The Checker Maven

The Year of the Checker

1987: Korea and Iran were in the news (sound familiar?). Reagan was President. The stock market had a giant meltdown. And IBM's John Akers declared 1987 to be "The Year of the Customer" leaving us to wonder what other years might have been.

But did you know there was "The Year of the Checker"? Well, those exact words weren't used, and it was only the thought of one writer, but the following quote makes our point.

"... this season finds checkers fast becoming one of the leading popular pastimes, with checker clubs being formed in almost every large city in the country. Team matches are going on, checker columns are appearing in the local papers and the year XXXX will witness the greatest checker gathering of all time ..."

Taken from a checker book, we think this rather effectively declares that "The Year of the Checker" was in progress. We challenge you to name the book and the author, and replace "XXXX" with the year that the author referenced. What year was "The Year of the Checker"? (Hint: It certainly wasn't 1987.)

Although the fortune of our game has declined since, some things are timeless, such as the following problem, which appeared in the book cited above.

WHITE

BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK8,K13,21:BK7,K15,K23.

The problem isn't especially difficult, though it might be better suited to a more advanced beginner than to a novice. See if this is "the year of the checker" for you; find the solution and then click on Read More to see the winning moves and the answers to our questions.

Solution

7-11 8-3---A 23-18 13-17---B 15-19 17-13 18-14 13-17 11-15---C 17x10 15x6 3-7 19-23 7-11 6-10 21-17 23-18 11-8 18-14 17-13 10-7 8-3 7-11 Black Wins.

A---8-4 similar.

B---Avoiding the immediate loss 13-9 18-14 9-18 15-22.

C---The book solution stops here, which we think is a bit early for a beginner's book.

The book is Millard Hopper's The Major Tactics of Checkers. The year was 1934 and the then-upcoming tournament referenced was "the 8th American Tournament for the Championship of the United States."

Hopper's 32 page book is one of the earliest books to offer a go-as-you-please opening repertoire for the beginning player (others include Wiswell and Grover's Let's Play Checkers, and the recent Checkers for the Novice by Richard Pask). He also covers some elements of tactics, strategy, and endgame play. Numerous problems and illustrative games are provided, although the book has almost no diagrams. Still, a lot is packed into a small space. It originated from a set of radio lectures on New York radio station WNYC, which is still in operation today. Imagine, radio lectures on checkers! It was indeed a different era.

(That's not Millard Hopper; that's Fiorello LaGuardia, who was first elected Mayor of New York City during "The Year of the Checker" and who also gave talks on WNYC radio.)

07/28/18 - Category: Books - Printer friendly version