The Checker Maven

Mysteries of Dama


Julius D'Orio was an interesting character. An Italian immigrant who eventually ended up in California, he was a master checkerist in the early part of the 20th century, even if a somewhat lesser player than the very best in his times. He wrote one book, Mysteries of Dama, an autographed copy of which sits on the shelves in the Checker Maven offices. Mr. D'Orio is known for his promotion of the "triangle" defense, which as a general principle of play has never been widely accepted, as it has substantial flaws (as demonstrated by Jim Loy and others).

But his book is fascinating to read, and today we present an interesting position found within it.

Black to Play and Draw


Mr. D'Orio characterizes Black's position as seemingly hopeless, and indeed, White appears to have the upper hand. Mr. D'Orio proposes a solution, which is both neat and valid. Can you find it? We asked our computer--- KingsRow with the 10-piece endgame database--- and it came back with something completely different and unexpected. Dama is indeed full of mysteries.

Don't be mystified; Mr. D'Orio's solution is within reach, even if the computer's solution might remain, well, mysterious. When you're ready, click on Read More, after which all secrets will be revealed.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/25/15 - Printer friendly version
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Capers on the Kelso, Part 8


Built by the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad in 1905, Kelso Station was once an important place. In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Kelso Station served as a source of water for steam engines, a place where passengers and crew could get something to eat, and a location for "helper" engines to assist in pulling trains up a steep nearby grade.

Of course, it's all a matter of history today, as the heyday of rail travel, just like the heyday of checkers, is behind us. Will rail travel make a comeback? Will our game of checkers? We can only hope, and continue to work towards that goal. The Checker Maven is intended to be our contribution to this worthy effort.

We continue our extended series on the Kelso opening, taken from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, with more exploration of his "Variation 2." Here's a quick run-up without commentary. Detailed notes can be found in previous columns in this series. Our analysis has found some play that overturns one of Willie's conclusions.

10-15 21-17 24-20
22-18 4-8 1-6
15-22 17-13 28-24
25-18 9-14 8-11
11-15 29-25 32-28
18-11 6-10 14-17

Willie now gives the next move as 25-21, but in a note, he offers 25-22 as an alternative, resulting in the position below:

Black to Play and


Willie, of course, proposes his own solution and it's a good one. But we found a different solution with KingsRow, and it's even more spectacular than Willie's.

Take full credit if you find either solution, and count yourself a master or better if you find both. When you're finished, click on Read More to see both solutions.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/18/15 - Printer friendly version
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The Wyllie One


Wiles, wits, and wisdom make up the toolkit of champion checker players. To be the best, skill and knowledge--- wits and wisdom--- need to be augmented by a special sense, an almost undefinable quality of wiliness, that makes the difference between the best of the best and the merely very good.

We all know of Edinburgh checkerist James Wyllie, "the Herd Laddie," who was a dominant force in checkers in the mid- to late-19th century, holding the world championship for no less than 40 years. He was indeed a wily one, and our Checker School position below is attributed to this great player.

Black to Play and Draw


How wily are you? We think that if you get the first move, you'll have little trouble with the rest. Test your wiles and then click on Read More to see the solution, sample game, and detailed notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/11/15 - Printer friendly version
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Fourth of July Celebration


This year our Fourth of July column appears on the day itself, America's birthday. It's a time to reaffirm our patriotism and honor the greatness of America. At The Checker Maven, we're proud American patriots who are profoundly grateful for the opportunities and blessings that come from living in America, and thankful to the men and women who give so much to defend our freedom.


There's nothing like a Fourth of July picnic to celebrate, and there's nothing like a Tom Wiswell problem to make checkers part of the day. Mr. Wiswell was a great American player, problemist, and patriot, one of the "Greatest Generation" who served in our armed forces during the Second World War.

Here's the problem.

White to Play and Win


Mr. Wiswell called this one "Strolling Through The Park" because he happened upon some players in the park (presumably Central Park in New York City) and saw the White player miss the win. We wouldn't say that the problem is super-hard, but it does require a good eye and good judgment.

Take a little stroll with this one, then walk your mouse to Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/04/15 - Printer friendly version
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