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.
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.[Read More]
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!"
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.
"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."
"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?" 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.[Read More]
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."
"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.[Read More]
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.
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.[Read More]
Summer speed. It can mean a number of things, but today we encourage you to enjoy the way things slow down to 'summer speed' during those long, warm days. Take some time to relax and get out of the daily rat race that persists during the larger part of the year. Surely take time to enjoy a little checkers.
Surely you've solved it already, but if you'd like to double-check, click on Read More to see the snappy solution.[Read More]
When this column first appears, we'll be just a few days away from the Fourth of July, America's birthday and one of our favorite holidays. We never tire of saying that we are unapologetic American patriots with a deep appreciation for our freedom and democracy. We're not one of those who believes that America is responsible for the ills of the world and we're proud of what's good about our nation.
We always turn to Tom Wiswell on this holiday. Mr. Wiswell, as we've so often noted, was a patriot who served our nation as did so many members of the Greatest Generation.
It's indeed a nice problem, as we have come to expect from Mr. Wiswell. Give it a good try and then click on Read More to see the solution and notes.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a highly ranked team in the National Checker League, was on summer vacation. The League wrapped up the World Series of Checkers in May, and players were off until training camp started up at the beginning of August.
Ten weeks of vacation. He'd spend some of it with his girlfriend Priscilla, although she could only get away from her corporate executive job for a week at a time, and only now and then. He'd spend four weeks doing outreach work in the inner cities. And he'd spend three blessed weeks at a lake cabin, kicking back and thinking of little else but when to pop open his next beer. No cell phone. And definitely no checker board.
Except it didn't work out exactly like that.
Marvin booked a cabin in Idaho under the name of John Smith. He thought that was pretty clever. Of course, he was a national sports figure and pretty easy to recognize, but he always looked for a cabin that was out of the way and isolated, and then he stuck pretty much to himself, arranging to have the refrigerator well stocked before his arrival, so that he could just hang around the cabin, walk down to the lake, and not be bothered by anything or anyone.
It must have been on the third or fourth day when he saw a familiar looking figure walking further down the lakeshore. Now, Marvin's cabin was indeed well separated from the others, so it was pretty far, but the figure was quite unmistakable. Marvin just hoped he hadn't been noticed, and he was pretty careful to check each time he went to the lake thereafter.
Two evenings later, Marvin had just finished with dinner --- he had plenty of microwave meals in the cabin's freezer --- he was about to open another beer when there was a knock at the cabin door.
Marvin was pretty surprised. Could it be the camp manager? No one else was supposed to bother him. He got up, opened the door, and saw ---
Yes indeed, Dmitri Tovarischky. The guy he had seen further down the lakeshore. The guy who was his archenemy, a former Soviet champion who was asked to leave the National Checker League over a gambling violation, and who now stalked the star players.
"Ah, Checkers Boy. I see you other day by lake. How conwenient we are staying in same campsite," Dmitri said. "Maybe coincidence, maybe not, eh? I come in now, da?"
Dmitri entered before Marvin could reply.
Marvin made a mental note to later find out who leaked his vacation plans.
"We play one game, da?" he said. "Play maybe for wodka. I win, you give me couple bottles Stolichnaya. You win, I give you same thing, only you don't win, this I know already."
"I ain't got no 'wodka,' Pinko. Never touch the stuff. Now leave and don't come back."
"Ah, Checkers Boy should not be rude. I have little set here, I put on table." Boris quickly got out a portable checker set and made it ready. Marvin could tell it was going to be hard getting rid of him. "Maybe play for hundred bucks?"
So that was what it was all about. Dmitri was an inveterate hustler. Marvin replied, "Okay. One game. A hundred bucks to the winner. Nothing on a draw. But no matter what you get lost permanently."
"Easy money for me," Dmitri said. "Deal."
The two of them sat down and the game began. Outside, the sun was setting over the lake and the air was cooling. It was a beautiful Idaho evening but neither of them noticed.
Dmitri played Black and Marvin had White.
26-22 was weaker than 25-22. Perhaps Marvin was throwing Dmitri a bit of a curve ball? But Dmitri missed the opportunity to reply with 15-18.
"Hoo, Checkers Boy, you are making stupid move. Why you not play 23-19? Now Dmitri have big winning game!"
"Dmitri can even win by playing of 12-16. So many ways to win, so nice, da?"
Marvin, for his part, was starting to sweat. How could he have made such a blunder?
"Uh, hey there Commie, I think you blew it. You even mentioned 12-16 your own self, why didn't ya play it?" Marvin said.
"I am still going to win, Checkers Boy, do not worry yourself." But Dmitri sounded a bit less confident.
At this, Marvin started to laugh. "Nice try, get an early king, that's what you think? You shoulda played 8-11, pal. Now you lose."
Does Marvin now have a win on the board? Did Dmitri make a huge blunder in his own right? Study the position and see if you can find the winning moves. This one actually falls on the easy side. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.[Read More]
William Veal was a British problemist of some renown, perhaps best known (to us, at least) for composing a monster stroke problem featured some years ago in our columns.
Did Mr. Veal's ancestors at one point deal in veal? That would fit with popular theory, which insists that names like "Smith" eventually trace back to someone who was a smith, and so on. Of course, those links are likely very tenuous if they exist at all.
But one other possibility was turned up by our Research Department. "Vieil" is the Old French term for "old" and this became "viel" in Anglo-Norman French. It refers to an old man or the elder of two people with the same name. It's not a long leap from there to "Veal."
A long leap? That brings us back to checkers and this month's Checker School column, the first of a series of "gems" from, of course, William Veal.
Certainly at first glance a White win is anything but obvious, and Black is poised to crown one or perhaps two of his men. Can you match Mr. Veal and find the solution? There's a bit of a clue (just a bit) in the writeup above. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
In the latter 1940s, back in the heydays of checkers, men's hairstyles were short and neat, and in general, appearances were more dressy than today. Men wore fedoras, and suit with a white shirt and tie was almost a sort of uniform.
The following problem was published anonymously in an old newspaper, which declared it to be "short and neat." We're surprised it didn't appear next to an advertisement for grooming products!
Short and neat? We'll let you decide, but in any case Black, being a piece up, ought to win. Yet as we've often said, showing the win is the hard part. Can you find a short and neat solution? Or even a long and messy one? Give it a try--- more than a short try--- and then neatly click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
We're definitely diving into the deep end with this month's mind-boggling stroke problem. You'll really need to keep your wits about you to solve this one.
Can you solve it without moving the pieces? It's an enormous test of visualization skills. And though it's hardly a practical over the board situation, we think this sort of problem builds your ability to see ahead and calculate (and do go ahead and move the pieces if it's all just a bit too deep).
Don't go off the deep end yourself; try it out and then click on Read More to dive into the solution.[Read More]