The Checker Maven

Thinking It Over

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The sculpture above is found near the Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a city we've visited a few times. We don't know what the young lad is musing upon; could that be a book of checker problems next to him?

Whatever he's contemplating, it's unlikely that it's today's checker problem, another fine entry sent to us by master composer Ed Atkinson. He calls it Thinking It Over. Let's let him describe it in his own words.

"Here is the problem. It is only the unusual setting and the first few moves that are original. The resulting end game can be traced back through the centuries to the very first problem published in English, a 262 year time line.

The references can be found in Boland's Border Classics, page 59 and Famous Positions, page 8. Closely related material was published by several in the mid 19th century."

Thinking It Over
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W27,K22,17,15,9:BK29,K25,7.

What's this? White is up two pieces, so where's the problem? But it won't take you long to realize that White's big advantage is greatly at risk, and getting the full score is anything but easy.

Okay, you know what we're going to say: think it over, and find the winning moves. As often is the case, the key is to find the right first move. After you've given this enough thought, think about clicking on Read More to see Ed's solution and notes.null

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03/31/18 - Printer friendly version
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Support the US vs Italy Team Match

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Checker history is about to be made starting April 20, 2018, when an all-star team of American players travels to Rome, Italy to face top Italian players. While US vs. Great Britain matches have taken place numerous times over the last century, with the US largely dominating, this US-Italy match-up is a first, and the Italians are very strong indeed.

The US team faces significant costs, and you can help by following this link to the American Checker Federation on-line store, and donating whatever you wish.

Of course, The Checker Maven is US-based, so we're behind our US team, but we wish the best of luck to all in what we're sure will be a spectacular event.null

03/25/18 - Printer friendly version
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Three Move Opening, Part 4

Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance

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Part Four: Second Move

It was quite a while until Reggie was able to get out of his seat. He stayed in the empty classroom, numb, nearly unable to process what had happened to him. But finally, students started arriving for the next class. He must have sat there for over an hour, right through lunch and into the following class period.

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He folded Katie’s note and stuck it in his backpack, stumbled to his feet, and left. He went straight to the bus stop. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was skipping classes, and even worse, skipping draughts practice. He didn’t even want to talk things over with his friend Jack. He just wanted to go back to his rented room, get into bed, pull the covers over his head, and never get up again.

# # #

The next day was Friday, and there were no classes and no practice. It was just as well, and although Reggie did manage to get up in the morning, he had no desire to see Katie in Chaucer class. It would have been more than he could have borne.

He had a lot of homework to do and no wish to do that, either, and in addition, he was supposed to go through his opening repertoire and do some problem practice, as the draughts match with Lyme Regis was just five days away.

He knew he had better get out of his room, even though he didn’t want to; he couldn’t let himself become paralyzed with depression. Maybe, he thought, it was best to leave the pursuit of women to people like Jack, who had the right skills. If it had been anyone but Katie ...

She was intelligent, she had a sense of humor, and she played draughts besides. What could get better than that? Oh, and of course she was beautiful, but to Reggie that was almost a sort of afterthought. Who cared what she looked like? She was just this amazing ...

Stop it, Reggie told himself. Maybe she’s all of those things but forget it, you lost your chance, now move on, you’ve got a lot of things to get done and not a lot of time to do them.

Reggie sighed and put his books into his backpack. He looked wistfully at his Chaucer book and wanted to rip the pages out of it. But that went into the backpack too, along with his book of draughts openings and draughts problems.

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He’d go to the school library. With no classes on Fridays, the library would be pretty deserted, and he could work quietly. Maybe he’d even be able to get his mind off Katie and concentrate a little.

Reggie went outside and took the bus to the college.

The school library was indeed as empty as Reggie had expected it would be. The many long wooden tables were virtually unoccupied. Students generally left homework until Sunday; Friday and Saturday they avoided the campus as if it were off-limits.

Still, Reggie went down to the very end of the main hall and sat at a table in the far corner. He decided he'd work on his differential equations class. That would keep his mind off ... other things. Then maybe, just maybe, he'd face up to it and crack open his Chaucer book.

# # #

A couple of hours must have passed by when Reggie finished his homework assignment, hoping that he'd never again in his life have to do a problem set on the Method of Frobenius.

Fine, he said to himself, now it's time to confront reality. He pulled out his Chaucer book, vowing to himself that he would study and not think of ... her. "I shall have no fear," he said to himself. "I shall look the beast in the eye and ..."

"Reggie, who are you calling a beast?"

Had he actually spoken out loud? And who was ... no, it couldn't be.

It was.

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Katie

Katie sat down in a chair on the other side of the table. She wore a big smile.

"I thought ... I mean, there was no one here and I wasn't ..."

"I know, Reggie. I was just teasing."

"Wh--- why are you here?"

"Because we need to talk a little, and because I knew there would probably be no one here on a Friday except maybe you. So I took the chance. I wanted to talk in person, not over the phone."

"You did? I thought ..."

"Yes, I know what you thought after that 'Goatgetter' note I sent you. Reggie, I'm really sorry about that. I went too far and I was too harsh. But I was just trying to get a message across."

"A message ... I got the message that you were angry and didn't want to see the movie with me any longer."

"Yes, it was that, but I lost my temper. I thought you were making fun of my family origins, in a poor mill town. Didn't I tell you about that?"

Reggie had long ago turned red, but he made a valiant effort to regain his composure. "Yes, you did, but I thought Maid of the Mill would be a kind of tribute, and then there's the Suffolk Fair Maid. I hoped you would be pleased. I'm sorry too, I didn't mean to offend."

"I believe you, and as I said, I regret what I wrote. So I'd like to make a suggestion."

Reggie leaned on his elbows, moving forward in his seat.

"What?" he asked eagerly.

"How about we start over. You go home and write another note to me, and bring it to class on Monday. I'll answer you, and then everything should be smooth and we can go to that movie. I'm sure it will still be playing next weekend. What do you think?"

"Great idea!" Reggie said. "I know I'll get it right this time!"

"I'm sure you will, Reggie. Now I'll let you get back to your Chaucer." She looked pointedly at his open textbook. "I just know how much you love Dr. Rowan's class!"

They both laughed, and Katie took her leave.

Reggie knew he wasn't going to be studying Chaucer. He had something else to work on.

# # #

Fortunately it was a Friday and the buses still ran frequently. Reggie couldn't make it home fast enough. He was on a mission.

But he found that it wasn't a mission easily accomplished. He had to get it right this time. After having started half a dozen notes and in the end tearing up every single one of them, he found himself wishing that Katie had given him some idea of what to write instead of what not to write.

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He made himself stop for dinner, another cheese and pickle sandwich, but he didn't care. He was hoping that a short break would provide him with some inspiration. Then he took a short walk around the neighborhood to clear his head, feeling very proud of himself for having thought of the idea.

Somehow, it worked, or, at least it worked in combination with Reggie's next activity; for when he got back to his room, he thought he would solve a checker problem before returning to his note writing.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W32,30,29,27,26,25,24,21,20,19,13:B18,15,14,12,11,10,6,5,3,2,1.

He didn't find it very hard. And then he realized that he had found two solutions; one to the checker problem, and one other that was about something quite different.

He knew what to write to Katie.

Smiling and chuckling, he put pen to paper and wrote out his note. Okay, he had made a mistake the first time, but this was perfect. Quickly, he consulted his Chaucer book. Was Katie ever going to love this!

Finally, the note was completed. Reggie went back over it and made some corrections, then wrote it out again as neatly as he could on a fresh sheet of paper. He folded it, wrote "Katie" on the front, and put it in his Chaucer book to keep it safe and to be sure he wouldn't forget it.

And that was just the first half of Reggie's plan.

To be continued.

Can you solve Reggie's checker problem? We're sure you can; it's not that difficult and it's rather pleasing. Set aside your love notes and cheese and pickle sandwiches and give it a try, then click on Read More to see the run-up and the solution.null

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03/24/18 - Printer friendly version
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Logical Checkers, Volume One

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Photo courtesy Katherine Pask

Richard Pask has retired! Actually the photo above dates back to mid-2017, when Richard did indeed retire from his position as an educator.

But retired, for Richard, may mean something very different from what it means to others; this gentleman has been very busy indeed. Last week we published his revised edition of Complete Checkers, and this week we're proud to put forth the first book in his new series, which is called Logical Checkers.

The series, expected to consist of five volumes, will present a layered approach to checker tuition, from novice through master. Book 1 is the "Novice" guide but it contains much of interest even to a more experienced player. Rules and basic principles, tactics and strategy, common endgames, and an initial opening repertoire (for Go As You Please players) are all presented in 127 full-size pages illustrated with 128 diagrams.

Down the road, after the series is completed, we plan to once again offer a combined edition in both electronic and print formats.

We predict that Logical Checkers will do no less than revolutionize checker tuition.

Richard, once again, is very generously giving us his work free of charge. It can be downloaded here or from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column.

Here's one of the tactical examples given in the book.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W14,13,K3:BK29,6,1.

It's not that hard; this is, after all, a book aimed at relatively new players. But it's nonetheless pleasing. See how quickly you can find the solution and then click on Read More to see how you did. And be sure to grab your copy of the new book. Thank you, Mr. Pask!null

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03/17/18 - Printer friendly version
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Complete Checkers, 2nd Edition

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Photo by Katherine Pask

The weather in the Dorset area, on England's south coast, hasn't been so great this winter. The photo above is of a frozen-over window in Richard Pask's home. Brrr!

But if the cold weather has kept Richard indoors, we are the beneficiaries, for today we're pleased to announce the immediate availability of the second edition of Richard Pask's landmark work, Complete Checkers. This edition incorporates about 100 changes, updates, and corrections. The Checker Maven thanks Mr. Pask for the continuing privilege of publishing and presenting his work to you, the checker players of the world.

Of course, the revised book can be downloaded in PDF format, completely free, either here or from our Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column. The printed edition has also been updated and can be obtained from Amazon's US, UK, and European outlets (although going to the expense of replacing your first edition printed copy is by no means necessary).

Here's an example of a new idea in the new edition.


1. 11-15 24-20
2. 8-11

This is Ballot 102.


2. ... 28-24
3. 9-13 22-18
4. 15x22 25x18
5. 3-8 26-22
6. 5-9 30-26
7. 1-5 32-28
8. 9-14 18x9
9. 5x14 22-17
10. 13x22 26x17
11. 11-16 20x11
12. 8x15

Several moves draw here. In the 1st edition, with play attributed to Willie Ryan, Richard showed a draw after 29-25, but in the second edition, 24-19! is presented (also attributed to Ryan). The computer tells us that 24-20 and even 17-13 are also probably draws, although the draws are definitely more difficult than in the line of play after the brilliant 24-19. (For subsequent play after 24-19, refer to the book, game #1748 on page 482.)

But what if White tries a hasty and badly mistaken 31-26? Then we have this:

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W29,28,27,26,24,23,21,17:B15,14,12,10,7,6,4,2.

It doesn't look so good for White, does it? Black indeed has a win. But can you show it over the board? It isn't especially difficult if you know the technique, but it's one of those highly practical things that you simply must know if you're to succeed at the upper levels of the game.

See how you do (are you stuck indoors too?) and then click on Read More to view the solution.null>

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03/10/18 - Printer friendly version
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Find Both Solutions

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You probably learned in basic math classes that any quadratic equation has dual solutions, though they may not be unique, and when solving such equations, you were surely asked to find both solutions.

But as we've noted before, in checker problem competitions, "dual" solutions are frowned upon; a composition should have a but a single path to correctness. But with our speed problems, and with a mind to improving over the board visualization skills, sometimes a problem with a "dual" can be of value --- if you can find both solutions.

The following problem was sent to us by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto, who developed it in conjunction with noted contemporary problemist Bill Salot. It has a dual solution.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W18,19,21,23,26,27,29:B5,9,10,11,12,14,17.

Can you find both paths to victory? You'll get half credit for finding one of them, but full credit only if you work out both. The challenge is fair in that one solution is not simply a variant of the other.

Give this at least a "couple" of tries, and then click on Read More to see how you've done.null

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03/03/18 - Printer friendly version
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