The Checker Maven

Haste Makes Waste


Take a look at the cake above; the famous old adage "haste makes waste" is as true now as it ever was. How many times have we rushed to finish something, only to have to do it over? It calls to mind a common question in the business world, "You don't have time to do it right, but you have time to do it over?"

Today's featured problem, composed by our old friend Ben Boland, when originally published carried the admonition "You will solve it if you are not hasty." So, we encourage you to take your time and enjoy the process of finding the solution. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and try to work it out from the diagram.

White to Play and Draw


When you've found the answer, probably right about when you've finished your cup of coffee, click on Read More to see the solution. Then reward yourself, perhaps with a slice of cake and a second cup of coffee.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
10/26/13 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

The Checker Murders: Part Five


The Checker Murders is a 16,000 word novelette published in seven monthly installments. It is perhaps the most extensive work of checker fiction ever published. We hope you enjoy it, but if you wish you can skip to the end to see this week's checker problem. Be forewarned that the problems in this series are for the most part very difficult.


Over steak and baked potato dinners in the dimly-light restaurant, Mortimer told Sheila all about his research and how his theory had been confirmed by the latest murder.

"It's pretty predictable," he told her. "I haven't completely figured out the checkerboard part yet, but I'm working on that and I'm sure it will fit somehow with the rest of my ideas. "This next one--- I mean, when the murderer strikes again--- was a little harder to figure because there were a few possibilities, but it should be at 1115 Montrose Street, Evans, Colorado."

"What makes you think so?"

"Look at the numbers and street names. They match up with checker opening names. And the method of murder--- that corresponds to the name of a variation of the checker opening."

"That's crazy. But if you're right..."

Sheila's phone rang.

"Sheila Larkspur." She listened for a few moments. "OK, yes. I'll come."

Her look had changed to one of dead seriousness. Dessert was forgotten. "Mortimer. There's been another murder. Exactly where you predicted. I'm going to the crime scene, and I think you better come with me. There are going to be questions and you need to be on hand. You can drive me there. Right now."

Needless to say, Mortimer had never been at the scene of a murder before. In his fantasy life, he had dreamed of coming on to the scene and dazzling everyone with his brilliant analysis, bringing the criminal swiftly to justice.

Reality was a lot different, and a lot less attractive. In fact, Mortimer found it more than a little frightening.


Police were everywhere, yellow tape cordoning off the scene of the crime.
Special Agent Purdy was already on site when Mortimer and Sheila arrived and got out of Mortimer's car. Purdy, standing outside the house, saw Sheila and went over to her.

"What's he doing here?" Purdy asked, jerking his thumb at Mortimer.

"Give us a minute, will you?" Sheila said to Mortimer. When he nodded his head but didn't move, Sheila added, "Mortimer, that means I want to speak privately with the Special Agent. Can you please go wait by your car?"

Mortimer looked a little dejected but did as he was asked. He watched while Sheila and Purdy talked for what seemed like quite a little while, but was probably just a few minutes. Toward the end of their discussion, Mortimer noticed Purdy looking repeatedly in his direction.

The conversation ended with Purdy making gestures with his arms and then stomping away in Mortimer's direction. Sheila rushed to follow.

"All right, Sherlock, either you explain how you knew about this," Purdy growled, "or I'm taking you in."

"Special Agent! That really isn't necessary! You're getting me very upset!" Sheila objected.

Purdy hesitated a moment. "You going to cooperate?" he said to Mortimer.

"Uh, yes, sir," Mortimer said in a frightened squeak.

"All right, but it's only because of her that I don't haul you right off," Purdy said. "I don't wanna upset the young lady too much. But you got a lot of questions to answer. For instance, where were you...."

"Special Agent," Sheila cut in, "obviously he was with me. How else could he have driven me here?"

Purdy seemed to ponder this. "Yeah, I guess you got a pretty good alibi from the little lady here." When he saw Sheila glare he added, "Oh, I don't mean nothin'--- whaddaya callit--- sexist."

Purdy turned back to Mortimer. "All right then, but how did you know where the next murder would take place? You might be some sort of smart kid, but nobody could know that unless they know the killer too. So who done it? You better come clean with me..."

Mortimer said in a weak voice, "Uh ... could you please tell me the method of murder, Agent Purdy? It makes a difference ..."

Purdy grunted but grudgingly gave a brief rundown on the current crime. The victim, a young waitress, had been beaten to death in her living room. The murder weapon, found next to the body, was a heavy iron cross that had been reported stolen a week ago by a local church. There was the usual checkerboard, set up on the living room's coffee table.

"Your turn now, college boy," Purdy said.

Sheila glared again. "Tell him your theory, Mortimer."

Mortimer went through his ideas. Purdy's expression very quickly glazed over. When Mortimer was done, Sheila said to Purdy, "It's brilliant, isn't it?"

"Well, I don't understand none of it," Purdy said. "And it don't tell me nothing about who the killer is."

"Yes it does!" Mortimer piped up. "I mean, well, sort of."

"What's that supposed to mean, 'sort of'?" Purdy asked, obviously impatient and annoyed.

"The murderer is a checker expert or at least someone who knows a lot about checkers," Mortimer said.

"Oh, that helps a lot, don't it," Purdy said. "There's what, five million people in the Denver area and only about, say, five million of them know how to play checkers. Yeah, that narrows it down for me. Great job."

"No, no, it's someone who knows a lot about checkers. Really a lot; I have to finish my analysis but I'm sure it has to be someone who is a high level player, and there aren't a lot of them around."

"Can you give me names?"

"Maybe... after I do some more checking. But I can tell you for sure where the killer will strike again."

"He's been killing one every night."

"I know. But I think you can catch him tomorrow night."


They did all eventually wind up at FBI headquarters, although Purdy and Sheila would have gone there anyway, and Mortimer was happy enough to stay with Sheila. When they got there Mortimer repeated his ideas, not just to Purdy but to the whole team working on the case. Sheila sat near him and smiled at him from time to time, evidently very pleased with her new friend.

Most of the team seemed as lost as Special Agent Purdy, but Mortimer could see that at least a couple of them caught on. When Mortimer gave his prediction as to where the next murder would be--- 1116 Glasgow Circle, Aurora, Colorado--- the ones who got it nodded agreement. "You were right about the one tonight," Purdy told him, "so I guess we gotta listen about this one. We'll set up some kinda stakeout and try and catch this guy."

He got up as if to end the meeting and leave, but then added, "And don't you get any ideas, Sherlock. You're staying right here and doing nothing except keep quiet. I don't want you saying nothing to the press and you ain't going on the stakeout, so don't even ask. In fact don't even think about asking."

Purdy left the room and the others started to trickle out. Two of the team members did come over to introduce themselves and shake Mortimer's hand.

After everyone had left and Mortimer was still sitting at the front of the room, Sheila came over to him and put her arms around his neck. "Very well done," she whispered in his ear. "I'm proud of you, I really am." She squeezed his shoulders with both hands. "But it's getting late. I'll be here all night again. You better drive home. You have class tomorrow, don't you?"

Mortimer, now more dazed than ever, simply nodded.

"I do too, and I won't have any sleep, so I'll have to just go straight through and sleep later. That means I won't see you tomorrow."

"Can't we just meet at dinner, then we can ... I mean you can go to bed."

Sheila laughed at his little slip. "Naughty boy," she said in a teasing tone. "Getting a little ahead of ourselves, aren't we?" But she said it with such a smile that Mortimer wasn't embarrassed. In fact, it took him several moments to figure out just what he had said that was so amusing. When he finally did, he turned all red.

"Oh... oh no, I didn't mean...."

"You know, Mortimer, the nice thing about you is that you really didn't."

Checkerboard No. 5
Black to Play, What Result?


Again as is typical in this series, the problem is world-class tough unless you've seen the position before. Definitely try it out but don't be afraid to click on Read More to see the solution and discussion.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
10/19/13 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Clan M'Millan


What's the reasoning behind the spelling "M'Millan"--- with an apostrophe? Why not spell out "McMillan" or "MacMillan"?

We found that question rather intriguing. We've seen the "M'Millan" variant before and never rightly understood it. But then again, we never really knew why some names are given as "MacMillan" and others as "McMillan."

The Clan MacMillan website set us straight.

It seems that the clan's name has two different spellings in the Scottish Gaelic language, both of them difficult to pronounce in English. There exists a variety of semi-phonetic transliterations. To avoid confusion, the "neutral" variant, "M'Millan," came into use. It's a clever and very clean solution..

Today's checker school problem, attributed to R. G. M'Millan, also offers a clever and clean solution. Can you find it?

White to Play and Win


There should be no confusion here; the position is anything but neutral. After you've worked through it, click your mouse on Read More to see the apostrophic solution, notes, and a sample game.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
10/12/13 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Little Strokes Fell Big Oaks


"Little strokes fell big oaks" is a common adage with the obvious meaning that a big effort can be tackled with many little steps, all of which add up to get the job done.

Today's stroke problem is a major effort solved one move at a time. In this case, little strokes add up to a big stroke.

White to Play and Win


You'll need to keep your mental "eye" wide open to visualize the solution, but it can be done just as our theme suggests: picture it in your mind one move at a time. When you've finished, click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
10/05/13 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.