The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

Published every Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

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A Trap With A Tale, Continued


Trap Tales is a self-help book that purports to help you overcome seven traps that might derail your life. A Tale of Traps, perhaps, rather than A Trap With A Tale. We haven't read this book so we can't say much about it, but it's received high marks from readers and reviewers.

Are there seven traps to avoid in the game of checkers? Willie Ryan has already shown us dozens, and there are countless more. One book would never be enough to tell the tale of all of them.

As we continue to move toward a conclusion of our Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard series, which has run for many years now, we have one more position to present from Willie's A Trap With A Tale section.

Here's the run-up, with brief commentary by your Editor, using KingsRow with the 10-piece endgame database.

1. 11-16 24-19
2. 8-11 22-18
3. 16-20 25-22
4. 9-13 29-25
5. 11-15 18x11
6. 7x16 22-18

Out of book, inferior, and might lose. 21-17 or 28-24 would have been fine.

7. 20-24 27x11
8. 10-15 19x10
9. 6x29 28-24
10. 29-25 32-27
11. 1-6 24-19

Worse yet. 24-20 was better but White is definitely lost.

12. 6-9 ...

Maintains a slight advantage but throws away the win. 25-29 was indicated, believe it or not.

12. ... 19-15
13. 3-8 ...

25-29 was still indicated. The game is now a probable draw.

13. ... 23-18
14. 12-16 21-17
15. 13x22 26x17
16. 25-22 17-13
17. 9-14 18x9
18. 5x14 13-9
19. 16-19 9-5
20. 14-18 5-1
21. 19-23 27-24
22. 23-27 24-20
23. 27-32 1-5?
Black to Play and Win


White has blundered and Black now can win. First, can you find the win? Second, can you go back and correct White's losing move? It's actually not all that difficult. Work it out and then click on Read More to turn a long Tale into a short one, by revealing the solution.null

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08/17/19 - Printer friendly version
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Complete Checkers, 3rd Edition


With over 200 cumulative changes from the first edition, Richard Pask's Complete Checkers (3rd edition) is now available as a free download. Just click on the Richard Pask link in the right-hand column and scroll down.

While the paperback version on Amazon has likewise been updated, there is no real need to buy a replacement book unless you wish to do so. The electronic copy will always be free of charge. It's one of Mr. Pask's many gifts to the worldwide checker playing community.

Regrettably we cannot produce an errata sheet as the changes are just too numerous and in some cases too extensive and complex.

We sincerely hope everyone enjoys and benefits from this new edition of what has already become a classic work.null

08/11/19 - Printer friendly version
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Our Checker School series has recently featured 'gem' problems from noted problemist William Veal. Today we conclude the series and "reVEAL' a photo of Mr. Veal in his later days. The photo appeared in a 1952 edition of Elam's Checker Board while noting Mr. Veal's passing. The Checker Maven thanks correspondent (and himself a champion problemist) Ed Atkinson for the photo.

Now let's look at today's problem.

Black to Play and Win


White is a man down but is about to even the count. Yet Black, through clever play, can still win it. The problem is about 'medium' in difficulty and reVEALs a nice little tactical trick. Can you find it? You know what we're going to say--- clicking on Read More will reVEAL the solution.null

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08/10/19 - Printer friendly version
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Man Overboard


Man overboard! It's an emergency situation and we'd best hope someone trained and experienced in water rescue is on hand.

Something similar occurs in our game of checkers. One of our men goes overboard, we're down a piece, and we're looking to find a way to get a draw.

That's the situation for White in the diagram below. But there is a way to pull off a draw, if you can see it. We'd call this a "not quite" speed problem. It isn't too difficult but you can easily go wrong.

White to Play and Draw


Are you trained and experienced in man down (man overboard) situations? You won't have to go too far overboard to solve this one; but a life preserver is always at hand. Just click on Read More to see the solution.null

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08/03/19 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch


Tommy Wagner was pretty nervous, uncharacteristically pacing up and down and wringing his hands. "It's my big chance, Uncle Ben, but he's so good!"

Tommy Wagner

It was a sunny Florida Saturday morning, and as he had done on most Saturdays for the past eight years, Tommy Wagner was on the front porch of Uncle Ben's house. Ben, a retired checker professional, wasn't really Tommy's uncle, but all of his checker students called him 'Uncle Ben' out of respect.

Tommy, a ninth grader, was talking about the upcoming intramural match between his high school Varsity Checker team and the Junior Varsity team. Tommy had already risen to Captain of the Junior Varsity, and so in the match he would have to play a senior, Reynaldo Lopez Garcia, who was the Varsity Captain and a titled Master.

Reynaldo Lopez Garcia

"Yes, Tommy," Uncle Ben said, "he is good. There's no other way to become a Master. And we both know you haven't reached his level yet, although I'm certain you will one day."

"He's going to kill me," Tommy said. He had stopped pacing and flopped into the porch chair next to Uncle Ben.

"What's the worst thing that can happen?" Uncle Ben asked.

"I don't know ... I'll lose my game against him?" Tommy said.

"Have you lost any games before?"

"Well, sure, but ... "

"Has Reynaldo lost any games? Did I lose any games when I was playing professionally?"

"Yes, of course, but ..."

"Everyone loses games, Tommy. Even Marvin J. Mavin and the very top players. And you never know. Anything can happen. You've got to go in there and play to win. You might win, you might lose. There is no shame in losing to a Master as long as you do your best and especially if you're a good sport about it."

"I know, Uncle Ben, but I really want to show something to Coach Schann and maybe make Varsity next season."

Coach Schann

"Of course you do, and to do that, what steps should you take?"

"Um ... practice and study?"

Uncle Ben smiled, "Right on the mark. Let's pour a couple of glasses of lemonade and get into today's lesson, then, shall we? I've got an important situation set up on the checkerboard here."


Tommy smiled back. Win or lose, everything was going to be fine ... and he'd sure do his best to try to win. He turned his attention to the position that Uncle Ben had laid out.

White to Play and Draw


"White to play and draw?" Tommy asked.

"Yes," Uncle Ben said. "Very good. It's known as the McCulloch-Miller Draw, an important drawing technique."

Tommy thought for a while. "Got it, Uncle Ben! Let me show you."

Tommy was able to work this one out. Can you? You don't need to be a titled master to solve it. When you have your solution, click on Read More to see the solution, notes, and several additional examples of the theme.null

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07/27/19 - Printer friendly version
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Coffee and Cake at the Beacon


It was another Saturday afternoon at The Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club was in session in one of the large booths.


Sal was the leader and there were five others present today. It was cloudy, windy, and chilly outside and the coffee was flowing.


After the boys had played an hour or so of informal games, one of them, Mike, said, "Hey Sal, don't you have a coffee and cake problem today? You didn't have one last week and I've been kind of wanting to win another piece of cake off you."

Sal frowned. The last time he tried, Mike had indeed solved Sal's problem and Sal had to buy coffee and cake. But then Sal's frown turned into a smile. "Matter of fact, Ed sent me a real nice one."


"Uh-oh," Mike said. Whenever Sal had a problem from either Brian in St. Louis or Ed in Harrisburg, it was bound to be tough. Top quality for sure, but never easy.

Sal leaned back against the seat. "Are you up for it?"


Mike and the rest of the group hesitated a little, but Deana, the owner, knowing just when to jump in, said from behind her counter, "I've got fresh apple kuchen this afternoon, boys!"


Well, that did it. Deana's apple kuchen, like most of her desserts, was irresistible.

"Lay it out," Mike said to Sal, pointing to one of the checkerboards, "and pretty soon I'll be enjoying that kuchen you're going to buy me."

White to Play and Win


"There it is," Sal said after setting up the position. "Take your time. Just not too long. I don't want to have to rush the kuchen that you'll be buying me, Mike!"

Mike laughed. "We'll see about that," he said. But five minutes later, all of the boys were still scratching their heads.

"I'll give you five more minutes but that's it," Sal said. He was greeted by the usual groans.

Once again we're asking if you can win coffee and cake from Sal, but unlike at The Beacon, you can take all the time you wish. When you're finished, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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07/20/19 - Printer friendly version
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A Small Slice of Veal


Some of us need to be on diets. 1,000 calories a day, maybe? That doesn't allow for much. Salads with no-fat dressing, if any dressing at all; steamed vegetables (hold the butter, thank you), and a little protein. Just a little.

Fortunately our game of checkers doesn't involve diets, but it can involve small servings in the form of miniature problems. Today in Checker School we continue with another composition by William Veal--- a small slice, if you will.

Black to Play, White Wins


Well, yes, White is a man up and should win, but maybe it's not as easy as all that. The White men look pretty exposed and Black might be able to chase one of them down ... but we'll let you figure out the best line of play. In the end, it's a fairly small effort. So slice (and dice) this one, and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

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07/13/19 - Printer friendly version
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Summer Speed


Summer speed. It can mean a number of things, but today we encourage you to enjoy the way things slow down to 'summer speed' during those long, warm days. Take some time to relax and get out of the daily rat race that persists during the larger part of the year. Surely take time to enjoy a little checkers.

So for us, today, 'summer speed' refers to a nice little speed problem provided by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto. This one falls into the 'very easy' category so we won't even bother with the Javascript clock. Just solve it at whatever speed you like.

White to Play and Win


Surely you've solved it already, but if you'd like to double-check, click on Read More to see the snappy solution.null

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07/06/19 - Printer friendly version
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4th of July Week


When this column first appears, we'll be just a few days away from the Fourth of July, America's birthday and one of our favorite holidays. We never tire of saying that we are unapologetic American patriots with a deep appreciation for our freedom and democracy. We're not one of those who believes that America is responsible for the ills of the world and we're proud of what's good about our nation.

We always turn to Tom Wiswell on this holiday. Mr. Wiswell, as we've so often noted, was a patriot who served our nation as did so many members of the Greatest Generation.

Black to Play and Draw


It's indeed a nice problem, as we have come to expect from Mr. Wiswell. Give it a good try and then click on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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06/29/19 - Printer friendly version
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Marvin's Summer Vacation


Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a highly ranked team in the National Checker League, was on summer vacation. The League wrapped up the World Series of Checkers in May, and players were off until training camp started up at the beginning of August.

Ten weeks of vacation. He'd spend some of it with his girlfriend Priscilla, although she could only get away from her corporate executive job for a week at a time, and only now and then. He'd spend four weeks doing outreach work in the inner cities. And he'd spend three blessed weeks at a lake cabin, kicking back and thinking of little else but when to pop open his next beer. No cell phone. And definitely no checker board.

Except it didn't work out exactly like that.


Marvin booked a cabin in Idaho under the name of John Smith. He thought that was pretty clever. Of course, he was a national sports figure and pretty easy to recognize, but he always looked for a cabin that was out of the way and isolated, and then he stuck pretty much to himself, arranging to have the refrigerator well stocked before his arrival, so that he could just hang around the cabin, walk down to the lake, and not be bothered by anything or anyone.

It must have been on the third or fourth day when he saw a familiar looking figure walking further down the lakeshore. Now, Marvin's cabin was indeed well separated from the others, so it was pretty far, but the figure was quite unmistakable. Marvin just hoped he hadn't been noticed, and he was pretty careful to check each time he went to the lake thereafter.

Two evenings later, Marvin had just finished with dinner --- he had plenty of microwave meals in the cabin's freezer --- he was about to open another beer when there was a knock at the cabin door.

Marvin was pretty surprised. Could it be the camp manager? No one else was supposed to bother him. He got up, opened the door, and saw ---



Yes indeed, Dmitri Tovarischky. The guy he had seen further down the lakeshore. The guy who was his archenemy, a former Soviet champion who was asked to leave the National Checker League over a gambling violation, and who now stalked the star players.

"Ah, Checkers Boy. I see you other day by lake. How conwenient we are staying in same campsite," Dmitri said. "Maybe coincidence, maybe not, eh? I come in now, da?"

Dmitri entered before Marvin could reply.

Marvin made a mental note to later find out who leaked his vacation plans.

"We play one game, da?" he said. "Play maybe for wodka. I win, you give me couple bottles Stolichnaya. You win, I give you same thing, only you don't win, this I know already."


"I ain't got no 'wodka,' Pinko. Never touch the stuff. Now leave and don't come back."

"Ah, Checkers Boy should not be rude. I have little set here, I put on table." Boris quickly got out a portable checker set and made it ready. Marvin could tell it was going to be hard getting rid of him. "Maybe play for hundred bucks?"

So that was what it was all about. Dmitri was an inveterate hustler. Marvin replied, "Okay. One game. A hundred bucks to the winner. Nothing on a draw. But no matter what you get lost permanently."

"Easy money for me," Dmitri said. "Deal."

The two of them sat down and the game began. Outside, the sun was setting over the lake and the air was cooling. It was a beautiful Idaho evening but neither of them noticed.


Dmitri played Black and Marvin had White.

1. 11-15 23-19
2. 8-11 22-17
3. 4-8 26-22
4. 9-13 ...

26-22 was weaker than 25-22. Perhaps Marvin was throwing Dmitri a bit of a curve ball? But Dmitri missed the opportunity to reply with 15-18.

4. ... 27-23
5. 5-9 23-18
6. 10-14 17x10
7. 7x23 19x10
8. 6x15 31-26
9. 23-27 32x23
10. 2-7 23-18

"Hoo, Checkers Boy, you are making stupid move. Why you not play 23-19? Now Dmitri have big winning game!"

11. 7-10 ...

"Dmitri can even win by playing of 12-16. So many ways to win, so nice, da?"

Marvin, for his part, was starting to sweat. How could he have made such a blunder?

11. ...21-17
12. 1-5 ...

"Uh, hey there Commie, I think you blew it. You even mentioned 12-16 your own self, why didn't ya play it?" Marvin said.

"I am still going to win, Checkers Boy, do not worry yourself." But Dmitri sounded a bit less confident.

12. ... 25-21
13. 9-14 18x9
14. 5x14 26-23
15. 11-16 30-25
16. 16-19 ...

At this, Marvin started to laugh. "Nice try, get an early king, that's what you think? You shoulda played 8-11, pal. Now you lose."

16. ... 23x16
17. 12x19 ...
White to Play and Win


Does Marvin now have a win on the board? Did Dmitri make a huge blunder in his own right? Study the position and see if you can find the winning moves. This one actually falls on the easy side. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.null

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06/22/19 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i, as a completely non-commercial public service from which no profit is obtained or sought. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2019 Avi Gobbler Publishing. Other material is the property of the respective owners. Information presented on this site is offered as-is, at no cost, and bears no express or implied warranty as to accuracy or usability. You agree that you use such information entirely at your own risk. No liabilities of any kind under any legal theory whatsoever are accepted. The Checker Maven is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bob Newell, Sr.

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.

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