In recent years, checker books have been hard to come by and often expensive. Publication of new checker books has slowed to a trickle; and while most if not all of the new books are very fine indeed, they are often sold in limited quantities through private sources. It all makes it difficult for the new checkerist looking for study material, the collector looking to broaden his collection, or the experienced player looking to expand his horizons even further.
The Checker Maven has reproduced a number of checker works, both old and new, in newly typeset editions; these have met with a generally enthusiastic reception. But as a small publisher there's a limit to how much we can produce, and it's never as much as we or the checker-playing public would wish.
Enter Google Books (books.google.com), which has as its goal the colossal task of digitizing the world's books, both new and old. An incredible and growing selection is available on-line, and checker books have not been neglected.
Go to the site and search for "checkers" or "draughts" and you'll see what we mean. Dozens of books are listed. While a good part of the collection just shows the book cover or a brief extract, there are numerous books listed as free Google ebooks, and these are yours for the taking. The free books tend to be older classics, but what better way to build or expand a collection of quality checker literature?
There are a few limitations. The books are PDF images and are not electronically searchable; some of the scans are imperfect, and of course they look like what they are: images of the pages of old books. But trust us, you'll want to download many of these. They can easily be printed and used in hard-copy, or simplest of all, just read on the computer.
In today's column we'd like to feature a game from one of the real finds on the site, the match book from the 1887-8 contest between Charles Barker of America and James Smith of Scotland. If you don't have this book in your collection, by all means get it for free from Google Books.
The match was won in a convincing fashion by the American champion Barker. Here is the run-up to the critical position in game four, in which Barker drew first blood.
Can you correct the losing move? Can you find the winning line of play and book the win? Or will the page turn on you? Find the answers and then click on Read More to scan the solution.
Here is how the game played out in practice. Variations are possible; use your computer to explore the winning line further. White should have played 13. ... 31-27 to hold the draw.
and White resigned.
B---25-22 is no better.
The Checker Maven thanks correspondent Jim Dobie for providing the idea for this column.