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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Rebound

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Rebound. With the literal meaning of "bouncing back" the term applies to a number of things. There's the rebound in basketball. Someone recovering from an injury or illness can be said to be "on the rebound." And of course there's always the "rebound romance."

"Rebound" is an apt title for today's Checker School column. You'll see why when you solve it.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W19,20,22,23,26,30,31,32:B2,7,10,11,12,13,14,21

This one is probably around medium in difficulty. You may not get it on the first try, but we're sure you'll "rebound" from any such small setbacks and find the solution. When you've either figured it out or bounced around enough, click on Read More to bound over all barriers and see how it's done.null

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04/10/21 - Printer friendly version
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Easy April

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April. For much of North America, winter is coming to an end. There's more daylight. Compared to the winter months, it's an easy month. Well, mostly. In both the US and Canada, income tax returns come due. Kind of spoils the "easy" theme, doesn't it?

On the checker front, though, we'd like to ease into April, even if April isn't completely easy. Here's a speed problem sent to us by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto. It's very much on the easy side. An experienced player will solve it in a few seconds; a beginner might take a little longer, but not a lot. At the Checker Maven we try to provide something for everyone.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W32,28,9,K18:B20,11,10,K25

Okay, maybe too easy. So now try this one, also based on a position sent by Lloyd and Josh.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W15,18,22,23,26,27,28,32:B2,3,4,5,12,13,16,20

Black has just played 1-5, whereas 1-6 or a couple of other moves would have held a narrow draw. Yes, this certainly looks like a White win, but it's a good exercise in application of technique to work out how it's done. Not nearly as easy as our first problem, but straightforward enough.

An easy start to April, or a harder one? You be the judge. Solve the problems and then it's easy enough to click on Read More to check your solutions.null

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04/03/21 - Printer friendly version
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Jumpin' Jehoshaphat

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Yosemite Sam, the arch-enemy of Bugs Bunny, is famously known to exclaim, "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" but it's not likely that the said toon character was aware of the origins of this expression.

Indeed, there isn't a lot known about the phrase, except that it first appeared in print in 1866 and is thought to be part of the 19th century predilection for "minced oaths" which embodied a strong expression of feeling without actually using potentially offensive words. Other efforts to relate the expression to the biblical Jehoshaphat seem to us to be somewhat forced.

In today's Checker School column, taken from Andrew J. Banks' unusual and instructive book, Checker Board Strategy, we meet a "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat" checker problem. You'll see what we mean when you solve it.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W13,15,17,18,21,27,28,29,31:B1,3,5,6,8,9,11,16,22

Jump to it! Solve the problem and then jump your mouse over to Read More to verify your solution.null

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03/13/21 - Printer friendly version
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Relatively Easy; A Speed Problem

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What's easy for some isn't quite so easy for others. The math above is quite simple if you happen to be a Ph.D. mathematician. If you struggle with high school algebra, you may not find it all that easy.

Regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon sent us a checker problem which illustrates this concept rather well. Take a look at the diagram below.

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W10,K11,15:B3,K18,K19

Is this problem easy? For a player with a little experience, it's pretty straightforward. For a novice, it might be harder and take a little more effort. While we're calling it a "speed problem" we won't specify a time limit. Solve it as quickly as you can.

What's easy for anyone, though, is clicking on Read More to see the solution.

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Cute and Tricky

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We think the title photo speaks for itself. This cute little one certainly seems to be up to something.

Today we have not one but two speed problems. The first one is very easy but quite cute.

Cute
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK3,20,24,30:B12,15,22,K27

The second problem is a bit harder, but not much.

Tricky
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK10,20:B8,12,K19

This problem could just as well have had the terms White to Play, Black to Draw. It's not at all difficult but it has a nice tricky little twist. You'll see what we mean when you solve it.

Are you tricky enough to solve a cute problem? (We won't ask you the implied inverted question.) When you've found the solutions, click on Read More to verify your solutions.null

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Dangling

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Our heroine above is dangling above --- well, we don't know what. A bottomless ravine? A pit filled with rattlesnakes? A fiery inferno? We can only hope that she finds a way to safety.

Similar situations come up in the game of checkers. Sometimes, a piece is dangling and can't be rescued. Or it might suffer a different fate, or something else altogether.

There's a point to all this. Today's Checker School entry is a very old problem from Joshua Sturges. It isn't especially hard; indeed, it's just about a ten second speed problem. But it's very instructive and rather neat. After you've solved it, you may see why this column has the title that it does, and that "dangling" can have an alternative meaning.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK25,K32,28:BK31,K23,20

The problem is found (among many other places) in the "Problems for Beginners" section of Andrew J. Banks' Checker Board Strategy. We're not sure if a complete beginner could solve it, but it's within reach of anyone above novice level.

Don't let the solution dangle; find it and click on Read More to verify your answer.null

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01/16/21 - Printer friendly version
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On the Banks of the Jordan

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The banks of the Jordan River are fabled, from the days of biblical history right down to the present. The connection with checkers? Well, none, really, except that whenever we hear "banks of the Jordan" we think of the famous Jordan-Banks championship match, which although of biblical proportions, took place during the relatively modern days of November, 1914.

Played in Kansas City, Missouri for the then-fabulous prize of $1,000, the games were memorable and indeed commemorated in a fine match book. Let's take a look at the very first game, which was played after suitable fanfare and ceremony.

Banks had Black and Jordan had White. The 2-move ballot was 10-14 24-20.


1. 10-14 24-20
2. 11-15 22-18
3. 15x22 25x18
4. 6-10 26-22
5. 8-11 27-24

The game continued from here and went on to an eventual draw, as might be expected. But what if White had played 5. ... 28-24 instead? Would that have been a mistake, or just one of several alternatives?

5. ... 28-24 would have led to the following position.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W18,20,21,22,23,24,27,29,30,31,32:B1,2,3,4,5,7,9,10,11,12,14

Would Banks have been able to bank on a win in this case? Of course, Mr. Banks never had to cross that particular Jordan, but it would certainly have been interesting. See what you make of it and then cross your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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01/09/21 - Printer friendly version
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Happy Holidays 2020

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Image courtesy greetings-day.com

This column will appear on December 26, 2020, and we hope you are all enjoying the holiday season. Whatever holidays you may (or may not) celebrate, we do hope this time of year will bring you whatever you may wish for, be that time with family and friends or just a chance to have a little break from the usual.

We like to draw from our favorite historical composers at this time of year, and today we turn to a prolific composer of days past, L. J. Vair. Mr. Vair originally lived in Denver and was known as "The Kolorado Kowboy." He also lived in Ohio, and in his latter years in Auburndale, Florida. Here is a problem that is said to be of a type in which Mr. Vair specialized back in the day.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,K2,K20,24,25:B9,K13,K15,18,K32

This problem is bound to give you holiday cheer, even if you don't live in Colorado, Ohio, or Florida, and even if you're not a "kowboy." Take the time to work it out; it's a real pleaser. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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A Holiday Visitor at the Beacon Cafe

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The second Saturday in December would mark the last meeting of Bismarck's Coffee and Cake Checker Club until after the start of the New Year. The holidays were a busy time and The Beacon Cafe, where the Club met, would close down so that the proprietor, Deana, could visit her family out in Gackle, North Dakota.

Sal Westerman, the unofficial Club leader, arrived a minute or two after one o'clock and made his way to the big booth at the back of the Cafe. There was a good turnout, with Mike, Dan, Wayne, Sam, Louie, Tom, and seldom seen Old Frank on hand. Sal referred to the group as "the boys" even though they were all over fifty.

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Old Frank

"I hear your daughter Joyce is visiting," Mike said as Sal took a seat.

"Yes, she is," Sal replied, "she hadn't taken any vacation in quite a while so she's here for a little over three weeks. It's really nice to see her."

"Washington must keep her busy," Dan said. "Isn't she working for some sort of fancy law firm?"

"Not only that, she just made partner!" Sal said with obvious pride. "Being a partner at Dark Darker & Darkest was something she'd always dreamed about, and she made it all come true!"

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Joyce Westerman

Just then the door of the Cafe swung open, and a blast of cold air swept in a diminutive figure.

"Joyce! You made it!" Sal exclaimed. Then, turning to the boys, he explained, "Joyce used to play for the Bismarck High School checker team, though she hasn't had a lot of time to play out there in D.C. But she said she wanted to meet everyone at the Club."

The boys offered Joyce the best seat in the booth and introductions were made. "Pleased to meet you at long last," she said. "Dad speaks highly of you and loves his Saturday afternoons here."

Deana, over at her counter, called out, "Hey, aren't you going to introduce me too?"

Joyce got up at once and went over to greet Deana. "I've heard about your baking," Joyce said. "Everyone says there's nothing like it."

Deana pulled a plate from under the counter. "Here, on the house for our special guest," she said. "Holiday cinnamon bars." Deana made sure she said the latter loud enough for the boys to hear.

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"Thank you," Joyce said. She carried her plate back over to the big booth and retook her seat.

"Cinnamon bars," Old Frank said. "I could use one of those. Why don't you show us what you have for this week, Sal? Then you'll be buying after we solve it!"

Sal smiled. "Something from Ed," he said. Ed was Sal's checker penpal out in Pennsylvania. "Not so easy. Cinnamon bars for me, I think."

"Lay it out," Tom said, "and we'll see about who buys!"

Sal arranged the checkers on a couple of the awaiting checkerboards. "Here you go," he said, "you can have half an hour."

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W9,K14,K17,20,K30:B5,11,K19,23,26


Deana's cinnamon bars look really good. Can you win a virtual one? See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.null

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12/19/20 - Printer friendly version
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St. Maurice

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St. Maurice may or may not have been a real person, with the real truth buried by centuries of elapsed time. Whether fact or legend, the story goes that he was the commander of the Theban Legion in the late third century CE. The legion was stationed in Agaunum, which today is known as St. Maurice en Valais in Switzerland. As a testament to the reach of the Roman Empire, the legion was actually raised in Egypt. The story continues that this legion, itself made up of Christians, was martyred for refusing to persecute local Christians. Oddly enough, St. Maurice became more honored in Germany than in Switzerland although his supposed remains were eventually returned to present-day St. Maurice en Valais.

The composer of today's Checker School problem is one C. E. St. Maurice, about whom we could find no ready information. Is he in some way connected to the famed St. Maurice? With a gap of 16 centuries and a potentially mythical story, it seems unlikely, but one never knows.

What we do know is that Mr. St. Maurice's problem is clever and satisfying, and illustrates a couple of important tactical themes. We rate it as on the lower edge of medium difficulty.

C. E. St. Maurice, 1892
BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK14,15,22,26:B1,6,13,K30

The solution to the problem is real, not mythical, and neither do you need to be a saint to solve it. Some "real analysis"[1] will bless you with the solution. When you're ready, click on Read More to check your work.

[1] We're of course talking about checker analysis, not the "real analysis" branch of mathematics.null

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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.

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.


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