The Checker Maven

Uncle Ben's Porch: Back To School

When we last visited with Tommy on Uncle Ben's Porch, he was getting ready for the Varsity Checker Team tryouts, and even though he was quite young, was hopeful of winning a Varsity berth. Now, the new school year has started, and the tryouts were over. We rejoin Tommy on the first Saturday morning after the opening of school.

A very sad Tommy was sitting on Uncle Ben's porch this Saturday morning. "I didn't make it, Uncle Ben," he said in an almost despairing voice. "I didn't make the Varsity Checker Team. I got all the way through the tryouts and I was all set to make the final cut. Then Coach Hovmiller tested us on problems ... and ... and ..."

Tommy just couldn't continue.

"Let me guess, Tommy," said Uncle Ben in a kindly manner. You were able to solve the first few, but then you missed one that the coach thought a Varsity candidate should have solved."

Tommy was silent for a moment and then blurted out, "But I got the rest of them right! It isn't fair!"

"Fair, Tommy?" answered Uncle Ben. "How can it be unfair? All the students at the tryout had the same opportunity to solve the problem that you did."

"Only two boys and one girl got it right," said Tommy, "and they're a year older and...."

"And they got the Varsity slots," concluded Uncle Ben. "As is right and fair. But let's not cry over spilt milk! Next year you'll be a year older yourself, and you'll almost certainly make the Varsity. Meanwhile, this year, do your best on Junior Varsity. No doubt you'll be the top player and get selected Captain! But show me the problem that troubled you."

Tommy arranged the pieces on the board. "It's Black to win," he stated, "and I looked at it for a while and had an idea."

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:B6,9,11,12,14:W18,20,23,27,31.

"I thought 12-16 was the winning move, Uncle Ben, but then Coach Hovmiller played 27-24. I played 13-17 to prevent 26-22, meaning to follow-up with 10-15."

"Yes, Tommy," replied Uncle Ben, "but what was wrong with that idea?"

"Well, Coach Hovmiller played 24-19, squeezing my man on 16, and then I saw that 10-15 was impossible now! So I failed, Uncle Ben... I failed!" Tommy concluded, practically on the verge of tears.

Uncle Ben knew it was time to pour the lemonade. He waited while Tommy took a few comforting sips, and then said, "You didn't fail, Tommy, you just made a simple mistake while under pressure. Players both average and great have done that. And if you are honest with yourself, you'll know it means you need another year of play to really be ready for Varsity on a team as good as the one that plays for your school."

"Yes, sir, I know that," admitted Tommy at last, "but I do hope you aren't disappointed with me, and will still keep me on as your student."

"Oh, Tommy," cried Uncle Ben, "never fear! You are a talented youngster and I'm proud to have you as my student. Now, let's have another look at that position, and let's have you master it once and for all!"

Was that the trace of a smile starting to appear on Tommy's face? "You bet, Uncle Ben!" he said with genuine enthusiasm, and the two of them, the young student and the old master, bent over the board to study in earnest.

Would you have passed Coach Hovmiller's final test? Try out the problem for yourself, and then click on Read More for the solution, a sample game, and numerous additional examples of the same theme.



Solution

The problem in our story is Number 2 below. The positions, sample game, and most notes are taken from Ben Boland's Familiar Themes in the Scientific Game of Checkers.

Game: 11-15, 23-18, 9-14, 18-11. 8-15, 22-18, 15-22, 25-9, 5-14, 29-25, 4-8, 24-19, 8-11, 27-23, 6-9, 25-22, 9-13, 28-24, 11-15, 32-28, 1-6, 24-20, 15-24, 28-19, 7-11, 19-16, 12-19, 23-7, 2-11, 26-23, 3-8, 30-26, 6-9, 22-18, 8-12, 31-27---A. Forms No. 2.

b>A---26-22, 12-16. Draws---Wm. Strickland.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:B7,9,10,12,14:W18,20,23,27,31.

1. W. Bryden, No. 498 L. P. Bk. B7, 9, 10, 12, 14. W18, 20, 23, 27, 31. Black wins. 7-11, 31-26, 11-16, 20-11, 10-15, 26-22, 15-19. No. 677 Horsfalls Prob. Bk.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W27,26,23,21,20,18:B14,13,12,11,10,9.

2. William Strickland. 11-16, 20-11, 10-15, 26-22, 15-19, 23-16, 14-32, 22-18, 12-19. But 12-16 at first wins too---1. Cross Game No. 56, A. C. R. Vol. 1, 1888.

1---12-16 actually loses after 27-24 13-17---2 24-19 White Wins--Ed.

2---Or 15-10 26-22 and Black has only losing moves--Ed.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:B6,9,11,12,14:W18,20,23,27,31.

3. A. E. Bartlett, 143 D. P. W. Bulletin. 6-10 same as 1 at 2.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B7,11,15,18,20:W22,25,27,28,31.

4. H. T. Smith, No. 759 H. P. Bk. 31-26, 7-10, 27-24, 20-27, 26-23, 10-14, 23-19.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B6,8,10,12,13,15:W19,21,22,23,24,32.

5. H. Lieberman, 3rd Am. Trny. Bk. Pg. 51. 22-17, 13-22, 23-18, 8-11, 18-14, 10-17, 19-1. An ending from "Dundee" game won from N. Banks.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B6,8,10,11,12,14,15:W19,22,23,24,26,28,29.

6. J. McKenzie, Ency., Pg. 247, Var. 1 at 2. 24-20, 15-24, 28-19, 11-15, 20-16, 15-24, 22-18.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:B1,6,11,12,15:W10,20,21,22,23.

7. J. Drummond, No. 33 His S. D. P. 3rd Ed. 1861. 11-16, 20-11, 15-19, 23-16, 6-15. No. 556 Lyman's Prob. Bk.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:B3,12,16,19,20,K21:W18,23,26,27,28,K9.

8. F. Worthington, N. E. C. P., Apr. 1879. 21-25---1 9-14 3-8 18-15 25-22 26x17 19x26 14-18 16-19 15-10 26-31 10-7 31x24 18-15 12-16 7-2 8-12 2-7 19-23 28x19 23-27 7-11 16x23 11-16 12x19 15x31 20-24 Drawn. From a Story by G. W. Brown.

1---The original problem terms were Black to Play and Win and the winning move was given as 3-7. But this actually loses to 8-15 21-25 9-14 25-30 15-11 30-25 11x2 etc. White Wins. The corrected play as shown above leads to a clever and surprising draw. A correction published in 1960 in California Checker Chatter was also erroneous--Ed.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play, White Wins

B:B5,6,7,8,11,28:W13,15,18,20,23,32

9. A. J. Heffner, First Inter. Games Book, 1905. 6-9, 13-6, 7-10, 23-19, 10-14, 18-9, 11-18, 20-16, 5-14, 16-12, 8-11, 12-8. Won from Mr. Halliwell. Game No. 75.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:B5,6,7,10,15:W13,14,17,21,23.

10. Dwight Sprangler, Banks' Checkerist, Mar. 1924. Pieces not pertaining to idea removed. 13-9, 6-22, 23-18.

The idea can be traced to one of the defects of the 2-6 move (or its opposite 31-27) at the early stages of the game.

For example---11-15, 23-19, 8-11, 22-17, 4-8, 25-22, 9-13, 27-23, 6-9, 23-18, 9-14, 18-9, 5-14, 26-23, 2-6 (1-6 best), 24-20, 15-24, 28-19, 11-15 (6-9 Draws) 20-16, 15-24, 22-18, etc. White wins.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B1,6,7,10,12,14,15:W19,20,21,22,23,26,30.

GERM

W. Payne, No. 16 His Introd. Game 1756. 20-16 15-24, 22-18, 12-19, 18-2. Compare with page 7.

Uncle Ben's Porch is a fanciful and purely fictional depiction of the retirement days of checker master, writer, and teacher Ben Boland. This is a very ambitious project and errors are bound to creep in. Please bring anything you find to our attention at unclebensporch@bobnewell.net.

08/30/08 - Category: Books - Printer friendly version
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