Willie Ryan's Tricks, Traps, & Shots of the Checkerboard
, published in 1950, is truly one of his best. Willie had as a goal the presentation of a graded compendium of tactical devices and examples, with shots and strokes the main feature, but various other motifs as well. By any measure, Willie succeeded rather well indeed.
This excellent book of tactics is extremely difficult to find at any price. Yet, it is such a valuable reference and training book for beginner and intermediate alike, that The Checker Maven has decided to produce, over a period of months, a freely available electronic version. (Recall that we did the same with Arthur Reisman's fine book of basics, Checkers the Easy Way, available in Postscript and PDF formats.) The copyright is long expired, and there are no legal or ethical barriers to republication.
We'll present a few pages in The Maven every few weeks, as mood and opportunity catches us; and we'll simultaneously gather it all together in what will eventually become a newly-typeset printable book.
Let's start off, then, with a pair of problems from the introductory pages of the book. We've called them Two Easy Pieces, and though these are speed-solvers for the experienced player, they present important basic concepts for the learner to master. Willie's own entertaining commentary accompanies each problem.
White to Play and Win
'A guileless amateur would be tempted to run for a king in Example 1, by moving 22-17; but black has a sure draw against that move by 7-11, 17-13, 11-16, 13-9, 16-19, etc. Instead of 22-17, white can make a win immediately by executing an elementary maneuver known as a "double exposure slip," which means that white can end all resistance by exposing two of black's pieces to capture at the same time. With this broad hint, the tyro should conceive the idea that gives black the heave-ho. A good plan for the beginner to adopt in studying a position is to allow himself a limited time, say five minutes, in which to find the right play without moving a piece; and failing in this, to consult the solution. This method enables the learner to correct his faulty calculations before they take root in his mind.'
White to Play and Win
'Again in Example 2, Mr. Tyro's policy of trying for a king by 18-14 is worthless, as black replies 6-9, 14-10, 13-17, 21-14, 9-18, with an easy draw in store. White simply does not have enough strength (placement of material) of position to make a strategic win, but in this case as in many others, a win can be effected by a tactical coup commonly termed "a compound stroke," so named because an opposing piece becomes an integral part of the scheme. In this example, we have the simplest form of a single corner compound in which the winning idea involves the single corner file or so-called "long diagonal."'
When you've given these a good try, click on Read More for the solutions.
Example 1 27-23, 20-27, 23-18, 27-31, 18-2, 10-14, 2-6, 31-26, 6-9, and white wins.
Example 2 21-17, 13-22, 15-10, 6-15, 18-11, 8-15, 25-11, 5-9, 29-25, 9-14, 25-22, and white wins.
Comments received from John:
Also, regarding the ethical dimensions of copying TTS, note that little, if any, of this book contains material original with Ryan. I don't recall at the moment if he claims originality for any of the settings, but most are recycled from much older texts.
John also noted that he has PDN available for the games in the book; we've linked his site as "John's PDN" in the left column of the Front Page. --Ed.