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Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief


Published every Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i


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One Last Gem

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For the last several months our monthly Checker School columns have been featuring "gem" problems. Whether or not they were all truly "gems" is for you, our reader, to decide, but we have one last entry in the current series to present to you today. It's by S. J. Pickering and apparently first made its appearance in the old (and excellent) checker magazine Elam's Checker Board.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK8,15,22,K26:B1,7,20,K27

White has two kings to Black's one and has a centralized position. Should be easy, shouldn't it? But checkers is subtle and complex, and the win may not be so simple.

Does this one sparkle for you? Can you appreciate its facets? See if you can solve it and then let your mouse shine on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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10/12/19 - Printer friendly version
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A Trap With A Tale, Continued

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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?
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK5,11,15,20,30,31:B2,4,8,18,K22,K32

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

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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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Uncle Ben's Porch

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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!"

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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.

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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."

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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."

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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.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK10,K14,20:B5,12,K19,K26

"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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Men Against A King

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The painting above depicts the future King of England, Richard the Lionheart, surrounded by Saracens and engaged in fierce battle. It was around the year 1187 and the time of the Third Crusade. Will the men win against the King? Certainly not, as Richard would survive to become King about two years later.

Looking through the lenses of our modern era, the Crusades certainly were controversial and perhaps even mentioning them is less than politically correct (something about which we don't generally spend a lot of time worrying). But there shouldn't be any such controversy over our game of checkers, and so today we'll consider a different setting of "men against a King."

Although we haven't presented an episode in some little while, for years we've been publishing columns based on Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. We're nearly at the end with only a couple of columns left to go.

Today's entry derives from Willie's A Trap With A Tale, and he of course calls it Men Against A King. Here's the run-up. It's from a game Willie played as Black against the great Sam Gonotsky, who had White. It's a really fine game and a pleasure to play over.


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 28-24
7. 10-14

Certainly doesn't lose, but 5-9 and other moves likely make for an easier draw.


7. ... 22-18
8. 6-10 18x9
9. 5x14 25-22
10. 1-5 19-15
11. 10x28 22-17
12. 13x22 26x10
13. 16-19 23x16
14. 12x19 21-17

Gonotsky played this clever move (21-17), instead of 27-24 to regain the piece, going a man down but gaining a strong position.


15. 19-24 17-13
16. 4-8 10-6
17. 2x9 13x6

Black is a man up but Willie notes "it looked as if my goose were cooked, with General Gonotsky having what appeared to be an impenetrable king row."

Here's the position:

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W6,27,30,31,32:B3,5,8,20,24,28.

Is Willie's goose cooked, or can Black save the game? This is another one that is anything but easy, but it's well worth your time and effort (although you're not going to cook Gonotsky's goose). Let it simmer for a while and then light up Read More with your mouse to see the solution.null

[Read More]
04/20/19 - Printer friendly version
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Logical Checkers 2: Freestyle Expert

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Today we're pleased to announce the release of the second volume in Grandmaster Richard Pask's projected five-volume Logical Checkers series. Volume 2 is entitled Freestyle Expert.

Following on the heels of the highly successful first volume, Checkers for the Novice, the new book delves deeply into tactics, endgames and mid-game formations as well as landings and various freestyle (go-as-you-please) openings.

You can get the new book in its first electronic edition from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right column, or directly here. Through Mr. Pask's generosity the book is provided completely free of charge. The book runs to about 180 pages with over 150 diagrams and numerous illustrative games.

To demonstrate one small part of the content of this wonderful new book, here's the run-up to a sample tactics situation.

11-16 24-19 7-11 22-18 3-7 25-22; 10-14??---A 22-17 7-10 17-13 16-20---B, to the diagram.

A---Mr. Pask here quotes Richard Fortman: "This radical departure might be classified as a 'coffee-house' move, but impractical against a former world champion!

B---2-7 29-25 16-20 25-22 14-17 21x14 10x17 19-15 12-16 28-24 17-21 24-19 8-12 15x8 4x11 19-15 7-10 15x8 White Wins---Ed., with KingsRow.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W13,18,19,21,23,26,27,28,29,30,31,32:B1,2,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12,14,20.

To see the solution, simply download the new book and turn to page 123. Our thanks as always to Mr. Pask for according us the privilege of editing and publishing his work.null

01/19/19 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Tommy's JV Debut

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Tommy Wagner had, with the help of Uncle Ben (a retired checkers master who wasn't really Tommy's uncle, even though it seemed like it), worked through his disappointment at not making the Varsity Checker Team when he started high school a little earlier this year. Although Tommy was a Class A player, he wasn't yet ready to complete with the experts and the titled master who made up the Varsity.

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Tommy Wagner

But Tommy had easily made the Junior Varsity, and, in competition with no less than three other Class A players, had won the role of Junior Varsity Captain. Uncle Ben, who tutored Tommy most Saturday mornings, told Tommy he was very proud of him.

"But you've got your J.V. home opener coming up on Thursday night against Jacksonville Central," Uncle Ben reminded him.

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It was indeed a Saturday morning and Tommy was sitting on Uncle Ben's porch, sipping from a glass of Uncle Ben's famous lemonade.

"Yes, Uncle Ben, and I hear they're pretty tough."

"Scouting reports say they have an Expert ranked player on their top board. That's going to be a challenge."

"I'm not afraid, Uncle Ben. I'll give it everything I've got, and I won't let her scare me."

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Letitia Wong

"Leticia Wong is said to be a rising star." Uncle Ben didn't add that the scouting reports said the same about Tommy.

"Hopefully, she'll bring out the best in me," Tommy said.

"Very well, then, let's get to practicing."

# # #

Tommy and Uncle Ben practiced longer and harder than usual that Saturday, and Tommy worked hard during the coming week, too. But Thursday rolled around pretty quickly, and on that evening, Tommy found that Leticia was indeed a formidable opponent.

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There was a big crowd in the stands. Out on the field, under the lights, the score was tied at 2-2, and Tommy and Leticia's game would decide the match. Tommy really wanted to bring in a win for the home team, and he had White in the following position.

BLACK (Letitia)
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WHITE (Tommy)
White to Play, What Result?

W:B13,K2,K23:W10,11,15,19.

It was Tommy's move. He knew he could get a draw, but his team needed a win. The clock was ticking and Tommy was low on time. He had to decide quickly.


Are you a rising star like Tommy or Letitia? Your standing doesn't matter; solving the problem will be a good exercise. Give it your all--- your team is depending upon you--- and then click on Read More for the conclusion of our story, and no less than 14 examples of the theme, including the problem solution.null

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12/15/18 - Printer friendly version
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Double Down

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Doubling down: You're playing Blackjack at some fabulous Las Vegas casino and you think you've got two great cards. So you "double down" --- double your bet in the hopes of doubling your winnings.

Alas, it's not that simple. While under the best circumstances your chances of winning are almost 2 out of 3, most of the time you'll just double your losses. Those bright lights and free drinks are paid for by someone.

So, how does "doubling down" apply to this week's Checker Maven column? Read on.

Our Checker School columns for the last few months have featured "gem" problems by G. M. Gibson. Today we bring you the concluding entry in the G. M. Gibson problem series, and it's a practical one.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W10,20,30,31,32:B2,12,17,18,19.

There are two ways to for White to win this. If this were found in a problem competition, that would be kind of a bad thing; dual (or "double") solutions are frowned upon.. But as a teaching position, doubling down (or should we say doubling up) can be instructive, and we're asking you to find both winning lines. Can you double down and do that? Can you find at least one solution? They're closely related, and if you find one, you might just find the other.

Try it (at least twice), and then--- wait for it--- double-click your mouse on Read More once to see all the answers.null

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10/13/18 - Printer friendly version
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The Year of the Checker

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1987: Korea and Iran were in the news (sound familiar?). Reagan was President. The stock market had a giant meltdown. And IBM's John Akers declared 1987 to be "The Year of the Customer" leaving us to wonder what other years might have been.

But did you know there was "The Year of the Checker"? Well, those exact words weren't used, and it was only the thought of one writer, but the following quote makes our point.

"... this season finds checkers fast becoming one of the leading popular pastimes, with checker clubs being formed in almost every large city in the country. Team matches are going on, checker columns are appearing in the local papers and the year XXXX will witness the greatest checker gathering of all time ..."

Taken from a checker book, we think this rather effectively declares that "The Year of the Checker" was in progress. We challenge you to name the book and the author, and replace "XXXX" with the year that the author referenced. What year was "The Year of the Checker"? (Hint: It certainly wasn't 1987.)

Although the fortune of our game has declined since, some things are timeless, such as the following problem, which appeared in the book cited above.

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK8,K13,21:BK7,K15,K23.

The problem isn't especially difficult, though it might be better suited to a more advanced beginner than to a novice. See if this is "the year of the checker" for you; find the solution and then click on Read More to see the winning moves and the answers to our questions.null

[Read More]
07/28/18 - Printer friendly version
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Checkers for the Novice Now Available

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Richard Pask's Checkers for the Novice, the print edition of Logical Checkers Volume 1, is now available from CreateSpace and Amazon[1], and is also available from Amazon UK and Amazon Europe. The 170 page book has been priced very modestly at US $7.49 (exclusive of shipping).

You can download a free PDF version by clicking on the link.

Checkers for the Novice includes substantial corrections and improvements and is the definitive modern guide for newcomers who wish to play checkers well.null

[1] Amazon lists the book with "Richard Pask, Author" and "Bob Newell, Author." This is incorrect. Richard Pask is the sole author. Bob Newell is the editor and publisher.

06/11/18 - 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.:

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