The Checker Maven

Marvin At The World Series: Sudden Death

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In our previous episode, Detroit Doublejumpers captain Marvin J. Mavin drew in the deciding game of the World Series of Checkers, forcing a sudden death playoff on the following day.

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Marvin J. Mavin

Sudden death playoffs were conducted solely between the team captains. That meant that Marvin would be playing a series of five minute games against Los Angeles Leapers captain Hyun-Mi Park. The first player to win a game would bring home the championship.

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Hyun-Mi Park

To put it mildly, the pressure was on, and Hyun-Mi was known to be a deadly opponent at speed checkers. Marvin, on the other hand, was stronger in games with longer time limits. Las Vegas book was a whopping 5 to 1 in favor of Hyun-Mi.

Marvin knew full well that he was the underdog. It was a situation that called for a beer, but there was no chance of that, and anyhow Marvin knew he had to keep a clear head. So in his warm-up prior to the game, he tried chewing gum. When that didn't help, he gargled mouthwash for a full 90 seconds. His coach told him to spit it out and run in place for a while, but that only made Marvin's legs hurt.

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Marvin then asked for a cheeseburger and fries, but the coach refused, instead having a plate of carrot sticks sent in from the stadium's kitchens.

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Marvin barely had time to scowl before the players were called on the field for the playing of the National Anthem.

After the Anthem and the ceremonial playing of the first move by the Governor of Michigan, Hyun-Mi and Marvin met at the center of the field for handshakes and photographs. Hyun-Mi was, as always, stern and composed, while Marvin did his awkward best, all the while trying not to tremble with what he would never admit was fear.

Then the preliminaries were over and the whistle blew, indicating the start of the game. Just before pressing the clock button, Hyun-Mi looked into Marvin's eyes with her patented steely gaze and sent shivers down Marvin's spine.

The first five games ended in draws. Hyun-Mi had the advantage in most of them, but Marvin managed to hold out, though the effort was exhausting. Hyun-Mi, on the contrary, remained cool and composed, content to just wear Marvin down.

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There was a fifteen minute break, and Marvin retreated to the Doublejumper dugout for a few cups of sports drink and a toweling down of his face, neck, and arms.

"She's getting the better of you," Marvin's coach remarked pointedly.

As if I didn't know, Marvin thought, but knew better than to say it out loud. Under the rules, the coach could bring in a pinch checkerist at any time, and Marvin didn't want to suffer the humiliation.

Seemingly reading Marvin's mind, the coach said, "Maybe I should bring in Pete Butterworth to pinch play for you. What do you think?"

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Pete Butterworth

"I can do it coach, I really can," Marvin said. "Just give me a chance."

"Okay, one more set of five, after that Butterworth comes in. And don't even think about losing."

The whistle blew and Marvin and Hyun-Mi resumed their match.

Three draws ensued, then a fourth. As the fifth game began, Marvin knew it was his last chance.

Hyun-Mi, for her part, never thought Marvin would last this long. She was the best speed checkerist anywhere, and she should have won during the first two or three games of the first round. Was her confidence shaken, if ever so slightly? No matter. She would never show it. If there was one thing she had learned in North Korea, other than checkers, it was how to hide her emotions.

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The players moved rapidly, and after a few minutes the following position was reached.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play, What Result?

W:W6,10,14,17,32:BK16,K18,K25,K31

Marvin felt he actually had a chance, if he could just work it out quickly enough. There was only a minute left on his clock. He would have to make his move while still keeping enough time in reserve to finish out the game. Fifteen seconds at best to find the right move.

Sweat was pouring off him. He was fidgeting in his seat as he always did when things got tough. The seconds ticked by ...

And then he made his move.


What do you think of this position? Marvin has five men vs. four kings, is that the better side to have?

The position is not especially difficult but under intense pressure anything can happen. Give thanks that you're not facing Hyun-Mi, and can take your time to find the solution in the comfort of your own non-North Korean surroundings. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of the story.null

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06/27/20 - Printer friendly version
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Alex Moiseyev, Problem Composer (Part 1 of 2)

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Alex Moiseyev

We recently presented an interview with a great modern champion, Alex Moiseyev, in which we talked about his life and playing career. But we didn't cover a lesser-known fact about Alex: that he is also a problem composer. In fact, he holds the title of Grandmaster in the composition of 10x10 problems for International Checkers.

Indeed, most of his compositions have been for the International and Russian games, but he has composed a few for English checkers. This month we'll show you one of them, and next month we'll challenge you with an even tougher position.

Alex's first problem is at an advanced level though not at grandmaster levels.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK7,K16,32:B19,K23,K27

You should be able to solve this one if you give it sufficient thought and time. No need to be a Grandmaster! See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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06/20/20 - Printer friendly version
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Solution to CV-6: Metamorphosis

CV-6: Metamorphosis
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B7,18,K1,K23:W9,14,31,K5,K30

Solution and notes are by problem composer Ed Atkinson.

30-25---A 23-19---1 25-21 18-23---B 14-10 7-14 9-6 1-10 5-9 14-18 31-26 23-30 9-14 10-17 21-16 White Wins with the move.

A---31-26 23-19 26-22 18-25 30-21 is a piece down draw.

B---18-22---C 14-10 7-14 9-6 1-10 5-9 22-25 9-18 25-30 18-15 White Wins.

C---19-23 31-27---D 23-32 9-6 1-17 21-23 32-28 23-19 7-10 5-9 28-32 19-23 32-28 23-18 10-14 18-22 White Wins.

D---31-26 23-30 9-6 also wins.

1---Black could also just play something like 7-11, losing in a routine man-down situation---Ed.

Ed adds, "The solution is short, but, I think, is well concealed. There is quite a bit to look at. This problem, under the name Transposition, won one of Bill Salot's contests some years ago. When it appeared, ACF Master Joe Moore called it a 'masterpiece.' Since then I've composed several other problems on the same theme. Brian Hinkle also used the idea. I had been calling it a freeze, but I think Brian calls it a hesitation stroke. I like his name better. The inspiration was a problem by J. C. Greensword."

Ed concludes, "Let's hope that you don't need many (more) CV (problems)." And as much as we've enjoyed presenting this series, we have to agree.

We hope you too have gotten some entertainment from these special Wednesday columns. Stay safe and well, checker fans, wherever you are.

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Editor's Note: Our columns are usually written well in advance, so we don't know what the status of the recovery will be when this edition is published. We are of course hoping for the best.null

06/17/20 - Printer friendly version
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Fix Me

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It looks like some fixing is in order here. This could be among the worst home repair jobs possible. What a mess!

Some checker games need to be fixed, too, and "fixing" will be the point of today's Checker School column.

We came across a game played in the 1920 Pennsylvania State Championship Tournament which could, well, use some work. It's not that the players were unskilled. In fact, most of the game is well played. But there were three significant errors, all of which could have been fixed. Let's have a look.

Black: O. Zanger

White: H. B. Reynolds


1. 10-14 23-19
2. 6-10 22-17
3. 9-13 27-23
4. 13x22 25x9
5. 5x14 29-25
6. 11-15 25-22
7. 8-11 32-27
8. 4-8 22-17
9. 2-6 17-13
Diagram 1
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W13,19,21,23,24,26,27,28,30,31:B1,3,6,7,8,10,11,12,14,15


10. 14-17 ...

This moves loses. In Diagram 1 above, fix me!


10. ... 21x14
11. 10x17 19x10
12. 7x14 ...
Diagram 2
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W13,23,24,26,27,28,30,31:B1,3,6,8,11,12,14,17


12. ... 24-20

This move gives up the win and only draws. In Diagram 2 above, fix me!

Diagram 3
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W13,20,23,26,27,28,30,31:B1,3,6,8,11,12,14,17


13. 3-7 ...

This move loses. In Diagram 3 above, fix me!


13. ... 23-19
14. 17-21 27-23
15. 14-17 23-18
16. 6-10 26-22
17. 17x26 31x22
18. 1-5 ...

The players left the game here as a White win.


18. ... 22-17

The White win is clear. Black is going to have to give up a lot of men.

Can you "fix" the three unfortunate moves above? Resolving actual over-the-board situations such as these is a great way to improve your own play. Don't fixate on this; just do the best you can, and then fix your mouse on Read More to see the correct moves.

And stay safe and well, checker fans, wherever you are.null

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06/13/20 - Printer friendly version
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Take The Short Road

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We've not made much use of the Javascript clock in recent months because we're trying to make our website as cookie-free and Javascript-free as possible, so it can be accessed easily and safely by all. So today's speed problem won't be timed, but you won't find it very hard at all.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W19,20,K22,30,32:B12,13,21,23,K27

It turns out that White can grind out a win with 19-15. That's all well and good, but there's a shorter road to victory. Can you find it? When you have the answer, move your mouse a short distance to Read More and give it a quick click to reveal the solution.null

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06/06/20 - Printer friendly version
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CV-6: Metamorphosis

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Today's problem by master composer Ed Atkinson, CV-6: Metamorphosis, is the last in our series of special Wednesday publications, intended to provide a little extra checker diversion during the public health crisis.

CV-6: Metamorphosis
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B7,18,K1,K23:W9,14,31,K5,K30

None of the problems in this series have been easy, and this one is no exception. You have the usual two weeks to find the solution before we publish it in this column. Meanwhile, stay safe and healthy, checker fans, wherever you are.null

06/03/20 - Printer friendly version
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Solution to CV-5: Mindbender

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK5,K11,12,16,K19,21,25,28:B2,3,6,K10,13,14,20,26K

1. ... 5-9---A 2. 14-18 12-8---B 3. 3x12 28-24 4. 20x27 21-17 5. 13x29 11-8 6. 6x13 19-23 7. 12x19 23x7 8. 2x11 8x22 White Wins---C

A---A star move and the only one to win. Seven other moves merely draw.

B---The order of moves is critical; if 1. ... 12-8 2. 3x12 5-9 now 3. 14-18 loses but 3. 26-30 draws (KingsRow).

C---Tom Wiswell called this one-holds-two formation the "Spread Eagle": 13-17 22-13 29-25 13-17 or 29-25 22-29 13-17 29-25 17-21 25-30, White Wins.

Composer Brian Hinkle says that this is one of his best problems. That's really saying something, as Brian has composed countless world-class checker problems. He also tells us this one was partially inspired by Ed Atkinson's "Jack in the Box" theme, in which a king becomes surrounded by four opposing pieces, as seen in our 15th Anniversary problem.

Thank you, Brian, for sending this one to us.null

06/03/20 - Printer friendly version
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