The Checker Maven

Richard Pask At Home

Grandmaster Pask in his Library

At the end of May of this year (2017) your editor had the great pleasure of visiting with Mr. Richard Pask and family at his home in the town of Chickerell, in Weymouth, on England's southern coast. Mr. and Mrs. Pask, and their son Robert, are delightful and hospitable people, and it was a very memorable visit indeed.

Mrs. Pask's English Garden

Mrs. Pask, a musician and teacher, is also a talented gardener and keeps a wonderful English garden, the likes of which are seen only in movies.

Of course, we talked checkers, and Mr. Pask showed us through his library (shown above), packed with checker literature and checker memorablia. Our discussions ranged far and wide, continuing over dinner at a traditional English pub, The Turk's Head.

Mrs. Pask, your Editor, and Mr. Pask

We asked Mr. Pask to tell us of his favorite personal game, and he said it came from the 1985 Scottish Open, where Mr. Pask had the White against Danny Shields with the Black.

1. 10-14 24-19
2. 7-10 27-24
3. 9-13

A likely loss (already)! 11-15 or 11-16 would have been correct. Mr. Pask points out that this position can also arise from the opening sequence 1. 9-13 23-19; 2. 10-14 27-23; 3. 7-10?.

3. ... 22-18
4. 11-15 18x11
5. 8x15 24-20

26-22 instead keeps the advantage.

6. 15x24 28x19

The game has now reverted to a probable draw, although the actual play could be difficult over the board.

7. 4-8 25-22
8. 2-7

Probably loses. 8-11 would be a narrow draw.

8. ... 22-18
9. 14-17 21x14
10. 10x17 18-15
11. 5-9 29-25
12. 6-10

9-14 was better; Black is surely lost.

White to Play and Win


Grandmaster Pask was able to find the win in this position. Can you? We'd rate this one as about medium in difficulty; a little effort will be rewarded. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

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08/26/17 - Printer friendly version
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The Brooklyn Position


Brooklyn, New York, has got to be the center of the hipster movement. Now, a hipster is supposedly "a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream."

By that definition, checker players would not exactly be hipsters, yet many a top player has had humble origins in Brooklyn. Perhaps times have changed. But checkers does have the Brooklyn Position, and that's the topic of today's Checker School entry.

We've seen the Brooklyn Position at various times in previous columns, but today we present an in-depth study. The solution, accessible by clicking on Read More, gives half a dozen sample games that run into this position. It's well worth the time and effort to study it carefully.

White to Play and Win


Are you hip, or just a drip? Show your stuff, and find the solution. It's actually not so difficult, and you might even think it's kind of trendy.null

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08/19/17 - Printer friendly version
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A Trap With A Tale, Part 2


Watch out! That tempting bit of cheese will come at a stiff price ... unless that little white mouse can somehow avoid the trap. Yes, today we're continuing our Willie Ryan series, A Trap With A Tale.

In our last excerpt from Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, we showed the run-up to a position that turned out to be a Black win. The solution to that position included a computer move with which we'll see that Willie Ryan, in his book, disagreed. It's much easier to show than tell, so here goes.

1. 11-16 24-19
2. 8-11 22-18
3. 16-20 25-22
4. 9-13 29-25
5. 11-15 18-11
6. 7-16 22-18

This was the point at which we asked you to find a Black win. Now let's look at a possible alternate continuation, the one preferred by Willie, which he claims leads to a draw instead of a Black win.

7. 20-24 27x11
8. 10-15 19x10
9. 6x29 28-24
10. 29-25 32-27
11. 1-6

Here the computer played 24-20 and showed a Black win, as we presented in our previous column. But Willie instead gives this to draw:

11. ... 24-19
Black to Play, What Result?


Who is right, Willie or the computer? Can Black still win against Willie's preferred defense?

We think you know the answer, but can you show the Black win?

Willie stars this as the only move to draw; the computer move was instead 19-16 and White went on to lose.

Who is right, Willie or the computer? That's the question we're asking you to answer in today's column. This is probably a master-level problem, but if you followed the solution from last time, you'll have a broad hint as to what will happen here.

Take on Willie or take on the computer, and see how you do. At the heart of the position is an important over-the-board playing principle. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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08/12/17 - Printer friendly version
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Complex Interchange


Does the word "interchange" call to mind the kind of hopelessly complicated tangle of roadways depicted above? We're not sure if this photo is real or satire, but please remind us to seek an alternative route.

In checkers, "interchange" can have different meanings, the most common ones probably referring to an exchange of pieces or an exchange of positions.

Today, we'll present a study that takes the idea to its ultimate conclusion. This is not a typical checker problem, but it has a great deal of didactic value. The exact origin of this problem is unknown, but it's been around for a while.

The problem is to go from the start position

Starting Position


to the following fully interchanged position.

Ending Position


Of course, this has to be done completely with legal moves (e.g., all forced captures will have to be avoided).

Now, we won't say it's easy or short (it's neither), but a methodical, thoughtful approach will yield results. This is a great exercise in planning and visualizing, and we believe it will aid in the development of over-the-board skills. And in the process, you'll certainly learn something about mobility, traffic jams, and clearing a path.

Can you untangle this one, or will you loop around in your quest for a solution? It's worth your time and effort, but when you want to get out of the traffic, just click on Read More to see an animated solution.null

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08/05/17 - Printer friendly version
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