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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Holidays 2014


The holiday season is upon us, and whatever holiday you celebrate, The Checker Maven wishes you the best of the season. May you enjoy family and friends, peace and contentment, not only during this special time but in every day to come.

Checkers can be a part of our celebrations, too, and we've selected a problem suitable for the longer leisure hours of the holidays. (That's another way of saying it isn't all that easy.)

Here's the setting, as published almost 90 years ago.

Black to Play and Win


Well, you say, what's so hard? Black is up a piece and has a king! Oh ... wait ... White is about to get a king, and that Black man on 10 is looking a little shaky ... maybe the Black win not so easy after all.

It will take quite some visualization skill to solve it, but we're certain you'll find the result pleasing.

When you've given it your holiday best, click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Lot of Work


The two positions presented in today's Checker School column will present you with a lot of checker-related work, for not only are there two problems to be solved, there are four sample games and more than twenty explanatory notes to go through.

But good work bears its rewards, and if you take the time to study all of this material, then unless you're already a grandmaster, you'll definitely become a better player.

White Plays, Black Wins


Black to Play and Win


Work it all out, then click on Read More to see the solutions an a wealth of supplementary material.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/13/14 - Printer friendly version
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10th Anniversary!


This week The Checker Maven reaches the unbelievable milestone of 10 years of continuous on-time weekly publication, with no missed issues and no missed deadlines.

Originally, we had planned to stop here; our business plan called for 10 years of publication and beyond that, we didn't know. But we're going to try for another five years, and G-d willing we'll be able to do it. If we get that far, it will truly be the end of the line.

The last several years have been a struggle, with eyesight difficulties placing greater and greater limits on what we can do, but happily we've been able to keep going.

We're also thankful that we've kept our core readership. We only have about half the readers that we did at our peak, but we still have thousands every week and we still can claim to be the most widely read "straight checkers" publication anywhere.

We also lay claim to having written more checker fiction than anyone else, ever, and though it's not a crowded field, we still think we've done pretty well.

Although we don't get a lot of correspondence--- checker players aren't big on that--- we are happy to have heard from nearly every corner of the world (we're still waiting for Antarctica and the Space Station to check in, but they're about all that's left).

It all comes down to our readers, though; without you, there would be no point and we wouldn't have lasted a year. We hope you'll keep coming back every Saturday morning, and we hope you'll find something that you like. It's been quite a journey, and we owe it all to you. Thanks for staying with us for so much longer than we ever would have expected.

Below, please find our 10th Anniversary problem offering. It's a lead-in to our next serialized story, due to begin some time next year.

One Thousand
White to Play and Win


When you're ready, click on Read More to reveal the action-packed solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Capers on the Kelso, Part 2


The assorted meanings of the word "caper" intermingle in our columns with various "capers" on the 10-15 Kelso opening. The photo above is of a Morris Dancer executing a caper, or leap.

Back in the world of checkers, though, we continue our series drawn from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps and Shots of the Checkerboard. Recall that Willy was looking into variations ("capers") that occur some little way into the opening. For the sake of convenience, we'll repeat the full run-up (without the notes).

1. 10-15 22-18
2. 15-22 25-18
3. 11-15 18-11
4. 8-15 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 23-19
10. 15-18 26-23
11. 14-17 23-14
12. 17-21 32-28
13. 10-17 19-16
14. 12-19 24-8
15. 3-12 28-24
16. 7-11

Willie now goes on in Note P, "Mr. Banks saw his chance for a draw and went after it. However, he grossly underplayed his position. I was in trouble. After the game I pointed out to him that he could have worried me by playing 27-23, leaving black in the plight indicated on the diagram shown on the next page. After a few trial runs, I managed to demonstrate a narrow draw for black, which is replete with tactical brilliancies."

This brings us to our problem position (after 27-23).

Black to Play and Draw


The problems in the latter part of Willie's book certainly aren't easy, but they are good, and this is no exception. Cavort with it a little and then scoot your mouse to Read More to see the solution and notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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Elegant New Problems in the Offing


We're talking about checker problems, of course, as Bill Salot continues his series of checker problem composition contests, with the next round starting today, November 28, 2014. Be sure to visit this link to view the problems, try them out, and vote on the one you think is best.20050904-symbol.gif

11/28/14 - Printer friendly version
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Thanksgiving 2014


We say it year after year, and we'll say it again. We love the Thanksgiving holiday, with its American spirit, its interdenominational theme, and its emphasis on family, gratitude, and peaceful celebration. We hope your Thanksgiving will be filled with happiness and become the source of great memories for the years ahead.

We won't break our habit of turning to great American problemist Tom Wiswell for our Thanksgiving week problem, either. Mr. Wiswell, in addition to being a great checkerist and problem composer, epitomized the best of what makes America what it is.

Mr. Wiswell called this problem "All's well that ends well" and that seems most fitting.

White to Play and Draw


Solve Mr. Wiswell's intriguing problem, then treat yourself to our usual Thanksgiving recommendation: a little more of that delicious pumpkin pie.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/22/14 - Printer friendly version
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Solve This, Not That


In today's Checker School column, it looks like there are two problems, and that's sort of true; what happens is that the first problem evolves into the second. So you might be well advised to take on the second problem first, and then go back and see how the first problem can indeed become the second.

Confusing? Just take our word for it and solve the problems in reverse order.

Black to Play and Win


Black to Play and Win


What's fascinating about this is that at a quick glance, the first problem actually looks like it might be simpler!

Solve one or both, or neither(!) as your inclination and checker prowess allow, but definitely click on Read More to see the solutions, detailed notes, and a sample game.20050904-symbol.gif

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Push 'Em Back


"Push 'Em Back" is a rallying cry urging your team of choice to defend the goal line in the game of American football. The Checker Maven staff are certainly not football fans, but we thought of this expression when reviewing the problem presented below.

White to Play and Win


It's definitely on the easier side, and the title provides a rather large hint. You're invited to tackle this one; don't punt on it. Find the solution and then click on Read More to check your answer.20050904-symbol.gif

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Make Haste Slowly


"Make haste slowly" is a saying that comes from the original Greek σπεῦδε βραδέως (we hope your browser displays Greek characters properly) but is better known in the Latin translation, festina lente.

We've always found the concept of "making haste slowly" to be rather interesting. What does it mean, exactly? Does it admonish us to hedge our bets? To proceed directly but with caution? To hurry up and wait?

Adages are often like that; they can mean any number of things.

This month's speed problem may perhaps clarify "making haste slowly," at least from the point of view of the game of checkers. While you need to solve the problem within the time limit of 20 seconds, you will have to carefully visualize and work out the sequence of moves, and that will take the typical checkerist a little time (though certainly not all that much time).

Click below to display the problem and start the clock, then come back and click on Read More to verify your solution.

November Speed Problem (Not so hard; 20 seconds)


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11/01/14 - Printer friendly version
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The Computer Says


"Natural" moves. "Familiar" positions. Expert players understand these concepts and apply them to great effect. But powerful computer engines sometimes turn these ideas on their heads. While the human expert relies on a combination of analysis and the application of principles, computer engines can analyze very deeply and find unexpected things. This is sometimes called "concrete" analysis, and it's changed the world of chess as well as the world of checkers.

Today we'd like to present a small investigation into the Double Corner opening, looking at a move that's sometimes taken, even if it's not so good. Here's the play.

1. 9-14 22-17
2. 11-15 24-19

This move is seen from time to time in amateur games. It is decidedly inferior to the preferred 25-22, but is it a probable loss? Maybe. Let's see how the KingsRow computer engine projects subsequent play.

3. 15-24 28-19
4. 8-11 25-22
5. 11-15 27-24
6. 5-9 17-13
7. 4-8 29-25
8. 7-11 31-27
9. 1-5 23-18
10. 14-23 27-18
11. 9-14 18-9
12. 5-14 22-17

The critical point. Here the computer chooses the "unnatural" 21-17, pitching a man and accepting a loss in the interest of prolonging play, as the computer will often do. But what if White tries to hold things together with 22-17 as listed above?

13. 11-16 26-23
14. 16-20 32-27

White continues to try to save a man but is now hopelessly lost.

Black to Play and Win


The rest is really pretty easy, and we're sure you'll figure it out. Have your say, then see what the computer says by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.

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