North Dakota! The very name conjures images of snow and cold, and winters that seem to go on forever. Indoor activities definitely dominate the scene during the winter months.
It's no surprise, then, that North Dakota for many years had a very active checker scene, producing a well-regarded checkers magazine, and contesting numerous tournaments including a regular state championship.
The current state champion is Larry Atwood, a mathematics teacher at Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota (we were unable to find out by press time how long Mr. Atwood has held this title, though we think it's quite a little while).
In today's column, we go back in North Dakota history to the time of a player with a most checker-like name, Howard King. We don't have any information on Mr. King other than our supposition that he was a North Dakota checkerist in the first half of the 20th century. However, Mr. King is credited with the problem shown below.
Black has just played 16-19, striving for the win with a clever trap. But White has an instructive draw here if he doesn't fall into Black's snare. This is definitely one of our more difficult problems, but the solution is there, and illustrates a very important point in checker play.
Don't be left out in the cold or stay in the dark; find the moves that save the draw. But if you find yourself snowed in, you can always click on Read More to dig out the solution.
14-10!---A 19-28---B 10-7---C 1-6 7-3 6-10 3-8 10-14 22-26 14-17 26-23 17-21 23-26 21-25 8-12 13-17 12-16 17-21 26-31 25-29 31-26 29-25 16-12 15-18---D 27-24 20-27 32-14 to a draw---E.
A---If you chose the very natural 32-28 here, you would lose to a nice stroke: 32-28 13-17 22x13 15-18 24x15 18x9 13x6 1x19 Black Wins. In fact, the original problem was set just prior to Black's 16-19 with the terms Black to Play and Win. Mr. King (who of course had no checker playing computer!) missed White's difficult to find drawing option.
B---The alternative jump, 15-6, obviously allows the White return jump 24-15.
C---White is a piece down; how can he save the draw? He has one thing going for him, do you see it?
D---The critical juncture for Black. White has made good use of the fact that Black men were trapped on 20 and 28, and has positioned his King effectively on 26. Black has to give a piece back here. 15-18 loses a man but so does 15-19. 25-30 provides no escape and actually loses after 25-30 12-8! 30-23 27x11 21-25 8-12 25-30 12-16 30-26 16-19 26-22 19-23 20-24 23-19 22-26 11-8 26-22 8-3 22-26 3-7 26-22 7-11 22-26 11-16 26-22 16-20 White Wins.
E---And clearly illustrating current world champion Alex Moiseyev's point that mobility is the key concept in checkers.