The Checker Maven

Marvin and the Academic

Dr. Hillary Silverfish

Dr. Hillary Silverfish stared and pointed at Marvin, the intensity of her gaze frightening and chilling. Close-cropped dark hair added to the effect. This was one tough customer.

"Prepare to die," she hissed.

Marvin J. Mavin, sitting across the checkerboard from Dr. Silverfish, pretended not to be intimidated, but if the truth be known, he was terrified. Even though Marvin was team captain for the Detroit Doublejumpers and one of the National Checker League's top players, Dr. Silverfish was a formidable opponent, and her patented stare was one of her most feared weapons.

Marvin J. Mavin

The Doublejumpers were playing an exhibition match with San Diego Liberal Artiste University's faculty team. Dr. Silverfish, not surprisingly, was head of the Psychological Arts Department, and lead the checker team. She often boasted about how she could have been a top pro player, "but I have a Ph.D., you know, and it's really my duty to teach the next generation of students."

"Ph.D., Schmee-h D.," Marvin had remarked, with characteristic impoliteness, when the local press asked him what he thought about his opponent, "You still got to make the right moves to win the game." At that point Marvin excused himself and went off to find himself a beer, which in San Diego wasn't particularly difficult.

But once again, Marvin had found himself not just a beer, but a few beers, and so at the start of the match he was, shall we say, at less than a hundred percent, and Dr. Silverfish was not one to fail to exploit a weakness.

"Who you starin' at, Silverfish?" said Marvin in his most irritating tone. "We'll see who's going to die, you old bookworm!"

Dr. Silverfish cleared her throat. "I don't respond to comments by inebriated louts," she said. "I just crush them, like this."

To Marvin's amazement, Dr. Silverfish picked up the empty soda can sitting at her left and, with one hand, squeezed it until it split along the seams.


Marvin repressed a shiver, hoping Dr. Silverfish hadn't seen. But she didn't miss much.

"You should be scared, maggot," she said, but before she could go on, the referee blew his whistle, signalling the start of the match. Marvin lead off with the Black pieces, and Dr. Silverfish had the White.

1. 11-15 23-19
2. 9-13

"Your tricks don't fool me," Dr. Silverfish said. "I know a poor move when I see one."

2. ... 22-18
3. 15-22 25-18
4. 10-15

"Drinking doesn't help you play better, little man."

4. ... 18-11
5. 7-23 27-18
6. 12-16 29-25
7. 5-9

(This is the end of of the KingsRow opening book. White has an advantage due to the odd line played by Black.)

7. ... 25-22

(Good, but 32-27 would have been really strong here; White still has a definite edge.)

8. 16-20 24-19
9. 6-10 18-15

(30-25 would have been hard to draw against. White now has just a narrow advantage.)

10. 1-6 22-18
11. 8-12

(10-14 loses after 28-24.)

11. ... 26-23
12. 3-7

(A poor move allowing only the narrowest of draws. 4-8 was correct.)

Dr. Silverfish smiled. "Your poor play continues," she said, "and now I will finish you off."

Indeed, Marvin was fidgeting in his chair, as he always did when he was in a tough spot.

12. ... 30-26

(32-27 would have kept the lead. The game is now even.)

Marvin exhaled. "Well, there, Silverfish, you ain't as good as you think you are. You missed your chance and you ain't getting another, not against ole Marvin."

Black to Play and Draw


How will Marvin save the game? Can you stand up to Dr. Silverfish's terrifying stare and find the solution? Don't panic; work it out and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/31/15 - Printer friendly version
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In the Woods


W. J. Wood was a player, problemist, and leading checker editor for many years way back when. The problem below dates back to the 1920s and it's really a good one.

White to Play and Draw


We said it was good, not easy. White is in immediate danger of losing a piece. How can the game be saved? Can White find his way out of the woods, or at least out of Mr. Wood's predicament?

Don't lose your way; find the amazing solution if you can, and then click on Read More to check it out.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/24/15 - Printer friendly version
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Capers on the Kelso: Part 3


What does a screenshot from an arcade-style video game have to do with checkers?

We challenge you to identify the source of the screenshot, for therein lies the answer.

We continue with our multi-part excursion into the Kelso with the third installment, taken from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. Today we cover the beginning of Willie's Variation 1.

The run-up is short:

10-15, 22-18, 15-22, 25-18.

Now we continue with Willie's text:

Variation 1

6-10---A 8-15 9-13
29-25---B,3 25-22 23-18
11-15 4-8 7-11*---D
18-11 21-17---C 30-25
Black to Play and Win


A---"Black has three good moves to start with. Most of our leading masters have shown a preference for 9-13 here, but 6-10 (an earlier favorite) and 11-15 are just as good. The principal advantage of the text defense (6-10) is the fact that it may be applied also to another two-move opening: 9-13, 22-17, 13-22, 25-18, 6-9, which develops the same position.

B---Some players object to 6-10 at A because of the 18-14 'bust' at this juncture, and others dodge 6-10 because of the situation arising at C (21-17) in trunk. The analysis in this lesson is offered to prove that both objections are unfounded. See Variation 3 for play on 18-14.

C---This move has long been regarded as the major stumbling block of the 6-10 defense. My innovation at D deflates this highly rated attack.

D---This odd move improves on more published play than you can shake a stick at. The accepted move in the past has been 8-11, as used in the Stewart-Banks match, giving white a strong game. I had this 7-11 improvement cooked up for Walter Hellman at the 1939 Tacoma National Tourney, but he avoided the whole line by playing 18-14 at B."

3---Variation 3 will be the subject of a future column---Ed.

Click on Read More to see the solution and additional notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/17/15 - Printer friendly version
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Long Winter School Days


This column will appear on January 10, when the holidays are behind us and school is back in session, with long weeks to go before spring break. So it seems appropriate that today's Checker School column be, well, a long one, with no less than three problems to solve, and then four sample games and a page of detailed notes.

If it seems like a lot, it is, but the road to checker mastery is paved with checker studies, and if you can solve these, you've come a long way. All three of today's positions are inter-related, as you'll see when you work on them. Diagram 2 is Allen's Win and Diagram 3 is Robertson's Draw.

Diagram 1
White to Play, Black to Draw


Diagram 2
White to Play and Win


Diagram 3
Black to Play and Draw


Just to be fair, we'll let you know that the first diagrammed position leads to both the second and third, depending on the moves chosen.

Study hard and find the solutions, then click on Read More to see the solutions, sample games, and detailed notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/10/15 - Printer friendly version
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January Speed


January, in much of North America and Europe, is the time for winter sports, such as speeding along on a pair of skis. We must admit that not much skiing goes on near the The Checker Maven offices in Honolulu; a plane trip to Colorado or some other similar location would be required.

But checkers is available everywhere, and you don't need a $600 plane ticket to try out a checker speed problem, such as the one found in the link below.

When you're ready, click to start the Javascript timer. It's all downhill from there!

January 2015 Speed Problem (Medium, 10 seconds)

When you're done, come back and click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/03/15 - Printer friendly version
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