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


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Medium Problem

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No, we don't mean that kind of "medium" and we don't expect you to divine the solution to today's checker problem; rather, we consider it "medium" in difficulty. It's a nice setting sent to us by Toronto's intrepid checkerists, Lloyd and Josh Gordon.

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W32,30,22,K19:B27,23,21,3.

The stars tell us you'll be able to solve this one, as long as you keep your thinking channels open. It won't take a seance, though, to check your solution; all you need do is wave your mouse on Read More to see how it's done.null

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10/07/17 - Printer friendly version
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Increased Hosting Costs for Checker Maven

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When we launched The Checker Maven years back, web hosting costs were a lot lower. But with the passage of time, costs have risen and now our web hosting alone runs well above $200 a year, and we haven't even begun to tally other costs, nor do we wish to.

The Checker Maven is free, and free from outside advertising, and always will be. We will never charge for our content and we will never accept advertising from anyone. Period.

However, we will advertise our books, as print versions do generate a small profit. And we are considering a change in our policy on accepting donations. Right now we won't accept them even if offered, but at some point we might.

Thank you for being a reader of The Checker Maven and for your understanding.

10/03/17 - Printer friendly version
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Taking On The Champ, Part 1

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Suppose you're a Master level checker player. You're at a tournament and suddenly you find yourself matched with someone who held the World Championship for many years. An intimidating prospect? Certainly you're good, but this guy is good.

Now, imagine instead that you're in the Minor category? You're still in all likelihood a pretty good player, but ... two games against Alex Moiseyev?

Would your instinct be to make a hasty exit from the tournament room, maybe even to catch the next flight to some remote location? Or would you stick it out, expecting to take your lumps and just hope you don't look too bad?

This was almost exactly the prospect faced by Watson Franks, who told us a story of courage and accomplishment from which we can all learn something. Watson didn't run; he sat down and played.

Watson sent us a very interesting and detailed account of his adventure, and while we can't run it all in our weekly columns, we'll put it online in its entirety at the conclusion of this two-part series.

How did this all come about? Watson tells us:

"This past October, 2016, my wife encouraged me to go to the Alabama State Tournament ... at the beginning of the tournament ... they decided they wanted to do a Round Robin ... The Master Players realized that in order to have a Round Robin Tournament, they would need to have eight players ... they only had seven signed up ... I volunteered to move up ... They were appreciative ... very few thought I would get a draw, much less a win against any of the master players."

But Watson did quite well in the early rounds, surprising everyone with his results, including, we believe, himself: he racked up six draws and six losses against six different Master players. (If you don't think that's fantastic, try getting even one draw against one of these champs.)

In the final round, though, he was inevitably matched with Alex Moiseyev. Did he panic?

Here's a little of Watson's narrative:

"Everyone knew I would play Alex the final round. I remember, one of the contestants told me in joking, 'If you were to beat Alex, that would be more of an upset than Trump beating Clinton.' I told him, 'Strange things can happen ... on any given checker board.'

"Alex and I sat on the far side of the room. There was no one around us. It was very quiet. Alex shuffled the 3-move opening cards. In my mind, I knew it would be a good opening. By good opening, I mean one that I was very familiar with. Sure enough, the opening was 11-15, 24-19, 15-24. A 'Go As You Please' opening!"

In the first game, Watson had Black and Alex had White.


1. 11-15 24-19
2. 15x24 28x19
3. 8-11 22-18
4. 9-14 18x9
5. 5x14 26-22
6. 11-15 22-18
7. 15x24 18x9
8. 6x13 27x20
9. 4-8 25-22
10. 8-11 30-26
11. 2-6 31-27

End of KingsRow opening book.


12. 11-15 23-18

May lose; 20-16 was correct.


13. 15-19 18-14
14. 10x17 21x14
15. 19-24

Gives away the advantage; 6-10 might likely win.


15. ... 27-23
16. 24-27 20-16

14-9 would have been a sure draw.


17. 12x19 23x16

The game was left here as a draw. Watson tells us:

"The game reached a turning point. I thought I had (a) decent position. I was pleased with my shape. I knew what my next move would be. It looked very good for me. He (Alex) looked at me and said, 'Would you like a draw?' I looked at the board for a bit. I said to him, 'If you think this is a draw, then itís a draw. But I think I have very good shape.' He said, 'It looks drawish.' Of course, I could have kept playing if I had wanted to do so. It was my choice to accept (the) draw. I could have made a bad move and lost the game. But at the point of draw, I realize now that I had (a) winning position. I was very proud of that game."

So what do you think? Could Watson have won the game? What about his fear of possibly making a poor move and losing?

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W32,29,26,22,16,14:B27,13,7,6,3,1.

Study the position, and when you're done, click on Read More for the answer to these intriguing questions.null

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09/30/17 - Printer friendly version
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Double Arrow

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Onward and upward! Do these two arrows point the way to success? And will that success be on the checkerboard?

Today's Checker School entry, a position attributed to William Strickland, certainly looks like two arrows pointing upward -- from the Black side. (From the White side, the arrows point in a quite different direction.) Let's take a look.

W. STRICKLAND
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W26,23,22,21,19,17,13:B14,12,10,9,6,2,1.

In the interest of fairness, we presume, the terms are Black to play and draw, and that would certainly be a success in such an awkward position. As for White, it's his game to win ... if he can.

Will your arrow hit the mark? Solve the problem and then shoot your mouse onto Read More to see the solution, explanatory notes, and seven--- yes, seven--- sample games.null

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09/23/17 - Printer friendly version
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Hard Fall Problem

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The first day of fall is just a few days away at the time this column will be published, and it's time to get serious. All the students are back in school and all regular activities have likely resumed by now. With cold weather ahead, it's time to sharpen your checker skills to prepare for the busy checker season ahead.

Of course, The Checker Maven is always willing to help, so we've got a problem today that's somewhat tougher than last week's entry.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

:WK18,K17,14,6:BK27,K25,7,3.

Will you solve it or fall down on this one? You should be able to solve it, but you can always let your mouse fall on Read More to see the solution.null

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09/16/17 - Printer friendly version
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Easy Summer's End Problem

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Fall in the Northern Hemisphere is not far off, and if you live in a so-called "temperate" climate zone, you're probably out enjoying the last of the warm weather. So today, we won't keep you from your outdoor pursuits for long; our problem definitely falls into the "easy" category, and you'll solve it in short order. The position was provided by regular contributors Josh and Lloyd Gordon of Toronto.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W30,K27,20:B21,18,12.

You've probably already solved it, but just in case, ease your mouse on to Read More to easily check your solution.null

[Read More]
09/09/17 - Printer friendly version
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Labor Day 2017

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On every Labor Day holiday, we pay tribute to the common man and woman. Yes, we've said it before, but it's worth saying again: These are the people who, through honest hard work, make our nation what it is. Whatever you do, be proud of it and celebrate your contribution. We believe that all occupations are honorable, and that the farmer in the field and the laborer on the construction site can take pride of place right alongside the business executive and the real estate tycoon. We all have our job to do, and all of it is important.

Checkers is a great equalizer. Great players have come from humble origins. Over the board, it makes no difference if you're rich or poor, famous or unknown; only your skill and ability count for anything.

We don't know what your life's calling may be, but if you're here, you must be a checker fan, and today, as we recognize Labor Day together, we hope we've got something pleasing for you. Naturally, we've turned to that great problemist and American patriot, Tom Wiswell, with a composition he called "The Pocket."

WHITE
null
BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W25,19,K13:B23,11,9.

This is a very practical problem, showing a way to get a draw when things look rather difficult. Would you be able to find the draw over the board? Labor away at it--- checkers is an honorable pursuit if there ever was one--- and then work your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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09/02/17 - Printer friendly version
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Richard Pask At Home

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Grandmaster Pask in his Library

At the end of May of this year (2017) your editor had the great pleasure of visiting with Mr. Richard Pask and family at his home in the town of Chickerell, in Weymouth, on England's southern coast. Mr. and Mrs. Pask, and their son Robert, are delightful and hospitable people, and it was a very memorable visit indeed.

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Mrs. Pask's English Garden

Mrs. Pask, a musician and teacher, is also a talented gardener and keeps a wonderful English garden, the likes of which are seen only in movies.

Of course, we talked checkers, and Mr. Pask showed us through his library (shown above), packed with checker literature and checker memorablia. Our discussions ranged far and wide, continuing over dinner at a traditional English pub, The Turk's Head.

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Mrs. Pask, your Editor, and Mr. Pask

We asked Mr. Pask to tell us of his favorite personal game, and he said it came from the 1985 Scottish Open, where Mr. Pask had the White against Danny Shields with the Black.


1. 10-14 24-19
2. 7-10 27-24
3. 9-13

A likely loss (already)! 11-15 or 11-16 would have been correct. Mr. Pask points out that this position can also arise from the opening sequence 1. 9-13 23-19; 2. 10-14 27-23; 3. 7-10?.


3. ... 22-18
4. 11-15 18x11
5. 8x15 24-20

26-22 instead keeps the advantage.


6. 15x24 28x19

The game has now reverted to a probable draw, although the actual play could be difficult over the board.


7. 4-8 25-22
8. 2-7

Probably loses. 8-11 would be a narrow draw.


8. ... 22-18
9. 14-17 21x14
10. 10x17 18-15
11. 5-9 29-25
12. 6-10

9-14 was better; Black is surely lost.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W32,31,30,26,25,23,20,19,15:B17,13,12,10,9,8,7,3,1.

Grandmaster Pask was able to find the win in this position. Can you? We'd rate this one as about medium in difficulty; a little effort will be rewarded. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

[Read More]
08/26/17 - Printer friendly version
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The Brooklyn Position

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Brooklyn, New York, has got to be the center of the hipster movement. Now, a hipster is supposedly "a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream."

By that definition, checker players would not exactly be hipsters, yet many a top player has had humble origins in Brooklyn. Perhaps times have changed. But checkers does have the Brooklyn Position, and that's the topic of today's Checker School entry.

We've seen the Brooklyn Position at various times in previous columns, but today we present an in-depth study. The solution, accessible by clicking on Read More, gives half a dozen sample games that run into this position. It's well worth the time and effort to study it carefully.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W32,27,24,23,19,18,15:B20,16,12,11,8,6,5.

Are you hip, or just a drip? Show your stuff, and find the solution. It's actually not so difficult, and you might even think it's kind of trendy.null

[Read More]
08/19/17 - Printer friendly version
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A Trap With A Tale, Part 2

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Watch out! That tempting bit of cheese will come at a stiff price ... unless that little white mouse can somehow avoid the trap. Yes, today we're continuing our Willie Ryan series, A Trap With A Tale.

In our last excerpt from Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, we showed the run-up to a position that turned out to be a Black win. The solution to that position included a computer move with which we'll see that Willie Ryan, in his book, disagreed. It's much easier to show than tell, so here goes.


1. 11-16 24-19
2. 8-11 22-18
3. 16-20 25-22
4. 9-13 29-25
5. 11-15 18-11
6. 7-16 22-18

This was the point at which we asked you to find a Black win. Now let's look at a possible alternate continuation, the one preferred by Willie, which he claims leads to a draw instead of a Black win.


7. 20-24 27x11
8. 10-15 19x10
9. 6x29 28-24
10. 29-25 32-27
11. 1-6

Here the computer played 24-20 and showed a Black win, as we presented in our previous column. But Willie instead gives this to draw:


11. ... 24-19
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play, What Result?

B:W31,30,27,26,23,21,19,11:BK25,13,12,6,5,4,3,2.

Who is right, Willie or the computer? Can Black still win against Willie's preferred defense?

We think you know the answer, but can you show the Black win?

Willie stars this as the only move to draw; the computer move was instead 19-16 and White went on to lose.

Who is right, Willie or the computer? That's the question we're asking you to answer in today's column. This is probably a master-level problem, but if you followed the solution from last time, you'll have a broad hint as to what will happen here.

Take on Willie or take on the computer, and see how you do. At the heart of the position is an important over-the-board playing principle. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.null

[Read More]
08/12/17 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2018 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.


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