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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The Speed Problem Returns


We haven't had a regular speed problem in a little while, so today we're returning to that theme and subjecting you once again to our unforgiving Javascript clock. The good news, though, is that the problem is very easy.

Oh .. the bad news? You'll have five seconds to solve it!

Fear not. Most players will see it at a glance, but if it takes you a little longer, no matter. Working it out is what really counts.

When you're ready, click on the link below. After you've solved it come back and click on Read More to verify your solution.

August Speed Problem (very easy, 5 seconds)


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10/03/15 - Printer friendly version
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The Lindyville Checker Club, Part 3


Andrew and Samantha had a nice dinner at The Rancher's Club and went to a late movie afterwards. They ended up back at Andrew's apartment, where to his own great surprise, Andrew forgot all about his new checker magazine collection.


Until morning, at least.

Samantha made them a nice breakfast of huevos rancheros with extra refritos on the side. It was already about noon and the two of them decided to just stay in for the afternoon. Samantha settled down on the living room sofa with a Tony Hillerman novel, and Andrew finally had a chance to look through his newly-acquired issues of American Checker Player magazine.


"Well, isn't that interesting," Andrew said. He was in his recliner, leafing through the magazines. "A checker club in Lindyville, Iowa, of all places."

Samantha was deep into her novel, and all she said was, "Uhmm."

"I'll bet Lindyville was just a little farm or railroad town back in 1898, but they started up a checker club. Wonder how they kept it going?"

Samantha finally looked up. "What's so unusual? Weren't there a lot of checker clubs?" She tried as hard as she could to look interested but didn't quite manage it.

"Yes, but you'd think a place like Lindyville just couldn't have been big enough to support a checker club. Just amazing."

Samantha looked anything but amazed, but she was used to Andrew's peculiarities. It was all fine with her; he was a really nice guy and he treated her well, and even if he did cancel a date once in a while, he always made up for it.

The two of them continued to read. After about fifteen more minutes, Andrew said, "I'm going to call."

"Call? Are you thinking about pizza too?"

Andrew looked confused. "Oh ... you mean for dinner. No, I mean call Lindyville. Tomorrow. There's bound to be a historian or a librarian that can tell me more about this."

"Oh. Silly me. And here I was thinking about, you know, dinner," Samantha said, sounding ever so slightly annoyed.

"Pizza, you said? Sure. Why don't you call them? I want to make a few notes while we're waiting, and maybe look up a few things on the Internet."

Samantha sighed and picked up her cell phone.

# # #

Andrew had a couple of classes to teach on Monday morning, but as soon as they were over, he hurried back to his office and got on the Internet to do research about Lindyville.

There wasn't a lot to be found; there was a brief history of Calhoun County, Iowa, and the barest of demographic information about Lindyville. The town had been just about at its peak with something over 500 residents at the time the Checker Club was founded, but with the coming of the Great Depression 30 years later, there had been a steady decline. Today, the population stood at 150, and new folks weren't moving in.

So Andrew was surprised to find that indeed there was an active library in the town, with a full-time librarian. He picked up the phone and called the number shown on his computer screen.


"Lindyville Public Library, Miss Victor speaking."

The voice was hoarse. Andrew's mind conjured up a vision of an overweight, 50-ish smoker, or an ex-smoker for sure.

"Good morning, Miss Victor," Andrew said, trying to make his tone as pleasant as possible. "This is Professor Andrew Lopez, in the Mathematics Department of the University of New Mexico. I'm hoping you can help me this morning."

"Oh. Well, maybe you're a Professor and all, but I can only help you if you tell me what you want."

Rather brusque, Andrew thought. But he persisted. "I'm interested in the history of Lindyville, particularly, the Lindyville Checker Club."

There was a long pause. It was hardly what Andrew expected. Finally, after 30 seconds or so, Andrew said, "Uh ... Miss Victor, are you there?"

"There's no checker club in Lindyville." The reply was flat and toneless.

"Oh, but there was," Andrew said. "I read in an old edition of the American Checker Player magazine that there was a club that started up in 1898 ..."

"That's as may be," Miss Victor interrupted, "but there isn't one now. Sorry."

"Well, can you tell me something about the history ..."

Andrew again didn't get to finish his sentence. "Can't help you. Bye." There was a click on the line as Miss Victor disconnected.

"Strange," Andrew mused. "It's almost as if she just plain didn't want to talk about it. Now why would that be?"

# # #

Andrew wasn't one to give up easily. He had another class to teach, but as soon as that one was done he decided to skip lunch and do more research. But first, he thought, he had better call Samantha. She'd be on her lunch break at the office of the charity where she worked, and she'd be expecting him to call.

"Hey, you'll never guess what happened this morning," he began as soon as she answered.

"Let me guess," Samantha said, "You've found another new checker magazine and you can't wait to show it to me because you just know how much that sort of thing thrills a girl."

"Even better!" Andrew said, completely missing the sarcasm. "I called the Lindyville library and you'll never guess what I found out!"

Samantha sighed. "Okay, tell me. I'm sure it's great."

"That's just it! I didn't find out anything!"

"And that's news?"

"Yes, of course it is!"

"Andrew, maybe I should just get back to work ..."

"No ... no ... the librarian said she didn't know anything and said she couldn't help me!"

"Oh. Gee. How about that."

"Don't you see? That never happens! When was the last time you asked a librarian a question and they told you they couldn't --- wouldn't--- help find the answer?"

Samantha felt a little curiosity growing, despite everything. "Well, you're right, that is sort of odd, isn't it? Librarians usually go out of their way to be helpful."

"See! You do get it! I'm so glad! So I've got to go, I need to learn more about this. Love you. Bye!"

As Andrew hung up, Samantha sighed again. "Oh, Andrew!" she said aloud. "I love you too, but sometimes I wonder why."

# # #

It took a lot of looking around, but eventually Andrew came across the online archives of the Lake City Clarion. Lake City was Lindyville's nearest sizable community, and the Clarion was a weekly newspaper that had been published for almost as long as Lake City had existed. Perhaps if he looked back far enough, he could find out something about the Lindyville Checker Club. Surely the Clarion would cover Lindyville news.


After some little while, Andrew came upon a very brief article that mentioned the founding of the Checker Club by one William Cudworth. Well, at least there's a name, Andrew thought. Cudworth hadn't been mentioned in American Checker Player.

That gave Andrew more to go on. He searched backward in time by name, finding only a brief mention on a business page about William Cudworth taking over ownership of old Tom Forsch's hardware supply store. But searching forward in time, by both Cudworth's name and for any mention of the checker club, Andrew hit the jackpot. He whistled softly. "Well, I'll be," was all he said.


Last night murder came to Lindyville, as William Cudworth, founder of the Lindyville Checker Club, was stabbed to death in an upstairs office of Lindyville Grain and Feed. Sheriff Conway of Lindyville told our local reporter ...

The story went on to describe the condition of the body in lurid detail and speculated wildly on the cause and perpetrator of the murder.

There were a few followup stories, the last one being about a month later, mentioning that Johnny Uggerud, owner of Lindyville Grain and Feed, had closed down the Checker Club, saying it had brought him bad luck and had been bad for business.

Andrew kept searching, but there was nothing more to be found.

At around four in the afternoon, he picked up his phone and again called the Lindyville Public Library. Miss Victor answered right away.

"Miss Victor, this is Professor Andrew Lopez again ..."

"I told you I couldn't help you, and I'm getting ready to close, so if you don't mind ..."

"Miss Victor, what do you know about the murder in the Lindyville Grain and Feed Shop in 1900?" Andrew got the words out all in a rush, knowing that Miss Victor was on the verge of hanging up.

He heard what sounded almost like a gasp. "How did you ...." There was a pause. "Nothing. Never heard of it. I don't know anything about Cudworth's murder, and like I said, I'm closing, so goodbye." The line went silent.

"Really," Andrew said to himself. "You don't know anything about the murder, but you know who was murdered. Miss Victor, what's your game?"

I've got to discuss this with Samantha, he thought. She'll really be interested now.


The problem that goes with this episode is at the beginner level.

Problem Number 3
White to Play and Win


The problem isn't at all murderous; when you've solved it, stab the Read More button to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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09/26/15 - Printer friendly version
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21st Century Checkers: 11-16s


It is once again our proud privilege to present the next volume in Grandmaster Richard Pask's 21st Century Checkers series: Volume 6, the 11-16s. You can download the book here, or from our Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column.

21st Century Checkers is a landmark series, produced by Mr. Pask with the aid of modern computer engines. It is sure to be the definitive reference on 3-move ballots for years to come.

The series is nearing completion, and Mr. Pask expects to issue the final volume, on the 12-16s, at a date in 2016.

To get you started, here's position arising from the 11-16 21-17 16-20 ballot.

Black to Play and Draw


The solution is to be found on page 32 of the book.

We are grateful to Mr. Pask for making his work available to checker players of the world at absolutely no cost.20050904-symbol.gif

09/19/15 - Printer friendly version
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Hard Enough


While we enjoy and appreciate both applied and abstract math, it can certainly be challenging at times, and we'll wager the young man above finds the going more than hard enough.

Today's position in our ongoing Checker School series is definitely hard enough, or, as it is attributed to old-time checkerist E. M. Harden, we can say it is Harden-nuff.

White to Play, Black Draws


The position looks simple but in fact an unwary White or Black player can go wrong, and both sides must make a "star" move to save the draw; the terms could equally well have been "White to Play and Draw."

Don't "harden" your heart against this problem; it's instructive and intriguing. When you've worked harden-nuff on it, click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and complete explanatory notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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09/12/15 - Printer friendly version
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Labor Day 2015


Each year we mark Labor Day, the celebration of the men and women who make America what it is --- the workers of our nation. From factory worker to small business owner, from taxi driver to doctor, millions of Americans keep our nation going and help make it strong. We're not ones to make class distinctions; we believe that all honest work is worthy of respect and recognition.

The sketch above is of one of the very first Labor Day celebrations, in New York City way back in 1882.

Often on great American holidays we turn to Tom Wiswell, but today we instead offer a setting by another great American problemist of days gone by, Charles Hefter. Mr. Hefter's settings meet Mr. Wiswell's criteria of being natural, clever, and pleasing. Here's one that's simple in form and challenging in execution.

Black to Play and Win


The position is from a game played about 80 years ago; in the actual event, the game was drawn. Mr. Hefter later showed that Black has a win. Can you find it? Labor away and when your work is done, click on Read More to see the solution and notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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09/05/15 - Printer friendly version
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Capers on the Kelso, Part 9


In researching this series we found that there are quite a few restaurants and bars named Capers; many more than we had ever expected, and representing varying meanings of the name. In the photo above, the Detroit-area bar named Capers is known to feature "good stiff drinks" although we're frankly not sure that's quite the right reputation to have.

At the Checker Maven, we're not drinkers ourselves, but if we were, we might still say that this week's problem merits a "good stiff drink."

We'll be looking at yet another Kelso variation found in Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. To be specific, it's Variation 2, Note H, in the original book. Here's the run-up without commentary. See previous columns in this series for notes and discussion.

1. 10-15 22-18
2. 15x22 25x18
3. 11-15 18x11
4. 8x15 21-17
5. 4-8 17-13
6. 9-14 29-25
7. 6-10 24-20
8. 1-6 28-24
9. 8-11 32-28
10. 14-17 25-21
11. 10-14 23-19
12. 7-10 30-25
Bblack to Play and Draw


This position doesn't look so good for Black, to put it mildly, yet a draw is here. It will require no less than five "star" moves, and isn't at all easy to find; we'd call this an expert level problem for sure.

Whether you're an expert or not, the position is dramatic and worthy of study, and the solution is very pleasing. So do give it a try, and then click on Read More for the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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08/29/15 - Printer friendly version
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The Lindyville Checker Club, Part 2


For the beginning of the story, go back and read Part One.

The Lindyville Checker Club was only open on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, so he thought he would be safe.

It was 11 PM, Thursday evening, on a cold winter's night, the wind sweeping across the Iowa plains with little to stop it. Hardly any one would be out. But William made sure he was in an interior room, with just one weak candle casting a dim, yellowish light. Just to be sure, though, he had pulled all the curtains tightly shut in the outer room.

The Checker Club had space on the upper story of the grain and feed store, a few old wooden tables and worn chairs scattered about a large room lined with sacks and boxes of farm supplies. Old Johnny Uggerud, the owner, was a checker player and let the Club use the space for free during the winter season, when he didn't need so much inventory. During his busy season, the Club had to close because Johnny needed all the space, but no one wanted to play checkers in the summer anyways.

William was the one who had organized the Club, a couple of years back, in 1898. There were about a dozen members, give or take; Lindyville was just a little town of about 500 people, but William took pride in having been able to start a club and keep it going. It had even gotten a mention in the American Checker Player magazine.

William shivered. Johnny turned off the iron stove downstairs promptly at five, when he closed up his shop, and there was no stove upstairs, so it got very cold very quickly. But William didn't plan on being here long.

Everyone knew that William was putting together a book of checker problems. But what he had to do tonight had to be done quickly and alone, without anyone knowing, unless it came to the worst. He had a plan for that, and tonight's secret labors were part of it.

William had come to town maybe five years ago, straight from the East. He never said a whole lot about what he had done in back there, but it must have made him some money, because one day he just got off the train and took a room in the hotel.

He spent about a month scouting around the town, talking to just a few people, and not answering any questions, not even from Sheriff Conway. The Sheriff wondered about William but didn't have any reason to do much more than that. It wasn't often that someone of independent means came to Lindyville with nothing particular in mind.


But at some point William must have chosen to put down stakes, because when Tim Forsch decided to retire and sell out his general store, William bought him out; he gave Tim his asking price without the slightest amount of bargaining. Tim thought it was kind of odd but took the money without asking any questions, and moved away to Iowa City to stay with his daughter and her family.

After that William started to get a little more friendly with the townsfolk, who had now become his customers. It turned out he shared an interest in checkers with some of the others, and so the Lindyville Checker Club came to be.

It was something like two weeks ago that William got the letter. He'd never forget a word of it.

"I know who you are and I know why you're there. You've got something that's mine and I'm coming to take it, and I'm going to take care of you, too."

The letter was postmarked Denver and was unsigned. It didn't have to be. William knew who it was from.

He wrapped himself tightly in his overcoat and sat at the desk in the little room, his manuscript and an old map in front of him. He'd have to finish tonight. He was running on borrowed time and he knew it.

At about 3 AM, he was done. He put the map in a trash can and lit a match, touching the flame to the edges of the map. It caught fire at once, crumbling quickly into brown and gray ash. William used the end of an umbrella to separate the ashes and put out the last sparks.

It was then that he heard a noise in the outer room. It sounded like a creaking floorboard. He had an ominous premonition about what that meant. He tugged on the bottom drawer of his desk, the drawer where he kept his loaded Smith & Wesson.

But the door to the room burst open and before he could reach his gun, and something hit him in the back of the head. He fell to the floor, still conscious, but reeling, blackness and light mixing together, spinning giddily. He looked up and saw a figure standing over him.

"You," he said. "How did you find me?"

The figure replied. "Took a while. But you owe me, and I owe you."

A knife descended, penetrating William's chest. The first thrust was fatal, and the killer knew it. He didn't even bother removing the knife.

# # #

Johnny found the body the next afternoon. He didn't go upstairs all that often; when he needed something brought down he sent his young assistant, Chris, who, being one to do as little as he could get away with, made the trip up and down as fast as possible. In any case, the door to the little office was closed and Chris had no reason to go in there.

But around three in the afternoon Johnny needed to look up an old order for a customer who wanted a duplicate. When Johnny opened the office door, he was so shocked that he nearly doubled the body count, coming within a hair's width of having a heart attack.

When he finally recovered enough to talk, he called for Chris, who took his time responding. Johnny sent him out to get Sheriff Conway and Doc Wilson, but from the looks of things the only one that the Doc was going to be able to help was Johnny.

Chris, for once, took something seriously. The Sheriff was out of town but was expected back in a couple of hours. The Doc came right away; he made Johnny lie down in the back room on the first floor, pronounced William dead, told everyone not to touch anything until the Sheriff arrived, and then took off to the tavern for a much-needed drink.

# # #


It was around six in the evening. Sheriff Conway went straight to Johnny's shop when he heard the news. The Sheriff made Johnny come back to the shop, even though it was past five. Doc had to come back, too, and the undertaker was told to come in a couple of hours. Johnny complained about not wanting to be in his shop after hours, conveniently ignoring the fact that there was a dead body in the upstairs office. The only one that didn't seem to mind was Chris, who was naively expecting to get paid overtime.

"Tell me again, Johnny," the Sheriff said. He had already taken a look at the crime scene and hadn't found anything useful. Now, they were all sitting around downstairs waiting for the undertaker to arrive.

"I told you already, Sheriff," Johnny said. "I opened the door and there he was."

"William had a key to the shop?"

"Sure he did," Johnny said. "He'd open up for the Checker Club and lock up when they were done."

"But the club didn't meet last night,"

"No, like I said, that's Wednesdays and last night was Thursday."

"Yet, obviously William was here. Do you have any idea why?"

"How would I know? Maybe he was doing some paperwork for the club or fooling with the book of his, you know, the one he's writing with all them checker problems in it."

"Well, whoever stabbed William tore the place apart, obviously looking for something. There's such a mess I can't figure nothing out," the Sheriff said. "You don't suppose you could look around and figure out if anything's missing?"

Johnny was upset enough about having to clean up. He wasn't going to take inventory, too. "Doubt it, Sheriff," Johnny said. "There's years worth of stuff up there. I'd never figure it out and besides, I don't hardly know nothing about William's checker club stuff. Don't hardly know nothing about William, either. Nobody really does."

The Sheriff's suspicions about William hadn't gone away over the years, but he never had anything definite to go on. Neither did he have anything to go on to try to solve the murder. The weapon was an ordinary hunting knife. Dozens of people in town probably had one just like it. There were no witness and no one had seen anything.


Later on the town drunk told the Sheriff about seeing a man on a horse ride into town and then ride back out a couple of hours later, but old Willie wasn't the most reliable witness and his descriptions were too vague to be of any use.

The case went cold, and it was to stay that way for more than a hundred years. By the time Sheriff Conway retired and moved to Lake City, even he had forgotten most of the details.

Old Johnny did try to straighten out the upstairs office, but it was such a mess he just threw everything into some wooden boxes and piled them in a corner. Years later, Johnny's heirs would move them into a warehouse, where they would lay untouched by anything but mice for many years to come.


# # #

This month's problem is a classic position, and rather easy.

Problem Two
White to Play and Win


When you've solved it, gallop on over to Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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08/22/15 - Printer friendly version
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Now We Have a Nice Problem


In the chart above, Apple Computer has the "nice problem" of having to figure out what to do with all the money they've made.

"A nice problem to have" is a phrase often heard when someone faces a "dilemma" in which any choice is a good one. Here in Hawai`i, we sometimes have to decide between going to the beach or going to the mall. That's considered a nice problem to have, especially in January.

"A nice problem" in checkers of course means something else, and this week's position, attributed to W. J. Wood, is an example. Mr. Wood himself, after presenting the run-up, stated "Now we have a nice problem." Did he intend a pun or play on words? We rather doubt it.

Black to Play and win


We'll warn you that the solution is very long, but it is also very methodical, and you should be able to work out the general direction if not every detail. There is a trap or two along the way, however, so be careful, and when you've given it a nice try, click your mouse nicely on Read More to see the solution and notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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08/15/15 - Printer friendly version
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Drummond Up Some Business


The expression, "drum up some business" originates in the idea of beating a drum to attract attention to something--- presumably, whatever it is the drum-beater wishes to sell. The idiom has since come to mean applying persistent effort in order to obtain a desired end, in this case, more business.

The person in the picture above supposedly went to Europe to "drum up some business." We didn't ascertain just what kind of business, but the poor fellow seems to look much like the spy left out in the cold. We gather it wasn't the most successful trip.

Old-time checkerist J. Drummond "drummoned up" plenty of business over his checkerboard, and was rarely left out in the cold. Today's Checker School position is credited to him.

White to Play and Draw


Drum up the draw, then drum your mouse on Read More to see the solution, explanatory notes, and no less than six sample games.20050904-symbol.gif

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08/08/15 - Printer friendly version
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In Memoriam Jan Mortimer


In honor of the memory of New Zealand checkerist Jan Mortimer, who passed away last week, The Checker Maven will not publish a problem or story this week.

Though we only met Jan on the telephone and by email, we knew her to be a wonderful person who contributed much and who will be forever missed. Requiescat in pace et in amore.20050904-symbol.gif

08/01/15 - Printer friendly version
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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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