The Checker Maven

McCullough's Draw

The McCullough Memorial Bridge spans Coos Bay in Oregon, and not surprisingly was called the Coos Bay Bridge when it was completed in 1936. No, it's not a draw bridge; it's what's known as a cantilever bridge. It was renamed some years later, not after checkerist R. McCullough, but instead in honor of the designer, Conde McCullough. We were unable to determine if the latter Mr. Mccullough was a checker player, but we can surely speculate that he might have been.

Today, in our Checker School lesson, we hark back to the days of checkerist McCullough, who is credited with a very practical checker draw (which has little if anything to do with a cantilever). The subject position is shown below.

McCULLOCH'S DRAW
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W20,K14,K10:BK26,K19,12,5.

It's another of those situations that the average checker player might write off as a loss, but in which the expert would see drawing possibilities. Can you leverage your skills and find a draw for White? When you've spanned the gap, cross over to the solution by clicking on Read More.



Solution

The solution, sample games, and lettered notes come from Ben Boland's wonderful book, Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. Numbered notes are from computer analysis by Ed Gilbert's KingsRow engine with his 10-piece endgame database.

14-17---1,2, 26-23, 17-14, 19-24, 10-15, 23-19, 15-10, 24-27, 14-17, 27-23, 17-14. Drawn.

Game: 11-15, 21-17 13-22, 26-17, 15-18 6-10, 24-19, 11-15, 6-9, 15-6, 9-27, 22-9-13, 25-21, 8-11, 17-14, 10-17, 24-20, 2-6, 29-25, 18-22, 25-18, 10-15 23-18, 15-24, 28-19, 3-8, 18-15, 1-6, 27-23, 22-26, 31-22, 6-9, 15-6, 9-27, 22-18---A, 27-31, 6-1, 31-27, 19-15, 27-23, 18-14, 23-18, 15-10, 18-9, 10-3, 9-13, 3-7---B, 13-22, 7-10, 22-18, 1-6, 18-23, 30-25, 8-11, 25-22, 23-19, 6-2, 19-23, 2-6, 23-26, 22-17, 26-23, 17-13, 23-19, 10-14, 19-15, 14-10, 11-16, 10-19, 16-23, 6-10, 4-8, 10-14, 8-11, 13-9, 11-15, 9-6, 23-26, 6-2, 26-30, 2-6, 15-19, 6-10 19-23, 14-17, 23-26, 17-14, 30-25, 14-17, 26-30, 17-14, 25-22, 10-6, 30-25, 6-10, 22-26, 14-17, 26-23, 17-14, 23-19, 14-17, 25-30, 17-14, 30-26. Forms above position. A. J. Heffner, Oct. 1924, Morris-Systems Checkerist also Master Play, Part 5.

Game: 11-15, 23-19, 8-11, 22-17, 4-8, 17-13, 15-18, 24-20, 11-15, 28-24, 8-11, 25-22, 18-25, 29-22, 9-14, 27-23, 6-9, 13-6, 2-9,- 22-17, 1-6---C, 31-27, 9-13, 26-22 14-18, 23-14, 3-8---D, 32-28, 6-9, 22-18, 15-22, 19-16, 9-18, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14 12-19, 24-15, 5-9, 14-5, 22-25, 30-21, 18-22, 5-1, 11-8, 1-6, 22-26, 20-16, 8-11 16-12 11-15, 12-8, 7-11, 27-24, 11-16, 6-10, 16-19, 10-14, 18-23, 8-3, 23-27, 3-8, 19-23, 14-10, 27-32, 10-19, 26-30, 19-26, 30-23, 8-12, 23-18, now 12-16 wins, and 24-19 allows McCulloch's Draw. E. Laidlaw, Game No. 358, Wood's Checker Player, March 1940.

A---In the A. Long vs. J. Horr Match Book, Game 17, Long played 19-15 to a draw. A note followed; the only move to draw. Hefiner reviewing the game in the "Checkerist" said there are at least two ways and a probable third to draw, the one taken by Long is of course the best; 19-15, 22-18 and 30-25.

B---Wyllie here gives 17-14, 13-9, 14-10, Black Wins. I suspect that the last move, 14-10 is the loser. 3-7 instead looks like a probable draw---3. Heffner.

C---15-18 is the standard draw as shown by Sinclair.

D---6-9*, 22-18, 15-22, 32-28, 9-18, 19-16. Drawn.

1---14-18 also works here, though it allows White to get in a push of the man on 5. However Black still draws due to tactical considerations: 14-18 5-9 18-15 19-24 (19-23 comes to the same result) 14-10 9-18 15-31. Drawn---Ed.

2---Lesser players such as ourselves might ask how we can recognize a draw in such a hopeless-looking position, and how we might find a move such as 14-17 to draw. Consider the features of the position. Black's man on 12 is held by White's man on 16, so to win Black will need to push through the man on 5. White's defensive advantage is the central placement of his kings, enabling him to keep Black's kings at a distance. Then, it all comes down to the question: can White hold back Black's kings and restrain the man on 5? The answer is yes, and the point of 14-17 is that if now Black pushes 5-9 the man is lost at once to 17-13---Ed.

3---Computer analysis contradicts Heffner, showing that 17-14 loses straightaway, and that a later 3-7 instead of 14-10 cannot save the game; for instance 17-14 13-9 3-7 9x18 7-10 18-23 1-6 23-27 30-25 27-23 25-22 23-26 22-17 26-22 17-13 22-17 6-2 8-11 2-6 5-9 6-2 9-14 etc. Black Wins.

McCulloch's Draw was first published in the "Glasgow Weekly Herald," on Tan 29 1881, as Position No. 733, then later as No. 671 in Gould's Problem Book- Black---5, 12, Kings 15, 26, and White---20, Kings 10, 19, 21. White Plays, 10-6 15-24 21-17, 24-19, 6-10, same as above after first move. A note was given in the Herald; ending of a game played at Glasgow between Messrs.
R. McCulloch and D. Gourlay.

01/23/10 - Category: Books - Printer friendly version
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