The Checker Maven

The Death of Expertise


The Death of Expertise, by Tom Nichols, is a book that attempts to make a case for, well, expertise. The author's main points are that in the internet age, everyone thinks they're an expert, and the democratic concept of equality has come to mean that everyone's opinion is equally valid. Mr. Nichols makes a few good points, but then he says this:

"Sensible differences of opinion deteriorate into a bad high school debate in which the objective is to win and facts are deployed like checkers on a board--- none of this rises to the level of chess--- mostly to knock out other facts."

Mr. Nichols' expertise certainly doesn't extend as far as knowing much about checkers, but that doesn't stop him from making a judgment, and thereby becoming guilty of exactly the sort of thing he condemns.

In checkers, expertise comes to the fore. You have it or you don't and there's no faking or pretending. Take, for instance, the following problem, which will require genuine expertise to solve.

Black to Play and Draw
Black to Play and Draw


We think this one will really challenge you. Black has the narrowest of draws and must make a long series of star moves (nine by our count). Rise to the level of checkers (not chess), show your stuff, and do your best on this one. Then check your expertise by clicking on Read More to see the solution.

If you haven't yet reached the expert level, though, don't worry. Working on the problem will in and of itself help you develop, even if in the end you don't find the solution.null


There are many (losing) variations possible and we can't list play for all of them. We've marked the key moves and invite you to explore further with your computer.

1. 14-18*

14-17 loses.

1. ... 3-8
2. 2-7*

2-6 loses.

2. ... 8-12
3. 18-23*

7-10 and 7-11 both lose.

3. ... 26-22
4. 23-26* 12-16
5. 19-23* 16-19
6. 7-10* 19-16
7. 10-14*

26-30 and 26-31 both lose.

7. ... 16-11
8. 15-19*

Amazing! Note that 14-18 loses.

8. ... 24x15
9. 23-27* 11-16
10. 27-31 15-11
11. 31-27 16-19
12. 26-30 11-7
13. 27-24 19-16
14. 24-20 16-19
15. 30-26

Etc., to a draw.

By the way, do we recommend Mr. Nichols book? Unfortunately, we really can't. Mr. Nichols doesn't manage to separate expertise, which we greatly admire, from elitism, which we don't care for at all, and he misses the vital point that respect is earned, not demanded.

(Additional post-publication input received from Bill Salot. Mahalo, Bill!)

09/29/18 - Category: Problems - Printer friendly version
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