 32-16, 30-23, 15-10, drawn."

1---Play has been textbook perfect to this point, but one slip is all it takes in close and complex positions. The computer now rates the game as favorable for Black but not necessarily a forced win ---Ed.

2---Definitely loses. The computer gives 15-10 as having much better chances, though Black retains a good edge---Ed.

Can you slice and dice this position, or will your efforts be cut off? We certainly hope not, and dropping your mouse on Read More will lead you, not to the guillotine, but to the solution.

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08/21/10 - Printer friendly version
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Checkers in Hawai`i: A Grand Success

Mililani Town Center, Mililani, Hawai`i

In an earlier Checker Maven column, we reported on what was then the upcoming unofficial Hawai`i State Checker Tournament, to be held at the Mililani Town Center in Central O`ahu. Today, we're happy to report further that the tournament was a grand success with an excellent organizational effort turned in by tournament director Geoffrey Pang.

The tournament took place on July 24, 2010, in the gazebo area of the Town Center. Nine adults and seven youth players turned out on a warm and sunny Hawaiian summer morning, with just the gentlest of cool breezes to accompany some very hot checker action.

Play took place in two sections, adult and youth; the format was single-knockout, random pairing, with each match played for the best of five games. The finals in each section were best of seven. Director Pang was aided by assistant tournament director Brandon Ho and a number of game referees. A Go-As-You-Please tournament open to all skill levels, the Director told players that the only real requirement was to have a good time and enjoy the games.

Keiki Division Championship Match

Action was fast and furious as with each successive round, the field got smaller, finally narrowing down to just two players in each section. It was time to play for the championship! The Keiki (children's) Section championship round came first. Championship contestants were Kobe and Prescott (in conjunction with our publication of photos, we only give first names for the protection of the children). After a spirited struggle, Kobe won the match, a $50 gift certificate, and the title of Unofficial Hawai`i State Keiki Checker Champion. Prescott won the title of runner-up and a $25 gift certificate.

Kobe is the Keiki Champion

The adult section finals took place between veteran player Harold Afuso and none other than your Checker Maven editor. Play went the full seven games with one win each and five draws. A sudden death phase then took place, and Mr. Afuso won the next game to become Unofficial Hawai`i State Checker Champion. With the title went a $100 gift certificate. Your editor was declared runner-up and received a very nice $50 gift certificate.

Harold Afuso, Unofficial Hawai`i State Checker Champion

And did the players have fun? If the photos in this column don't tell you that clearly enough, you can view our full, unedited set of photos here.

Director Pang describes himself simply as a checker enthusiast who wishes to promote checker play. Clearly, much time and effort went into this tournament, and Mr. Pang feels it was worthwhile. He is already planning next year's tournament, with an eye to working with the American Checker Federation to have the next tournament winner recognized officially as State Champion.

The Checker Maven thanks Mr. Pang for his efforts in promoting the great game of checkers in beautiful Hawai`i. We also want to thank the Town Center of Mililani for their civic-minded support of the tournament. Not only did they provide space and logistical assistance (at no charge), they donated $225 in prize money in the form of gift certificates. Hawaiian checker players certainly owe these folks thanks and patronage in recognition of their spirit of aloha.

Games weren't recorded, but we noted that the 9-14 Double Corner opening was seen frequently (and rather surprisingly). We looked through our library and found a game that was quite similar to one that we recall being played in the tournament. We'll give you the run-up to the diagram below and then ask you to finish the game by finding the winning path.

9-14 23-18 14x23 27x18 12-16 18-14 10x17 21x14 6-9 14-10 7x14 22-18 14x23 26x12 11-15 25-22 8-11 29-25 1-6 24-19 15x24 28x19 6-10 22-18 4-8 25-22 9-13 31-27 2-6 27-23 11-16 30-25 5-9 18-15 10-14 25-21---A

A---22-18 was necessary here for White to draw.


Black to Play and Win


Now, picture yourself in Hawai`i at the Mililani Town Center gazebo. It's about 11 AM, the temperature is around 84 F, and there is a soft breeze off the mountains. It's your move. You're playing for the state championship and a very nice first prize award. And once you wrap up the game, you know you'll head back to the south shore for a cool drink, a swim in the Pacific, and a relaxing couple of hours on the beach. So let's get on with it!

2nd Round Action in the Adult Division

Cinch the win, then click on Read More to check your solution. And if you couldn't make the tournament this year, plan a Hawaiian vacation for tournament time next year. You won't be disappointed!

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08/14/10 - Printer friendly version
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The pyramids conjure up images of ancient mystery, of the secrets of a long gone era, of a certain spine-tingling strangeness. We're sure you understand what we mean.

While the pyramid concept in checkers is somewhat less spine-tingling, nevertheless, there has for decades been a certain mystique, if somewhat short of mystery, surrounding it. As set forth by its colorful proponent, Julius D'Orio, we are asked to believe that maintaining a pyramid formation at the bottom of our side of the board is the key to success. But alas, checkers is never so simple, and to paraphrase checker pundit Jim Loy, "Sometimes it wins, sometimes it loses."

This month's speed problem contains a mini-pyramid of three white pieces in the middle of the board, and at first glance, it surely looks like it isn't exactly favorable. But, like the pyramids of old, the checkerboard conceals many secrets. Can you--- in fifteen seconds or less--- find the secret of this position?

When you're ready, click below to display the setup and start the clock; then come back and click on Read More to verify your solution.

August 2010 Speed Problem (easy, 15 seconds)

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08/07/10 - Printer friendly version
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