Sinclair gasoline stations are common in the western United States, with some in the Great Plains and just a handful on the East Coast--- but not a single one in Hawai`i. We can only guess that Sinclair Oil decided to sacrifice participation in the admittedly small and difficult to supply Hawaiian market, in favor of more profitable ventures. We can hardly blame them.
But our subject today is a study attributed to checkerist A. Sinclair, a gentleman who we are almost certain is in no way an antecedent of today's Sinclair Oil. The study is taken from Ben Boland's marvelous classic, Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.
Black is a man up, but with no safe moves, that advantage is highly temporary. How can he get the draw here? We think you'll find the solution nothing short of amazing, and the title of this column gives you a big hint. Does that oil the skids enough to lead you to a solution? Step on the gas and work it out, then motor your mouse over to Read More to see the amazing drawing method, explanatory notes, several sample games, and two supplementary positions.[Read More]
Tommy Wagner was learning that high school is a scary place for a new freshman.
He had been a star in his central Florida middle school, maintaining top academic status while leading his checker team to a State Championship.
But now he was at a large regional high school, which drew students from all over town, and he was a lowly freshman to boot.
Of course, he wanted a spot on the Checker Team, and he knew he was good, but he'd have to compete with experienced 11th and 12th graders. The Checker Varsity even had a titled Master player on their roster. Tommy knew he would have to play Junior Varsity for at least a year, maybe two.
It bothered him. A lot.
It was a Saturday morning, and he was on his way to Uncle Ben's place. Uncle Ben was the kindly retired professional checkerist who gave Tommy free lessons nearly every week. He wasn't really Tommy's uncle, of course, but everyone just called him "Uncle Ben."
But Tommy didn't want to go this morning. He wanted to stay home and sulk, and would have done that had his mother not chased him out of the house.
"You've been in a terrible mood these past few days," she had said, "and I don't really like it. Now you get on over to Uncle Ben's and don't keep him waiting! And make sure you're polite when you get there!"
Tommy didn't answer, and let the screen door bang a little too hard on his way out. He even kicked at a garbage can after he had walked a couple of blocks.
Finally he reached Uncle Ben's porch. Hands in his pockets, he shuffled up the steps.
Uncle Ben, of course, instantly saw that something was wrong, and it wasn't very hard for him to guess what it was.
"Tommy. You need to stop this," he said, in a stern tone that Tommy had never, ever heard from him. It got Tommy's attention.
He took his hands out of his pockets and sat in a chair next to Uncle Ben. He was on the verge of tears.
"I know how badly you want to play Varsity," Uncle Ben said. "We went through the same thing in middle school, remember?"
"Yes ... but ... that was different," Tommy managed to say.
"Different? How so?"
"I just captained the State Champion middle school team!" Tommy said. "Why can't Coach Schann see that?"
"I'm certain he does see that," Uncle Ben replied, "but do you realize that he has a titled Master and four ranked Experts on his team right now? Tommy, what's your rank?"
"Class A," Tommy said, almost in a whisper.
"What was that, Tommy? I don't think I heard you."
"Class A, Uncle Ben." Tommy swallowed hard, fighting back emotion.
"Yes, you made Class A at the end of last year. Now, do you suppose you should replace an Expert or a Master on the high school team? Do you expect Coach Schann to just say, here comes Tommy Wagner, I'll put him on the team even though he's lower ranked than everyone else?"
"But I ..."
"Yes, Tommy, you lead your team to victory, and that was a great achievement. You should be proud. But you should not be vain. You're good, but there are others who are better, and you'll have to earn your way up through study and practice."
"I had to do that in middle school! I don't want to do it all over again!"
"But do it you must. And it will be another new game when you get to college in a few years. In this life, we are always earning our way. Nothing worthwhile is given to us for free."
Uncle Ben poured some lemonade from the waiting pitcher. For a while, neither he nor Tommy said a word. Tommy was obviously thinking about what Uncle Ben had said.
Finally, Tommy broke the silence.
"Time's passing," he said. "I had better get to work if I want to make Varsity in the next year or two."
Uncle Ben just smiled, and turned to the waiting checkerboard. "Very well," he said, "how about taking a look at this position and see what you make of it?"
Would you make it to the High School Varsity? How about the Junior Varsity? Solve the problem, then click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and fourteen additional examples of this theme.[Read More]
All over the internet and in the foodie and gourmet magazines, you can read about the many and wondrous benefits of watercress. Whether you put it in your salad or use it as a garnish, you're promised untold health benefits, with the idea that cress can indeed make you well.
Of course that leads us to a horrible pun, as we present a position that arose in a game between classic checkerists E. E. Cresswell and J. Wyllie. The problem dates back around 80 years and is our current Checker School entry.
There's no doubt that Black has the initiative and will try for a win, but White can find a narrow draw. It's not easy, but it's worth your time, as the play is quite instructive. When you've gotten as far as you can, click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and copious notes.[Read More]
We often look for a new approach, a new way to do things. Sometimes that new way is better, sometimes not; and sometimes, it doesn't really make any difference. Is it an improved way or just another way? The answer is not always clear.
In today's installment from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, we continue looking at situations arising from the Kelso opening. Here's the run-up, without additional commentary.
10-15 22-18 15x22 25x18 6-10 18-14 10x17 21x14 9x18 23x14 1-6 29-25 12-16 26-23 16-19 24x15 11x18 28-24 8-11 24-19 4-8 31-26 6-9 19-15 11-16.
To make this a little easier (as the ensuing play is complex), we'll note right away that Teschelheit's classic Master Play gives a line with 15-10 for White to draw. Willie says he has something new, and gives 26-22 as the only move to draw. And so we simply pose the question: Who is correct? Willie, Teschelheit, both, or neither?
We urge you to explore the play for a while, and then take the old approach of clicking on Read More to see the different lines of play and the answer to our question.[Read More]
Some things, like this monster wave at famed Waimea Bay on the North Shore of O`ahu, have to be seen to be believed.
In fact, we often hear phrases like, "You have to see it to believe it," to refer to something far out of the ordinary; "I'll believe it when I see it," to express skepticism; the metaphysical version, "I'll see it when I believe it"; and of course, the ever-popular "I want to believe."
You've definitely got to file today's Checker School entry under "you have to see it to believe it." We won't spoil the fun by explaining quite yet; we'll just say that this one is--- well, truly something else. Let's take a look at the position.
Black has a slight superiority in force (a king vs. a man), but White has more mobility, and that's a huge hint to the problem's solution. We consider this one pretty tough and a real test of visualization skill. It's definitely worth spending some time on, even if you don't get it. After you do, we're sure you'll find it quite believable that clicking on Read More will show you the annotated solution and half a dozen sample games.[Read More]
Our new book is out and available on CreateSpace and Amazon! This column is something of an advertisement, we hope forgivably, for Mr. Darcy Plays Draughts and Other Stories: The Checker Fiction of Bob Newell. Net proceeds, if any, will help defray the ever-increasing costs of Checker Maven web hosting.
The book is a collection of some of the best stories appearing in this column over the past years, plus one brand new one, the title story, Mr. Darcy Plays Draughts. Why is Elizabeth suspicious when Mr. Darcy takes up a seemingly innocent interest in the game of draughts?
Read the book and find out. But we'll give you a hint right here by presenting a checker problem closely related to those that appear in the story (and no, we're not going to give any more than that away).
As always, solve the problem, and then click on Read More to verify the solution and learn more book ordering details![Read More]
As we continue to explore the Kelso opening with Willie Ryan and his classic book Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, we reach our 14th installment on this fascinating opening.
There's almost nothing special about the number 14, except perhaps that it's what's known as a Catalan number, the 4th Catalan number, to be precise. Catalan numbers are named for Belgian mathematician Eugène Charles Catalan, and appear in various applications in the branch of mathematics known as combinatorics. The simple(!) formula for Catalan numbers is given above. Catalan numbers also appear in graph theory; in particular, Cn is the number of non-isomorphic ordered trees with n vertices, as also shown above. (If you don't quite follow that, watch the movie Good Will Hunting.)
But enough math! By now you're surely ready for some checkers. Here's the run-up to today's position.
Willie offers 31-26 as an alternative to 24-19, the latter of which he calls "A natural though timid move."
Willie correctly says that 9-13 should have been played here and that now "Black will have to do more than whistle to get past the graveyard."
Higher math skills are not required here, just rather high over the board checker skills. This is not an easy problem, but there is still no need to apply combinatorics or graph theory (unless you really want to), as you can always check your solution by simply clicking your mouse on Read More.[Read More]
Just over five years ago, we published a column on Cowan's Coup based on analysis by Willie Ryan. This week in our Checker School entry, we'll revisit the position and gain the benefit of Ben Boland's viewpoint, as expressed in his classic Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.
No matter what move White makes, he's going to lose two men at once. Yet we're asked to find a move that draws.
Is this a coup that you can pull off? Please do try; after all, this is a non-violent coup. But if the solution eludes you, or you'd just like more insight, you can click on Read More to see one way to do it along with numerous sample games and an explanatory note or two.[Read More]
There's been a lot in the news in recent months about alligators attacking humans, sometimes with tragic results. But crocodiles, particularly the South Pacific varieties, can also be very dangerous.
The differences between crocodiles and alligators are many, even if they seem to be similar creatures. For instance, they have different jaw shapes, and crocs are more tolerant of saltwater environments.
The position below, an entry in our ongoing Checker School series, could be either crocodile or alligator. In fact, as you'll see in our solution notes, it's been called both at various times. But regardless of name, it's quite ferocious.
White to Play and Win
Don't get caught up in the jaws of this one; work it out and then snap your mouse on Read More to see the solution, sample games, and detailed notes.[Read More]
13 is viewed by some as a bit of a "shady" number but we've always liked it. For instance, how can you argue with that great-looking All-American meal above, served by the Lucky 13 Bar and Grill in Salt Lake City?
This is the 13th installment of "Capers on the Kelso" from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, and we think you're in luck once again. These pages in Willie's classic book contain an unbelievable wealth of great checker material. Today's position is subtle rather than explosive.
We're still working with Willie's "Variation 3" and in "Note B" of the text we find another fascinating and instructive situation.
Here's the run-up, without commentary.
The correct move here was 6-9. Willie now calls this "a dead loss." Indeed, it is; but White will require patience and technique to bring home the win.
You don't need to be lucky to solve this one; although the solution is long, it's not nearly as difficult as some of the others in this series. Try your luck; then, for sure you'll luck out when you click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]