Popularity is fleeting. One day you're in ...
... the next day, you're out.
Our game of checkers, too, has gone through such cycles.
In 1908, a match was played for the championship of Essex County, Massachusetts. One can only imagine with wonder at the popularity of checkers 110 years ago, at a level such that even county championships were vigorously contested.
The match was played between C. O. Mayberry, who was champion of the city of Lynn (yes, there were municipal champions as well), and Frank L. McClellan, the Captain of the Lynn Checker Club (in additional to the local club, the Lynn newspaper published a checker column). In the position below, Mr. Mayberry played Black and Mr. McClellan, White. The setting was originally featured in Teetzel's Canadian Checker Player. Mr. Teetzel opines that Mr. Mayberry must have thought he was going to win, but it was not to be, as Mr. McClellan found a clever draw.
Checkers is, sadly, far less popular today, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to enjoy the game. Will the problem above prove "popular" with you? We think so, and after you solve it, we're sure you'll enjoy clicking on Read More to check your solution.[Read More]
Wow, we'd hate to be on the receiving end of whatever is going on in the photo above; that lady is really snapping at someone. We can only hope it all gets worked out peacefully.
We're continuing our Checker School series with another "snappy" problem posed to our friend Nemo by his mentor, Skittle, both of whom appear in Checker Board Strategy by Andrew J. Banks, a self-described "checker philosopher." The problem itself is attributed to G. M. Gibson.
Black has two kings and a man to White's one king and two men, and has one other obvious advantage. Do you see it? Do you see how White might defend, and how Black might still overcome that defense?
Don't snap at us; we're just trying to provide you with interesting material! And when you find the solution, you'll surely snap to attention! Clicking on Read More will let you check your work and review our extensive notes.[Read More]
If you browse with Google Chrome, you may have noticed that for a little while now our site bears the legend "Not secure" next to the URL. Is The Checker Maven indeed "not secure"?
Actually, it's fine. We don't collect any information from you so there's nothing that needs to be encrypted or hidden away. But Google is pushing web site managers to move from the http protocol to the encrypted https protocol.
The problem for us, aside from the time it would take to make the switch, is that we'd incur almost $100 per year in additional costs, and neither us nor you would really get anything in return.
So we're keeping things as-is for a while longer. Don't worry, your personal information isn't at risk, because we never collect it in the first place.
"Sort of" is a common two-word phrase in English. We're "sort of" tired or hungry. We "sort of" need to do homework, laundry, yard work, etc. And the best example of all: We're "sort of" interested in doing something or going somewhere.
We hope that all of us are more than "sort of" interested in checkers, though; and if we are, you'll find this "sort of" speed problem (pun intended), provided by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon, to be a good one.
Why is this a "sort of" speed problem? The initial sequence is easy to find, but the follow-up play is a bit more complex, though certainly below the expert range. So don't "sort of" solve it; do it all the way, after which clicking on Read More will more than "sort of" show you the solution and explanatory notes.[Read More]
1987: Korea and Iran were in the news (sound familiar?). Reagan was President. The stock market had a giant meltdown. And IBM's John Akers declared 1987 to be "The Year of the Customer" leaving us to wonder what other years might have been.
But did you know there was "The Year of the Checker"? Well, those exact words weren't used, and it was only the thought of one writer, but the following quote makes our point.
"... this season finds checkers fast becoming one of the leading popular pastimes, with checker clubs being formed in almost every large city in the country. Team matches are going on, checker columns are appearing in the local papers and the year XXXX will witness the greatest checker gathering of all time ..."
Taken from a checker book, we think this rather effectively declares that "The Year of the Checker" was in progress. We challenge you to name the book and the author, and replace "XXXX" with the year that the author referenced. What year was "The Year of the Checker"? (Hint: It certainly wasn't 1987.)
Although the fortune of our game has declined since, some things are timeless, such as the following problem, which appeared in the book cited above.
The problem isn't especially difficult, though it might be better suited to a more advanced beginner than to a novice. See if this is "the year of the checker" for you; find the solution and then click on Read More to see the winning moves and the answers to our questions.[Read More]
We've completed our first session of Checker School, which was a tour through Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. For our next session, we'll turn (at least at first) to an unusual book published by Andrew J. Banks in 1945, called Checker Board Strategy. Mr. Banks, who lived in Washington, D.C., evidently self-published his work.
The book is written in an entertaining style and features a number of fascinating fictional players. We'll get to meet them as the months roll by. Mr. Banks starts out with the rules of checkers (compiled by none other than William Ryan) and then continues with a brief games section that illustrates the basic openings. Next is a section he calls Snappy Problems (Gems) Today, we'll look at the first one and along the way make the acquaintance of Nemo and Skittle.
Nemo had been studying the foregoing games (in the Games Section--Ed.) when Skittle exclaimed, "You are learning checkers the hard way. You are like a tourist I saw in the State of Maine; he stoped a native and inquired 'How far is it to Portland?'"
"How far was it?" Nemo asked.
"The way the tourist was headed it was about 25,000 miles. The native told him that if he would turn around and go the other way it would be only about two."
"You be my guide; show me the quick way to learn the game," said Nemo.
"By solving problems you will be learning checkers the quick way."
Champion player Alex Moiseyev flatly states that beginners should not touch opening books until they have played a large number of games; many other checker greats stress the value of solving problems. So, the first "gem" or "snappy" problem proposed by Mr. Banks is this one, by G. M. Gibson.
Can you solve the problem proposed to Nemo by our new friend Skittle? Make it snappy! Solve it and then snap your mouse on Read More to check your solution.[Read More]
July 14 is the national holiday of France, generally known as Bastille Day. Popular wisdom is that the holiday commemorates the capture of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, during the revolution which brought down the French monarchy.
But we learn something every day. When we consulted the official French government website, we were told:
«Si le 14 juillet est généralement associé à la prise de la Bastille en 1789, c'est dans les faits le 14 juillet 1790, la fête de la Fédération, qui est officiellement commémoré en France.»
We'll bet you didn't know that, either.
Now, it seems that in honor of Bastille Day, we should present a problem by a French problemist, but in the 8x8 Anglo-American literature, we didn't find one that we could specifically attribute. However, Jean-Bernard Alemanni, in his excellent book "Les jeux de dames dans le monde" does present a couple of relevant demonstration positions. While these are surely not original compositions, the one we show below makes for an easy practice exercise.
Vite, vite! Trouvez la solution, and when you're done cliquez votre souris sur Read More to check your answer.[Read More]
Paraskevidekatriaphobia. It's what fear of Friday the 13th is called in scientific language (actually, it derives primarily from Greek), and many people won't even go out of doors on that date. There are many ideas as to its origin, but it's a fear not universally held. In fact, in Cantonese speaking areas such as Hong Kong, 13 is considered a lucky, not unlucky, number--- so presumably Friday the 13th would be a lucky day.
Friday the 13th is coming up in the week following initial publication of this column; how will you greet the day?
Unsurprisingly, we suggest greeting it with a thematically relevant checker problem such as the one below, composed by grandmaster problemist Ed Atkinson.
Will you be lucky or unlucky, or do you believe it's all a matter of skill? Try your luck, and then luck out by clicking on Read More to see the incredible solution.[Read More]
When this column appears we'll be just a few days short of the 4th of July, America's birthday, and a holiday that The Checker Maven celebrates every year; for as we always say, we are unabashed patriots, proud to honor our nation on Independence Day.
And--- as we do every year--- we turn to player, problemist and patriot Tom Wiswell, with another of his studies. He calls this one Harmony.
Mr. Wiswell suggests that the pieces should work together to sing a harmonious tune. We agree; can you play the correct melody, without any flat notes? Try to solve it, then let your mouse sing (a patriotic tune) on Read More to see the solution and notes.[Read More]
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Seven: Finale
It was already after 11 PM, and Reggie wondered if it was too late at night to call Katie. He had figured her to be the early to bed type and it didn't seem like it would be a very good idea to disturb her if she were already asleep.
But then again, she had left him multiple messages and texts. Wouldn't it be better to call tonight rather than wait until morning?
Reggie's decision was made for him. Just then, he heard his coach calling his name. The match must be over, and Reggie, as captain, had to deal with closing ceremonies and accept the winning team's trophy.
Weymouth had won a decisive victory over home club Lyme Regis, but both teams seemed in a good mood. There were sportsmanlike handshakes all around, a few brief comments by the winning and losing coaches, and then it was off to the bus for the ride home.
No way Reggie could make a phone call on the bus, at least not one that demanded privacy. He didn't want to think about the kind of long-lasting ribbing he'd get if the other players listened in.
The bus didn't get back to Weymouth until well after midnight. Reggie was able to get a ride back to his room with one of the other players. By the time he unlocked his door, it was one in the morning. No way he could call now.
But there was no way to sleep, either. Reggie, exhausted, didn't even bother to change his clothing. He just lay down on his bed with the lights out and his mind racing, playing over dozens of prospective conversations with Katie. Then, at about five o'clock, an idea came to him. Why hadn't he thought of it before? He quickly turned on his computer and went to work.
By about eight, he had found what he knew had to be there. Exhausted, he fell into an uneasy slumber in front of his open laptop.
Fortunately, he hadn't closed the window blinds, and bright sunlight coming directly through the window woke him at about ten. He had already missed his first class, and would have to hurry to get to his Chaucer class! Again, he was frustrated; Katie would already be at school with her phone set to silent.
Reggie didn't bother to change his clothes or even wash his face. He just grabbed his backpack, threw his books in it, and ran out to the bus stop. He might just make it if a bus came by soon enough.
Luck was with him. He only waited a few minutes before a bus arrived at his stop. Was this a good omen?
He fidgeted in his seat all the way to the college, attracting a disapproving stare from an older woman laden with shopping bags. But Reggie didn't care. There was only one person he wanted to please today.
Maybe it was lack of sleep. Maybe it was all the emotional ups and downs Reggie had been through. Or maybe it was something else, some undefined thing within Reggie that caused the next set of events to happen. Afterwards, Reggie would wonder about it himself, never quite finding the answer.
He was barely in time for class. Everyone was already seated as he came into the classroom, just as the minute hand on the clock touched the top of the hour. Katie, focused on the front of the room, didn't notice.
"No knight's costume today, Mr. Pastor?" said Dr. Rowan, staring at Reggie. "Frankly, I am surprised you returned to my class, even if only barely on time. And you do look a bit disheveled."
Dr. Rowan turned his gaze to the front row of seats. "Miss Walton, what do you think of Mr. Pastor's appearance today? Would you have preferred him in his knight's garb again, ready to defend you with his trusty sword?"
Katie, surprised, started to turn red. But it was Reggie's reaction that surprised her and everyone else in the room.
Reggie came to his feet, a look of determination in his eyes.
"That's enough, Dr. Rowan!"
Dr. Rowan, taken aback, stopped in mid-sentence.
"You have no right to treat students the way you do! You will apologize to Miss Walton at once for the way you humilated her during our last class!"
Dr. Rowan finally was able to speak. "You're telling me to apologize? You, a mere student, are judging a professor?"
"I may be a mere student, but either you apologize or you answer to me!" Reggie balled his fists and took a couple of steps forward.
"Mr. ... Mr. Pastor ... are you threatening me?" Dr. Rowan's voice was uneven, and he had started to tremble, even if only slightly.
Reggie stepped back and relaxed his hands. Then he smiled. "Threaten you, Dr. Rowan? Why, I would never do such a thing. I'm merely instructing you in what it would be in your best interests to do."
Reggie paused for a moment, looking around the room. The students all seemed to be awaiting his next words.
"You see, I did some checking this morning. I found that there have been a long series of complaints against you for abusive behaviour in the classroom. I don't think another such complaint would help your bid for tenure."
Dr. Rowan was now trembling even more noticeably.
"What do you think, Dr. Rowan? I'm sure we'd all like to know."
Katie had had just a blank expression on her face, but now it had turned into a bit of a smile. She turned to Dr. Rowan and said, "Yes, Professor, I'd like to hear what you have to say as well."
"Um ... well ... uh ... " Dr. Rowan began, "Yes, that is ... I mean ... Miss Walton, I apologize for ... uh ... you know, embarrassing you last time ... and ... um ... it won't happen again."
"It certainly won't," Reggie said, taking his seat and opening his book.
Class was over and Katie and Reggie decided to walk the half mile to Weymouth Beach so they could sit and talk privately, away from the campus hubbub.
"I'm sorry for what I put you through," Reggie said. "I only meant well but I just seemed to mess things up."
Katie uncrossed her legs and leaned toward Reggie. A cool breeze from the sea washed over them. "And I over-reacted," she said. "Can I blame it on genetics? A bit of a temper runs in my family. But I'm sorry too."
They sat in silence for a few moments. Then Katie said, "I can't believe how brave you were in front of Dr. Rowan! How did you ever have the courage to stand up to him? And to defend me, no less!"
"I don't know," Reggie said, and it was the truth. "Maybe ... I just couldn't let him make you cry again. He had no right."
"You know, there's probably some trouble ahead," Katie said. "At the least, he'll give you poor marks in the class. Maybe me too."
"I don't think so." Reggie hesitated. "Of course, it's hard to be certain, but you ought to see his record. He even faced a board of inquiry once. I don't think he's going to push this. And I think we're both going to get top marks. It will be his way of buying our silence."
"And I had thought so much of him. He seemed so intelligent."
"I'm sure he is. But that's no guarantee of being a good person."
"It's chilly." Katie moved closer to Reggie and took his arm. "So, you've tried Maid of the Mill and Laird and Lady, without much luck, but you've surely earned yourself another try. What will it be?"
Reggie, both surprised and delighted by the sensation of Katie sitting close enough so that their hips touched, thought for a moment.
Then, he took a sheet of paper from his backpack, wrote something on it, folded it and handed it to Katie.
Katie turned the paper over in her hands a couple of times, looked up at Reggie, and finally unfolded it.
"Why ... 11-15! That's not a complete opening ... oh!"
She looked into his eyes and smiled. "11-15. Old Faithful."
Reggie nodded, and oddly enough, he wasn't even all that surprised when she leaned closer and kissed him.
Although for once Reggie has something on his mind besides draughts, here's the run-up to an interesting situation.
11-15---A 23-18 9-14---B 18x11 8x15 22-17 4-8 26-23 7-11 23-19 5-9 30-26 9-13---C
A---Old Faithful, of course.
B---Into a variant of the Cross (not that Katie is cross any longer).
C---15-18 or 3-7 would be correct. This move loses.
This isn't a particularly hard problem. We wonder if Reggie could solve it while he's --- let's say, otherwise occupied? Possibly. It all depends what he's concentrating on most.
But how about you? Distraction free, do you have faith in being able to find the winning play, or will it cross you up? When you've given it a good try, cross your mouse over to Read More, which will always faithfully lead you to the solution.[Read More]