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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Speed Department

As we race into February (where did those holidays go?) we'd like to introduce our Speed Department. These are easy problems to be sight-solved as quickly as possible. Click on the link for each problem and the diagram will appear.

How quickly can you solve these? A timer is running while you work! Click "Got It!" when you've figured it out and you'll see exactly how long it took.

Click Read More to check your solution.

These problems are provided courtesy of a gentleman named Charles, who in 2005 is celebrating his 60th year playing the Grand Old Game. He can be found on the GoldToken game site under the name NATONE. Look him up and play a friendly game or two.

Now: ready, get set, GO!

No. 1 (easy)

No. 2 (very easy)

[Read More]
01/31/05 - Printer friendly version
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But the Computer Says......

Here's a problem attributed to O. H. Richmond, and published a little over 50 years back by Tom Wiswell. He called it "Black Beauty":

BLACK
null
WHITE
Black to Play and Win
The White forces in the Black double corner are really boxed in, but Black has to find a way to make that into a win.

Now, you'll surely find that this is a neat problem and a "real twister" as Wiswell would say. So solve it, check your solution with the animation here, and then click on Read More to find out what the computer has to say about this problem. It won't be what you think--- or will it?

[Read More]
01/29/05 - Printer friendly version
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A Real Mind-Boggler

The Checker Maven presents as its most unusual offering for January the following mind-boggler attributed to a Mr. W. Veal. It is a "stroke" problem, that brand of spectacular, if unrealistic fireworks that appeals to some and is anathema to others.

To be sure, the position below is composed and obviously impossible; there just aren't that many pieces in a game, and they could never get into such a contorted distribution. But for the fan of the stroke problem, realism isn't the issue. The whole point is a clever key move or two, and lots of action afterwards.

Now, depending on what computer program you use, you may or may not be able to coax it into solving this for you. But you really should try it on your own. And since the play is mostly all forced, the challenge is more in trying to visualize the moves than it is in actually finding the solution. But the visualization challenge is mind-boggling indeed. Can you make it out or will this just drive you over the edge?

BLACK

WHITE
White to Move and Win
Click on diagram for a very large version
Click here for an animated solution, very kindly supplied by Martin Fierz.

01/21/05 - Printer friendly version
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Position Beats Possession

The title of this problem is a saying of Tom Wiswell's, and when you find (or see) the solution, you'll understand the wisdom of it. The position arose in a handicap game that Mr. Wiswell played something like 50 years ago.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

You might find this one a little difficult unless you're used to solving a certain type of problem (but if I told you what type I might be giving away too much). Good luck! When you've solved it, click here for an animated solution.

01/17/05 - Printer friendly version
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Coffee and Cake

From an old Willie Ryan book, here is the first feature problem for January, Coffee and Cake. Willie had the following to say about it:

"This problem has been dubbed by experts the champion 'coffee and cake' problem. This means that you can set this problem up for your friends and bet them coffee and cake that they cannot win it."

I bet Brian Hinkle coffee and cake, and not surprisingly, I now owe him! But can you win it? Give it a good try and then treat yourself to coffee and cake no matter the outcome.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Move and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

You can view an animated solution here. Did you win coffee and cake?

01/09/05 - Printer friendly version
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A January Warmup

In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, January is a cold month, and so a warmup might be just the thing! Here is a simple problem to get you started with this month's Checker Maven challenges--- but beware, they all won't be this easy!

Brian Hinkle sent us this run-up from the Double Corner opening:

9-14 23-18
14x23 27x18
12-16 22-17---A
16-19 24x15
10x19 31-27?---B

A---A defense from Teschelheit's Master Play of the Checkerboard, unfortunately unsound.

B---Loses at once, although White is probably already lost. One alternative line of play from the KingsRow computer engine is this: 26-23 19x26 30x23 11-15 18x11 8x15 32-27 5-9 31-26 4-8 25-22 8-11 23-18 15-19 27-23 11-16 17-13 7-11 29-25 1-5 22-17 3-8 17-14 8-12 25-22 11-15 18x11 9x27 Black Wins.

After 31-27, the following position arises:

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

How quickly can you solve this one? Click on Read More for the solution - but give it a good try first.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
01/08/05 - Printer friendly version
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Can You Be The Third Person In The World To Solve This?

an original problem by contributing author Brian Hinkle

Only 2 players in the world have solved this 6x5 puzzle! Can you become the 3rd person to solve it?

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

So far only Alex Moiseyev and Jim Morrison could solve it.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most difficult) Alex gave it a 7, and Jim gave it an 8.5. Both enjoyed it thoroughly.

Gerry Lopez, Leo Levitt, Carl Reno and many others have all failed to solve it - even with computer help! A number of players simply thought it was set up wrong!

The solution will be published online here in The Checker Maven on May 7, 2005.

Please send any human (no computers answers please!) solution to:

sbhinkle@charter.net

How hard is this puzzle? Cast your vote here.

February 1, 2005 update: solved by Albert Tucker! Will you be the next one to crack this toughie?

12/16/04 - Printer friendly version
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The Challenge of Checker Problems

We've been corresponding recently by email with Brian Hinkle, a highly skilled checker problemist and analyst. We send Brian problems that he solves in a few minutes; he sends us problems that we know we will never solve but we try nonetheless. We end up feeding them to a world-class computer program such as Cake or King's Row for analysis. The computer solves them without missing a beat.

That brings up the question that is often heard about checkers being "dead." The best computer programs today are at an extraordinarily advanced level, very likely beyond the best human players. Computer programs were always relatively good in checker tactics; but now, with enormous opening databases of half a million to a million positions, endgame databases which comprehensively solve endgames of up to 10 pieces, computer programs seem to know just about everything about checkers. The University of Calgary has as its goal the complete "solution" of checkers, and they think they will do this in the next few years. We believe that they will, in fact, accomplish this feat.

But does the fact that a "solution" for checkers exists (or will exist) mean that the game is "dead"? We think that is only true if you are playing against the world-class computer programs that know the "solution." In a game between humans, especially an over the board game, checkers is not and will never be "solved." There is too much challenge and enjoyment in the game as played by mere mortals.

What has this got to do with checker problems? It's simply that these problems, especially the better and more clever or entertaining ones, show the depth of the game. Struggle with a couple of these gems and you'll see what we mean. You'll find that there's a lot left for you personally in the grand old game. Visit Jim Loy's site and start with his beginner's problems. You'll quickly understand.

12/03/04 - 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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