With this entry in our very popular Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard reprint series, we're in a bit of a pickle ourselves, as the unthinkable has happened: from our computer analysis of the position presented by checker legend Willie Ryan, we've found that Mr. Ryan seems to have made a most untypical error. So our "pickle" is this: do we publish the correction, or simply give Mr. Ryan's position and analysis as originally published?
In the end, we decided to print the new analysis, as we're certain that Mr. Ryan would have always preferred to see the best moves brought forward.
So, first we'll listen to Willie explain the situation. Then, we'll see his analysis followed by what the computer has to say.
"On my road travels around the country, I am frequently asked, 'Mr. Ryan, with what particular play do you win most frequently in your exhibitions?' There is no doubt that my No. 1 haymaker is a nondescript concoction, which I have tabbed the Paisley Pickle Barrel, because I have pickled more plebes with it than you can shake a stick at. This is it: 11-16, 24-19, 8-11, 22-18, 10-14, 25-22, 16-20, 29-25---A and we reach the fateful fix shown on the diagram.
A---Natural, but probably a loss. 22-17 results in a draw, and so does 19-15, 4-8, 22-17, etc."
What do you make of this particular pickle? Think it over --- it's anything but easy --- and then click on Read More for some deep and fascinating insights.
Willie's solution follows. Computer analysis appears at the end of note C and in notes 1 and 2.
"Carry on from diagram:
B---Or 28-24, 4-8, 18-15, 7-10, makes same play. If 19-15 is moved at B, black will win with: 7-10, 15-11, 10-15, 23-19, 15-24, 28-19, 16-23, 26-19, 14-23, 27-18, 6-10, 22-17, 3-7, etc. Wm. F. Ryan.
C---After this, black forces an airtight win with 24 pieces still on the board! While the following play puts black under stress to nail a win, it is doubtful that white can earn a draw, even with scientific play: 15-11, 8-15, 23-18, 14-23, 27-11, 20-27, 31-24---D, 16-23, 26-19, 9-13, 11-8, 5-9, 8-4, 9-14, 4-8, 2-7, 24-20, 10-15*, 19-10, 6-15, 8-4, 1-6, 4-8, 7-11; at this point if 8-4, or 32-27, or 30-26---1 is used, black replies with 12-16 and wins. Wm. F. Ryan.
D---Or 32-23, 9-13,11-8,10-15,19-10, 6-15, 8-4,16-19, 23-16, 12-19, etc.
E---Note that black has two ways to take the double, but by jumping 10 to 19 to 26, he obviously gains only a draw. This is one of the comparatively few instances where it is necessary to record the winning jumps square by square."
1---Incredible as it may sound, Willie missed a shot here! 30-26 actually draws after 12-16 21-17!---2 14-30 8-12 30-23 12-1 Drawn.
2---A spectacular move securing the draw.
So it seems that the original position, posed as "Black to Play and Win" by Willie, while favorable to Black, is actually a probable draw. Modern computer analysis sometimes overturns the conclusions of the great checkerists of yore, but more often than not, it confirms how incredibly accurate these champions were, using only their skill and intelligence to delve deeply into the most difficult checker positions. Our hats are off to Willie and the rest of the legends of our game.