The Checker Maven

Checkers: Apps for the iPhone


The telephone above is most definitely not an iPhone, but it does seem to pretty well represent the state of the art when it comes to playing checkers on an iPhone.

This article is the first of two on smartphone checker apps. Ed Gilbert, author of the world-class KingsRow checker engine and companion 10-piece endgame database, has graciously given of his time in order to evaluate a group of checker apps for the iPhone. A future article will look into checker apps for Android-based phones.

Ed Gilbert
Photo Credit: Carol Gilbert

Ed's article is extensive and includes large graphics, so it merits its own web page. You can find it here, but we'll give you Ed's bottom line right away: there's not much out there that has merit for the serious player. That's indeed regrettable, because from what Ed shows us, we can't help but conclude that the iPhone app authors could have done much better without a lot of additional effort. Unfortunately, most checker program authors think they are producing toys rather than serious game-playing programs, and that's just what they end up doing.

Let's look at a sample game that Ed ran between the iPhone checker apps "Teeny Checkers" and "Fantastic Checkers".

Black Fantastic Checkers
White Teeny Checkers

1. 11-15 22-17
2. 9-14 17-13

25-22 was better.

3. 8-11 ....

15-19 would retain the advantage.

3. .... 25-22
4. 4-8 ....

Very weak. 11-16 is best.

4. .... 22-17

23-19 would have given a large advantage if not a win.

5. 15-19 24x15
6. 11x18 ....

10-19 was much better and is in fact a book move.

White now has a simple move that very likely leads to a win. Can you spot it?

White to Play and Win


We'll give you the answer and find out how the game progressed when you dial your mouse to Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/25/12 - Printer friendly version
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Surprise, Surprise

The fellow in the photo above is obviously studying checkers and has just come across the problem that forms the subject of today's Checker School column. The solution to the problem is one that we too found surprising, and we'll bet you'll feel the same way.

Here's the position:


White to Play and Win


In a game in which White had and lost the advantage several times, we've arrived at a position where White has one last chance to bring it home. Can you find the surprise move that leads to White victory, or will you be surprised that your solution wasn't the correct one? Try the problem, and then get one last surprise by clicking the mouse on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and detailed notes.

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02/18/12 - Printer friendly version
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Wyllie's Waterloo


Surely you were expecting us to have chosen a dramatic image of the famed Battle of Waterloo, but we like to keep our readers guessing, and we came up instead with a Waterloo tractor made in Waterloo, Iowa, one hundred and one years after Napoleon's defeat on June 18, 1815. The young lad on the tractor perhaps played checkers in his leisure time, and we hope he did well and didn't meet his own Waterloo over the board. But we can surely excuse him if he did, for even the checker greats had their own bad days. Willie Ryan, in his book Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, tells us about a bad day that one of the greatest of all, James Wyllie, endured.

"It is sheer fallacy to believe that when James Wyllie ruled the boards 80 years ago, he had no worthy contemporaries. On the contrary, Wyllie lived and competed in an era that produced most of the game's outstanding players and personalities, including Andrew Anderson, John Drummond, Robert Martins, John Robertson, Henry Spayth, and Robert D. Yates, to name just a few. Wyllie's predominant fame and popularity stemmed from his prolific activities, his inimitable wit, and his fearlessness as a champion. While others were vainly striving to defend reputations they did not have, jocular James took them all on, in good season and bad, acquitting himself on all occasions with admirable poise. The "Herd Laddie" had his bad innings at the board, as indicated by this reverse at the hands of Robert McCulloch, of Glasgow, best known for his revised publication of McCulloch's Edition of Anderson's Guide. The game proceeded as follows:

11-15 25-22---B,1 9-14
24-20 18-25 28-24---3
8-11 29-22 5-9
28-24 7-11 26-23
4-8 30-25 9-13
23-19 2-7 31-26---4
15-18 19-15---2 7-11---5
22-15 11-18 26-22---C,
11-18 22-15 to the posi-
32-28---A 14-18 tion in the
10-14 24-19 diagram.

Black to Play and Win


A---Wyllie's favorite line of the Ayrshire Lassie, and one that lends itself to a wide variety of "soupy" formations.

B---26-23 is equally good. Charles Hefter of Kankakee, Illinois, is the distinguished author of the following coup on that line: 26-23, 9-13, 19-15, 7-11, 31-26, 3-7, 24-19, 5-9, 26-22,1-5, 28-24, 7-10, and now comes the cut-up by 20-16, 11-20, 15-11, 8-15, 21-17, 14-21, 23-7, 2-11, 19-1, 9-14, 22-17, 13-22, 25-9, 5-14, 1-6, 11-16, 6-10, 14-18, 10-14, 18-23, leading to a draw.

C---This is where Wyllie went wild. The game had been adroitly contested by both players to this point. Wyllie could have drawn easily here, by 15-10, 6-15, 19-10, 13-17, 23-19, 11-15, 20-16, 3-7*, 10-3, 1-5, 19-10, 12-28, 3-12, 28-32, 27-24, 32-27, 10-6, 27-20, 6-1, 20-24, 1-6, 24-27, 6-9, 18-23, 26-19, 27-24, 9-18, 24-29. Wm. F. Ryan."

1---Despite the natural look of this move, the computer scores 25-22 as not so good for Black, giving White a definite edge---Ed..

2---27-23 is preferred here---Ed.

3---This move is a probable loss. 20-16 might have kept White in the game, but Black is still strong---Ed.

4---White is now completely lost. Better was 31-26 though the situation remains bad---Ed.

5---This very bad move allows a draw. A winning line for Black might have been 13-17 15-10 6x15 19x10 8-11 24-19 18. 17-22! 26x17 11-15 27-24 18x27 20-16 27-3 17-13 3-8!10x3 31-27 19x10 27x11 25-22 11-7 22-17 7-2 13-9 14-18 17-14 18-23 21-17 23-27 9-5 2-7 17-13 27-31 13-9 7-2 Black Wins. White is completely out of safe moves---Ed.

Will you meet your own Waterloo here? Willie seemed to have a mini-Waterloo of his own in not catching the blunder pointed out at note 5 above. Battle the problem and then march your mouse to Read More to see the solution.

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02/11/12 - Printer friendly version
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A February Short

Even though this is a leap year, February remains as always the shortest month of the year. It's something to be grateful for in wintry North American climes, as this abbreviated month brings us that much closer to spring.

Today's problem is also "short" in that it is a miniature, those minimalist problems that focus our attention and often demand great accuracy and skill. Like their exact opposites, the stroke problem, they are not to everyone's taste, but unlike stroke problems, miniatures are eminently practical in nature.


Black to Play and Win


Don't give this problem short shrift; put it on your short list. After you've solved it, make a short click on Read More to see the solution.

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02/04/12 - Printer friendly version
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