When this column first appears, we'll be just a few days away from the Fourth of July, America's birthday and one of our favorite holidays. We never tire of saying that we are unapologetic American patriots with a deep appreciation for our freedom and democracy. We're not one of those who believes that America is responsible for the ills of the world and we're proud of what's good about our nation.
We always turn to Tom Wiswell on this holiday. Mr. Wiswell, as we've so often noted, was a patriot who served our nation as did so many members of the Greatest Generation.
It's indeed a nice problem, as we have come to expect from Mr. Wiswell. Give it a good try and then click on Read More to see the solution and notes.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a highly ranked team in the National Checker League, was on summer vacation. The League wrapped up the World Series of Checkers in May, and players were off until training camp started up at the beginning of August.
Ten weeks of vacation. He'd spend some of it with his girlfriend Priscilla, although she could only get away from her corporate executive job for a week at a time, and only now and then. He'd spend four weeks doing outreach work in the inner cities. And he'd spend three blessed weeks at a lake cabin, kicking back and thinking of little else but when to pop open his next beer. No cell phone. And definitely no checker board.
Except it didn't work out exactly like that.
Marvin booked a cabin in Idaho under the name of John Smith. He thought that was pretty clever. Of course, he was a national sports figure and pretty easy to recognize, but he always looked for a cabin that was out of the way and isolated, and then he stuck pretty much to himself, arranging to have the refrigerator well stocked before his arrival, so that he could just hang around the cabin, walk down to the lake, and not be bothered by anything or anyone.
It must have been on the third or fourth day when he saw a familiar looking figure walking further down the lakeshore. Now, Marvin's cabin was indeed well separated from the others, so it was pretty far, but the figure was quite unmistakable. Marvin just hoped he hadn't been noticed, and he was pretty careful to check each time he went to the lake thereafter.
Two evenings later, Marvin had just finished with dinner --- he had plenty of microwave meals in the cabin's freezer --- he was about to open another beer when there was a knock at the cabin door.
Marvin was pretty surprised. Could it be the camp manager? No one else was supposed to bother him. He got up, opened the door, and saw ---
Yes indeed, Dmitri Tovarischky. The guy he had seen further down the lakeshore. The guy who was his archenemy, a former Soviet champion who was asked to leave the National Checker League over a gambling violation, and who now stalked the star players.
"Ah, Checkers Boy. I see you other day by lake. How conwenient we are staying in same campsite," Dmitri said. "Maybe coincidence, maybe not, eh? I come in now, da?"
Dmitri entered before Marvin could reply.
Marvin made a mental note to later find out who leaked his vacation plans.
"We play one game, da?" he said. "Play maybe for wodka. I win, you give me couple bottles Stolichnaya. You win, I give you same thing, only you don't win, this I know already."
"I ain't got no 'wodka,' Pinko. Never touch the stuff. Now leave and don't come back."
"Ah, Checkers Boy should not be rude. I have little set here, I put on table." Boris quickly got out a portable checker set and made it ready. Marvin could tell it was going to be hard getting rid of him. "Maybe play for hundred bucks?"
So that was what it was all about. Dmitri was an inveterate hustler. Marvin replied, "Okay. One game. A hundred bucks to the winner. Nothing on a draw. But no matter what you get lost permanently."
"Easy money for me," Dmitri said. "Deal."
The two of them sat down and the game began. Outside, the sun was setting over the lake and the air was cooling. It was a beautiful Idaho evening but neither of them noticed.
Dmitri played Black and Marvin had White.
26-22 was weaker than 25-22. Perhaps Marvin was throwing Dmitri a bit of a curve ball? But Dmitri missed the opportunity to reply with 15-18.
"Hoo, Checkers Boy, you are making stupid move. Why you not play 23-19? Now Dmitri have big winning game!"
"Dmitri can even win by playing of 12-16. So many ways to win, so nice, da?"
Marvin, for his part, was starting to sweat. How could he have made such a blunder?
"Uh, hey there Commie, I think you blew it. You even mentioned 12-16 your own self, why didn't ya play it?" Marvin said.
"I am still going to win, Checkers Boy, do not worry yourself." But Dmitri sounded a bit less confident.
At this, Marvin started to laugh. "Nice try, get an early king, that's what you think? You shoulda played 8-11, pal. Now you lose."
Does Marvin now have a win on the board? Did Dmitri make a huge blunder in his own right? Study the position and see if you can find the winning moves. This one actually falls on the easy side. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.[Read More]
William Veal was a British problemist of some renown, perhaps best known (to us, at least) for composing a monster stroke problem featured some years ago in our columns.
Did Mr. Veal's ancestors at one point deal in veal? That would fit with popular theory, which insists that names like "Smith" eventually trace back to someone who was a smith, and so on. Of course, those links are likely very tenuous if they exist at all.
But one other possibility was turned up by our Research Department. "Vieil" is the Old French term for "old" and this became "viel" in Anglo-Norman French. It refers to an old man or the elder of two people with the same name. It's not a long leap from there to "Veal."
A long leap? That brings us back to checkers and this month's Checker School column, the first of a series of "gems" from, of course, William Veal.
Certainly at first glance a White win is anything but obvious, and Black is poised to crown one or perhaps two of his men. Can you match Mr. Veal and find the solution? There's a bit of a clue (just a bit) in the writeup above. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
In the latter 1940s, back in the heydays of checkers, men's hairstyles were short and neat, and in general, appearances were more dressy than today. Men wore fedoras, and suit with a white shirt and tie was almost a sort of uniform.
The following problem was published anonymously in an old newspaper, which declared it to be "short and neat." We're surprised it didn't appear next to an advertisement for grooming products!
Short and neat? We'll let you decide, but in any case Black, being a piece up, ought to win. Yet as we've often said, showing the win is the hard part. Can you find a short and neat solution? Or even a long and messy one? Give it a try--- more than a short try--- and then neatly click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
We're definitely diving into the deep end with this month's mind-boggling stroke problem. You'll really need to keep your wits about you to solve this one.
Can you solve it without moving the pieces? It's an enormous test of visualization skills. And though it's hardly a practical over the board situation, we think this sort of problem builds your ability to see ahead and calculate (and do go ahead and move the pieces if it's all just a bit too deep).
Don't go off the deep end yourself; try it out and then click on Read More to dive into the solution.[Read More]