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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Barker's Bounce

As each month we continue to republish Willie Ryan's masterful Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, we can't help but notice that the situations presented are, at least in a general sense, increasing in difficulty.

But no matter. We have Willie at our electronic side to explain it all. Here's one he calls Barker's Bounce for reasons that we'll let him explain for himself.

"This useful study shows how Champion G. F. Barker gave the bounce to James P. Reed in their stubbornly fought American Championship battle of 1891. Ever since that time, the losing move at A has been carefully sidestepped by all alert generals of the board.

12-163- 8 15-19---A
24-2026-22 20-11
8-1211-15 8-15
28-2420-11 23-16

forming the diagram.


White to Play and Win


A---This is where Reed took the road to ruin. The only move that will produce a draw is: 5-9*, 20-11, 15-18, 22-15, 10-26, 30-23, 8-15, 17-10, 15-19, 23-16, 12-19, 10-7, 2-11, 25-22, 11-15, 31-26, 4-8, etc. Willie Gardner."

Will this problem give you the bounce too, or will you rebound and solve it? In any case you can roll along to Willie's solution just by clicking on Read More.

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08/18/07 - Printer friendly version
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Horsefall's Stroke

Continuing with our ongoing series taken from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, this month we present a complex problem that Willie himself admired greatly, as he clearly states below.

"No compendium of classical coups would be complete without including the historical Horsefall Stroke, which I consider one of the great masterpieces of scientific play. Here's the run-up:

11-15 4-8 14-21
23-18 25-22 18-14
8-11 8-11 9-18
27-23 29-25 22-8
11-16 10-14 1-6*
18-11 31-27 8-4
16-20 6-10---A 6-10*
24-19 19-15 4-8
7-16 10-19 3-7*
22-18 21-17 8-11---B

Black to Play and Draw

A---Weak, but drawable. The following makes an easier draw: 3-8, 19-15, 2-7, 22-17, 7-10, 17-13, 10-19, 26-22, 19-26, 30-23, 14-17, 21-14, 11-15, 18-4, 9-18, 23-14, 6-9, etc.

B---Strongest, forming position illustrated. If instead of 8-11, white moves 25-22, the only moves to draw are: 7-11*, 8-6, 2-9, 22-18, 9-13*, 18-14, 13-17, 14-10 (23-18, 21-25, 30-21, 19-24 results in a draw), 5-9, 23-18, 9-13, 18-15, 17-22."

We're well beyond the introductory material in Mr. Ryan's classic book, so you can't expect an easy ride. Don't horse around; try to rein in the problem, and then click on Read More to gallop directly to the Willie's solution.

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07/21/07 - Printer friendly version
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How to Beat Granddad at Checkers

It was our pleasure quite recently to receive in the mail a copy of a wonderful new checker book, John Cardie's How to Beat Granddad at Checkers, and we simply can't say enough good things about it.

Mr. Cardie's book is based partly on the premise that grandparents have a lot to offer to grandchildren, and that many important lessons can be imparted over the checkerboard. So, to a large extent, the book is about much more than checkers: it's about life, and wisdom, and family, and learning, and teaching. It's about precious hours that grandparents and grandchildren can spend together and about the wonderful and irreplaceable memories that these moments create. Mr. Cardie's book speaks to the heart as much as to the mind.

Of course, there's checker content galore, and grandparents will likely learn a great deal themselves. After an introduction which convincingly explains why checkers is a good thing for both grownups and youngsters, Mr. Cardie teaches about the numbered board and checker notation, and then jumps right into basic checker tactics. (Presumably, grandparents can teach the rules and other basics on their own, although there is a later chapter in the book with the official rules of checkers.) Mr. Cardie has invented some very clever new names for old tactics, such as "the sandwich move" for what is traditionally known as "breeches." Some of the names are really catchy, such as "Twins in the Closet" for a particular three king vs. two king endgame. The book as well is liberally sprinkled with pages of general instruction, such as lessons on sportsmanship, and interestingly titled items like "Earnings and Yearnings" and many more, which use checkerboard situations as analogues for life. There are a number of checker puzzles of appropriate difficulty; and a listing of checker websites and resources rounds out the volume.

Some time back, we reviewed Galina Golant's excellent book, Play Checkers With Me. Ms. Golant's book was at the small child, introductory level. Mr. Cardie's book is the next step up, and is suitable for use with children who are a few years older, perhaps from the age of six or seven onwards. But there is no question that adults too will enjoy the book and benefit from it.

We hear that Mr. Cardie may be able to land a national distribution contract for the book through a prominent chain. We're sworn to secrecy about the details, but we certainly hope that comes to pass.

Author John Cardie

Obtaining this book is easy and inexpensive, and something that we recommend you do without delay. Just go to Mr. Cardie's website at for full details on ordering options. It's a book that is not to be missed.

06/30/07 - Printer friendly version
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First Issue of Draughts Razoo Now Available Online

Nick McBride, British checkerist and publisher, has generously made available an electronic version of the inaugural issue (Summer/Autumn 2003) of Draughts Razoo. You can download your free copy here.

Draughts Razoo, though only a handful of issues ever made their way into print, was a real marvel of excellent writing, first-class typography, and quality content. As publishers ourselves, we know what it takes to produce work of this type: an enormous investment of time and effort backed by not inconsiderable skill and judgment.

Our hats are off to Nick, both for what he accomplished with Draughts Razoo and for his giving it away, free, in a new electronic version. Enjoy!

05/12/07 - Printer friendly version
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The Legendary Tinsley

We once again have the privilege of presenting a new book by grandmaster Richard Pask. It's his exhaustive compilation of the checker career of Dr. Marion F. Tinsley, arguably the greatest checker player who ever lived, and is entitled simply The Legendary MFT.

The book is filled with games, commentary, and notes, and contains thorough indexing by opening and opponent, and much, much more, including an introduction by none other than Richard Fortman. It's simply too rich to fully describe here, so we invite you to download the book at once, by clicking here, or visiting our Richard Pask page as linked in the downloads section of the right hand column. The book is completely free thanks to the generosity of Mr. Pask.

To get you in the mood, as if that were necessary, we've chosen a situation covered in the book from the legendary Hellman-Tinsley match. This contest of titans started out with 24 draws, and then Mr. Hellman made a slip resulting in this position (having just played 17-14).


Black to Play and Win


You will not be surprised to know that Dr. Tinsley found the winning line of play, and drew first blood, going on to take the championship with three wins by the conclusion of the match.

Can you match wits with The Legendary Tinsley and find the winning line on your own? Can you correct Mr. Hellman's play and show how he could have held the draw?

A tall order, to be sure, but answers are just a click away; pressing Read More will bring you the entire game with annotations and comments, and, of course, the answers to our questions.

Hold the Phone: A Post-Publication Addendum

We're delighted that The Checker Maven has interested and attentive readers. After publication of this article, we heard from long-time correspondent Brian Hinkle, an analyst with a keen eye for position. He consulted with Ed Gilbert, and the fruits of their collaboration may have overturned history, not to mention the results of our proposed problem. Click on Read More for the rest of the story.)</p> [Read More]

04/21/07 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Cookies and Checkers

I had missed a Saturday morning on Uncle Ben's porch, as last weekend he hadn't been feeling very well and told me he needed his rest. It wasn't very often that he canceled our lessons, and I was worried about his health, to tell the truth about it.

So, when I got home from school yesterday, you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that Uncle Ben had called and left word with Mom that he'd be delighted to have me make my regular Saturday visit this week. Of course, Mom fussed and bothered, saying that I shouldn't annoy the kindly gentleman when he was just getting to feeling a bit better, but she relented when I said that he might be a bit disappointed if I didn't show up. Still, she insisted that I take a plate of home-baked chocolate chip cookies along with me, and warned me not to be eating them on the way over!

I skipped down the sidewalk as fast as I could, given the heaping plate of cookies I was carrying, and soon arrived at the old familiar porch. There was Uncle Ben, looking chipper and pleased, with his trademark pitcher of lemonade looking icy and inviting. The checker board was ready, too. We exchanged good-mornings and how-are-yous, and I sat down in my usual place.

"I've got some good ones for you today," Uncle Ben declared, "but don't you think we ought to have some cookies and lemonade first, to get our brains working?"

I pointed out that Mom had told me quite clearly not to eat the cookies and that they were to be saved for Uncle Ben, but Uncle Ben just winked at me and said, "You just tell your Mom that I insisted!" That was good enough for me, and we each had several cookies and a tall glass of lemonade, quietly enjoying the calm Florida morning.

"All right then, to work!" exclaimed Uncle Ben. "How would you go about winning this one?" He indicated the position on the checkerboard with a wave of his cookie-laden hand, and then he gave me that smile--- the one that always told me that this wasn't going to be easy, but that I could get the answer if I tried hard enough.


White to Play and Win


Uncle Ben's Porch is a fanciful and fictional characterization of the retirement years of the great checker author Ben Boland, with positions drawn from his classic Familiar Themes in the Game of Checkers. You're going to have to come up with your own cookies and lemonade, but clicking on Read More will give you the solution to this problem, a complete sample game demonstrating the theme, and a round dozen diagrammed positions and solutions based on the same motif.

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03/31/07 - Printer friendly version
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The Pied Piper's Fife

This month's installment from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard is appropriately named; we think you'll see why when you study the problem. But as usual, we'll hear directly from the great Mr. Ryan, in his own words.

'So many innocents have been lured to destruction by this hoary variation of the Fife opening that it has been appropriately tagged "The Pied Piper's Special."

11-15 23-19 9-14 22-17 5-9---A 26-23 9-13 30-26 13-22 25-9 6-13 21-17---B 13-22 26-17 2-6 29-25, forming the diagram.


Black to Play and Win


A---The Fife opening, developed and first played by James Wyllie.
B---The losing move. The correct moves here are: 29-25, 8-11, 25-22, 4-8, 22-17, 13-22, 26-17, 2-6; at this point 24-20, 17-14, or 17-13 will produce a draw.'

The winning path is a bit long this time, but don't be led away by the sound of the Pied Piper's fife; clicking on Read More will break the spell and bring you Willie's solution.

[Read More]
03/10/07 - Printer friendly version
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Alex Moiseyev is the reigning World Champion of 3-Move Restriction Checkers, the sixth in a line stretching back over seventy years to the first generally acknowledged 3-Move World Champion, Asa Long. However, with the notable exception of Derek Oldbury, these champions didn't write instructional books about checkers. Mr. Moiseyev has changed all that with his recent book, appropriately titled Sixth, with the subtitle Volume 1: The Way to the Crown.

World Champion Alex Moiseyev and his book "Sixth"

At first glance, the book looks like a college textbook: it's a sturdily constructed hardcover, nearly 400 pages in length, with the printed paper over boards casing style adopted by many text publishers. In fact, the book is in a way an advanced checkers text, though it's far too entertaining and lively to have been published by the typical publisher of college texts.

The book was printed and bound in the Ukraine, perhaps as an economy measure, and our only complaint is that the inking in our copy is uneven, with some pages dark and others quite light. But it's the content that matters, and that really shines.

Mr. Moiseyev presents two complete World Championship matches; his encounter with Ron King in 2003, and his contest with Elbert Lowder in 2002. He also gives us a selection of fifty of his best games from the 1996-2004 timeframe. The games are illustrated and annotated in a way seldom if ever seen in a checker book. Each page has at least one diagram, often more, and diagrams are always near the text section in which they are referenced, making for extraordinary ease of use.

In total, the book contains over 500 diagrams, presents 114 games, and treats 66 openings directly and 114 more indirectly. And you won't want to miss Mr. Moiseyev's coverage of the 3-Move World Championship Title controversy, which stretched out over the 2001-2003 time period. Checkers too has its moments of drama!

But when it comes to analysis of play, which is the real heart of the book, Mr. Moiseyev left no stone unturned. In addition to his own elucidations, he adds commentary and analysis by notables such as Richard Fortman; and finally, he verifies everything with the strong Nemesis computer engine. The result: annotations that are insightful, complete, detailed, easy to follow, and above all, interesting and engaging.

Who can use this book? The play analysis is deep and uncompromising, and there's no doubt that expert players will benefit most fully. But intermediates and even beginners will benefit as well, and will obtain untold enjoyment in playing over these fine games, learning as they go, with more of the analysis becoming accessible at each replaying. We ourselves are certainly at the lower end of the skill spectrum, yet Sixth has already given us numerous hours of entertainment and education, with many more to come.

We surely hope that the subtitle Volume 1 will mean that Mr. Moiseyev will publish additional books in the future similar to this outstanding edition.

With Mr. Moiseyev's kind permission, generous extracts from the book are reprinted here; just click to see them. Mr. Moiseyev has also selected two problems from the book, which we present below for your solving pleasure.

You can order the book through the American Checker Federation Online Store or direct from Alex; write to Alexander Moiseyev, 5676 Springburn Drive, Dublin, OH, 43017 USA. The cost of the book is US $48, or US $78 if you would like an inscribed, personalized copy.

And now, here are the problems:

Problem One

White to Move, Black to Draw


Problem Two

White to Move and Draw


We didn't say they were easy! But clicking on Read More will lead you unfailingly to Alex's solutions.

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01/20/07 - Printer friendly version
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8th International Match Book Now Available

We received our copy of 8th IM: 2005 Eighth International Match this week, and the book is a gem and a rare must-own. Co-edited by Gerry Lopez and Jim Loy, it's a genuine tour-de-force.

Not a mere booklet or even a trade paper edition, this is a professionally bound hardback covered in bookcloth, with oversized high-weight pages, large, clear type, and easily readable diagrams. But it's the content that shines. Here you get Al Darrow's history of the entire match series, photos from previous matches as well as color and black-and-white photos from the 2005 match, player biographies, and many more features. Of course, every game is included with expert annotations by the players themselves and other annotators including Alex Moiseyev, Jim Loy, Mac Banks, and others.

Get your copy quickly while they last from Alan Millhone, P.O. Box #1, Belpre, OH 45714-0001 or Gerry Lopez, 41858 Corte Selva, Temecula, CA 92591. It's just $40 in the US and $45 international.

To whet your interest, here's a problem taken from the book.


White to Play and Win

For the solution, click on Read More.... but first, order the book without delay!

[Read More]
12/16/06 - Printer friendly version
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Key Endings

The Checker Maven is pleased and privileged to present a new electronic edition of Grandmaster Richard Pask's instructional book, Key Endings. In its pages you will find a wealth of information including detailed play on 25 common and important checker endgame situations, as well as material on the opposition, parameters, and much more. This book contains essential knowledge for the developing checker player and an important summary and review for the established expert.

Together with the already-released electronic editions of Mr. Pask's Key Themes, Key Landings, and Key Openings, as well as the other books available on this site, the makings of a basic checker library are now easily and freely available, without cost, to checker players around the world.

You can download your own PDF-format copy of Key Endings here, or from the Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column of our front page. The book is free, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Pask, in allowing us to republish it and offer it here for your education and enjoyment. Mr. Pask has also given us permission to republish his Solid Checkers, which we hope to accomplish sometime in the latter part of 2007.

Please bring any errors (for which we alone take full responsibility) in Key Endings to our attention, so that we may promptly correct them. Write

And now, to get you started and spur your interest, here is a tough position presented in the book. Mr. Pask calls it the Skullcracker Ending as it arises from the difficult 3-move ballot known as, unsurprisingly, The Skullcracker.


Black to Play and Draw


If you can solve it, great! If you have trouble with it, download the book and study the theme. We won't give the answer to the problem here; you'll find it in the book!

12/09/06 - 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.

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