The Checker Maven

A Dishpan Move

We've heard various names given to a losing move in a checker match; these epithets range from the rather mild "unfortunate" to the somewhat stronger "poor" and on up from there to other things that we certainly won't print here.

In the following game, played in the early 1930s between very strong players, such a move was made. When the game was published, the losing choice was called a "dishpan" move, a term which we hadn't heard before. It's an amusing and appropriate choice of words. Let's have a look at the game in question.

9-13 24-20 5-9 22-18 10-15---A 25-22 6-10 27-24---B 10-14 22-17 13x22 26x10 7x14---C 30-26 15x22 26x10 2-7 10-6 1x10 29-25 10-15 23-19 9-13 19x10 7x14 24-19 3-7---D

A---10-14 is often played instead; there is little difference.

B---28-24 is just as good.

C---15-22 same.

D---It was textbook play up to this point. The original editor called this a "hasty dishpan move" noting that the player "must have eaten too much for dinner."


White to Play and Win


Will this one wash, or will this position "sink" you? Find the win for White, and while you're at it, correct Black's losing "dishpan" move. When you're done, clicking on Read More will bring you cleanly to the solution.

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10/29/11 - Printer friendly version
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D. Robertson, Clockmaker and Checkerist?

We looked for references to "D. Robertson," to whom today's Checker School studies are credited. We didn't directly find anything about this old-time checkerist, but we did find the beautiful old-time clock replica above, appropriately titled the "D. Robertson" model. Now, checkerist Robertson hailed from Scotland in the late 1800s. The clock above is a copy of a Scottish clock that, at least by appearance, may have dated from around the same time. Could D. Robertson, checkerist, have also been D. Robertson, clockmaker? We made some inquiries, but didn't come up with any clear answers. Still, the possibility is intriguing.

Once sold by a company appropriately called Timeworks, the above clock replica is, sadly, no longer in their catalog. In fact, the era of analog clocks itself seems to be passing; we're surprised at the number of younger people today who can't read anything but a digital clock. We could continue the theme by further waxing nostalgic about the heyday of checkers, but instead we'll get back on track and present Mr. Roberton's positions.

Black to Play and Win Black to Play and Win
B:W21,17,13,K11:BK22,6,5,2. B:W21,K19,17,13:BK11,9,7,6.

At first glance the positions look balanced, but White's group of three men on the left lacks mobility, and that's often a fatal flaw in checkers. Still, finding the win will require clockwork precision.

Now, this isn't a "beat the clock" speed position, so take all the time you wish before clocking your solution. Then move your hands (remember, it's an analog clock) to Read More to see the solutions, four sample games, and detailed notes.

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10/22/11 - Printer friendly version
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McKelvie's Masterpiece

Once again, we hope we've fooled you. With an article title containing the word "Masterpiece" you probably expected to see the Mona Lisa or some other famous work of art. However, we wanted to showcase something that not only featured the word "masterpiece" but also the name "McKelvie." Well, we didn't come up with an artist named D. McKelvie, but we did find J. McKelvie, a talented illustrator for on-line and print comics. "Li'l Depressed Boy," if you're not familiar with the series (and we certainly weren't) is a comic that started on the internet and now appears in print form. We can't say we're going to rush right out and buy it, but we can say that J. McKelvie is certainly a talented artist who produces masterpieces in their own genre.

Does J. McKelvie play checkers? We don't know, but D. McKelvie certainly did back in his day, and this month's excerpt from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard features play attributed to the Mr. D. McKelvie, as Willie explains in somewhat taciturn fashion.

9-13 21-14 3- 7
21-17 12-16 20-11
5- 9 24-20 7-16
25-21 16-19 31-27
11-15 25-21---1 1- 5
29-25 4- 8 14-10
9-14 32-27 6- 9
23-18 8-12 10- 6
14-23 27-24 9-14
27-11 12-16 21-17
8-15 20-11 14-21
17-14 7-16 6- 1
10-17 24-20 5- 9---A

White to Play and Win

"D. G. McKelvie, the celebrated expert of London, England, was first to show the classical win detailed on the next page, from the situation diagrammed above.

A---The loser. 16-20, 27-23, 20-24, 23-16, 24-27, 16-11, 27-31, 11-8, etc., is the correct play to draw."

1---32-27 might have been better but this line seems to equalize---Ed.

Can you create a masterpiece, or will you become a "Li'l Depressed Boy" yourself? Avoid depression by depressing your mouse on Read More to see the spectacular solution.

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10/15/11 - Printer friendly version
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Ballroom Dancing

Marvin J. Mavin had seemingly mended his errant ways, and had returned to the captaincy of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League. (In a previous column we related how Marvin had been sent down to a single-A farm club after showing disrespect to his manager.)

Marvin J. Mavin

Today, the Doublejumpers were in Miami for an exhibition match with one of Florida's top amateur teams, the Dancing Draughtsmen. Sponsored by the National Ballroom Dance Federation (NBDF), the Dancing Draughtsmen were captained by none other than NBDF President Vincent "Vinnie" Boggler. Vinnie, in addition to being a ballroom dancing star, was a strong amateur checker player who could have turned pro had ballroom dancing not been his first love.

Vincent "Vinnie" Boggler

A large crowd was in attendance to cheer for their local favorites and their anticipation grew as match time approached.

Marvin, in his position at first board, was making what he thought were clever remarks to himself prior to Vinnie's arrival. "Ballroom dancing," he muttered. "That's for old fogeys who watch too many movies with that guy Freddie whatchacallit. Give me a rave any day!"

"Did you say 'rave'?" he heard a voice ask. Marvin looked up and his face immediately turned red. Vinnie had arrived and evidently had heard Marvin's last comment.

"Raves are for people with no dancing talent. Not everyone has what it takes to excel at ballroom dance. And," Vinnie continued, "not everyone has what it takes to excel at checkers." With this, he gave Marvin a pointed look and offered to shake hands. Marvin did so in a half-hearted fashion. Embarrassed on the one hand for being overheard, he was angry on the other over Vinnie's sharp put-down.

Vinnie took his seat just as the whistle blew to signal the start of the match, and didn't hear Marvin mutter, "From the looks of you, you ain't never been to a rave, ballroom boy, and you don't know the first thing about them."

The game started out as follows.

1. 10-14 24-19
2. 11-16 28-24
3. 9-13---A

Marvin was grinning and couldn't keep back a comment. "Nerves, Vinnie? Three moves and you already blew it," he said. "Face it. I'm a checker pro and you're some kind of fancy-pants dancer. You don't have a prayer." And so saying, Marvin quickly made his move---- a little too quickly, in fact.

3. ... 22-17---B

Marvin sat back in his chair with a smug expression, then took a second look at the board. His expression quickly changed, being replaced with one of concern, then of dismay. Vinnie looked at him and smiled. "Trip over your own feet, did you? Nerves, Marvin?' he asked.

4. 13x22 25x9
5. 5x14 26-22

Vinnie concentrated intently. He and Marvin both knew that Black now had a draw in sight. The margin was slim and careful play would be necessary, but Vinnie was determined to put Marvin in his place. For his own part, Marvin knew that he had blown away the win. He could only hope that Vinnie stumbled in his attempt to find the right steps that lead to the draw.

WHITE (Marvin)

BLACK (Vinnie)
Black to Play and Draw


A---A weak move which very likely loses. 7-10 or 6-10 would have been best.

B---22-18 preserves the probable win.

Can you match steps with Vinnie and find the draw, or will the rhythm elude you? We'll warn you up front that the path to a draw is a long one. Take a whirl with it and then dance your mouse over to Read More to see the solution and the conclusion to our story.

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10/08/11 - Printer friendly version
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Brush Stroke

Once before, we thought we had run out of plays on the word "stroke" but the Checker Maven staff managed to come through. This week, they've done it again, although warning that it would probably be the last acceptable instance of "stroke" wordplay.

We're not at all sure that we would cover our office walls with the color selected by the woman in the photo above, but you get the idea, and for all we know, she might be an expert checker player in addition to modeling brush strokes.

Today's stroke problem is indeed no brush-over; it's complex and requires the best in visualization skills.


White to Play and Win


Don't paint yourself into a corner, and after a good brush with this problem, click on Read More to see the solution.

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10/01/11 - Printer friendly version
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