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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Leeds Express

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The British train known as the Transpenine Express certainly goes to Leeds, but the title of today's Checker School column deals with a position first published in an old newspaper known as The Leeds Express.

Surprisingly, our intrepid research department didn't turn up very much on this publication, which obviously enough once featured a draughts column. The most likely candidate is the Leeds Evening Express, published by Frederick Robert Spark starting in 1867. Today, there is a Leeds Express published by Johnston Publications, a major British publisher of local and regional newspapers. There was also the Skyrack & East Leeds Express, later called the Leeds Skyrack Express and then Leeds Express, which ended publication in 2002. But given the date of today's study, we'd stick with the Leeds Evening Express as the source.

Confusing? Unraveling publication histories is at times as difficult as solving a challenging checker problem. Now, the position below may not be the toughest ever, but it too surely requires some thought.

BLACK
20170108-fp177.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W27,24,19,17,13,K7:BK25,20,12,9,6,1.

Can you unravel this one? We ourselves had some serious unraveling to do, as you'll see when you click on Read More to see the solution, notes, and a sample game.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/18/17 - Printer friendly version
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Complete Checkers, by Richard Pask

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Grandmaster Richard Pask's crowning achievement, Complete Checkers, is now available in electronic and print editions. We are proud to say that Mr. Pask once again gave us the honor of editing, typesetting, and publishing his latest work.

Combining all seven sections of 21st Century Checkers with much new material, including guides and indices as well as play revisions and enhancements, the book extends to over 730 pages, with 200 diagrams and some 2,200 complete games. It will be the definitive guide to 3-move ballot play for decades if not generations to come. Mr. Pask has built on the work of the great players and masters, applying his own vast knowledge and expertise, and employing powerful modern computer engines to validate and extend the analyses.

The result is incomparable, and due to Mr. Pask's generosity, the electronic edition is yours as a completely free PDF download. Just go to the Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column. It was our mutual desire that the book be available to everyone, everywhere, without barriers caused by financial limitations.

But, means permitting, you may likely wish to have a print copy. The print edition is perfect-bound with full-color covers and can be obtained from Amazon or CreateSpace as well as Amazon UK and Europe sites. It is priced very modestly at $24.99 in the US. We put a lot of care into the print edition and we think you'll find it a great addition to your checker library, providing you with years of high-level study material.

Now, just to get you going, here's a position from some of the new material Mr. Pask added to this edition.

Bell's Win
BLACK
20170129-ccp.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W30,24,23,22,21:B14,13,12,10,7.

There is more than one way to do this, but the differences are in the details rather in the basic principles. The solution is a bit long and you may not find it easy, but we'll give you a broad hint: think about achieving a simpler, known winning position.

Book your solution and then page over to Read More to see a solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/04/17 - Printer friendly version
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Sinclair's Sacrifice

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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.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W27,24,23,22,17:B20,16,15,13,11,9.

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.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/21/17 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Tommy Goes to High School

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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.

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"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.

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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?"

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Coach Schann

"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."

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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?"

WHITE
20161129-ft18-3.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK31,20,12:BK22,K18,3.

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.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/14/17 - Printer friendly version
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Does Cress Make You Well?

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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.

E. E. CRESSWELL - J. WYLLIE
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W32,28,25,18,17,13:B20,16,10,6,2,1

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.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/10/16 - Printer friendly version
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A New Approach

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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.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw
W:W32,30,27,26,25,23,15,14:B18,16,9,8,7,5,3,2.

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.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/19/16 - Printer friendly version
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See It And Believe It

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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.

G. BUCHANAN-J. DEMPSTER
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W5,16,18,20,26,30:B1,3,7,11,21,K25.

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.20050904-symbol.gif

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10/22/16 - Printer friendly version
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Mr. Darcy Plays Draughts

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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).

BLACK
20161003-mrdarcy.png
WHITE
White to Move and Win

W:W32,22,K15,10:B23,21,13,2.

As always, solve the problem, and then click on Read More to verify the solution and learn more book ordering details!20050904-symbol.gif

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10/08/16 - Printer friendly version
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The 4th Catalan Number

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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.


1. 10-15 22-18
2. 15x22 25x18
3. 6-10 18-14
4. 10x17 21x14
5. 9x18 23x14
6. 1-6 29-25
7. 12-16 26-23
8. 16-19 24x15
9. 11x18 28-24
10. 8-11 31-26

Willie offers 31-26 as an alternative to 24-19, the latter of which he calls "A natural though timid move."


11. 4-8 23-19
12. 6-919-15
13. 11-16

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."

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W32,30,27,26,25,24,15,14:B18,16,9,8,7,5,3,2.

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.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
09/24/16 - Printer friendly version
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Cowan's Coup Revisited

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Artwork courtesy La Mame Games

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.

WHITE
20160707-fp173.png
BLACK
White to Play and Draw

W:W24,23,21,20,19,18:B17,14,12,11,10,9.

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.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
09/10/16 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2018 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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