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Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

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CV-3: Sturges Remembered


Joshua Sturges is best known to us for his early treatise on the game of draughts, or checkers. But as an innkeeper and proprietor of a "publick house" he was known for other things, including his ledger system for other innkeepers. Truly he was a man of many talents.

We continue our series of special Wednesday columns, intended to present a little extra entertainment during the current public health crisis. Today's problem, CV-3, was kindly provided by master problemist Ed Atkinson. He calls it Sturges Remembered (for checkers rather than innkeeping). That title might give you a small hint for this problem.

Once again we'll hold the solution for two weeks, at which time we'll present problem CV-4.

Without further ado, here's CV-3.

Problem CV-3
White to Play and Win


Enjoy solving this one! And stay safe and well, checker fans, wherever you are.null

04/22/20 - Printer friendly version
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Solution to CV-2: Brian's Bridge

Problem CV-2
Brian's Bridge
White to Play and Win


We hope you enjoyed solving this excellent problem.

Once again, in a problem this complex, we can only give a main line and a few variations. Feel free to explore with your computer. The following solution is the one preferred by the composer, master problemist Brian Hinkle.

1. ... 7-3---A 2. 1-5---B 17-14 3. 15-18 31-27 4. 23-26 11-8 5. 4x11 9-6 6. 2x9 27-24 7. 20x27 32x23 8. 18x27 3-8 9. 9x18 8x24 White Wins.

A---17-13? 2. 15-19 32-28 3. 4-8 11x4 4. 2x11 4-8 5. 11-15 9-5---C 6. 23-27 31x24 7. 20x27 8-11 8. 27-32 11x18 9. 19-23 18x27 10. 32x23 28-24 11. 23-18 24-19 12. 18-14 19-16 13. 14-10 16-11 14. 10-6 11-7 15. 6-2 7-3 16. 2-6 3-7 17. 6-2 7-11 Drawn.

B---15-18 31-27 3. 1-5 17-14 Same.

C---8-11 6. 23-26 11x18 7. 1-5 31x22 8. 5x23 Drawn.

As always, our thanks go out to Brian.null

04/22/20 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven has little in common with species who migrate often. But we are due for a different kind of migration.

Our website hosting company is moving us from an old server with old versions of software to a new server with new versions of software. Sounds good? Well, it turns out that our publishing platform, Nucleus CMS, needed a major update to even run at all on the new software.

It took us many hours of work, but we've prepared everything for the server move, and we'd like to hope it will go smoothly (famous last words). Now, the hosting company isn't able to tell us just when we'll get migrated over. We guess it's supposed to be some sort of surprise, which with computers is never a good thing.

We'll do our best to keep everything running as it should, but please help us out by telling us if you notice anything that doesn't work or doesn't look right, no matter how small. Please write to us at Mahalo for your support of The Checker Maven.null

04/20/20 - Printer friendly version
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Marvin at the Checker Academy


The turn of the scholastic year brought in a new freshman class at the elite National Checker Academy. Sponsored and operated by the National Checker League, the Academy put on a four-year accredited undergraduate program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Checker Studies.

The curriculum was tough and demanding. Only the best could gain admission, and yet, despite major checker scholarships being offered by Big Ten universities, many a top high school player instead opted to brave the rigors of Academy study.

Tuition was free and the Academy provided room and board. Those who made it through the program--- and that certainly wasn't everyone, not by a long shot--- committed to five years of professional play, although many would go on to a lifetime career.


This year, the Academy invited Marvin J. Mavin to address the incoming class, and that invitation raised some eyebrows in the checker community. Usually the frosh were addressed by someone, well, a bit more on the academic side, someone more erudite and polished.

Of course Marvin was a star player, no doubt about it. But there were some who felt he didn't properly model the high academic and self-disciplinary standards that the Academy rigidly enforced.

Marvin, for his part, didn't really know what kind of a speech to give. So he figured he'd just sort of play it by ear.

Marvin was advised by Academy officials that there was a certain dress code observed at the Academy. All students wore suitable formal business attire at all times, which consisted of a white shirt or blouse, brown tie, a conservative brown suit or pant suit, and brown wing-tip shoes or pumps.


"I ain't wearing no tie," Marvin said at once. "You ain't gotta strangle yourself to play better checkers. You gotta breathe, man."

But his longtime girlfriend, business executive Priscilla Snelson, who was invited to be present with Marvin, put her foot down, and when she did, there was no opposing her.

So Marvin came to the lecture dressed in strict Academy attire, and after a brief introduction by the Dean of Freshman, Dr. Rollie Pastor, Marvin took the podium at the front of the Academy's ultramodern Tinsley Hall.


Marvin looked out over the audience. There were about a hundred members of the freshman class as well as many of the faculty, not to mention invited guests and a full compliment of newspaper, radio, and television reporters. And although Marvin didn't know it, his lecture would be live-streamed on the internet for a worldwide audience.

"Well, uh, hi there," Marvin began. "I'm like, you know, glad to be here. And stuff. Yeah."

Priscilla, from her front row seat, gave Marvin a cautioning look.

"Like, you know, you guys are good and all that..."


"We're not just guys," one young woman piped up from her seat in the back. "Women play professional checkers too!"

Marvin, a bit surprised, said, "Oh, sure, you bet. Real good too. I didn't mean ... well, anyhow. Like I said you guys--- and gals, okay?--- you're all good..."

"Why do you have to say 'guys and gals'?" the young lady in the back retorted. "Can't you just say 'checkerists' or 'people'? Why does this have to be a gender thing?"

Priscilla nodded approvingly but again Marvin didn't notice."

"Look here, I ... anyhow I wanted to start off with a really good problem and see how fast you guys--- people--- can solve it."

But by now nearly everyone in the freshman class had started to mutter. Even some of the faculty were shaking their heads.

"Okay, here's the problem," Marvin said. The following diagram was projected on the big screen at the back of the stage.

Black to Play and Draw


"Okay there it is, fellas .... oops ..."

The muttering now turned into much more as catcalls rained out upon Marvin. Again, some of the faculty joined in. It was getting out of hand, and Dr. Pastor stepped up onto the stage, motioning Marvin away from the microphone.


"Mr. Mavin," Dr. Pastor began, addressing the crowd, "doesn't realize we respect and acknowledge all fifteen genders..."

Someone in the audience interrupted, "That's gender identities and there are sixteen, not fifteen!"

"Yes, excuse my error," Dr. Pastor replied. Thankfully the crowd was quieting down. "I'm sure Mr. Mavin won't repeat his errors. Isn't that right, Marvin?" Dr. Pastor concluded, looking directly at Marvn.

"Yeah, doc, didn't mean to make any of you boys angry."


That was it. The crowd erupted again and two uniformed security guards appeared on stage, quickly leading Marvin off, telling him it was for his own safety.

About half an hour later Priscilla met up with Marvin at the Security Office, when the security staff felt it was finally safe for him to leave.

On their way to the car Priscilla did little more than glare before finally saying, "I've warned you time and time again to be careful about disrespectful remarks."

"Disrespectful?" Marvin replied. "All I said was ..."

"Don't you dare repeat it!"

"But honey ..."

"Don't 'honey' me, either!"

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. Can we go get a beer or something and kind of like make up?"

Priscilla shook her head in dismay.

"Like, maybe when we get to the airport?"


"Get in the car, Marvin. Sometimes, I wonder just what I see in you."

Marvin, at this point, knew it would be best to keep very quiet and do as he was told.

The students at the Checker Academy never did get to solve Marvin's problem. Can you? We guarantee that the solution is 100 percent gender free. See what you can do and then click on Read More to check your moves.null

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04/18/20 - Printer friendly version
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Checker Jargon


It seems that an obsession with jargon has dominated the business world during the past few decades. There's "rightsizing," "synergy," "proactivity," and thousands more, and it seems that such terms offer very little other than a way to take up screen space in yet another stultifying PowerPoint presentation.

In today's Checker School entry, our friends Skittle and Nemo return. You'll recall that they are to be found in Andrew J. Banks' fascinating book, Checker Board Strategy. Let's listen in as Skittle instructs Nemo. Note that Skittle prefers the word "vocabulary" over "jargon."

"As we solve problems," Skittle suggested to Nemo, "let's use the checker vocabulary. When you jump two pieces, call it a 'Two-Shot.'"

"Why get technical?" protested Nemo. "Solutions flash on me. Checkers is the silent game."

This raises an interesting question: Just how much does 'checker jargon' such as "Two-Shot", "Breeches," and all the rest, add to our learning and understanding? We'd posit that when a name reinforces the idea concerned, it's useful. A "breeches" position is easy to picture and easy to remember. A "Two-Shot" is just as clear. But the names of openings, for instance, while providing a convenient shorthand, don't really tell us much in and of themselves.

Mr. Banks uses the following position as an illustration. Can you solve it--- and come up with some "checker jargon" to describe the solution?

White to Play and Win


You won't be able to merely talk your way through this one, and we don't know if the solution will "flash" on you, but we won't insist that you solve it silently. Do however give it a try. It's not especially difficult. Flash your mouse on Read More when you're ready to see the solution.null

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04/11/20 - Printer friendly version
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CV-2: Brian's Bridge


The bridge and trail above, near Martin, Tennessee, are named after Brian Brown. That's one example of "Brian's Bridge."

Today, for the second in our series of special Wednesday publications, we present problem CV-2, composed by Brian Hinkle, which is his own interpretation of "Brian's Bridge." Needless to say, it's a difficult problem--- something to keep you occupied during the present public health emergency--- and we'll give you two weeks to solve it before publishing both the solution and the next problem in our series (and let's hope this doesn't go on long enough to reach problem CV-19).

Here's the position.

Problem CV-2
White to Play and Win


It is our wish that this problem, along with our regular Saturday columns, will provide you some needed entertainment during difficult days. Stay safe and well, checker fans, wherever you are.null

04/08/20 - Printer friendly version
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CV-1 Solution

Problem CV-1
White to Play and Draw


Brian Hinkle's 2x3 problem published two weeks ago, which we've called CV-1, is a deep and difficult setting. ACF Bulletin editor Jim Loy wrote to Brian saying that there are probably a thousand drawing possibilities and it would take a year to unravel. This is surely one of the best 2x3 problems ever published. There is no doubt that the draw is subtle, finely balanced, and relies on moves which at times don't seem intuitive or natural.

It's impossible for us to go into everything in a single column, so we'll just show a couple of options and let you use your computer to work through the many different variations.

When you're done, Brian would like to know what your favorite drawing line might be. Write to him at with your comments.

Brian points out three major drawing themes: a line that ends in Payne’s Double Corner Draw, one that ends in Roger’s Draw, and one that ends in Dr. Brown’s Draw (as in Boland's Famous Positions page 19).

Brian elaborates: If Black keeps the man on 12, then Roger’s Draw is needed. If Black advances the man on 12 to 20, then Payne’s Double Corner Draw is in order. Finally, the important transposition into Dr. Brown’s Draw shows why White must start with 4-8* and 8-11*.


First, we'll show Brian's chosen solution, the one he thinks best represents the trunk line. The solution is very long, and you may wish to use this animation. Notes were provided by Brian.

1. ... 4-8

Note that the seemingly "obvious" 2-6 (chasing with the king) will lose, as will 2-7.

2. 12-16 8-11
3. 16-19 11-15
4. 19-23 ...

Or 19-24 15-10* 24-27 2-6 (chasing with the king is now correct) 9-13 10-14 27-31 6-10 31-27 10-15 27-23; this is the same draw as in Dr. Brown's Famous Positions, p.19, colors reversed.

4. ... 15-18
5. 23-26 18-22
6. 26-31 2-6
7. 9-13 6-10
8. 31-27 10-14
9. 27-23 14-10
10. 23-19 10-14
11. 19-15 22-25
12. 15-11 25-22
13. 11-7 22-25
14. 7-2 25-22

Stopping the Black king with 14-10? might be tempting but it loses by 15. 13-17 10-14 16. 17-21 25-22 17. 2-6 14-18 18. 6-9 18-23 19. 9-13 23-26 20. 5-9 26-23 21. 9-14 23-26 22. 14-17 22-18 23. 17-22 Black Wins.

15. 2-6 14-18
16. 6-9 18-23
17. 9-14 23-26
18. 14-17 22-18
19. 17-21 18-22
20. 21-17 22-18
21. 5-9 26-23
22. 17-14 18-22
23. 14-10 23-18

White has to defend accurately; if 23-26? then 24. 10-15 26-23 25. 9-14 23-26 26. 14-18 22-25 27. 13-17 Black Wins.

24. 10-7 22-25
25. 7-11 25-22
26. 11-16 22-25
27. 16-20 25-22
28. 20-24 22-25
29. 24-27 25-22
30. 27-31 22-25
31. 31-26 25-30
32. 26-31 30-25
33. 31-27 25-22
34. 27-24 22-25
35. 24-19 25-22
36. 19-16 22-25
37. 16-11 25-22
38. 11-7 22-25
39. 7-2 25-22
40. 2-6 22-25
41. 6-1 25-22
42. 1-5 18-23
43. 9-14 23-26
44. 5-1 26-23

Precision play is required: if 26-30? then 45. 1-6 30-26 46. 6-10 26-23 47. 10-15 23-26 48. 14-18 22-25 49. 13-17 Black Wins.

45. 1-6 22-18
46. 6-9 18-22
47. 14-17 22-18
48. 9-6 23-26
49. 6-2 26-30

With the Black king way back on square 2, White must now force the Black piece on 17 into square 21. If 18-22? then 50. 2-7 22-18 51. 7-11 26-30 52. 17-21 18-22 53. 11-15 30-26 54. 15-19 26-30 55. 19-23 22-26 56. 23-18 26-31 57. 13-17 31-26 58. 18-14 26-31 59. 17-22 Black Wins.

50. 2-7 30-25
51. 17-21 25-22
52. 7-11 18-23
53. 11-16 23-27
54. 16-19 27-32
55. 19-23 32-28
56. 23-27 28-32
57. 27-31 32-28
58. 31-27 28-32
59. 27-24 32-28
60. 24-19 28-32
61. 19-15 32-27
62. 15-10 27-23
63. 10-14 23-26
64. 14-10 26-23

Drawn. An example of "one holds two."

Next, we'll show a line that we took from the KingsRow engine, using its 10-piece endgame database. Brian called this one, "The King Goes on a Vacation." An animation can be found here.

1 ... 4-8
2. 9-14 8-11
3. 5-9 2-7
4. 14-18 7-10
5. 18-22 11-15
6. 22-25 15-18
7. 25-30 18-23
8. 9-13 10-14
9. 12-16 14-10

Brian comments, "This white king decides that now is a good time to 'go on vacation' because the other king on 23 is doing all of the heavy defensive lifting."

10. 13-17 10-7
11. 17-22 7-3
12. 16-20 23-27
13. 22-25 3-7

The computer here gave 22-26 which no human would likely play.

14. 25-29 7-10
15. 29-25 10-15
16. 25-22 27-32

This has now transposed into the solution of Brian Hinkle's A Walk Through Time from Ed Salot's problem composing contest 39.

17. 22-26 ...

20-24 is interesting, hoping for the blunder 32-28? Black Wins. But if White avoids the trap, 20-24 only draws.

17. ... 32-27
18. 26-22 27-32
19. 22-17 ...

The computer gives 22-26, leading to repetition, but this is another try.

19. ... 15-11!

Not 15-18, which loses.

20. 17-14 ...

The computer gives 17-22.

20. ... 11-15
21. 30-26 32-27
22. 14-9 15-10
23. 26-22 10-15
24. 9-14 15-19
25. 14-18 19-24
26. 18-15 24-28
27. 15-19 28-32
28. 22-18 32-28
29. 19-23 28-32
30. 23-19 32-28

Etc. Drawn. A double corner defense which will work as long as the remaining single Black man can't crown.

There is much, much more to this problem and indeed one could spend a year on it. We'll just copy the line seen in many an advanced math textbook: "The rest is left as an exercise for the reader."

Our thanks to Brian Hinkle for this problem, and to Brian and Jim Loy for much of the analysis.null

04/08/20 - Printer friendly version
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All Is Not Lost


Some situations seem pretty hopeless. In the image above, things don't look so great for our hero. But you might guess that he's not one to easily give up.

The same is often true on the checkerboard. Take a look at the position below.

White to Play and Win


White is going to lose a piece and nothing will stop that. But indeed all is not lost---there still is a way to win, if you don't give up hope and can find your way through. This isn't quite a speed problem, but it isn't all that difficult, either. Stay the course and win the battle, then click on Read More to verify your victory.

And stay safe and well, checker fans, wherever you are.null

[Read More]
04/04/20 - Printer friendly version
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A Snowy Day at the Beacon


In Bismarck, North Dakota, the snow season starts around October and runs well through April. Some of the heaviest snowfalls can occur later in the season.

So, on a March Saturday in 1955, there was the feeling of snow in the air. It's familiar to anyone who lives in a northerly climate. You didn't need a weather forecast to know that it was going to start snowing later that day, and probably quite a lot.


But the threat of bad weather didn't stop Sal Westerman from walking over to the Beacon Cafe at 1 PM for the regular Saturday session of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. There would be plenty of Deana's hot coffee and some freshly-baked treats. Deana ran the Beacon and her baked goods had no match for miles around.

Turnout was a little less than usual. Just three of the boys (who were all over 50) were there: Dan, Wayne, and Mike, who, like Sal, showed up just about every single week.

"Too bad the others aren't here," Sal said, "for I've got a nice one from Brian this week." Brian, in St. Louis, was one of Sal's checker pen pals.

"Maybe they were scared off," Wayne said. "Brian's problems can be pretty tough."

"Oh, it's just the weather," Sal said. "But I want to know what kind of treats you boys will be buying me when you can't win this one."


Deana, stationed behind her counter and ever alert, piped up, "Fresh pecan bars. Just the right thing to make you feel warm and comfy on a snowy day." She smiled, knowing she'd be selling quite a few servings before the afternoon was out.

"Well, there you go," Sal said. "I just love pecan bars. Might even let you buy me two."

Dan laughed. "We'll see about that," he said. "Now set 'em up and let's have a look."

The first few snowflakes were starting to fall outside as Sal set up the problem. But none of the boys noticed, as they were immediately engrossed in the following position.


White to Play and Win


Sometimes Sal only gave the boys five or ten minutes to solve a problem. But problems from Brian or Ed (Sal's Pennsylvania pen pal) were tougher, and although Sal liked to win, he was always fair about things.

After about an hour, Deana said, "It's snowing pretty hard now. Might have to close up early. I live over in Mandan and driving is going to be tough." Mandan was a smaller town just across the Missouri River from Bismarck.

But no one heard her. Concentration was too deep. And then, Dan spoke up. "It's kind of hard to find., but I've got it."

"Is that right?" Sal said. "Show me."

Is Dan about to win pecan bars for all of the boys? How would you do? Hopefully you're not in the middle of a snowstorm, and can give today's problem a good effort. Don't flake out or drift away; plow ahead and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.null

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03/28/20 - Printer friendly version
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Checker Maven Special Edition


Many of us in the checker community are older and may have underlying health issues that put us at higher risk from the current virus epidemic, so we need to stay at home. Many others are under mandate to do the same. But no matter who we are or where we are, it's a good idea.

That gives us a lot of potentially unoccupied time. Correspondent Brian Hinkle suggested that this would be a good moment for checker fans to attempt deep and difficult checker problems.

Hence this special edition, in which we present one of Brian's own compositions, one which he considers to be challenging indeed. We won't be publishing the solution for two weeks in order to give you a chance to really dig into it.

Even if you're closer to novice than expert, this problem is worth your while. Maybe you'll solve it, maybe you won't, but you'll likely pass quite some time with good checker entertainment, and perhaps be distracted a little when you need it the most.

Here's the position, without further commentary. Good luck!

Problem CV-1
White to Play and Draw


Be safe and well, checker fans, wherever you are.null

03/25/20 - Printer friendly version
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