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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A Little Summer Housekeeping

The publication of the conclusion of our Did Marvin Blow the Game? story has been delayed a bit, as we're carefully editing the variations on the play of this interesting position. But never fear, you'll soon learn whether our hero Marvin prevailed, or if Louie Screwdriver got the last laugh.

Also, our on-line publication calendar has gotten out-of-date. Look for us to get that fixed up within the next week or so.

Thank you for helping to make The Checker Maven one of the world's most-read checker publications.

08/10/05 - Printer friendly version
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Leo Is On The Team!

The Checker Maven is pleased to note that, following a period of controversy (see our previous editorial on this topic), eminent checker grandmaster Leo Levitt will be playing for the USA in the upcoming 100th Anniversary International Match with Great Britain.

More words are superfluous, so we will only say that the leadership of the American Checker Federation, spearheaded in this instance by Dr. Richard Beckwith, ACF President Alan Millhone, and Gerry Lopez, acted with honor in according Mr. Levitt the place on the United States team that he so richly deserves.

Congratulations and thanks are due all around to those who in the end upheld the best principles of our game. We recall Dr. Martin Luther King's famed expression, "It's always the right time to do the right thing" and we are proud that our ACF leaders did exactly that.... the right thing.

08/08/05 - Printer friendly version
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A Small Change

We're making a small change to our publication schedule, partly in response to our recent reader survey. Readers thought our present once or twice a week publication schedule was fine, with most readers saying they visit the site more or less weekly.

So, in order to maintain consistency and predictability year-round, and to help manage our publication workload while still providing quality content, we're going to a permanent Saturday-morning schedule. We're dropping our Wednesday editions in favor of providing more on Saturdays.

This means that during summer and holiday periods, you'll still see a weekly Saturday article. During the regular parts of the year, you'll see at least one article and possibly two or three, as our time, energies, and backlog allow.

We hope this small change will prove pleasing, and invite your comments.

07/31/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven is Looking for Stringers

One of the most asked-for items in our recent user survey was annotated games from recent events. We've earlier remarked that delivering on this will not be easy, and so we're looking for volunteer "stringers" among our readership and elsewhere.

Now, we know that up-to-the-minute tournament results and standings are generally posted on the Checker Solutions BBS (see link at left), or on specific websites. We're not looking to compete or "double up" in this area, and we're not looking to publish games, play, or analysis without proper permissions and clearances. We know that in a number of cases, game scores are kept in reserve for contributors.

However, having said all that, if you're in a position to provide us with timely news, play, or commentary from checker events, and doing so wouldn't be in conflict with what we've stated above, your contributions would be heartily welcomed. Full credit would be given, and in return you can have any share you want of our subscription fees. (Let's see, we learned in school that any number times zero is ....)

We hope to hear from you!

07/27/05 - Printer friendly version
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It's Not Just About Winning: A Checker Maven Editorial

Controversy rages today, as it did nearly 80 years ago, over the selection of the US team in the upcoming 100th Anniversary US-Great Britain match, to be held in Las Vegas in September. One look at the postings on the Checker Solutions BBS tells the story... and that story has many angles and viewpoints.

In brief, the controversy is over the exclusion of venerable grandmaster Leo Levitt from the US team. As near as we can determine from the BBS postings, Mr. Levitt was originally asked to play, but a vote by a team selection group determined that Mr. Levitt should sit out in favor of a possibly younger, more recently active player.

This type of discussion is nothing new. Let's turn back to a publication we've quoted before, The Morris-Systems Checkerist for September-October 1926. At that time in checker history, the US team was being chosen for the 2nd International Match between the US and Great Britain.

The lead story in the Checkerist was titled "International Team Will Select 11th and 12th Men at Once" and bore the telling subtitle "Matches Called Off Due to Lack of Harmony Amongst Players." An article titled "An Old Timer Comments" by John H. Finn of the Lynn Item stated:

"Yes, the hand of time bears heavily upon all of us and none can escape its fierce grip. The American players are growing old, too, and sooner or later all of the great ones will be too old to get a grip on the game and hold that grip for many moves ... it cannot be said that an old man is one who would be preferred for team play. This applies generally to all who have reached that stage in life when they prefer rest rather than excitement...."

With all due respect, Mr. Finn, we think you were somewhere out in left field with your comments, and as the saying goes, you confused "retired" with "tired." And you tragically underestimated the immeasurable value of the older generation.

The Checker Maven editorial staff cannot support Mr. Finn's 1926 position vis-a-vis the 2nd International Match and likewise cannot support the 2005 decision to omit Mr. Levitt from the US team being assembled for the 100th Anniversary Match.

We base this position not on our knowledge of checkers, which our readers know is limited at best, nor on our familiarity with the players and their abilities, which is likewise circumscribed. Nor do we intend our position to be a criticism of the American Checker Federation or the team selection officials, who we believe to be acting according to what they see as their mandate. They are in an unfortunate no-win situation and will face criticism regardless of their final decision.

We base our position instead on what we learned from our father, of blessed memory, who taught us checkers many decades ago.

We learned that there are things more important than winning. While we learned to play to win, we learned to lose with sportsmanship and grace. We learned that checkers is all about honor, respect, perseverance, humility, hard work, ethics, and ultimately, wisdom. Over time, we've come to see these attributes in the checker community at large and it's cemented our relationship to the Game of Kings.

In the light of these precious principles, which make checkers much more than just a game, and all about much more than just winning, we ask if the exclusion of Mr. Levitt from the US team upholds and serves these principles; and we fear that it in fact does not. We ask whether disappointing an aging grandmaster who has contributed immeasurably to our game, and likely has much more still to offer, is in our best interests. (Mr. Levitt's record of 32 wins with only 1 loss and 45 draws in previous International matches speaks for itself.)


Grandmaster Leo Levitt
Click on photo for biography
Likewise, we admire and applaud the offer of a young and highly skilled player, Clayton Nash, to stand aside to make room for Mr. Levitt. In making this offer, Mr. Nash models behavior and attributes that are a worthy example for us all, and acts in the true spirit of our game.

We do not know how this will all turn out in the end. But we will close with this question: if, in pursuing the goal of victory, we sacrifice our principles, what do we really win?

06/11/05 - Printer friendly version
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Results of the Checker Maven Reader's Survey

Reminder: we have switched to our summer publication schedule, which means we don't always publish a Wednesday edition.

Our thanks to everyone who participated in our recent Checker Maven reader's survey. We received a wonderful response, filled with constructive criticism and excellent suggestions. Overall, you seem to like The Checker Maven!

By far the most asked-for feature was current checker news and annotated games from recent tournaments and matches. This may actually turn out to be the most difficult request to deliver upon, as tournament and match games generally have specific ownership and publication rights and limitations. But we're going to try to recruit a network of volunteer "stringers" and we'll make every effort to provide this type of content in the future. Bear with us; it may take some time to put this together.

Problems proved quite popular; you were about evenly split on whether they were too hard, too easy, or about right. This tells us that our mix is good; but we agree that the speed problems are usually too simple.

Book and computer program reviews have their audience as well, although these appeal to a more focused group. Still, the response certainly indicates that we should continue with this type of material.

The most controversy seemed to be over the Marvin J. Mavin stories. Most folks thought they were at OK or better; a few people really loved them; and others--- well, let's just say that they and Marvin have a bit of a personality clash. The bottom line for us: we'll continue to run these stories but we won't focus on them or publish them more than every month or two.

The "Masked Man" features garnered one negative mention as well; we didn't get a reason but it might be that the quality of the problems in those articles tended to be lower than in the other problem features. We'll run the one or two more that are already in the publication queue, and that will probably be the end of the line unless we can upgrade the caliber.

Various and varied suggestions included requests for: easier to read diagrams, a return to the click-and-type system of commenting on articles, better indexing, and RSS syndication, among others. We plan to work on all of these over the next weeks as time allows.

Publication frequency of once or twice a week seemed about right to most of you, although there were a couple of requests for daily publication! Alas, that just can't be in the cards for the forseeable future.

As we publish this summary, we're completing a half year of regular, on-time, uninterrupted Checker Maven publication. Our thanks to our nearly 1,000 regular readers for making this webzine a success far beyond anything we ever had a right to expect. We'll do our best to continue to please and to be responsive to your suggestions and input.

05/31/05 - Printer friendly version
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Rule, Britannia!

The history making first ever United States-Great Britain internet match is drawing to a close, and the British team has scored a solid victory. With nine out of ten boards reporting, the score is Great Britain 7 wins, 2 losses, and 27 draws. No matter the results of the tenth board, Great Britain has won the match.

The British team was lead by solid performances by Jan Mortimer (three wins) and team captain Lindus Edwards (two wins). The only U.S. wins to date were both scored by the young American star Ryan Pronk.

Complete details can be found on the official web site. In addition, Jim Loy has been annotating the games and posting them on the message boards at the It's Your Turn site (free registration may be required to view these).

The Checker Maven congratulates the Great Britain team on a very fine victory.

05/09/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven Reader's Survey!

We hope you'll be willing to complete our first-ever reader's survey. It will take you five minutes or less and will help us immensely to ensure that The Checker Maven brings you the content that you, our valued reader, need and want.

Thank you in advance!

Note: as of 01 June 2005 the survey is complete and the results have been published. However your comments and suggestions are always welcome; just email us at any time.

05/05/05 - Printer friendly version
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Richard Pask's Revised 'Key Openings'

We are very pleased and privileged to offer for download Grandmaster Richard Pask's revision to his classic 1999 work, Key Openings. The book can be downloaded here in PDF format, which, though giving rise to a larger download, is a stable format which will reproduce in the same manner on all computers and printers.

Our thanks to Mr. Pask for the opportunity to place this work before the checker playing public.

04/29/05 - Printer friendly version
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A Draw Move Is To Be Made Every Time

The history-in-the-making internet match between the US and Great Britain is moving to a conclusion, with the British leading as of this writing with a tally of four wins, two losses, and 22 draws. Three board positions are still in progress. Complete details are on the official tournament site.

Here at the New Mexico office of The Checker Maven we're continuing to muse over articles published in 1926 in The Morris Systems Checkerist just prior to the 2nd International Match, played between the US and Great Britain over the board, back in those Golden Days. But things were not simple then, either; the magazine tells of quite a heated controversy in selecting the final two American players for the twelve-player team. We've simply got to requote in part a short piece that the magazine reproduced from the Lynn Item:

"...They have selected 10 players for American team and these are Heffner, Banks, Horr, Gonotsky, Long, Ginsberg, Reynolds, Lieberman, Hanson and O'Grady. There are two more to be chosen and they talk of such men as Bradford, Duffy, Lieber and Dossett.

"It would have been better had the team been held down to 10 men a side, which was the number 20 years ago. The 10 now selected are all good players although there are one or two who should do a lot of practicing from now until the opening of the match; and then play safe and sure instead of taking new lines which they have picked out for themselves and which they may think will trip their opponents. Cooks are not to be thought of in this kind of play but a draw move is to be made every time."

The piece was written by John H. Finn, who, obviously, would not have been of a mind with the likes of draughts champion Derek Oldbury or American football coach Vince Lombardi.

04/25/05 - 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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