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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Labor Day 2017

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On every Labor Day holiday, we pay tribute to the common man and woman. Yes, we've said it before, but it's worth saying again: These are the people who, through honest hard work, make our nation what it is. Whatever you do, be proud of it and celebrate your contribution. We believe that all occupations are honorable, and that the farmer in the field and the laborer on the construction site can take pride of place right alongside the business executive and the real estate tycoon. We all have our job to do, and all of it is important.

Checkers is a great equalizer. Great players have come from humble origins. Over the board, it makes no difference if you're rich or poor, famous or unknown; only your skill and ability count for anything.

We don't know what your life's calling may be, but if you're here, you must be a checker fan, and today, as we recognize Labor Day together, we hope we've got something pleasing for you. Naturally, we've turned to that great problemist and American patriot, Tom Wiswell, with a composition he called "The Pocket."

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W25,19,K13:B23,11,9.

This is a very practical problem, showing a way to get a draw when things look rather difficult. Would you be able to find the draw over the board? Labor away at it--- checkers is an honorable pursuit if there ever was one--- and then work your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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09/02/17 - Printer friendly version
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Complex Interchange

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Does the word "interchange" call to mind the kind of hopelessly complicated tangle of roadways depicted above? We're not sure if this photo is real or satire, but please remind us to seek an alternative route.

In checkers, "interchange" can have different meanings, the most common ones probably referring to an exchange of pieces or an exchange of positions.

Today, we'll present a study that takes the idea to its ultimate conclusion. This is not a typical checker problem, but it has a great deal of didactic value. The exact origin of this problem is unknown, but it's been around for a while.

The problem is to go from the start position

WHITE
null
BLACK
Starting Position

B:W32,31,30,29,28,27,26,25,24,23,22,21:B12,11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1.

to the following fully interchanged position.

WHITE
null
BLACK
Ending Position

B:WK12,K11,K10,K9,K8,K7,K6,K5,K4,K3,K2,K1:BK32,K31,K30,K29,K28,K27,K26,K25,K24,K23,K22,K21.

Of course, this has to be done completely with legal moves (e.g., all forced captures will have to be avoided).

Now, we won't say it's easy or short (it's neither), but a methodical, thoughtful approach will yield results. This is a great exercise in planning and visualizing, and we believe it will aid in the development of over-the-board skills. And in the process, you'll certainly learn something about mobility, traffic jams, and clearing a path.

Can you untangle this one, or will you loop around in your quest for a solution? It's worth your time and effort, but when you want to get out of the traffic, just click on Read More to see an animated solution.null

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08/05/17 - Printer friendly version
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Nice and Neat

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Shown above is a hotel room that is quite attractive because it's nice and neat, giving it plenty of appeal. At least based on the photo, you'd most likely be quite willing to stay there for business or vacation.

Checker problems can be nice and neat, too, with solutions that appeal and settings that draw you in. We think the problem below meets these criteria.

BLACK
20170410-cmm6.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W30,29,14,K12:B20,18,7,5.

This problem is "nice" in that it has a very flashy solution which is reasonably well concealed. And the problem is "neat" in that the author's intended solution can be avoided, yet there is still a solid win which demonstrates practical technique.

Are you nice, or neat, or nice and neat? Don't be mean and don't mess it up! Solve the problem and click on Read More to see the solutions.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/29/17 - Printer friendly version
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Hard Problem

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Hard Problem is actually the title of a play by Tom Stoppard that ran at the Scena Theatre in Washington, D.C., early this year. While the "problem" is about consciousness, not checkers, by all accounts it was a good show.

We hope we have a good show for you today as well, with a "hard problem" about checkers. Let's jump right in.

BLACK
20170407-hardp.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W23,19,18,15,14,11,9,K6,K2,K1:B28,K27,26,25,20,17,K13,12,5,3.

You'll need to maintain a high degree of consciousness to solve this one, and, regardless of possible metaphysical implications, you'll have to focus and apply solid over the board visualization skills. Try to solve it without moving the pieces; that will definitely be a mind-expanding experience. Then, when you're done, make a conscious decision to click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/15/17 - Printer friendly version
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An Easy Problem

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How good are you at geometry? Does the problem above look easy to you? To us, it looked easy in principle, and we didn't need more than a minute or two to come up with a set of equations to represent the relationships in the diagram. Then we went to solve the equations for the desired variable 'x'. That too was just the work of a couple of minutes ... until we ran into what we'll call "a little snag."

Hopefully today's checker problem will be the work of a few seconds (not even minutes), just a brief summer interlude, with no hidden snag. Let's have a look.

BLACK
20170407-easysummer.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK31,26,19:B21,13,K10.

You've probably already solved it, but we'll extend an extra incentive to click on Read More: We'll also give the answer to the math problem.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/08/17 - Printer friendly version
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4th of July: America United

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It's not often that The Checker Maven presents a political message or takes a political stand, but as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of our great nation on our wonderful 4th of July holiday, we can't help but wish for unity among us.

In our Republic, Americans are free to differ and indeed we celebrate our differences. But the kind of divisiveness we've seen over the past year or so is good for no one. Why can't we agree to disagree about some things, but still unite for the sake of our nation?

The 4th of July is an appropriate time to reflect on the fact that we are one nation and one people, e pluribus unum, from the many--- one. Let's work together for the good of us all.

And for our checker problem today, we've simply got to turn to Tom Wiswell, that great problemist and great American patriot.

BLACK
20170407-4th17.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W31,28,19,16,14:B23,18,7,6,3.

Can checkers be a great unifying factor? Why not? Try out this problem and then click on Read More to see how to do it. The solution is one worthy of a master; maybe you might enjoy getting together with your checker friends--- regardless of anyone's political views--- to work it out.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/01/17 - Printer friendly version
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From Corner to Corner

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From one corner to the other, boxers chase their opponents, hoping to land the winning blow. The fighter above seems ready to come out of her corner and do whatever it takes to lay out her opponent.

But some fighters win by decision rather than the quick knockout. That fact, and the title of today's column, provide broad hints toward the solution of the problem shown below.

WHITE
20170324-cornertocorner.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W31,29,12,K2,K1:B22,K15,K14,K10,3.

Before you begin, let's make note of a couple of things. First, White has two kings more or less entrapped in or near the Black double corner. Second, White has a man on 12 that is immobilized. Finally, White holds a bridge position on 29 and 31, but the man on 29 is immobile, and if White moves the man on 31, Black can stop it with 15-19 and then win it a few moves later.

So what can White do? Not much except perhaps shuffle around in the double corner. Black has a tremendous mobility advantage. That usually spells a win. The question is how to make it happen.

We'll repeat our hints. This is not a quick knockout; to win, Black must patiently apply technique. And again, keep in mind the title of our study. It's by no means an easy fight. This one is championship class.

Don't let this one knock you out; win the decision, then land your mouse on Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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06/17/17 - Printer friendly version
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London Bridge

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One of Great Britain's most famous landmarks, London Bridge, has changed a lot over the years. The sketch above depicts London Bridge as it supposedly looked near the end of the 17th century. It's a far cry from today's London Bridge, and we suspect that's just as well.

One thing that hasn't changed over the years, though, is the Bridge Position in our game of checkers. Certainly, more variations and interesting problems have been published, but at heart a bridge has the same fundamental characteristics as ever.

Of course, sometimes a bridge is a win, sometimes a loss, and oft-times a draw. It all depends. In the following position, a rather unornamented bridge turns out to be a loss for the bridging side.

WHITE
20170321-1682lb.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W32,30,K19:B27,23,K22,9.

Is this a bridge that you can cross, by finding the Black win? We'd rate the difficulty as medium; if you're familiar with bridges, you won't have any trouble with it; and if you're not familiar with these positions, this is a good time to bridge that gap. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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06/10/17 - Printer friendly version
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At A Stroke

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We didn't think they could do it, but our intrepid Research Department managed to come up with another meaning for the word stroke, to wit: at a stroke, with the meaning of "all at once," such as, "we solved a dozen checker problems at a stroke."

That would be quite a feat, indeed, and of course you just know we're going to present a stroke problem to kick off the month of June.

BLACK
20170317-goethe.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W23,22,K21,18,16,15,11,10,7:BK30,K29,27,26,K20,19,9,3,1.

Can you solve this one "at a stroke" or will it take you longer? Are your powers of visualization up to the challenge? If you find the position difficult, we refer you to the quote at the beginning of the article.

When you've determined the correct moves, clicking on Read More will bring you to the solution--- at a stroke.20050904-symbol.gif

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06/03/17 - Printer friendly version
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The Outdoor Life

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Spring is coming around in the Northern Hemisphere and perhaps, if you've had a long winter, you're thinking about re-engaging in the outdoor life. There's much to do in the great outdoors and every reason to take full advantage.

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While today there's a commercial magazine called Outdoor Life, almost a hundred years ago there was another called The Journal of the Outdoor Life, published by the National Tuberculosis Association. We found it to be quite an interesting general readership journal, promoting the idea that fresh air is good for tuberculosis patients. Of course, medicine has advanced enormously in the last hundred years and some of the ideas in the Journal definitely seem quaint.

Interestingly, the Journal also had a "Games and Indoor Sports" section which contained some excellent checker material. Featuring checkers was fairly common back in that day, but alas, that is no longer the case.

In 1920 The Journal of the Outdoor Life published the following doozy.

BLACK
20170302-tjotol.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W32,27,24,23,13,K7:BK29,25,20,16,15,12,11,5.

Unless you have a sharp pictorial memory, this is not one to solve on an outdoor hike or while sitting around the campfire. Do it at home, after your outdoor activities are over for the day or weekend. You'll definitely need to concentrate and employ your powers of visualization, although the problem is certainly no more difficult than the "medium" category.

When you've finished, camp out on Read More to verify your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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05/13/17 - 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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