The Checker Maven

Merry - Strickland

There's Merry Hill, and the Merry Hill Shopping Mall, on the Dudley Number One canal, perhaps 10 miles from Birmingham in the U.K. It looks to be a nice setting; we suspect it might tend a bit to the industrial side, but we've not been there to verify.

And there's the Strickland Avenue waterfall, a most assuredly beautiful setting located somewhere in Tasmania. Of course we haven't been there either.


Image courtesy Alex Wise Photography

Now, we know for sure that checkers is played in the U.K. and in Tasmania. We know that in the 1880s, checkerists Merry and Strickland published various items of checker analysis (hence today's Checker School lesson). Therefore, a little deductive logic tells us that since Merry published in the American magazine Turf, Field, and Farm he was very likely an American checkerist, and hence Merry Hill is surely not named after him. Checkerist Strickland who published in the Glasgow Weekly Herald, was undoubtedly from the British Isles, making it most unlikely that a street in Tasmania was named after him (although one never knows).

What we can say is that the Merry and Strickland checker settings do indeed possess checkeristic elegance and appeal. Here is the main position.

THE MERRY - STRICKLAND POSITION
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play, Black Wins

W:WK14,K11,K7:BK20,K19,K16,5.

Black is a piece up and of course that is supposed to mean an eventual, if not a straightforward win. But given White's centralized king positions, Black is going to have to work hard and patiently to achieve victory. The winning procedure in fact requires a high level of technique and is very much worth mastering.

So, sail down the canal but don't go over the falls; instead, make Merry and find the solution. Then click on Read More to see detailed notes and explanations as well as a sample game.



Solution

The solution, lettered notes, endnotes, and sample game are taken from Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. Numbered notes are from computer analysis with the KingsRow engine.

14-17---A, 19-23---1, 17-14, 16-19, 7-10, 23-26---B, 11-7, 19-23, 7-2, 20-24, 2-6, 26-30, 6-2, 30-25, 2-6, 25-21, 6-2, 23-26, 2-6, 24-27, 6-2, 27-31, 2-6, 26-22, 6-2, 22-17, 2-6, 17-13, 10-15, 21-25, 15-19, 31-26---C, 19-15, 26-23, 15-10---2, 23-19, 10-7---D, 19-15, 7-2, 15-11, 6-10---E, 13-9, 14-18, 25-21. Black Wins---3.

Game: 10-14, 22-18, 11-15, 18-11, 8-15, 24-20, 6-10, 28-24, 1-6, 23-19, 9-13, 25-22, 6-9, 29-25, 4-8, 26-23, 14-18, 23-14, 10-26, 19-10, 7-14, 31-22, 3-7, 24-19, 7-10, 27-23, 8-11, 30-26---K, 11-15, 32-28, 15-24, 28-19, 10-15, 19-10, 14-17, 21-14, 9-27, 25-21, 27-31, 26-23, 31-27, 22-18, 27-24, 18-15, 24-27, 23-19, 27-24, 20-16, 24-20, 15-11, 20-24, 19-15, 12-19, 11-8---L, 24-20, 15-11, 20-16, 10-7, 16-12, 7-3, 19-24, 8-4, 24-27, 4-8, 2-6---M, 11-7, 6-9, 8-11, 13-17, 21-14, 9-18, 11-15, 18-23, 15-10, 27-31, 10-14, 23-26, 7-2, 12-16, 2-7, 16-19, 7-10, 26-30, 3-7, 30-26, 7-11, 26-23, 11-7, 31-27---N, 7-11, 27-24, 10-7, 24-20, 7-3, 19-16, 3-7, 23-19, 14-17---O. Forms above position after first move. M. Boyle vs. F. Kaiser, Third British Championship Tourney, 1930. Game No. 1576, The Draughts Review, Vol. 7, 1931.

A---After this move we have the "Strickland Position."

B---Strickland continued; 20-24, 10-7, 24-27, 7-10, 27-31, 10-7, 23-26, 7-10, 19-23, 11-15, 26-30, 10-7---F, running into the above play.

C---Here is where Strickland made his mistake, he played 25-30, 19-15, 31-27, taking both Kings out and planted them on 3 and 11 and showed a win. Then came Spence, Benstead and Pillsbury to correct Strickland. R. Bush then showed how it should be won, but the solution is the same as above by Merry.

D---14-18, 19-16, 18-15, 16-12, 10-14, 12-8, 15-10---G, 8-11, 6-1, 13-9, 14-18, 25-21. Black Wins. R. Bush.

E---6-1---H, 13-9, 14-10---I, 25-21, 10-6---J, 9-14, 6-9, 14-18, 9-13, 11-15. Black Wins. Bush.

F---T. Bullockus in Wood's Checker Player, Dec. 1938, gives the following play as an improvement; 10-6, 23-26, 6-9, 30-25, 9-13, 25-21, 15-10, 26-23, 10-15, 31-27, 13-9, 27-32, 9-6, 32-28, 15-10, 25-21*, 6-2, 28-24, 2-7, 24-27, 7-2, 27-31, 2-6, 25-21*, 10-15, 23-26, 15-10, 26-22, 10-15, 22-17, 6-10, 17-13, now same as above at 28th move.

G---6-1, 13-9, 14-17, 25-21, 17-22, 9-14, 15-19, 14-10, 19-23, 8-11. Black Wins. Bush.

H---14-18, 13-17, 18-23, 25-21, 23-27, 17-13, 27-23, 11-15, 2-7, 5-9, 7-2, 21-17, 6-1,9-14, 1-6, 15-18,23-19, 17-21. Black Wins. Bush.

I---14-17, 11-15, 17-13, 9-14, 13-9, 14-10, 9-13, 25-22, 2-6, 15-18. Black Wins. Bush.

J---10-7, 11-15, 1-6, 9-13, 7-10, 15-18, 10-7, 5-9. Black Wins. Bush.

K---Losing move. Encyclopedia (Kear's) shows 22-18 to draw.

L---White loses a man, with a very poor show for it, nevertheless he elects to continue for a few moves.

M---5-9 instead would have led to an easy win.

N---Both players have of course already recognized the ending, but Black is only losing time grouping his Kings on the left-hand side of the Board, as the win is not to be forced by that method.

O---After 72 moves Boyle agrees on a draw!

1---Computer analysis shows many possible variations on the solution, but we like the original best, as it is completely sound and shows natural play rather than computer play--- Ed.

2---15-18 loses at once to 5-9---Ed.

3---White cannot avoid an exchange and the game is lost. Most spectacular is 10-15 21-17! 15-8 9-6 2-9 5-23 Black Wins.

In the Fifth American Tourney, Game 369, A. Long won from A. Jordan, by the Merry Position. Long used Strickland's Play (See Note C), and Jordan didn't put up much of a fight.

In the English Championship Tourney, 1900, W. Gardner secured a draw against H. Jacob, the latter being unable to force the win after nearly two hours play on the position. Also see above game at Note O.

Black's objective for a win is to force an exchange; Black must plant Kings on 13 and 25 then with the remaining King occupy Square 11, See above at Note C. The above position by Miles G. Merry was first published as Position No. 1161 in the "Turf, Field and Farm" of March 4, 1881. In the next issue Merry gave the above solution.

Strickland published his play for the first time as the solution of Problem No. 921, in the "Glasgow Weekly Herald" of May 12, 1883, more than two years after the appearance of Merry's play in the "Turf." The problem was given in the issue of April 21, 1883, as an end-game between Wm. Strickland and J. Goodall, with the terms: "White (colors reversed) to play. What result?'' Then this note followed: "Although I won with the Whites, I am rather doubtful if the win can be forced, and would like the opinion of some of your critics on the point, as the position is of the most useful description, being likely to occur at any time."

Strickland republished his position as No. 16 in Part 1 of the "British Draughts Player," 1883, the play was revised with a new and improved finish. Somehow it did not get into "Gould's Problem Book," 1884.

04/24/10 - Category: Books - Printer friendly version
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