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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Capers on the Kelso, Part 10


In the offices of The Checker Maven, we're learning new things all the time, and in seeking a theme photo for our extended "Kelso" series, we came across "Dr. Bob Kelso," who is pictured above. Apparently, Dr. Kelso is a character in a television series about which, we must admit, we know nothing (we definitely prefer checkers over television).

Fortunately, there's always more to learn about checkers, too, and today we'll be looking at a slight variation on the Kelso from that shown last time; just a single move changes, but in checkers that can make all the difference. This is a continuation of Variation 2 on Capers in the Kelso as found in Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. Here's the run-up without annotation; see the previous columns in this series for complete 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 27-23
Black to Play and Draw


Can you doctor the play enough to find the moves needed to draw? The cure is rather complex. But fear not, healing is at hand by clicking on Read More for the full solution treatment.20050904-symbol.gif

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Marvin's Return

Marvin J. Mavin

Marvin J. Mavin had been on the injured list for almost two weeks, sitting out something like ten matches.

It had all started in Boston. Marvin's team, the National Checker League champion Detroit Doublejumpers, was visiting Beantown to play a three-match series against the Boston Bristols. Marvin complained that he had a sore elbow, and the Doublejumper's trainer, Gus "Gassy" Gustafson, recommended that Coach Harry Butterfield sideline Marvin until his elbow healed.

"The boy been practicin' too much," Gassy commented. "Done hurt his elbow liftin' them checkers an' he needs ta' lay off 'em fer a spell."


But there was another version of the story making the rounds. Marvin had been seen in Boston's famous Durbin Park Pub, showing his prowess by drinking straight out of one of the pub's massively heavy stone beer crocks. A photo in the local paper, the Boston Probe, showed Marvin at one of the pub's tables, holding his elbow and wincing with pain.


But tonight, though, the Doublejumpers were in Portland at the Portland Playpen Arena, and Marvin had been given the all-clear. He'd be back at the Doublejumpers first board position, where he'd face ace player D. Rock Noodle of the Portland Pitchers.

D. Rock, a brash but highly talented youngster, stepped up to the board and shook hands with Marvin.

"Hey, take it easy, that's my bad arm," Marvin complained.


D. Rock grinned. "Heard all about that one, Marv," he said. "Too much practice or too many brewskies? What's the real story, old timer?" Noodle held his grin, taunting Marvin.

Marvin, turning red, was on the verge of replying when Referee Jack "Acky" Ackerman blew his whistle, signaling the start of the match.

The players made several moves each and the game started to get complicated. It was now Marvin's turn and he was taking quite a bit of time to work out his move. Finally, he decided on a line of play and made his move.

D. Rock Noodle

D. Rock looked at the board, looked at Marvin, and looked again at the board, plainly puzzled.

"Oops," Marvin said. He realized at once that he'd blundered. Noodle was grinning again, and Marvin knew he'd have to think fast.

"Ow!" Marvin yelped. "My elbow!" With a swift  theatrical move, Marvin dropped to the floor and rolled, holding his left elbow with his right hand. "My elbow! It's gone out again!" He continued rolling around the floor, groaning and grimacing all the while. A murmur rose from the huge crowd.

Trainer Gustafson and Coach Butterfield rushed out onto the playing floor. Gustafson dropped to one knee, bending over Marvin. He softly whispered, "Marvin .. you be holdin' the wrong elbow."

Marvin quickly switched his grip, covering his motion with another loud yelp, hoping no one would notice.

Referee Ackerman made his way over.

Coach Butterfield took a look at the board and realized at once what was going on. "Marvin must be allowed to take back his last move," the Coach said to Ackerman. "Obviously his elbow spasmed and he dropped his checker on the wrong square."

Referee Ackerman was well known for being impartial and fair. He was also no one's fool. "The move stands, Coach," the referee said in a very quiet voice. "Rule 5-c-1. If I were you, I wouldn't push things."

Coach Butterfield quickly decided it would be best to drop the issue.

"What's your decision, Coach?" Ackerman asked. "You can put in a substitute if you want. Or if your player isn't injured too severely, he can stay in."

The Coach glanced again at the board and realized the position was so bad that a substitute player could never save the game.

"Despite his injuries, Marvin will play on," the Coach declared. The crowd, some of whom had figured things out and some of whom hadn't, reacted with a mix of cheers and boos.


Meanwhile, Trainer Gustafson had rigged up a sling for Marvin's arm. Marvin, playing it for all it was worth, rose painfully from the floor with the help of both Gustafson and Butterfield. Marvin slumped into his chair and stared at the board, awaiting D. Rock's move.

"You oughta be an actor," D. Rock said, "because you sure can't play checkers worth a hoot."

D. Rock made his move and now Marvin faced the following position. Marvin knew that he would have to make every play with precision. There could be no more blunders.

White to Play and Draw


The draw isn't easy to find. If you were substituting for Marvin, could you save the game? Match wits with D. Rock Noodle and when you've come up with your answer, click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Winter Stroke


Many golf enthusiasts just can't get enough, and while we don't know how they do it, some of them golf even during the winter when snow covers the ground. They're out taking their "winter strokes" and loving every minute of it.

We have a different "winter stroke" to offer you. We don't know if snow is as yet on the ground where you live--- it might well be in some locations--- but we're pretty sure you've kept the snow off your checkerboard. Here's a stroke problem that will stretch your powers of visualization.

White to Play and Win


Solving these problems is par for the course; when you're done, click on Read More to score your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/07/15 - Printer friendly version
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The Lindyville Checker Club, Part 4


"You're serious," Samantha said. She didn't even try to hide her exasperation. "You're really serious."

Andrew nodded his head. "Well, yes ... that's what I've just been talking about, why wouldn't I mean it?"

"You want to go to Iowa over the Thanksgiving break. Not just Iowa, but that dinky little town you were talking about."

"Well, neither of us have family in Albuquerque. My family's in Houston and yours is in Baltimore ... it's not like we were doing anything else."

"If I'd be willing to go to Iowa, why wouldn't I just keep on going to the east coast? And for that matter, why wouldn't you just go to Houston? What on earth would be do, by ourselves, in Iowa? Have a couple of ears of corn for Thanksgiving dinner? With maybe a little roast pork on the side?"

"I'm sure there's somewhere in Lake City we can get a nice dinner."

"Really. Lake City, Iowa, population ... what ... seventeen? Or eighteen if Billy Bob comes home from Farmer's College?"

"Don't you want to solve the murder?"


Andrew tossed it off as casually as he could, trying to hide his grin. He knew that any mention of a mystery would get Samantha's attention. After all, she read all those Tony Hillerman novels and got into Faye Kellerman, too.

"Murder?" Samantha, in turn, tried not to look interested, but Andrew knew already that he had won. "What murder?" Samantha sounded a little breathless and was a little angry with herself for doing so.

Andrew told her about the murder at the Lindyville Checker Club well over a hundred years ago. Then he told her about the Lindyville librarian's equivocation. By the time he was done, Samantha was on the edge of her chair, bombarding him with questions.

"We need to go to that library," Samantha said. "I need to go to that library. I'll get that woman to level with me."

Andrew was pretty sure that if anyone could, it was Samantha. "I checked," he said, "the Lindyville Library is open the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We can spend Friday in Lake City and go to the newpaper office--- the Clarion. There might be more there than I could find online."

"If we flew out Wednesday night ...." Samantha was already on her cell phone, checking flights. She was silent for about five minutes. "There! I've booked our flights. All we need now is a hotel in Lake City. There's probably no hotel in Lindyville."

Andrew smiled. Samantha could move quickly when she wanted to. "Great," he said. "Pick out any hotel you like and put it on my card."

"Oh, don't worry, I will," Samantha said. "You've already paid for the flights so you might as well pick up the hotel, too."

Andrew didn't dare complain.

# # #

It turned out that Lake City, Iowa, wasn't all that easy to get to. Samantha and Andrew decided to stay in Albuquerque for an early Thanksgiving dinner together and fly out on Thursday afternoon instead of braving the Wednesday before Thanksgiving travel mobs.

So after a quiet noon dinner at Samantha's apartment, they took a taxi to Albuquerque Airport and flew on a commuter airline to Des Moines, Iowa, where they rented a car and made the 100 mile drive to Lake City.


"This is turning out to be quite the expedition," Samantha said. "And you know I don't like those little 16-seat airplanes."

Andrew wisely refrained from pointing out that it was Samantha who made all the travel arrangements.

He turned the car off the road into the parking lot of the Lake City Inn. The headlights of the car illuminated large piles of snow in the corners of the lot as the tires crunched on the rutted layer of ice on the lot's concrete surface. Andrew wondered how cold it was just beyond the warmth of the car's interior.

"Bundle up," he said, "we're here."


It was near midnight. The Lake City Inn brooded darkly in front of them, with just a few dim lights in the windows and a flickering neon sign over the entrance that read, "L k " C ty nn."

"Guess they don't care for vowels much," Andrew quipped as Samantha got out of the car. The wind gusted and she covered her ears with gloved hands. Andrew quickly got their luggage from the trunk and the two of them hurried to the hotel's entryway.

"This is the best you could do?" Samantha asked. Her face was flushed from the cold and she didn't look exactly happy.

"It's a small town," Andrew said. "There's not a lot to choose from."

They finally roused a sleepy-looking clerk, who got them checked in without saying more than about a dozen words. "Room 201, upstairs," he said, jerking a thumb at a nearby staircase before disappearing through a curtain that no doubt led to his recently vacated cot.

Andrew and Samantha looked at each other and simultaneously shrugged their shoulders.

"Welcome to Iowa at $49 a night," Andrew said.

"Plus tax," Samantha added.

# # #

It was clear and cold the next morning. Samantha and Andrew found a Waffle House to get some breakfast, and just after 8 AM, they were at the counter of the Lake City Clarion, asking for access to their archives. "We're interested in edtions prior to 1900," Andrew explained.


"Don't have much call for that," the clerk said. He was a thin, short man with stubbly white whiskers and a cap with a green visor. Samathana could hardly believe her eyes.

"All on that new-fangled microfilm," the man was saying. "Papers got too old and they sent 'em all off to some fancy college with a room full 'o cameras."

"You mean they aren't computerized?" Andrew asked.

"No, they ain't computerized or homogenized or pasteurized or nothin'," the clerk said. "Microfilm, that's what. Downstairs in the basement, second door on the left." He looked over at Samantha. "Watch fer the spiders, missy. Don't let none of 'em get in yer hair."

"Come on, Andrew," Samantha said, pulling on his arm.

# # #


They spent several hours in the musty, crowded basement room. Samantha kept brushing at her hair. "Power of suggestion," Andrew said. Samantha was not amused.

"I'm getting hungry," Samantha said. "Can we stop for lunch?"

"After that scrapple omelet at the Waffle House?" Andrew asked. "You mean you're ready for a burger and fries?"

"That's not even funny."

They had found the articles that Andrew had previously seen on-line. But the on-line records stopped at about 1895. Andrew had wanted to look back further, but going through microfilm was tedious work. He was at about mid-1890. "Just a little longer, okay?" he said. Samantha groaned.

Andrew suddenly sat upright in his old wooden office chair.

"Samantha! Look!"

"What is it? Did Auntie Mae get a blister at the annual quilting bee and have to get her head amputated?"

"Look at this ..."

Several May Have Escaped On Lake City Train

Yesterday a stagecoach carrying a secret shipment of gold was robbed just outside of Iowa City. All of the guards were murdered and all the gold is missing. A posse pursuing the evil-doers found several of them shot dead about 20 miles west CK of Lake City. The Federal Marshall thinks that one or more of the robbers killed the others so they could keep all the gold for themselves. The Marshall thinks they may have fled on a train passing through Lake City. But the Marshall wondered how they could have gotten so much gold onto the train without being seen.

"That's interesting," Samantha said after reading the story, "but what's it got to do with Lindyville?"

"Lindyville is 20 miles west of Lake City!" Andrew said. "The robbers killed each other, or whatever happened, right in Lindyville! Or actually, where Lindyville is now, because it mostly hadn't been built at the time of the robbery and murders."

"Okay ... "

"And all that gold ... the Marshall was right, it would have been pretty hard to get it all on a train unseen. Gold bars are really heavy, and there were a lot of them."

"So what are you thinking?"

"I'm not exactly sure," Andrew said. He quickly scribbled a few notes in a notepad. "But I think there's a lot more to this, and I think the answers are in Lindyville. Let's go there first thing in the morning. We can take the afternoon to explore Lake City. After lunch, of course."

"Explore Lake City? Sure, why not, it beats watching the snow melt, though not by a whole lot. Let's go, I can hardly wait."


We follow this installment with a checker problem that is not as easy as it looks.

White to Play and Draw


White is down a piece. How can he pull off a draw? It's not so easy. Think it over, then click on Read More to see the very pleasing solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Canadian Nights


Josh and Lloyd Gordon of Toronto have been regular contributors to The Checker Maven, and we're most grateful for it. The Gordons spend many of those long Canadian winter nights playing checkers at home, and we've noticed that over time their checkerboard skills have been growing steadily.

So we weren't all too surprised when the Gordons sent us an interesting problem position with a very clever and very pleasing solution. Better still, the position arose in the course of over the board play.

The initial position was this.

White to Play

The next few moves are pretty clear: 25-22 (there's nothing else) 22-17 (likewise) 22-17 (certainly not 19-16) 11-16 which now gives us the situation diagrammed below.

White to Play and Draw

Things really don't look so great for White, yet there's a star move that draws, although both sides will have to play quite carefully until the position is settled.

This is not an easy problem by any means, but it's a great challenge, whether or not many months of long, cold winter nights lay ahead for you. Don't freeze up; give it your best, then thaw out the solution by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Problem for the Advanced Player


"Advanced" problems are an interesting thing. They're supposed to be difficult, usually targeting an expert practitioner in search of a real challenge. But, properly explained, such problems can be of great use to us lesser mortals, too. Today's problem, we think, is an example of that.

Black to Play and Win


It's definitely a Black win, but is this an "advanced" problem? We'd rank it perhaps as "advanced intermediate" rather than "expert." What do you think? The real point, though, is that the solution demonstrates a winning technique that is useful and practical.

When you've advanced your knowledge by solving the problem, advance your mouse to Read More to see the solution and explanatory notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Ferrie Ride


The iconic Staten Island Ferry is something that attracts commuters and tourists alike, and it's one of the few real transportation bargains in New York City. For many years, the cost was just five cents. It rose to 25 cents in 1975 and then to 50 cents in 1990--- still a good deal for a five mile boat ride--- but in 1997 the ferry became free. You can now ride it for the same amount it costs to read The Checker Maven--- nothing!

You may not be paying for today's Checker School problem, but there is certainly a payoff. It's a practical situation attributed to olden-day checker champion James Ferrie.

Black to Play and Win


Pay your way by solving the problem, and then put paid to all doubt by clicking your mouse on Read More to see the solution, numerous sample games, and some explanatory notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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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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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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