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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April 1, 2017


March is over and April has come around again, as it always does, with perhaps a promise of spring. This column is being first published on April 1, 2017, and you might do well to bear that in mind as you take a look at today's checker problem.

White to Play and Win


We rate this one as very easy. You can solve it in seconds if you get the idea. But it's almost surely impossible if you don't see what's going on.

Are you sharp today? Don't fool around; puzzle it out and then click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words


In a recent article we asked you about your preferences in board diagrams, and although there were various opinions, a clear (and nearly overwhelming) majority seem to prefer black and white diagrams with the corresponding side notations of "Black" and "White." So, as of today, we're switching over. A good picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

The problem is that we didn't think the black and white diagrams were of especially high quality. But we're happy to say that we've found a way to "port" the excellent black and white diagrams used in our print publications over to the web. We'll spare you the technical details, which involve rather arcane Linux knowledge, and instead hope that you like our new, larger, clearer diagrams. Do write and let us know what you think.

So, let's start off with a fine problem from Samuel Gonotsky. This one is taken from over the board play and it's quite a nice early endgame study.

White to Play and Draw


Against best play by Black, White will have to work pretty hard to get the draw. Situations such as these are seldom pure black and white. Can you find your way through? Our computer found a neat move to make things much harder than we think Mr. Gonotsky intended, but that's the black and the white of it. Give it a try and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Little Lesson


The young fellow above seems to be having some trouble with his lesson, at least judging by the state of the blackboard, the look on his face, and the number of books piled up beside him. Could those possibly be checker books, and might the bottom one be a library edition of Complete Checkers? We can't say for sure, but one can always hope.

In today's Checker School entry, we present a little lesson with a big payoff. The position is shown below.

White to Play and Draw


What can White do here? The man on 17 is doomed and apparently White can only shuffle his king around and wait to lose. Yet there is an astounding draw here, one most worthy of the Herd Laddie. We call this a "little lesson" because Ben Boland was unusually brief in his commentary and there is only one sample game. Nonetheless we're certain you'll love this study, which is now approaching 150 years in age.

Give it a little try and then click your little mouse on the little Read More button to see the larger than life solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Unpublished Variation(s)


The above quotation comes from the popular television series Downton Abbey, and surely it rings true for life in general.

But for our game of checkers, we suggest that the situation is different, and bringing to light unpublished play is sometimes instructive and revealing.

That's the case today, as we conclude our extended series on the Kelso taking from Willie Ryan's famed Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, with something Willie calls "a fine unpublished variation."

Let's first give the entire run-up, without commentary.

1. 10-15 22-18
2. 15x22 25x18
3. 6-10 18-14
4. 10x17 21x14
5. 9x18 23x14
6. 1-6 29-25
7. 12-16 26-23
8. 16-19 24x15
9. 11x18 28-24
10. 8-11 24-19
11. 4-8 31-26
12. 6-9 19-15
13. 11-16 26-22
Black to Play and Draw


The critical position. Willie gives the following spectacular clearance as his main line draw:

14. 16-19 23x16
15. 7-11 16x7
16. 3x26 30x14
17. 9x18 27-23
18. 18x27 32x23
19. 2-7 Drawn.

But let's go back to the diagram. Willie says, "If 9-13 is played, 14-10, 7-14, 15-10 will be good enough ..." and certainly after 2-7 22-15 the draw is on the board. Now, Willie goes on to claim: ... if 16-20 is selected, the following leads to a draw: ..." and then he gives J. P. Murray's previously unpublished variation.

So, from this position:

White to Play and Draw


can you find the White draw? This isn't especially easy, but what's interesting is that there are actually two drawing moves for White, one of which the computer discovered ... perhaps a whole new unpublished variation?

Give it your best effort, and the solution, which we'll certainly not leave unpublished, can be reached by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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As Easy As Pie


We've often said that we present a range of problems in our Checker Maven columns; sometimes they're grandmaster tough, sometimes beginner easy, but most are usually somewhere in-between. We have readers with a very wide range of skills, and we try to provide something for everyone. We suggest the following: when you find a problem is tough, study the solution with a view to learning technique; when it seems easy, try for rapid sight recognition.

Today, though, we've got a truly easy-as-pie problem that even many early-stage checkerists will solve right away. See how quickly you can spot the solution!

Black to Play and Win


By the time you read this line, you've probably already solved it, but just in case, you can ease over to Read More to check your answer.20050904-symbol.gif

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Winter Break


If you live in a cold North American climate, you probably can use a bit of a winter break. Now, there's a definite difference between a winter break--- an escape from the cold--- and a spring break, which is often associated with hijinx on the part of college students.

But we think a winter break can also stand a bit of mischief, at least of the checker nature. So we've chosen a problem that was originally titled "Maryland Mischief." Surely, Maryland can suffer from some serious winter weather, and perhaps this is a Marylander's way of taking a break. Have a look and see what you think.

White to Play, What Result?


Attributed to a Wilson Coudon of Elkton, Maryland, you can tell you're in for some mischief from the problem terms alone, as it's one of those "What Result?" puzzlers that often leave you guessing. That diagonal lineup looks pretty mischievious, too. Perhaps the fact that White is down a piece will provide a clue?

Take a short winter break and see what you can do with this one, then click your playful mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Leeds Express


The British train known as the Transpenine Express certainly goes to Leeds, but the title of today's Checker School column deals with a position first published in an old newspaper known as The Leeds Express.

Surprisingly, our intrepid research department didn't turn up very much on this publication, which obviously enough once featured a draughts column. The most likely candidate is the Leeds Evening Express, published by Frederick Robert Spark starting in 1867. Today, there is a Leeds Express published by Johnston Publications, a major British publisher of local and regional newspapers. There was also the Skyrack & East Leeds Express, later called the Leeds Skyrack Express and then Leeds Express, which ended publication in 2002. But given the date of today's study, we'd stick with the Leeds Evening Express as the source.

Confusing? Unraveling publication histories is at times as difficult as solving a challenging checker problem. Now, the position below may not be the toughest ever, but it too surely requires some thought.

White to Play and Draw


Can you unravel this one? We ourselves had some serious unraveling to do, as you'll see when you click on Read More to see the solution, notes, and a sample game.20050904-symbol.gif

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Le rouge et le noir


We've received a comment from a highly respected reader to the effect that our speed problems are confusing and as a result, unfair. Our reader has asked us to state in advance the terms of the problem and to allow a little extra "orientation" time. Not displaying the Javascript clock was another suggestion, as the reader deemed it distracting.

We're trying out some of these ideas today. By eliminating the clock, of course, we eliminate the timed challenge and in a way negate the idea of a "speed" problem; the idea will be to simply see how fast you can spot the solution, without any external pressure.

The reader also suggested that since our diagrams show Red and White pieces, we should discontinue use of the term "Black" in favor of "Red." That's a bit more complicated, in that much of the literature we quote uses the terms "Black" and "White." In our early days, we indeed used black and white diagrams, but the red and white proved much more popular.

What to do? Red or Black? Le rouge ou le noir? For now, we're continuing with Black rather than Red, but we'd love to hear your opinions. Write to us at

But let's go ahead and look a typical speed problem. Black (Red) is at the bottom of the board, moving up, and the terms are Black (Red) to play and win. There's no clock and so no particular time limit. We've also provided both a Red/White and a Black/White diagram. Which do you prefer?

Black to Play and Win


Black to Play and Win


Click on Read More when you're ready to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Complete Checkers, by Richard Pask


Grandmaster Richard Pask's crowning achievement, Complete Checkers, is now available in electronic and print editions. We are proud to say that Mr. Pask once again gave us the honor of editing, typesetting, and publishing his latest work.

Combining all seven sections of 21st Century Checkers with much new material, including guides and indices as well as play revisions and enhancements, the book extends to over 730 pages, with 200 diagrams and some 2,200 complete games. It will be the definitive guide to 3-move ballot play for decades if not generations to come. Mr. Pask has built on the work of the great players and masters, applying his own vast knowledge and expertise, and employing powerful modern computer engines to validate and extend the analyses.

The result is incomparable, and due to Mr. Pask's generosity, the electronic edition is yours as a completely free PDF download. Just go to the Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column. It was our mutual desire that the book be available to everyone, everywhere, without barriers caused by financial limitations.

But, means permitting, you may likely wish to have a print copy. The print edition is perfect-bound with full-color covers and can be obtained from Amazon or CreateSpace as well as Amazon UK and Europe sites. It is priced very modestly at $24.99 in the US. We put a lot of care into the print edition and we think you'll find it a great addition to your checker library, providing you with years of high-level study material.

Now, just to get you going, here's a position from some of the new material Mr. Pask added to this edition.

Bell's Win
White to Play and Win


There is more than one way to do this, but the differences are in the details rather in the basic principles. The solution is a bit long and you may not find it easy, but we'll give you a broad hint: think about achieving a simpler, known winning position.

Book your solution and then page over to Read More to see a solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Easy Peasy


We were surprised to learn that the expression "easy peasy" is relatively modern, having first made its appearance around 1976, apparently as part of an advertisement for dishwashing liquid that went "easy peasy, lemon squeezy." The expression has since come to mean, of course, something simple or easy.

Today's problem falls in that category. The Checker Maven tries to present a range of problems, from beginner through grandmaster level, and we know that an easy one is often a quick and welcome diversion.

So, here's today's "easy peasy" position.

White to Play and Win


You won't have much trouble with this one, and the solution is rather nice, although there are a couple of ways to go wrong. When you're ready, an easy peasy click on Read More will reveal everything.20050904-symbol.gif

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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2017 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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