William Veal was a British problemist of some renown, perhaps best known (to us, at least) for composing a monster stroke problem featured some years ago in our columns.
Did Mr. Veal's ancestors at one point deal in veal? That would fit with popular theory, which insists that names like "Smith" eventually trace back to someone who was a smith, and so on. Of course, those links are likely very tenuous if they exist at all.
But one other possibility was turned up by our Research Department. "Vieil" is the Old French term for "old" and this became "viel" in Anglo-Norman French. It refers to an old man or the elder of two people with the same name. It's not a long leap from there to "Veal."
A long leap? That brings us back to checkers and this month's Checker School column, the first of a series of "gems" from, of course, William Veal.
Certainly at first glance a White win is anything but obvious, and Black is poised to crown one or perhaps two of his men. Can you match Mr. Veal and find the solution? There's a bit of a clue (just a bit) in the writeup above. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
In the latter 1940s, back in the heydays of checkers, men's hairstyles were short and neat, and in general, appearances were more dressy than today. Men wore fedoras, and suit with a white shirt and tie was almost a sort of uniform.
The following problem was published anonymously in an old newspaper, which declared it to be "short and neat." We're surprised it didn't appear next to an advertisement for grooming products!
Short and neat? We'll let you decide, but in any case Black, being a piece up, ought to win. Yet as we've often said, showing the win is the hard part. Can you find a short and neat solution? Or even a long and messy one? Give it a try--- more than a short try--- and then neatly click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
We're definitely diving into the deep end with this month's mind-boggling stroke problem. You'll really need to keep your wits about you to solve this one.
Can you solve it without moving the pieces? It's an enormous test of visualization skills. And though it's hardly a practical over the board situation, we think this sort of problem builds your ability to see ahead and calculate (and do go ahead and move the pieces if it's all just a bit too deep).
Don't go off the deep end yourself; try it out and then click on Read More to dive into the solution.[Read More]
The great guitarist Andres Segovia once said, in effect, that technique either advances or retreats; it never stays the same. Of course, he was talking about the classical guitar, but the same applies to the game of checkers. We need to constantly strive to improve our technique and not allow it to slip back.
In today's Checker School entry, we divert briefly from our "gem" problems and present an exercise in endgame technique. It's a bit on the long side, but it's very instructive.
White has a win on the board; that's probably obvious to the experienced eye. But the win takes patience and the skilled application of technique. Can you find the winning path? It's well worth your time and effort; do give it a solid try before you click on Read More to see the details.[Read More]
A diagramless crossword puzzle is exactly what the name implies--- you get the clues but no diagram. You've got to figure out the diagram on your own. Quite the challenge.
Diagramless checker problems exist, too. They're not nearly as insidious as a diagramless crossword; they are simply problems published without a diagram, just a listing of what pieces go on what squares.
Now, in today's column, we won't put you through the exercise of visualizing the board without benefit of a diagram. In doing so, we're really not keeping with the 'diagramless' theme, but we suspect that you, our valued reader, will prefer this slight breaking of the rules.
This one is credited to John Tonks who was from West Lorne, Ontario, back in the day.
Now, 'diagramless' is not 'clueless' so don't be clueless yourself; the problem isn't terribly hard, although it does have a clever twist. And we'll clue you in: clicking on Read More will show you the solution.[Read More]
Hey, slow down a bit! What's the rush?
At times things just take a little longer. The driver of the car above is likely headed for trouble.
The procedure is straightforward, you just have to think it through a little. Mind the speed limits, solve the problem, and then hasten--- cautiously--- to click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Quite a bit happened in the year 1885. Grover Cleveland became President of the United States. The French were at war in Indo-China. Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado premiered. And last but certainly not least, a patent was granted to an African-American woman, Sarah E. Goode, for, of all things, a cabinet bed.
While much less noteworthy on a global scale, the following checker problem also first appeared in 1885. It's an interesting and practical study in winning checker technique.
This is of course 2019, not 1885. Grover Cleveland is long gone, the French left Indo-China decades ago, the The Mikado has become a treasured part of operatic history, and modern variants of the cabinet bed can be found everywhere. But can you solve this relatively timeless checker problem? We think it's as fresh now as it was some 134 years ago. Put it to bed, and then click your modern mouse on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Working full-time. It's a necessity for nearly all of us if we're to make our way in the world. It's often a chore, but we accept it as a normal part of life. Does anyone still earn a living through full-time work with the game of checkers? We doubt it, and indeed, even in the heyday of the game, few were able to do so.
We're certain that the author of today's Checker School position, one F. T. Desmond, wasn't a full-time checkerist, either--- while we don't know what "F. T." stood for, it surely wasn't "Full Time." Nonetheless, the study is a good one.
White has just played 19-23. Too bad; 19-24 would have obtained a man-down draw (can you see it?). Now Black should win and it's hardly a full-time job to find the solution.
See if you can solve it, and after that, go back and show a draw after the alternative 19-24. Spend your time well and fully, and then it will be time to give a full click on Read More to see the solutions.[Read More]
"Once more into the breeches" is a common saying, generally meaning, "let's try again." It's a misquote of "once more unto the breeches" which is in turn a misquote of "once more unto the breach" as spoken by King Henry in Shakespeare's Henry V.
Breeches in checkers has a specific tactical meaning; a king slips in-between two opposing pieces and will capture one or the other on the next move. And "breeches" may or may not be a hint for today's speed problem.
Can you breach the gap and find the solution quickly? Don't get caught with your breeches (britches?) down! Find the solution and then let your mouse breach Read More to check your answer.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin was in Pelham, Alabama, on the occasion of the Alabama State Fair, where he had just given a simultaneous exhibition. As Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a very strong team in the National Checker League, Marvin was in great demand.
The previous evening, the Doublejumpers had played a team exhibition against the Birmingham Crimson Cross, a leading team in the Triple-A Southern League, and while the Doublejumpers took the match by a score of 8-2, the hometown crowd enjoyed every minute of it.
Tonight, Marvin's simul had gone well. Out of fifty boards, Marvin won 46 and drew 4 against mostly amateur league opponents. But, like all such exhibitions, it was hard work, and Marvin was ready to relax.
His long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson, had a rare few days off from her corner-office executive job at a major company, and had joined Marvin in Pelham. She was eager to explore the sights and attractions of the State Fair, and while Marvin was more interested in finding a cold pitcher of beer, he did as Priscilla wished.
It was after they had gone on a couple of rides and eaten some cotton candy that Priscilla noticed a drab tent marked Fortune Teller.
"Don't you think that's odd, Marvin?" she said, pointing to the tent. "The sign is hand-lettered and kind of crude and the tent has certainly seen better days. Seems like a strange way to attract clients."
Marvin, who had spied the Bama Beer Garden a little ways further down the path, mumbled something and tried to lead Priscilla in that direction. But she pulled back a little and said, smiling, "Marvin, let's get our fortunes told!"
Marvin sighed. "Aw, you don't believe in that stuff, Prissy. C'mon, let's go ..."
"Of course I don't believe in it. But it's just for fun. Marvin, do this for me, would you?"
There was no resisting. Priscilla was charming and she had her ways. "Okay, Prissy," he said, "but can we make it fast? I'd kinda like to ..."
Priscilla smiled again. "Okay, Marvey, I know you want a beer. We'll just get a quick reading."
"Aw, don't call me Marvey, willya?"
"Then don't call me Prissy." She grabbed Marvin's hand and pulled him toward the tent.
When the couple opened the flap and stepped inside, they were greeted by a dimly lit interior, with a dirt floor covered only by a cheap rug that looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since it left the factory. At the back of the tent, behind a card table, sat a large woman of something beyond middle age, dressed in a colorful robe and wearing a tired-looking turban that might have once been white. And was that a whiskey bottle that the woman was trying to surreptitiously hide behind her seat?
"Welcome, welcome," the woman said in the crackly, low voice of a heavy smoker. "What brings you here?"
"Pretty obvious, don't ya think?" Marvin said.
"Marvin! Be polite!" Priscilla hissed. "We'd like our fortunes told," she said to the woman. "Maybe just the short version."
"Fortunes ... oh, yeah, sure ... just a minute." The woman appeared to take a moment to compose herself, and then began, "Step into my realm, a place of light and darkness, in which all things can be seen by those with the power to discern events that are yet to come. Sit thee down and listen, and I shall tell thee many secrets." She made a flowery gesture toward two metal chairs by the card table.
"Corny, if you ask me," Marvin whispered, rather loudly.
"Stop it!" Priscilla commanded as she and Marvin took the proffered seats.
"How much?" Marvin asked bluntly, but the woman ignored him.
Closing her eyes and making circles over the card table with her hands, she said, "Ah, I see much to come for the two of you. You shall go through trials but you shall survive them." She made more circles. "But just barely." She glanced quickly at Priscilla's left hand. "You shall marry, but it will not be until the sun and the moon grant their blessings. Let me see your palms," she said.
Priscilla extended her right hand, and with her left hand, pulled Marvin's own right hand forward.
The woman used a forefinger to trace patterns in Marvin's hand.
"Hey, that tickles!" he said, laughing.
"I see you are a checker player," she said.
"How did you ... oh ... the brochure." Marvin's photo had appeared in the State Fair brochure, advertising his exhibition.
"You travel much," the woman said, and then noticing Priscilla's quick glance at Marvin, "and so do you," she went on, now looking at Priscilla.
"Oh, cut the baloney," Marvin said. He pushed back his chair and sat up.
The expression on the woman's face changed. "Baloney, huh," she said, the tone of mystery now completely gone from her voice. "Listen boy, this is what I do for a living, just like you play checkers. But if you want to be rude I'll teach you a little respect."
"Whaddya mean?" Marvin said.
"Yeah, you need a lesson, and I've got a checker problem that I betcha you can't solve."
"What? I'm a champion player, and anyhow what do you know about checkers?"
"I know I got one that you can't figure. This ain't no coffee and cake deal. Now put up or shut up. A hundred bucks says you can't get it."
"Hah!" Marvin said. "Five hundred, then!"
"Marvin, what are you doing!" Priscilla said. She was still seated and turned to the woman. "I'm sorry. We should be going. What do we owe you?"
"Forget it, lady," the woman said. "I'm taking that bet from your boy here. Five hundred it is."
Priscilla stood. "Marvin, you're a top flight professional. You can't take her money like this. It's not fair."
"Butt out! This is between me and your high-falutin' checker player!" the woman said.
"Whatever!" Priscilla forcefully said. "Marvin, if you won't come along with me this instant, I'm leaving on my own."
"Honey ... "
"Don't honey me!" Priscilla turned on her heel and strode out of the tent, letting the flap fall behind her.
The woman pulled a checkerboard and a box of pieces from somewhere off to the side. Quickly she set up a position.
"There you are, smart guy. I'll give you, oh, eight minutes instead of just five."
"You're on," Marvin said. He sat back down and started to study the board. After a few seconds, he said, "Black to play and win, right?"
The woman smirked. "White to play and win," she replied.
"Nah ... Black has four kings against none! You sure you set this up right?"
"White to play and win. Eight minutes for five hundred bucks. And the clock is ticking. Want a shot?" She started laughing, a strange deep sound that gave Marvin the shivers. "This kind of shot," she said, pulling the whiskey bottle from behind her chair.
"You ain't got a beer, do ya?" Marvin asked, but there was no reply. The woman took a swig from the whiskey bottle and watched as Marvin slowly began to sweat.
Would you bet five hundred US dollars on your ability to find a White win in just eight minutes? Do you agree with Marvin that the terms of the problem must be incorrect? Better stay away from anything stronger than coffee while you work this one out. When you're ready you can click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.[Read More]