The Checker Maven
The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief
Published every Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i
Two Easy Pieces
Willie Ryan's Tricks, Traps, & Shots of the Checkerboard
, published in 1950, is truly one of his best. Willie had as a goal the presentation of a graded compendium of tactical devices and examples, with shots and strokes the main feature, but various other motifs as well. By any measure, Willie succeeded rather well indeed.
This excellent book of tactics is extremely difficult to find at any price. Yet, it is such a valuable reference and training book for beginner and intermediate alike, that The Checker Maven has decided to produce, over a period of months, a freely available electronic version. (Recall that we did the same with Arthur Reisman's fine book of basics, Checkers the Easy Way, available in Postscript and PDF formats.) The copyright is long expired, and there are no legal or ethical barriers to republication.
We'll present a few pages in The Maven every few weeks, as mood and opportunity catches us; and we'll simultaneously gather it all together in what will eventually become a newly-typeset printable book.
Let's start off, then, with a pair of problems from the introductory pages of the book. We've called them Two Easy Pieces, and though these are speed-solvers for the experienced player, they present important basic concepts for the learner to master. Willie's own entertaining commentary accompanies each problem.
White to Play and Win
'A guileless amateur would be tempted to run for a king in Example 1, by moving 22-17; but black has a sure draw against that move by 7-11, 17-13, 11-16, 13-9, 16-19, etc. Instead of 22-17, white can make a win immediately by executing an elementary maneuver known as a "double exposure slip," which means that white can end all resistance by exposing two of black's pieces to capture at the same time. With this broad hint, the tyro should conceive the idea that gives black the heave-ho. A good plan for the beginner to adopt in studying a position is to allow himself a limited time, say five minutes, in which to find the right play without moving a piece; and failing in this, to consult the solution. This method enables the learner to correct his faulty calculations before they take root in his mind.'
White to Play and Win
'Again in Example 2, Mr. Tyro's policy of trying for a king by 18-14 is worthless, as black replies 6-9, 14-10, 13-17, 21-14, 9-18, with an easy draw in store. White simply does not have enough strength (placement of material) of position to make a strategic win, but in this case as in many others, a win can be effected by a tactical coup commonly termed "a compound stroke," so named because an opposing piece becomes an integral part of the scheme. In this example, we have the simplest form of a single corner compound in which the winning idea involves the single corner file or so-called "long diagonal."'
When you've given these a good try, click on Read More for the solutions.
In January we presented a mind-boggler of a stroke problem (click here to see it again). This month, we offer another brain-twister of a different nature. Take a look at the situation diagrammed below, titled Remarkable Block Problem and attributed to an author calling himself "X.Y.Z."
White to Move and Win
Again, as in last month's stroke problem, the situation is artificial, but nonetheless diabolical. See if you can solve it without going off the deep end, and then take a look at the animated solution, here
It all reminds us of Crowther's original Adventure game in which "you're in a maze of twisty passages..." But that was "XYZZY", not "X.Y.Z."
And, by the way, did you try to get your computer to solve this one? It's doubtful that any computer program would be able to come up with the solution. Click on Read More for some supplementary discussion on why this might be.
Happy 90th Birthday, Mr. Richard Fortman!
Living checker legend Richard "Dick" Fortman celebrated his 90th birthday on February 8, 2005. Mr. Fortman's checker career is nothing short of fabulous, as champion player, skilled analyst, and famed writer. You can send your birthday greetings to rlf111 at webtv.net.
Marujito: A New Checker Playing Engine
There's a brand-new checker playing engine just released. It's called Marujito
, named after a yellow canary that is a character on the Barcelona television comedy show Plats Bruts
. It (the engine, not the canary) runs with Martin Fierz's CheckerBoard
interface, and was developed by Angel Galan Galan of the University of Barcelona. He bundles it here
under the name Matilde
with two other engines that play European checker variants.
As those of you know who follow my checker program review page, I test nearly all new programs against Martin Fierz's Simple Checkers, an engine that I rate as "Class C" meaning it plays a good casual game, if short of expert or master level. Simple generally destroys the competition as, alas, the majority of checker programs out there aren't all that great.
Well, this new kid on the block is no comical bird, despite its name. Marujito clearly outplayed Simple Checkers in a test game! The game was a very interesting matchup, with Marujito calculating a pretty way to win a piece and then correctly winning a 3 kings vs. 2 kings endgame--- something that the more basic programs very often fail to do.
You can view the full game in animated form, with comments and evaluations, here. But before you do that, take a look at this position:
WHITE (Simple Checkers)
Black to Play and Win
has just blundered by playing 25-22, a losing move. But it looks like a pretty natural move in this position. Can you see the way to a Black victory? Try your hand at it, and check your winning ways against the actual game as linked above. You'll see that Marujito
handles this very nicely.
The Checker Maven congratulates program author Angel Galan Galan on turning out a checker engine that plays a very good game and will be a lot of fun to use as a casual sparring partner.
A summary review of Marujito now appears on the review page.
Who Was That Masked Man?
For the next little while, we'll be running a monthly "guess the author" feature problem. We'll present you with a checker problem, and a photograph; your challenge will be twofold:
1. Solve the problem (of course).
2. Identify the person in the photo (on the left), who is the problem's compositor. You can click on the photo for a full-size version.
February's entry will be what will probably turn out to be the easiest of the three, at least in terms of identifying the person in the photo; we're not so sure about the problem itself! Here it is:
Black to Play and Win
Click on Read More
to check your answers.
Are You Faster Than the World Champion?
for a checker problem reported to have been solved by the World Champion in something between 30 to 45 seconds.
Can you beat the World Champion? The clock is ticking!
(The Maven thanks Brian Hinkle for sending this one along.)
Now click here to see the animated solution. Did you beat the Champion? Record your results here.
Solutions and Follow-Ups from January, 2005
January's feature problem was Coffee and Cake
, a classic from the early Willie Ryan days. Click on the link to review the problem and see the animated solution. Did you win it?
Also last month, we updated our review of the Blondie24 computer program. Click on the link, and then take a look at the animated game between Blondie and Simple Checkers to see how surprisingly well these two fare over the board.
And finally, we've done a complete rewrite of our article, So This Is Checkers?, as we've come across a lot of supplementary information about interesting checker variants both old and new.
The Little Fooler
The feature problem for February is entitled The Little Fooler and is credited to Tom Wiswell and Jimmy Ricca. No less an authority than Ben Boland himself called this "a fine original problem." Skilled solver Brian Hinkle took almost a month to crack it.
White to Play and Win
There are only two pieces per side but there is no ease in simplicity here. In fact, long ago W. T. Call published a book of "Midget Problems" with just two per side, and they are widely regarded as real challengers.
Give this gem a really good try; your efforts will be well rewarded. After you've tried it, vote on how hard you thought it was, and click on Read More for the elegant solution.
As we race into February (where did
those holidays go?) we'd like to introduce our Speed Department
. These are easy problems to be sight-solved as quickly as possible. Click on the link for each problem and the diagram will appear.
How quickly can you solve these? A timer is running while you work! Click "Got It!" when you've figured it out and you'll see exactly how long it took.
Click Read More to check your solution.
These problems are provided courtesy of a gentleman named Charles, who in 2005 is celebrating his 60th year playing the Grand Old Game. He can be found on the GoldToken game site under the name NATONE. Look him up and play a friendly game or two.
Now: ready, get set, GO!
No. 1 (easy)
No. 2 (very easy)
But the Computer Says......
Here's a problem attributed to O. H. Richmond, and published a little over 50 years back by Tom Wiswell. He called it "Black Beauty":
Black to Play and Win
The White forces in the Black double corner are really boxed in, but Black has to find a way to make that into a win.
Now, you'll surely find that this is a neat problem and a "real twister" as Wiswell would say. So solve it, check your solution with the animation here, and then click on Read More to find out what the computer has to say about this problem. It won't be what you think--- or will it?
The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i, as a completely non-commercial public service from which no profit is obtained or sought. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2020 Avi Gobbler Publishing. Other material is the property of the respective owners. Information presented on this site is offered as-is, at no cost, and bears no express or implied warranty as to accuracy or usability. You agree that you use such information entirely at your own risk. No liabilities of any kind under any legal theory whatsoever are accepted. The Checker Maven is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bob Newell, Sr.