It's the 16th publication anniversary for The Checker Maven! And for this anniversary we have something very special: a master level problem composed by world-class champion checkerist Alex Moiseyev. You'll find it all just below.
But first, a big thank-you to all our readers. Without you, we never could have published for so long, and we invite you to look forward to as many more years of publication as health and wealth allow.
Yin and Yang. Opposites that are bound together as a whole. This ancient Chinese philosophy encapsulates the concept of dualism, wherein seeming opposites can actually be interconnected and interdependent, the one giving rise to the other. We'll leave it to you to explore the ideas of dialectical monism and how Yin and Yang are reflected in Taoist, Confucianist, and other philosophical realizations. It's a deep topic indeed and could form the basis for a lifetime of study.
Champion checkerist Alex Moiseyev has created a checker problem which he says embodies concepts of Yin and Yang. It's an amazing problem, itself deep and difficult. In fact, master problem composer Brian Hinkle has this to say about it, and it is through Brian's auspices that The Checker Maven is presenting the problem in its first-ever public appearance.
This 9x10 bridge with five Kings called 'Yin And Yang' composed by Alex Moiseyev is one of best checker problems I have ever seen. Master checker players may find it challenging to solve. I enjoyed the pretty solution so much that I looked at it about four times a day for a week!
No, it's not easy, but yes, it's really something and well worth taking the time to study and appreciate. See how far you can go with it. Search for its echoes of dialectical monism. Discover its inherent, interconnected dualism. Finally, click on Read More for the solution, notes, and some background on the problem's genesis.[Read More]
It's Thanksgiving weekend, our favorite holiday time of the year, and we recognize that we have much to give thanks for. While it's been an extraordinarily difficult year for all of us, and many have suffered loss, there is always hope for the future. Our society hasn't collapsed. Our nation is intact and will eventually heal. At The Checker Maven we believe that if we all do our part, work together, and take care of each other, we will come out stronger in the end.
So we give thanks and we are grateful for what we have. We mourn our losses but we carry on undeterred.
Thanksgiving is often a time for us to turn to American checkerist Tom Wiswell for one of his wonderful checker problems. We think Mr. Wiswell's life and work embodied the spirit of this holiday and of our times, for as we've noted before, he too did his part to help America through dark days.
Mr. Wiswell titled the problem below "Companion Piece" because it relates to another similarly-themed problem in his book Checker Magic. It's a bit of a complex setting, making it a good candidate for a holiday weekend.
See how you do, then click on Read More for the solution, notes, and run-up to the position.[Read More]
It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club had gathered as they did every Saturday during the checker season at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. There would be no meeting over Thanksgiving weekend; the Beacon would be closed and everyone would be visiting with their families for the holiday.
So Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Club, wanted to have a really great session before the holiday weekend.
Deana, the Beacon's proprietor and the best baker anyone had ever met, felt the same way. As soon as the boys (all of them over fifty) had gathered in the big booth at the back, she announced, "I've got pumpkin raisin bars today. Thanksgiving special!"
The boys smiled and expressed approval. Today Dan, Larry, Wayne, Delmer, Kevin ("Spooler") and Louie ("The Flash") were on hand, along with Sal. Pumpkin raisin bars were a once a year thing and always eagerly anticipated.
"I've got one from Ed," announced Sal, "and I think, seeing that we're not meeting next week, you boys ought to buy me two bars when you can't win it."
"Only if you buy us two when we do win it," said Spooler. "Fair is fair."
"Not fair!" Sal objected. "There are six of you and just one of me." Sal went on, "But tell you what. If you boys can win it I'll buy a dozen bars for all of us to share. How's that?"
"Great!" said Flash. "Lay 'em out and let's get going. An hour, right?"
"Stacking the deck, are you?" Sal said. "Forty-five minutes and not a second more."
Sal arranged the checkers on one of the boards as follows.
"Hey, wow man!" Flash said, as he always did, while the rest just stroked their chins or groaned a little.
"Time's a wasting!" Sal chided. "Forty-four minutes and thirty seconds left!"
Anything from master problemist Ed Atkinson is bound to please--- and never be easy. Pumpkin bars sound good, even if virtual, but you'll have to earn one. See how you do (take as long as you wish) and then click on Read More to view the solution and conclusion of the story.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin
Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was in hot water.
In our previous story, Marvin faced off on Opening Day against Sunny Sunshine, Captain of the Dallas Defiance, and while Marvin won his game, Sunny was offended by some of his remarks. True to her promise, she filed charges with the Commissioner of the NCL, accusing Marvin of Misogynist Microaggression Offending (MMO) and Incorrect Gender Address (IGA). These were serious charges, and Sunny had the full backing of the powerful LTBO (Looking To Be Offended) Movement.
The NCL normally did whatever the LTBO Movement asked, for fear of having the NCL advertisers and sponsors boycotted.
A hearing was swiftly called, and it wasn't long before Marvin sat in the Hearing Room at NCL Headquarters in Belpre, Ohio.
His long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson, sat with Marvin at the Defendant's table.
They were joined by Marvin's legal counsel, Cynthia Worthingsworth.
At the plaintiff's table sat Sunny Sunshine.
Ms. Sunshine's personal legal counsel was Hazel "How High Am I" Hightower.
Joining the Plaintiffs as an amicus curiae was LTBO representative, Tom "Tommy Tom-Tom" Thomas.
Presiding over the hearing was the NCL Vice-President for Legal Affairs, Billie "Bill the Bill" Bilboy.
Mr. Bilboy rapped his gavel and called the hearing to order. "In the matter of Sunny Sunshine vs. Marvin J. Mavin," he announced in grave tones, "charges of MMO and IGA." Mr. Bilboy shook his head and added, "Serious indeed."
Ms. Hightower called Sunny as her first witness. As she was being sworn in, Priscilla looked over at Marvin. "What are you doing? she whispered.
Marvin had his phone out and was busy studying a checker problem. "It's a hard one," he whispered back. "That guy Brian in St. Louis composed it."
"Put that away," Priscilla hissed. "You might be held in contempt!"
"Aw, but I've almost ..."
"Silence in the Hearing Room!" Mr. Bilboy thundered. "One more disturbance from the Defendant's table and I will forfeit the case!"
Priscilla kept silent but Marvin didn't stop working on the checker problem.
Meanwhile, Ms. Sunshine was describing how Marvin had addressed her on Opening Day, explaining that he was disrespectful merely because she was a woman who was successful at checkers, and that until she insisted, Marvin refused to address her in gender-free terms despite her obviously being offended.
Her testimony ended and Ms. Worthingsworth stood up to cross examine.
Suddenly, Marvin leaped up and exclaimed, "Got it!"
Mr. Bilboy was about to pound his gavel when Ms. Worthingsworth said, "Sir, if you would please allow me a word with my client, I believe I can get everything under control."
Mr. Bilboy put down his gavel. "Very well, counselor, but see that this is the last of Mr. Mavin's poor behavior.
Ms. Worthingsworth went over to Marvin and Priscilla. "Look Marvin," she began, but Marvin cut in.
"I've got it! I've got it!" He was so excited he was fidgeting.
"Got what?" Priscilla asked, "your precious checker problem ... when your career is at stake?"
"Well, yeah," Marvin said, "I did solve the problem. See, what you do is ..."
"Never mind that," Ms. Worthingsworth said, "you need to sit down and be very quiet."
"No, no, no, that's not all," Marvin said. "Listen ... "
Marvin whispered in Ms. Worthingsworth's ear. "Oh," she said. "I see."
What did Marvin discover? A solution to the problem or perhaps something more?
This is another of Brian's challengers but we urge you not to try to solve it if you happen to be in a courtroom. Work it out in the comfort of your home and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story, in which you'll find out what Marvin told his lawyer.[Read More]
Some situations are just plain hopeless. In real life, we still need to carry on and make the best of things. There's no other way.
But over the checkerboard, sometimes it's truly game over. In this respect we're glad checkers doesn't mirror real life. It's a game. A great game, but fortunately, a game.
Here's just such a situation. It looks pretty tough for White, but there is indeed a ray of hope--- a pretty large one, as it turns out.
This one is actually pretty easy. Sometimes when things look down there is a simple answer right in front of us, if only we can see it.
We hope you can find the solution, but in any case you can always click on Read More to see how it's done.[Read More]
It was Saturday, October 29, 1955. That meant that Monday would be October 31. Halloween.
Now, every Saturday except during the summer and major holidays, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club met at The Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. Bismarck was a very traditional, home-town sort of place, and holidays were celebrated with enthusiasm.
So Deana Nagle, the proprietor of the Beacon and the best baker in a dozen counties, decided that on Saturday she'd give free coffee to anyone in costume. She couldn't do it on Sunday, when the Beacon was closed, or on Monday, when folks had to wear work clothes, so Saturday was it.
There's nothing a hometown likes more than something for free, and all Saturday morning, customers in various types of costume came in for free coffee. Of course Deana was as good at business as she was at baking, and as she expected, a lot of customers bought her baked treats. Deana had even dressed up herself--- as a baker, of course!
But the afternoon would be slower. Some folks still had leaves to rake and yards to prepare for winter, and important chores like that weren't put off in a town like Bismarck. Still, the Checker Club would be there. Would they wear costumes? Deana didn't know what to wish for. The "boys" of the Club (all of them over 50) drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of baked goods. It would be quite a bit of free coffee to hand out. On the other hand, the boys were good natured and usually left tips in addition to all the goodies they bought.
One o'clock rolled around and the first one through the door was Sal Westerman, the leader of the Club. Sure enough he was dressed as a college professor, in an academic gown and wearing a mortarboard. It suited him well, Deana thought as she poured him a cup of coffee and returned his greetings.
Next in was Wayne.
He was dressed as a farmer. Deana thought that hardly qualified, as Wayne grew up on a farm north of town. But he got his free coffee anyhow.
Then Dan came in. He was costumed as a cowboy--- not much of a costume in western North Dakota, but still, he was in the spirit of the day.
Next was Louie, appearing as the comic book character Flash (Louie's nickname was itself "Flash").
Sam then appeared, in a clown suit.
Finally there was Tom, appearing as a football player (Tom had played football in college).
That was a lot of free coffee already, and when Sal laid out the checkers on a board in the big booth at the back, and announced, "This is a tough one from my checker pal Brian in St. Louis," Deana knew the coffee would have to keep flowing.
"I've got raisin pumpkin bars today," Deana announced, and there were grins all around. She knew she'd be selling a good dozen of them in a little while, as the boys would each have one and some of them would take a couple home for their grandkids.
But for the moment, the concentration was intense. Deana sat back and relaxed. Half an hour passed and Sal called "Time!" She heard Wayne say, "We can't get it. You win, Sal. Show us."
She watched as Sal began to move the checkers and explain the solution.
You don't have to dress up in Halloween garb to solve this problem, unless, of course, you wish to do so. Costume or no costume, see how you do with this one. In the spirit of Halloween, it's "scary" hard! But don't be scared off. Try to find the win and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and explanatory notes. Who knows, you might win a (virtual) raisin pumpkin bar.[Read More]
Election Day in the United States is not far off, and The Checker Maven urges all of our eligible American readers to get out and vote, whether by mail, in-person, or however it works in your particular place of residence. We're not going to express any opinions on how you should vote. Cast your vote as you see fit, but definitely vote!
The story below may perhaps be taken as a bit of a cautionary tale. It is of course purely fiction but may highlight what can happen when the wrong person gets elected ... something for which the voters are directly responsible.
Marcy Baloner was a United States Senator from a state quite distant from the nation's capitol. (She was the older cousin of Mary Baloner, whom we met in another Checker Maven story some years ago.)
Now, Senator Marcy wasn't quite the brightest lightbulb in the chandelier, and she wasn't the most stable person, either. In fact, some of her critics called her "Crazy Marcy" because of the way she acted during Congressional hearings. She was always outraged over something and didn't hesitate to express her emotions.
Little known to those outside of her advisory circle was that each morning, her staff briefed her on what she ought to be outraged about on that particular day. They even had assigned outrage themes to the days of the week, much like the old Mickey Mouse Club had daily themes. For instance, Monday was Gender Identity Outrage Day; Tuesday was Evil Capitalism Outrage Day, and so on.
At nine o'clock on a Thursday morning, Senator Marcy sat down in her conference room for her daily briefing. "What have we got for today?" she asked her assembled staff.
Her Chief of Staff replied, "Well, Thursday is Microaggression Outrage Day. The St. Louis newspaper's checker column has a checker problem by Brian someone or other, and it's filled with microaggressions."
Senator Marcy thought for a moment. "St. Louis? Is that in my constituency? Where is St. Louis, anyhow? Did they vote for me in the last election?"
The Chief of Staff, accustomed to such questions, replied calmly, "No, Senator, St. Louis is in Missouri. You represent ..."
"Oh, right, of course," the Senator replied. "Well, anyhow, what's my stand on this?"
"Brian refers to the checkers as 'men' and 'kings.' Obvious microaggressions. Your position is that checkers is a misogynistic, racist game that has no place in America."
"Oh, racist, too?" the Senator said. "That sounds great. I can get really mad. Two things at once to yell at people about."
"Well, Friday is Racism Outrage Day, but I see no problem in advancing that to Thursday and combining it with Microaggression Outrage Day," the Chief of Staff said. "After all, Brian also calls the checkers Black and White, and he even dares to capitalize White!"
Marcy shook her head. "Terrible, terrible. Something must be done about checkers! Maybe I should introduce a bill. Like, eliminate the teaching of checkers in the schools and substitute something else. Except I don't know what."
"You can make your usual point about Mindful Woke Pronouns," the Chief of Staff suggested.
"Oh ... is that my usual point? You would know better than I would," the Senator said. "Write a speech for me and tell me when I should yell and frown and throw stuff. It's going to be a great day. And make sure the networks and newspapers all cover it."
"I'm on it, Senator," the Chief of Staff said. Gosh, but how she loved her job, working with such a distinguished Senator.
Brian's outrageous checker problem is show below, and we hope you're not too offended or outraged yourself to give it a try. Brian says it's about 7 out of 10 in terms of difficulty, and he notes that some skilled solvers are having a little trouble with it.
When you're outraged enough to see the solution, click on Read More to see the winning moves and composer's notes.[Read More]
The Checker Maven runs on a modest budget and occupies a modest space in a modest building. Your editor's quarters, above, reflects our every-inch-counts working environment.
Every so often we run an "Editor's Choice" column. These don't follow any particular schedule or theme and are not part of one of our ongoing story series. They are simply a presentation of a checker problem or situation that we've found interesting, instructive, or both. Generally it's something from our library but at times it's a contributed problem.
We've always admired the work of past problem great Fausto Dalumi and today we reprint one of his problems from something like 90 years ago. We think it's as fresh and interesting today as it was way back when.
Whether you attempt this problem in a small and crowded space or a large and spacious palace makes no difference. It's a nice problem either way. Mr. Dalumi noted that every White move is a "star" move.
Space out your efforts (or crowd them in at your choice) and see if you can find the solution. When ready, do allow room to click your mouse on Read More to see how it's done.[Read More]
In one of our recent Checker School columns, we met Mr. Hatley, his son Ned, and Farmer Sneed, all characters in Andrew J. Banks' charming 1945 book Checker Board Strategy. Today, Mr. Hatley and Ned return. Mr. Hatley is telling his son about the first checker book ever published in English. Mr. Hatley then goes on to show Ned a long series of instructive problems that we suppose are in the spirit of that early book rather than necessarily contained therein.
In the reading room of the Rare Book Section of the Library of Congress sat a short elderly man. He put on his horn rimmed glasses and squinted his dark eyes as he spoke to his son.
"Ned, I want you to see the first checkerbook printed in English," said Mr. Hatley, pointing to a small rare volume, "Guide to the Game of Draughts," by William Payne, Londdon, England.
"Why father, it was published in 1756." Ned counted some 50 games and 38 problems.
"Look at the quaint old English!" he exclaimed.
You will find some of Payne's problems in practically every checkerbook.
One of the problems that Mr. Hatley showed Ned on that day, some 75 years ago, was the one below, credited to A. E. Clow of Ontario.
Mr. Hatley also gave Ned a second example in the same vein, credited to David Kirkwood way back in 1875.
How would you do as Mr. Hatley's student? You don't need to journey to the hallowed halls of the Library of Congress; you can solve these in the comfort of your own home. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solutions.[Read More]