It's the holidays once again, and The Checker Maven offers best wishes for a wonderful season to you and yours.
At this festive time, the checkerboard often gets set aside as we all become busy indeed, perhaps more so than we ought. So we invite you to take a step back and relax with an entertaining checker problem. It's one that you can easily share with relatives and friends as a sort of mini holiday present, a nowadays all-too rare gift of time and attention.
The problem comes from our old friend Willie Ryan, who calls it a simple problem and yet in the class of gems, because it comes up often in practical play and many times is missed over the board.
Here's the situation.
Forces are even at four men each, but White is obviously cramped, and in checkers, mobility is key. How can White save the game?
Follow the path we proposed at Thanksgiving this year. Reward yourself and friends and family for tackling the problem with an extra slice of holiday pie.
Willie gave this solution when the problem was originally published:
32-28 10-15 20-16 12x19 27-24 15x22 24x8 to a simple and very satisfying draw.
But play might go like this, according to the Ed Gilbert's KingsRow computer engine and its 10-piece endgame database:
32-28 9-13---A 27-23 13-17 28-24 17-21 24-19 21-25 5. 18-14---B 10x17 23-18 25-30 19-15 12-16 15x8 16-19 to a draw.
A---For some reason, the computer's top move choice is to go for a king rather than press the White man on 18. Perhaps this is because then the draw takes a little longer for White to achieve, but who knows what lurks in the mind of a computer?
B---Pulling the Black man off of square 10 and allowing the pitched White man to be regained by pressing the Black man on 11 two moves later.
We'll bet most players would pretty naturally follow Willie's line of play, with Black immediately gaining a piece. Whichever route you take, though, it's a nice problem with a nice solution.
Now, back to the holiday and some of that excellent pie!
Editor's Note: Yes, the picture at the top says '2014' and we were just curious as to how many readers might notice!