The Checker Maven

Basic Checkers Part Eight

Many of us believe that Jim Loy never sleeps, for this Bozeman, Montana-based Renaissance man is so prolific and turns out so much high-quality work that we can't believe there are enough hours in the day for him to get it all done. But he does, and though he's never revealed his secret, we're most happy and appreciative to benefit from his efforts.

What does Jim do? A visit to his website,, will tell you--- Jim does everything. From bowling to chess to tennis to billiards, there seems to be little that doesn't interest him, and he does nothing halfway. Fortunately for us, Jim takes a serious interest in checkers, too, and has lately been working on a series of projects aimed at restoring and correcting the classic works of the game.

Jim's checker books sell for a relatively nominal price on the American Checker Federation website. You'll find problem books, game books, and more; but today we want to focus on Jim's newest work, Basic Checkers Part 8: Corrections.

If you've read The Checker Maven for the past few months, you'll know that we recently participated in a reissue of Richard Fortman's seminal work, Basic Checkers. In our reissue, we reproduced the book with its original content; while we corrected obvious typos and other errors, we did not update or correct the actual game play. Mr. Loy's new book does exactly that; he provides us with just under a hundred pages of corrected or alternative lines of play. The book is the culmination of an effort Jim began in 2006, and gathers together work originally published in the ACF Bulletin as well as new work.

As an illustration, and also as this week's problem position, let's look at play in the 11-15, 22-17, 9-13 opening (taken from Part 8, page 57, note I).

11-15 22-17 9-13 17-14 10x17 21x14 8-11 23-19 15-18 19-15 4-8 24-19 6-10 15x6 1x17 25-21---A 17-22 26x17 13x22 27-23 18x27 32x23; forms diagram.


Black to Play and win


A---26-22 or 25-22 draw instead.

Black wins here in an unexpected and quite sophisticated manner. Finding the win may prove a difficult problem, but this one is good enough to merit considerable effort. So do try to work it out and then click on Read More for the solution and notes.

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09/25/10 - Printer friendly version
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Checkercycle:Video Instruction on the Web

What would you think about watching some videos to help improve your checker play? Wouldn't it be great to have someone talk you through a game played by the masters, or describe how to win a difficult ending? It'd be the next best thing to having a personal tutor.

We're happy to report that checker video instruction is alive and well on the internet! The YouTube media site contains a substantial and growing collection of instructional material, but one name stands out: Checkercycle, the creator of dozens of video tutorials of unquestionably high quality.

Now, we know who this gentleman is, and with the serious checkers crowd in America being a relatively small fraternity, you might know too. But we note that in his videos, Mr. Checkercycle's face is seldom shown, so we're not telling, even though the info he gave us in an email interview will surely give away this not so well-kept secret. Here's the discussion we had with this extraordinary man of checkers.

CM: You are clearly a knowledgeable player. Do you play tournaments? Have you won any titles or the like?

CC: I played in the NYC 2005 3-move and won 1st place in the minors. I was also in the 2007 Yonkers Open GAYP, taking 2nd place, and in the Jim Morrison Nationals in 2009, taking 3rd place in the majors.

CM: You must have a good checker library. Tell us about it, and how you obtained it--- a difficult thing these days.

CC: My first book was The Wonderful World of Checkers and Draughts by Tom Wiswell, which I got the from the library. I then got Straight Checkers Gold from Al Lyman, which had about eight books in the teaching program. I then started going to Checker Maven and Jim Loy's site, and as I found out more information thanks to these great sites, I started buying books from Amazon and My friends bought me books at the tournaments and I bought them also; we helped build each other's collections. I liked all the Tom Wiswell and William Ryan books. I like the Richard Pask and Robert Pike's books too. It is hard to get books and that is something I would like to change. I am happy that I will be able to buy the Basic Checkers at the National Tournament. The fact that it also supports the youth is such a beautiful thing and I would like to thank you for your hard work.

CM: What got you interested in making tutorial videos?

CC: One day I was showing my friend a game I played on the internet on a small magnetic board and he made a video of it. I thought how nice it would be on a big board, and because books are so hard to get, I could encourage others people to play this fine game. I kept on trying to come up with new ideas as I went along.

CM: How many videos have you made?

CC: So far I've made about 50 videos.

CM: How's the response been--- lots of viewers, feedback, etc.?

CC: At first I got very few comments but the ones I did get were positive. Then I got some more feedback, and I listened to what the players were telling me and asking me to do. I have to give them a lot of credit for their ideas.

CM: What's in store for the future for Checkercycle?

CC: I am looking forward to playing in the National Checker tournament on August 1st in Springfield, Illinois. The people I have met have been great. I had the pleasure of playing a 96 year old gentleman last year and meeting many great people. It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to more tournaments. I'd like to continue doing video and I'd like to improve my game along the way. I always want to help people play checkers and see the beauty of the game. I feel that exercise, checkers or chess and socializing is a good way to stay young and I have that 96 old gentleman who is still playing in tournaments as a fine example. (He did beat me in our contest that day.) He must have some great stories to tell and I hope I get to hear them.

CM: What do you think is in store for the future of the game itself?

CC: The game should continue to grow because of the internet, and the many devoted people from the ACF, and the people who help tell the stories and make the game so enjoyable like the Checker Maven. I know that it not easy with so many different games and with the popularity of chess. However I think checkers and chess are very good games and a lot of fun.

CM: Any advice to the up-and-coming generation of checker players?

CC: The next generation of checker players could really be outstanding, and with the help of computers, videos, checker sites and the support of the checker clubs, we could see the next masters be younger and be equal to the great players of the past. Only time will tell. The tools of learning the art of checkers are being happily shared with the young and not so young players . The beauty of the game, the fun of the game has always been there to enjoy for everyone.

CM: Anything you'd like to add, say, recommend, etc.?

CC: I started playing checkers when I was about 7 years old with my Dad, and we played for hours at a time. When I came out of the Army I continued to play checker games with him. I will always have that memory and will cherish it. The internet came along and gave me the chance again to play the game that I grew up to love.

Checkercyle's home page on YouTube can be found here, and we highly recommend that you go there and take the time to view the material he presents so effectively in his video presentations.

And now let's try a problem, taken from Checkercycle's video on the classic Payne's Draw. The position is shown below.


Black to Play, White to Draw


Try it out and click on Read More to see the solution. Then be sure to check out Checkercycle's other great checker lessons. You'll be glad you did and we'll guarantee that you'll learn something.

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09/18/10 - Printer friendly version
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21st Century Checkers

Today is a very special one as, thanks to the generosity of Grandmaster Richard Pask, we release an electronic version of 21st Century Checkers 9-13s, which is the first volume of an envisioned series of seven, covering all the accepted opening ballots. More than an extension or rework of Mr. Pask's earlier Solid Checkers (which will also be reissued by us in mid-2011), Mr. Pask has used the computer to take a fresh and comprehensive look at three-move play. The new book contains nearly 15,000 checker moves; consider that Richard Fortman's monumental Basic Checkers contains about 50,000 moves total in all seven parts, and you'll realize the enormous scope of Mr. Pask's new initiative.

The book can be downloaded here, and will eventually appear on our Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column. If you wish to make a printed copy, be aware that the book makes extensive use of color and printing in black-and-white or grayscale may not be satisfactory.

Without a doubt this is a book you will want to have.

So, let's have a quick look! As an example of the book's content, and for this week's problem offering, here is a position that arises out of the 9-13 22-18 6-9 ballot.


Black to Play and Draw


Black's pieces are on the edge of the board and White has a king. How can Black save this one? "Book" your solution and then click on Read More to learn where to find the answer.

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09/11/10 - Printer friendly version
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Honoring the Underdog: The Common Man

Each year, The Checker Maven celebrates the Labor Day holiday by recognizing the common man, the regular guy or gal who has always been the mainstay of our game of checkers, and most importantly of all, the backbone of what makes America great. Day in and day out, this "regular" guy or gal punches in at work, turns in an honest day's labor, and moves the American economic engine forward.

At least, that's how it's been until the last little while, in which the American worker has become something of an underdog, struggling to make a living if he or she even has a job at all. In the economic meltdown of the past couple of years, many a hard working, honest Joe or Jane has been thrown out of work and left to fend for his or her own self, while the Wall Street elite continue to get their million-dollar bonuses.

You'll have to excuse us if we seem, well, unhappy about all of this, because we believe in hard work and honest living; today that doesn't always make the grade, and it just isn't right. But we still, and always, salute the American worker: we know you deserve a better deal and one day, you'll regain the pride of place that is rightfully yours.

We know you didn't come here to talk politics and social theory, and so we do have a checker problem that seems to fit with this week's theme. Take a look at the diagram below.


White to Play and Draw


You surely see what we mean. White (the worker) is the real underdog here; he's a piece down and doesn't have a lot of options (sound familiar?). Black (the fat cat) is a piece up and is ready to squash White under his thumb. But all White wants is a square deal (represented here by getting a draw).

Can you get the fair shake that is rightfully yours, or will you be ground up in the wheels of power? "Work" out the problem and then click on Read More to "claim" the solution.

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09/04/10 - Printer friendly version
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