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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A Rival Club

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Sal wasn't happy. That didn't happen very often, and just about never on a Saturday afternoon at the Beacon Cafe in Sal's home town of Bismarck, North Dakota.

Every week during the checker season, Sal and "the boys"--- a group of checker enthusiasts who were all over 50--- met at the Beacon for an afternoon of checker fun, enhanced with the great baked treats made by Deana, the proprietor. The group even called itself The Coffee and Cake Checker Club, inspired by a passage in one of Willie Ryan's books.

So what was bothering Sal on his favorite afternoon of the week?

"Some nerve those fellows have," he said. "Can't hardly believe it."

On hand today were Wayne, Dan, Louie, Larry, and Mike. Dan said, "'Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, Let's Have Another Piece of Pie' --- it kind of has a ring to it, even if it is a bit on the long side."

As if on cue, the group, except for Sal, started humming the old tune of the same name[1].

Did Sal turn a little red? "Stop it, boys! Now cut it out, right this instant!"

The humming ceased and Louie said, "Gee Sal, I never saw you so upset before."

"How dare they!" Sal spluttered.

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What had Sal so irritated is that a brand new checker club had started up in Fargo, North Dakota, about 200 miles east of Bismarck.. The Fargo group met at a coffee shop in Fargo's Hotel Powers, also on Saturday afternoons.

"They're just copying us in every way possible!" Sal said. "And then they presume to challenge us!"

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Don Steam

In Wednesday's mail, Sal had received a letter from Don Steam, the leader of the new club, challenging Sal's group to a problem solving contest. The idea was that they would exchange problems and see who could solve the problem posed by the other group. Don closed the letter with, "The loser, which will be you, will send money to the winner--- that would be us--- to buy coffee and pie for our group. You haven't got an icicle's chance in August so we won't even talk about money for coffee and cake."

Sal had shared the letter with the group. "Yeah, they are pretty arrogant," Wayne said. "What they need is a good lickin'! Well, over the board, I mean."

"German chocolate cake today," Deana called out from behind her counter. "No pie!" Deana never missed a word that the boys said and was always on top of her marketing game.

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"Well, boys, how about you try out this one from Ed," Sal said. Ed was Sal's checker pen pal in Pennsylvania. "Let's see if it's tough enough to show those braggarts in Fargo a thing or two. Ed calls it Kaleidoscope."

Sal, after a few deep, calming breaths, set up the following position on one of the checkerboards the boys had put out.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,K8,9,11,14,16,22,26:B2,5,12,13,K15,19,21,27

"See what you think," Sal said. "If you can win it, I'll buy the coffee and cake, but we'll have to find something harder to send to those big-talking upstarts. I'll give you, oh, half an hour or so."

The boys nodded in agreement and set to work on the problem.


[1] Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee is a famous song by Irving Berlin, first heard in 1932 in the show "Face the Music."


Is this problem tough enough to challenge the Fargo bunch? Take as long as you like and have some coffee and cake if you wish. Then click on Read More for the solution and the rest of our story.null

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01/23/21 - Printer friendly version
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Dangling

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Our heroine above is dangling above --- well, we don't know what. A bottomless ravine? A pit filled with rattlesnakes? A fiery inferno? We can only hope that she finds a way to safety.

Similar situations come up in the game of checkers. Sometimes, a piece is dangling and can't be rescued. Or it might suffer a different fate, or something else altogether.

There's a point to all this. Today's Checker School entry is a very old problem from Joshua Sturges. It isn't especially hard; indeed, it's just about a ten second speed problem. But it's very instructive and rather neat. After you've solved it, you may see why this column has the title that it does, and that "dangling" can have an alternative meaning.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK25,K32,28:BK31,K23,20

The problem is found (among many other places) in the "Problems for Beginners" section of Andrew J. Banks' Checker Board Strategy. We're not sure if a complete beginner could solve it, but it's within reach of anyone above novice level.

Don't let the solution dangle; find it and click on Read More to verify your answer.null

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01/16/21 - Printer friendly version
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On the Banks of the Jordan

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The banks of the Jordan River are fabled, from the days of biblical history right down to the present. The connection with checkers? Well, none, really, except that whenever we hear "banks of the Jordan" we think of the famous Jordan-Banks championship match, which although of biblical proportions, took place during the relatively modern days of November, 1914.

Played in Kansas City, Missouri for the then-fabulous prize of $1,000, the games were memorable and indeed commemorated in a fine match book. Let's take a look at the very first game, which was played after suitable fanfare and ceremony.

Banks had Black and Jordan had White. The 2-move ballot was 10-14 24-20.


1. 10-14 24-20
2. 11-15 22-18
3. 15x22 25x18
4. 6-10 26-22
5. 8-11 27-24

The game continued from here and went on to an eventual draw, as might be expected. But what if White had played 5. ... 28-24 instead? Would that have been a mistake, or just one of several alternatives?

5. ... 28-24 would have led to the following position.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W18,20,21,22,23,24,27,29,30,31,32:B1,2,3,4,5,7,9,10,11,12,14

Would Banks have been able to bank on a win in this case? Of course, Mr. Banks never had to cross that particular Jordan, but it would certainly have been interesting. See what you make of it and then cross your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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01/09/21 - Printer friendly version
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Marvin J. Mavin: Another New Year's Eve

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Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was once again at a New Year's Eve party at the swank condominium home of his girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson. As was the case last year, Priscilla, who was a C-level executive at Rust Belt Holdings, invited only the elite of the elite, a sophisticated, moneyed crowd of influential executives, politicians, business magnates, and even a couple of Hollywood stars.

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Marvin J. Mavin

And Marvin. Who felt very uncomfortable. His idea of luxury consisted of a few cans of beer enjoyed while relaxing on a couch in front of the TV, clad in a sweatshirt and cut-offs. That wasn't going to happen at this upscale party.

Of course everyone present was passionate about checkers, the undisputed national sport, and so Priscilla had organized a little competition. Party-goers were invited to bring along a checker problem and attempt to "stump Marvin." The first one to do so would win a $4,000 bottle of French champagne, provided by Priscilla from her vast collection of rare wines.

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"You can buy a lotta beer for four grand," was all Marvin had to say. But when Priscilla told him to do something, he did it, and there was no further discussion.

During the evening, Marvin was presented various problems by the party-goers. He solved them all with little difficulty. Of course, his success was aided by the fact that Priscilla had told her serving staff not to give Marvin anything stronger than tomato juice, as she didn't want a repeat of last year's embarrassments (see previous Checker Maven story).

When the clock struck eleven, Priscilla's little contest was winding down, and would end just before the New Year rang in. No one had yet claimed the bottle of 1955 Champagne Krug Clos d'Ambonnay. But then Suzette Slinky (the stage name of a very famous Hollywood movie star) sashayed up to Marvin and batted her eyelashes at him. Putting her hand lightly on his arm, she said, "Hey, big boy, wanna try a real checker problem?"

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Now, Marvin and Priscilla had been in a relationship for quite a few years, and Marvin loved her dearly. But Marvin, being a guy like most guys, found someone like Suzette, well--- a little hard to resist. He smiled sheepishly and said, "Uh, sure, beautiful, whaddya got for me?"

Did Priscilla overhear him, or did her expression harden just a little, or did she turn in his direction for some other reason?

Suzette reached into her dress, such as it was, and pulled out a small slip of paper. "Here's something sweet for you, Marv," she said, as she ever so slightly touched her hip to his.

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"Perfume," Marvin said, taking the paper from her hand and holding it near his nose. Their fingertips touched briefly. "Uh, yeah, I mean, a checker problem, right?"

"Sure is, Captain Marvin," she cooed. "You think you can solve my problem?" She put her arm around Marvin's waist and drew him closer.

Priscilla's expression, if had not changed before, surely changed now. She started across the room toward Marvin.

"Solve your problem?" Marvin said. "Oh, yeah, honey, I can ..."

"That's enough, Marvin," Priscilla snapped. "And as for you, Miss Slinky Hussy, you can leave right now!"

"Marvin, are you going to let her talk to me like that? Won't you protect me?" Suzette said, pulling Marvin even nearer and pouting at Priscilla.

"Hey, Prissy, you shouldn't ..." Marvin began, but he was immediately interrupted.

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"OUT! NOW!" Priscilla pulled Marvin away from Suzette's grip and held him by his collar. "OUT! OUT! OUT!"

"Well, if that's how you are, Priscilla, and Marvin, if you're too afraid to say anything ..."

"OUT!"

"I'm leaving," Suzette said, "don't worry. And don't think this won't be in the Movie Star Tattler tomorrow morning! You'll see, Miss Priscilla."

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Priscilla kept her grip on Marvin's collar until Suzette made her exit and her stunned guests returned to their drinks and conversation. Then she dragged Marvin out to the kitchen, opened the service door, and propelled him into the corridor. Still holding on to him tightly, she called for the service elevator, shoved Marvin inside, and closed the door.. Through the door he heard, "Call yourself a taxi. You're not coming back to my place."

The elevator descended to the ground floor and Marvin stumbled out. Another door led him to an alleyway where he promptly tripped over some debris and landed in a pile of trash.

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He started to shiver. It was cold in the alley, and just then he realized he had left his cell phone in his coat in Priscilla's hall closet.

Oh well, there was a bar he knew of nearby, where he could have a couple of beers and drown his sorrows. The bartender would get him a taxi. He would make up with Priscilla in a few days, although he knew it wouldn't be easy, and he would have to grovel ... a lot.

It was only very late the next morning when, alone in his apartment, Marvin awoke and found that Miss Slinky really had given him a checker problem on that perfumed slip of paper, one that she had gotten from her Uncle Brian in St. Louis.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK7,K18,K19,22,24,28:B3,21,K29,K30,K31



Keep your mind on the problem, not on, um, other things, and you'll stay out of trouble as well as having a chance at solving this one. When you're ready, slink your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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01/02/21 - Printer friendly version
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Happy Holidays 2020

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Image courtesy greetings-day.com

This column will appear on December 26, 2020, and we hope you are all enjoying the holiday season. Whatever holidays you may (or may not) celebrate, we do hope this time of year will bring you whatever you may wish for, be that time with family and friends or just a chance to have a little break from the usual.

We like to draw from our favorite historical composers at this time of year, and today we turn to a prolific composer of days past, L. J. Vair. Mr. Vair originally lived in Denver and was known as "The Kolorado Kowboy." He also lived in Ohio, and in his latter years in Auburndale, Florida. Here is a problem that is said to be of a type in which Mr. Vair specialized back in the day.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,K2,K20,24,25:B9,K13,K15,18,K32

This problem is bound to give you holiday cheer, even if you don't live in Colorado, Ohio, or Florida, and even if you're not a "kowboy." Take the time to work it out; it's a real pleaser. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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A Holiday Visitor at the Beacon Cafe

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The second Saturday in December would mark the last meeting of Bismarck's Coffee and Cake Checker Club until after the start of the New Year. The holidays were a busy time and The Beacon Cafe, where the Club met, would close down so that the proprietor, Deana, could visit her family out in Gackle, North Dakota.

Sal Westerman, the unofficial Club leader, arrived a minute or two after one o'clock and made his way to the big booth at the back of the Cafe. There was a good turnout, with Mike, Dan, Wayne, Sam, Louie, Tom, and seldom seen Old Frank on hand. Sal referred to the group as "the boys" even though they were all over fifty.

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Old Frank

"I hear your daughter Joyce is visiting," Mike said as Sal took a seat.

"Yes, she is," Sal replied, "she hadn't taken any vacation in quite a while so she's here for a little over three weeks. It's really nice to see her."

"Washington must keep her busy," Dan said. "Isn't she working for some sort of fancy law firm?"

"Not only that, she just made partner!" Sal said with obvious pride. "Being a partner at Dark Darker & Darkest was something she'd always dreamed about, and she made it all come true!"

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Joyce Westerman

Just then the door of the Cafe swung open, and a blast of cold air swept in a diminutive figure.

"Joyce! You made it!" Sal exclaimed. Then, turning to the boys, he explained, "Joyce used to play for the Bismarck High School checker team, though she hasn't had a lot of time to play out there in D.C. But she said she wanted to meet everyone at the Club."

The boys offered Joyce the best seat in the booth and introductions were made. "Pleased to meet you at long last," she said. "Dad speaks highly of you and loves his Saturday afternoons here."

Deana, over at her counter, called out, "Hey, aren't you going to introduce me too?"

Joyce got up at once and went over to greet Deana. "I've heard about your baking," Joyce said. "Everyone says there's nothing like it."

Deana pulled a plate from under the counter. "Here, on the house for our special guest," she said. "Holiday cinnamon bars." Deana made sure she said the latter loud enough for the boys to hear.

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"Thank you," Joyce said. She carried her plate back over to the big booth and retook her seat.

"Cinnamon bars," Old Frank said. "I could use one of those. Why don't you show us what you have for this week, Sal? Then you'll be buying after we solve it!"

Sal smiled. "Something from Ed," he said. Ed was Sal's checker penpal out in Pennsylvania. "Not so easy. Cinnamon bars for me, I think."

"Lay it out," Tom said, "and we'll see about who buys!"

Sal arranged the checkers on a couple of the awaiting checkerboards. "Here you go," he said, "you can have half an hour."

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W9,K14,K17,20,K30:B5,11,K19,23,26


Deana's cinnamon bars look really good. Can you win a virtual one? See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.null

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12/19/20 - Printer friendly version
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St. Maurice

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St. Maurice may or may not have been a real person, with the real truth buried by centuries of elapsed time. Whether fact or legend, the story goes that he was the commander of the Theban Legion in the late third century CE. The legion was stationed in Agaunum, which today is known as St. Maurice en Valais in Switzerland. As a testament to the reach of the Roman Empire, the legion was actually raised in Egypt. The story continues that this legion, itself made up of Christians, was martyred for refusing to persecute local Christians. Oddly enough, St. Maurice became more honored in Germany than in Switzerland although his supposed remains were eventually returned to present-day St. Maurice en Valais.

The composer of today's Checker School problem is one C. E. St. Maurice, about whom we could find no ready information. Is he in some way connected to the famed St. Maurice? With a gap of 16 centuries and a potentially mythical story, it seems unlikely, but one never knows.

What we do know is that Mr. St. Maurice's problem is clever and satisfying, and illustrates a couple of important tactical themes. We rate it as on the lower edge of medium difficulty.

C. E. St. Maurice, 1892
BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK14,15,22,26:B1,6,13,K30

The solution to the problem is real, not mythical, and neither do you need to be a saint to solve it. Some "real analysis"[1] will bless you with the solution. When you're ready, click on Read More to check your work.

[1] We're of course talking about checker analysis, not the "real analysis" branch of mathematics.null

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12/12/20 - Printer friendly version
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16th Anniversary Edition

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It's the 16th publication anniversary for The Checker Maven! And for this anniversary we have something very special: a master level problem composed by world-class champion checkerist Alex Moiseyev. You'll find it all just below.

But first, a big thank-you to all our readers. Without you, we never could have published for so long, and we invite you to look forward to as many more years of publication as health and wealth allow.null

12/05/20 - Printer friendly version
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Yin and Yang

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Yin and Yang. Opposites that are bound together as a whole. This ancient Chinese philosophy encapsulates the concept of dualism, wherein seeming opposites can actually be interconnected and interdependent, the one giving rise to the other. We'll leave it to you to explore the ideas of dialectical monism and how Yin and Yang are reflected in Taoist, Confucianist, and other philosophical realizations. It's a deep topic indeed and could form the basis for a lifetime of study.

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Alex Moiseyev

Champion checkerist Alex Moiseyev has created a checker problem which he says embodies concepts of Yin and Yang. It's an amazing problem, itself deep and difficult. In fact, master problem composer Brian Hinkle has this to say about it, and it is through Brian's auspices that The Checker Maven is presenting the problem in its first-ever public appearance.

This 9x10 bridge with five Kings called 'Yin And Yang' composed by Alex Moiseyev is one of best checker problems I have ever seen. Master checker players may find it challenging to solve. I enjoyed the pretty solution so much that I looked at it about four times a day for a week!

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W6,7,10,11,12,K15,16,24,25,28:B1,3,4,9,K17,K19,K23,K26,27

No, it's not easy, but yes, it's really something and well worth taking the time to study and appreciate. See how far you can go with it. Search for its echoes of dialectical monism. Discover its inherent, interconnected dualism. Finally, click on Read More for the solution, notes, and some background on the problem's genesis.null

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Thanksgiving Weekend 2020

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It's Thanksgiving weekend, our favorite holiday time of the year, and we recognize that we have much to give thanks for. While it's been an extraordinarily difficult year for all of us, and many have suffered loss, there is always hope for the future. Our society hasn't collapsed. Our nation is intact and will eventually heal. At The Checker Maven we believe that if we all do our part, work together, and take care of each other, we will come out stronger in the end.

So we give thanks and we are grateful for what we have. We mourn our losses but we carry on undeterred.

Thanksgiving is often a time for us to turn to American checkerist Tom Wiswell for one of his wonderful checker problems. We think Mr. Wiswell's life and work embodied the spirit of this holiday and of our times, for as we've noted before, he too did his part to help America through dark days.

Mr. Wiswell titled the problem below "Companion Piece" because it relates to another similarly-themed problem in his book Checker Magic. It's a bit of a complex setting, making it a good candidate for a holiday weekend.

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:WK2,20,21,23,24,29,31:B3,5,7,8,11,14,22

See how you do, then click on Read More for the solution, notes, and run-up to the position.null

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11/28/20 - 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 2004-2021 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.

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.


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