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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Reed's Rattler

While the rattler similar to the one shown above can often be seen in the countryside near our Santa Fe offices, in this month's chapter of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, we're talking about a different kind of rattler; namely, a position that leaves you feeling, well, rattled. And, in Willie's example, who better to be the "rattlee" than that checker pedantic of yore, Harvey L. Hopkins, who, based on his writing, certainly seemed to be more than a little on the stodgy side. We can just imagine him becoming rattled indeed in the very odd position which arises below. Of course, Willie's remarks on "Chop Suey Checkers" and "Chinese checker games" might not pass muster in today's environment of political correctness, but we hope you'll allow the allusions; they're rather colorful and certainly well intended.

And now, here's Willie.

"Old-timers say that Champion James P. Reed was un­beatable when he was sober. His uncanny ability to pene­trate the possibilities of play in complicated situations won him the distinction of being the greatest crossboard player of his day. Reed's main dish was 'Chop Suey Checkers,' a term he used to describe positions in which the pieces became en­tangled in complete confusion. The game below shows what happened to Harvey L. Hopkins, of Chicago, when Reed caught him in one of his Chinese checker games many years ago."

11-16 18-15 10-14
24-20 5-9 27-24
16-19 25-22 18-23
23-16 9-14 22-18---B
12-19 29-25 See the
22-18 14-18 diagram.
9-13---A 20-16

Black to Play and Win


A---This enigmatic move was a great favorite with Mr. Reed, and one which led opponents into a maze of complicated formations so dense that even seasoned masters often became hopelessly lost in their kaleidoscopic patterns.

B---It should be noted that 31-27 also loses here, by 6-9, 27-18,14-23,15-10 (forced), 7-14, 24-15, 23-27, 32-23, 8-11,15-8,4-20, 22-18,1-5, etc., and black wins. Wm. F. Ryan. White's best move at B is 24-20, then 7-10*---C, 16-12---D, 14-18, 21-17, 2-7, 28-24, 19-28, 26-19, 18-23, 25-21 (31-27, 23-26, 30-23, 7-11, 20-16*, 11-20,*, 23-18*, 8-11, etc., a draw), 8-11, 15-8, 4-11, 15-8, 4-11, 19-16, 11-15, 16-11, 7-16, 20-11, 15-18, 22-15, 13-22, 31-27, 10-19, 27-18, 19-23, leading to a draw. Wm. F. Ryan.

C---If 14-18 is used, white will win with 16-11*, 7-16, 20-11, 6-10 (forced; if 1-5, then 31-27, 19-24, 27-20), 15-6, 8-15, 21-17*, 1-10, 17-14, 10-17, 28-24, 19-28, 26-10, 17-26, 30-14, 13-17, 25-22, 18-25, 29-22, 4-8, 14-9. Wm. F. Ryan.

D---If 22-18 is used, then the following moves will produce a draw: 1-5, 18-9, 5-14, 31-27, 14-18, 16-12, 2-7 (8-11 draws too), 15-11, 7-16, 20-11, 8-15, 25-22, 18-25, 27-11, 10-15, 32-27, 6-10, 11-7, 13-17, 21-14, 10-17, 30-14, 3-17, 27-23, 17-22. Wm. F. Ryan. Again at D, if 16-11 is used, black will win with 14-18, 21-17, 1-5*, 20-16, 8-12, 31-27, 3-8, 27-24, 5-9, 24-20, 9-14."

Can you make your way through this one without getting rattled yourself? No need to hiss; just click on Read More to slither over to the solution.

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05/17/08 - Printer friendly version
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Andy's Annihilator

In our latest installment from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps and Shots of the Checkerboard, we present what has to be the most stunning and spectacular position thus far--- and that's saying a lot. Without further ado we'll let Willie tell us about it.

"World's Champion Andrew Anderson is generally con­ceded to be the discoverer and early coach of James Wyllie, although there is no evidence on the records to indicate that the 'Herd Laddie' ever acknowledged Anderson as his teacher. The great Anderson played five torrid matches with Wyllie between 1837 and 1847, winning four of them, losing one. This may explain why the caustic Wyllie was reluctant to bestow any credit upon his master. A refined and quiet-mannered gentleman, Anderson was versatile as a player and as an analyst. It has been said that none of the trunk games in his Guide has ever been corrected. Among Anderson's best known analytical sparklers is this instructive sortie on the Souter opening. Proceed with:

9-14 23-19 11-16
22-17 6- 9 17-14
11-15 17-13 16-23*
25-22 2- 6 31-26---F
8-11 22-17 10-17
29-25 14-18 21-14,
4-8---A 26-22---E arriving at
the diagram.

Black to Play and Win


A---In a match game between Robertson and Wyllie, the former used 11-16 at this point, and the following sensational play ensued:

11-16 27-23 11-15 31-27 11-27 26-23
24-20 19-24 19-16 5-9 19-15 19-26
16-19 28-19 7-11 27-24 10-19 30-7---D,
23-16 15-24 16-7 15-18 17-10 resulting
12-19 32-28 2-11 23-19 6-15 in a draw.
17-13---B 8-11 22-17 8-12---C 13- 6
4-8 28-19 3-8 20-16 1-10

B---White dare not attack the piece 27-23, as 5-9, 23-16, 9-13, in reply, ends all organized resistance, and black wins.

C---At this move, one of Wyllie's cronies, Peter Rule, entered the playing room, and after hastily taking inventory of the situation on the board, exclaimed, 'My, Mr. Wyllie, how did you ever get into such a scrape as this?'

'I am a piece ahead,' was the pert reply. Then Wyllie moved 20-16, proceeded to give away six men as fast as Robertson could take them, and acquired a draw amidst loud salutes of general ad­miration.

D---A splendidly played crossboard game, which is worthy of close analytical study by all grades of players.

E---A tricky but untenable move, which requires black to meet it with exacting play. The correct move here is 26-23, as exemplified in Mclndoe's Slingshot (previously published here --Ed.).

F--21-17, at this point, would be crushed by 23-26, 30-23,15-19, 23-16, 12-19, 24-15, 10-19, 22-15, 9-18, 31-26, 7-10, etc., with black winning."

Make no mistake, this one is a real shocker, and a genuine challenge even to a top player. Can you do it? Don't get annihilated; click on Read More to blast your way to the incredible solution.

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04/19/08 - Printer friendly version
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Second Position

Our ballerina above is showing good form in demonstrating Second Position. We'll wager that ballet's Second Position is known to more of the general public than checker's Second Position--- but we'll bet the margin is small.

We continue with our review of the basics in this month's Checker School column, drawn as usual from the erudite pages of Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. And what can be more basic than Second Position? You may ask why we even bother with such an old warhorse, as it's been presented in virtually every basic checker textbook since time immemorial.

If you've mastered this position, we'll accept your argument, and you can browse on over to your favorite alternate checker site. But how many of us have really mastered all the nuances? Today, we take you on the backstage tour of Second Position, and by the time you're done, you'll be able to literally dance your way through this tricky but important ending.

Try your hand at the following progressively more difficult three examples.


Black to Play and Win



Black to Play and Win



Black to Play and Win


Can you solve them all? Never have a "second" thought about clicking on Read More to see detailed notes, a sample game, and virtually all that you'll ever need to know.

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04/12/08 - Printer friendly version
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McIndoe's Slingshot

In the right hands (or perhaps we should say in the wrong hands) a slingshot can be quite a fearsome weapon. In this month's installment from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps and Shots of the Checkerboard, the Bronx Comet shows us how such a weapon can be used over the checkerboard. Willie credits his example to another Brooklyn great. Here's Willie to tell us about it.

"When the tenability of a line of play depends on the execu­tion of a timely shot at the last minute, just when it appears an impasse has been reached, the stroke attains its greatest scientific and artistic value. An unsurpassed example of such a climactic touch is bared in the time-tested gem presented on the next page, by the great Jim Mclndoe of yore, a Brooklyn, New York, boardmaster.


White to Play and Draw

11-15 18-22 12-16
23-19 25-18 27-23
9-14 15-22 16-19
22-17 23-18 23-16
6-9 11-16 7-11
17-13 19-15 16-7
2-6 10-19 3-19
25-22 24-15 32-27
8-11 16-20 8-12---A
29-25 17-14 27-23
4-8 22-25 12-16,
22-17 21-17 yielding the
14-18 25-29 diagrammed
26-23 31-26 position.

A---If 8-11 is moved, a draw results from 18-15, 11-18, 14-10, 6-15, 13-6, 1-10, 27-23, 19-26, 30-7."

Can you solve this one? It's a little harder than some of the others in this series, but you can snap up the solution by clicking on Read More. We're sure you'll agree it's a dandy.

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03/15/08 - Printer friendly version
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Deans' Position

Um... hold on a minute here. Our column title refers to checkerist E. Deans, not to the famous actor James Dean. One of our editors must have been up late watching old movies, we suppose.

Rather than discussing the movies, though, our Checker School series heads back to some checker basics over the next few months. Today we present a lesson on Deans' Position. It's a classic example of the classic checker principle of mobility. Let's look at the diagram below.


Black to Play and Win


Black has slightly superior forces with two kings to White's one, but a definite advantage in mobility. The question is, of course, does Black have enough of an advantage to win? In this case, the answer is yes, but showing it is the problem. Can you do it?

Give this textbook position a try and then click on Read More for a detailed solution and several sample games. It's a practical lesson this month and one that you will use often in your own play.

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03/08/08 - Printer friendly version
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Overlooked by Mail

Roughly once a month, we present an excerpt from Willie Ryan's undisputed classic work of checker tactics, Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, and it's proven to be one of our most popular ongoing features. This time Willie turns to the world of postal play with a surprising game. Here's how Willie describes things.

"The similarity of formation and procedure between the preceding example (a Paisley Shocker) and the one ultimately reached in the accompanying game can be identified readily by comparing the two positions at the diagrammed stages. If there is any doubt in the reader's mind that champions are constantly overlooking winning strokes in their play, consider the circumstances in the case at hand. Two of America's foremost mail-game exponents--- Victor Davis, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and George W. Bass, of Eaton, Colorado--- played this game by mail. When the diagrammed situation was reached, both contestants muffed the killer, the game ending in a draw.

10-15 27-20 1-5
24-19 4-8 30-25
15-24 17-13 3-8
28-19 2-6 22-17
9-14 31-27 14-18
22-18 8-11---A 17-14
5-9 29-25---B 11-15
25-22 10-15* 20-16---C
6-10 25-22 8-12
22-17 15-19 21-17---D.
11-15 23-16 See the
18-11 12-19 diagram.
8-24 32-28

Black to Play and Win


A---Of course, 10-15 loses immediately by the in-and-outer via 21-17, 14-21, 30-25, 21-30, 20-16, 12-19, 23-16, 30-23, 27-2, 8-12, 16-11, 12-16, 29-25, 16-19, 32-27, etc., and white wins. Again at A, if black moves 1-5, white will win with: 23-18, 14-23, 27-18, 8-11, 29-25, 10-15, 26-22, 7-10, 21-17, 12-16, 32-27, 3-8, 30-26, 8-12, 18-14, 9-18, 26-23. Wm. F. Ryan.

B---23-18 would be no good now. For example: 23-18, 14-23, 27-18, 10-14, 26-23, 7-10, 29-25, 10-15, 25-22, 12-16, 32-28, 15-19, 30-26, 3-8, 18-15, 11-27, 20-4, 1-5, etc., and black wins. Wm. F. Ryan.

C---A safer route would be 21-17, 6-10*, 13-6, 19-24, 28-19, 15-31, 26-22, 8-12, 22-15, 10-19; a draw.

D---This is where Bass bogged down in the morass of formation. The move taken allows the thunderbolt that follows; but instead of 21-17, try 16-11*, 7-16, 26-22, 19-23, 14-10, 23-32, 10-1, 9-14, 22-17, for a draw. Wm. F. Ryan."

Don't get buried yourself. After you've tried to solve the position, dig your way out by clicking on Read More to see the solution.

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02/16/08 - Printer friendly version
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A Paisley Shocker

Our popular series of extracts from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard continues this month with a shot flashy enough to be worthy of the great Bronx Comet himself. Here is how Willie describes it.

"The idea shown in the adjoining example occurs in several mid-game structures, and belongs to the vast family of in-and-out strokes. The first move in some coups is so startling and unexpected that players have been known to fall out of their chairs in sheer surprise! This one has unseated quite a few staunch sitters!

11-16 28-24 10-17
24-19 8-12 21-14
8-11 31-27 2- 6
22-18 6- 9 18-15
4- 8 26-23 9-18
18-14 1- 6 23-14
9-18 25-21 3- 8
23-14 16-20 25-22
10-17 30-26 16-19
21-14 11-16 22-18
16-23 32-28 12-16---A
27-18 6-10 See the
12-16 29-25 diagram.

While to Play and Win


A---Gone with the wind. Black's proper play for a draw is: 19-23, 26-19, 7-11, 19-16, 12-19, 14-10, 6-9, 10-7, 19-23, 7-3. Sam Levy, Manchester, England."

Can you solve this one, or will you get zapped instead? In either case, clicking on Read More will charge on over to the electrifying solution.

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01/19/08 - Printer friendly version
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On the Edge

In today's Checker School installment, we have a position that is literally "on the edge" with nearly all of the pieces starting out on the edges of the board. It's yet another instance where you think the win ought to be clear; after all, Black seems to have real superiority here---- or does he?

We certainly don't call this an easy problem. The win is fairly long and involved and concludes with an elegant tableau, and it might be a bit of a challenge for you to find the solution. Here's the position.


White to Play, Black Wins


Can you edge your way to victory, or will you go over the edge instead? There's no need to worry; clicking on Read More will take the edge off your anxieties by bringing you a detailed solution with copious notes, and a sample game as well.

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01/12/08 - Printer friendly version
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A Souter Six-Shooter

As we continue to republish the unequalled classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard we today find author Willie Ryan ready for a real shoot-em-up. It's one we're sure you'll enjoy. Willie tells us all about it below.

"The ancient Souter opening, formed by 6-9 at the fifth move of the game tabulated below, was a great favorite with all the champions in Wyllie's day. According to historians, the opening was named after a Scottish shoemaker who knew his way around with it. Here's a Souter snare that will shake the crown from any king:

11-15 24-20 10-14---B
23-19 15-24 19-10
9-14 28-19 6-15
22-17 11-15 13-9
6-9---A 27-24 14-18
17-13 14-17 23-14
2-6 21-14 7-11
25-22 9-18 31-26
8-11 26-23 12-16---C,
29-25 18-27 forming
4-8 32-23 the

White to Play and Win


A---The Souter opening, a standard debut leading to an equal game.

B---A good "catch" line for black is 5-9. After this move, 23-18, 8-11, 20-16, 11-27, 18-2, 27-32, etc., leads to a draw; but if white plays 25-21 after 5-9, then black scores with this impressive combination: 5-9, 25-21, 9-14, 21-17 (all that's left), 14-21, 23-18, 8-11, 31-27 (31-26, 3-8 wins), 11-16*, 20-2, 1-5, 18-11, 3-7, 2-9, 7-32, 9-6, 32-28, 6-15, 28-10. W. S. Lambert. A real beauty.

C---Well-known play to here. The text loses by the pending shot. The correct moves are: 3-7*, 25-21, 15-19, 24-15, 11-25, 9-6, 1-17, 21-14, 8-11 *, leading to a draw."

Were you quick on the draw in finding the solution? Don't be blown away; click on Read More to shoot directly to the solution.

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12/22/07 - Printer friendly version
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What Happened to "Let's Play Checkers"?

We've been promising an ebook version of the classic Let's Play Checkers, by Kenneth Grover and Tommie Wiswell, for some little while now. Here's what's been going on.

First, the ebook edition turned out to be a lot more effort than we expected. We'd rather be late than produce less than a top-quality edition, and typesetting this book is simply taking a lot of time to do right.

But there is another issue, one that we ran into at a fairly late stage in the project. While our initial research indicated that the book was in the public domain, and therefore eligible for reissue by us, we have recently learned that copyright claims had in fact been asserted, and therefore we must now seek permission to republish the book.

We're in the process of trying to locate the copyright claimant, which is difficult enough in and of itself; then we'll need to ask for the necessary releases, something which the claimant may or may not be willing to grant. Under current copyright law, the book won't go into the public domain until the year 2035! (We believe this is excessive and out of tune with the original intent of copyright legislation, but that's another whole topic.)

Of course we're hoping for the best and for a speedy result. We'll keep you informed as we go along.

12/08/07 - Printer friendly version
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