The Checker Maven

An Exhibition Match

National Checker League Headquarters
Photo Courtesy Mike Tewkesbury

Marvin J. Mavin was in Bellman, Ohio, the home of the National Checker League, for a special gala event to benefit the NCL Youth Fund. Various other top professionals would be playing simultaneous exhibitions, giving lessons and demonstrations, and analyzing games submitted by attendees. But the featured event, the real headliner, would be a single game match-up between Marvin and the President of the NCL, Elan Hallmion.

Marvin J. Mavin

President Hallmion was a former top-ranked professional player; some thought he was every bit as good as Marvin. But there was more to the story.

Elan Hallmion

The truth is, despite Marvin's popularity, President Hallmion was no great fan of Marvin. He didn't like Marvin's antics, especially his beer drinking; he thought it set a rather bad example for young players and fans who idolized Marvin. The scheduled contest between Marvin and Elan was being touted by the press as a "grudge match," although President Hallmion, always the gentleman, said that it was just a charity benefit in which he was most happy to participate. Any grudges, he added, were Marvin's alone.

Marvin, for his part, wasn't quite as gentlemanly. When asked about the match by the press, he said, "Oh, yeah, that dude Hallmion don't like me so much. But hey, whatever, he ain't got my reputation. I'll like, you know, take him on, sure, why not?"

The time for the match soon rolled around. Marvin had arrived in Bellman the previous evening and had spent the day (at least half of it, as he apparently slept until noon) signing autographs and meeting with the hundreds of NCL fans who had come to town for the exhibition.

President Hallmion made sure Marvin was taken to dinner by a couple of NCL officials, who whisked Marvin off to a restaurant that didn't serve beer. The NCL leader wasn't going to risk a possibly embarrassing situation later on when Marvin appeared for his match.


Indeed, at game time, Marvin was on the wagon. He had complained a little at dinner but when it became obvious that it wouldn't do any good, he stopped. He did try to slip away from his escort at one point, but the NCL officials were quite alert and Marvin didn't succeed.

The crowd cheered equally for both Marvin and President Hallmion. While Marvin was a darling of the fans, President Hallmion was highly respected for his integrity and his very competent management of the affairs of the NCL.

After shaking hands--- was Marvin a little reluctant?--- the contestants sat down to play. Marvin had drawn the Black pieces and President Hallion the White. The game started out as follows.

1. 10-15 22-17
2. 15-19

Marvin had what some thought to be the harder end of this 3-move ballot, but he seemed quite unperturbed, although he was doing his normal fidgeting.

2 ... 24-15
3. 11-18 23-14
4. 9-18

After the double exchange, White has a small advantage; and President Hallmion knew it. In fact, he appeared to be smiling ever so slightly.

4. ... 17-13

26-23 might have been stronger. Marvin glanced up at his opponent, evidently surprised by this move.

5. 5-9 21-17
6. 8-11 28-24
7. 4-8

11-15 or 9-14 would have been better. Had Marvin's concentration lapsed? In professional checkers, that often proves fatal.

7. ... 17-14

White seizes the advantage....

8. 1-5 24-20

... only to give it back again. 24-19 would have held the lead. Marvin actually looked relieved at this turn of events. "Well there, Shorty," Marvin said, most disrespectfully, "ya thought ya had something, didn't ya! But now ya ain't got nothing."

9. 11-15 26-23
10. 8-11 25-21
11. 12-16 32-28
12. 3-8 27-24
13. 18-27 31-26
14. 9-18 24-19
15. 16-23 26-3

Seeing this clever shot, the crowd oohed and aahed and then broke out into applause for President Hallmion. Meanwhile Marvin was frowning and scratching his head perplexedly.

16. 8-12 3-8
17. 11-15 8-11
18. 27-31 30-25

President Hallmion sat back in his chair, and being the gentleman that he was, merely smiled. Marvin was in a tough spot and was going to have to think hard if he was to save the draw. "What's with this?" Marvin said. "You can't win, Shorty, you just can't!" The crowd, hearing this, let out a collective grumble. They all loved Marvin, but they also expected President Hallmion to be treated with proper respect.

Can you find the draw in this critical position? Can Marvin? Try to solve it, and then click on Read More for the solution and the rest of the story.

Black to Play and Draw



[Read More]
02/22/14 -Printer friendly version-
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

The Champions' Choice


The photo above apparently advertises for something called "The Champion's Choice Trace Mineral Salt Block." It's intended for livestock, not checker players, unless there are some checker-playing cows out there. Certainly, though, there are many checker-playing raisers of livestock, so the photo might just be relevant after all. Besides, "The Champion's Choice" is Willie Ryan's title for today's checker study.

As we've mentioned before, the last installments of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard are pretty long and complex. We've broken today's study into two parts. We'll present the second part in our next regular installment.

The study looks at the Cross Choice opening and it's fascinating to say the least. Let's let Willie tell us more.

"The Cross Choice opening, formed by 11-15, 23-18, 9-14, has long been a favorite battleground of the champions, and some of the most spectacular wins on the record have been scored on it. The following analytical study of this colorful debut bristles with brilliant play and unusual combinations:

11-15 17-13 7-10
23-18 2-6---C 21-17*---F3
9-14 23-18*---D,2 16-19
18-11 14-23 29-25---G
8-15 27-18 19-24---H
22-17 10-14---E 28-19
4-8 31-27*---F 15-24
25-22 14-23 25-21*
8-11---A,1 27-18 3-8---I,
26-23---B 12-16---F1 to the
6-9 24-20---F2 diagram
White to Play and Draw


A---7-11 is also good, as shown in Variation 1.

B---As played by Champions Rubin and Hunt. In view of the improved attack innovated at C, this 26-23 move will henceforth occupy a lower rating among the master minds. Probably the best move here for a draw is---B1: 17-13, 11-16, 22-17, 16-20 (16-19, 29-25, 7-11, 24-20, 2-7, 27-24, may be used as a plausible alternative), 26-23, 7-11, 29-25, 3-7, 24-19 (23-19, 5-9, 25-22, 14-18, 17-14, 18-25, 14-5, 25-29, 21-17, 11-16, 17-14, 16-23, 27-11, 20-27, 32-23, 7-16, 14-7, 2-11, 31-26, 11-15, 23-19, etc. produces the draw), 15-24, 28-19, 11-15, 32-28, 15-24, 28-19, 7-11, 31-26*, 11-15, 19-16, 12-19, 23-16, 15-19, 26-23, 19-26, 30-23, 10-15, 17-10, 15-19,10-7, 19-26, 27-23, 2-11, 16-7, 26-31, 23-19, 31-26, 19-16, 26-23, 25-22. Sam Levy, Manchester, England, 1937.

B1---The computer thinks 7-11 and 8-11 are about equally good and finds 17-13 to be a lesser choice---Ed.

C---Inaugurates a baffling attack, suggested to me by John T. Bradford. It improves upon the combination of: 14-17, 13-6, 17-26, 31-22, 2-9, 23-19 (used by Edwin F. Hunt, Nathan Rubin, and Asa Long in games played by them), which leaves black with a draw at best and no chance of winning. This 2-6 puts muscle in the black build-up and promptly takes the snapper out of white's formation. If black tries 1-6 at C, then we have a familiar Denny development, strong for white, which runs its course like this to a draw: 1-6, 23-19, 14-17, 21-14, 9-25, 29-22, 5-9, 27-23, 9-14, 24-20, 15-24, 28-19, 14-17, 31-26, 11-15, 32-28, 15-24, 28-19, 7-11, 22-18, 3-7,19-16,12-19,23-16, 6-9,13-6,2-9,16-12,17-21,12-8,10-15, 26-22, 7-10, 20-16, 11-20, 18-11, 10-15, 8-3, 15-19, 3-7, 19-23, 7-10, 23-27, 10-15, 20-24, 15-18, 9-13*, 11-7, 27-31, 7-2, 24-28, 2-7, 28-32, 7-10, 31-27. Wm. F. Ryan vs. Jesse B. Hanson, 1927.

D---The key to the situation, cramping mobility of the black pieces on squares 1, 5, 6, and 9. A good draw by any other move is hard to find, and even the text must be followed through by the subtle touches at J. For play on 23-19 at this point, see Variation 2---an exposition in hairline draughts! Ed.'s note: Variation 2 will be published next month.

E---This press is obviously the only move to gain a draw. If 12-16 is played, 24-20 wins.

F---31-26, 14-23, 26-10, 7-14, 29-25, 12-16, 32-27 or 30-26, then 11-15 leaves white irreparably impaired.

F1---The end of the KingsRow opening book, with an equal evaluation---Ed.

F2---It takes some deep computer analysis to reveal that 32-27 is the best move here, though any Black edge is tiny indeed---Ed.

F3---Willie stars this move, but 32-27 also is good---Ed.

G---The shot by 17-14, 10-26, 30-7, 15-22, 7-2, 22-26, leaves black with much the better ending, though a win would be hard to prove. The strength of the black ending rests in ultimately relieving the four man tie-up of his pieces on 1, 5, 6, and 9. This is accomplished by crowning the piece on 22, returning the king to square 18, and then conditionally "slipping" 9-14, 2-9, 14-17, thus removing the white king on square 2 from play. On such "ideas" and tactical threats is the game of checkers based. The more knowledge a student acquires of these principles of play, and the more adept he is in knowing when and how to threaten with the proper plan for a particular setup, the greater is his skill. The proficient planner makes the player.

H---Or 19-23, 28-24 (better than 20-16, 11-20, 18-11, 9-14, 25-21, 5-9, black strong), 3-8, 20-16, 11-27, 18-4, 27-31, 4-8, 31-27, 8-11, 27-24, 11-8 will also reach a draw. Wm. F. Ryan.

I---24-28, 30-26, 3-8, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14, 8-12, 22-17, 11-15, 18-11, 9-18,11-7,18-22, 26-23, 22-26, 23-18, 26-30,18-14, 30-25, 7-2, 25-22, 2-9, 22-18, 32-27, 28-32, 27-23, 18-27, 9-6 produces the draw. Wm. F. Ryan.

J---The timely rescue for white.

Variation 1

7-11 22-17 10-17 25-22 11-16
29-25 3-7 21-14 12-16 2-7
12-16 31-27---A 18-23 22-18 31-26;
24-20 1-5---B 20-16 16-19 drawn.
16-19 27-23 11-27 1-6 Wm. F.
27-24 14-18 28-24 2-9 Ryan.
5-9 23-14---C 19-28 13-6
17-13 9-18 26-1 7-11
8-12 17-14 27-31 6-2

A---White dares not go 32-27, since he will be stung by 19-23. However, white can travel safely to a draw with: 26-23, 19-26, 30-23, 1-5 (nothing better), 23-19*, 11-16, 20-11, 7-23, 24-19, 15-24,28-19,14-18,17-14,10-17, 21-14,2-7,19-15,12-16,15-11, 6-10, 11-2, 10-17, 13-6, 17-21, 2-7, 21-30, 7-11, 16-20, 31-26. Wm. F. Ryan.

B---If the play goes 11-16, 20-11, 7-16, 27-23, the breakup by 15-18 will promote a draw; but if the move is 2-7, white will reply with 32-27*, and black's position is perilous.

C---Or 23-16, 12-19, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14, 18-23, 14-10, 7-14, 20-16, 11-27, 28-24, 19-28, 26-1, 27-31, 13-6, 2-9, 1-6, 9-13, 25-22, 14-17, 22-18, 17-22, 18-14, 13-17, 6-9, 17-21, 9-13, also ending in a draw. John T. Bradford."

Ed.'s Note: Variation 2 will appear in the next installment.

Here's the diagram once again.

White to Play and Draw


Can you make the champion's choices here and solve the problem? Will you be a champ or a chump? We think if you give it a good try, you're a champ no matter. When you've chosen your moves, click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
02/15/14 -Printer friendly version-
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Famous Shots IV


This month brings the fourth entry in our Famous Shots series, taken from Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. As always, the challenge is to solve the shot, and, if you wish, identify the "shot" pictured above.

Here's the run-up:

11-15 21-17 9-13 25-21 8-11 17-14---A 10x17 21x14 6-10 22-17 13x22 26x17 15-18 24-20---B 2-6 28-24 4-8---C 29-25 11-15 30-26 6-9---D

A---30-25 is better; Black now gets a small but noticeable advantage.

B---23-19 is better. Black's advantage is now significant.

C---6-9 would retain the Black advantage. The game is now about even.

D---Loses. 15-19 was correct.

White to Play and Win


Aw, shoot; we're pretty much out of "shot" puns, so all we'll say is to see if you can solve it and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
02/08/14 -Printer friendly version-
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

A Short Speedster


For February, the shortest month, we're pleased to present another short speed problem from father and son team Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It features a practical over-the-board situation and is relatively easy (hence a 10 second time limit).

We invite other readers to submit similar problems, suited for solving in anything from five seconds to one minute. Meanwhile, a big "mahalo" (thanks) to Lloyd and Josh.

When you're ready, click on the link below; then come back and click on Read More to verify your solution.

February Speed Problem (Easy, 10 seconds)


[Read More]
02/01/14 -Printer friendly version-
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.