The Checker Maven

Leap Year Day

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It's a rare occurrence for The Checker Maven: we're publishing a column on February 29, or Leap Year Day. It's something that will happen only once every 28 years.

Leap Year is an interesting and rather brilliant concept. You can read about it online, so we'll only say that it's the way our calendar, the Gregorian calendar, keeps in amazingly close synchronization with the solar calendar (we'll perhaps discuss the concept of 'leap seconds', which deal with the gradual slowing of the earth's rotation, at another time).

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What has this got to do with our game of checkers? Well, we think Leap Year Day is a great occasion for a checker problem with a lot of leaping--- namely, a stroke problem! So, without further ado, here's today's position.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W12,K14,15,K17,19,23,24,27,K32:B1,4,5,7,18,20,K21,26,K29

We'd have to rate this one as quite high on the difficulty scale, especially if you try to sight solve without moving the pieces. But the solution is very pleasing--- if you can find it. And yes, there's lots and lots of leaping.

So take a leap of faith (in your powers of analysis) and jump right into this problem. Later on, when you've either solved it or become hopping mad with frustration, pounce on Read More to see the solution.null

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02/29/20 - Printer friendly version
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02-22-2020

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This column will appear on a very interesting date, in a very interesting week. How often do we see dates like 02-20-2020 and 02-22-2020? There will be another such repetition in 2022, but then we'll have to wait until 03-03-3003 for something similar. Perhaps The Checker Maven may have even ceased publication by then, although one never knows.

This week's dates give a bit of a hint toward today's problem and today's theme. See if you can figure it out. Here's the position.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B10,17,20:W30,31,32

This is definitely not an easy problem. Although it will be made easier if you can correctly identify the theme, it may still be at or near master level. But no matter what your skill level, we urge you to try it. And no matter how much or how little progress you make, please take the time to click on Read More to see the solution and one of the most interesting sets of notes and commentary we've published in recent times.null

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02/22/20 - Printer friendly version
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Symmetrical

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Symmetry. We've featured this before, and it's worth featuring again, as it's a powerful concept. In art, symmetry is well-known, but the idea occurs in many realms, even including philosophy. And symmetry can be a very effective tool in the sciences, enabling us to demonstrate something such as the fact that the gravitational force between two isolated objects has to be in a straight line between them.

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All of this brings us, in a certain way, to today's Checker School study, shown below.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W16,K18,19,23:BK13,K17,22

Today's position exhibits a certain kind of symmetry, at least in overall appearance, although forces are unbalanced. And there's the challenge: how is Black to achieve a piece-down draw? It's all a matter of technique and knowledge, and yes, it can be done, as unlikely as it may appear.

So give this a balanced look and see how you can even things up. When you've found a solution, move your mouse--- symmetrically--- to Read More to check your work.null

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02/15/20 - Printer friendly version
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Valentine's Day at the Beacon Cafe

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Editor's Note: This column is dedicated to the memory of Sol Wezelman of Bismarck, North Dakota, who passed away at the age of 101 on January 23, 2020. May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.


It was Saturday, the 12th of February, 1955, and the weather in Bismarck, North Dakota was damp and windy with solid gray skies. But no one was complaining; the temperature had risen to nearly 40 degrees, a real break in what had been a very cold winter.

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Sal Westerman

Sal Westerman made his way to the Beacon Cafe just before one o'clock, the starting time for the Saturday sessions of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. There was something bothering him, though he couldn't put his finger on just quite what it was.

Certainly, the damp weather was hard on him; he was getting older, having just turned seventy the previous year, but that wasn't it. There were plenty of damp days, and this feeling was different, more mental than physical.

Well, some checkers with the boys of the club (all of whom were themselves over fifty, some substantially so) would lighten his mood. It always did. And then there were Deana's coffee and baked goods. Deana ran the Beacon and no one but no one could make the kind of treats she did.

There was a good turnout today. Delmer, Dan, Wayne, Louie, Mike and even Larry had shown up and were gathered in the big booth in back, playing skittles when Sal arrived.

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Larry South

Sal got himself a mug of coffee and sat down next to Delmer, who immediately asked, "What have you got for us today, Sal? I'm ready for you to buy us some of Deana's bars."

Sal chuckled. "You wish," he said, and then, turning toward Deana's counter, he asked, "What's fresh today, Deana?"

"Something extra special," she said, smiling. "Cherry Valentine bars, for Valentine's Day."

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Sal winced and drew in a breath. That was what was on his mind!

"You okay, Sal?" Wayne asked. "You look a little pale."

"Fine, just fine," Sal said. "Everything's fine." But it wasn't. Sal had completely forgotten that Valentine's Day was Monday, and he hadn't gotten a thing to give to his wife, Sylvia. The stores would all be closed by the time he left the Beacon and nothing was open on Sunday. What was he to do?

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Sylvia Westerman

As if on cue, Deana said, "What did you get for Sylvia this year, Sal?"

"Uh, well, I ..."

"Don't tell me you forgot!" Deana continued.

The boys exchanged furtive glances but none of them said anything.

"Oh no, I ... well, drat it all!" Sal exclaimed. "What can I do now?"

"You could slip out and get something," Louie suggested. "We'll just play a little checkers until you get back. Of course you'll buy us some bars first, right?"

Sal gave Louie a skeptical look. "Don't think so," he said. "But here. I got this one from Ed." Ed was a top-rank problemist who lived in Pennsylvania, and was one of Sal's checker pen pals.

Sal quickly set up one of the checkerboards. "Here it is," he said. "You boys have until I get back to figure it out. I'm going to pop over to A.W. Lucas and get something for Sylvia. But I won't be long ... so Deana, keep those bars handy. The boys will be buying me one soon!"

With that, Sal put on his coat and exited. The boys watched him hurry off, headed for 4th and Broadway.

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"Looks kind of tough," Delmer said, looking down at the checkerboard. "Let's hope Sal has trouble finding the right gift and it takes him a little while."

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK2,10,17,K24:B9,K11,K15,K23


There's a lesson here, and we hope you won't wait until the last minute to get something for your special Valentine. Don't wait to solve today's problem, either, if you want to get one of Deana's delicious cherry bars. Put your heart into it, make the right moves, and then click Read More to see the solution, notes, and the rest of our story.null

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02/08/20 - Printer friendly version
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The Almost Shortest Month

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We've written before about February being the shortest month of the year, when mortgage, rent, and other monthly payments remain unchanged despite covering fewer days. Well, this February is slightly different, as 2020 is a leap year and February gets an extra day. We suppose that helps at least a little bit.

To start out this "almost shortest month" we have a relatively easy speed problem. We'll skip the Javascript clock this month and just ask you to solve it in the "almost shortest" time possible.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W24,31,32:B16,18,23

When you have the solution let your mouse take the "almost shortest" path to Read More to verify your answer.null

[Read More]
02/01/20 - Printer friendly version
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