The Checker Maven

Published in 1885

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Quite a bit happened in the year 1885. Grover Cleveland became President of the United States. The French were at war in Indo-China. Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado premiered. And last but certainly not least, a patent was granted to an African-American woman, Sarah E. Goode, for, of all things, a cabinet bed.

While much less noteworthy on a global scale, the following checker problem also first appeared in 1885. It's an interesting and practical study in winning checker technique.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W18,20,21,22,23,25,27,28,29,31,32:B1,3,4,5,8,9,11,13,14,15,16.

This is of course 2019, not 1885. Grover Cleveland is long gone, the French left Indo-China decades ago, the The Mikado has become a treasured part of operatic history, and modern variants of the cabinet bed can be found everywhere. But can you solve this relatively timeless checker problem? We think it's as fresh now as it was some 134 years ago. Put it to bed, and then click your modern mouse on Read More to see the solution.null

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04/27/19 - Printer friendly version
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Men Against A King

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The painting above depicts the future King of England, Richard the Lionheart, surrounded by Saracens and engaged in fierce battle. It was around the year 1187 and the time of the Third Crusade. Will the men win against the King? Certainly not, as Richard would survive to become King about two years later.

Looking through the lenses of our modern era, the Crusades certainly were controversial and perhaps even mentioning them is less than politically correct (something about which we don't generally spend a lot of time worrying). But there shouldn't be any such controversy over our game of checkers, and so today we'll consider a different setting of "men against a King."

Although we haven't presented an episode in some little while, for years we've been publishing columns based on Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. We're nearly at the end with only a couple of columns left to go.

Today's entry derives from Willie's A Trap With A Tale, and he of course calls it Men Against A King. Here's the run-up. It's from a game Willie played as Black against the great Sam Gonotsky, who had White. It's a really fine game and a pleasure to play over.


1. 11-16 24-19
2. 8-11 22-18
3. 16-20 25-22
4. 9-13 29-25
5. 11-15 18x11
6. 7x16 28-24
7. 10-14

Certainly doesn't lose, but 5-9 and other moves likely make for an easier draw.


7. ... 22-18
8. 6-10 18x9
9. 5x14 25-22
10. 1-5 19-15
11. 10x28 22-17
12. 13x22 26x10
13. 16-19 23x16
14. 12x19 21-17

Gonotsky played this clever move (21-17), instead of 27-24 to regain the piece, going a man down but gaining a strong position.


15. 19-24 17-13
16. 4-8 10-6
17. 2x9 13x6

Black is a man up but Willie notes "it looked as if my goose were cooked, with General Gonotsky having what appeared to be an impenetrable king row."

Here's the position:

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W6,27,30,31,32:B3,5,8,20,24,28.

Is Willie's goose cooked, or can Black save the game? This is another one that is anything but easy, but it's well worth your time and effort (although you're not going to cook Gonotsky's goose). Let it simmer for a while and then light up Read More with your mouse to see the solution.null

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04/20/19 - Printer friendly version
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Full Time

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Working full-time. It's a necessity for nearly all of us if we're to make our way in the world. It's often a chore, but we accept it as a normal part of life. Does anyone still earn a living through full-time work with the game of checkers? We doubt it, and indeed, even in the heyday of the game, few were able to do so.

We're certain that the author of today's Checker School position, one F. T. Desmond, wasn't a full-time checkerist, either--- while we don't know what "F. T." stood for, it surely wasn't "Full Time." Nonetheless, the study is a good one.

BLACK
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WHITE
Black to Play and Win

B:WK18,K23,30:B17,21,K31,K32.

White has just played 19-23. Too bad; 19-24 would have obtained a man-down draw (can you see it?). Now Black should win and it's hardly a full-time job to find the solution.

See if you can solve it, and after that, go back and show a draw after the alternative 19-24. Spend your time well and fully, and then it will be time to give a full click on Read More to see the solutions.null

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04/13/19 - Printer friendly version
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Once More Into The Breeches

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"Once more into the breeches" is a common saying, generally meaning, "let's try again." It's a misquote of "once more unto the breeches" which is in turn a misquote of "once more unto the breach" as spoken by King Henry in Shakespeare's Henry V.

Breeches in checkers has a specific tactical meaning; a king slips in-between two opposing pieces and will capture one or the other on the next move. And "breeches" may or may not be a hint for today's speed problem.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK10,13,K14,K15:B5,K16,K22,K28,K30.

Can you breach the gap and find the solution quickly? Don't get caught with your breeches (britches?) down! Find the solution and then let your mouse breach Read More to check your answer.null

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04/06/19 - Printer friendly version
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