During the winter holiday period, The Checker Maven closes its offices for a week or two, and staff spend time with their families. But that doesn't mean that checkers go off the agenda. Not at all! It's our wont to publish an interesting and entertaining checker problem or two, so our loyal readers can have a little extra checker enjoyment during this festive time of year. And when we look for a special checker problem, we inevitably turn to the master himself, Tom Wiswell; and what better choice than a problem he calls New Year's Resolution. Here's the position.
The position comes from a game in a New Year's Day tournament played in New York some decades back. As a holiday present, we'll give you a large hint: Mr. Wiswell, playing Black, won this game.
We would not say that this position is particularly easy, and in fact, it may use up a certain number of your holiday leisure hours. So please enjoy, but don't neglect your family time! When you've found your solution, click on Read More to see the full game, Mr. Wiswell's winning play, and KingsRow's computer analysis.
First let's look briefly at the run-up to the diagrammed position.
Mr. Wiswell notes that 25-22 is best, but there is little real difference in the KingsRow evaluation.
Mr. Wiswell points out that 28-19 is also playable.
Kingsrow would have preferred 6-9 here.
2-7 is somewhat better here.
Mr. Wiswell thinks Black is better after 22-13 10-14 but KingsRow actually prefers this line although it thinks that, whichever jump is taken, the resulting position will be about equal.
Mr. Wiswell gives this move a question mark, stating that 27-24 draws instead. Although the computer prefers 27-24, it gives 18-15 as a draw as well, as will be seen.
This brings us to our diagrammed problem position.
10-6 looks natural but loses. KingsRow gives 10-6 13-17 6-1 9-13 1-6 22-26 31x22 17x26 18-14 26-31 and Black Wins.
The computer prefers 16-19 here, but this move is just about as good.
This is the losing move, not 18-15 above, something that Mr. Wiswell seemed to overlook in his post-game analysis. Instead, KingsRow gives 15-11 to draw, and even though Black appears to have the upper hand, nothing comes of it. One line of play is 15-11 24-28 27-24 20x27 31x24 28-32 24-19 and there is simply nothing here but a draw.
If you found this line of play, you correctly solved the problem---the position is a draw, not a win for Black--- and you have one up on Mr. Wiswell, an extremely rare event. But let's continue with the game as played.
Here the computer gives 14-10 (which still is a loss). Mr. Wiswell comments, "If 14-9, 30-25, 15-11, 22-26, 31-22, 25-18, 7-10, 18-15, Black wins."
The computer prefers 14-9, and Mr. Wiswell remarks, "If 14-9, 30-25, 15-10, 22-26, 31-22, 25-18, 11-8, 19-24, Black wins."
The computer still prefers 14-9, which again will lose, but Mr. Wiswell comments on yet a different move: "11-15, 19-24, 15-18, 16-19, etc. Black wins."
Computer analysis used the Ed Gilbert's KingsRow engine with the 10-piece endgame database, a copy of which was generously donated by Mr. Gilbert to The Checker Maven. Martin Fierz's CheckerBoard was used as the play and analysis interface.
This problem is a very infrequent instance in which master problemist Wiswell drew an incorrect conclusion, no doubt owing to the fact that he actually did win the game in question. Deep computer analysis at times overturns the conclusions of even the greatest of human players, yet as we've said many times before, it's amazing that, using no computer other than their own brains, the top players of yesteryear nearly always get the right answer.