The Checker Maven

Taking On The Champ, Part 1

null

Suppose you're a Master level checker player. You're at a tournament and suddenly you find yourself matched with someone who held the World Championship for many years. An intimidating prospect? Certainly you're good, but this guy is good.

Now, imagine instead that you're in the Minor category? You're still in all likelihood a pretty good player, but ... two games against Alex Moiseyev?

Would your instinct be to make a hasty exit from the tournament room, maybe even to catch the next flight to some remote location? Or would you stick it out, expecting to take your lumps and just hope you don't look too bad?

This was almost exactly the prospect faced by Watson Franks, who told us a story of courage and accomplishment from which we can all learn something. Watson didn't run; he sat down and played.

Watson sent us a very interesting and detailed account of his adventure, and while we can't run it all in our weekly columns, we'll put it online in its entirety at the conclusion of this two-part series.

How did this all come about? Watson tells us:

"This past October, 2016, my wife encouraged me to go to the Alabama State Tournament ... at the beginning of the tournament ... they decided they wanted to do a Round Robin ... The Master Players realized that in order to have a Round Robin Tournament, they would need to have eight players ... they only had seven signed up ... I volunteered to move up ... They were appreciative ... very few thought I would get a draw, much less a win against any of the master players."

But Watson did quite well in the early rounds, surprising everyone with his results, including, we believe, himself: he racked up six draws and six losses against six different Master players. (If you don't think that's fantastic, try getting even one draw against one of these champs.)

In the final round, though, he was inevitably matched with Alex Moiseyev. Did he panic?

Here's a little of Watson's narrative:

"Everyone knew I would play Alex the final round. I remember, one of the contestants told me in joking, 'If you were to beat Alex, that would be more of an upset than Trump beating Clinton.' I told him, 'Strange things can happen ... on any given checker board.'

"Alex and I sat on the far side of the room. There was no one around us. It was very quiet. Alex shuffled the 3-move opening cards. In my mind, I knew it would be a good opening. By good opening, I mean one that I was very familiar with. Sure enough, the opening was 11-15, 24-19, 15-24. A 'Go As You Please' opening!"

In the first game, Watson had Black and Alex had White.


1. 11-15 24-19
2. 15x24 28x19
3. 8-11 22-18
4. 9-14 18x9
5. 5x14 26-22
6. 11-15 22-18
7. 15x24 18x9
8. 6x13 27x20
9. 4-8 25-22
10. 8-11 30-26
11. 2-6 31-27

End of KingsRow opening book.


12. 11-15 23-18

May lose; 20-16 was correct.


13. 15-19 18-14
14. 10x17 21x14
15. 19-24

Gives away the advantage; 6-10 might likely win.


15. ... 27-23
16. 24-27 20-16

14-9 would have been a sure draw.


17. 12x19 23x16

The game was left here as a draw. Watson tells us:

"The game reached a turning point. I thought I had (a) decent position. I was pleased with my shape. I knew what my next move would be. It looked very good for me. He (Alex) looked at me and said, 'Would you like a draw?' I looked at the board for a bit. I said to him, 'If you think this is a draw, then itís a draw. But I think I have very good shape.' He said, 'It looks drawish.' Of course, I could have kept playing if I had wanted to do so. It was my choice to accept (the) draw. I could have made a bad move and lost the game. But at the point of draw, I realize now that I had (a) winning position. I was very proud of that game."

So what do you think? Could Watson have won the game? What about his fear of possibly making a poor move and losing?

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W32,29,26,22,16,14:B27,13,7,6,3,1.

Study the position, and when you're done, click on Read More for the answer to these intriguing questions.null

[Read More]
09/30/17 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Double Arrow

null

Onward and upward! Do these two arrows point the way to success? And will that success be on the checkerboard?

Today's Checker School entry, a position attributed to William Strickland, certainly looks like two arrows pointing upward -- from the Black side. (From the White side, the arrows point in a quite different direction.) Let's take a look.

W. STRICKLAND
WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W26,23,22,21,19,17,13:B14,12,10,9,6,2,1.

In the interest of fairness, we presume, the terms are Black to play and draw, and that would certainly be a success in such an awkward position. As for White, it's his game to win ... if he can.

Will your arrow hit the mark? Solve the problem and then shoot your mouse onto Read More to see the solution, explanatory notes, and seven--- yes, seven--- sample games.null

[Read More]
09/23/17 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Hard Fall Problem

null

The first day of fall is just a few days away at the time this column will be published, and it's time to get serious. All the students are back in school and all regular activities have likely resumed by now. With cold weather ahead, it's time to sharpen your checker skills to prepare for the busy checker season ahead.

Of course, The Checker Maven is always willing to help, so we've got a problem today that's somewhat tougher than last week's entry.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

:WK18,K17,14,6:BK27,K25,7,3.

Will you solve it or fall down on this one? You should be able to solve it, but you can always let your mouse fall on Read More to see the solution.null

[Read More]
09/16/17 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Easy Summer's End Problem

null

Fall in the Northern Hemisphere is not far off, and if you live in a so-called "temperate" climate zone, you're probably out enjoying the last of the warm weather. So today, we won't keep you from your outdoor pursuits for long; our problem definitely falls into the "easy" category, and you'll solve it in short order. The position was provided by regular contributors Josh and Lloyd Gordon of Toronto.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W30,K27,20:B21,18,12.

You've probably already solved it, but just in case, ease your mouse on to Read More to easily check your solution.null

[Read More]
09/09/17 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Labor Day 2017

null

On every Labor Day holiday, we pay tribute to the common man and woman. Yes, we've said it before, but it's worth saying again: These are the people who, through honest hard work, make our nation what it is. Whatever you do, be proud of it and celebrate your contribution. We believe that all occupations are honorable, and that the farmer in the field and the laborer on the construction site can take pride of place right alongside the business executive and the real estate tycoon. We all have our job to do, and all of it is important.

Checkers is a great equalizer. Great players have come from humble origins. Over the board, it makes no difference if you're rich or poor, famous or unknown; only your skill and ability count for anything.

We don't know what your life's calling may be, but if you're here, you must be a checker fan, and today, as we recognize Labor Day together, we hope we've got something pleasing for you. Naturally, we've turned to that great problemist and American patriot, Tom Wiswell, with a composition he called "The Pocket."

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W25,19,K13:B23,11,9.

This is a very practical problem, showing a way to get a draw when things look rather difficult. Would you be able to find the draw over the board? Labor away at it--- checkers is an honorable pursuit if there ever was one--- and then work your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

[Read More]
09/02/17 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.