The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

Published each Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

Contests in Progress:

Composing Championship #58

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Carol Joy Cole: A Friend to the Checkers World

Carol Joy Cole, a retired librarian in Flint, Michigan, is known nationally and internationally as a backgammon club and tournament organizer, equipment and book supplier, and veteran backgammon player. What is not as well known is that in recent years, Carol has been a friend to the checker playing community, helping out with the difficult task of obtaining true "regulation" red and white checkers. Carol, through her Backgammon Boutique has up to now been providing us with solid color red and white checkers from Denmark, and "swirly" red and white checkers from Crisloid.

These have been fine items, though the "swirly" checkers are not strictly regulation, and the Danish checkers are a bit on the thin side. Now, Carol has improved her offerings by obtaining Roger Blaine's special order stock of genuine solid color Crisloid red and whites, in both 1.25 and 1.50 inch diameter sizes.

I splurged on both of these sets, and they are wonderful. The color and manufacture is uniform and the "feel" of the pieces is great. These are true regulation checkers, and an excellent value at $20 for the small and $30 for the large, plus $4 for shipping. Get them while they last!

Click on picture for full-size version
Carol has gone out of her way to serve checker players, even though it's a small market and not likely to bring her much return. Carol is always helpful and courteous and ships promptly with no fuss or ado. Carol, on behalf of checker players everywhere, please accept our thanks!

You can reach Carol through her web site, as linked above, or by email at

01/16/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Checker Hall of Fame to Close as Walker Resigns Positions

On January 10, Charles Walker announced the forthcoming closing of the International Checker Hall of Fame in Petal, Mississippi, as well as his resignation as President of the World Checkers Draughts Federation and other posts which he had held. The announcement can be found on the American Checker Federation website.

On January 11, Mississippi newspapers published this article about Walker's January 7 arrest and indictment on Federal money laundering charges. The charges are tied to a series of companies operated by Walker, including the International Checkers Hall of Fame.

Prominent checker personalities and officials have been quick to point out the outstanding contributions made over a period of decades by Mr. Walker to the game of checkers. He has been a tireless promoter and organizer and has worked hard on behalf of the checker-playing community.

The charges against Mr. Walker are serious indeed. But let's not forget that in America, a man is innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Walker deserves fair consideration and a fair trial. And no matter the outcome, his record of service to the checker world will always stand.

February 1, 2005 update: additional news stories can be found here.

01/15/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Coffee and Cake

From an old Willie Ryan book, here is the first feature problem for January, Coffee and Cake. Willie had the following to say about it:

"This problem has been dubbed by experts the champion 'coffee and cake' problem. This means that you can set this problem up for your friends and bet them coffee and cake that they cannot win it."

I bet Brian Hinkle coffee and cake, and not surprisingly, I now owe him! But can you win it? Give it a good try and then treat yourself to coffee and cake no matter the outcome.


White to Move and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

You can view an animated solution here. Did you win coffee and cake?

01/09/05 -Printer friendly version-
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A January Warmup

In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, January is a cold month, and so a warmup might be just the thing! Here is a simple problem to get you started with this month's Checker Maven challenges--- but beware, they all won't be this easy!

Brian Hinkle sent us this run-up from the Double Corner opening:

9-14 23-18
14x23 27x18
12-16 22-17---A
16-19 24x15
10x19 31-27?---B

A---A defense from Teschelheit's Master Play of the Checkerboard, unfortunately unsound.

B---Loses at once, although White is probably already lost. One alternative line of play from the KingsRow computer engine is this: 26-23 19x26 30x23 11-15 18x11 8x15 32-27 5-9 31-26 4-8 25-22 8-11 23-18 15-19 27-23 11-16 17-13 7-11 29-25 1-5 22-17 3-8 17-14 8-12 25-22 11-15 18x11 9x27 Black Wins.

After 31-27, the following position arises:


Black to Play and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

How quickly can you solve this one? Click on Read More for the solution - but give it a good try first.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
01/08/05 -Printer friendly version-
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News From the CSi BBS

A couple of interesting items have recently appeared on the CSi BBS (see link at left).

First, Martin Fierz has released a new version of CheckerBoard (click on the link to download). This release fixes and adds a few things, but mostly allows use of Hans L'Hoest's OCA database, a very large collection of checker games.

Checkerboard is surely one of the premiere checker interfaces available. We all owe Martin, big time, for developing, maintaining, and enhancing this fine software.

Second, Draughts Razoo, which to my knowledge is the only full-fledged checker print magazine (there are several newsletters), is discontinuing publication. The editor, Nick McBride, simply doesn't have the time any longer for such a major undertaking. 'Tis a pity. The days of my grandfather were filled with checker magazines and newspaper columns. Is there a single one left? Comment here if you know of any, for the benefit of us all.

Al Lyman, noted commentator, correspondence player, and checker educator, has proposed a monthly on-line magazine. This would be a "complete" magazine going well beyond an episodical blog such as The Checker Maven. Al is certainly well-qualified to do this and I wish him success. It's a lot of work; don't I know it! Keeping up The Checker Maven is effort enough, but a full monthly magazine will require concerted effort and a lot of help. I hope it works out and enriches the checker world thereby.

01/06/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Review of Blondie24

On the checker program review page, you'll find our review of the very unusual checker playing program Blondie24. One of the reasons that the program is unusual is that it is one of a very few "neural net" checker programs, a type of program that "teaches itself" to play. This approach has produced world-class backgammon programs but hasn't done well with non-probabalistic games.

It doesn't come close to world-class results in Blondie24 either, despite the authors claim of expert-level play (although it doesn't do that badly either). However, though neural network programming is interesting and different, that isn't at all what makes this program unique. I won't spoil it for you here; just use as a clue the fact that the game is subtitled "Checkers With An Attitude."

Take a look at the review, check out the Digenetics web site, and see what you think. Then, for an objective look, check out this animated game between Blondie and Simple Checkers, showing surprising over-the-board play quality.

12/17/04 -Printer friendly version-
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Can You Be The Third Person In The World To Solve This?

an original problem by contributing author Brian Hinkle

Only 2 players in the world have solved this 6x5 puzzle! Can you become the 3rd person to solve it?


White to Play and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

So far only Alex Moiseyev and Jim Morrison could solve it.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most difficult) Alex gave it a 7, and Jim gave it an 8.5. Both enjoyed it thoroughly.

Gerry Lopez, Leo Levitt, Carl Reno and many others have all failed to solve it - even with computer help! A number of players simply thought it was set up wrong!

The solution will be published online here in The Checker Maven on May 7, 2005.

Please send any human (no computers answers please!) solution to:

How hard is this puzzle? Cast your vote here.

February 1, 2005 update: solved by Albert Tucker! Will you be the next one to crack this toughie?

12/16/04 -Printer friendly version-
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New Release of KingsRow

Ed Gilbert has released version 1.14p of KingsRow, the powerful checker playing engine that lost a squeaker to Cake Manchester last month by the small margin of 1 win, 3 losses, and 630 draws. The new release contains Ed's giant new opening book with over 800,000 positions.

Drop in the Chinook 8-piece database, and I bet you don't beat this one over the board.

Go here and download your copy right away. A review of the new release will appear on my Checker Program Review Page sometime in early 2005.

12/16/04 -Printer friendly version-
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Undiscovered Draw in Game 5 of Hellman-Ryan, 1949?

When your editor was just two months old, Walter Hellman and William F. "Willie" Ryan squared off in Oklahoma City and Joliet, Illinois for the world checker championship. It is a famous match celebrated to this day. One of the checker books that came to our Santa Fe office in the mail this week, World Championship Checkers, is the record of this match.

In game 5, Willie Ryan made what was reported to be a colossal blunder, perhaps the worst of his career, and in the end it cost him the championship in this closely contested match (it ended 4 wins each with 42 draws, but Willie was the challenger and so failed to gain the crown).

In corresponding with skilled analyst Brian Hinkle, we challenged him with the position at which Ryan blundered. Brian of course figured out the correct move in only about five minutes, but then looked further. He did some detailed computer analysis which appears to show that Ryan's "blunder" actually could have garnered a draw, but he made a real slip some half-dozen moves later, costing him the game!

Could this have all gone undetected for 55 years? Have a look at the web page that we've put together, with computer analysis, diagrams, and the complete game and notes from the book:

Did Willie Goof?

12/04/04 -Printer friendly version-
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The Challenge of Checker Problems

We've been corresponding recently by email with Brian Hinkle, a highly skilled checker problemist and analyst. We send Brian problems that he solves in a few minutes; he sends us problems that we know we will never solve but we try nonetheless. We end up feeding them to a world-class computer program such as Cake or King's Row for analysis. The computer solves them without missing a beat.

That brings up the question that is often heard about checkers being "dead." The best computer programs today are at an extraordinarily advanced level, very likely beyond the best human players. Computer programs were always relatively good in checker tactics; but now, with enormous opening databases of half a million to a million positions, endgame databases which comprehensively solve endgames of up to 10 pieces, computer programs seem to know just about everything about checkers. The University of Calgary has as its goal the complete "solution" of checkers, and they think they will do this in the next few years. We believe that they will, in fact, accomplish this feat.

But does the fact that a "solution" for checkers exists (or will exist) mean that the game is "dead"? We think that is only true if you are playing against the world-class computer programs that know the "solution." In a game between humans, especially an over the board game, checkers is not and will never be "solved." There is too much challenge and enjoyment in the game as played by mere mortals.

What has this got to do with checker problems? It's simply that these problems, especially the better and more clever or entertaining ones, show the depth of the game. Struggle with a couple of these gems and you'll see what we mean. You'll find that there's a lot left for you personally in the grand old game. Visit Jim Loy's site and start with his beginner's problems. You'll quickly understand.

12/03/04 -Printer friendly version-
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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 2004-2021 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.

MAVEN, n.:

An expert or connoisseur, often self-proclaimed.


Numbered Board and Notation

Book Reviews

Game Site Reviews

Program Reviews

A Mind Sport for the Common Man

Learning Checkers

The Unknown Derek Oldbury

Rediscovering Checkers

Regulation Checker Sets

Marvin's World


Richard Pask Publications

Reisman: Checkers Made Easy

Clapham Commons Draughts Book

Grover/Wiswell: Let's Play Checkers

Bob Murray's School Presentation

Jim Loy Publications

PDN collections

Oldbury: MoveOver

Reinfeld: How to Win

Ginsberg: Principles of Strategy