Last month we presented the first game of Watson's exciting match against Alex Moiseyev, which ended in a draw. This month we'll look at the second game of the round. Will Alex come roaring back?
Watson says: "This game I took the white. I actually like the white side in this opening. We began the game. No unexpected moves. Again, I felt good about the game."
22-17 or 27-24 should be played here instead.
Loses the advantage; 16-20 would have retained it.
Watson thinks this is a key moment: " ... the turning point in this game came at move 12 (27-24). This set up was what my Dad used to play all the time against me. He liked it. I never thought much about it. However, when this move came up, I was thinking my Dad was watching. I could almost hear him saying, 'Move there, Watty.'"
32-28 is considerably better.
7-11 was better. The game is now back in the KingsRow opening book.
Watson now thinks the game is decided: "The next move to change the game in my opinion was 19-15 exchange. To me, this was the winning move. He never recovered."
May lose; 12-16 was correct. But let's let Watson describe what happened:
"The next key move, in my opinion, was 15-10 ... By this time, Alex was in serious trouble ... I did not see a single good move for Alex. I saw my win. I was happy. I think Alex saw no way out.
11-15 was a little better.
"I do not know why, but it seemed like someone was nudging me. The voice was saying 'offer the draw.' I was thinking the game is almost over. I have it ... But I kept thinking I needed to offer (the) draw. I cannot fully explain why I offered the draw except to say at that point, I was very happy to get a draw against the World Champion. I knew three things. It had been a long day and I was tired. I knew that Frank and Mary (the hosts) had been very patiently waiting for us to finish. I knew I had a 700 mile trip ahead of me that day ... So I said to Alex, 'Would you like the draw?' Alex looked up at me, surprised. Alex could see it was over. He smiled and said, 'Yes, I would. Thank you.' We shook hands and that was it. It was a very good feeling for me."
Black to Play; What Result?
What do you think? Should Watson have taken the draw, or is there a White win? What is Black's best continuation? Is there a way for White to go wrong and allow a Black win?
Take on both Watson and Alex and see what you can come up with, then click on Read More to see what might have happened had the game gone on. And be sure to read Watson's full story here.[Read More]
Suppose you're a Master level checker player. You're at a tournament and suddenly you find yourself matched with someone who held the World Championship for many years. An intimidating prospect? Certainly you're good, but this guy is good.
Now, imagine instead that you're in the Minor category? You're still in all likelihood a pretty good player, but ... two games against Alex Moiseyev?
Would your instinct be to make a hasty exit from the tournament room, maybe even to catch the next flight to some remote location? Or would you stick it out, expecting to take your lumps and just hope you don't look too bad?
This was almost exactly the prospect faced by Watson Franks, who told us a story of courage and accomplishment from which we can all learn something. Watson didn't run; he sat down and played.
Watson sent us a very interesting and detailed account of his adventure, and while we can't run it all in our weekly columns, we'll put it online in its entirety at the conclusion of this two-part series.
How did this all come about? Watson tells us:
"This past October, 2016, my wife encouraged me to go to the Alabama State Tournament ... at the beginning of the tournament ... they decided they wanted to do a Round Robin ... The Master Players realized that in order to have a Round Robin Tournament, they would need to have eight players ... they only had seven signed up ... I volunteered to move up ... They were appreciative ... very few thought I would get a draw, much less a win against any of the master players."
But Watson did quite well in the early rounds, surprising everyone with his results, including, we believe, himself: he racked up six draws and six losses against six different Master players. (If you don't think that's fantastic, try getting even one draw against one of these champs.)
In the final round, though, he was inevitably matched with Alex Moiseyev. Did he panic?
Here's a little of Watson's narrative:
"Everyone knew I would play Alex the final round. I remember, one of the contestants told me in joking, 'If you were to beat Alex, that would be more of an upset than Trump beating Clinton.' I told him, 'Strange things can happen ... on any given checker board.'
"Alex and I sat on the far side of the room. There was no one around us. It was very quiet. Alex shuffled the 3-move opening cards. In my mind, I knew it would be a good opening. By good opening, I mean one that I was very familiar with. Sure enough, the opening was 11-15, 24-19, 15-24. A 'Go As You Please' opening!"
In the first game, Watson had Black and Alex had White.
End of KingsRow opening book.
May lose; 20-16 was correct.
Gives away the advantage; 6-10 might likely win.
14-9 would have been a sure draw.
The game was left here as a draw. Watson tells us:
"The game reached a turning point. I thought I had (a) decent position. I was pleased with my shape. I knew what my next move would be. It looked very good for me. He (Alex) looked at me and said, 'Would you like a draw?' I looked at the board for a bit. I said to him, 'If you think this is a draw, then itís a draw. But I think I have very good shape.' He said, 'It looks drawish.' Of course, I could have kept playing if I had wanted to do so. It was my choice to accept (the) draw. I could have made a bad move and lost the game. But at the point of draw, I realize now that I had (a) winning position. I was very proud of that game."
So what do you think? Could Watson have won the game? What about his fear of possibly making a poor move and losing?
Study the position, and when you're done, click on Read More for the answer to these intriguing questions.[Read More]
At the end of May of this year (2017) your editor had the great pleasure of visiting with Mr. Richard Pask and family at his home in the town of Chickerell, in Weymouth, on England's southern coast. Mr. and Mrs. Pask, and their son Robert, are delightful and hospitable people, and it was a very memorable visit indeed.
Mrs. Pask, a musician and teacher, is also a talented gardener and keeps a wonderful English garden, the likes of which are seen only in movies.
Of course, we talked checkers, and Mr. Pask showed us through his library (shown above), packed with checker literature and checker memorablia. Our discussions ranged far and wide, continuing over dinner at a traditional English pub, The Turk's Head.
We asked Mr. Pask to tell us of his favorite personal game, and he said it came from the 1985 Scottish Open, where Mr. Pask had the White against Danny Shields with the Black.
A likely loss (already)! 11-15 or 11-16 would have been correct. Mr. Pask points out that this position can also arise from the opening sequence 1. 9-13 23-19; 2. 10-14 27-23; 3. 7-10?.
26-22 instead keeps the advantage.
The game has now reverted to a probable draw, although the actual play could be difficult over the board.
Probably loses. 8-11 would be a narrow draw.
9-14 was better; Black is surely lost.
Grandmaster Pask was able to find the win in this position. Can you? We'd rate this one as about medium in difficulty; a little effort will be rewarded. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
This column will appear on January 2, 2016. You've had Friday off from work, most likely, and you've hopefully shaken off any New Year's Eve excesses, had your fill of football games, and are ready to settle down to a little checkers to get the new year rolling.
Today we present a full game based on the Single Corner opening. It comes from master play from an earlier day. There are two parts to our checker problem. First, here's the whole game, without commentary.
11-15 22-18 15x22 25x18 12-16 29-25 9-13 25-22 16-20 24-19 8-11 19-16 4-8 16-12 11-16 18-14 10x17 21x14 6-10 22-17 13x22 26x17 8-11 30-25 11-15 23-19 15x24 28x19 16x23 27x18 1-6 25-21 10-15 18x11 7x16 31-27 16-19 32-28 2-7
When originally published, this was correctly left as a Black win (with White to play). Now, the first part of our problem is to demonstrate the win. If you're any sort of advanced player, you'll be able to do this easily enough. If you're a non-expert, it's an excellent exercise in winning a won game.
The second part of the problem is much harder. Can you go back into the game and find out where White went wrong? Again, experts will realize quickly that this line in the Single Corner is not so common. But there's one move that can definitely be said to lose. Can you correct the play?
You'll need to get out your board for this one; we recommend that instead of a computer, as we don't want you to be tempted to simply look at computer analysis.
Will this start the year off right? Only you can say. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solutions.[Read More]
Dr. Hillary Silverfish stared and pointed at Marvin, the intensity of her gaze frightening and chilling. Close-cropped dark hair added to the effect. This was one tough customer.
"Prepare to die," she hissed.
Marvin J. Mavin, sitting across the checkerboard from Dr. Silverfish, pretended not to be intimidated, but if the truth be known, he was terrified. Even though Marvin was team captain for the Detroit Doublejumpers and one of the National Checker League's top players, Dr. Silverfish was a formidable opponent, and her patented stare was one of her most feared weapons.
The Doublejumpers were playing an exhibition match with San Diego Liberal Artiste University's faculty team. Dr. Silverfish, not surprisingly, was head of the Psychological Arts Department, and lead the checker team. She often boasted about how she could have been a top pro player, "but I have a Ph.D., you know, and it's really my duty to teach the next generation of students."
"Ph.D., Schmee-h D.," Marvin had remarked, with characteristic impoliteness, when the local press asked him what he thought about his opponent, "You still got to make the right moves to win the game." At that point Marvin excused himself and went off to find himself a beer, which in San Diego wasn't particularly difficult.
But once again, Marvin had found himself not just a beer, but a few beers, and so at the start of the match he was, shall we say, at less than a hundred percent, and Dr. Silverfish was not one to fail to exploit a weakness.
"Who you starin' at, Silverfish?" said Marvin in his most irritating tone. "We'll see who's going to die, you old bookworm!"
Dr. Silverfish cleared her throat. "I don't respond to comments by inebriated louts," she said. "I just crush them, like this."
To Marvin's amazement, Dr. Silverfish picked up the empty soda can sitting at her left and, with one hand, squeezed it until it split along the seams.
Marvin repressed a shiver, hoping Dr. Silverfish hadn't seen. But she didn't miss much.
"You should be scared, maggot," she said, but before she could go on, the referee blew his whistle, signalling the start of the match. Marvin lead off with the Black pieces, and Dr. Silverfish had the White.
"Your tricks don't fool me," Dr. Silverfish said. "I know a poor move when I see one."
"Drinking doesn't help you play better, little man."
(This is the end of of the KingsRow opening book. White has an advantage due to the odd line played by Black.)
(Good, but 32-27 would have been really strong here; White still has a definite edge.)
(30-25 would have been hard to draw against. White now has just a narrow advantage.)
(10-14 loses after 28-24.)
(A poor move allowing only the narrowest of draws. 4-8 was correct.)
Dr. Silverfish smiled. "Your poor play continues," she said, "and now I will finish you off."
Indeed, Marvin was fidgeting in his chair, as he always did when he was in a tough spot.
(32-27 would have kept the lead. The game is now even.)
Marvin exhaled. "Well, there, Silverfish, you ain't as good as you think you are. You missed your chance and you ain't getting another, not against ole Marvin."
How will Marvin save the game? Can you stand up to Dr. Silverfish's terrifying stare and find the solution? Don't panic; work it out and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.[Read More]
"Natural" moves. "Familiar" positions. Expert players understand these concepts and apply them to great effect. But powerful computer engines sometimes turn these ideas on their heads. While the human expert relies on a combination of analysis and the application of principles, computer engines can analyze very deeply and find unexpected things. This is sometimes called "concrete" analysis, and it's changed the world of chess as well as the world of checkers.
Today we'd like to present a small investigation into the Double Corner opening, looking at a move that's sometimes taken, even if it's not so good. Here's the play.
This move is seen from time to time in amateur games. It is decidedly inferior to the preferred 25-22, but is it a probable loss? Maybe. Let's see how the KingsRow computer engine projects subsequent play.
The critical point. Here the computer chooses the "unnatural" 21-17, pitching a man and accepting a loss in the interest of prolonging play, as the computer will often do. But what if White tries to hold things together with 22-17 as listed above?
White continues to try to save a man but is now hopelessly lost.
The rest is really pretty easy, and we're sure you'll figure it out. Have your say, then see what the computer says by clicking on Read More.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin was in Bellman, Ohio, the home of the National Checker League, for a special gala event to benefit the NCL Youth Fund. Various other top professionals would be playing simultaneous exhibitions, giving lessons and demonstrations, and analyzing games submitted by attendees. But the featured event, the real headliner, would be a single game match-up between Marvin and the President of the NCL, Elan Hallmion.
President Hallmion was a former top-ranked professional player; some thought he was every bit as good as Marvin. But there was more to the story.
The truth is, despite Marvin's popularity, President Hallmion was no great fan of Marvin. He didn't like Marvin's antics, especially his beer drinking; he thought it set a rather bad example for young players and fans who idolized Marvin. The scheduled contest between Marvin and Elan was being touted by the press as a "grudge match," although President Hallmion, always the gentleman, said that it was just a charity benefit in which he was most happy to participate. Any grudges, he added, were Marvin's alone.
Marvin, for his part, wasn't quite as gentlemanly. When asked about the match by the press, he said, "Oh, yeah, that dude Hallmion don't like me so much. But hey, whatever, he ain't got my reputation. I'll like, you know, take him on, sure, why not?"
The time for the match soon rolled around. Marvin had arrived in Bellman the previous evening and had spent the day (at least half of it, as he apparently slept until noon) signing autographs and meeting with the hundreds of NCL fans who had come to town for the exhibition.
President Hallmion made sure Marvin was taken to dinner by a couple of NCL officials, who whisked Marvin off to a restaurant that didn't serve beer. The NCL leader wasn't going to risk a possibly embarrassing situation later on when Marvin appeared for his match.
Indeed, at game time, Marvin was on the wagon. He had complained a little at dinner but when it became obvious that it wouldn't do any good, he stopped. He did try to slip away from his escort at one point, but the NCL officials were quite alert and Marvin didn't succeed.
The crowd cheered equally for both Marvin and President Hallmion. While Marvin was a darling of the fans, President Hallmion was highly respected for his integrity and his very competent management of the affairs of the NCL.
After shaking hands--- was Marvin a little reluctant?--- the contestants sat down to play. Marvin had drawn the Black pieces and President Hallion the White. The game started out as follows.
Marvin had what some thought to be the harder end of this 3-move ballot, but he seemed quite unperturbed, although he was doing his normal fidgeting.
After the double exchange, White has a small advantage; and President Hallmion knew it. In fact, he appeared to be smiling ever so slightly.
26-23 might have been stronger. Marvin glanced up at his opponent, evidently surprised by this move.
11-15 or 9-14 would have been better. Had Marvin's concentration lapsed? In professional checkers, that often proves fatal.
White seizes the advantage....
... only to give it back again. 24-19 would have held the lead. Marvin actually looked relieved at this turn of events. "Well there, Shorty," Marvin said, most disrespectfully, "ya thought ya had something, didn't ya! But now ya ain't got nothing."
Seeing this clever shot, the crowd oohed and aahed and then broke out into applause for President Hallmion. Meanwhile Marvin was frowning and scratching his head perplexedly.
President Hallmion sat back in his chair, and being the gentleman that he was, merely smiled. Marvin was in a tough spot and was going to have to think hard if he was to save the draw. "What's with this?" Marvin said. "You can't win, Shorty, you just can't!" The crowd, hearing this, let out a collective grumble. They all loved Marvin, but they also expected President Hallmion to be treated with proper respect.
Can you find the draw in this critical position? Can Marvin? Try to solve it, and then click on Read More for the solution and the rest of the story.
It was Byron and Yvette's wedding day; they had waited the requisite year after their engagement and were anxious to finally be married. And so, on a beautiful summer day, they took their vows in a beautiful new church in downtown Denver.
A large tent had been set up on the lawn across from the church. The wedding reception would take place there. Many guests were in attendance from both families, some of them having traveled substantial distances.
One of the guests who had made such a long journey was Yvette's Uncle Harvey.
Now, as you will know if you've read our story about Yvette and Byron's engagement, Uncle Harvey was, well--- a little rigid in his ways. He was an expert checker player the author of a little instructional booklet called "Our Boys at Home." The booklet recommended checkers as the pastime of choice for young men (certainly not young ladies, who ought to be knitting or cooking), steering them away from all sorts of evil things, like going to baseball games or being out after dark.
Uncle Harvey, you may recall, felt that young women could determine if young men were suitable to "embark upon the sea of matrimony" by testing their character via games of checkers. (Uncle Harvey didn't explain how the young ladies could do this if they were knitting or cooking instead of playing checkers.)
Yvette did test Byron with a checker problem, but it was a test of character, not of checker knowledge, and Byron passed easily.
This did not satisify Uncle Harvey, and he told Yvette as much in every letter he wrote to his seemingly errant niece.
"Marry him if you must," he had said upon greeting her last week when he arrived at the Denver train depot, "but if the boy can't even play checkers properly, he's probably doing all sorts of bad things."
In fact, Byron worked very hard at his father's buggy business, although it must be said that he did at times go out at night and was quite guilty of playing baseball on some weekends.
But Yvette and Byron's happiness couldn't be diminished by Uncle Harvey's dissatisfaction; after all, he /did/ condescend to attend the wedding, coming all the way from Chicago to do so.
Everything was fine until the newlyweds, making their rounds at the reception, came to Uncle Harvey's table, where he was sitting with his wife, Mrs. Hopkins, and some other Chicago-area relatives.
"Congratulations, you two," he said. "It may not be a union that I would bless myself, but nonetheless I wish you well, even if the odds are not in your favor."
"Why Uncle Harvey, whatever do you mean?" Yvette exclaimed.
"You know what I mean, niece," Uncle Harvey said. "The young man was not tested properly. In a true trial, he would undoubtedly have failed."
"Uncle Harvey, Yvette did offer me a trial by checkers, and I passed the trial," objected Byron. He was starting to fidget a little. Yvette squeezed his arm as a sort of warning: best not to dispute with her Uncle.
"You did no such thing!" Uncle Harvey said. "Please do not claim a victory that you did not earn. My niece explained to me the circumstances of the trial, and you most certainly did not solve the problem she set before you. And pray do not ascribe failure to solve..."
"... to an error in the setting." Byron concluded the sentence for him. "I /have/ read that booklet of yours, you know."
Yvette glared at Byron, but it was too late.
"Is that how you speak to your elders and betters?" cried Uncle Harvey. "You, who play at baseball and are not home some nights, dare to mock my work and make light of the sound principles expounded within it?"
Byron waited for him to comment about children today having no respect. He didn't have to wait long.
"No respect, none at all, the younger generation is morally bankrupt, and no wonder, what with baseball games being played at night under electric lights and other such societal corruption!"
Yvette's fingers were digging into Byron's ribs, warning him again to back off before an irremediable breach occurred. Byron realized that he had best heed her warning, and attempted to become conciliatory.
"Uncle Harvey, perhaps you could teach me a bit about checkers so that you may become convinced of my worth and sincerity in becoming a member of your family. I did not intend to malign your excellent booklet and apologize to you."
In uttering these words, Byron did his best in managing not to look ill.
Uncle Harvey glowered, but he stopped his tirade. "Harrumph," he said, "maybe there is hope for you after all." He paused for a moment. "Well, then, I propose we contest a game of checkers straight away so that I can at least get a preliminary sense of your depth of character."
"Right now, Uncle?" Yvette said. "But we must visit with our guests...."
"Won't take long, my dear," Uncle Harvey said. "Your young man will be quickly defeated, I am certain. Then you may return to your visiting. Ten minutes should suffice. Allow your Uncle this small satisfaction, and allow your new husband the chance to show what stuff he's made from."
Yvette noticed that Uncle Harvey had a little trouble saying "husband" in reference to Byron. Oh well, let him have his wish. It was her duty as a niece.
"All right, Uncle," she said. "I have no doubt you will quickly prevail."
To no one's surprise, Uncle Harvey just happened to have a checker set handy. He quickly set up the board and pieces on the table and bade Byron to sit opposite him.
Now, Byron and Yvette shared a little secret. Byron, in an attempt to improve his mind, had been faithfully attending the local checker club ever since his engagement to Yvette. For the past year, he had played and studied checkers with a level of dedication and commitment that surprised himself as much as anyone else. The players at the club had remarked at his enormous progress over the course of the year.
Yvette had wanted to tell Uncle Harvey about this, but Byron had begged her not to, saying that he wanted to be accepted on his own merits, and not just because he had a newly found interest in checkers.
This game with Uncle Harvey was definitely going to be interesting.
Uncle Harvey took the Blacks and made the first move.
"There," he said, "I have deliberately chosen the weakest opening move in order to give you more opportunity."
"Why Uncle," said Byron, "should you not have instead played 15-18? Is 5-9 not a bit unusual?"
Uncle Harvey gave Byron a "how would you know" look but said nothing.
"Oh, Uncle," Byron said, "surely you did that on purpose to find out if I can win the game, for your move most definitely loses. Would not 9-13 have been the proper play?"
Uncle Harvey harrumphed, not once but twice. "What are you saying, boy? I have made a fine move. Fine move, I say."
By now the game had drawn quite a few bystanders and observers, several of them keen checker players in their own right. Several whispered side conversations were going on.
Byron's time at the checker club and with his checker books had not been for naught. He had a win on the board, and he knew it.
Byron seems pretty confident. Can you find the win that he sees here? When you've solved the problem, click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion to our story.[Read More]
Sometimes you have to choose, and the choice isn't always an easy one. This way or that way?
A checker choice that often occurs is "jump this way" or "jump that way" and sometimes the game hangs in the balance. Let's look at the following run-up.
10-14 24-19 11-16 28-24 7-10 22-17 9-13 25-22 5-9 30-25---A 16-20---B 32-28 2-7---C 19-15 10x19 17x10 7x14 (see diagram).
A---Very weak; 24-20 is better.
B---In the original annotations, this move was flagged as the probable losing move; in fact, it's potentially a winning move! However, it takes pretty deep computer analysis to show this.
C---This gives the advantage over to White, while 8-11 would have kept a strong Black lead.
White has a choice of jumps. Which is best--- if indeed one is better than the other--- and what result can be expected?
We are obligated to warn our readers that this one is as interesting as it is difficult, and the full solution will probably only be found by top players. But the rest of us can benefit from trying our hand at it. Such practical situations come up all the time.
Make your decision and then click on Read More for the solution and additional analysis.[Read More]
It was the opening day of the summer season. Marvin J. Mavin, captain of the National Checker League's Detroit Doublejumpers, had lead his team to a second-place finish in the winter season, and was hoping to go all the way this time. The opener was taking place on the road, with the Doublejumpers facing the Pittsburgh Paisleys in the first game of a four-game series.
Marvin learned a hard lesson during his exile to the minor leagues (see previous Checker Maven column), and had laid off the beer during the playing season. Unfortunately, his girlfriend Priscilla had been away on business in Turkmenistan during the inter-season break, and absent her watchful eye Marvin had backslid--- more than a little.
In short, Marvin wasn't quite in the best condition for today's match. And he had to face the Paisleys' top player, Karl "the Mauler" Mortenson. The two sat facing each other over the board in the center of the huge stadium, which was packed with fervent checker fans eager for the start of the new season. The National Anthem was played and the players took their seats. Marvin and Karl shook hands. Karl gave Marvin his signature "Pittsburgh Can Crusher" handshake, and it was all Marvin could do not to howl with pain. "Hey, man, that's the hand I move the pieces with," he said, "lay off a little." But Karl just grinned and said something about sissies and wusses.
But then, accompanied by a great cheer from the crowd, the match began.
Black: Karl Mortenson
White: Marvin J. Mavin
"Big bad dude doesn't know book play," Marvin muttered. Indeed, while the text move is fine, 14-23 is usual. "Yeah, well I know a few new tricks, wussie," Karl growled back.
Marvin was sweating, and his head was pounding; he was regretting the excesses of the past week. If he lost today, Priscilla would instantly realize that he had gone off the wagon, and when she returned home she would show him no mercy.
"Take that, you wimp," Karl said. "You're dead meat, little boy."
Marvin knew he was in tough straits. Every move on the board seemed to lose two men. He had to pull out a draw, not only to save the game, but to save his hide. Karl thought he was some kind of tough guy, but Marvin knew that you haven't seen tough until you've been on the wrong side of Priscilla.
Can you find the draw here, or would you too face the equivalent of Priscilla's wrath? All we can say is that we think it might be best to solve the problem! Find the draw and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.[Read More]