The Checker Maven

Hobson's Choice

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The phrase Hobson's Choice, named for 16th century English stable owner Thomas Hobson, is often used to describe a no-win situation. In checkers, that would occur when any move available would be bad; in other words, a player would be left to choose only among various losing options.

That usage, though frequently employed, is incorrect, as Hobson's Choice really means "take it or leave it"; you have but one option and there really is no choice except that of refusal. (Mr. Hobson reputedly offered his customers a choice of but one horse, which was no choice at all.) In checkers, however, you've got to make a move, so the phrase Hobson's Choice doesn't seem to apply.

We think, in the position below, as published by Ben Boland in Familiar Themes in the Scientific Game of Checkers, the author meant to use the term dilemma, which accurately refers to a choice among undesirable alternatives. Contrast this with Morton's Fork, which is a choice among equal or equivalent alternatives.

Confusing? Perhaps simply looking at the diagram is the best option.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W14,11,10:BK22,12,2.

White indeed seems to face a dilemma; he's going to lose a man no matter what choices he makes. But a draw is still possible with perceptive play; can you find it?

Of course, for you, the reader, the choice is certainly Hobson's; you can choose to solve the problem, or just leave it! We do hope, though, that you'll try it, and then click on Read More to verify your solution.20050904-symbol.gif



Solution

14-9 22-18 9-5 18-15 11-7 2x11 (15x6 5-1 same) 5-1 15x6 1x10 1-16 10-15 16-20 15-19 12-16 19-12 20-24 Drawn.

A very good theme to know and understand, as it definitely comes up in over the board play.

01/18/14 - Category: Books - Printer friendly version
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