The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief


Published every Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i


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Checker Poetry

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The Checker Maven has, we believe, has written and published more original checker fiction than anyone else has ever done. But we've produced very little checker poetry.

Checker poetry used to grace checker books and checker columns, and some of it was very good indeed. The poems often cleverly incorporated problem situations in their verses.

The poem below, kindly provided by Liam Stephens and John Reade, and originally penned by one William Brogan, has been edited slightly to remove an inappropriate ethnic reference and to correct an obvious printer's error.

LAZY JAKE
by Wm. Brogan

There used to live a player
In the town where I was born
Who studied checkers late at night
And early every morn.

This chap was never known
To do a tap of work,
And the neighbours all described him
As a useless lazy jerk.

But opportunity they say
Knocks once at every door.
And Jake was soon to have a chance
To put some gold in store.

A stranger with great riches
Came to this little town,
And he claimed to be a player
Of considerable renown.

He had a roll of greenbacks
That looked like a load of hay,
Said he “This roll I’ll gamble
‘Gainst Jake if he will play.”

Then the town folks they got busy
And they mortgaged home and land,
And they covered every dollar
That the stranger had in hand.

Then the old town hall was hired,
And they called on Lazy Jake.
Saying “ Come and beat the stranger
And we’ll give you half the stake.”

The mayor of the little town
Declared a holiday,
So all the interested ones
Could come and see the play.

The game was quickly started,
Deep silence ruled the place,
And a look of stern defiance
Hovered o’er each player’s face.

The stranger moved quite rapidly
As though he knew his stuff,
While Jake was playing slowly
For he found the going tough.

The following position
Came up and all was done.
So if you are a checkerist
Then show how Jake has won.

BLACK (Stranger)
20140816-cpoet.png
WHITE (Jake)
White to Play and Win

W:W30,25,13,6:BK31,24,17,15.

(Originally published in Wood’s Checker Player, Vol 6, No 3, October 1942.)

We're sure that you can solve it
And two points White will score
So when you are all finished
Below click on Read More.

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Clapham Common Draughts Club

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Clapham Common is part of the Clapham area of south London, but more importantly, at least to us, is that it was the home of the Clapham Common Draughts Club.

While an inquiry to the community booster group called "Love Clapham" went unanswered, former member David Harwood informed us that the club used to meet near Clapham Common's famed bandstand (shown above in its original form in the late 19th century). As far as Mr. Harwood knows, the club hasn't met in at least 20 years, and most of its members have regrettably passed on.

The club, though, will be remembered forever in all of checkerdom for The Clapham Common Draughts Book, a tutorial for beginners through intermediates that focuses on tactics and tactical themes. As with Reisman's Checkers Made Easy, diligent study of this book can't help but significantly improve your play.

The book was written by one G. E. Trott in 1947, but wasn't published until years later. Sometime in the 1960s, it was serialized and (we presume) printed in a newpaper. A little later on the Club published it in booklet form.

Today, we're pleased to offer a newly typeset electronic edition, designed and edited by Mel Tungate. It features clear color diagrams, an easy to read typeface, and Mel's additional notes and commentary. It's a really fine effort and The Checker Maven thanks Mel for putting this together. You can download it here or from a soon-to-appear link in the right-hand column.

Naturally, this week's problem is taken from the book, and it's a nice one. We'd say it's at an approximate intermediate level of difficulty.

BLACK
20140806-cldemo.png
WHITE
White to Play, What Result?

W:WK3,26,27:B10,11,18.

We'll give you a tip: In many of the situations in the book, the obvious move is not necessarily the correct move.

When you've come up with your solution, "Trott" your mouse to Read More to verify your line of play.20050904-symbol.gif

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Labor Day 2014

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Labor Day 2014 will be on Monday, September 1, and each year The Checker Maven takes the opportunity to join in honoring American workers, the men and women who work hard day in and day out to make America the great nation that it is. Whether you're a business executive, police officer, gardener, nurse, construction worker, or belong to any of the thousands of other occupations that make up the American workforce, you're worthy of our salute. In America, all honest work is respected, and rightly so.

Checkers was once the mind sport of the working class and many of the great masters were American workers. One of them was steelworker Asa Long, and today we present a position taken from one of his games.


1. 11-15 23-19
2. 9-14 22-17
3. 7-11

Forms the Whiltier opening.


3. ... 25-22
4. 11-16 26-23
5. 5-9 17-13
6. 3-7 29-25
7. 7-11 24-20
8. 15-24 28-19
9. 11-15 20-11
10. 15-24 27-20
11. 8-15 30-26
12. 4-8 20-16

Book play up to here, where the KingsRow engine now gives 31-27 instead.


13. 12-19 23-16
14. 8-11 16-7
15. 2-11 26-23
16. 11-16 31-26
17. 15-18 22-15
18. 10-19 25-22
19. 1-5 22-17
20. 14-18 23-14
21. 9-18 17-14
22. 16-20
BLACK
20140813-ld2014.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W32,26,21,14,13:B20,19,18,6,5.

You definitely have your work cut out for you in this one. Can you labor hard enough to find the White draw? When you've completed the job, clock out by clicking on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gifnull

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Busb(o)y

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The occupation of busboy is often regarded as a humble one, but The Checker Maven respects work and ambition in every form, and we'll wager that many a successful person once did this or a similar job. Everyone has to start somewhere, and they deserve credit for being willing to take on such a job as they work their way up. The next time you go out to a restaurant or cafe, give the busboy a smile and a kind word.

We don't know if the author of today's Checker School offering, J. S. Busby, was himself ever a busboy, though he might have been, nor do we know if the busboy in the photo is himself a checker player, though he might be. In any event, the following study is both interesting and practical. It's taken from Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

J. S. BUSBY
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W32,22,21,20,17:B14,12,10,9,1.

We'd rate this one as difficult, and there are a couple of star moves for White, but you can solve if you try. See if you can carry it away, and then dish your mouse onto Read More to see the solution, detailed notes, and no less than four sample games.20050904-symbol.gif

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08/23/14 - Printer friendly version
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A Bristol Broadside, Part 4

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You've surely heard the expression, "Can't hit the broad side of a barn," and it's apt for the play on today's theme, as various erroneous moves cause the balance of the game to change often. It seems as if the players couldn't hit the broad side of the checkerboard, so to speak.

It all takes place in this, the fourth and final part of A Bristol Broadside, as found in Willie Ryan's incomparable study, Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard.

Here's the run-up to this variant.


1. 11-16 24-20
2. 16-19 23-16
3. 12-19 22-18
4. 10-14 18-15
5. 7-10 20-16
WHITE
20140718-bristol4.png
BLACK
Black to Play

B:W32,31,30,29,28,27,26,25,21,16,15:B19,14,10,9,8,6,5,4,3,2,1.

From this point, Willie looks at the move 9-13. But we're going to present things a little differently today. Here's the actual play for the next couple of moves:


6. 9-13 16-12
7. 5-9 27-23

From here, Black should win. But the challenge for you, our reader, is not just to find the Black win, but to critique the line of play given just above, starting with 9-13.

Willie had his own ideas, and they were mostly right. The KingsRow computer engine, as usual, has its ideas, and they diverge from Willie's at various points.

What are your ideas? Can you hit the broad side of the checkerboard? Take your time here; this is most definitely not an easy setting. When you've completed your analysis, click on Read More to see some detailed analysis.20050904-symbol.gif

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Kingless

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England was kingless (and queenless, for that matter) for a few brief periods in a history of otherwise unbroken monarchy. One of those times was during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, who took the title of Protector.

Bill Salot has given a new meaning to "kingless" in his latest checker problem composition contest, in which all problems are to consist of single men only; no kings are allowed. We doubt that Mr. Salot has ambitions to be another Cromwell; his fame as a promoter of modern-day problem composition is already assured.

You won't want to miss the entries in this contest; you can see them here. Be sure to try them out and vote for your favorite.20050904-symbol.gif

08/15/14 - Printer friendly version
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Showdown in West Texas

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The small group crowded around the table in the rear of the saloon backed away a few steps, still watching, but now wary.

It had all started around an hour ago. Old Billy Matson came into the saloon around one in the afternoon, as he did nearly every day, and took his usual seat at his usual table, back to the wall, a clear view through the length of the saloon all the way to the swinging doors in the front. Not that there was generally much danger, but you never could tell, and Billy didn't get to be "Old Billy" by being careless.

He set up his checkerboard, again just like always. The folding board was getting a little tattered and the checker pieces were pretty grimy, but he didn't care and the few who said anything received the merest of shrugs by way of reply. Appearances and aesthetics weren't what it was all about.

It would surprise no one that the main concern was money: stakes won and, much less often, lost by Billy; wagers among the spectators as to who would win, although if you were going to bet against Billy you'd better get long odds, because Billy didn't lose that much. He dropped just enough games to keep the marks coming. It wouldn't have done to win every single game and make taking him on seem hopeless.

But today, things weren't going the way they usually did. A stranger had come into town, riding a Palomino and wearing a six-shooter low on his hip. The first thing he did after he hitched his horse was to ask one of the townsfolk where he could find Old Billy.

"Whatcha looking for Billy for? He don't never do nothin' but play checkers in the saloon," the townsman replied. It was Chet Johnson, the farrier.

The stranger gave Chet a look that made Chet step back involuntarily. "I ain't gotta give you no reason," the stranger said. "Answer my question. Where's Old Billy?"

"The ... the saloon, like I said," Chet replied, and then lit off as fast as he could.

The saloon was easy to spot; it was the biggest building along Main Street. The stranger went on over and pushed through the swinging doors, letting them flap behind him. The barkeep raised his head as if to say something, but one look at the stranger made him change his mind. "Old Billy. He here?" the stranger demanded.

"In the back," the barkeep said, and then tried to look really busy polishing glasses.

The stranger walked to the back, his spurs clicking against the wood floor. When he reached Billy's table, he leaned his arms on it and bent forward, his face mere inches from Billy's.

"You Billy Matson?" he asked.

"Yep, that's me." Billy had met swaggering challengers before and he knew enough to keep his cool and not get stared down or intimidated. "Who's askin'?"

The stranger leaned back, then pulled out a chair and sat down on the other side of the checkerboard. "I'm Danny Douglas, and I hear you're good at checkers."

"Some say that I am," Billy said.

"Well, you ain't as good as me and I'm gonna prove it. I'm the best. The best with a gun and the best with checkers."

"I figure you're here to show me your checker skill, not your gunfighting skill?"

Danny laughed. "You're a funny one, ain't cha. Either way, old man, I can take you either way."

"Then I suggest we stay with checkers."

"Sure," Danny said, "that suits me fine. A hundred a game?"

That was a really big stake, enough to make even Billy think twice, and besides, he wasn't sure if he could come up with the cash if he lost. But he'd been in this kind of situation before, and he hadn't ever backed down. Doggoned if he'd do it now, especially with a cocky gunslinger who thought he could play checkers.

"You're on," Billy said. "First one to win two games collects a hundred bucks."

Danny just nodded and, since the Black pieces were facing him, made the first move.

A few people had overheard the conversation and started to take an interest. A couple of side bets were made.

Half an hour passed, and Danny won the first game.

The buzz among the spectators increased. Someone ran outside and must have told some others, for a few minutes later he came back followed by at least a half a dozen townsfolk, all of whom went straight to the back of the saloon to watch the action.

Billy wasn't sure what had happened in that first game. Danny was good, real good; there was no denying it. Billy knew he'd have to buckle down. This was no easy mark.

Billy won the second game. The gunslinger swore a few times but then stopped himself. "All right, old man," he said. "You're as good as I heard you were. But you ain't gonna win the next game, and then I'll be livin' high on that hundred you'll owe me."

Billy didn't reply.

The crowd of onlookers was in a real state. They had never seen anything like this. No one had ever put up a real contest with Billy, not like this one. Money was changing hands and some large wagers were made on the third and final game.

Both players were very cautious, taking their time with their moves. Slowly but surely, it looked like Danny was getting a little bit of an advantage. He pressed hard, and though Billy fought back, Danny's advantage increased. Finally, the position was like this. Billy had White and it was his turn to move.

BLACK
20140717-showdown.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK32,26,10,K7,6:BK31,K25,21,19,14.

It looked pretty bad. Billy was going to go a man down and there wasn't anything he could do about it. Danny knew it and was sitting back in his chair, his thumbs hooked in his gun belt, a smirk on his face.

Billy was looking for a way out, but in the back of his mind was the frightening thought that he'd end up owing a hundred bucks to this gunslinger, with no way to pay it. That wouldn't be good. Maybe the Sheriff could intervene; he'd get likely get word of the goings-on at the saloon and come to check up on things. Billy could only hope for something like that.

Unless ... suddenly, Billy saw a line of play that he hadn't considered before. Yes ... there was only one move that could save things ... if he moved there, Danny would have to choose between ... yes. That was it!

He raised his head from the board and looked over at the still-smirking Danny. Billy smiled at him, then let the smile vanish from his face, replaced by a serious, deadly look.

"Draw!" he said suddenly and loudly.

There was an explosion and Billy fell back in his chair, a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead, Danny's smoking gun pointed right at him, no more than a foot away.

"Drop it!" That was the Sheriff. He had come in just as the shot was fired. He was holding his gun in both hands, keeping it steady on Danny.

Danny knew better than to try anything. He slowly lowered his six-shooter and placed it gently on the table. He was careful not to disturb the checkerboard.

"You're under arrest for the murder of Billy Matson!" the Sheriff declared.

Still careful not to make a sudden move, Danny said, "Murder! What do you mean! He challenged me!"

"Ain't the way I saw it," said one of the braver bystanders. "You drew down on him an' plugged him, and he didn't do nothin' afore you killed 'im."

"Draw!" Danny said. "He said draw, so I did! He woulda killed me if I hadn't."

The bystander started to laugh. He probably felt safe with the Sheriff keeping his gun on Danny. "Ha ha! That's a good one! Billy don't even carry no gun! When he said 'draw' he meant the game was a draw. Cain't cha see that? I thought you was some kind a good player but I guess you ain't, and now you're gonna swing for it!"

Danny Douglas did hang for the murder of Old Billy Matson, but the town was never the same, and no one would play checkers again in the back of the saloon.


In the diagram above, White does have a draw but it will take a "star" move to make it happen. Can you do it? Solve the problem and then draw your mouse over to Read More to check your solution. Just be careful what you say and how you say it in a West Texas saloon!20050904-symbol.gif

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Lightning Stroke

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Lightning storms are common during summer in much of North America. Some lightning-prone areas have a keraunic level of over 100, which means there is lightning activity an average of 100 days per year. But science marches on, and the traditional keraunic level statistic is being replaced with the more informative flash density measurement. That's another topic, though, and a rather electrifying one.

This month we present a stroke problem that is neither modern nor difficult, but definitely informative. We think you'll agree that the solution is like a stroke of lightning: quick and powerful, no matter what your means of measurement.

BLACK
20140717-uila.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W17,14,13,11,7:B24,23,22,K21,5,2.

Blitz this problem and then flash your mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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The Incredible On-Line Checkers Library

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Anyone who has tried to buy checker books in recent years has discovered very quickly that these are hard to come by, and often quite expensive when they can be found. There are very few checker books in print, and the used book market offers less and less as time goes by.

The Checker Maven has provided some newly typeset editions of classic works, but these take a lot of time to produce, and to date only a limited number have been completed.

Enter Jake Kacher's on-line checkers library, his personal effort to make checker literature readily and freely available to devotees of the game.

Jake is originally from Kiev and currently lives in California. He's held a long string of titles in various varieties of checkers, and still teaches pool checkers to an international set of students. But right now, his library, at

http://www.checkersusa.com/books/

is his major ongoing project.

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The checker library started out with what Jake called his "Russian project" and specialized in the literature of shashki, or Russian checkers. But it soon expanded into other varieties of checkers, and now contains extensive collections not only on Russian checkers, but on pool checkers, 10x10 checkers and "straight" checkers, as well as the Brazilian, Canadian, and Italian variants.

As word spread, players from around the world started submitting scans of checker literature of all types. The library now is vast. At latest count there were 250 Russian checker books, 170 straight checkers books, over 100 books on the 10x10 game, thousands of magazines of all kinds, 10,000 animated Russian checker games, several thousand straight checkers championship games and positions, various other articles and literature, and links to sites containing even more material. The library numbers four to five thousand items in books and magazines alone.

Putting an item in the library isn't a simple matter of uploading a scan; there's an intensive quality control process which requires cleaning and sizing each individual page. Some pages require a hundred or more modifications to remove graphic artifacts, increase legibility, and compress the size so that loading times will be reasonable.

Everything in the library is available free of charge, and users don't need to worry about advertising pop-ups and similar annoyances of Internet life. The concept is that the library is a place where readers and researchers can access material without the need to download (although that's available), and with referential integrity: a reference to a certain page of a certain book will produce a consistent result.

The "straight checkers" section of the library contains some extraordinary treasures, including a number of rare books such as Payne's seminal 1756 publication.

The collection continues to build, and the next stage will be the creation of a searchable database, allowing users to locate items by author, title, or year.

The library welcomes assistance from checker enthusiasts who can contribute high-quality scans of material not already in the collection.

Again, the library can be found at http://checkersusa.com/books/, and Jake can be contacted either through his site guestbook or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/checkersusa/.

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The only downside? Once you get on the site, you're going to be there for hours and hours, browsing through the most extensive and fascinating collection of checkers literature anywhere in cyberspace.

Of course, we wanted this week's checker problem to come from the material in the library; making a choice wasn't easy with so much to choose from, but we decided on this one.

WHITE
20140623-jlibrary.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W31,27,16,K10,K2:BK30,K22,19,8,3.

Can you find the correct line of play? It's not terribly difficult but there is one interesting twist. See if you can book the win, and then click on Read More to leaf through the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Bristol Broadside Part 3

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Ouch! Someone broadsided a police car. That is definitely not recommended, and whoever did it is going to be in very hot water.

In our third installment from Willie Ryan's Bristol Broadside in his classic work Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, Willie considers another meaning of the word "broadside" with a second variation from his main line. We've given it below along with the full run-up. Here's how it goes.

Variation 2

11-16 24-20 16-19 23x16 12x19 22-18 10-14 18-15 7-10 25-22 14-18 29-25 9-14 20-16 5-9---A

BLACK
20140610-bb3.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W32,31,30,28,27,26,25,22,21,16,15:B19,18,14,10,9,8,6,4,3,2,1.

A---"The lineup at once is imperative. If the play goes 8-12, then white will win with: 16-11*, 12-16,11-7*, 2-11,15-8, 3-12, 22-15, 4-8, 27-23, 5-9, 31-27, 16-20, 23-16, 10-19, 25-22, 9-13, 22-18, 14-23, 27-18, 20-24,18-15, 6-10, 15-6,1-10, 30-25, 10-14, 25-22. Wm. F. Ryan."

It turns out there are two drawing lines. Neither one is particularly easy to find, and we'd have to classify this as a master-level problem. But even if you're a mere mortal in the world of checkers, you'll learn a lot by exploring this position and then studying the solution.

So start your engines! Then crash your mouse on Read More to see how to do it.20050904-symbol.gif

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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2014 Avi Gobbler Productions, a division of Mr. Fred Investments. Other material is the property of the respective owners. Information presented on this site is offered as-is and bears no express or implied warranty as to accuracy or usability.The Checker Maven is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bob Newell, Sr.

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.


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