The Checker Maven

The Year of the Checker

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1987: Korea and Iran were in the news (sound familiar?). Reagan was President. The stock market had a giant meltdown. And IBM's John Akers declared 1987 to be "The Year of the Customer" leaving us to wonder what other years might have been.

But did you know there was "The Year of the Checker"? Well, those exact words weren't used, and it was only the thought of one writer, but the following quote makes our point.

"... this season finds checkers fast becoming one of the leading popular pastimes, with checker clubs being formed in almost every large city in the country. Team matches are going on, checker columns are appearing in the local papers and the year XXXX will witness the greatest checker gathering of all time ..."

Taken from a checker book, we think this rather effectively declares that "The Year of the Checker" was in progress. We challenge you to name the book and the author, and replace "XXXX" with the year that the author referenced. What year was "The Year of the Checker"? (Hint: It certainly wasn't 1987.)

Although the fortune of our game has declined since, some things are timeless, such as the following problem, which appeared in the book cited above.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK8,K13,21:BK7,K15,K23.

The problem isn't especially difficult, though it might be better suited to a more advanced beginner than to a novice. See if this is "the year of the checker" for you; find the solution and then click on Read More to see the winning moves and the answers to our questions.null

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07/28/18 - Printer friendly version
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Checker School: Second Session

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We've completed our first session of Checker School, which was a tour through Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. For our next session, we'll turn (at least at first) to an unusual book published by Andrew J. Banks in 1945, called Checker Board Strategy. Mr. Banks, who lived in Washington, D.C., evidently self-published his work.

The book is written in an entertaining style and features a number of fascinating fictional players. We'll get to meet them as the months roll by. Mr. Banks starts out with the rules of checkers (compiled by none other than William Ryan) and then continues with a brief games section that illustrates the basic openings. Next is a section he calls Snappy Problems (Gems) Today, we'll look at the first one and along the way make the acquaintance of Nemo and Skittle.


Nemo had been studying the foregoing games (in the Games Section--Ed.) when Skittle exclaimed, "You are learning checkers the hard way. You are like a tourist I saw in the State of Maine; he stoped a native and inquired 'How far is it to Portland?'"

"How far was it?" Nemo asked.

"The way the tourist was headed it was about 25,000 miles. The native told him that if he would turn around and go the other way it would be only about two."

"You be my guide; show me the quick way to learn the game," said Nemo.

"By solving problems you will be learning checkers the quick way."


Champion player Alex Moiseyev flatly states that beginners should not touch opening books until they have played a large number of games; many other checker greats stress the value of solving problems. So, the first "gem" or "snappy" problem proposed by Mr. Banks is this one, by G. M. Gibson.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W27,23,K4,K1:BK30,20,16,2.

Can you solve the problem proposed to Nemo by our new friend Skittle? Make it snappy! Solve it and then snap your mouse on Read More to check your solution.null

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07/21/18 - Printer friendly version
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Bastille Day

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July 14 is the national holiday of France, generally known as Bastille Day. Popular wisdom is that the holiday commemorates the capture of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, during the revolution which brought down the French monarchy.

But we learn something every day. When we consulted the official French government website, we were told:

«Si le 14 juillet est généralement associé à la prise de la Bastille en 1789, c'est dans les faits le 14 juillet 1790, la fête de la Fédération, qui est officiellement commémoré en France.»

We'll bet you didn't know that, either.

Now, it seems that in honor of Bastille Day, we should present a problem by a French problemist, but in the 8x8 Anglo-American literature, we didn't find one that we could specifically attribute. However, Jean-Bernard Alemanni, in his excellent book "Les jeux de dames dans le monde" does present a couple of relevant demonstration positions. While these are surely not original compositions, the one we show below makes for an easy practice exercise.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W12,15,17,18,19,25,26,30,32:B1,2,3,6,8,9,11,24.

Vite, vite! Trouvez la solution, and when you're done cliquez votre souris sur Read More to check your answer.null

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07/14/18 - Printer friendly version
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Friday the 13th

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Paraskevidekatriaphobia. It's what fear of Friday the 13th is called in scientific language (actually, it derives primarily from Greek), and many people won't even go out of doors on that date. There are many ideas as to its origin, but it's a fear not universally held. In fact, in Cantonese speaking areas such as Hong Kong, 13 is considered a lucky, not unlucky, number--- so presumably Friday the 13th would be a lucky day.

Friday the 13th is coming up in the week following initial publication of this column; how will you greet the day?

Unsurprisingly, we suggest greeting it with a thematically relevant checker problem such as the one below, composed by grandmaster problemist Ed Atkinson.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK2,K5,6,11,16,17,K19:B3,10,K20,K21,26,27,K28.

Will you be lucky or unlucky, or do you believe it's all a matter of skill? Try your luck, and then luck out by clicking on Read More to see the incredible solution.null

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07/07/18 - Printer friendly version
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