Anyone who has tried to buy checker books in recent years has discovered very quickly that these are hard to come by, and often quite expensive when they can be found. There are very few checker books in print, and the used book market offers less and less as time goes by.
The Checker Maven has provided some newly typeset editions of classic works, but these take a lot of time to produce, and to date only a limited number have been completed.
Enter Jake Kacher's on-line checkers library, his personal effort to make checker literature readily and freely available to devotees of the game.
Jake is originally from Kiev and currently lives in California. He's held a long string of titles in various varieties of checkers, and still teaches pool checkers to an international set of students. But right now, his library, at
is his major ongoing project.
The checker library started out with what Jake called his "Russian project" and specialized in the literature of shashki, or Russian checkers. But it soon expanded into other varieties of checkers, and now contains extensive collections not only on Russian checkers, but on pool checkers, 10x10 checkers and "straight" checkers, as well as the Brazilian, Canadian, and Italian variants.
As word spread, players from around the world started submitting scans of checker literature of all types. The library now is vast. At latest count there were 250 Russian checker books, 170 straight checkers books, over 100 books on the 10x10 game, thousands of magazines of all kinds, 10,000 animated Russian checker games, several thousand straight checkers championship games and positions, various other articles and literature, and links to sites containing even more material. The library numbers four to five thousand items in books and magazines alone.
Putting an item in the library isn't a simple matter of uploading a scan; there's an intensive quality control process which requires cleaning and sizing each individual page. Some pages require a hundred or more modifications to remove graphic artifacts, increase legibility, and compress the size so that loading times will be reasonable.
Everything in the library is available free of charge, and users don't need to worry about advertising pop-ups and similar annoyances of Internet life. The concept is that the library is a place where readers and researchers can access material without the need to download (although that's available), and with referential integrity: a reference to a certain page of a certain book will produce a consistent result.
The "straight checkers" section of the library contains some extraordinary treasures, including a number of rare books such as Payne's seminal 1756 publication.
The collection continues to build, and the next stage will be the creation of a searchable database, allowing users to locate items by author, title, or year.
The library welcomes assistance from checker enthusiasts who can contribute high-quality scans of material not already in the collection.
The only downside? Once you get on the site, you're going to be there for hours and hours, browsing through the most extensive and fascinating collection of checkers literature anywhere in cyberspace.
Of course, we wanted this week's checker problem to come from the material in the library; making a choice wasn't easy with so much to choose from, but we decided on this one.
Can you find the correct line of play? It's not terribly difficult but there is one interesting twist. See if you can book the win, and then click on Read More to leaf through the solution.
Here's the full, annotated run-up; the solution begins at move 27 below.
12-16 is better.
24-19 or 24-20 should be played. Black now has a significant advantage.
12-16 would have retained Black's lead.
Loses. 2-6 would hold the draw.
A very interesting move, preventing White from getting to the checker on 19. Black's win is assured.
Black wins on the move. This game was played in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, over 125 years ago, and can be found in one of the magazines in Jake's library.