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 Cakewalk

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The Cakewalk goes back a long way, and is intimately connected with Black history and pre-Civil War southern plantation life. But today, a Cakewalk is something of a carnival game, something like musical chairs but with a cake as the prize. The word has also come to mean something that is extremely easy to do or accomplish.

And no, today's column doesn't have anything to do with our ongoing Coffee and Cake series; we've chosen the title Cakewalk because today's problem is very easy indeed. It's so easy that we've resurrected our long-neglected Javascript timer.

Expert players will take longer to read the terms of the problem than they will to solve it; an instant solution is likely. Even intermediates will solve it just about at once. Beginners may have to reflect a few seconds but they too should not have much trouble.

Why such an easy problem? Well, we present hard ones week after week and once in a while we think it's good to go in the other direction. Players of all levels should find a home in our columns. The position was sent to us by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto and arose over the board.

So here we go. Click below to show the problem and start the clock.

Cakewalk (very easy)

Got it? Of course you did. But click on Read More all the same, just to be sure.null

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11/02/19 - Printer friendly version
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Hogan's Heros

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Hogan's Heros was an American television program that ran from 1965 through 1971. It was pretty popular in its time, although today's politically correct, looking-to-be-offended crowd would find it unacceptable.

But there was a different and earlier Hogan, namely E. W. Hogan of Emo, Ontario, who is a hero to us in a checker sort of way. Some time in the latter part of the 1930s he published a problem that to this day is a bit resistant to computer solution. Take a look at the diagram below.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W5,7,10,11,16,18,K19,23,26,31:B1,2,4,9,12,17,20,22,25,K28

Yes, the KingsRow computer engine found the solution ... but it did have to think about it for a few seconds (normally KingsRow solves positions virtually instantaneously).

So we think you'll find it to be an interesting challenge. Don't worry about being politically correct; become one of E. W. Hogan's heros and try to solve it. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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10/19/19 - Printer friendly version
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You Did What?

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Uh-oh. Someone is in deep trouble. That fellow is going to have to work very hard and very quickly to find a draw and avoid a loss, so to speak.

Of course, things like this come up in checkers all the time. We make a move and then wish we had made another. Sometimes the draw is still there, and sometimes not. Take a look at the position below.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, White to Draw

B:WK9,23,26,27,30:B13,14,16,18,19

White has just played 6-9. It looks logical at first glance, doesn't it? Actually, the move is sound if maybe not optimal, but as usual, playing it out over the board is the real issue. This quick little study is based on a position sent to us by regular contributors Josh and Lloyd Gordon of Toronto. It's not quite a speed problem, but it isn't too hard if you keep your wits about you.

Stay out of trouble; solve the problem and be able to say the much more positive phrase, "I did it!" You can always click on Read More to check your solution.null

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10/05/19 - Printer friendly version
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Shardlow: Checker Friendy?

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Shown above is what is now a pub called The Clock Warehouse in Shardlow, Derbyshire, England. The pub is said to be dog-friendly. We're not quite sure what that means. We would rather have heard that the pub was checker (draughts) friendly.

Today, we consider a problem by a checkerist named Shardlow who didn't come from England, but from Marshall, Minnesota. What was his connection, if any, with the town in England? Most likely there is none, though we'll probably never know.

Mr. F. C. Shardlow published a number of problems in various newspapers; the one below appeared in The Winnipeg Free Press in 1938. All we were able to turn up about the author was that his full name was Frederick Cromwell Shardlow, that he was born in 1874, passed on in 1948, and had a wife and two daughters. We didn't find anything additional about his checker career, although he obviously must have been quite good.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK15,K20:B8,10,16

A checker friendly problem? We think so. Try to solve it, and then give a friendly click of the mouse on Read More to see the solution.null

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09/28/19 - Printer friendly version
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Summer's End

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It was the end of summer, and Sal had really missed the weekly gatherings of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. Saturday afternoons just weren't the same without stopping by the Beacon Cafe for a couple of hours of checker fun with the rest of the boys. But summers in Bismarck, North Dakota were short, and most indoor activities knocked off from about mid-June until after Labor Day.

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Sal

On the last Saturday of August, 1955, Sal just couldn't resist grabbing a checkerboard and a checker magazine and driving over to the Beacon. He didn't expect anyone else from the Club to be there, but he'd be content to enjoy some of Deana's coffee and cake on his own. Deana was the proprietor of the Beacon and her desserts were the best in town.

He sat down in a small booth and was soon occupied with a cup of coffee and some of the games and problems in the August edition of All-Checkers Digest.

He was deep into an article about the big July tournament in Las Vegas, which had drawn over a thousand players from all over North America, when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" a voice said.

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Louie the Flash

Sal looked up, and well, if it wasn't Louie from the Club!

"Could ask you the same," Sal said with a grin.

"I was painting the guest bedroom all morning," Louie said, "and my wife told me, 'Go treat yourself to something at the Beacon.' Well, couldn't pass that up now, could I?"

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"Deana's got chocolate chip bars," Sal said. "Want to buy me one, Flash?" Louie had somehow gotten the nickname "Louie the Flash" and it had stuck.

"Me buy you one?" Louie replied. "Come on, dig a problem out of that there magazine and we'll see who buys!"

Sal chuckled. "Just happens there's one in here from my pal Brian," he said. "Coffee and cake on you when you can't win it?"

"Coffee and cake on you when I do win it," Louie said. But he wasn't really so sure. Brian always sent Sal problems, but the ones that he had published in a major checker magazine with nearly a million readers were usually pretty tough.

"Well, then, Flash old boy, here you go."

Sal set up the following position on his board.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK4,10,K12,14,K24,28:B3,13,15,K18,K29

After a few minutes, Louie said, "You gotta be kidding me."

"Can't do it, can you?" Sal said. But then he noticed Louie's big grin. "What's the deal with the smile, Flash?"

Louie started to move the checkers.


Did Louie find the problem too hard or to easy? He probably wouldn't be grinning if he hadn't solved it. How about you? Will you grin or frown? See what you can do and then click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of the story.null

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09/21/19 - Printer friendly version
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Give A Little, Get A Little

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Exchanging gifts--- sometimes small, sometimes not so small--- is a long-standing tradition. Among family and friends, it makes no difference if we give a little more than we get, or get a little more than we give.

Not so, however, in our game of checkers. If we give, we'd better get back at least as much, if not more. and that leads us to this month's easy problem--- perhaps it isn't completely easy, but we've already given such a large hint that it should be simple enough. The position was provided by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W12,18,19,21,23,26,27,28:B3,9,10,11,14,16,17,20

Will you be able to resolve the interesting give and take? Give it a try, then take your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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09/07/19 - Printer friendly version
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Labor Day 2019

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In the United States (and elsewhere, of course), work and working have always been held in high esteem. Earning your own way, making a living, providing for a family; these things have always been respected and valued. So each year, on Labor Day, we recognize the value of work and the worker. We agree with the concept that all work is worthy and all workers deserve respect.

It seems that work, the worker, and checkers have traditionally gone together. Most of the greats of the game were working people, and many, many working people have enjoyed checkers throughout the years. Although the game has been in a long and steady decline, the connection with work and the worker still stands. Today's players come from all walks of life and work in all manner of occupations.

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Harold M. Freyer

To celebrate Labor Day, let's look at a problem by an American checkerist who was an outstanding player back in the day, Harold M. Freyer. Serving America as a medic in World War II, Mr. Freyer gave much to his country. His profession afterwards? He was a house painter!

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw
B:WK1,30,31,32:B10,11,12,15,23

Is Black painted into a corner, or is it just a close brush with a loss? Black is man up, shouldn't that be enough? The solution is relatively long and precise. It's just like painting trimwork: you need patience and determination. See how you do and then brush your mouse on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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08/31/19 - Printer friendly version
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Marvin at Summer Training Camp

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August was in its latter half, and it was time for all the teams in the National Checker League to go to training camp prior to the start of the new season in September.

The Detroit Doublejumpers, the reigning American champions, held their camp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, at the Bois-du-Nord Resort near the town of (most appropriately) Au Train. There was plenty of room for the team's 15 person compliment of players and coaches, and there were many recreational options available after a hard day of training.

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Marvin J. Mavin

Beer, however, was strictly forbidden, as was any sort of alcoholic beverage. And that annoyed the Doublejumper's team captain, Marvin J. Mavin.

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Coach Ronaldson

After a summer vacation that featured beer-at-will, Marvin was out of shape, and Head Coach Clyde Ronaldson made a point of insisting that his players be in top mental and physical condition. He well understood that professional checkers requires endurance and stamina.

Marvin didn't like the physical training at all. But there was no doubt that Coach Ronaldson ran the team. When Marvin checked in to camp, Coach took one look at him and immediately assigned him extra jogging and weight-lifting sessions. Marvin, who was always just on the edge of getting into trouble, kept quiet in front of the Coach, but grumbled to himself.

"How am I supposed to work on my game when I'm running laps up and down the lake?" he said. "And how can I relax and cool down without a tall cool one?"

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It got worse. One day when Marvin lagged behind the rest of the team in the daily group run--- held at 5:30 in the morning--- he was assigned to play a simul against the rest of the team. That meant facing off against 9 other high-level professional players. He would have to run one half-mile lap for each draw and two for each loss; and to top it all off he would be playing White on each board.

Marvin was already exhausted from the morning run. He was further allowed only a salad and a glass of water for lunch as Coach said he was overweight and restricted his diet.

He was just beside himself. He was pretty sure he could beat the lower six players, but the next three were going to be trouble, and he didn't look forward to running still more laps in the afternoon heat.

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At one o'clock on the dot, the players assembled on the canopy covered outdoor patio. Coach blew his whistle, looked Marvin straight in the eye, and said, "Play Checkers!"

It must be said that Marvin put in a great effort, and things went very well for him. He quickly won his games on the lower four boards, won the next three soon thereafter, and after another twenty minutes won on Board Two.

But Board One didn't look so good. He was playing against his Associate Captain, Pete Butterworth, a highly skilled player. In one-on-one competition, Marvin generally held a slight edge, but in a simul, Pete often had something of the upper hand.

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Pete Butterworth

If Marvin could win, he wouldn't have to run any laps, and at the moment, the thought of even a single lap was more than he could bear. Unless it was a lap into town to pick up a six-pack, but that would get him suspended from the team for sure.

However Marvin, with White, found himself in a man-down position. He was pretty sure he could draw, but he needed to find a win. That was asking for a lot.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win
W:WK10,20,26:B4,8,11,12

"Sorry, Marv," Pete said. "Hate to have you run those laps, but ..."

Marvin, fidgeting in his chair as he so often did, replied, "Yeah ... me too. Maybe there's something here ..."

He thought for a while longer, and then gave Pete a little smile. "Watch this!" he said, and made his move.


Can you come up with a White win in this situation? If not, you'll be running laps! (On a volunteer basis, of course.) See if you can win it with White and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion to our story.null

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08/24/19 - Printer friendly version
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ReVEALed

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Our Checker School series has recently featured 'gem' problems from noted problemist William Veal. Today we conclude the series and "reVEAL' a photo of Mr. Veal in his later days. The photo appeared in a 1952 edition of Elam's Checker Board while noting Mr. Veal's passing. The Checker Maven thanks correspondent (and himself a champion problemist) Ed Atkinson for the photo.

Now let's look at today's problem.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK15,28,K31:BK16,23,24,25

White is a man down but is about to even the count. Yet Black, through clever play, can still win it. The problem is about 'medium' in difficulty and reVEALs a nice little tactical trick. Can you find it? You know what we're going to say--- clicking on Read More will reVEAL the solution.null

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08/10/19 - Printer friendly version
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Man Overboard

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Man overboard! It's an emergency situation and we'd best hope someone trained and experienced in water rescue is on hand.

Something similar occurs in our game of checkers. One of our men goes overboard, we're down a piece, and we're looking to find a way to get a draw.

That's the situation for White in the diagram below. But there is a way to pull off a draw, if you can see it. We'd call this a "not quite" speed problem. It isn't too difficult but you can easily go wrong.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK10,13,K14,K15:B5,K16,K22,K28,K30

Are you trained and experienced in man down (man overboard) situations? You won't have to go too far overboard to solve this one; but a life preserver is always at hand. Just click on Read More to see the solution.null

[Read More]
08/03/19 - Printer friendly version
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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 © 2004-2019 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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