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 Bristol Broadside

Photo Courtesy Stephen Dowle

The word "broadside" carries various meanings, and perhaps the one that comes to mind at first is the "broadside" fired by the cannons on warships of a bygone day. Cannons were arranged on the sides of the ship, and having all of them fire a more or less simultaneous volley made for a powerful attack.

But there's another meaning. British photographer Stephen Dowle notes that advertising on the side and front of a bus, as illustrated above, is often called a "broadside"; hence, the photo is titled "Bristol Broadside."

Our presentation of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard continues with an exposition on the 11-16 Bristol opening, presented in four parts due to its length. To say that this first part is explosive and spectacular is almost an understatement. Certainly Willie was thinking of cannons and not buses.

Here's Willie's run-up and notes. Additional variations will appear in future columns.

11-16 26-23---H 9-13 16-11 14-17
24-20 19-26 22-18 6-10 32-27
16-19 30-7 14-23 11-7 17-22
23-16 2-18 27-18 22-25 27-23
12-19 28-24 13-17 7-2 25-30;
22-18 9-14 21-14 1-5 drawn.
10-14---A 24-19 8-11 2-6 Campbell
18-15---B 5-9 16-7 10-14 vs. Reid
7-10---E,1 25-22 3-17 18-9
20-16---F,2 18-25 19-16 5-14
14-18---G,3 29-22 17-22 6-10

A---"The text was a long-standing favorite with that renowned celebrity of the draughts world, James Wyllie. It was also popular with many other stars of the Andersonian firmament. Although it has gained only negligible favor with the modern exponents of the go-as-you-please school, one is certain to regard the line with increasing respect as its ramifications are mastered.

B---In a title game between two world's champions, Richard Jordan and James Ferrie, the former attempted 27-23 here. The game proceeded 8-12, 23-16, 12-19, 18-15, 4-8, 25-22, 9-13, 32-27, 5-9, 29-25---C, 7-11, 27-24,11-18, 24-15---D, 2-7, 20-16, 7-11, 16-7, 3-19, 22-15, 14-18, 26-23, 18-27, 31-24, 9-14, 24-20, 14-18, 20-16, 8-12, 16-11, 19-23, 11-7, 23-27, 7-3 (30-26, 27-31, 26-22 should develop a draw), 27-31, 28-24, 31-27, 24-20, 18-23, 15-11, 6-10, 3-7, 12-16, 7-14, 23-26, 30-23, 27-9, 11-7, 16-19, 7-3, 9-14, 3-7, 14-18, and Ferrie won. Considering the usually high caliber of Mr. Jordan's play, this one stands out on the record as one of his worst examples. Time and again he displayed a remarkably dull grasp of the involved positional structures.

C---15-11, 8-15, 27-23, 1-5, 23-16, 14-17, 21-14, 9-25, 29-22, 7-11, 16-7, 2-11, 30-25, 6-10, 25-21, 5-9, 22-17, etc. would be a much easier way for white to play for the draw. Wm. F. Ryan.

D---This seems to be about the spot where the Great Jordan fell into error. A draw after 24-15 is difficult to reach. The alternative jump gains the draw easily with: 22-15, 3-7*, 20-16, 7-11, 16-7, 2-18, 24-15, 6-10*, 15-6, 1-10, 28-24*, 8-11 (10-15, 31-27, 8-11, 26-23), 24-19*, 18-22, 25-18, 14-23, 19-16, etc. Wm. F. Ryan.

E---The line of play initiated at A is usually associated with this follow-up, although black can safely adopt other moves, as depicted in Variation 1. The student should bear in mind that the strategical advantage in adopting a dormant line of play, such as the one begun at A, is twofold: first, it may throw the adversary off lines of play he is most likely to know; second, it gains the initiative and efficiency that go with employing a well-prepared plan of attack. It has been proved time and again that a player who takes a weak line of play and knows it thoroughly will win more games than the one who adopts a standard procedure of play without knowing how to carry it through.

F---To the player handling the white pieces, this is an important waiting move, as it simplifies the formational structure by thwarting any attempt by black to secure tenable complications. See Variation 2 for 25-22 here.

G---Just about all that black has left. For play on 9-13, see Variation 3. Alfred Jordan tried 2-7 here in a title match duel with Melvin Pomeroy and finished on the rocks by 16-12, 14-18, 21-17*, 9-14, 17-13, 5-9, 27-24, 7-11, 26-22, 19-23, 31-27, 10-19, 24-15, 14-17, 27-24, 17-26, 15-10, 6-15, 13-6, 1-10, 32-27, 23-32, 30-7, 3-10, 12-3, 11-16, 24-20, 16-19, 3-7, 10-14, 25-22, 14-18, 7-11, 18-25, 29-22, 19-23, 11-27, 32-23, 28-24, 23-26, 22-18, 26-23, 18-14, 23-18, 14-10, 4-8, 10-7, 18-15, 7-3, 8-12, 3-8, 15-18, 24-19; white wins.

H---White must accept the clearance or drift into a ragged formation. If 27-24 is played, then black wins with:" (See solution---Ed.)

1,2,3---To be presented in subsequent Tricks Traps & Shots installments---Ed.

Black to Play and Win


The computer rates this one as a strong Black advantage and a probable win, but it's not so easy. Fire away at it; give it your best volley, and when you've done your best, click on Read More to see both Willie's solution and the computer's notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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Famous Shots VI


We continue our Checker School series on famous shots in the game of checkers. These are positions that all experts should know and all aspiring players should learn. Here's the run-up for this month's installment.

11-15 24-19 15-24 28-19 9-14 22-18 5-9 26-22 7-11 27-24 3-7 22-17 11-15 18-11 8-15 25-22 9-13 23-18---A 14-23 17-14 10-26 19-3

A---This seemingly natural move loses. 22-18 is correct.

Black to Play and Win


Find the solution (for once, it's not too difficult), name the shot, and if you wish, name the shot in the photo at the top. Clicking on Read More will take you to the solutions, even though the drinks are on you.20050904-symbol.gif

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Is It Spring Yet?


Technically, it's already spring in the Northern Hemisphere, as the vernal equinox always arrives in March. Whether or not it's warmed up in your location is something else, and since these columns are written some weeks in advance, we really can't say. Hopefully, the long winter is coming to an end for most North Americans. (If you're in the Southern Hemisphere, we realize you're moving into winter, and we can only hope on your behalf that it will be a mild one.)

To herald the arrival of spring, we have an easy speed problem that will entertain without baffling.

April Speed Problem (Easy; 10 seconds)

When you've warmed to the answer, warm up your mouse by clicking on Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Little Mischief


We owe today's problem to a certain L. L. Granger, who published it as Prize Problem No. 4 in The Canadian Checker Player nearly a century ago. He called the problem "A Little Mischief" but it turned out to be rather a lot of mischief.

White to Play, What Result?


Black has a mobile, centralized position. Is it enough to win, or can White draw? That's the real question here. These "What result?" problems are a breed of mischief all their own.

How much mischief are you up to? The problem isn't easy; prize problems seldom are. Give it a try, and then click on Read More to see the original solution and modern computer analysis.20050904-symbol.gif

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Uncle Ben's Porch: The Checker Maven


It goes without saying that Uncle Ben and his protegé, Tommy Wagner, were avid readers of the weekly internet checker column, The Checker Maven. So when Uncle Ben saw the recent Checker Maven column called Hobson's Choice, he realized that it related to a game that Tommy played recently in a match in his middle school checker league. Tommy missed a win in that contest and had been kicking himself about it ever since.

Tommy was on Uncle Ben's front porch for his weekly checker lesson from the retired master. Uncle Ben was proud of Tommy's achievements and knew that Tommy had the potential to go on to great things, perhaps even making it one day to a team in the National Checker League.

"Tommy," Uncle Ben said, "I think it's time for you to get past that missed win against Tallahassee a couple of weeks ago."

"I know, Uncle Ben," Tommy said, "but I feel like I let my teammates down. I should have won..."

"The best way to make it up is to study that weakness in your game and eliminate it. The best players make strengths out of weaknesses, and that goes for many things in life. If you have a weak point, work so hard at it that it becomes a strong point instead."

"How can I do that, Uncle Ben?" Tommy asked. "It just seemed to have gotten away from me..."

Uncle Ben smiled. "I've put together a series of positions," he said. "If you work through them, I guarantee that you'll never miss a win on this theme again. It might take a little while, so if you're willing, I'll let your mother know that you'll be home later than usual. I can make us some lunch and we can study until, say, mid-afternoon. What do you say?"

The one thing that Tommy liked as much as Uncle Ben's checker instruction was his lunches. And, of course, his homemade lemonade. "Sure thing, Uncle Ben, if you're willing to spend the time, I'm ready!"


Uncle Ben knew Tommy well. "Good, then, take a look at this position while I get us some lemonade." He winked at Tommy and went inside to the kitchen.

Here's the situation that faced Tommy, and it looked a lot like that Wednesday afternoon in Tallahassee. Tommy gave an involuntary shudder, but then he shook it off and got to work.

Black to Play and Win


Can you earn your lemonade by solving this problem? We think you can, and when you're done, you can click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and no less than seventeen examples based on this theme. (You'll have to supply your own lemonade.)20050904-symbol.gif

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Mitchell's Miracle


This month we present Mitchell's Miracle, the second part of The Champion's Choice, which we began in last month's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard installment. Please see there for the run-up to Variation 2, which begins from the diagram just below. Willie Ryan is here to tell us more. It can be a little confusing, so if you get lost, just go down to the bottom of this article to see the problem diagram.

White to Play

Variation 2

23-19---A 23-14 30-23 20-16 11-7
14-17 9-25 9-14 17-22 31-26
21-14 29-22 23-19 15-11 7-2;
10-26 12-16 15-24 22-26 drawn.
19-10* 24-20 28-19 16-12 Wm. F.
7-14 16-19 1-5---C 26-31 Ryan.
31-22* 32-27 19-15 18-15
11-15 5-9 14-17 9-14
27-23* 27-23 22-18 12-8
14-18 19-26 5-9 3-12

A---The best that white can hope for after this move is a problematical draw---1. If white attempts 31-26 here, then 14-18, 23-14, 9-25, 29-22, 11-16, 24-20, 16-19 will leave black with a winning game. Another plausible try at A is 22-17. Black's strongest reply to this move is 14-18, 23-14, 9-18, which leaves white confronted with the critical situation shown on the diagram. I published play on this position a few years ago, claiming a black win against any defense adopted by white, but a problematical draw was found as follows. (See solution---Ed.)

C---Black can prolong the game by forcing white into a bridge ending like this: 14-17, 22-18, 17-22, 18-14, 22-26, 14-9, 6-10, 9-6, 10-14, 6-2, 14-17, 13-9, 17-21 (to stop the pitch by 9-6 next), 19-15, 26-31, 15-10, 31-26, 2-7, 26-22, 9-6, 22-18, and white having the move, can draw the ending."

1---The computer finds this move to be about as good as 23-18---Ed.

White to Play and Draw


This one is not easy, though we won't go so far to say that it would be a miracle if you solve it. No doubt some of you will work it out; you're a rather astute group, after all. Do try it and then click on Read More to enjoy the truly miraculous solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Famous Shots V


Our monthly Checker School column continues today with its series of famous shots in the game of checkers. These are situations that all experts should know and all students should learn, as they do come up over the board, more often than you might think.

Let's look at this month's entry.

11-15 23-19 8-11 22-17 9-13 17-14 10x17 21x14 15-18 19-15 4-8 24-19 13-17----A 28-24 11-16---B 26-23 16-20 31-26---C

A---6-10 is much better here.

B---Turns a relatively small disadvantage into a probable loss. 6-9 would have minimized the damage.

C---A real lesson in the need to keep your head while you're ahead. Instead of playing 15-10 to go on to a probable win, White will now lose!

Black to Play and Win


Can you solve it? Can you put a name to the shot? For extra credit, can you name the "shot" shown in the picture at the top?

Try to answer all the questions, and then click on Read More to get all the answers.20050904-symbol.gif

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Getting Jumpy


Getting jumpy waiting for spring to come? Ready for winter to be over even there might be more cold weather and another snowstorm in the offing??

Be patient; it won't be much longer until winter is left behind.

Our speed problem, though, won't require that much patience. It's fairly easy and can surely be solved in thirty seconds. When you're ready, click below to start the clock and show the position. When you're done, jump your mouse to Read More to check your solution.

March Speed Problem (not too hard; 30 seconds)


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An Exhibition Match

National Checker League Headquarters
Photo Courtesy Mike Tewkesbury

Marvin J. Mavin was in Bellman, Ohio, the home of the National Checker League, for a special gala event to benefit the NCL Youth Fund. Various other top professionals would be playing simultaneous exhibitions, giving lessons and demonstrations, and analyzing games submitted by attendees. But the featured event, the real headliner, would be a single game match-up between Marvin and the President of the NCL, Elan Hallmion.

Marvin J. Mavin

President Hallmion was a former top-ranked professional player; some thought he was every bit as good as Marvin. But there was more to the story.

Elan Hallmion

The truth is, despite Marvin's popularity, President Hallmion was no great fan of Marvin. He didn't like Marvin's antics, especially his beer drinking; he thought it set a rather bad example for young players and fans who idolized Marvin. The scheduled contest between Marvin and Elan was being touted by the press as a "grudge match," although President Hallmion, always the gentleman, said that it was just a charity benefit in which he was most happy to participate. Any grudges, he added, were Marvin's alone.

Marvin, for his part, wasn't quite as gentlemanly. When asked about the match by the press, he said, "Oh, yeah, that dude Hallmion don't like me so much. But hey, whatever, he ain't got my reputation. I'll like, you know, take him on, sure, why not?"

The time for the match soon rolled around. Marvin had arrived in Bellman the previous evening and had spent the day (at least half of it, as he apparently slept until noon) signing autographs and meeting with the hundreds of NCL fans who had come to town for the exhibition.

President Hallmion made sure Marvin was taken to dinner by a couple of NCL officials, who whisked Marvin off to a restaurant that didn't serve beer. The NCL leader wasn't going to risk a possibly embarrassing situation later on when Marvin appeared for his match.


Indeed, at game time, Marvin was on the wagon. He had complained a little at dinner but when it became obvious that it wouldn't do any good, he stopped. He did try to slip away from his escort at one point, but the NCL officials were quite alert and Marvin didn't succeed.

The crowd cheered equally for both Marvin and President Hallmion. While Marvin was a darling of the fans, President Hallmion was highly respected for his integrity and his very competent management of the affairs of the NCL.

After shaking hands--- was Marvin a little reluctant?--- the contestants sat down to play. Marvin had drawn the Black pieces and President Hallion the White. The game started out as follows.

1. 10-15 22-17
2. 15-19

Marvin had what some thought to be the harder end of this 3-move ballot, but he seemed quite unperturbed, although he was doing his normal fidgeting.

2 ... 24-15
3. 11-18 23-14
4. 9-18

After the double exchange, White has a small advantage; and President Hallmion knew it. In fact, he appeared to be smiling ever so slightly.

4. ... 17-13

26-23 might have been stronger. Marvin glanced up at his opponent, evidently surprised by this move.

5. 5-9 21-17
6. 8-11 28-24
7. 4-8

11-15 or 9-14 would have been better. Had Marvin's concentration lapsed? In professional checkers, that often proves fatal.

7. ... 17-14

White seizes the advantage....

8. 1-5 24-20

... only to give it back again. 24-19 would have held the lead. Marvin actually looked relieved at this turn of events. "Well there, Shorty," Marvin said, most disrespectfully, "ya thought ya had something, didn't ya! But now ya ain't got nothing."

9. 11-15 26-23
10. 8-11 25-21
11. 12-16 32-28
12. 3-8 27-24
13. 18-27 31-26
14. 9-18 24-19
15. 16-23 26-3

Seeing this clever shot, the crowd oohed and aahed and then broke out into applause for President Hallmion. Meanwhile Marvin was frowning and scratching his head perplexedly.

16. 8-12 3-8
17. 11-15 8-11
18. 27-31 30-25

President Hallmion sat back in his chair, and being the gentleman that he was, merely smiled. Marvin was in a tough spot and was going to have to think hard if he was to save the draw. "What's with this?" Marvin said. "You can't win, Shorty, you just can't!" The crowd, hearing this, let out a collective grumble. They all loved Marvin, but they also expected President Hallmion to be treated with proper respect.

Can you find the draw in this critical position? Can Marvin? Try to solve it, and then click on Read More for the solution and the rest of the story.

Black to Play and Draw



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The Champions' Choice


The photo above apparently advertises for something called "The Champion's Choice Trace Mineral Salt Block." It's intended for livestock, not checker players, unless there are some checker-playing cows out there. Certainly, though, there are many checker-playing raisers of livestock, so the photo might just be relevant after all. Besides, "The Champion's Choice" is Willie Ryan's title for today's checker study.

As we've mentioned before, the last installments of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard are pretty long and complex. We've broken today's study into two parts. We'll present the second part in our next regular installment.

The study looks at the Cross Choice opening and it's fascinating to say the least. Let's let Willie tell us more.

"The Cross Choice opening, formed by 11-15, 23-18, 9-14, has long been a favorite battleground of the champions, and some of the most spectacular wins on the record have been scored on it. The following analytical study of this colorful debut bristles with brilliant play and unusual combinations:

11-15 17-13 7-10
23-18 2-6---C 21-17*---F3
9-14 23-18*---D,2 16-19
18-11 14-23 29-25---G
8-15 27-18 19-24---H
22-17 10-14---E 28-19
4-8 31-27*---F 15-24
25-22 14-23 25-21*
8-11---A,1 27-18 3-8---I,
26-23---B 12-16---F1 to the
6-9 24-20---F2 diagram
White to Play and Draw


A---7-11 is also good, as shown in Variation 1.

B---As played by Champions Rubin and Hunt. In view of the improved attack innovated at C, this 26-23 move will henceforth occupy a lower rating among the master minds. Probably the best move here for a draw is---B1: 17-13, 11-16, 22-17, 16-20 (16-19, 29-25, 7-11, 24-20, 2-7, 27-24, may be used as a plausible alternative), 26-23, 7-11, 29-25, 3-7, 24-19 (23-19, 5-9, 25-22, 14-18, 17-14, 18-25, 14-5, 25-29, 21-17, 11-16, 17-14, 16-23, 27-11, 20-27, 32-23, 7-16, 14-7, 2-11, 31-26, 11-15, 23-19, etc. produces the draw), 15-24, 28-19, 11-15, 32-28, 15-24, 28-19, 7-11, 31-26*, 11-15, 19-16, 12-19, 23-16, 15-19, 26-23, 19-26, 30-23, 10-15, 17-10, 15-19,10-7, 19-26, 27-23, 2-11, 16-7, 26-31, 23-19, 31-26, 19-16, 26-23, 25-22. Sam Levy, Manchester, England, 1937.

B1---The computer thinks 7-11 and 8-11 are about equally good and finds 17-13 to be a lesser choice---Ed.

C---Inaugurates a baffling attack, suggested to me by John T. Bradford. It improves upon the combination of: 14-17, 13-6, 17-26, 31-22, 2-9, 23-19 (used by Edwin F. Hunt, Nathan Rubin, and Asa Long in games played by them), which leaves black with a draw at best and no chance of winning. This 2-6 puts muscle in the black build-up and promptly takes the snapper out of white's formation. If black tries 1-6 at C, then we have a familiar Denny development, strong for white, which runs its course like this to a draw: 1-6, 23-19, 14-17, 21-14, 9-25, 29-22, 5-9, 27-23, 9-14, 24-20, 15-24, 28-19, 14-17, 31-26, 11-15, 32-28, 15-24, 28-19, 7-11, 22-18, 3-7,19-16,12-19,23-16, 6-9,13-6,2-9,16-12,17-21,12-8,10-15, 26-22, 7-10, 20-16, 11-20, 18-11, 10-15, 8-3, 15-19, 3-7, 19-23, 7-10, 23-27, 10-15, 20-24, 15-18, 9-13*, 11-7, 27-31, 7-2, 24-28, 2-7, 28-32, 7-10, 31-27. Wm. F. Ryan vs. Jesse B. Hanson, 1927.

D---The key to the situation, cramping mobility of the black pieces on squares 1, 5, 6, and 9. A good draw by any other move is hard to find, and even the text must be followed through by the subtle touches at J. For play on 23-19 at this point, see Variation 2---an exposition in hairline draughts! Ed.'s note: Variation 2 will be published next month.

E---This press is obviously the only move to gain a draw. If 12-16 is played, 24-20 wins.

F---31-26, 14-23, 26-10, 7-14, 29-25, 12-16, 32-27 or 30-26, then 11-15 leaves white irreparably impaired.

F1---The end of the KingsRow opening book, with an equal evaluation---Ed.

F2---It takes some deep computer analysis to reveal that 32-27 is the best move here, though any Black edge is tiny indeed---Ed.

F3---Willie stars this move, but 32-27 also is good---Ed.

G---The shot by 17-14, 10-26, 30-7, 15-22, 7-2, 22-26, leaves black with much the better ending, though a win would be hard to prove. The strength of the black ending rests in ultimately relieving the four man tie-up of his pieces on 1, 5, 6, and 9. This is accomplished by crowning the piece on 22, returning the king to square 18, and then conditionally "slipping" 9-14, 2-9, 14-17, thus removing the white king on square 2 from play. On such "ideas" and tactical threats is the game of checkers based. The more knowledge a student acquires of these principles of play, and the more adept he is in knowing when and how to threaten with the proper plan for a particular setup, the greater is his skill. The proficient planner makes the player.

H---Or 19-23, 28-24 (better than 20-16, 11-20, 18-11, 9-14, 25-21, 5-9, black strong), 3-8, 20-16, 11-27, 18-4, 27-31, 4-8, 31-27, 8-11, 27-24, 11-8 will also reach a draw. Wm. F. Ryan.

I---24-28, 30-26, 3-8, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14, 8-12, 22-17, 11-15, 18-11, 9-18,11-7,18-22, 26-23, 22-26, 23-18, 26-30,18-14, 30-25, 7-2, 25-22, 2-9, 22-18, 32-27, 28-32, 27-23, 18-27, 9-6 produces the draw. Wm. F. Ryan.

J---The timely rescue for white.

Variation 1

7-11 22-17 10-17 25-22 11-16
29-25 3-7 21-14 12-16 2-7
12-16 31-27---A 18-23 22-18 31-26;
24-20 1-5---B 20-16 16-19 drawn.
16-19 27-23 11-27 1-6 Wm. F.
27-24 14-18 28-24 2-9 Ryan.
5-9 23-14---C 19-28 13-6
17-13 9-18 26-1 7-11
8-12 17-14 27-31 6-2

A---White dares not go 32-27, since he will be stung by 19-23. However, white can travel safely to a draw with: 26-23, 19-26, 30-23, 1-5 (nothing better), 23-19*, 11-16, 20-11, 7-23, 24-19, 15-24,28-19,14-18,17-14,10-17, 21-14,2-7,19-15,12-16,15-11, 6-10, 11-2, 10-17, 13-6, 17-21, 2-7, 21-30, 7-11, 16-20, 31-26. Wm. F. Ryan.

B---If the play goes 11-16, 20-11, 7-16, 27-23, the breakup by 15-18 will promote a draw; but if the move is 2-7, white will reply with 32-27*, and black's position is perilous.

C---Or 23-16, 12-19, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14, 18-23, 14-10, 7-14, 20-16, 11-27, 28-24, 19-28, 26-1, 27-31, 13-6, 2-9, 1-6, 9-13, 25-22, 14-17, 22-18, 17-22, 18-14, 13-17, 6-9, 17-21, 9-13, also ending in a draw. John T. Bradford."

Ed.'s Note: Variation 2 will appear in the next installment.

Here's the diagram once again.

White to Play and Draw


Can you make the champion's choices here and solve the problem? Will you be a champ or a chump? We think if you give it a good try, you're a champ no matter. When you've chosen your moves, click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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3-Move Deck

Bob Murr Teaches Checkers

Let's Play Checkers


Play Better Checkers & Draughts