The Checker Maven

Easy Peasy


We were surprised to learn that the expression "easy peasy" is relatively modern, having first made its appearance around 1976, apparently as part of an advertisement for dishwashing liquid that went "easy peasy, lemon squeezy." The expression has since come to mean, of course, something simple or easy.

Today's problem falls in that category. The Checker Maven tries to present a range of problems, from beginner through grandmaster level, and we know that an easy one is often a quick and welcome diversion.

So, here's today's "easy peasy" position.

White to Play and Win


You won't have much trouble with this one, and the solution is rather nice, although there are a couple of ways to go wrong. When you're ready, an easy peasy click on Read More will reveal everything.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/28/17 - Printer friendly version
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Sinclair's Sacrifice


Sinclair gasoline stations are common in the western United States, with some in the Great Plains and just a handful on the East Coast--- but not a single one in Hawai`i. We can only guess that Sinclair Oil decided to sacrifice participation in the admittedly small and difficult to supply Hawaiian market, in favor of more profitable ventures. We can hardly blame them.

But our subject today is a study attributed to checkerist A. Sinclair, a gentleman who we are almost certain is in no way an antecedent of today's Sinclair Oil. The study is taken from Ben Boland's marvelous classic, Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

Black to Play and Draw


Black is a man up, but with no safe moves, that advantage is highly temporary. How can he get the draw here? We think you'll find the solution nothing short of amazing, and the title of this column gives you a big hint. Does that oil the skids enough to lead you to a solution? Step on the gas and work it out, then motor your mouse over to Read More to see the amazing drawing method, explanatory notes, several sample games, and two supplementary positions.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/21/17 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Tommy Goes to High School


Tommy Wagner was learning that high school is a scary place for a new freshman.

He had been a star in his central Florida middle school, maintaining top academic status while leading his checker team to a State Championship.

But now he was at a large regional high school, which drew students from all over town, and he was a lowly freshman to boot.

Of course, he wanted a spot on the Checker Team, and he knew he was good, but he'd have to compete with experienced 11th and 12th graders. The Checker Varsity even had a titled Master player on their roster. Tommy knew he would have to play Junior Varsity for at least a year, maybe two.

It bothered him. A lot.

It was a Saturday morning, and he was on his way to Uncle Ben's place. Uncle Ben was the kindly retired professional checkerist who gave Tommy free lessons nearly every week. He wasn't really Tommy's uncle, of course, but everyone just called him "Uncle Ben."

But Tommy didn't want to go this morning. He wanted to stay home and sulk, and would have done that had his mother not chased him out of the house.


"You've been in a terrible mood these past few days," she had said, "and I don't really like it. Now you get on over to Uncle Ben's and don't keep him waiting! And make sure you're polite when you get there!"

Tommy didn't answer, and let the screen door bang a little too hard on his way out. He even kicked at a garbage can after he had walked a couple of blocks.

Finally he reached Uncle Ben's porch. Hands in his pockets, he shuffled up the steps.


Uncle Ben, of course, instantly saw that something was wrong, and it wasn't very hard for him to guess what it was.

"Tommy. You need to stop this," he said, in a stern tone that Tommy had never, ever heard from him. It got Tommy's attention.

He took his hands out of his pockets and sat in a chair next to Uncle Ben. He was on the verge of tears.

"I know how badly you want to play Varsity," Uncle Ben said. "We went through the same thing in middle school, remember?"

"Yes ... but ... that was different," Tommy managed to say.

"Different? How so?"

Coach Schann

"I just captained the State Champion middle school team!" Tommy said. "Why can't Coach Schann see that?"

"I'm certain he does see that," Uncle Ben replied, "but do you realize that he has a titled Master and four ranked Experts on his team right now? Tommy, what's your rank?"

"Class A," Tommy said, almost in a whisper.

"What was that, Tommy? I don't think I heard you."

"Class A, Uncle Ben." Tommy swallowed hard, fighting back emotion.

"Yes, you made Class A at the end of last year. Now, do you suppose you should replace an Expert or a Master on the high school team? Do you expect Coach Schann to just say, here comes Tommy Wagner, I'll put him on the team even though he's lower ranked than everyone else?"

"But I ..."

"Yes, Tommy, you lead your team to victory, and that was a great achievement. You should be proud. But you should not be vain. You're good, but there are others who are better, and you'll have to earn your way up through study and practice."

"I had to do that in middle school! I don't want to do it all over again!"

"But do it you must. And it will be another new game when you get to college in a few years. In this life, we are always earning our way. Nothing worthwhile is given to us for free."


Uncle Ben poured some lemonade from the waiting pitcher. For a while, neither he nor Tommy said a word. Tommy was obviously thinking about what Uncle Ben had said.

Finally, Tommy broke the silence.

"Time's passing," he said. "I had better get to work if I want to make Varsity in the next year or two."

Uncle Ben just smiled, and turned to the waiting checkerboard. "Very well," he said, "how about taking a look at this position and see what you make of it?"

Black to Play and Win


Would you make it to the High School Varsity? How about the Junior Varsity? Solve the problem, then click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and fourteen additional examples of this theme.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/14/17 - Printer friendly version
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January Kickoff


Did you watch football on New Year's Day? Although we're writing this column weeks in advance, we can tell you for sure that no, The Checker Maven staff didn't watch football on New Year's Day or any other day, although we do admit to having seen a football game on television as recently as 1978. We understand football's great popularity, but it just isn't our thing.

So instead we'll kick off our checker year with a game that dates back even further, to 1908. The game is a bit flawed but nonetheless an interesting over the board contest. Let's have a look.

1. 10-15 23-18
2. 12-16 26-23
3. 16-20 21-17
4. 9-13 17-14
5. 8-12 14-9
6. 5x14 18x9
7. 4-8

7-10 was likely better here, though the text move certainly allows for a draw.

7. ... 24-19
8. 15x24 28x19
9. 7-10

11-15 evaluates to a likely draw and may be best. Deep analysis also evaluates the current position as a probable draw that may be more difficult to find over the board.

9. ... 23-18

22-18 was correct. The edge passes to Black who now might win.

10.11-16 27-23

This unfortunate move turns a probable Black win into a certain White win, and now your New Year's task is twofold. First, correct this last error and give what could have been Black's winning move. Then, continuing on from the text move, show how White wins (it's rather easy). When you've got it, click on Read More to see the solution.

White to Play and Win



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01/07/17 - Printer friendly version
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