The Checker Maven

Double Cross in the Double Cross

A few years ago, Ed Gilbert, the author of the KingsRow computer checkers engine, and the creator of the companion 10-piece endgame database, sent some new play to one of checker's sharpest-eyed analysts, Brian Hinkle. Ed told Brian the following:

"The 5-9 24-20 Double Cross is indeed a draw. This is exciting news to me, since this is a new, unknown draw in a ballot that is generally considered by a lot of players to be the most difficult of the 3-move tournament ballots. This morning I loaded the new opening book into Kingsrow and played along the PV. It dropped out of book at the 40th ply into a very interesting position where White had sacrificed a man to gain a first king with a positional advantage."

Ed showed the following line of play:

1. 9-14 23-18
2. 14x23 27x18
3. 5-9 24-20
4. 10-15 28-24
5. 7-10 21-17
6. 3-7 17-13
7. 9-14 18x9
8. 15-18 22x15
9. 10x28 9-5
10. 11-16 20x11
11. 8x15 31-27---A
12. 4-8 25-22
13. 8-11 29-25
14. 11-16 25-21
15. 16-20 21-17
16. 7-11 27-23
17. 12-16 13-9
18. 6x13 17-14
19. 2-6 14-9
20. 6-10 9-6---B

A---25-22 4-8 31-27 same.

B---This is the end of the computer's opening book moves. Note that Ed constructed a special opening book that examined the Double Cross in great depth and detail.

Ed comments further, "Every black move from 24-20 up to move 13 is forced."

Here is the position at the end of the KingsRow specialized Double Cross opening book.


Black to Play and Draw


Finding the rest of the solution is not an easy task, but you owe it to yourself to give it a try. The solution is not long, but it is very surprising, perhaps ranking among the most surprising things we've ever seen on the checkerboard. After you've done your analysis, click on Read More to see the truly stunning conclusion.

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01/29/11 - Printer friendly version
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Blind Man's Bluff

Most of us take our sight for granted, and we often forget that there are those among us who don't have this gift. Now, note that we don't call them "unfortunates"; we'd rather call them "inspirations" because the blind among us are capable of incredible things, often with a drive and willpower that puts the rest of us to shame.

An old time checker-player, one Mr. W. Bennett, was blind, but that didn't slow him down in the least, as the instructive problem below illustrates well.


White to Play and Win


Can you solve it? For an extra challenge, try to work it out the way Mr. Bennett did; solve the problem not only without moving the pieces, but without looking at the diagram or a checkerboard. Along the way, you'll discover a subtle and practical winning technique which you'll be able to put to use in your own play.

When you've completed this truly illuminating exercise, click on Read More for the solution, a sample game, and notes.

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01/22/11 - Printer friendly version
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Lee's Loophole

Does our photo show a 'loophole,' as advertised in our column's title, or something much more nefarious? That's the subject of today's excerpt from Willie Ryan's book, Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. Willie sees a loophole. What do you see?

First, though, let's have Willie give us a brief introduction.

"Of the many subtle stratagems to be found in the mellowed pages of checker lore, none has impressed me so much as the deeply rooted Paul J. Lee 'rebound,' which I consider the best concealed drawing device I have ever seen. It may be brought up in play from various openings. Here is one method:"

10-15 24-19 6-9
22-18 15-24 22-18
15-22 28-19 1-6
25-18 8-11 21-17---1
9-13 29-25 13-22
18-14 11-16 26-17
11-15 25-22 6-10

White to Play and Draw


What will it be? Loophole or constriction? Can you solve this one without choking up? When you've made your attempt, slip your mouse through to Read More to see the outcome.

1---26-22 would have made for an easier journey for White---Ed.

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01/15/11 - Printer friendly version
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The Cold War Revisited

Marvin J. Mavin, captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was not happy.

It all started out when the company for which Marvin did promotional ads, Belcher's, got wind of his ongoing rivalry with Russian emigre Dmitri Tovarischky, a top player from the days of the former Soviet Union. Belcher's thought that a highly-publicized "grudge match" would aid sales and brand recognition. Billed as "The Return of the Cold War" (even though Marvin was only about 10 years old when the Cold War ended), the match was set for an early spring evening in the Milwaukee Checkerdrome; and Marvin had little choice but to follow the wishes of his sponsor, even though his distaste for Dmitri was all too obvious.


To make it worse, Marvin's girlfriend, Priscilla K. Snelson, was to be in attendance, and Marvin knew that under her watchful eye he would have not a chance in the world of having a pre-game beer. Marvin received a stern lecture, reminding him of a previous loss to Dmitri which Priscilla blamed squarely (and very likely correctly) on over-indulgence.


And so, here he was, sitting at the checkerboard in the center of the enormous, fan-packed Checkerdrome, facing Dmitri once again, and not having had any beer for almost 48 hours. Huge American and Soviet flags flew from the ceiling of the Drome, as Belcher's went all-out to set the mood of conflict and rivalry.

Dmitri, for one, had no problem with such a theme, even though he was an emigre. "American Checkers Boy will lose again to superior Russian skills," he crowed loudly. "Checkers Boy is no match for champion like Dmitri."

Marvin seethed inwardly but did not respond, only mumbling under his breath, "Yeah, you'll see what Checkers Boy can do, you old Commie..." But to make things even worse, Marvin had been given the tough end of a very difficult opening ballot. Even though Marvin received draw odds, meaning that if he could but draw the game the match was his, he knew he had a very hard evening in front of him.

At that moment the referee blew his whistle, starting the game clocks, and the match was underway.

12-16 23-19 16x23 27x18 11-16 26-23 16-20 32-27 8-11 30-26 4-8 18-14 9x18 23x14 10x17 21x14 11-15 22-17 8-11 25-21 6-9 26-23 9x18 23x14 11-16 29-25 2-6 17-13 16-19 31-26 6-9 13x6 1x17 21x14 7-10 14x7 3x10 25-21 10-14

Dmitri was gloating and not trying in the slightest to hide it. "Game is over for Checkers Boy," he said. "Checkers Boy has only bad move and loses to Dmitri. Of course, Dmitri is not surprised because Checkers Boy is just inferior American amateur."

Now, there are limits. Marvin expected Dmitri's taunts, but being called an amateur was a bit too much. As a top professional Marvin felt he was owed at least a certain amount of respect.

He was about to lash out angrily and call Dmitri all sorts of names, when Priscilla, sitting in the front row, caught Marvin's eye and simply wiggled her left index finger. That was all it took to silence Marvin, who knew what kind of chewing out he would get later if he failed to heed the warning. Instead, he went back to mumbling. If you listened carefully, you might have heard words such as "old goat," "blowhard," and "beer"; but Marvin realized that the game was at a critical point and knew that he had better come up with something right now, right away.

The position that was on the board is shown below.


White to Play and Draw


Can you give Dmitri his comeuppance and find a move that gives White a draw? Or is all lost and Black will be the winner? Keep your cool, forget about mumbling, and work out the position before clicking on Read More to see how things turned out.

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01/08/11 - Printer friendly version
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Happy New Year 2011

Happy New Year to everyone! 2010 is history and 2011 has arrived. The Checker Maven hopes this year will be everything that you might wish it to be; and to start our year off with a bang, we've chosen a problem that isn't too hard if you can figure out the first move--- but then again, that's the hard part!

Here's the situation.


Black to Play and Draw


Things seem fairly tame until you take a closer look and realize that Black is suffering from a definite lack of moves that don't lose! But there is one ... can you find it?

Clicking on Read More will show you the surprising solution. Enjoy the holiday and once again, Happy New Year!

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01/01/11 - Printer friendly version
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