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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Logical Checkers Volume Four

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It's here! The fourth volume of Richard Pask's projected five-volume Logical Checkers series, entitled Checkers for the Three-Move Expert: Balanced Ballots is available to download in PDF format here or from the "Richard Pask" page as linked in the right-hand column. Of course, the book is completely free of charge, as are all the ebooks in the series.

Volume Four provides in-depth coverage of selected endgames, advanced tactics, mid-game landings, and of course balanced three-move ballots. The book is over 200 pages in length, with many examples, illustrative games, and diagrams.

Looking forward, we anticipate seeing Volume Five as early as the end of 2020, with a mammoth print volume of the whole series projected for later on in 2021.

Our thanks go to Grandmaster Pask for the opportunity to publish his works, and for his generosity in providing them gratis to the world-wide checker-playing community.

As a teaser, here's a position found in the book.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play, What Result?

W:W13,15,18,32:B3,12,20,K22

For the solution, see page 123 of Richard's new book.null

05/09/20 - Printer friendly version
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Checker Jargon

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It seems that an obsession with jargon has dominated the business world during the past few decades. There's "rightsizing," "synergy," "proactivity," and thousands more, and it seems that such terms offer very little other than a way to take up screen space in yet another stultifying PowerPoint presentation.

In today's Checker School entry, our friends Skittle and Nemo return. You'll recall that they are to be found in Andrew J. Banks' fascinating book, Checker Board Strategy. Let's listen in as Skittle instructs Nemo. Note that Skittle prefers the word "vocabulary" over "jargon."

"As we solve problems," Skittle suggested to Nemo, "let's use the checker vocabulary. When you jump two pieces, call it a 'Two-Shot.'"

"Why get technical?" protested Nemo. "Solutions flash on me. Checkers is the silent game."

This raises an interesting question: Just how much does 'checker jargon' such as "Two-Shot", "Breeches," and all the rest, add to our learning and understanding? We'd posit that when a name reinforces the idea concerned, it's useful. A "breeches" position is easy to picture and easy to remember. A "Two-Shot" is just as clear. But the names of openings, for instance, while providing a convenient shorthand, don't really tell us much in and of themselves.

Mr. Banks uses the following position as an illustration. Can you solve it--- and come up with some "checker jargon" to describe the solution?

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W11,15,19,K22,30:B12,18,21,K24,K29

You won't be able to merely talk your way through this one, and we don't know if the solution will "flash" on you, but we won't insist that you solve it silently. Do however give it a try. It's not especially difficult. Flash your mouse on Read More when you're ready to see the solution.null

[Read More]
04/11/20 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Girl Trouble

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Tommy Wagner had girl trouble, and as a ninth grader, he had never expected any such thing.

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Tommy

It all started when he had a match-up against rising star Letitia Wong (see previous Checker Maven story). Tommy won his game, but he was especially impressed with Letitia's sportsmanship and gentle manner. It had given him a funny feeling that was hard to describe.

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Letitia Wong

So a week later, even though he knew maybe he shouldn't be doing it, he gave Letitia a call. Despite his nervousness, Letitia had been very receptive and friendly and even suggested that they go to a movie together on the following Sunday afternoon.

Tommy didn't know how to refuse--- he wasn't even sure that he wanted to refuse--- and that's when the trouble began.

The problem was this: Tommy had been keeping company with another girl, Tina, for quite some little while. They had gone to grade school together and were close friends.


Tina

It was just Tommy's luck, or maybe it was fate, that Tina and her older sister went to the very same movie at the very same theater on the very same Sunday. Naturally, she saw Tommy and Letitia together. Tina immediately burst into tears, and after the movie both she and her sister confronted Tommy and Letitia.

It was not a pretty scene and Letitia, mortally embarrassed, was quite angry with Tommy--- although maybe not as angry as Tina was. In the course of not even five minutes, Tommy went from two girlfriends to none, with Tina and her sister stomping off angrily and Letitia telling Tommy pointedly that she'd take the bus home by herself.

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Tommy was in a down mood all week, and it persisted into his Saturday morning checker lesson with Uncle Ben, a retired checker professional and Tommy's long-time mentor.

Tommy dragged up the steps to Uncle Ben's front porch and plopped into a chair with only the barest of greetings.

"Something's wrong, isn't it?" Uncle Ben asked. He could have chided Tommy for his lack of manners, but Uncle Ben was too kindly for that.

"No, sir," Tommy muttered. "Everything's fine."

"I don't think so," Uncle Ben said firmly. "Now, you don't have to tell me about it, but please don't deny it. After all these years I think I know you pretty well."

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Tommy sat silently while Uncle Ben, wishing to put Tommy at ease, poured out tall glasses of his deservedly famous lemonade.

Tommy couldn't help but relax, if only a little, after his first sip. "Thank you, Uncle Ben," he said, and then, at all once, launched into the story of his girl trouble.

It was Uncle Ben's turn to sit silently for a few moments. Then he said, "Well, Tommy, and who do you suppose is to blame for this situation?"

"If Letitia hadn't asked me to go to the movie with her ..."

"Just a minute! There are three things wrong with that. First, Letitia didn't know anything about Tina. Second, you didn't have to accept her invitation. And third, you're the one who called Letitia to begin with."

"Um ... yeah ... kind of looks like I brought this on myself, doesn't it?"

Uncle Ben didn't need to reply.

"But now, I don't know what to do about it!"

"What does someone do when they've hurt or offended someone else?"

"Er ... well ... they say 'sorry'?"

"Exactly. You've taken the first step by admitting responsibility. That's a big thing. But it's not enough by itself. Now you have to do something even harder. You have to face the people you've hurt and apologize. Do you think you can do that?"

"I don't know ... but I have to, don't I? So I guess ... well, I just have to. Right away."

"Very good, Tommy, the sooner the better. But not quite right away. You can do what you must this afternoon. I think it will go better if you do a little checker study first to clear your head and focus your thoughts."

Uncle Ben pointed to the checkerboard he had set up on a little porch table. "Today we're going to study something known as the back shot. Take a good look at this position. Push everything else out of your mind and focus. Then tell me how to solve it."

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK4,13,17,21,26,27,32:B1,3,6,10,14,19,20

Tommy took a deep breath, then another, and began to concentrate. After about five minutes, he said, "I'm ready, Uncle Ben."


Do you need a checker problem to clear your head and put you in a frame of mind for doing ... whatever you need to do? We certainly hope you don't have girl (or boy) trouble! Do give the position a good try and then click on Read More to see the solution, notes, and numerous additional examples of the theme.null

[Read More]
11/23/19 - Printer friendly version
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Logical Checkers Vol. 3: Two-Move Expert

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Today we're delighted to announce the immediate availability of the third volume of Grandmaster Richard Pask's Logical Checkers series, subtitled Checkers for the Two-Move Expert. In this new book, which runs to close to 300 pages, Mr. Pask presents new material on endgames, landings, and a vast array of tactical themes, as well as a survey and analysis of two-move ballots (as a stepping-stone to eventual study of three-move ballots).

You can get the book from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column, or directly here. The book is of course completely free of charge thanks to the generosity of Mr. Pask.

As a bit of a teaser, here's a position found in the book. It's one of Mr. Pask's own devising which he calls Life's Not Fair.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK3,13,17,21:B5,6,10,K22

To see the solution, download the book and go to Diagram 391 on page 92.

The Checker Maven thanks Mr. Pask for the continuing privilege of editing and presenting his work.null

11/09/19 - Printer friendly version
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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

[Read More]
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

[Read More]
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

[Read More]
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
null
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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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 2004-2020 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.

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