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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The Almost Shortest Month


We've written before about February being the shortest month of the year, when mortgage, rent, and other monthly payments remain unchanged despite covering fewer days. Well, this February is slightly different, as 2020 is a leap year and February gets an extra day. We suppose that helps at least a little bit.

To start out this "almost shortest month" we have a relatively easy speed problem. We'll skip the Javascript clock this month and just ask you to solve it in the "almost shortest" time possible.

White to Play and Win


When you have the solution let your mouse take the "almost shortest" path to Read More to verify your answer.null

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02/01/20 - Printer friendly version
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Second Immigration: An Interview with Alex Moiseyev

Alex Moiseyev, Grandmaster and Champion

In mid-March, former long-time 3-move restriction world checker champion Alex Moiseyev will face off against Italy's Sergio Scarpetta, the reigning king, in an effort to recapture the title that Alex lost a few years back.

Alex kindly granted The Checker Maven an exclusive interview, and in this column we'll learn not only more about how this historic match has come to be, but a great deal about Alex and his own personal history. You'll also find out how you can support this match directly and become a promoter of our great game as played at its highest level.

In mid-November of 2019, Alex posted the following on Facebook:

Today me and reigning English Draughts 3-moves style World Champion Sergio Scarpetta, Italy got an agreement to play World Title match via Independent Challenge channel. Match will be hosted in International Checkers Hall of Fame, Petal, Mississippi.

Match dates: March 11 (Wednesday) -- March 19 (Thursday), rest day after 16 games -- March 15, Sunday. Referee--- Charles Walker.

Financial aspect of match is simple: Sergio will receive $7,000 and I will play for title. All Sergio transportation expenses will be covered fully. ICHF will cover all accommodation and food expenses for both players.

I am working now on broadcasting coverage and looking for any volunteers who might be interesting to step forward and do online life time coverage. Stay on for more news.

Sergio Scarpetta

Alex continued in another Facebook posting:

Sergio will have unique chance to defend his title against all living English Draughts 3-moves World Champions: Michelle Borghetti (Italy)--- 2017, Ronald King (Barbados)--- 2019 and upcoming match. Kind of historical moment.

We know well from history of checkers title matches --- there were a good number of very strong challengers who never got a good chance to play match. It is probably something similar to "right place at right time." And this is main reason why I decided to move ahead with Independent Challenge--- now or never!

Alex then wrote to offer us the opportunity for an interview. He gave us the following opening statement.

I want personally to thank for interview Bob Newell--– Main Editor and owner of terrific, fantastic checkers blog which recently celebrated 15 years anniversary. It is my honor and pleasure to answer on his questions, share my thoughts about upcoming match and checkers fate, and more, more, more!

And now, here's our interview in full!

1. Let's start out with a little about the checker history of Alex Moiseyev. We know that you came to the US from Russia, where you played the Russian variety of checkers at a championship level. How did you get into the English form of the game? How well did your skills in Shashki transfer over?

Just for the record from my checkers biography: I started playing Russian Checkers in 1966 when I was 7 years old. In 1975 at age 15 I achieved norm of USSR Master Sport. In 1979 I switched to International Draughts (10x10) where I played until October 1991 when I left Soviet Union with my family--- just a couple months before the country collapsed at the end of 1991. Should I say the country collapsed because of my departure?

Here is an image of my "Master ID" from 1975 with picture, registration number and stamp. Isn't it cool?

Soviet Union Master of Sports

For five years after my arrival in the USA I didn't play any form of checkers. I just simply didn't have time and money! It was a kind of fantastic journey in my life to fight to survive and support family. In 1996 when my life was a bit established, I started feeling that I was missing a big spot in my soul without checkers. In July 1996 I played for the first and last time in the USA 10x10 National in New York on Long Island, where I won an event (ahead of I. Kuperman!) and earned the right to play in the World Championship in the Ivory Coast.

I had already bought a ticket to Africa and had taken a very painful shot for yellow fever, but then I realized that there was no future for me to play active competitive 10x10 Draughts by living in USA where this kind of draughts is not very popular. At this moment I made one of the most important crucial decisions in my life (again)--- I made my second immigration in checkers! I cancelled my trip to Africa and in October 1996 played my first USA 3 moves National in Danville VA.


In the beginning of 1990s in USA my eldest son played chess and participated in some scholastic events. I also played few times in the Parents Division, and one of parents told me about an English Draughts and local club in New Castle PA, near Pittsburgh where I lived. My long time friend and coach was Pennsylvania's strong Master Anthony Kozenski. I played checkers in this local club in church from 1996 until 2003 when we moved to Columbus, Ohio.

Alex at the Mind Sports Olympiad in Beijing

2. You were a long-time world 3-move champion and part of what made you a great title holder was your willingness to take on all comers without fear. And although the championship resides in Italy at this moment, you remain part of a small elite circle at the pinnacle of checkers skill. In your estimation, who are the players most worthy of a chance at the world 3-move championship? And who do you think are potential up-and-comers who might reach that level in the foreseeable future?

Matteo Bernini

As of today the maximum threat to the 3-moves throne is coming from a young Italian star, Matteo Bernini. He tied for 2nd-3rd place in 2018 Qualifying Tournament in Barbados (R. King was 1st, I was 2nd ). He also recently won the GAYP (go as you please) Qualifying Tournament in Barbados and earned rights to play a GAYP World title match with GAYP World Champion Lubabalo Kondlo from South Africa. I have very little doubt that eventually Matteo will be on top of things in the very near future.

Shane McCosker

In addition I want to mention the very talented young Irish player Shane McCosker. He rarely loses a single game and not every year! His style reminds me of legendary Irish grandmaster Pat McCarthy. But Shane needs to be a bit more aggressive. If he can do this, he will be a dangerous opponent to anyone.

Lubabalo Kondlo

From other players who may fight for 3-moves World title in the nearest future are a couple of South African players: current GAYP World Champion L. Kondlo who already won one time (2014) in the 3 moves Qualifying Tournament and played a 3-moves World title match with M. Borghetti in 2015. Lubabalo just needs to work more on 3-moves published play.

Another potential threat is coming from the excellent South African player Melikaya Nonyukela. He tied 1-3 in the GAYP QT in 2017, He finished 4th in the 3-moves QT in 2018 and from what I've seen, he continues to consistently improve.

Melikaya Nonukela

I don't see anyone else at the moment who can compete for the 3-moves World Title in the next few years but things can change indeed!

3. You've chosen to go the route of an independent challenge for the championship, and as you've pointed out elsewhere, this is completely legitimate according to WCDF rules. Yet the "normal" route is to win the right to challenge in a qualifying tournament. How do you think the two methods compare, and why did you choose the challenge method?

Michele Borghetti

I'll answer on your second question first, because this will help us to understand better the process and make for an easy answer to your first question. First of all a bit of history: after I lost my title to Michele Borghetti in 2013, I played in all the 3-moves Qualify Tournaments. In 2014 in Louisville, USA I won 6 games, lost 1 and finished 3rd, 1 point behind L. Kondlo and S. Scarpetta. In Rome 2016 I won 6 games, 0 losses and finished second 1 point behind Sergio Scarpetta. In 2018 on Barbados I won 6 games, lost 1 and finished 2nd 1 point behind Ron King.

Ron King

As you see, it looks like I am becoming a "second forever" and I certainly don't want to play this role! Also scenarios and quality of games in all three events leave an open question (at least for me!) as to who is best. It is also well known from history that there are good "tournament players" and there are good "match players."

In addition, we learn from history that there were some players who didn't play their BIG match on time. You can't be "second forever" ... it's always way up or down!

And finally--- I will be 61 in February. Time is not on my side and always goes in the wrong direction!

All this together forced me to submit an Independent challenge to the current 3-moves World Champion, Sergio Scarpetta.

4. Along these lines, do you think an ex-champion who has just ceded the title should have an automatic opportunity for a rematch, rather than being asked to compete in a candidates' tournament?

No, I don't think champion should have the privilege to play automatically in a revenge match. Each time it's a very individual and personal decision from challenger and champion. As challenger you can submit an independent challenge if you think you have chances, and the champion can accept or reject your challenge with no penalty. Looks fair to me.

5. Sergio also showed himself to be a great champion by readily accepting your challenge, and you have yourself stated that he will provide tough competition. How do you plan to prepare for this match? And how do you rate your chances?

My preparation for this World Title match is standard with no difference from my preparation to other matches.

I think today my chances to win this historic match are 55% vs 45%. But with all my preparation and hard work I will try to improve this number and make it more solid--- maybe 60%-65%.

6. Can you tell our readers how they can support this match and thereby support a high standard of excellence in the world of checkers?

In order to support event, readers of your blog and article can make publications in press and online media. In addition they can make donations to this event to:

7. Are there specific publicity plans, such as live streaming, live blogging, daily summaries, etc.? In other words, how can we all stay tuned to the action?

Yes, indeed ! Mark Sokolovsky kindly agreed to perform duties of Referee Assistant and also provide services for broadcasting and online coverage for the entire course of the event. All match games will be video translated in real time on the Facebook group "English Draughts." I also plan to find someone who will copy, on a daily basis, match progress information onto the Forum on the ACF website,


8. You're the author of an instructional book on checkers called Sixth. The book has been very well received by the checker playing community. Can you say something about this book and how our readers might obtain a copy?

I started to write this book sometime in the beginning of 2004--- just right after I won the 3-moves World Title in my historic match with Ron King in Northern Ireland, October 2003. One of the main reasons which influenced me to write this book was to mark and highlight an important period in my life and checkers career.

So, my checkers career is divided prior to 2003 and after winning the title.

While working on this book, I had an interesting conversation with one of my Russian friends and author of some books. He asked me an interesting question:

“6 months after your book will be published, people will know everything about each game and each position in this book. Why would someone need to buy this book after 20 years ?” And then he answered to himself: “Because of the insides! (insider information)” I tried to follow his suggestion.

You can order this book today from the ACF Store:

In the past almost decade (!) I continue working on my next book which I name as “AMG”--– All My Games. It has a collection of all the games I ever played in tournaments, matches or training events. I started it in 2006, just right after I published Sixth. At that time, in 2006, the total number of games I ever played since 1996 was around 1,300. Today it’s almost 3,000 and still growing. The volume of information is really huge and I don’t know when this will be done. It seems like a lifetime project.

Alex Moiseyev, 11-Man Ballot World Champion

9. In addition to having long held the 3-move world title, you have also long held, and currently hold, the 11-man ballot world title. How do you compare the two styles of play. And who might be your top challenger in the 11-man game?

Great question! The way 11-man ballot style is organized--– remove 1 man from each side and make 1 move--– generates in total 2,500 unique openings. This make it almost or absolutely impossible to memorize all of them or any reasonable part. As result, the 11 man ballot style is strictly cross board style. Most positions generated by 11 man ballot style are unique and cannot occur under GAYP or 3-moves due to different tempo.

However, all strategical principles and basic rules remain in place under 11-man ballot style. There is a very famous Marion Tinsley quote: “We play only what we’ve seen!” This is very applicable to 11 man ballot style. My predecessor to the 11 man ballot World Title, Elbert Lowder, was one of the strongest cross board players ever.

Elbert Lowder

Since 2008 when I won the 11 man ballot World Title after the great Elbert Lowder passed away, I played many World Title matches with strong players: Tim Laverty, Richard Beckwith, James Morrison, and Michael Holmes, and was able to defend my title. I am not afraid to play a match with anyone in the world (hence, it’s a small world!). But it would be interesting for me to play an 11 man ballot World Title match with Sergio Scarpetta, Matteo Bernini and Lubabalo Kondlo.

10. Do you have any interest in GAYP (go as you please) competition?

No, I don’t have any specific interest to GAYP competition. This is different game and style which requires different skills and different attitude. It looks like my personality and my skills are better matching to 3-moves and 11 man ballot types of game.

However, the great Marion Tinsley said once that GAYP openings occupy in general 1/3 of the entire 3-moves deck and you can’t be a strong 3-moves player without doing it well in GAYP.

The total number of all GAYP events I ever attended since 1996 is limited to number of fingers on both hands! I was first in the USA GAYP National in 1999 and 2003, I was 2nd after Ron King in 2001, 2005, and 2011. I played a GAYP World Title Match to a draw with Ron King in 2000 (+3-3=18) and I tied for 1-3 place (2nd in honor points) in the 2017 World Qualifer. That’s all together, and may give you and the readers some picture of where I am in the GAYP field.

11. We'd like to hear your opinion on the future of the game. Where do you think English checkers is going? Can there be a major revival? And, what advice would you give to an aspiring and ambitious player who is new to English checkers?

I have no idea where we are going and where we will be after 10-15 years, but I am pretty confident that the doors will never ever be closed--- I am a cautious optimist !!

My advice to the newcomer: it's never too late! Consider checkers as a lifetime hobby--- some people do fishing, others hunting, you play checkers! And after all, if you play checkers you are much more lucky and richer than someone who doesn't have anything to do outside of work and family.

12. Any final thoughts or comments for our readers?

I can only repeat my favorite quote: "There is only one way to prove pudding--- eat it!"


Finally, Alex shared with us a picture of his wife, Galina, and son Michael just prior to their departure for the US, in 1991. Michael was age 7 at the time. He's now 36 and resides in New York. Alex's other children, son Paul (age 24) and daughter Clara (age 20) were born in the United States.


And once again, The Checker Maven thanks Alex for this interview. We wish him the best of luck in his upcoming challenge match!null

The text portions of this interview are Copyright (C) 2019/2020 The Checker Maven and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of either The Checker Maven or Alex Moiseyev.

01/25/20 - Printer friendly version
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Barker's Triangle


In our modern day, a certain Jack Barker has written a book about "The Conjoined Triangles of Success" which supposedly will guide you to running a startup company that thrives. Engineering and Manufacturing meet Sales and Growth along the hypotenuse of Compromise.

We can't really speak to this methodology, but there is another Barker and another triangle that predates the modern interpretation by over 100 years. It's a study by the famed checkerist C. F. Barker, and his position, shown below, is often known as Barker's Triangle.

White to Play and Draw


We've got to say this problem is one of the most instructive we've ever come across. Why it's called a 'triangle' will become clear when you find the solution. So, give it a good effort and then triangulate your mouse on Read More to see how it's done.null

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01/18/20 - Printer friendly version
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A Winter Saturday at the Beacon Cafe


The holidays were over and now North Dakota was in the depths of winter. With even daytime temperatures often well below zero and plenty of snowy days, residents of Bismarck tended to spend as little time out of doors as possible.


Sal had arrived early at the Beacon Cafe for the regular Saturday afternoon session of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, and he was warming himself with a steaming hot cup of Deana's coffee. Deana, the proprietor, made good coffee and even better desserts, surely the best for miles around.


The boys--- that's what Sal called the other members of the club, even though they were all over fifty--- were still stinging a little from the beating they took when Sal challenged them, just before the holidays, with his friend Brian's 6x6. Sal chuckled to himself. They were going to get another surprise today.

The boys started to file in out of the cold, all of them wearing winter parkas, wool caps, heavy gloves, and fur-lined boots. One by one they joined Sal at the big booth in the back. Wayne, Louie, Larry, and Delmer were there, and to everyone's surprise, so was Kevin, who only showed up a couple of times a year.


"Hey Spooler, seeing you're here for a change, you buying today?" Wayne asked. Kevin went by the nickname Spooler for reasons not really known to anyone.

"Buying what?" Kevin asked innocently.


"Caramel rolls," Deana called over from behind her counter. "Just baked a fresh tray of them. Great with coffee, especially on a day like this." Deana was, among many other things, a great promoter of her wares.

Everyone looked at Sal. "Okay, what've you got?" Larry asked. "Make it a good one so Spooler can buy for everyone."

"Just so happens," Sal said, "there's one from Ed that he calls 'Code Breaker.'" Ed, from Pennsylvania, was Sal's other checker penpal.

"Is it as hard as that one from Brian last month?" Delmer asked.

"See for yourself," Sal said, as he set up the following position on his favorite checkerboard.

White to Play and Win


"Oh, that doesn't look too ..." Spooler began, but then he stopped. "Uh ... wait a minute ..."

Everyone laughed. But only for a moment, for they were all soon busy examining the checkerboard.

"Fifteen minutes I'll give you," Sal said, but the concentration was so deep his words went unheard.

"Time's up," Sal said a quarter of an hour later.

"I've got it," Larry said. "Let me show you. It's just like ..."

"NO!" Wayne, Delmer, and Louie shouted all at once. "We want Spooler to pay today," Delmer pointed out.

"Aw, c'mon guys, I don't know how to do it," Spooler said. "You just want me to pay because I don't come every week.

Heads nodded in unison. "Not even every month," Wayne pointed out.

"But, okay," Spooler said. "I'll buy ... if Larry really has it right."

This really fine problem by master problemist Ed Atkinson is challenging but solvable, and the promise of one of Deana's caramel rolls would be too much for anyone to resist. Can you solve it? We urge you to give it a good trial. Now, we don't know if anything like The Beacon Cafe is in your area, but coffee and cake are certainly in order if you make a genuine effort. When you're ready, click on Read More for the solution and the rest of the story.null

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01/11/20 - Printer friendly version
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Starting the New Year


The New Year 2020 is here and we've already been subject to all too many jokes about 2020 vision and so on. So let's skip all that and, while wishing all our readers the best of the New Year, we'll jump right into a nice little speed problem sent by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon. We won't use our Javascript clock this month. The problem isn't at all difficult but we thought we'd give you a chance to "ease" into the New Year.

Black to Play and Win


Black is a piece up but White is about to even the count. How can Black win?

Even if you're still feeling the results of your New Year's Eve party, you can solve this one. Find the solution and then click on Read More to check your work.null

[Read More]
01/04/20 - Printer friendly version
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Marvin's New Year's Eve


Priscilla Snelson, Chief Operating Officer for the international conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings in Detroit, was putting on an exclusive New Year's Eve party at her upscale condo in the swanky suburb where she resided.

Priscilla Snelson

The party was what you would expect from someone of her business standing. Only top executives and wealthy friends were invited. The food was catered from a company run by a three-star Michelin chef. The music came from Priscilla's ten thousand dollar custom audio system.

Marvin J. Mavin

Of course, Marvin J. Mavin, Priscilla's long-time boyfriend--- although she referred to him as her "beau"--- was there. Not exactly by invitation; high end parties weren't his thing. More by fiat. Priscilla had told him that he was to be there or else, and that was the end of the discussion.

Everyone was circulating around the huge living room and kitchen, drinks in hand, making small chitchat.

Marvin was bored out of his mind. As Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, one of the top teams in the National Checker League, his interests definitely didn't run to the price of scrap tin in Kurdistan or the molybdenum futures market.

No, Marvin liked a good beer or two. Or more. And this party was definitely one of those "more" occasions.


So, at some point into the evening, Marvin was on perhaps his fifth beer--- he had lost track of the exact count--- and he was starting to feel pretty loose and relaxed.

At that moment Priscilla, who until now had been far too busy with her guests to pay much attention to Marvin, came over to where he was standing, a young girl in tow.

Harriet Liang

"Marv," she said, "I'd like you to meet ..." Priscilla stopped in mid-sentence when she saw that Marvin was in a somewhat zozzled state.

"Oh, dear," she said, "maybe another time."

"Oh, no, no, Auntie Prissy!" the little girl piped up. "I want to meet Captain Marvin! He's my hero! Some day I'm going to grow up to be a checker star just like him!"

"Another time, dear," Priscilla said, but Marvin interjected, "Yeah, Prissy! She wants to meet her hero! Ain'tcha gonna let her?"

Priscilla scowled, but she knew she was trapped. "Very well, then," she said, "Marvin, this is Harriet Liang. She plays for her grade school checker team over in Dearborn, and she's very good."

Marvin leaned down to shake hands. "Nice to meet ya," he said, his voice a bit slurred.

"Auntie Prissy, why is Captain Marvin talking so funny?" Harriet asked.

"Oh, it's just because ... well, never mind that," Priscilla said. "Now, why don't you show Uncle Marvin your problem."

Harriet beamed, "Oh wow, yes!" She pulled a sheet of paper from the pocket of her dress. "Here, Captain Marvin. It's a checker problem, and my uncle Brian said to try it out on you!"


Black to Play, White to Win


Marvin looked at the diagram and then looked puzzled. "Hey, what's a little kid like you doing at an adult party ..."

"Her Uncle Brian, from St. Louis, is working on a major deal with us, and he asked me if I would introduce his niece to you."

"I see," Marvin said. "The old you scratch my back I scratch yours routine, hey?" He reached for Priscilla's arm but she stepped back away.

"Okay, okay." Marvin turned to Harriet. "Well, let's see now, this should be easy, you just ... hmm, no, I guess you don't. Suppose you ... nope, doesn't work either."

"Captain Marvin, I solved in four minutes and my coach told me I was very smart!" Harriet said.

Marvin now regretted having those last couple of beers. If only he could think straight! Then Priscilla, as if she had read his mind, said, "I hope you learn something from this. Come on, Harriet, let's get you a soda and a snack. I think Captain Marvin is going to need a while."

It's pretty clear that drinking too much didn't lead to a good outcome; after all, it never does. Can you keep a clear head and solve the checker problem that Marvin, in his "zozzled" state, couldn't handle? Little Harriet won praise for her rapid solution. How well can you do?

Try it out and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.null

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12/28/19 - Printer friendly version
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Happy Holidays 2019


The holiday season is in full swing and we extend greetings and best wishes to all of our readers. No matter which holiday you celebrate, may you find happiness and blessing.

We thought we'd present a little longer study this week. Perhaps you'll have some extra spare time over the holidays (or perhaps not!), but in any case it's a good one. The problem situation is based on a game contested in Markham, Ontario, on April 15, 1889. The players were checkerists Fleming and Wright, and the game and variations appeared in a relatively short-lived periodical called The Chicago Evening Lamp.

1. 11-15 23-19
2. 8-11 22-17
3. 9-14 25-22
4. 11-16 24-20
5. 16x23 27x11
6. 7x16 20x11
7. 3-7 28-24
8. 7x16 24-20
9. 16-19 29-25
10. 4-8 22-18
11. 14x23 17-14
12. 10x17 21x14

Perfectly played thus far, and we've reached the end of the KingsRow opening book for the game as actually played.

13. 8-11 31-27
14. 19-24 27x18
15. 12-16 32-28

This seemingly natural move actually loses. 25-22 would have been correct to draw.

16. 24-27 28-24
17. 27-31 25-22
18. 31-27 24-19
19. 16x23 26x19

Here the Lamp called the game a draw and showed a drawing line. But it's actually a Black win.

Black to Play and Win


Can you do better than the Lamp did, over 130 years ago? Shed some light on this interesting position, and then click on Read More to illuminate the solution and notes.null

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12/21/19 - Printer friendly version
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Four In A Row


Four-In-A-Row, sometimes called "Connect Four" is a strategy board game that is actually quite good. Shown above is a large outdoor game set that you can buy for your backyard for only ... um ... $300.00 plus shipping.

At The Checker Maven, though, our game is checkers, and nothing will cost you $300.00 (or anything at all, as our content is completely free). However, our theme for this column is indeed "Four In A Row."

In today's Checker School entry, we're trying something a little different. When you click on the link below, you'll be presented with not one, not two, nor even three, but four elementary checker problems. Your job? Solve them as quickly as possible, and our Javascript clock will "help" you keep track of your time. Can you solve four in a row?

A top player won't require more than a minute or two, which includes time to read the problem terms and look at the diagrams. Those of us with lesser skills will require more time, of course, and perhaps quite a bit more.

But no matter; do the best you can. Are you ready?

Click to display problems

When you're done, click the "back" button on your browser and then Read More to check your solutions, all in a row.null

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12/14/19 - Printer friendly version
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15th Anniversary


With this column, the Checker Maven completes 15 years of uninterrupted on-time publication with no missed Saturdays and no missed deadlines. Each weekend we've put something to do with checkers before our readers, who continue to number in the thousands. From what we can tell, you've by and large been pleased with our efforts.

It all started from a discussion with Brian Hinkle, and things went on from there.

Originally we were going to publish for 10 years. We extended that to 15. But we won't stop here. Although we can't give a timeline--- health and age have crept up on us and your editor has serious eyesight issues--- we'll go on as long as physically possible. We know one day we'll have to quit, but we hope that it won't be very soon.

One of the unique things we've done is to tell checker stories, and it's likely we've written more checker fiction than everyone else in the history of the game put together. So for our 15th anniversary, we have a story and a problem. The problem is by Brian (one of his best ever), and the story is set at The Beacon Cafe. It all somehow seems fitting.


It was the first Saturday in December, a sunny, crisp and cold day. Sal was all smiles as he walked from his home on 7th Street over to the Beacon Cafe.

Certainly, he was bundled up against the cold. His wife Sylvia wouldn't have let him go out without his wool cap, gloves, and scarf, not to mention his heavy winter coat. "It'll get cold after dark," she warned, and she was right. At this time of year it got dark around four-thirty in Bismarck's northerly latitude, and he knew he'd be at the Cafe until its five o'clock closing time.

On Saturdays the Coffee and Cake Checker Club met regularly, but the holidays were approaching and after today there was only one more meeting until the New Year, so the boys would want to make the most of it. But there was more. Today Sal was bringing something extra special to the session.

Sal enjoyed the walk but just the same he was glad to get into the warm interior of the Cafe. He said hello to Deana, the proprietor, and made his way to the big booth at the back. A couple of the boys were already there: Dan, Mike, and Louie were sitting in front of steaming cups of coffee.

"Hey Sal," they all said, "you're late!"


Sal looked up at the clock on the wall. It was three minutes after one. "Just a little," he said, "but you have a point. You're going to need a lot of time today."

The boys--- none of them younger than fifty--- exchanged glances. But just then three more members arrived: Delmer, Larry, and Wayne. It was just about a full house.

When everyone had settled, Sal immediately commandeered one of the checkerboards. "Have I ever got something today," he said. "It's from my pal Brian who said he composed it based on an idea he got from Ed."

Everyone groaned. Brian and Ed composed tough checker problems, but this promised to be really tough.

"Yep," Sal said, "it's a hard one. But it's one of the best ever. You boys will really enjoy it. And I'll enjoy my coffee and cake. You might as well buy it for me right away because you'll never ever get this one."

For years, the idea had been that someone would pose a problem and win or lose coffee and cake depending on whether the others could solve it.

"What've you got today, Deana?" Sal called, looking over to Deana's counter.


"Chocolate chip zucchini bars," Deana replied. "Really good."

Everyone smiled. Who in North Dakota didn't love zucchini bars?

Sal laid out the problem. Then he grabbed two more boards and repeated the position on each of them. "I'll give you an hour," he said, "and you're going to need a lot of coffee."

White to Play and Win


The boys looked surprised. Usually they only got ten minutes or so to solve a problem. An hour? And Sal was over at the counter buying coffee for everyone? Something was going on, that's for sure.

After about ten minutes, Dan, Mike, and Louie said they thought they had it. But then they changed their minds. "Nope, doesn't work," Dan said, and the others nodded their heads.

An hour passed, then two, then three. Finally Sal interrupted. "It's after four o'clock," he said. "Time to buy me a couple of zucchini bars before it gets too late!"

But there was no reply, just the sound of moves being discussed and pieces being shifted on the checkerboards.


Finally, it was four forty-five. It was dark outside and Deana was saying she was closing in fifteen minutes and couldn't stay late because her boyfriend was picking her up on the dot of five.

"Okay, Sal, show us," Mike said. "We'll buy you a bar to take home."

"Two bars," Sal said. "One for Sylvia."

He paused and after a moment said, "No bars, no solution."

"Aw, c'mon Sal!" Wayne said.

"Bars," Sal repeated.

"Unfair!" Larry said. "This one was too hard and you knew it!"

It was now five to five.

"Everyone OUT!" Deana said, very impatiently.

Now, Deana was not one to trifle with. When she said 'out' then out you went.

"Tell you what," Sal said. "I'll give you until next week to solve it. But if you don't get it, you buy double, okay?"

The boys, not wanting to annoy Deana further, were putting on their coats. "Sure Sal, whatever you say," Mike said, and the others nodded agreement.


"My boyfriend's here," Deana said, shooing everyone toward the door. She turned out the lights and pointedly held the door open.

With the setting of the sun, a wind had sprung up and it was now very, very cold. And Sal had to walk all the way home without a chocolate chip zucchini bar.

"Never mind," he said to himself, "I'll collect double next week."

The boys at the Beacon Cafe might have to wait to see the solution, but you don't. However, we suggest that you spend some time on this problem. It's rather difficult, but highly intriguing. Of course you can click on Read More to see the solution whenever you wish, but do really take the time to explore the problem first.null

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12/07/19 - Printer friendly version
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Thanksgiving Weekend


We say it every year: Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. It's typically American (and, of course, Canadian), it's relevant to every belief and creed, and it unites us all in giving thanks for the many blessings we have. No matter our station in life, we can all find something to be thankful for.

We like to turn to the great American checkerist and problemist Tom Wiswell for holidays such as these, and what better than a problem, arising from an actual game, that Mr. Wiswell called Dixie.

Mr. Wiswell noted, "We met with the well-known O. J. Tanner, who got us into the following predicament."

White to Play and Draw


White may be a piece up but his options are severely limited by the two Black kings. Can you find your way out of this one? Make yourself a hot turkey sandwich (with mashed potatoes and gravy, of course) as you contemplate this one, and then--- when you've finished the sandwich and come up with a solution--- click on Read More to check your answer.



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11/30/19 - Printer friendly version
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