The Checker Maven

Russell's Crocodile

We're not at all sure we understand the title of this month's selection from Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. The entry is labeled "Russell's Crocodile" yet it is all about the Alligator Position! Crocodiles and alligators are most assuredly different creatures; while they are varieties of crocodilians, they respectively belong to the crocodylidae family and the alligatoridae family. Furthermore, according to website

"... the crocodile's upper and lower jaws are nearly the same width, so the teeth are exposed all along the jaw line in an interlocking pattern, even when the mouth is closed ... An alligator ... has a wider upper jaw, so when its mouth is closed the teeth in the lower jaw fit into sockets of the upper jaw, hidden from view. Only the teeth of the upper jaw are exposed along the lower jaw line."

We don't know why Willie mixed his metaphor, so to speak; perhaps it is because his expertise ran stronger in checkers than it did in biology. But we can all be grateful for that, as Willie today gives us an entertaining example of the Alligator Position.

"For sheer brilliance, none of the previously illustrated sparkling gems devised by the great men of draughts shines brighter than the renowned Alligator Position. It was first published as a problem by W. H. Russell at the stage diagrammed below. Later, Southern States Champion F. B. Fishburne, of Columbia, South Carolina, showed how it could arise scientifically in play. Fishburne dubbed it the Alligator Position, 'because it had such a wicked tail-end snap,' and that appropriate appellation has held fast.

9-13 24-19 11-16
22-17 16-23 26-23
13-22 26-19 16-20
25-18 6-10 31-27---3
11-16 25-21 2-7---4
29-25 10-17 24-19
5-9 21-14 7-11---5
18-14 11-16 14-10
9-18 28-24 11-16
23-14 16-23 18-15
10-17 27-18 4-8---A.
21-14 7-11 See the
8-11 30-26 diagram.

White to Play and Win


A---Loses, and forms the Alligator Position. 1-5 will produce a draw with careful play---6."

3---This move loses and we're surprised Willie didn't flag it. Correct was 23-19 to a probable draw. After 31-27 2-6 4-8 White cannot avoid the loss of a piece---Ed.

4---But White misses the win with 2-6---Ed.

5---The computer engine KingsRow really doesn't like this move and calls it a probable loss. 1-6 was correct---Ed.

6---However the computer sees this as a dead loss, instead choosing 3-8 in an already hopeless position. See Note 5 above---Ed.

Whatever species you may prefer--- alligator or crocodile--- can you get your teeth around this problem? After you've chewed on it for a while, snap your mouse on Read More to see the solution.


"Continue from diagram: 10-6, 1-10, 15-6, 3-7, 6-2---1, 7-10, 2-6, 10-14, 6-9, 14-17, 9-14, 17-22, 14-17, 22-26, 32-28*---2, 26-31 (8-11, 28-24, 26-31, 17-22, white wins), 19-15, 31-24, 28-19, 20-24, 23-18*! (the Alligator snaps its tail), 16-23, 15-11!, 8-22, 17-28, and white wins."

1---6-1 will win as well in a similar manner; a few other such alternatives appear as the chase continues---Ed.

2---17-22 only draws after 26-31---Ed.

05/15/10 - Category: Books - Printer friendly version
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