The Checker Maven

Sal's Summer Vacation

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It was July, 1955, and the summer heat had invaded Bismarck, North Dakota. Known for its cold and prolonged winters, those who didn't live there never realized that summer on the prairie, though very short, could be intensely hot, with the mercury rising above 100 degrees on some days.

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Sal Westerman

Sal Westerman, the informal leader of Bismarck's Coffee and Cake Checker Club, found himself missing the club's weekly meetings at the Beacon Cafe. The club took a summer break between Decoration Day and Labor Day. The cafe itself closed for about six weeks as the proprietor, Deana, enjoyed summer with her parents on the family farm near Gackle, in eastern North Dakota.

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Sylvia Westerman

Sylvia, Sal's wife, had talked Sal into renting a small cabin near Lake Sakakawea. It was a bit cooler up there, with breezes off the lake, and a simple lifestyle with few intrusions. Sal had to admit he enjoyed the long, lazy summer afternoons, and although he wished he could be at the Beacon, he had a stack of checker magazines to keep him busy.

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One Tuesday, after doing a little fishing in the morning when it was cooler, Sal and Sylvia were relaxing in wicker chairs on the shaded veranda of their cabin. Sal had a copy of Checker Digest on his lap and Sylvia was doing some knitting. It was a peaceful scene.

"Anything good in your magazine?" Sylvia asked.

Sal figured she was just making conversation, as he replied, "Yes, they've got this three-by-three problem from Brian in St. Louis, that's really kind of fun. I think I've almost got it."

To Sal's surprise, Sylvia said, "Oh? Let me see!"

Sal, puzzled, handed his wife the magazine, saying, "It's this one here in the middle of the page."

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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W11,K12,22:B4,14,19

Sylvia frowned a bit. Something like four or five minutes passed, with Sal looking on in bewilderment.

"Oh, here's how you do it," Sylvia said, a big smile on her face. "It's not that hard, you know!"


Did Sylvia actually solve one of Brian's problems? Can you solve it? Take four or five minutes, or as long as you wish, and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.null

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07/25/20 - Printer friendly version
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Alex Moiseyev, Problem Composer (Part 2 of 2)

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Alex Moiseyev

Last month we presented the first of two English checker problems by champion Alex Moiseyev, who holds the title of Grandmaster not just in checkers, but in checker problem composition for the 10x10 International game.

Let's have a look at the second and last problem in our series, one that is indeed worthy of a titled player.

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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK3,10,14,K18,21,25,K27,31:B1,5,K7,K13,22,23,K32

This problem is definitely at the master level. But don't let that discourage you; there is a lot to learn from trying to work through it. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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07/18/20 - Printer friendly version
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Farmer Sneed, Ned, and Mr. Hatley

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Not being television fans, your editors were until now unfamiliar with Sneed's Feed and Seed in the television program The Simpsons.

In this month's Checker School column, we meet a different Farmer Sneed, another character named Ned, and Ned's father, Mr. Hatley. Taken from the curious and fascinating Checker Board Strategy, by Andrew J. Banks, the good farmer is taught a thing or two about book learning. The Banks' character Farmer Sneed predates Sneed's Feed & Seed by about half a century.


FARMER SNEED LEARNS A THING OR TWO

Under the sweet scented apple blossoms, Nedís face twitched nervously as he eyed Farmer Sneedís beehives. He could hear the wind pushing through the apple blos- soms, the bleating of lambs, and the cackling of chickens. The old farmer liked to take Ned near the bees. Pucker- ing his weather beaten face, he chuckled, "Letís move this hive a little." However, Sneed quickly jerked back his thick muscular hand when a bee stung it. He muttered a little sheepishly, "Oh, thatís nothing--- itís good for my rheumatism. Come on, letís play checkers on the porch; I like to trim you book players."

"Why Uncle Sneed," protested Ned, "the students of book play win all the national championships; take Asa Long, for example."

"Never heard of him," snorted Sneed, "I could probably lick him too. I believe what old Ben Franklin said, 'Care- lessness does more harm than want of knowledge'."

By this time Mr. Hatley had arrived; he met them at the well. "Sneed, you have the best water that I have tasted anywhere," Hatley. said politely, after quenching his thirst and taking a deep breath of the fresh country air.

"None better," Sneed agreed, as he rubbed the hand that the bee had stung. He was not anxious to play Nedís father, but he did so; and Sneed lost five games in a row. Later Ned inquired, "Father, how can you beat Farmer Sneed so easily?"

"I know hundreds of problems," was the reply. "I use those ideas against Sneed."


Here's one of the problems that Mr. Hatley put to use. It's attributed to H. Lieberman.

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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B2,6,K13,K23:W14,15,19,K8

Do you know hundreds of problems, like Mr. Hatley? You'll only need to know one to solve this position. Don't get stung; solve it and then click on Read More to see the surprisingly simple solution.null

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07/11/20 - Printer friendly version
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Fourth of July 2020

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This column will appear on July 4, 2020, and as always we delight in celebrating America's birthday. We make no apologies for being devoted American patriots.

America (and the world) have had a very tough time this year. But the American way is not to throw our hands up in the air and say, "Oh poor us! We did a terrible job handling the crisis! We'll never recover!"--- although shamefully there are some who are doing just that. We believe the American way is to do what Americans have always done: face up to the crisis, work our way through it, and carry on. We will recover, just as we always have. It may take some time and there may be substantial pain along the way, but we'll do it. We're Americans and that's what Americans do.

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We always like to celebrate the Fourth with a problem from Tom Wiswell, a man who was both a great patriot and a great checkerist, and we'll do the same today. It's a deceptive three by three which Mr. Wiswell called Tempo.

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White to Play and Win

W:W14,30,31:B3,12,22

Solve this problem at any tempo you wish, and at the right time, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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07/04/20 - Printer friendly version
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