The Checker Maven

The Legendary Tinsley

We once again have the privilege of presenting a new book by grandmaster Richard Pask. It's his exhaustive compilation of the checker career of Dr. Marion F. Tinsley, arguably the greatest checker player who ever lived, and is entitled simply The Legendary MFT.

The book is filled with games, commentary, and notes, and contains thorough indexing by opening and opponent, and much, much more, including an introduction by none other than Richard Fortman. It's simply too rich to fully describe here, so we invite you to download the book at once, by clicking here, or visiting our Richard Pask page as linked in the downloads section of the right hand column. The book is completely free thanks to the generosity of Mr. Pask.

To get you in the mood, as if that were necessary, we've chosen a situation covered in the book from the legendary Hellman-Tinsley match. This contest of titans started out with 24 draws, and then Mr. Hellman made a slip resulting in this position (having just played 17-14).


Black to Play and Win


You will not be surprised to know that Dr. Tinsley found the winning line of play, and drew first blood, going on to take the championship with three wins by the conclusion of the match.

Can you match wits with The Legendary Tinsley and find the winning line on your own? Can you correct Mr. Hellman's play and show how he could have held the draw?

A tall order, to be sure, but answers are just a click away; pressing Read More will bring you the entire game with annotations and comments, and, of course, the answers to our questions.

Hold the Phone: A Post-Publication Addendum

We're delighted that The Checker Maven has interested and attentive readers. After publication of this article, we heard from long-time correspondent Brian Hinkle, an analyst with a keen eye for position. He consulted with Ed Gilbert, and the fruits of their collaboration may have overturned history, not to mention the results of our proposed problem. Click on Read More for the rest of the story.)</p>


Here is the entire game, with notes and commentary. See note H for the solution to our problem situation.

Black: Marion Tinsley

White:Walter Hellman

29.16-19---NBlack Wins.

A---25-22 could be considered here but the text move is fine.

B---Or 7-11 as well.

C---3-8 could be considered here.

D---3-8 would still be good.

E---KingsRow finds 19-15 or 31-26 to be preferable here. The text move gives Black the chance for a small but recognizable advantage.

F---This move doesn't take advantage of White's slight inaccuracy. KingsRow prefers 6-10 with the line of play going 6-10 21-14 10-17 29-25 17-22 27-23 18-27 25-18 11-15 32-23 15-22 etc. with some advantage to Black.

G---This returns the position to full equality.

H---This move cedes Black the winning advantage and brings us to the diagrammed position. 24-19 would have held the draw here, with KingsRow giving the line of play 24-19 6-10 17-14 10-17 21-14 7-10 14-7 3-10 20-16---HH 10-14 25-21 5-9 13-6 2-9 27-24 9-13 31-27 13-17 16-11 8-15 19-10 etc. as one way to draw.

HH---Tinsley himself gives 25-21 as the star move to draw. KingsRow agrees that this draws, but seems to prefer the 20-16 line shown in note H, as well as finding two more drawing lines with 25-22 and 27-24 at this point! Tinsley's line is 25-21 8-11 21-17 11-15 27-24 23-26 31-22 18-25 32-28 25-30 17-14 etc., drawn (as shown in America's Best Checkers).

I---Dr. Tinsley doesn't miss his opportunity, playing with unerring precision to gain the upper hand.

J---30-25 might have been a little stronger here.

K---Things go downhill quicker with this move. 5-1 might have put up more resistance.

L---24-19 was quite a bit better here. Now the result is inevitable.

M---The game goes further awry. 31-27 would have held out longer.

N---After 24x15 18x11 1-6 11-15 6-1 15-10 White either loses a man or is blocked.

Disclaimer: These notes are derived primarily from computer analysis using the KingsRow checker engine. Your own analysis with KingsRow or another strong engine may differ in some of the details, depending on program settings, computer capacity, etc.

Post-Publication Addendum

Brian Hinkle, whose instinct for position is as keen as it comes, was suspicious. He contacted Ed Gilbert, who did some additional deep checking with the KingsRow computer engine, using his exclusive 10-piece endgame database. Ed's bottom line: the original position is a draw! Is history overturned?

Perhaps not. Ed concentrated on the 18th move, and concluded that Mr. Hellman's 32-28 (see note K) was the true losing move, whereas 5-1 would have drawn. And (see note J) had Dr. Tinsley played 30-25 instead of 11-15, the game still would have been a draw. Here are the lines that Ed found:

18. 11-15---JJ 5-1 (32-28 loses) 19. 15-18 1x10 20. 7x14 13-9 21. 30-25 9-5 22. 18-23 5-1 23. 3-7 24-19 24. 23-26 31x22 25. 25x18 Drawn.

JJ---18. 30-25 31-26 19. 25-30 26-22 20. 6-10 5-1 21. 30-26 22-17 22. 10-15 13-9 23. 15-18 17-13 Drawn.

What does this all mean, when a deep computer analysis with a large database is overturned by an even deeper computer analysis with an even larger database?

We think it means that checkers, when played over the board by even the greatest human practitioners in history, remains a game of incredible depth and subtlety, and one that the human mind will never exhaust. We really like that conculsion!

04/21/07 - Category: Books - Printer friendly version
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