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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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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Win or Draw? It's Fifty-Fifty!

This month in our Checker School column you have a fifty-fifty chance of getting the right answer even if you don't know a thing about checkers! Here's the position we're going to consider.


Black to Play


Only two moves look possible for Black in this tough situation.

Consider: 9-14 loses quickly to 7-2 followed by 6-9, while 17-14 goes down almost as quickly via 6-10 14-17 23-18 17-21 10-14.

That just leaves 17-21 and 17-22.

One of these two allows White to win; it's known as Wardell's Win. The other obtains a draw for Black, and goes by the name Sweeney's Draw. All you have to do is say which is which! So, even if you just guess at the solution, you have even odds of getting it right!

Of course, all of you two-fisted checkerists will undoubtedly want to go on and demonstrate just how the win or draw takes place ... won't you?

Whether you work it all out or just play the odds, there's one sure thing: clicking on Read More will give you the answers, sample games, and explanatory notes, all courtesy of Ben Boland and his classic book Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

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10/27/07 - Printer friendly version
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Thirkell's Folly

It's a "Willie Ryan" Saturday today, as we continue with our electronic republication of his classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. These monthly excerpts seem to rank among our most popular columns, and with good reason: there was no one else in checker history quite like Willie; a master player who was also a most engaging writer and instructor. Here's what Willie has to say this time.

"Peter Thirkell, a prolific and talented analyst and problemist, held a prominent place as the draughts oracle of 70 years ago. But sometimes Pondering Peter, like the rest of us, pulled glaring boners. Witness his oversight in the following game, in which he passed up one of the most beautiful in-and-out shots ever to adorn the board.

10-1529-25 11-16
23-19 16-23 25-22
6-10 26-19 16-23
22-17 8-11 27-11
1-6 17-13 7-16
25-22 3-8 32-27
11-16 22-17 10-15---A

White to Play and Win


A---Given by Thirkell to draw, but it loses. 8-11 or 16-20 will produce a draw easily."

Fool around with this problem all you wish, but don't be fooled; it's no folly to click on Read More to see the very fine solution.

[Read More]
10/20/07 - Printer friendly version
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Checker School today brings us a problem that exhibits a certain form of symmetry; not the perfect symmetry of our photo, to be sure, but nevertheless an appealing geometric pattern. The position is credited to a Mr. Brooks, and looks like this.

A. Brooks

Black to Play and Win


As it turns out, reflecting our theme of symmetry, Black has not one but two ways of winning. Can you find them both?

Reflect on this for a while, but if you can't mirror the winning thought process, a simple click on Read More will flip to the solution page, which contains the answer to the problem, a sample game, and detailed notes, all courtesy of Ben Boland.

[Read More]
09/22/07 - Printer friendly version
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Wyllie's Switcher Swindle

Once again it's time for an installment from one of the greatest checker books of all time, Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. This month Willie takes us back in checker history, to a stratagem employed by Scotland's legendary James Wyllie. Willie tells us all about it in his own well-chosen words.

"It is impossible to record the historic stratagems of the world's great draughts players without including the hallowed name of James Wyllie of Scotland, father of modern checkers and the game's first full-time professional. Here we review one of the wily Scot's best-known thunderbolts:

11-15 6-10 4-8
21-17---A 22-17 29-25
9-1313-22 11-15
25-21 26-17 30-26
8-11 15-18 6-9---B
17-14 24-20
10-17 2-6
21-14 28-24

forming the diagram.


White to Play and Win

A---The Switcher opening; weak for white. Champion Wyllie was first to use and develop the gambit, and despite its inherent weakness, he doomed many a master with the white pieces.

B---Caught! White now ends all organized resistance with a neat double-action bust-up. The correct play at B is: 15-19, 24-15, 10-19, 23-16, 12-19, 27-23, 18-27, 32-16, 6-9, 26-22, 9-18, 22-15, 8-12, 16-11, 7-16, 20-11, 3-7, 11-2, 1-6, 2-9, 5-30, ending in a draw."

Will you too be swindled, or can you find your way to the solution? Try it out, but be sure to count your change before clicking on Read More to see how it's done.

[Read More]
09/15/07 - 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 2004-2021 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.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.

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