The Checker Maven

A 'Maid of the Mill' Surprise


Above, a group of Morris Dancers are performing Maid of the Mill at a festival in Newcastle. Maid of the Mill spans many genres: dance, art, literature ... and draughts.

In our ongoing serialized story, Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance, our protagonist made an unfortunately timed reference to the Maid of the Mill opening. Today, we'd like to offer something quite substantial in the play of that opening.

The following is based on the 15th game of the 2014 World Championship Go As You Please match between Sergio Scarpetta (Black) and Ron King (White). The game, as played, ended in a draw, but there was an interesting winning possibility for Black.

1. 11-15 22-17
2. 8-11 17-13
3. 15-18

Forms Maid of the Mill.

3. ... 23x14
4. 9x18 21-17
5. 10-15 25-21

24-20 is definitely better, but it isn't clear that this move loses.

6. 4-8 26-23
7. 18-22 24-19
8. 15x24 28x19
9. 11-16

Back into the KingsRow opening book with a pull for Black, but not clearly a win.

9. ... 27-24
10. 8-11 24-20
11. 7-10 32-28
12. 3-7 28-24
13. 11-15 20x11
14. 7x16 24-20

23-18 also draws.

15. 15x24 20x11
16. 12-16 11-8

Loses; 23-18 should draw.

Black to Play and Win


Mr. Scarpetta didn't find the win. Can you? We realize that's a lot to ask, and in fact it's a very difficult problem, but the solution is as surprising as it's good, and we think that any effort you put into this problem will be amply repaid. So do try it, and then click on Read More to see the answer.null

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04/28/18 - Printer friendly version
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Three Move Opening, Part 5

Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance


Part Five: Second Interlude

This time, Reggie was going to play it to the hilt. It would be a one hundred percent effort.

Luckily, he had the weekend to prepare. He even telephoned his friend Jack to ask him about the idea.


"Seems a bit over the top, wouldn't you say?" said Jack after Reggie explained everything. "But I'm glad you didn't give up. That first mistake --- the Maid of the Mill thing --- that really wasn't completely your fault. Of course, you're pretty clueless, but this time I think you hit a sore nerve. A spot of bad luck for you."

"Over the top, perhaps, but don't you think she'll like it?" Reggie said. He didn't say anything about his being clueless; he actually was too painfully aware of it.

"Depends. You say she's a literary type as well as a draughts enthusiast? Impressive, you must introduce me some time." Jack laughed.

"Now look, Jack, you have a million girls already ... "

"Just kidding, old chum. Look, I've got to move along, I'm scheduled for doubles tennis with three lovely ladies ... "

"See what I mean? Give us less fortunates a break, will you?"

"Sure, Reggie, best of luck. So long now!"

There was just enough time on Saturday to visit the campus and look up a friend in the arts department.

"Yes, we have that," Grant said. Grant Pearson was a friend of Reggie's from a class in the previous semester. "You can borrow it if you return it right after you're done. For Monday, you say? Sure. Just bring it back later on in the afternoon."


Reggie hauled a substantial parcel back to his rented room. Fortunately the Saturday buses weren't as crowded as they were on weekdays.

Almost everything was ready. Reggie just had to write his note, and that was going to be easy this time.

# # #

Fortunately there was no draughts practice this weekend. The club coach didn't believe in weekend practices just before a big match; he thought it put too much pressure on non-professional players. That suited Reggie just fine. He was able to get some homework done, and make sure his note and everything else was ready for the next morning.

It's safe to say that Reggie didn't sleep all that well Sunday night. He was just too excited. Everything was just perfect!


Monday morning finally rolled around, and for once Reggie didn't have to drag himself out of bed to go to class. He had math before Chaucer, and he was going to skip it today. He wondered what was becoming of him ... skipping class again. But he didn't care.

He opened up the parcel and got everything ready. When he was fully dressed, he grabbed his backpack, double-checking to make sure the note was safely inside, and then made his way out to the bus.


He got some odd looks, first from the driver and then from the passengers, one of whom complained to the driver about whether Reggie should be allowed on the bus. But the driver just shrugged his shoulders, closed the doors, and put the bus into motion.

When the bus stopped in front of the college, Reggie rushed straight to his classroom, attracting still more attention from the students on the grounds and in the hallways. He quickly reached the relative safety of the classroom and took his seat, which fortunately wasn't in a direct line of sight from the doorway.

A couple of students came in and started murmuring to one another. Then Katie came in, looked in his direction and gasped. She took a few steps toward Reggie and said, "Reggie, what on earth---"

She was interrupted by the entry of Dr. Rowan, who also did what was, at least for him, a double-take.

"Well, Mr. Pastor, this is certainly going to be interesting."

Reggie normally would have reacted with anything between mild embarrassment and utter mortification. But not today. He was on a mission and would not be deterred. Totally ignoring Dr. Rowan, he went over to Katie's desk and with a deep bow and a dramatc flourish, laid down his note.


However, Dr. Rowan was not accustomed to having his remarks ignored, and his expression showed it.

"Just a moment, Mr. Pastor. This is a serious classroom, and perhaps you might explain yourself."

Reggie, just turning back toward his desk, replied, "Sir?"

"Your outfit. The note you just left on Miss Walton's desk. Is this some sort of elaborate but highly out of place courting scheme?"

Reggie was struck silent. This was not going as he intended.

"Nothing to say? Well, then, perhaps you might come to the front of the room and read the note aloud, after which you can explain your costume."

All of the class members were now present. There was a bit of quiet snickering, but all eyes were on Reggie.

And on Katie, who was turning redder by the second.

Reggie knew he didn't dare defy Dr. Rowan any further. Reluctantly, he moved to the front of the classroom, stopping to pick up the his note from Katie's desk. She favored him with a frosty glare.

"Whenever you're ready, Mr. Pastor. Or should we say, 'Sir Pastor'?


Everyone laughed except Katie and Reggie.

Reggie began to read, his eyes down.

"To my dearest Ladye Katie, I bring these words:

11-15, 23-19, 8-11, 22-17, 9-13, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14."

Dr. Rowan interrupted, "Those are not words, Mr. Pastor, those are numbers. There is actually a difference."

Reggie glanced at Katie. From the look on her face, he knew she had understood. But still, she looked very angry.

Reggie continued reading.

"Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
There was a duke that highte Theseus.
Of Athens he was lord and governor,
And in his time such a conqueror
That greater was there none under the sun.
Full many a riche country had he won.
What with his wisdom and his chivalry,
He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie."

Reggie stopped reading. "Um, well, that's all, sir."


"How interesting, Mr. Pastor. I must say you deserve credit for reading from Chaucer's Knight's Tale and dressing up in a very detailed knight's costume, complete with sword and helm. I imagine you attracted a lot of attention this morning.

"But really, the last line, 'He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie' ... did you bother to ascertain the meaning prior to addressing this phrase to Miss Walton?"

Dr. Rowan didn't wait for an answer. "You see, Mr. Pastor, 'the regne of Feminie' doesn't mean conquering a woman's heart. The 'regne of Feminie' actually refers to a race of Amazons, whom Chaucer's knight claims to have conquered. Are you suggesting that Miss Walton is an Amazon?"


The class roared with laughter and Katie looked as if she was about to cry.

"So," Dr. Rowan said when the laughter died down, "I ask you, Miss Walton, what is your reply to this somewhat misinformed suitor?"

Katie stood up and picked up her backpack. She looked straight at Reggie and said, "25-22." Then she stormed out of the room, trying valiantly to maintain control.

Reggie, horrified, made as if to go after her, but just at that moment, two uniformed security guards entered the room.


"There's a report of someone wif a weapon," one of them said. "There 'e is!" said the other, pointing to Reggie. "Come quietly with us now. You're in a 'eap 'o trouble fer carryin' a sword on campus. Don't make us get rough wif ya."

# # #

They took Reggie's costume sword and backpack, and marched him over to the Campus Security office. After searching his backpack, making him remove his costume, and searching his person, they asked him to explain himself.

It all took quite a little while, but Reggie was finally able to convince them that a wooden theatre sword, painted silver, wasn't a real weapon. The security officers then pointed out that it looked enough like the genuine article to be used to threaten others. But they realized in the end that Reggie was just playing a part, as it were, and they let him off with a lecture about not doing foolish things that could get him in hot water.

They wouldn't return the sword or the knight's costume; they told Reggie they would get it back to the Theatre Department themselves. "Best you not be seen wif that no more, eh?" one of them said.

Reggie got out of there as soon as they let him. But now he had to face what to him was the real problem.

He thought he had been clever. The draughts moves he had read corresponded to the Laird and Lady opening sequence. Katie obviously knew that. But when she replied simply "25-22" Reggie had his answer.

That was the line known as the Laird and Lady Refused.

To be continued ...


We wonder if Katie knew that Laird and Lady Refused is now known to be a White loss; and did Reggie realize, in the moment, that it was a Black win? Is there a hidden meaning in all of this?

You'll have to continue to follow the story to find out, but in the meanwhile let's have a look at this line of play.

1. 11-15 23-19
2. 8-11 22-17
3. 9-13 25-22

Of course Laird and Lady Accepted, with 17-14, would have been best, both in terms of checkers and for our hapless protagonist. But, much as Reggie must strive to win Katie, winning Laird and Lady Refused is not so simple. Can you do it? Here's the position.

Laird and Lady Refused
Black to Play and Win


Accept the challenge and see if you can find the win. Just because it's difficult, don't refuse ... make the attempt and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

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04/21/18 - Printer friendly version
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Checkers in the Outback

A Guest Column by Kookaburra


I live in Adelaide which is the capital city of the state of South Australia and I play checkers / draughts. South Australia is quite remote as it is in the middle of Australia, and within a short distance of Adelaide is total wilderness: The Outback.


Here we have extremely hot summers with stretches over 40 degrees Celsius and winters that are mild by world standards--- no snow but a little frost. The wildlife is wonderful and unique.


I started playing chess about four years ago after a health problem and also tried a stack of other games: Backgammon, Scrabble, Four in a Row, etc., and also Checkers. Thanks to a nice and skilled checker player I met online, I became a devotee of the game.

The reality of being a checker enthusiast today is that many of us are isolated. I play checkers (or draughts) in a country where checker players are as thin as kookaburraís teeth. This however should not stop any of us from enjoying this great and beautiful game. The fact you are reading this from far away from where I live is evidence that the tyranny of distance can be overcome.

Indeed, there arenít many serious checker players here in Australia at all. I have made contact with a couple and hope to play them crossboard at some point. For the most part, I play online, and have met some amazing people that way. Checkers is unique in that it offers a friendly, accepting fraternity who have embraced my presence as a new player.

It is difficult being isolated but checker players are not so common any longer, even in more populated parts of the world, and so all of us are becoming more isolated. My goal is to be the best I can at this beautiful game and not worry about other people or the isolation but to focus on the game and my skills in it. Then it doesnít matter.

One of my role models in checkers is the late Jan Mortimer, from New Zealand, who overcame the isolation of living in this part of the world to be a world class Checker player. I donít think enough women play this game and wish more did although I think checkers needs more players; more women, more men and definitely more beginners as it is tough when you first start and it takes a big leap to go from a recreational player who knows very little to a serious player who studies the game. And I am grateful to those who have and are currently helping me leap across this great divide.

I am hoping to promote the game whenever and wherever I can and help others learn about this beautiful underrated game even from this isolated area of Australia. I play online under the name Kookaburra.

Here is my advice for any modern checker player who may not have anyone around close by to play against.

Obviously the internet is extremely useful. Play turn based and speed games both to gain as much variety and experience of playing. Turn based sites are great for the social aspects of meeting and chatting to other players from around the world. Checker players are friendly and ask them about checkers and they chat and advise and online Iíve met some amazing players Also play speed games as thatís the way proper games are played. Start to end. Makes you think about strategy and think on your feet.

Start a checker book collection. There are great books out there. Start with beginner books and work your way up. There is enough out there to last a lifetime.

Research checker history. Some of the books I have now are from the 19th Century. The oldest is 1886. Reading them gives a fascinating incite into how the World was back then.

Join a checker association. The newsletters are great and it is worth it to hear news and make contacts from around the world and get to know who are the current and past checker champions.

Use social networking tools. Make a connection with other players.

If you want to play crossboard and canít find any checker players, join a club for another game with a similar board and use it to practice playing face to face.

Here is an exerpt from an old checker book dated 1911: Draughts Praxis or Modern Match Games, by Frank Dunne.


Check the last rule proposed to players over 100 years ago:


Amazing advice, I think!

And now I'd like to share my favourite problem. I like the fact Dr Marion Tinsley almost got stung with it, making for a connection to checker history.

White to Play and Win


Can you solve Kookaburra's favorite (or should we say favourite) problem, one that gave pause to Marion Tinsley? It's not as hard as you might suspect. Don't be left out (back); give it your best and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

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04/14/18 - Printer friendly version
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A Possible Misstep


Snow can still come in April in many parts of North America, and if it does, you had best be careful and not suffer the type of mishap that of the unfortunate lady above.

This month's speed problem doesn't have a time limit and doesn't use the Javascript clock. Now, it's not a particularly hard problem, it's just that ... well, there's a way to misstep and slip, even if it doesn't involve snow and ice, and then things get a little more complicated.

Perhaps it's simplest to show you the diagram and let you find out for yourself.

Black to Play and Win


Watch your step, and solve this step by step. The next step? Clicking on Read More to check your solution.null

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04/07/18 - Printer friendly version
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