The Checker Maven

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


Published each Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i


Contests in Progress:

Composing Championship #65


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Marvin's Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving was coming up, and Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar captain of the championship Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, had to make plans.

You may recall from an earlier story, last Thanksgiving Marvin went with his now fiancee, Priscilla Snelson, to her parents' posh estate home in suburban Grosse Pointe, and it didn't work out well to say the least. Mr. and Mrs. Snelson had, quite frankly, no use for Marvin, and Marvin and Priscilla ended up leaving the estate and going to an old-fashioned American diner for an old-fashioned American Thanksgiving dinner.

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This year Marvin suggested that they go back to the diner, but Priscilla (somewhat predictably) wanted something a bit more formal. She suggested that they might make another try of dining with her parents, but the suggestion was only half-hearted, as she knew Marvin wouldn't like the idea, and in any case she didn't want to witness another disastrous encounter.

So her next suggestion was that they have dinner catered at her upscale condo. The discussion was taking place at that very location, where Marvin had dropped in to visit during a brief pause in the Doublejumper match schedule.

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"Hey, yeah honey, that's a great idea, maybe we can order from that diner and have FastEats deliver ... oh, okay, guess you want something better than diner food, huh? Although that was pretty good last year ... "

It was then that the other shoe dropped.

"Oh, actually, we could have Served on a Silver Platter cater. They have a Michelin starred chef and ... "

"Ain't that kinda expensive?"

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"Value, Marvin, not cost. They provide value. And then we can invite some of my friends and associates, too."

Marvin swallowed hard. He knew about Priscilla's friends and associates. They were all super-wealthy (like Priscilla), and very conscious of social standing. Though they never said it in so many words, and despite Marvin's $100 million five year contract with the Doublejumpers, they viewed Marvin as more of a tradesman, who belonged to a lower class.

"Uh, gee Prissy, how many of your, uh, friends and stuff?"

Priscilla glowered a little. She didn't like to be called 'Prissy'.

"Not so many," she replied, "maybe a couple of dozen. My dining room can actually handle thirty or so, but we don't want to make it too crowded."

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"Yeah, sure, can't pack 'em in like sardines now, can we, heh heh."

Priscilla scowled. "Marvin, think of it as a small-scale rehearsal for one of our wedding dinners. It will do you good to mingle and maybe sharpen up your social skills."

Marvin laughed. "Social skills? Yeah, I ain't got a lot of those. I ain't never learned much about hangin' out with stuck-up rich folks and drinkin' them fancy cocktails and stuff. Gimme a good bar and a good beer any ole day."

"Oh, stop being so silly," Priscilla said. "Well, then, it's settled, so there's no need for further discussion. Now, come over here and look at this bridal catalog with me, won't you?"

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The next week passed quickly and Thanksgiving was upon them. In addition to having Served on a Silver Platter cater her dinner, Priscilla had hired Debonair Decorators to decorate her home in a festive Thanksgiving theme. Dinner was set for five o'clock with guests invited to arrive at four for cocktails served by Served on a Silver Platter wait staff, and mixed at one of Priscilla's wet bars by a certified senior mixologist from Mixology Masters.

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Marvin was required to dress in yet another $500 rented dinner jacket and ruffled shirt from Twirly Tuxedos and Gaudy Gowns.

The guests began to arrive, and everything went fine for a while. Marvin tried his best to mingle and make small talk, even though it wasn't quite his idea of fun. But after about twenty or thirty minutes of that, he decided that he'd like a drink, and so he went over to the bar.

The mixologist, who wore a name tag that said "Llewelyn --- Certified Senior Mixologist," gave Marvin a head-to-toe look. "Do you really belong here?" he asked.

"Whaddya mean? I been invited. 'Course I have, cause Prissy's ..."

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Llewelyn interrupted, "Sorry, but despite your dinner jacket you kind of look like a tradesman. You know, a plumber or something!" Llewelyn laughed. "But I'll be generous and give you the benefit of the doubt, just this once. What can I mix for you?"

"What kinda beer you got? Maybe a Bud Lite or a Belcher's Best?"

But now Llewelyn sneered. "Beer? Excuse me, sir, I am a Senior Mixologist and will soon achieve Master level, and I do not serve beer, even to ... tradesmen."

Marvin turned a bit red. Raising his voice, he said, "Lookee here, bud, you was hired by us--- well, by Prissy anyhow, and you do what we say. Now ain't it fine that you're gonna be a Master Whatever. I'm a Grandmaster myself, so I got ya beat."

Llewelyn sneered again. "Grandmaster? I didn't know plumbers could be grandmasters."

"No, checkers, bozo!" Marvin said this in a shout, and conversation in the room abruptly stopped with all eyes turning towards the bar.

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Priscilla, very sensitive to the mood of the room, immediately strode over to Marvin and Llewelyn. "What's the problem here?" she asked. "Marvin, why are you causing a disturbance?"

However, Llewelyn spoke first, "Ma'am, my apologies, but I don't know how this tradesman got in, and he insulted me by asking for a beer. Imagine such a thing!"

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Now it was Priscilla who turned red-faced. She looked at Marvin, thought for a moment, and then put a hand on his shoulder. Looking back at Llewelyn, she said, "Marvin is my fiance and a world-renowned checkerist. Furthermore, this is my party and you are to treat my guests with respect. You are dismissed. Leave at once, and on the next business day I'm calling Mixology Masters to make sure that you will never work at an exclusive event again. Before I'm done with you, you'll be happy to get a job at a dive bar in Williston, North Dakota."

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"Y...y...yes ma'am," Llewelyn said, and made a dash for the door, sweat pouring from his face.

"Now, Marvin dear, since you seem to have the spotlight, how about demonstrating to my friends that nice checker problem you've just solved? I'm sure they would like it. Let's all step into my home theatre, shall we?"

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The guests murmured. Was it a murmur of assent and enthusiasm? Only they knew, but Marvin smiled broadly and pulled Priscilla close. "Thanks, hon, for sticking up for me," he whispered in her ear, and then followed everyone into Priscilla's elegant theatre room, where he demonstrated a fine problem that was just published in the latest issue of the quarterly magazine Creative Clever Challenging Championship Checker Compositions.

And after the demonstration, Marvin got his beer, served to him by Priscilla herself.

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Unfortunately, you probably weren't on the guest list for Priscilla's Thanksgiving gathering, so you likely missed Marvin's problem demonstration. However, you can certainly try it on your own. Here's the position.

BLACK
20221015-marvint.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,K10,30,32:BK2,21,28,K29

This should give you quite a few nice minutes of Thanksgiving weekend checker entertainment. Marvin selected a problem that has become a real classic, despite his audience being made up of non-professionals. Give it your best and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/26/22 -Printer friendly version-
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A Slight Disagreement

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It was one o'clock in the afternoon on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and Sal Westerman had just come through the door of the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota.

On Saturday afternoons Sal's Coffee and Cake Checker Club had its weekly meeting, a few hours of checker fun with the "boys" of the club (all but one of whom were over fifty). Sal enjoyed these sessions and really looked forward to them.

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Sal Westerman

But today Sal was looking uncharacteristically glum. Was it because the club didn't meet over Thanksgiving weekend? Or was it something else?

The "boys" were seated in the big booth in the back of the Cafe, and they noticed Sal's mood right away. Dan, Tom, Wayne, Louie the Flash, and Kevin (for some unknown reason also called "Spooler") had turned out today.

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Deana Nagel

The one to speak up first, though, was Deana, the proprietress of the Beacon and the best baker in a dozen counties. "What's wrong, Sal? You never look this glum on a Saturday! Come on, cheer up, I've got pumpkin spice bars today, hot and fresh and at a special Thanksgiving price."

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Although Sal nodded, he didn't smile. He sat down in the booth and greeted the "boys" in a low mumble.

"Come on Sal," Spooler said, "what gives?"

"Yeah, gee, Sal, it's Saturday, we're supposed to be having fun," said Louie.

"Oh, all right," Sal said with a bit of a sigh. "I just had kind of a big fight with Sylvia." Sylvia was Sal's wife of well over fifty years.

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Sylvia Westerman

"Aw, that's no fun," said Dan. "But it'll work out, I'm sure."

"Oh, it always does," Sal said, "but Sylvia--- well, it's like this. She wants us to go to Dickinson for Thanksgiving, and not just for the weekend, either. She says if we drive that far in winter we ought to stay for two weeks."

"Two weeks, that's quite a while. By golly, you'd miss a Club meeting, wouldn't you? And Dickinson, isn't that where your wife's sister lives?" asked Wayne.

"Yes, it is," Sal said, "her sister, Phoebe."

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Phoebe

"That's the one you ... uh ... don't really get along with?" continued Wayne.

"That's one way to put it," Sal said, "she's quite difficult. And when I told Sylvia I couldn't stand her sister for two days, let alone two weeks ... "

" ... she got really angry, right?" Dan said. "Um, Sal, I actually kind of get that. There might have been, you know, a bit of a more gentle way to express your opinion, if you don't mind my saying so."

"No, I don't mind," Sal said, "and you're right. A lot of this, well, most of this, is my fault. I should have offered to let Sylvia stay with her sister, and come home on Friday or Saturday, saying I would go back to pick her up when she was ready to return to Bismarck. But I didn't think of it at the time. I just had this image of Phoebe scolding me for this, that, or the other thing, like she always does, and I guess I didn't handle it well."

"It's not too late to fix it up," Wayne said. "Just tell her your plan when you get home tonight. I'm sure all will be well then."

"But darn, I was hoping to spend Thanksgiving at home and make it a nice relaxing weekend," Sal said.

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"Come on, Sal," Dan said, "you've got to give a little. I've been married for a long time too, and Carrie and I have our moments, but marriage is a compromise. Hey, why am I telling you that! You know it better than all of us!"

At long last, Sal smiled. "Tell you what," he said, "how's about this. I'll show you a problem I have from my pal Ed in Pennsylvania. You boys work on it while I take care of something. I'll buy the treats, too."

"Good deal!" Sam said and everyone agreed. Then Sal set up the following position on one of the checkerboards.

Two Down Draw by Ed Atkinson
BLACK
20221010-55t.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:B3,13,K4,K20,K22:W23,25,28,K11,K18

The boys dived in at once. Sal walked over to Deana's counter. "A tray of bars, if you would, Deana, and ... can I use your phone for a minute?"

"Sure, Sal." Deana had of course overheard the whole conversation. "You can use the one in the office in back so you can keep it a bit private." She gave Sal a warm smile and went on, "Me and my boyfriend ... well, no one gets along a hundred percent of the time, right?"

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Sal went back to Deana's office. He was there for some little while, but he came back out grinning. The boys were happily eating their pumpkin bars and drinking their coffee. Another half hour passed and Spooler announced, "We've got it!"


Life is not always smooth and human relationships have their inevitable difficult moments. It's what we do when that happens that makes the difference, and Sal seems to be taking care of things. Of course, some checker fun always brightens the day. So match wits with the "boys" and see how you do with today's problem. There's no disputing that clicking your mouse on Read More will show you the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/19/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Strategic Non-Strokes: Problem Contest 65

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Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was an interesting character to say the least. After an abruptly terminated military career, he went on to become a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, such as the book shown above, published in 1943, which analyzes the strategies of the Axis powers. Notably, some accounts point to him as the founder of DC Comics.

But sometimes the hard way is the only way. The 65th in Bill Salot's stunning "Unofficial World Championship" checker problem contests is here, and it bears the title Strategic Non-Strokes. Bill says these positions are "won the hard way" without resorting to a big stroke. We won't say the wins are "ground out"--- that reminds us too much of doing long division by hand in grade school--- but technique and insight is definitely required.

You can view all the problems on the usual contest page. Try them all and then be sure to vote for the one you think should be the winner.

As an introduction to the contest, have a look at the problem below.

D-Day by John Acker
BLACK
20221009-contest65.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W18,K19,22,31:B10,12,13,K28

Can you win this ... the hard way? Or any way? See how you do and then let your mouse click hard on Read More to see the solution and notes. After that, head on to the contest page for four more great problems.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/12/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Drawbridge

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The drawbridge goes back a long way. In medieval times, castles might be protected by a moat spanned by a drawbridge, which, if the castle were to be attacked, would be pulled up to deny access to the invaders. In the photo above, a more modern use of a drawbridge is shown; when a large vessel needs to cross the roadway, the bridge is pulled up to allow passage.

A bridge in checkers, of course, is something different. Bridge positions have been heavily analyzed. Whole books have been written about them. They certainly can be tricky.

Today's speed problem is about a bridge, and White is seeking a draw--- hence, it's a "drawbridge" position. It's not very difficult and is within range of the thoughtful novice. Old pros will see it right away.

BLACK
20221006-drawbridge.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W5,6,K7,10,12:B1,3,K14,19,K26

Got it? Did you cross the bridge or was it a bridge too far? No matter. Cross your mouse over to Read More and click to verify your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/05/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin and Josh

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Gananoque, Ontario, is a nice little town in Eastern Ontario with a population of about 6,000, and during the summer tourist season it hosts many visitors to the beautiful Thousand Lakes region in which it lies.

Residents of Gan, as they sometimes call it, are torn between their love of the card game Euchre and the great sport of checkers. Gan features a Rookie League team, the Gananoque Goatgetters. Led by rising young star Josh Gordon, the team is considered quite strong in its category, and everyone in Gan knew Josh (who grew up in Toronto) would quickly climb the professional ranks.

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This was to be a big weekend in Gan, for superstar Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers, would to be in town to play a simultaneous exhibition against the the ten members of the Goatgetters, and then run a workshop the following day for the Gananoque High School team.

It was rumored that a couple of scouts from double-A and single-A teams might be watching, so it would be a big weekend for Josh, too, who was hoping to land an offer in a higher league.

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The simul would take place at the site of the old Boston Cafe, now sadly closed, but still used for indoor events such as the this one.

On the evening of the simul, all of the Goatgetters arrived early, awaiting Marvin's arrival. But time passed. The team had a few servings of french fries (with white vinegar, of course) and a couple of soft drinks. They sang the team song, "If You Can, Meet Me in Gan" several times. Still no sign of Marvin, fully an hour after the simul was to begin.

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Marvin, however, had just arrived at the Gananoque train station. The Canadian National train that served the station had arrived very late and Marvin was now looking around for his ride. It took him several minutes of head scratching, walking around the station, and turning his head this way and that before he realized no ride had been arranged as Marvin had never told anyone about his plan to arrive by train.

"Yeah, well," Marvin said to himself, "I shoulda told them what train I was on, I 'spose. Heh heh. Well, maybe there's a taxi I can catch."

Of course Marvin didn't know of any taxi companies in Gan, so he got out his phone and did a quick search. "Ah yeah, Gan Taxi, that should be good." Marvin placed the call and a woman answered.

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"Gan Taxi."

"Hey, like I'm at the train station and I gotta get to Boston Cafe, can I get a ride? You know, like a taxi ride?"

"No. It's not far, you can walk, buster."

"But I don't know ... "

The call disconnected.

"Well ain't that rude ... walk, huh, but walk where? Boston Cafe ... hmm." Marvin looked for directions on his phone. "Okay yeah here we go!"

He started off on foot, rolling his suitcase behind him, following the directions the computer voice was giving him. "Head west on Station Road ... "

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Marvin kept walking, and walking, and walking. "That gal said it ain't far ... what was she talking about?"

It took Marvin almost an hour and a half, and it was nearly dark when he finally arrived at the Boston Cafe. The loyal Goatgetter team members were still there waiting and greeted Marvin with a cheer.

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Josh

Josh, as team captain, extended a formal welcome. "Glad you could make it, Captain Marvin. We were beginning to worry and gosh, we didn't have your cell phone number."

"Yeah, I kinda forgot to tell you when my train got in, and that taxi lady said it ain't far and I should just walk."

"I'll bet you called Gan Taxi instead of 1-A Taxi. That lady ... gosh, Captain Marvin, it's over 6 kilometers to the train station!"

"Yeah, I seen it on my phone, but I thought one of them kilometers was like, you know, a city block or something."

"Gosh though, we're happy you're here, no matter. Shall we get started with your simul? Everything's set up and the team is all set to play."

"You keep saying 'gosh.' I oughta call you 'Gosh Josh.' Ha that's good! But hey, I'm kinda thirsty. Can I get like a beer or something?"

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Josh frowned. "Gosh, Captain, I'm sorry but we don't serve alcohol at our matches. Doesn't go well with good play, you know. We can offer you a cola, and some fries with white vinegar if you like?"

"Oh yeah, well, vinegar, huh? Maybe just the cola if you ain't got nothing else."

Marvin was given an icy cold bottle of cola and, after shaking hands all around, he was ready to take on the ten members of the Goatgetters. By now, though, Marvin was feeling a bit tired from his travel to Gananoque and then the unexpected exertion of a long walk.

The games began. The players on the Gan team were quite talented and as play progressed, Marvin was having to make quite the effort. But he finally pulled off nine wins, two of them very narrow, leaving only the game on first board against Josh to be decided.

The game had reached a tough position, with Josh to move. Now, Josh was so focused on his play that he hadn't noticed two more people coming into the Cafe about 90 minutes ago. He certainly wouldn't have known, though he might have guessed, that they were scouts from the double-A Kingston Krushers and the single-A Guelph Gonotskys.

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Marvin was smiling. "Hey there Gosh Josh, you're in a kinda pickle. Or maybe a bottle of that there white vinegar! Ha ha! That's a good one!"

Josh didn't reply. Americans, he thought. They had their own strange sense of humour.

But his position, with White, did look difficult.

BLACK
20220903-josh.png
WHITE
White to Play, What Result?

W:W11,17,21,25:B5,6,18,K31

Don't get rattled, Josh told himself. Focus. Look for the hidden resource. Find all the possibilities in the position. Look at the board, not the opponent. Yes, it was Marvin J. Mavin, one of the great players of the day. But that didn't mean giving up without a fight.

A few minutes passed with all eyes on first board, waiting to see what would happen. Finally, Josh nodded his head and made his move.


Are you an up and coming player? Are you a champion of Marvin's caliber? Or are you, like many of us, a regular checker fan who just enjoys the game without professional ambitions? It doesn't matter. Josh's advice is sound. Don't give up without a fight. Don't be intimidated by your opponent or by the situation. Focus.

This position isn't especially easy but something is there, and it's up to you to find it. When you've given it a really good effort, you can focus your mouse on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.20050904-symbol.gif

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10/29/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Complete Checkers: Repertoire

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It's here! Grandmaster Richard Pask's long-awaited Complete Checkers: Repertoire is available in a free electronic edition and an inexpensive print volume. The content has been developed, refined, tested and verified by Mr. Pask over a period spanning some forty years. A year in production, the book is at last ready for general release.

CC:R, as we also call it, is the master-level companion volume to Complete Checkers: Insights, published just about a year ago. Together the two books take the aspiring and ambitious player, willing to put in the necessary time and practice, from utter novice to accomplished master. And even if you are not looking to become the next champion, the books provide nearly endless checker entertainment and education, and are bound to raise your level of play and enjoyment.

The new book checks in at 478 large-size double column pages. It's a rewrite and expansion of Complete Checkers: 3rd Edition and contains thousands of additions and improvements.

You can get your free electronic copy here or from the Richard Pask page linked in the column to the right. The print book can be obtained from Amazon in the US or from its other worldwide outlets. We hope that, if you find the book useful and it's within your means, you'll support the project by buying a print copy, which is priced only at a level to eventually recoup our direct costs.

We thank Mr. Pask for his generosity in providing this capstone work without charge to the checker playing public, and for his trust in us by allowing us to edit and publish his incredible books.

Here, as a bit of a teaser, is something from the book. It's from the 10-15 22-17 9-13 ballot, arising from a game played between D. Zevenia and R. Cornell in 1964.

BLACK
20220925-ccr.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W20,23,26,27,30:B10,11,12,14,16

This isn't all that difficult--- if you can see it, that is. It's positively amazing. Give it a try and then click on Read More to see the solution and run-up. And definitely get hold of Mr. Pask's new book!20050904-symbol.gif

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10/22/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Admiral Grey

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Admiral Grey

In today's column we introduce Admiral Grey, a fictional character who sailed for England in the later half of the 19th century. You can read more of the Admiral's adventures in our ongoing story at www.admiralgrey.com. He's a character we created many years ago, but we didn't know until now about his interest in checkers, or draughts as he would call it.


Not everyone knew everything about Admiral Grey, he who sails the seven seas, he who has fought and likely will fight many a battle for Crown and Country, he who, despite being the nephew of famed Admiral Earl Grey, has made his career on his own, rising from orphaned youth to command rank in the Royal Navy by dint of grit, determination, and hard work.

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Everyone knew those things, of course. Those who entered his cabin, the ones closest in rank aboard ship, would know something more. In his cabin one could not help but see the lifelike drawing of his fiancee, Julianna, though that would not tell the tale of their difficult romance, overshadowed by the enmity of Julianna's father. One would see the trappings and tools of office, of course; the British flag, the logbook and sextant, the map table and looking glass.

null

There were the books, many in number and diverse, from the Greek and Latin classics to the tomes on medicine and science, and of course astronomy and navigation; there were even novels and books of verse for the Admiral was fond of Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Tennyson, and many more.

But there is one thing that they might not see.

It wasn't the small collection of teapots and the larger collection of teas, for the Admiral loved his tea and had teas to suit most moods and situations. Nor was it his curio cabinet, filled with souvenirs and mementos from all corners of the world.

No, it was something else.

While sea voyages may possess a certain mystique, there was plenty of hard and mundane work for everyone, including the Admiral. In-between the relatively brief moments of peril and excitement, such as during a great storm or in the throes of battle, much of sailing consisted of long days and endless nights in an unbroken expanse of sea. At times, if it was never altogether boring, it was certainly routine, and when darkness had fallen and dinner was over, the Admiral would retire to his inner cabin alone.

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There, after completing his log-book entries for the day, he would read his books. He would brew a cup of herbal tea, something of chamomile and mint and valerian, blended from a secret formula at Mr. Maxey's shop back in England, and he would enjoy its relaxing effects. But there was one more thing, perhaps one which he enjoyed more than all the others.

From his bookcase he would take out a slim volume of draughts problems, for draughts had somehow always fascinated him, and solving problems--- in his head, for he did not wish to set up a board--- was, to him, great entertainment, a fine compliment to his tea, and a measured bit of leisure activity before his customary five or six hours of sleep.

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This night was no different. The Admiral was sailing on a special mission between England and Hawai`i, and after a perilous rounding of Cape Horn, weeks of quiet sailing ensued. There were plenty of nights when the draughts book journeyed the few steps between the Admiral's bookcase and the Admiral's easy chair.

With a cup of his "Good Evening" tea by his side, the Admiral was studying the following position.

BLACK
20220919-penna.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK6,15,21,23,28:B13,14,16,20,K30

The Admiral was finding it difficult, and the tea and the rolling motion of the ship were lulling him, making concentration difficult. He'd have a few more sips of tea and then sleep; perhaps the solution would come to him overnight, as it so often did for so many difficult problems, and not just of the draughts variety.

Suddenly, he sat up and, now fully awake, exclaimed, "How devilishly clever!" He smiled and drained the last of his tea from his cup. "Marvelous!" he said. "Indeed, a great way to end the day."


With (or without) the tea of your choice, can you equal Admiral Grey and solve the problem? Perhaps late at night when you're sleepy may not be the best time, but only you know when you work best. Give it a try and then sail your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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10/15/22 -Printer friendly version-
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A New Member---A Beacon Cafe Story

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On a fine fall Saturday afternoon, with the temperature in the upper 50s, the sun shining, and a light breeze stirring the few fallen leaves that had escaped the eager rakes of the residents of Bismarck, North Dakota, Sal Westerman set out for the Beacon Cafe and the weekly meeting of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. Sal was the unofficial leader and he always looked forward to Saturday afternoons with great anticipation.

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Sal Westerman

The members of the Club, or the "boys" as Sal called them, were all over 50 years old. Sal himself was now in his 70s but he and the rest of the Club members remained active and engaged. After all, what could be more pleasant than an afternoon of checker fun? Add that to Deana's baked treats--- she was the proprietress of the Beacon and a prize winning baker--- and you had everything for which you could ask.

Sal arrived at the Beacon just a few minutes after one o'clock. A few of the boys were already there. Dan, Wayne, Larry, and Louie the Flash were all seated in the big booth in the back with mugs of coffee in hand. Sal greeted everyone and sat down, and then the whole crew got quite a surprise, when in came regular member Tom with a younger fellow. Younger indeed, why, he couldn't even be older than his thirties!

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Blaine

Upon reaching the back of the Cafe, Tom said, "Boys, I'd like you to meet Blaine. He's quite the player. He's new to town, just moved here from Minot to take a job with the electric company. He might just become our newest member."

They allgreeted Blaine warmly and shook his hand in welcome. Then Tom said, "I explained to Blaine how the Club works and how Sal brings us a problem to solve each week, and whether we win it or not determines who buys the treats." Tom smiled. "But I also explained as how a new member buys the treats the first time he attends."

"But," Wayne said, "we haven't had a new member since ... "

"Shush!" Tom said, raising a finger to his mouth.

Blaine smiled. He knew what was going on. "Happy to buy," he said, "and happy to be here."

20220830-znutbar.jpg

"I've got zucchini nut bars!" said Deana from behind her counter, never missing a chance to market. "Fresh and hot!"

"Tell you what," Sal said, "let's get our treats now instead of waiting, and we can enjoy them while you boys--- and Blaine--- work on this one that I got from Brian in St. Louis."

"Hey Blaine, you know about Brian?" asked Louie.

Blaine replied, "Sure do. He has some real tough ones in All Checkers Digest."

The rest of the boys exchanged knowing looks. It seemed like Blaine was a knowledgeable young fellow.

Sal laid out the following problem while Blaine bought a platter of zucchini nut bars and Deana refilled everyone's coffee.

BLACK
20220830-blaine.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK10,15,24:B8,11,18,K22

"Okay boys--- and Blaine--- here you go. Take as long as you like."

Everyone, including Blaine, set to work. Time passed quickly, as it does when people are enjoying themselves. Finally at about 2:30, Wayne said, "We've got it."


Your age doesn't matter. You might be over 50 or over 70, or even in your thirties or any other age at all. A good problem is a good problem. So see how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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10/08/22 -Printer friendly version-
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No Problem Is A Problem?

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In our modern world, things that are "no problem" are perceived by some to actually be a problem. The very phrase itself, "no problem" falls into this category. We are told by some "experts" that when we say something is "no problem" that's a negative statement, because it contains the word "problem" and will cause the listener to start thinking that there actually might be, or could have been, a problem.

We think this is a bit far-fetched and another example of people deliberately looking for a "problem."

Well, modern "experts" notwithstanding, we won't hesitate to say that today's speed problem is "no problem." Of course, it's a checker problem--- what else?--- but solving it should be no problem at all.

As always we like to provide a range of material for a range of checker playing abilities, from eager novice to aspiring amateur to advanced expert and even problems at the grandmaster level. Today's problem is at the novice level, but those of you with more advanced skills might wish to see how quickly you solve it. A skilled player should solve it in a mere couple of seconds, while a novice may have to think about it a little. But it's all to the good and hopefully a bit of checker fun.

So look below and start the (imaginary) clock! (We no longer utilize the Javascript clock on our site as some readers found it stressful or worse, non-functional.)

WHITE
20220830-novice.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W11,17,22,25,26,27,28:B1,3,6,15,18,19

When you've got the solution, it will be no problem to click on Read More to double-check your answer.20050904-symbol.gif

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10/01/22 -Printer friendly version-
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The Wedding Plan: A Marvin J. Mavin Story

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Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar Captain of the champion Detroit Doublerjumpers in the National Checker League, wasn't having fun.

Recall from our previous story that he had quarreled with his finacee, Priscilla Snelson, who was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Rust Belt Holdings. Priscilla thought big, and a big wedding was in the offing. Marvin had been more interested in his checker magazine than Priscilla's wedding catalogs, and that hadn't gone over well.

In fact, Priscilla told Marvin to leave her condo, and then didn't speak to him for ten days. Finally, she accepted his call and let him apologize for what seemed to Marvin like an eternity. Part of the reconciliation was the Marvin would spend a whole Saturday afternoon working with Priscilla on the wedding, and then take her to dinner at Le Faux Luxe, by far Detroit's most expensive and upscale restaurant. (They had planned to go there previously but it was abruptly canceled when Priscilla sent Marvin packing.)

20220813-setting.jpg

They had been at it for over three hours. "What do you think of these place settings, dear?" Priscilla asked.

"Uh, nice, yeah, I like them," Marvin replied.

"Do you really? Well, how do you think they compare with these?" Prisilla turned a page in the catalog and indicated another option. "Do you think these are a bit more colorful? Or are you looking for something understated and tasteful? I don't mind that, really, but I wonder if the rosettes are a bit too small? Or is that to match the thin gilding?"

"Oh, yeah, the gilding and the roses ... never really thought about that."

Priscilla gave Marvin a bit of a look. "You know, dear, you have to consider these things. Small details add up to the big picture, after all."

20211031-allchecks.jpg

Marvin, wishing he either had a beer or a copy of All Checkers Digest--- he didn't know which one he wanted most at the moment--- replied, "Sure, those details really count, don't they."

"Oh, Marvin, you're not much help, are you? Look we only have two more hours before we have to dress for dinner ... by the way did you bring your dinner jacket? I didn't see it when you came in."

20220813-djacket.jpg

"My dinner jacket? You mean, like that leather one I got at the bar when I ... " Seeing the look on Priscilla's face, Marvin continued, "Nah, I ain't got no dinner jacket. I got a suit at home though, you know, one of them suits with a vest and stuff."

"Oh, you're exasperating!" Priscilla shook her head. "Well, I know you'll be disappointed, but we'll have to postpone the rest of our planning session until tomorrow. We've got to go and rent you a dinner jacket while Twirly Tuxedos and Gaudy Gowns is still open. I suppose you'll need a white ruffle shirt and bow tie, too?"

"A what? No, I ain't got none of those neither."

20220813-pporsche.jpg

"Once we're married, Marvin, a lot is going to change. Come on, hurry, we've got to go to the shop right away. We'll take the Porsche. It'll take too long to wait for the limo." The Porsche was the car Priscilla drove when she was in a rush, but in her garage she also had a BMW, an Audi, and a Lexus, although she only drove the Lexus on what she called "downscale" occasions. Usually, though, she would just call for her limo and driver.

Marvin's old Volkswagen Beetle was parked outside but he knew better than to ever, ever ask Priscilla to ride in it.

20220813-tux.jpg

They reached the shop half an hour before closing time. "Just made it," Priscilla remarked as they entered. They were greated by a rotund, bald-headed middle aged man dressed in a white shirt and tie. "Ah, Ms. Snelson!" he said. "So good to see you! You haven't visited us here at Twirly and Gaudy for a while. And who is this? He seems familiar somehow."

"This is Marvin, my fiancee," Priscilla said. "But listen, Stanley, he needs a dinner jacket right away."

"Marvin ... of course! Marvin J. Mavin!" Stanley (the proprietor) smiled broadly. "I just saw you in ... let me see ... " Stanley slipped behind his counter for a moment and returned with a copy of ... American Checker Weekly! He flipped through a few pages. "Look, here's your picture, in that match last week against the L.A. Leapers. Hey, can you maybe autograph this for me? And then there's this problem by Pennsylvania Ed that I'd sure like a hint on if you don't mind ... " Stanley pointed to a checker position diagram.

BLACK
20220822-oquad.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W9,11,14,17,18,K2:B4,7,K5,K21,K24

"Oh, yeah, sure, got a pen?" Stanley offered Marvin a ball point pen, neither he nor Marvin noticing that Priscilla was starting to fume.

Marvin autographed the magazine and said, "Now look, that Penn Ed, his stuff ain't easy, but this one, I think you have to ... "

Priscilla's voice shattered the relative calm. "Stanley, if you don't put that magazine away and fit Marvin for a dinner jacket and ruffled shirt in the next five seconds, I'll blacklist you all over Rust Belt Holdings!"

Caught by surprise, the magazine dropped from Stanley's hands. "Yes ma'am, right away ma'am," he said, hustling over to a clothing rack.

"Hey what about Penn Ed's problem ... " Marvin asked.

"Later, sir, later ..." Stanley said.

"You mean never sir, never," Priscilla said.

20220813-fiver.jpg

Twenty minutes and $500 later, a grim Priscilla and a glum Marvin left the shop with a package containing Marvin's dinner clothes.

"Five hundred smackers for a one-day rental? Seems like a lot," Marvin said. Priscilla simply said, "In the car, Marvin. We still have to change and I will not be late for our reservation at Le Faux Luxe."

20220813-snooty.jpg

"Yes, dear," Marvin said. No beer, no magazine, no checker problem. Just a fancy dinner suit that cost him five hundred to rent, and a restaurant with waiters that would look down their nose at him if he ordered a Bud Lite, and probably another five hundred for the dinner, not to mention more endless hours of wedding planning tomorrow.

But Marvin's heart was in the right place. For Priscilla, he'd do anything. Even pass up a checker problem by Pennsylvania Ed.


We don't know if you have a wedding to plan, or a fancy dinner to go to, and neither do we know if you own a dinner jacket. It doesn't really matter, and you don't have to pass up a problem by Pennsylvania Ed (also known as Grandmaster problem composer Ed Atkinson). See if you can solve it, and then marry your mouse to Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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09/24/22 -Printer friendly version-
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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i, as a completely non-commercial public service from which no profit is obtained or sought. Original material is Copyright 2004-2022 Avi Gobbler Publishing. Other material is the property of the respective owners. Information presented on this site is offered as-is, at no cost, and bears no express or implied warranty as to accuracy or usability. You agree that you use such information entirely at your own risk. No liabilities of any kind under any legal theory whatsoever are accepted. The Checker Maven is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bob Newell, Sr.

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