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.
Certainly doesn't lose, but 5-9 and other moves likely make for an easier draw.
Gonotsky played this clever move (21-17), instead of 27-24 to regain the piece, going a man down but gaining a strong position.
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:
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.[Read More]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
"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.
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.
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.[Read More]
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.
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.[Read More]
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.
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.[Read More]
Richard Pask's Checkers for the Novice, the print edition of Logical Checkers Volume 1, is now available from CreateSpace and Amazon, 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.
 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.
In our long-running Checker School series, we've featured Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. We're almost to the end of that book and this will be the last study from that source. Later, we'll move on to other positions and books of a suitably didactic nature.
It's fitting, then, to be "Dunne" with a position attributed to old-time checker great Frank Dunne.
This isn't especially easy, and in Mr. Boland's notes, he points that out but is most unusually judgmental of a player who didn't find the win. In defense of the fellow that lost, this is an 11x11 position and it's easy to stray from the path.
Fortunately, The Checker Maven will never judge; we only encourage, and in this case, we urge you to find the solution. Don't stop until you're Dunne, and then click on Read More for the usual sample games and analysis.[Read More]
Richard Pask has retired! Actually the photo above dates back to mid-2017, when Richard did indeed retire from his position as an educator.
But retired, for Richard, may mean something very different from what it means to others; this gentleman has been very busy indeed. Last week we published his revised edition of Complete Checkers, and this week we're proud to put forth the first book in his new series, which is called Logical Checkers.
The series, expected to consist of five volumes, will present a layered approach to checker tuition, from novice through master. Book 1 is the "Novice" guide but it contains much of interest even to a more experienced player. Rules and basic principles, tactics and strategy, common endgames, and an initial opening repertoire (for Go As You Please players) are all presented in 127 full-size pages illustrated with 128 diagrams.
Down the road, after the series is completed, we plan to once again offer a combined edition in both electronic and print formats.
We predict that Logical Checkers will do no less than revolutionize checker tuition.
Richard, once again, is very generously giving us his work free of charge. It can be downloaded here or from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column.
Here's one of the tactical examples given in the book.
It's not that hard; this is, after all, a book aimed at relatively new players. But it's nonetheless pleasing. See how quickly you can find the solution and then click on Read More to see how you did. And be sure to grab your copy of the new book. Thank you, Mr. Pask![Read More]
The weather in the Dorset area, on England's south coast, hasn't been so great this winter. The photo above is of a frozen-over window in Richard Pask's home. Brrr!
But if the cold weather has kept Richard indoors, we are the beneficiaries, for today we're pleased to announce the immediate availability of the second edition of Richard Pask's landmark work, Complete Checkers. This edition incorporates about 100 changes, updates, and corrections. The Checker Maven thanks Mr. Pask for the continuing privilege of publishing and presenting his work to you, the checker players of the world.
Of course, the revised book can be downloaded in PDF format, completely free, either here or from our Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column. The printed edition has also been updated and can be obtained from Amazon's US, UK, and European outlets (although going to the expense of replacing your first edition printed copy is by no means necessary).
Here's an example of a new idea in the new edition.
This is Ballot 102.
Several moves draw here. In the 1st edition, with play attributed to Willie Ryan, Richard showed a draw after 29-25, but in the second edition, 24-19! is presented (also attributed to Ryan). The computer tells us that 24-20 and even 17-13 are also probably draws, although the draws are definitely more difficult than in the line of play after the brilliant 24-19. (For subsequent play after 24-19, refer to the book, game #1748 on page 482.)
But what if White tries a hasty and badly mistaken 31-26? Then we have this:
It doesn't look so good for White, does it? Black indeed has a win. But can you show it over the board? It isn't especially difficult if you know the technique, but it's one of those highly practical things that you simply must know if you're to succeed at the upper levels of the game.
See how you do (are you stuck indoors too?) and then click on Read More to view the solution.>[Read More]
The photo above shows a very narrow drawbridge somewhere in Holland. Now, in checkers there are bridges and draws, and some of those draws are narrow indeed. Today, we'll look, not at a bridge, but at a narrow draw, which we'll define loosely as one that is difficult to find over the board and requires precise play, hewing to a "narrow" path.
We've been exploring the final part of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard with a series of variations on some rather tricky play. Today, we ask you to join Willie in helping the White pieces find a narrow draw.
Here's the run-up one more time, with just a couple of notes as reminders.
A---Loses. 28-24 and several other moves would draw.
B---Willie claimed that this draws, but the game was lost earlier.
C---Black's winning move was 25-29; now White can draw.
This one is tough, no doubt about it, and the path is indeed narrow and long. Still, it's a really terrific study, filled with checker wisdom. Do give it more than a narrow try before clicking on Read More to see the solution and notes.[Read More]