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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Fifth Position


If you're a ballet student of any standing, you've certainly encountered "fifth position," as shown above. It's one of the basics that every aspiring ballet dancer must learn.

Checkers, too, has Fifth Position, and it requires mental effort similar to the physical effort required for ballet's position of the same name. Yes, we've seen Fifth Position in our columns before, but perhaps not to quite the depth of today's lesson in Checker School.

Here's the basic premise.

Black to Play and Draw


Even if you've done it before, it's worth another try. Solve it, then click on Read More to see the solution and the heart of this study: six sample games that lead to Fifth Position.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/21/15 - Printer friendly version
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Capers on the Kelso, Part 4


During your school days, did you ever "cut a caper" like the kids above are doing? They seem to really be enjoying their dance class.

This week continues our equally enjoyable checker series, Capers on the Kelso, taken from Willie Ryan's famous Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. We're deep into a variation off the main line in which Willie has highlighted an interesting problem-like position.

The uncommented run-up follows below. For complete notes, see the previous columns in this series.

1. 10-15 22-18
2. 15x22 25x18
3. 6-10 29-25
4. 11-15 18x11
5. 8x15 25-22
6. 4-8 21-17
7. 9-13 23-18
8. 7-11 26-23
9. 5-9 24-20
10. 1-5 28-24
11. 9-14 18x9
12. 5x21 23-19
13. 2-6 27-23
14. 3-7
White to Play and Draw


White is a piece down, but the draw is there, although White will have to make a number of star moves and "toe the line" pretty closely.

Is this too big a caper to pull off, or can you do it? Give it a couple of turns, and then click on Read More to see the solution and notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/14/15 - Printer friendly version
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The Slowest Speed Problem


We thought for a while before declaring today's offering a "speed problem." It's probably the "slowest" speed problem we've published to date, and the proposed solution time of 45 seconds reflects our view of its difficulty.

Now, some of you will undoubtedly see it right away and solve it in just a few seconds. But we think that for most players, a little thought will be necessary.

Click below to display the problem and start the clock.

March Speed Problem (45 seconds, difficult)

When you're done, come back and click on Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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The Single(s) Corner


Not what you expected, was it?

No, The Checker Maven isn't about to write about dating sites or singles' bars.

Singles? Vinyl? 45 RPM? Anyone else remember those? We'll bet many of our readers do. There was the three-minute long "hit" on the "A" side and something obscure on the "B" side, which most of us didn't listen to more than once or twice.

Today we're scratching into, you guessed it, the Single Corner opening. Here's the run-up to the diagram below.

11-15 22-18 15x22 25x18 8-11 29-25 4-8 24-20 10-15 25-22 12-16 21-17 8-12 17-13 7-10 27-24 9-14 18x9 5x14 32-27 3-7 30-25---A 16-19 23x16 12x19 27-23 (see diagram)

A---Loses. 24-19 draws. If you want more of a challenge, stop here and show the Black win.

Black to Play and Win


Left at this stage, the problem isn't especially hard. As in traditional singles, it's the first move-- the "A" side, if you will--- that counts. Take a spin at it, then drop the mouse on Read More to see how your solution sounds.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/28/15 - Printer friendly version
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Traffic Jam


Paradise has a price. A surprising fact is that Honolulu traffic is second only to Los Angeles in the United States. The photo above tells it all as we see an all too common jam-up on the H1 highway.

We've just given you a big hint, by the way, to the solution of today's Checker School problems. And here's another hint: solve the second one first. These aren't especially easy, so be patient and persevere, just as you would have to do in a traffic jam.

Black to Play and Win


Black to Play and Win


Don't get yourself in a jam; solve the problems and then jam that mouse down on Read More to see the solutions, sample games, and explanatory notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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Presidents' Day


We wonder--- how many readers can recall the origin of Presidents' Day?

The older among us will recall the February 22 celebration of Washington's Birthday, and perhaps the February 12 celebration of Lincoln's Birthday in some states such as Illinois. Observation of Washington's Birthday goes back to the 1800s, in fact, becoming a Federal holiday in 1879.

But at some point in the 1960s a movement began for more three-day weekends, and finally in 1971 Washington's Birthday began to officially be observed on the third Monday in February. By the 1980s, the name "Presidents' Day" was in common use.

The holiday is now intended to honor all of our Presidents. And that points out one thing about America: we're all free to like or dislike our President as we see fit--- and be as open as we want about it--- but the Office of the President deserves the greatest of respect.

Today we're featuring a checker problem derived from a book published back in 1886.

Black to Play and Win


Naturally, we challenge you to solve this problem, but first, can you quickly say who was President in 1886? Not so easy, is it?

When you've solved the problem (or not) and named the President (or not), click on Read More to see the solutions.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/14/15 - Printer friendly version
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Another Easy Stroke


We checked into our past columns, and we haven't published something called an "easy stroke" since 2010, and to find another, you'd have to go back to 2005.

Every five years just doesn't seem like quite enough, does it? Today, it's surely time for an "easy" stroke, and we offer you one below.

White to Play and Win


What's that you say? It doesn't look "easy" at all? Actually, if you find the "key" move, the rest pretty much plays itself. Well, pretty much!

Tap this one home ... find that first little move, and then click on Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Marvin and the Academic

Dr. Hillary Silverfish

Dr. Hillary Silverfish stared and pointed at Marvin, the intensity of her gaze frightening and chilling. Close-cropped dark hair added to the effect. This was one tough customer.

"Prepare to die," she hissed.

Marvin J. Mavin, sitting across the checkerboard from Dr. Silverfish, pretended not to be intimidated, but if the truth be known, he was terrified. Even though Marvin was team captain for the Detroit Doublejumpers and one of the National Checker League's top players, Dr. Silverfish was a formidable opponent, and her patented stare was one of her most feared weapons.

Marvin J. Mavin

The Doublejumpers were playing an exhibition match with San Diego Liberal Artiste University's faculty team. Dr. Silverfish, not surprisingly, was head of the Psychological Arts Department, and lead the checker team. She often boasted about how she could have been a top pro player, "but I have a Ph.D., you know, and it's really my duty to teach the next generation of students."

"Ph.D., Schmee-h D.," Marvin had remarked, with characteristic impoliteness, when the local press asked him what he thought about his opponent, "You still got to make the right moves to win the game." At that point Marvin excused himself and went off to find himself a beer, which in San Diego wasn't particularly difficult.

But once again, Marvin had found himself not just a beer, but a few beers, and so at the start of the match he was, shall we say, at less than a hundred percent, and Dr. Silverfish was not one to fail to exploit a weakness.

"Who you starin' at, Silverfish?" said Marvin in his most irritating tone. "We'll see who's going to die, you old bookworm!"

Dr. Silverfish cleared her throat. "I don't respond to comments by inebriated louts," she said. "I just crush them, like this."

To Marvin's amazement, Dr. Silverfish picked up the empty soda can sitting at her left and, with one hand, squeezed it until it split along the seams.


Marvin repressed a shiver, hoping Dr. Silverfish hadn't seen. But she didn't miss much.

"You should be scared, maggot," she said, but before she could go on, the referee blew his whistle, signalling the start of the match. Marvin lead off with the Black pieces, and Dr. Silverfish had the White.

1. 11-15 23-19
2. 9-13

"Your tricks don't fool me," Dr. Silverfish said. "I know a poor move when I see one."

2. ... 22-18
3. 15-22 25-18
4. 10-15

"Drinking doesn't help you play better, little man."

4. ... 18-11
5. 7-23 27-18
6. 12-16 29-25
7. 5-9

(This is the end of of the KingsRow opening book. White has an advantage due to the odd line played by Black.)

7. ... 25-22

(Good, but 32-27 would have been really strong here; White still has a definite edge.)

8. 16-20 24-19
9. 6-10 18-15

(30-25 would have been hard to draw against. White now has just a narrow advantage.)

10. 1-6 22-18
11. 8-12

(10-14 loses after 28-24.)

11. ... 26-23
12. 3-7

(A poor move allowing only the narrowest of draws. 4-8 was correct.)

Dr. Silverfish smiled. "Your poor play continues," she said, "and now I will finish you off."

Indeed, Marvin was fidgeting in his chair, as he always did when he was in a tough spot.

12. ... 30-26

(32-27 would have kept the lead. The game is now even.)

Marvin exhaled. "Well, there, Silverfish, you ain't as good as you think you are. You missed your chance and you ain't getting another, not against ole Marvin."

Black to Play and Draw


How will Marvin save the game? Can you stand up to Dr. Silverfish's terrifying stare and find the solution? Don't panic; work it out and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/31/15 - Printer friendly version
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In the Woods


W. J. Wood was a player, problemist, and leading checker editor for many years way back when. The problem below dates back to the 1920s and it's really a good one.

White to Play and Draw


We said it was good, not easy. White is in immediate danger of losing a piece. How can the game be saved? Can White find his way out of the woods, or at least out of Mr. Wood's predicament?

Don't lose your way; find the amazing solution if you can, and then click on Read More to check it out.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/24/15 - Printer friendly version
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Capers on the Kelso: Part 3


What does a screenshot from an arcade-style video game have to do with checkers?

We challenge you to identify the source of the screenshot, for therein lies the answer.

We continue with our multi-part excursion into the Kelso with the third installment, taken from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. Today we cover the beginning of Willie's Variation 1.

The run-up is short:

10-15, 22-18, 15-22, 25-18.

Now we continue with Willie's text:

Variation 1

6-10---A 8-15 9-13
29-25---B,3 25-22 23-18
11-15 4-8 7-11*---D
18-11 21-17---C 30-25
Black to Play and Win


A---"Black has three good moves to start with. Most of our leading masters have shown a preference for 9-13 here, but 6-10 (an earlier favorite) and 11-15 are just as good. The principal advantage of the text defense (6-10) is the fact that it may be applied also to another two-move opening: 9-13, 22-17, 13-22, 25-18, 6-9, which develops the same position.

B---Some players object to 6-10 at A because of the 18-14 'bust' at this juncture, and others dodge 6-10 because of the situation arising at C (21-17) in trunk. The analysis in this lesson is offered to prove that both objections are unfounded. See Variation 3 for play on 18-14.

C---This move has long been regarded as the major stumbling block of the 6-10 defense. My innovation at D deflates this highly rated attack.

D---This odd move improves on more published play than you can shake a stick at. The accepted move in the past has been 8-11, as used in the Stewart-Banks match, giving white a strong game. I had this 7-11 improvement cooked up for Walter Hellman at the 1939 Tacoma National Tourney, but he avoided the whole line by playing 18-14 at B."

3---Variation 3 will be the subject of a future column---Ed.

Click on Read More to see the solution and additional notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2015 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.

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