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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Give A Little, Get A Little


Exchanging gifts--- sometimes small, sometimes not so small--- is a long-standing tradition. Among family and friends, it makes no difference if we give a little more than we get, or get a little more than we give.

Not so, however, in our game of checkers. If we give, we'd better get back at least as much, if not more. and that leads us to this month's easy problem--- perhaps it isn't completely easy, but we've already given such a large hint that it should be simple enough. The position was provided by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto.

Black to Play and Draw


Will you be able to resolve the interesting give and take? Give it a try, then take your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.null

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09/07/19 - Printer friendly version
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Labor Day 2019


In the United States (and elsewhere, of course), work and working have always been held in high esteem. Earning your own way, making a living, providing for a family; these things have always been respected and valued. So each year, on Labor Day, we recognize the value of work and the worker. We agree with the concept that all work is worthy and all workers deserve respect.

It seems that work, the worker, and checkers have traditionally gone together. Most of the greats of the game were working people, and many, many working people have enjoyed checkers throughout the years. Although the game has been in a long and steady decline, the connection with work and the worker still stands. Today's players come from all walks of life and work in all manner of occupations.

Harold M. Freyer

To celebrate Labor Day, let's look at a problem by an American checkerist who was an outstanding player back in the day, Harold M. Freyer. Serving America as a medic in World War II, Mr. Freyer gave much to his country. His profession afterwards? He was a house painter!

Black to Play and Draw

Is Black painted into a corner, or is it just a close brush with a loss? Black is man up, shouldn't that be enough? The solution is relatively long and precise. It's just like painting trimwork: you need patience and determination. See how you do and then brush your mouse on Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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08/31/19 - Printer friendly version
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Marvin at Summer Training Camp


August was in its latter half, and it was time for all the teams in the National Checker League to go to training camp prior to the start of the new season in September.

The Detroit Doublejumpers, the reigning American champions, held their camp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, at the Bois-du-Nord Resort near the town of (most appropriately) Au Train. There was plenty of room for the team's 15 person compliment of players and coaches, and there were many recreational options available after a hard day of training.

Marvin J. Mavin

Beer, however, was strictly forbidden, as was any sort of alcoholic beverage. And that annoyed the Doublejumper's team captain, Marvin J. Mavin.

Coach Ronaldson

After a summer vacation that featured beer-at-will, Marvin was out of shape, and Head Coach Clyde Ronaldson made a point of insisting that his players be in top mental and physical condition. He well understood that professional checkers requires endurance and stamina.

Marvin didn't like the physical training at all. But there was no doubt that Coach Ronaldson ran the team. When Marvin checked in to camp, Coach took one look at him and immediately assigned him extra jogging and weight-lifting sessions. Marvin, who was always just on the edge of getting into trouble, kept quiet in front of the Coach, but grumbled to himself.

"How am I supposed to work on my game when I'm running laps up and down the lake?" he said. "And how can I relax and cool down without a tall cool one?"


It got worse. One day when Marvin lagged behind the rest of the team in the daily group run--- held at 5:30 in the morning--- he was assigned to play a simul against the rest of the team. That meant facing off against 9 other high-level professional players. He would have to run one half-mile lap for each draw and two for each loss; and to top it all off he would be playing White on each board.

Marvin was already exhausted from the morning run. He was further allowed only a salad and a glass of water for lunch as Coach said he was overweight and restricted his diet.

He was just beside himself. He was pretty sure he could beat the lower six players, but the next three were going to be trouble, and he didn't look forward to running still more laps in the afternoon heat.


At one o'clock on the dot, the players assembled on the canopy covered outdoor patio. Coach blew his whistle, looked Marvin straight in the eye, and said, "Play Checkers!"

It must be said that Marvin put in a great effort, and things went very well for him. He quickly won his games on the lower four boards, won the next three soon thereafter, and after another twenty minutes won on Board Two.

But Board One didn't look so good. He was playing against his Associate Captain, Pete Butterworth, a highly skilled player. In one-on-one competition, Marvin generally held a slight edge, but in a simul, Pete often had something of the upper hand.

Pete Butterworth

If Marvin could win, he wouldn't have to run any laps, and at the moment, the thought of even a single lap was more than he could bear. Unless it was a lap into town to pick up a six-pack, but that would get him suspended from the team for sure.

However Marvin, with White, found himself in a man-down position. He was pretty sure he could draw, but he needed to find a win. That was asking for a lot.

White to Play and Win

"Sorry, Marv," Pete said. "Hate to have you run those laps, but ..."

Marvin, fidgeting in his chair as he so often did, replied, "Yeah ... me too. Maybe there's something here ..."

He thought for a while longer, and then gave Pete a little smile. "Watch this!" he said, and made his move.

Can you come up with a White win in this situation? If not, you'll be running laps! (On a volunteer basis, of course.) See if you can win it with White and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion to our story.null

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08/24/19 - Printer friendly version
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A Trap With A Tale, Continued


Trap Tales is a self-help book that purports to help you overcome seven traps that might derail your life. A Tale of Traps, perhaps, rather than A Trap With A Tale. We haven't read this book so we can't say much about it, but it's received high marks from readers and reviewers.

Are there seven traps to avoid in the game of checkers? Willie Ryan has already shown us dozens, and there are countless more. One book would never be enough to tell the tale of all of them.

As we continue to move toward a conclusion of our Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard series, which has run for many years now, we have one more position to present from Willie's A Trap With A Tale section.

Here's the run-up, with brief commentary by your Editor, using KingsRow with the 10-piece endgame database.

1. 11-16 24-19
2. 8-11 22-18
3. 16-20 25-22
4. 9-13 29-25
5. 11-15 18x11
6. 7x16 22-18

Out of book, inferior, and might lose. 21-17 or 28-24 would have been fine.

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

Worse yet. 24-20 was better but White is definitely lost.

12. 6-9 ...

Maintains a slight advantage but throws away the win. 25-29 was indicated, believe it or not.

12. ... 19-15
13. 3-8 ...

25-29 was still indicated. The game is now a probable draw.

13. ... 23-18
14. 12-16 21-17
15. 13x22 26x17
16. 25-22 17-13
17. 9-14 18x9
18. 5x14 13-9
19. 16-19 9-5
20. 14-18 5-1
21. 19-23 27-24
22. 23-27 24-20
23. 27-32 1-5?
Black to Play and Win


White has blundered and Black now can win. First, can you find the win? Second, can you go back and correct White's losing move? It's actually not all that difficult. Work it out and then click on Read More to turn a long Tale into a short one, by revealing the solution.null

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08/17/19 - Printer friendly version
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Complete Checkers, 3rd Edition


With over 200 cumulative changes from the first edition, Richard Pask's Complete Checkers (3rd edition) is now available as a free download. Just click on the Richard Pask link in the right-hand column and scroll down.

While the paperback version on Amazon has likewise been updated, there is no real need to buy a replacement book unless you wish to do so. The electronic copy will always be free of charge. It's one of Mr. Pask's many gifts to the worldwide checker playing community.

Regrettably we cannot produce an errata sheet as the changes are just too numerous and in some cases too extensive and complex.

We sincerely hope everyone enjoys and benefits from this new edition of what has already become a classic work.null

08/11/19 - Printer friendly version
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Our Checker School series has recently featured 'gem' problems from noted problemist William Veal. Today we conclude the series and "reVEAL' a photo of Mr. Veal in his later days. The photo appeared in a 1952 edition of Elam's Checker Board while noting Mr. Veal's passing. The Checker Maven thanks correspondent (and himself a champion problemist) Ed Atkinson for the photo.

Now let's look at today's problem.

Black to Play and Win


White is a man down but is about to even the count. Yet Black, through clever play, can still win it. The problem is about 'medium' in difficulty and reVEALs a nice little tactical trick. Can you find it? You know what we're going to say--- clicking on Read More will reVEAL the solution.null

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08/10/19 - Printer friendly version
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Man Overboard


Man overboard! It's an emergency situation and we'd best hope someone trained and experienced in water rescue is on hand.

Something similar occurs in our game of checkers. One of our men goes overboard, we're down a piece, and we're looking to find a way to get a draw.

That's the situation for White in the diagram below. But there is a way to pull off a draw, if you can see it. We'd call this a "not quite" speed problem. It isn't too difficult but you can easily go wrong.

White to Play and Draw


Are you trained and experienced in man down (man overboard) situations? You won't have to go too far overboard to solve this one; but a life preserver is always at hand. Just click on Read More to see the solution.null

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08/03/19 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch


Tommy Wagner was pretty nervous, uncharacteristically pacing up and down and wringing his hands. "It's my big chance, Uncle Ben, but he's so good!"

Tommy Wagner

It was a sunny Florida Saturday morning, and as he had done on most Saturdays for the past eight years, Tommy Wagner was on the front porch of Uncle Ben's house. Ben, a retired checker professional, wasn't really Tommy's uncle, but all of his checker students called him 'Uncle Ben' out of respect.

Tommy, a ninth grader, was talking about the upcoming intramural match between his high school Varsity Checker team and the Junior Varsity team. Tommy had already risen to Captain of the Junior Varsity, and so in the match he would have to play a senior, Reynaldo Lopez Garcia, who was the Varsity Captain and a titled Master.

Reynaldo Lopez Garcia

"Yes, Tommy," Uncle Ben said, "he is good. There's no other way to become a Master. And we both know you haven't reached his level yet, although I'm certain you will one day."

"He's going to kill me," Tommy said. He had stopped pacing and flopped into the porch chair next to Uncle Ben.

"What's the worst thing that can happen?" Uncle Ben asked.

"I don't know ... I'll lose my game against him?" Tommy said.

"Have you lost any games before?"

"Well, sure, but ... "

"Has Reynaldo lost any games? Did I lose any games when I was playing professionally?"

"Yes, of course, but ..."

"Everyone loses games, Tommy. Even Marvin J. Mavin and the very top players. And you never know. Anything can happen. You've got to go in there and play to win. You might win, you might lose. There is no shame in losing to a Master as long as you do your best and especially if you're a good sport about it."

"I know, Uncle Ben, but I really want to show something to Coach Schann and maybe make Varsity next season."

Coach Schann

"Of course you do, and to do that, what steps should you take?"

"Um ... practice and study?"

Uncle Ben smiled, "Right on the mark. Let's pour a couple of glasses of lemonade and get into today's lesson, then, shall we? I've got an important situation set up on the checkerboard here."


Tommy smiled back. Win or lose, everything was going to be fine ... and he'd sure do his best to try to win. He turned his attention to the position that Uncle Ben had laid out.

White to Play and Draw


"White to play and draw?" Tommy asked.

"Yes," Uncle Ben said. "Very good. It's known as the McCulloch-Miller Draw, an important drawing technique."

Tommy thought for a while. "Got it, Uncle Ben! Let me show you."

Tommy was able to work this one out. Can you? You don't need to be a titled master to solve it. When you have your solution, click on Read More to see the solution, notes, and several additional examples of the theme.null

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07/27/19 - Printer friendly version
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Coffee and Cake at the Beacon


It was another Saturday afternoon at The Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club was in session in one of the large booths.


Sal was the leader and there were five others present today. It was cloudy, windy, and chilly outside and the coffee was flowing.


After the boys had played an hour or so of informal games, one of them, Mike, said, "Hey Sal, don't you have a coffee and cake problem today? You didn't have one last week and I've been kind of wanting to win another piece of cake off you."

Sal frowned. The last time he tried, Mike had indeed solved Sal's problem and Sal had to buy coffee and cake. But then Sal's frown turned into a smile. "Matter of fact, Ed sent me a real nice one."


"Uh-oh," Mike said. Whenever Sal had a problem from either Brian in St. Louis or Ed in Harrisburg, it was bound to be tough. Top quality for sure, but never easy.

Sal leaned back against the seat. "Are you up for it?"


Mike and the rest of the group hesitated a little, but Deana, the owner, knowing just when to jump in, said from behind her counter, "I've got fresh apple kuchen this afternoon, boys!"


Well, that did it. Deana's apple kuchen, like most of her desserts, was irresistible.

"Lay it out," Mike said to Sal, pointing to one of the checkerboards, "and pretty soon I'll be enjoying that kuchen you're going to buy me."

White to Play and Win


"There it is," Sal said after setting up the position. "Take your time. Just not too long. I don't want to have to rush the kuchen that you'll be buying me, Mike!"

Mike laughed. "We'll see about that," he said. But five minutes later, all of the boys were still scratching their heads.

"I'll give you five more minutes but that's it," Sal said. He was greeted by the usual groans.

Once again we're asking if you can win coffee and cake from Sal, but unlike at The Beacon, you can take all the time you wish. When you're finished, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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07/20/19 - Printer friendly version
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A Small Slice of Veal


Some of us need to be on diets. 1,000 calories a day, maybe? That doesn't allow for much. Salads with no-fat dressing, if any dressing at all; steamed vegetables (hold the butter, thank you), and a little protein. Just a little.

Fortunately our game of checkers doesn't involve diets, but it can involve small servings in the form of miniature problems. Today in Checker School we continue with another composition by William Veal--- a small slice, if you will.

Black to Play, White Wins


Well, yes, White is a man up and should win, but maybe it's not as easy as all that. The White men look pretty exposed and Black might be able to chase one of them down ... but we'll let you figure out the best line of play. In the end, it's a fairly small effort. So slice (and dice) this one, and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

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07/13/19 - 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 © 2004-2020 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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