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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Capers on the Kelso - Part 1


Capers are the berry of the bush known as Capparis Spinosa; they're used extensively in Mediterranean cuisine, though they can be found elsewhere in the world, including Australia and various Pacific islands.

Of course, the word capers is used in several other ways, and it's the meaning that refers to antics which gives rise to our title.

Today we start a multi-part article taken from the Capers on the Kelso entry in Willie Ryan's famed Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. Mr. Ryan will show us quite a number of interesting situations that occur in this classic opening. Without further ado, here's Willie.

"I have always been of the opinion that the only effective way to teach scientific checkers is to take games actually played by expert performers, and to annotate them, step by step, explaining the strategic and objective points of the play. As a sample lesson in detailed dissection of scientific play, I am presenting a game I contested with Andrew J. Banks, of Washington, D. C., when I put on a simultaneous exhibition in the Capital City a few years ago.

Andrew J. Banks---WhiteWm. F. Ryan---Black

22-18 9-14 26-23 3-12 30-7
15-22 29-25 14-17---M 28-24 2-11
25-18 6-10---C 23-14 7-11 27-24;
11-15---A,1 24-20---D 17-21---O 24-19---P drawn.
18-11 1-6---E 32-28 6-10
8-15 28-24 10-17 19-16
21-17---B 8-11---J 19-16 12-19
4-8 23-19---K,2 12-19 25-22

Editor's Note: Variations 1 and 2 will be presented in future columns.

A---For play on the alternative defense by 6-10, see Variation 1.

B---The favorite reply to 11-15, although 29-25 and 24-19 are also acceptable moves.

C---In a Southern State Championship Tourney, Florida Champion Earl Ingram tried 7-10 here against Basil Case, and almost won. After 7-10, the game continued 24-20, 2-7, 25-21 (to dodge the dyke by 15-19 if 27-24 or 28-24 is played), 8-11, 28-24, and reached the position discussed in Note E.

D---Much stronger than 23-19, 8-11, 27-23,15-18,19-15,18-27, 15-8, 12-16, 32-23, 8-12, 24-20, 10-15, 20-11, 7-16, 23-19, 15-24, 28-19, 16-23, 26-19, at which point 2-7 creates an easy draw; but I have won often against 5-9, 13-6, 1-10, then 25-22, 2-7, 31-27, 7-11, 30-25*, 11-15, 27-24, 14-18, 24-20; white wins.

E---If the play goes 2-6, then proceed with: 25-21, 8-11, and we arrive at the position (discussed in Note C) reached in the game between Ingram and Case, although in that game the position developed from a different order of moves. After 2-6, 25-21, 8-11, the Ingram-Case game proceeded: 28-24, 14-17, 21-14, 10-17, 32-28---F, 6-10, 23-19,1-6, 27-23, 5-9, 19-16---G, 12-19, 23-16, 9-14, 26-23, 17-22---H, 23-19, 15-18, 16-12,11-15, 20-16,14-17, 24-20, 15-24, 28-19, 17-21, 30-26, 21-25, 26-17, 25-30, 19-15, 10-19, 16-11,7-16, 20-11, 18-23, 17-14, ending in a draw.

F---Something new. Here is how James P. Reed played the white pieces against Wm. Beattie, many years ago: 23-19, 15-18, 32-28,
17-22, 26-17, 11-15, 19-10, 7-21, 31-26, 5-9, 20-16, 12-19, 24-15, 9-14, 15-11, 14-17, 26-23, 18-22, 23-19, 22-25, 27-23, 25-29, 23-18, 3-7, 11-2, 1-5, to a draw.

G---Apparently all that white has left. If 26-22 is used, then 17-26, 31-22, 9-14, 23-18, 14-23, 22-17, 12-16, 19-12, 23-27,
30-25, 27-31, 25-21, will leave black with a promising ending.

H---When the Ingram-Case game first came to my attention I went over it very carefully (so I thought), announcing that Mr. Ingram could have won here by this play: 15-18, 24-19---I, 18-27, 31-24, 17-22, 16-12, 11-15, 19-16, 22-26, 30-23, 15-19, etc. Wm. F. Ryan.

I---But Mr. Case popped up and saved his reputation by demonstrating the following remarkable draw (See diagram.)

White to Play and Draw


J---A very weak move. Remember, this was an exhibition game! The time to impose hardships on yourself and the time to improve your game is when it won't count against you. In other words, when you play for fun, any line of play will do for a test. When you play an important match, that is the time to play your best. Many players will never reach the top because they make no effort to broaden their concept of formations and structures. Their knowledge is restricted to the conventional processes of book play. To be a real headliner, you must cultivate an appetite to defend as well as to attack any critical position with equal zeal. Of course, the double trade by 15-19 at J gives black an easy game, but I was inviting originality by 8-11, and got it!

K---The situation at this point has been faced by all the checker greats of the past. Mr. Banks' 23-19 appears to be an innovation, but it was probably shunned by the early masters because of its mediocrity. Variation 2 shows some fine play on 32-28 here, which no student of the game can afford to disregard.

L---At the time this game was played, I had the idea 14-18 would lose for black if it was met with 25-21. Hence I moved 15-18. On later examination, I discovered that it would lead to a draw with the following play: 14-18, 25-21, 5-9, 26-23, 18-22, 21-17, 22-25*, 30-21, 9-14, 32-28, 14-18, 23-14, 11-16, 20-11, 7-32. Wm. F. Ryan. A progressive student always spends more time reviewing the games he has played, in search of improvements or errors, than in playing new games.

M---In a formation of this kind it is usually fatal for black to "pack" the structure by 11-15, particularly when there is no piece on square 5. The "slip" theme by 14-17, as employed here, is generally applicable for a draw when there are no opposing pieces on squares 26 and 29. Reverting to M again, the fill-in via 11-15 will produce a draw in this case: 11-15, 20-16---N, 14-17*, 23-14, 6-9, 13-6, 2-18, 24-20, 15-24, 16-11, 7-16, 20-11, 17-22, 27-20, 22-29, 11-7, 10-14, 7-2, 5-9, 2-6, 9-13, etc.

N---If 30-26 is used, proceed with: 14-17, 23-14, 6-9, etc.; if 32-28 is played, black will win with: 14-17, 23-14, 17-22!, 25-11, 7-32, 14-7, 2-11; if 31-26 is moved, the draw is established with: 6-9, 13-6, 2-9, 32-28, 14-17, 23-14, 9-18, 25-22*, 18-25, 30-14, 10-17, 19-10, 7-14, 20-16. Wm. F. Ryan.

O---This was my first and only bad move. I should have played 6-9, 13-6, 2-18, 31-26, 11-15*, 25-22*, making the draw shown in Note N."

Note P and subsequent commentary will presented in the next column in this series---Ed.

Can you solve the problem diagrammed above, at Note I? Don't beat around the bush; it's an interesting caper, so do your berry best and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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10/11/14 - Printer friendly version
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England was kingless (and queenless, for that matter) for a few brief periods in a history of otherwise unbroken monarchy. One of those times was during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, who took the title of Protector.

Bill Salot has given a new meaning to "kingless" in his latest checker problem composition contest, in which all problems are to consist of single men only; no kings are allowed. We doubt that Mr. Salot has ambitions to be another Cromwell; his fame as a promoter of modern-day problem composition is already assured.

You won't want to miss the entries in this contest; you can see them here. Be sure to try them out and vote for your favorite.20050904-symbol.gif

08/15/14 - Printer friendly version
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The Incredible On-Line Checkers Library


Anyone who has tried to buy checker books in recent years has discovered very quickly that these are hard to come by, and often quite expensive when they can be found. There are very few checker books in print, and the used book market offers less and less as time goes by.

The Checker Maven has provided some newly typeset editions of classic works, but these take a lot of time to produce, and to date only a limited number have been completed.

Enter Jake Kacher's on-line checkers library, his personal effort to make checker literature readily and freely available to devotees of the game.

Jake is originally from Kiev and currently lives in California. He's held a long string of titles in various varieties of checkers, and still teaches pool checkers to an international set of students. But right now, his library, at

is his major ongoing project.


The checker library started out with what Jake called his "Russian project" and specialized in the literature of shashki, or Russian checkers. But it soon expanded into other varieties of checkers, and now contains extensive collections not only on Russian checkers, but on pool checkers, 10x10 checkers and "straight" checkers, as well as the Brazilian, Canadian, and Italian variants.

As word spread, players from around the world started submitting scans of checker literature of all types. The library now is vast. At latest count there were 250 Russian checker books, 170 straight checkers books, over 100 books on the 10x10 game, thousands of magazines of all kinds, 10,000 animated Russian checker games, several thousand straight checkers championship games and positions, various other articles and literature, and links to sites containing even more material. The library numbers four to five thousand items in books and magazines alone.

Putting an item in the library isn't a simple matter of uploading a scan; there's an intensive quality control process which requires cleaning and sizing each individual page. Some pages require a hundred or more modifications to remove graphic artifacts, increase legibility, and compress the size so that loading times will be reasonable.

Everything in the library is available free of charge, and users don't need to worry about advertising pop-ups and similar annoyances of Internet life. The concept is that the library is a place where readers and researchers can access material without the need to download (although that's available), and with referential integrity: a reference to a certain page of a certain book will produce a consistent result.

The "straight checkers" section of the library contains some extraordinary treasures, including a number of rare books such as Payne's seminal 1756 publication.

The collection continues to build, and the next stage will be the creation of a searchable database, allowing users to locate items by author, title, or year.

The library welcomes assistance from checker enthusiasts who can contribute high-quality scans of material not already in the collection.

Again, the library can be found at, and Jake can be contacted either through his site guestbook or on Facebook at


The only downside? Once you get on the site, you're going to be there for hours and hours, browsing through the most extensive and fascinating collection of checkers literature anywhere in cyberspace.

Of course, we wanted this week's checker problem to come from the material in the library; making a choice wasn't easy with so much to choose from, but we decided on this one.

Black to Play and Win


Can you find the correct line of play? It's not terribly difficult but there is one interesting twist. See if you can book the win, and then click on Read More to leaf through the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
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Problem Composition Contest 14 Completed


Bill Salot's outstanding series of checker problem composing contests continues to thrive, attracting talented problem setters from around the world. Contest 14 has just concluded, and the winner is from the Netherlands. Check it all out by clicking on the Compositions link in the left-hand column.20050904-symbol.gif

01/02/14 - Printer friendly version
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Ninth Anniversary


This week The Checker Maven celebrates its ninth publication anniversary, publishing every week without fail for all this time. As always, we thank our many readers for making this weekly column a success beyond all expectations. If all goes well, we hope to continue to publish for years to come.

And now, to celebrate our ninth anniversary, we present the final chapter of our serial, The Checker Murders20050904-symbol.gif

12/07/13 - Printer friendly version
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A New Server


Without giving us any advance warning, our webhost moved the Checker Maven site to a new server.

Now, we've noticed that the site's response time is very much faster than it was before the move, and we're most appreciative of that.

However ... the move to the new server was not completely smooth. Our webhost sort of, well, neglected little details like file permissions and the like.

So we've had to go in and fix a few things, and we're not sure that everything's completely normal yet. Please help us by letting us know if you find something that doesn't work or doesn't look right. Email Many thanks for your patience and cooperation.20050904-symbol.gif

09/12/13 - Printer friendly version
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King Me: Review and Commentary


King Me, a film from Think Media Studios of Cleveland, mirrors its subject. Like checkers, the film is filled with subtlety and punctuated with explosive moments.

Checkers is no simple game, and King Me is no simple movie. Humorous and serious, compelling and moving, writer/director Geoff Yaw has made a work of significance out of a game that few adults ever think is more than something for kids or old folks.

After watching King Me you'll never think about checkers the same way again. You'll experience a story about hope, courage, triumph and loss. It's Rocky and Cinderella and maybe even a little Chariots of Fire.


On one level, the movie tells the story of Lubabalo Kondlo, a black man from an impoverished South African township. Kondlo plays checkers at the grandmaster level, but due to disputes with white-dominated Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA), the national governing body for games such as checkers, he was blocked from competition on the international level.

Is the leader of MSSA racist? Or did Kondlo flout MSSA's rules? King Me strives to present a balanced picture, and herein lies one of the movie's subtle touches: you'll draw your own inevitable conclusions, but you'll draw them from the facts, not from a skewed or agenda-driven presentation.

Alan Millhone, President of the American Checker Federation, managed to pull international strings, line up sponsors, and break through bureaucratic roadblocks. Kondlo came to America to compete, and ere long he was the challenger for the world championship of what's known as "Go As You Please" (GAYP) checkers. This is the version of checkers that we all grew up with.


Enter Ron "Suki" King, reigning GAYP champion since the 1990s, a superstar in his home, the island nation of Barbados. King's personality looms large on camera; he's flamboyant and more than a little egotistical. But he's also very, very good. Challenger Kondlo was facing an uphill battle.

It's the classical underdog vs. establishment scenario. Kondlo is poor, short on resources, and struggling. King enjoys tremendous support from both government and business in Barbados. He's wealthy and confident.

Director Yaw makes real drama out of the 24 game King vs. Kondlo match. Can checkers keep you on the edge of your seat? You bet it can, and the emotional content in the match sequences is high. You'll find yourself cheering for the challenger, and you'll share his feelings when the match is ended.


Yaw and crew traveled to both South Africa and Barbados to film on location. The poverty of the South African townships and the lingering after-effects of apartheid come through all too clearly. The contrast with the sequences shot in Barbados is another of the film's subtleties. Barbados is hardly a wealthy place but Yaw captures the differences in a way that you can't help but notice.

There's a lot of color content about checkers, of course. Many of the "big names" in American checkers appear in the movie, although unfortunately a number of them aren't identified by name. Yaw portrays them as a largely eccentric lot. While there is certainly truth in this characterization, it seems overemphasized. Checker players, unlike chess players, tend to be of the man-in-the-street variety.

If you're a checker fan, King Me is an obvious must-see. If you know a little about checkers and want to learn what it's all about at the uppermost levels of play, watch this movie. Even if you're not especially interested in the game, but you enjoy real-life drama and are moved by the heights to which the human spirit can soar, there is much here for you.

Geoff Yaw has done extraordinary and unexpected things with King Me. A documentary about checkers? You're going to be amazed.


King Me can be rented or purchased from Amazon, iTunes, and VUDU.

Stills from King Me are used with the kind permission of Geoff Yaw and Think Media Studios. This review originally appeared on Mr. Victor Niederhoffer's Daily Speculations website.

Here is a problem situation from game 24 of the King-Kondlo match, as seen in King Me.

BLACK (Kondlo)
WHITE (King>
White to Play and Win


Click on Read More to see the run-up and solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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KING ME Now Widely Available


The acclaimed 2012 documentary King Me is now widely available on-line at a price much lower than the average movie ticket.

King Me, as described on the iTunes website, "explores the surreal world of competitive checkers play as seen through the eyes of South African township resident Lubabalo Kondlo."

Checker fans the world around won't want to miss this outstanding film. Get it from iTunes:

It is also available for purchase or rental from the VUDU streaming service:!overview/421601/King-Me


05/01/13 - Printer friendly version
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Coming: A New Look


Over the next several months we hope to roll out a bit of a "new look" for The Checker Maven.

The idea isn't to change our layout just for the sake of change. But we want to introduce a move animation feature, and our current page arrangement simply isn't suitable.

Please bear with us as we incorporate dynamic new content and design into what we hope is your favorite weekly checker webzine.20050904-symbol.gif

04/29/13 - Printer friendly version
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Readers in Oklahoma City


If you're in the Oklahoma City area, and you have an afternoon to spare, we can use your help. It's a purely volunteer assignment, of course, but you would be able to assist The Checker Maven in bringing more content to its readership.

If you're interested and can help out just write Thanks!20050904-symbol.gif

04/08/13 - Printer friendly version
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