The Checker Maven

The New Year Is Coming In

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We're publishing this column just ahead of New Year's Eve. Now, usually our New Year's column appears just after the holiday, and we like to publish an easier problem in case you, well, indulged in a bit of celebration, such as the Honolulu revelers above are doing.

But you've got until Sunday night this year (2017) which gives you most of a weekend, so we don't at all feel guilty about publishing something a little more difficult.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W28,27,24,22,19,18,16:B20,13,12,11,7,3,2.

This is indeed fascinating. Black seems hemmed in and has little in the way of safe moves. How can he possibly win it?

Finding the solution actually isn't all that hard, and it's a very pleasing one. Can you do it before the year runs out? That's your challenge, to ring in the New Year with a checker victory. Clicking on Read More will allow you to verify your work.null

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12/30/17 - Printer friendly version
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Holiday Coffee and Cake

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It's the holiday season, which means family, friends, and feasting. So, we at The Checker Maven thought, why not treat our readers to more coffee and cake?

Our old friend Brian Hinkle sent us a composition of his own that he thought would make a great "coffee and cake" problem, and we heartily agree. It's a 3x3 twin with, as Brian points out, the unique feature that no matter who plays, White wins.

So, in between courses at your holiday dinner, or maybe after dinner with a second helping of coffee and cake, you might want to try this one out. We think it's easier when Black is to play, but you'll have to decide that for yourself.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, White Wins

B:W30,26,24:B17,13,12.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W30,26,24:B17,13,12.

Can you earn that coffee and cake? We'll give you credit if you make a good effort, after which you can click on Read More to see the solutions.null

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12/23/17 - Printer friendly version
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Three Move Opening, Part 1

Three-Move Opening

A Checker Romance

Part 1: Prelude

Today we begin a seven-part, 10,000 word serialized novelette entitled: "Three Move Opening, A Checker Romance." It's our current intention to publish one installment per month from December 2017 through June 2018. We hope you enjoy our latest addition to the literature of checker fiction.

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Reggie didn't necessarily find English Literature a thrilling subject of study, but it was something he had to get through. But couldn't it have a least been something a little more contemporary? At the rate the instructor was going, they wouldn't even make it out of the 16th Century before the end of the term.

Reggie was a student at Weymouth College, which was unsurprisingly located in Weymouth, on England's southern coast. Reggie had lived in the area for all of his 20 years, and really hadn't given much thought to going anywhere else. The Dorset area was nice, he loved the sea and the relatively mild seasons, at least by English standards, and he knew he never could have stood the hustle of London.

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Reggie Pastor

Dr. Peter Forbes Rowan, the instructor, was at the moment waxing enthusiastic about Chaucer. Reggie, whose enthusiasm was somewhat less, stifled a yawn and let his thoughts drift. There was a draughts exhibition that evening in the Student Union to be given by Dante Oldman, a great master of the game.

"Bored, Mr. Pastor?" The instructor's voice jarringly interrupted Reggie's little reverie. That was followed by a sinking feeling as Reggie realized the instructor was addressing him.

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Dr. Peter Forbes Rowan

"Mr. Pastor, I asked you a question. Does Chaucer bore you? If so, I'm quite willing to excuse you from this class, permanently, if you so desire."

Reggie squirmed in his seat. All eyes had turned upon him, but he especially noticed Katie Walton staring in his direction, with what almost seemed to be a look of disappointment. Katie, a pretty blonde of about Reggie's age, normally sat toward the front of the classroom and participated eagerly.

"Um, no, sir, I'm not bored, I just didn't sleep well last night is all and ..."

"Excellent improvisation, Mr. Pastor," the instructor replied. "But from now on, please get sufficient rest and at least make an attempt at showing some interest."

Did Katie smile, if ever so briefly, before turning her attention back to the front of the classroom?

Reggie managed to be attentive for the rest of the class period, and the instructor didn't seem to notice that Reggie's gaze was focused more on the back of Katie's head than it was on the blackboard.

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Katie Walton

# # #

The draughts exhibition was to start at seven o'clock in the evening. Reggie figured he could defer homework until the following morning, even though he had a pretty long math assignment to do, and of course Dr. Rowan had assigned another of the Canterbury Tales to read. "In Middle English, please," he had said, "we don't want to ruin the experience with some horrid modern translation." Ugh. Well, Reggie told himself he'd get through it. Tomorrow.

Draughts wasn't the most popular sport at Weymouth College, but it still had enough of a following, and of course the presence of a superstar like Dante Oldman would draw at least a small crowd. Mr. Oldman was going to take on all comers in a "simultaneous exhibition" with dozens of checkerboards arranged on tables making a large circle. Mr. Oldman would play all of the games at once. There would be room for about fifty participants, and Reggie made sure he was near the front of the line when the doors to the venue opened.

Reggie passed the remaining time reading an old draughts book he had brought with him, sight-solving the problems with little difficulty; he had done most of them dozens and dozens of times. But finally, at a few minutes to seven, the line started to move forward and into the room.

Reggie quickly sat down at a draughts board, putting his book into his backpack and hanging it from the back of his chair. He recognized some of the others from the college draughts club, and nodded at a few of them as they too got settled.

Within about five minutes, most of the fifty boards were taken up by eager draughts players. There were only a couple of boards still vacant when Dante Oldman made his entrance.

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Dante Oldman

He was impressive in every way. He dressed like a 19th century scholar, and he had a commanding presence, with piercing eyes that told of great intellect and prowess. He exuded confidence. The idea of playing almost fifty boards at once didn't seem to faze him in the least.

There was a polite round of applause from the assembled particpants, and the event's host, the president of the draughts club, made a brief introduction and then explained the rules of the exhibition. Mr. Oldman gave a slight bow and the exhibition was underway.

Reggie had already made his first move and was waiting for Mr. Oldman to reach his table, when out of the corner of his eye he saw someone arrive at the last open board. He glanced briefly in that direction and did a mental double-take, then took another look.

Katie?

Suddenly Mr. Oldman was in front of him, offering to shake hands. Reggie tore his gaze away and, almost reluctantly, greeted Mr. Oldman, who then made his own first move and went on down the line to the next board.

Katie? At the draughts exhibition? A Chaucer enthusiast, no less?

Reggie knew he was going to have some trouble concentrating on his game this evening.

His game went on, although there were not-infrequent glances directed by him toward the end of the room where Katie was sitting. For some reason, he found the way she picked up the checkers and moved them utterly fascinating. Those long fingers, at once delicate and strong; her air of quiet confidence; the way her blond hair hung when she leaned over the board; it was just a magical combination.

But Reggie realized he had a combination of his own to make. His game had reached a critical point, and he was about to lose a man. But he thought he might see a way through; he had better bear down and concentrate fully. He'd have to will himself not to take his eyes off the board.

Could he get a draw against someone who was arguably England's best draughtsman?

The position on the board was as follows.

BLACK
Mr. Oldman
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WHITE
Reggie
White to Play and Draw

W:W30,23,20,14,6:B18,16,13,11,3.

Reggie spent a while thinking, using his one-time option to wave Mr. Oldman off to gain extra time to consider his move. But finally, Mr. Oldman returned to Reggie's board on the next trip around, and Reggie had to make his move.

To see the rest of Part 1 and the solution to the position, click on Read More.null

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12/16/17 - Printer friendly version
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How Fast Can You Win It?

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"Fast Win" is, it seems, a computer shop on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. We can't explain how the name came about, and frankly it would seem to apply more to checkers or some other game than to computers. We have seen so-called "fast win" computerized slot machines, but we suspect that the fast winner there would be the operating venue.

Now, every once in a while we publish an "oddball" problem. This one is original, although it is inspired by something published long ago. The idea is to find a "fast win."

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W32,31,30,29,28,27,26,25,24,23,22,21:BK7.

Well, sure, it's completely obvious that White wins, but what's the fastest way to win, given an effort by Black to hold out as long as possible?

It's not all that difficult, and we'll give you a large hint: we found a 5-move win. Can you go us one better?

Give it a try, and see if you can either make Black hold out longer or White win more quickly. You can see our own solution by clicking on Read More.null

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12/09/17 - Printer friendly version
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Lucky 13

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For reasons that we won't go into here, the number 13 is considered unlucky by some. Yet, for us, it's always been just the opposite, and in fact, this week The Checker Maven completes 13 years of uninterrupted, no-fail on-time weekly publication. It's a record we're proud of, and we hope to be able to carry on until our projected wrap-up at the 15 year mark.

To celebrate our 13th anniversary, we turn to Richard Fortman's Basic Checkers and explore one aspect of Ballot No. 13: 9-13 23-19 5-9. It's a reasonably balanced ballot, with maybe a little advantage to White.


1. 9-13 23-19
2. 5-9 27-23

(22-18 also a good choice instead of 27-23.)

Black is lucky; there are actually four moves to draw at this point. Mr. Fortman gives 11-15, which is arguably the best, but it isn't the only one. 9-14 or 11-16 or 10-14 instead of 11-15 also draw.

Fortman calls the first two probable White wins but they are all draws, though perhaps rather narrow ones.

For the purpose of today's study, let's consider 11-16 with the likely reply 22-18.


3. 11-16 22-18
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W32,31,30,29,28,26,25,24,23,21,19,18:B16,13,12,10,9,8,7,6,4,3,2,1.

In the book, Mr. Fortman gives 16-20 as Black's next move. This gives White a substantial edge, and though we wouldn't yet call it a White win, Black is going to face a hard time.

What should Black play instead to ensure a draw? Can you sketch out a possible line of play?

We're asking you to match wits with one of the great checker analysts of all time. But it's a great exercise, and, luckily, clicking on Read More will show you the solution.null

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12/02/17 - Printer friendly version
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