The Checker Maven

Labor Day 2019


In the United States (and elsewhere, of course), work and working have always been held in high esteem. Earning your own way, making a living, providing for a family; these things have always been respected and valued. So each year, on Labor Day, we recognize the value of work and the worker. We agree with the concept that all work is worthy and all workers deserve respect.

It seems that work, the worker, and checkers have traditionally gone together. Most of the greats of the game were working people, and many, many working people have enjoyed checkers throughout the years. Although the game has been in a long and steady decline, the connection with work and the worker still stands. Today's players come from all walks of life and work in all manner of occupations.

Harold M. Freyer

To celebrate Labor Day, let's look at a problem by an American checkerist who was an outstanding player back in the day, Harold M. Freyer. Serving America as a medic in World War II, Mr. Freyer gave much to his country. His profession afterwards? He was a house painter!

Black to Play and Draw

Is Black painted into a corner, or is it just a close brush with a loss? Black is man up, shouldn't that be enough? The solution is relatively long and precise. It's just like painting trimwork: you need patience and determination. See how you do and then brush your mouse on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

[Read More]
08/31/19 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Marvin at Summer Training Camp


August was in its latter half, and it was time for all the teams in the National Checker League to go to training camp prior to the start of the new season in September.

The Detroit Doublejumpers, the reigning American champions, held their camp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, at the Bois-du-Nord Resort near the town of (most appropriately) Au Train. There was plenty of room for the team's 15 person compliment of players and coaches, and there were many recreational options available after a hard day of training.

Marvin J. Mavin

Beer, however, was strictly forbidden, as was any sort of alcoholic beverage. And that annoyed the Doublejumper's team captain, Marvin J. Mavin.

Coach Ronaldson

After a summer vacation that featured beer-at-will, Marvin was out of shape, and Head Coach Clyde Ronaldson made a point of insisting that his players be in top mental and physical condition. He well understood that professional checkers requires endurance and stamina.

Marvin didn't like the physical training at all. But there was no doubt that Coach Ronaldson ran the team. When Marvin checked in to camp, Coach took one look at him and immediately assigned him extra jogging and weight-lifting sessions. Marvin, who was always just on the edge of getting into trouble, kept quiet in front of the Coach, but grumbled to himself.

"How am I supposed to work on my game when I'm running laps up and down the lake?" he said. "And how can I relax and cool down without a tall cool one?"


It got worse. One day when Marvin lagged behind the rest of the team in the daily group run--- held at 5:30 in the morning--- he was assigned to play a simul against the rest of the team. That meant facing off against 9 other high-level professional players. He would have to run one half-mile lap for each draw and two for each loss; and to top it all off he would be playing White on each board.

Marvin was already exhausted from the morning run. He was further allowed only a salad and a glass of water for lunch as Coach said he was overweight and restricted his diet.

He was just beside himself. He was pretty sure he could beat the lower six players, but the next three were going to be trouble, and he didn't look forward to running still more laps in the afternoon heat.


At one o'clock on the dot, the players assembled on the canopy covered outdoor patio. Coach blew his whistle, looked Marvin straight in the eye, and said, "Play Checkers!"

It must be said that Marvin put in a great effort, and things went very well for him. He quickly won his games on the lower four boards, won the next three soon thereafter, and after another twenty minutes won on Board Two.

But Board One didn't look so good. He was playing against his Associate Captain, Pete Butterworth, a highly skilled player. In one-on-one competition, Marvin generally held a slight edge, but in a simul, Pete often had something of the upper hand.

Pete Butterworth

If Marvin could win, he wouldn't have to run any laps, and at the moment, the thought of even a single lap was more than he could bear. Unless it was a lap into town to pick up a six-pack, but that would get him suspended from the team for sure.

However Marvin, with White, found himself in a man-down position. He was pretty sure he could draw, but he needed to find a win. That was asking for a lot.

White to Play and Win

"Sorry, Marv," Pete said. "Hate to have you run those laps, but ..."

Marvin, fidgeting in his chair as he so often did, replied, "Yeah ... me too. Maybe there's something here ..."

He thought for a while longer, and then gave Pete a little smile. "Watch this!" he said, and made his move.

Can you come up with a White win in this situation? If not, you'll be running laps! (On a volunteer basis, of course.) See if you can win it with White and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion to our story.null

[Read More]
08/24/19 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

A Trap With A Tale, Continued


Trap Tales is a self-help book that purports to help you overcome seven traps that might derail your life. A Tale of Traps, perhaps, rather than A Trap With A Tale. We haven't read this book so we can't say much about it, but it's received high marks from readers and reviewers.

Are there seven traps to avoid in the game of checkers? Willie Ryan has already shown us dozens, and there are countless more. One book would never be enough to tell the tale of all of them.

As we continue to move toward a conclusion of our Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard series, which has run for many years now, we have one more position to present from Willie's A Trap With A Tale section.

Here's the run-up, with brief commentary by your Editor, using KingsRow with the 10-piece endgame database.

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 22-18

Out of book, inferior, and might lose. 21-17 or 28-24 would have been fine.

7. 20-24 27x11
8. 10-15 19x10
9. 6x29 28-24
10. 29-25 32-27
11. 1-6 24-19

Worse yet. 24-20 was better but White is definitely lost.

12. 6-9 ...

Maintains a slight advantage but throws away the win. 25-29 was indicated, believe it or not.

12. ... 19-15
13. 3-8 ...

25-29 was still indicated. The game is now a probable draw.

13. ... 23-18
14. 12-16 21-17
15. 13x22 26x17
16. 25-22 17-13
17. 9-14 18x9
18. 5x14 13-9
19. 16-19 9-5
20. 14-18 5-1
21. 19-23 27-24
22. 23-27 24-20
23. 27-32 1-5?
Black to Play and Win


White has blundered and Black now can win. First, can you find the win? Second, can you go back and correct White's losing move? It's actually not all that difficult. Work it out and then click on Read More to turn a long Tale into a short one, by revealing the solution.null

[Read More]
08/17/19 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Complete Checkers, 3rd Edition


With over 200 cumulative changes from the first edition, Richard Pask's Complete Checkers (3rd edition) is now available as a free download. Just click on the Richard Pask link in the right-hand column and scroll down.

While the paperback version on Amazon has likewise been updated, there is no real need to buy a replacement book unless you wish to do so. The electronic copy will always be free of charge. It's one of Mr. Pask's many gifts to the worldwide checker playing community.

Regrettably we cannot produce an errata sheet as the changes are just too numerous and in some cases too extensive and complex.

We sincerely hope everyone enjoys and benefits from this new edition of what has already become a classic work.null

08/11/19 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.



Our Checker School series has recently featured 'gem' problems from noted problemist William Veal. Today we conclude the series and "reVEAL' a photo of Mr. Veal in his later days. The photo appeared in a 1952 edition of Elam's Checker Board while noting Mr. Veal's passing. The Checker Maven thanks correspondent (and himself a champion problemist) Ed Atkinson for the photo.

Now let's look at today's problem.

Black to Play and Win


White is a man down but is about to even the count. Yet Black, through clever play, can still win it. The problem is about 'medium' in difficulty and reVEALs a nice little tactical trick. Can you find it? You know what we're going to say--- clicking on Read More will reVEAL the solution.null

[Read More]
08/10/19 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.

Man Overboard


Man overboard! It's an emergency situation and we'd best hope someone trained and experienced in water rescue is on hand.

Something similar occurs in our game of checkers. One of our men goes overboard, we're down a piece, and we're looking to find a way to get a draw.

That's the situation for White in the diagram below. But there is a way to pull off a draw, if you can see it. We'd call this a "not quite" speed problem. It isn't too difficult but you can easily go wrong.

White to Play and Draw


Are you trained and experienced in man down (man overboard) situations? You won't have to go too far overboard to solve this one; but a life preserver is always at hand. Just click on Read More to see the solution.null

[Read More]
08/03/19 - Printer friendly version
You can email the Webmaster with your comments on this article.