The Checker Maven

A Little Mischief


We owe today's problem to a certain L. L. Granger, who published it as Prize Problem No. 4 in The Canadian Checker Player nearly a century ago. He called the problem "A Little Mischief" but it turned out to be rather a lot of mischief.

White to Play, What Result?


Black has a mobile, centralized position. Is it enough to win, or can White draw? That's the real question here. These "What result?" problems are a breed of mischief all their own.

How much mischief are you up to? The problem isn't easy; prize problems seldom are. Give it a try, and then click on Read More to see the original solution and modern computer analysis.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/29/14 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: The Checker Maven


It goes without saying that Uncle Ben and his protegé, Tommy Wagner, were avid readers of the weekly internet checker column, The Checker Maven. So when Uncle Ben saw the recent Checker Maven column called Hobson's Choice, he realized that it related to a game that Tommy played recently in a match in his middle school checker league. Tommy missed a win in that contest and had been kicking himself about it ever since.

Tommy was on Uncle Ben's front porch for his weekly checker lesson from the retired master. Uncle Ben was proud of Tommy's achievements and knew that Tommy had the potential to go on to great things, perhaps even making it one day to a team in the National Checker League.

"Tommy," Uncle Ben said, "I think it's time for you to get past that missed win against Tallahassee a couple of weeks ago."

"I know, Uncle Ben," Tommy said, "but I feel like I let my teammates down. I should have won..."

"The best way to make it up is to study that weakness in your game and eliminate it. The best players make strengths out of weaknesses, and that goes for many things in life. If you have a weak point, work so hard at it that it becomes a strong point instead."

"How can I do that, Uncle Ben?" Tommy asked. "It just seemed to have gotten away from me..."

Uncle Ben smiled. "I've put together a series of positions," he said. "If you work through them, I guarantee that you'll never miss a win on this theme again. It might take a little while, so if you're willing, I'll let your mother know that you'll be home later than usual. I can make us some lunch and we can study until, say, mid-afternoon. What do you say?"

The one thing that Tommy liked as much as Uncle Ben's checker instruction was his lunches. And, of course, his homemade lemonade. "Sure thing, Uncle Ben, if you're willing to spend the time, I'm ready!"


Uncle Ben knew Tommy well. "Good, then, take a look at this position while I get us some lemonade." He winked at Tommy and went inside to the kitchen.

Here's the situation that faced Tommy, and it looked a lot like that Wednesday afternoon in Tallahassee. Tommy gave an involuntary shudder, but then he shook it off and got to work.

Black to Play and Win


Can you earn your lemonade by solving this problem? We think you can, and when you're done, you can click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and no less than seventeen examples based on this theme. (You'll have to supply your own lemonade.)20050904-symbol.gif

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03/22/14 - Printer friendly version
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Mitchell's Miracle


This month we present Mitchell's Miracle, the second part of The Champion's Choice, which we began in last month's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard installment. Please see there for the run-up to Variation 2, which begins from the diagram just below. Willie Ryan is here to tell us more. It can be a little confusing, so if you get lost, just go down to the bottom of this article to see the problem diagram.

White to Play

Variation 2

23-19---A 23-14 30-23 20-16 11-7
14-17 9-25 9-14 17-22 31-26
21-14 29-22 23-19 15-11 7-2;
10-26 12-16 15-24 22-26 drawn.
19-10* 24-20 28-19 16-12 Wm. F.
7-14 16-19 1-5---C 26-31 Ryan.
31-22* 32-27 19-15 18-15
11-15 5-9 14-17 9-14
27-23* 27-23 22-18 12-8
14-18 19-26 5-9 3-12

A---The best that white can hope for after this move is a problematical draw---1. If white attempts 31-26 here, then 14-18, 23-14, 9-25, 29-22, 11-16, 24-20, 16-19 will leave black with a winning game. Another plausible try at A is 22-17. Black's strongest reply to this move is 14-18, 23-14, 9-18, which leaves white confronted with the critical situation shown on the diagram. I published play on this position a few years ago, claiming a black win against any defense adopted by white, but a problematical draw was found as follows. (See solution---Ed.)

C---Black can prolong the game by forcing white into a bridge ending like this: 14-17, 22-18, 17-22, 18-14, 22-26, 14-9, 6-10, 9-6, 10-14, 6-2, 14-17, 13-9, 17-21 (to stop the pitch by 9-6 next), 19-15, 26-31, 15-10, 31-26, 2-7, 26-22, 9-6, 22-18, and white having the move, can draw the ending."

1---The computer finds this move to be about as good as 23-18---Ed.

White to Play and Draw


This one is not easy, though we won't go so far to say that it would be a miracle if you solve it. No doubt some of you will work it out; you're a rather astute group, after all. Do try it and then click on Read More to enjoy the truly miraculous solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/15/14 - Printer friendly version
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Famous Shots V


Our monthly Checker School column continues today with its series of famous shots in the game of checkers. These are situations that all experts should know and all students should learn, as they do come up over the board, more often than you might think.

Let's look at this month's entry.

11-15 23-19 8-11 22-17 9-13 17-14 10x17 21x14 15-18 19-15 4-8 24-19 13-17----A 28-24 11-16---B 26-23 16-20 31-26---C

A---6-10 is much better here.

B---Turns a relatively small disadvantage into a probable loss. 6-9 would have minimized the damage.

C---A real lesson in the need to keep your head while you're ahead. Instead of playing 15-10 to go on to a probable win, White will now lose!

Black to Play and Win


Can you solve it? Can you put a name to the shot? For extra credit, can you name the "shot" shown in the picture at the top?

Try to answer all the questions, and then click on Read More to get all the answers.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/08/14 - Printer friendly version
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Getting Jumpy


Getting jumpy waiting for spring to come? Ready for winter to be over even there might be more cold weather and another snowstorm in the offing??

Be patient; it won't be much longer until winter is left behind.

Our speed problem, though, won't require that much patience. It's fairly easy and can surely be solved in thirty seconds. When you're ready, click below to start the clock and show the position. When you're done, jump your mouse to Read More to check your solution.

March Speed Problem (not too hard; 30 seconds)


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03/01/14 - Printer friendly version
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