The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

Published each Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

Contests in Progress:

Composing Championship #59

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Tommy Goes to Summer Camp


Every year since he started grade school, Tommy Wagner had gone to two weeks of summer camp at fabled Camp Fortress in northern Florida. He always had a lot of fun, what with swimming, nature walks, sports competitions, and the many other things the camp had to offer. The food was good, too, and there was plenty of it.

Tommy Wagner

But this year was different. In the camp's talent competition last year, Tommy had put on a simultaneous checker exhibition, playing sixteen other campers at a time and almost always winning. So this year, instead of attending as a camper, Tommy had been invited to come for the whole eight week summer session as a staff member, with pay plus room and board. He was to be the checkers instructor.

Tommy bid farewell for the summer to his mentor, Uncle Ben, and took up residence at the camp. It was great. Four times a day, six days a week, he gave one-hour checker lessons to a variety of age groups. The rest of his time was his own and he made the most of it.

Campers came for two weeks at a time, with the eight week session divided into four periods. Everything went great for Tommy until the third session.


Tommy's older students, ages 14-17, had the 3 to 5 PM lesson slot. When 3 o'clock rolled around on the first Monday of the third session, Tommy got a real shock as he watched Tina Tooner enter the open air tent where lessons were held.

Tina Tooner

"You," Tina gasped.

"You!," Tommy gasped in return.

Tina and Tommy were once very good friends, but then Tina caught Tommy at the movies with another girl, Letitia Wong, and it was all over. Even though they were in the same school, and on the same checker team, they had barely exchanged more than a few words since their falling out.

"Uh ... you're the teacher?" Tina asked.

"Yeah, I ... right. I didn't know you go to this camp."

"I wanted to try it out. The brochure mentioned checker lessons from a qualified instructor. I'm calling my parents. We need to get our money back and I need to go home. There's no way I'm staying at a camp where you are, Tommy Wagner!"

"Hey, wait a minute Tina, that's not fair."

"What isn't fair was you going out with another girl!"

Other campers were starting to arrive, and they were watching Tommy and Tina with great interest.

"Aw gee, Tina, let's not make a scene, okay? I have a class to teach."

"That's funny, Tommy Wagner. No, it's not even funny. It's pathetic."

The full compliment of campers was now on hand and they were laughing and pointing fingers.


"Tell you what, Mr. Cheater. I'll play you for the right to be teacher. How about it, will you take me on or are you just a Cheating Chicken?"

"Hey, look, Camp Fortress hired me for the summer. This is my job."

"You going to play me or are you going to wimp out in front of your class? I'm sure they would really respect you a lot if you can't even take on a little girl like me."

Tommy didn't reply. It was a no-win situation. Silently he sat down at one of the checkerboards arranged on a long folding table and motioned Tina into the opposite seat.

The campers gathered around. This was going to be even better than a fistfight.

Tommy had White and the game reached the position shown below. Tommy had just played 11-7.

Black to Play, What Result?


Tommy looked over at Tina and, without realizing it, smiled. But Tina didn't miss it.

"What are you smiling about, Mr. Bad Ex-Boyfriend? Trying to be friends again? Well forget it. And forget this game. It's a draw. You didn't win. Get over it and play me again."

"Sure," Tommy said, "but how about we wait until you make your move? I've already made mine." But then, seeing the look on Tina's face and realizing the double meaning of what he had just said, Tommy turned away, embarrassed.

What is Tommy up to? If you were Tina, what would you play? How do you think it's going to turn out? Think about it, work out a line of play, "make your move" and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/31/21 -Printer friendly version-
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Pushed Into The Corner


We're sure many readers of The Checker Maven will understand the context of the cartoon above. It's a bit of American history, in which a powerful man found himself pushed into a corner with no way out.

We continue our ongoing Checker School series, currently featuring problems and situations taken from Checker Board Strategy, a most unusual and entertaining book by Andrew J. Banks. Here is a "gem" problem composed by famous problemist S. J. Pickering and originally published in Elam's Checker Board.

White to Play and Win


The title of today's column gives a huge hint and we suggest you take full advantage. Don't get cornered; work out the problem and click on any corner (or even the middle) of Read More to see the solution and notes.null

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07/24/21 -Printer friendly version-
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Sextuples: Problem Composing Contest 57


Problem composing contest #57 is now live at!

Sponsored and produced, as always, by the seemingly tireless Bill Salot, this latest composing contest features three new and challenging positions.

Be an active participant by enjoying the problems and then voting for the one you deem best. Both Bill and the problem composers will appreciate your input, but above all you'll get to experience compositions by some of the very best contemporary checker problemists. What more can you ask?

You can also participate in the International Voters' Ladder by attempting to identify the problem that will garner the most votes. Details are on the contest page.

And now, as an introduction to Contest 57, here is a previous contest winner by Leo Springer, called Dutch Treat, which illustrates the new contest's theme of six star moves followed by a sextuple jump.

White to Play and Win


Click on Read More to see the solution and then go on to enjoy the new contest.null

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07/17/21 -Printer friendly version-
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Wacky World

Marvin J. Mavin

Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was on summer vacation, that precious period of time between the World Series of Checkers in June and the start of training camp in August.

Priscilla Snelson

Each July he and Priscilla Snelson, his long-time girlfriend, took a week of vacation together. Priscilla was a C-level executive at Rust Belt Holdings and it wasn't easy for her to get time way, but she left her cell phone at home and treasured the undisturbed days spent in pure leisure.

This year she and Marvin went to Orlando, Florida, to make the rounds of the theme parks. They both tried their best to stay incognito and avoid attracting attention.


One of the parks they both had wanted to visit was Wacky World, a place noted for its strange and imaginative take-offs on everything from pop culture to Wall Street. And wouldn't you know--- checkers as well.

Priscilla was the first to spot it. "Look, Marvin," she said, "over there. There's a booth marked Checker Chuckles."


"Checker Chuckles? Really? Let's go see!"

It was a fairly small booth, not even a full-fledged exhibit. There were a couple of checkerboards on the counter, and sitting in the booth was an elderly fellow wearing a striped suit and bow tie. He had on a name tag that simply said, "Walt."


Spotting the approaching couple, Walt spieled, "Step right up. Play a game for a dollar. Winner takes all. One small dollar, maybe you'll win a prize!"

Indeed, sitting on a shelf in back of Walt was a collection of the largest Teddy Bears you could imagine.


"Oh, Marvin, win me a bear would you?" Priscilla said.

"Hey honey, never seen this side of you before! Didn't know you liked girls' toys!"

"I have my youthful moments, you know. Life isn't all mega-mergers and billion dollar contracts."

"I don't know, Prissy. Doesn't seem fair, me bein' ..."

"Afraid, son?" Walt interrupted. "The rules are easy. You pay a dollar. If you win, we play again. If you win three in a row, you get a Teddy Bear for the beautiful lady."

"What about draws?" Marvin asked.

"Wise guy, are you?" Walt's expression changed. "Nope, three wins in a row, them's the rules."

"But you could just play a drawing line ..."

"Oh, think you know all about the Grand Old Game, do you? Well, here's a different offer then, Mr. Ace Checker Player. You solve just one little checker problem, where White has 9 pieces and Black only has 6. White has to win. Anyone could do it, right, even you!" Walt snickered. "Yeah, even you!"

Marvin saw Priscilla's pleading look, but knew it would turn into something a bit difficult for him to handle if she didn't get her Teddy Bear. "Okay, there Walt," he said, "set 'em up."

Walt started arranging checkers on one of the boards. "I'm so generous, I'll even give you a hint," he said, "as you could probably use one. Now listen up. Remember that this is the Checker Chuckle booth at Wacky World. Here you go. I'll give you ten minutes. Now where's your dollar?"


Marvin forked over a dollar as Walt finished his set-up. Marvin faced the following position.

White to Play and Win


"You're right, Walt, old boy, that sure is a wacky position. But I don't get the chuckle part. Oh ... wait ... hmmm."

Marvin twisted his dreadlocks and leaned his elbows on the counter. "Now if I ... no ... how about ..."

Walt chuckled.

Can you figure out this definitely wacky position? You won't win a Teddy Bear but you might get a couple of chuckles. Still, don't laugh it off; give it a try and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.null

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07/10/21 -Printer friendly version-
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4th of July, 2021


July 4, 2021 will be the day after the date of publication of this column. It's a brighter and more hopeful 4th of July than it was last year, when we were in the midst of the worst pandemic in a hundred years. But America is recovering, as it always has, and the future is looking better all the time.

At The Checker Maven we remain and always shall remain unabashed and unapologetic patriots. We believe in America and we believe in the American people. We're proud to celebrate the 4th of July, America's birthday.

Every year we turn to Tom Wiswell, himself a true patriot who served America in so many ways. Mr. Wiswell was famous not only for his great playing skill and masterful problem compositions; he also produced many wise and pithy quotes. We especially like this one: "Hard work makes playing easy." We think it's typically American.

And now here's today's problem.

White to Play and Win


White is a piece up but is bound to lose a man. Can you notch the full point by finding a win and avoiding what looks to be an inevitable draw? "Hard work makes play easy" --- this one will be a bit of work, but you can make it look easy. When you've found your solution, click on Read More to independently verify your work.20050904-symbol.gif

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07/03/21 -Printer friendly version-
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Contest Prize Will Be $75


At 00:01 AM HST on July 1, 2021, the prize for solving Brian Hinkle's Prize Problem (see here) will increase to $75.

As of this writing, no one has claimed the prize so the field is wide open.

Give it your best and win some money!

Conditions and limitations apply. See contest article linked above. Void where prohibited by law


06/30/21 -Printer friendly version-
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Tryouts


It was the end of the school year, and Tommy Wagner, a young student completing his freshman year at a high school in central Florida, had a big week ahead. Tommy was an up-and-coming checkerist, and had the rare distinction of being Captain of the Junior Varsity Checker Team while still a freshman.

Tommy Wagner

He had tried out for Varsity (see previous Checker Maven story) in the fall, but didn't make it. His school's Varsity team was very strong and Tommy, though a fine player, was told by Coach Schann that he wasn't quite ready. Small wonder; Varsity had four experts and a titled Master.

But this time around, Tommy was hopeful. His rating had advanced to the top of Class A, just short of expert in the non-professional rankings, and he thought he might have a chance.

All year, he had continued his Saturday morning lessons with retired professional master Uncle Ben. Of course Ben wasn't really Tommy's uncle, but everyone called him Uncle Ben out of respect. Lessons took place on Uncle Ben's front porch, and were usually accompanied by a pitcher of Uncle Ben's homemade lemonade, the art of which Uncle Ben had also mastered.

Tommy had greeted Uncle Ben and taken his usual seat in front of the checkerboard. "Varsity tryouts start on Monday, eh, Tommy?" Uncle Ben asked.

"Yes sir," Tommy replied. "Monday right after school, and they run every afternoon through Thursday."

"And what are your expectations?"

There was that look in Uncle Ben's eyes. Tommy had been sorely disappointed with not making Varsity last time, but Uncle Ben had counseled him about being patient and putting in the necessary time and effort. Making Varsity wasn't easy.

"Well, Uncle Ben, it's kind of like you taught me. I've done everything I could to prepare and be ready. Whatever Coach Schann decides, that's how it will be."

Coach Schann

"Will you be disappointed if you don't make it again?"

"Honestly, sir, I will. I've worked very hard. But I do know that few freshman ever move up. It takes until Junior Year for nearly everyone, and that's another year off for me. So I guess my feelings would be mixed." Tommy paused for a moment and then smiled. "But that doesn't mean I won't give it everything I've got on Monday!"

"Very wise, Tommy, and very grown up, and I know you're sincere about what you say. You might make it; you've really become quite the player. But the others have advanced, too, although I hear that Reynaldo will be graduating as will two other players, so there will be some vacancies." Reynaldo Garcia was a Master and one of the top scholastic players in the state. He would be going on to the University of Notre Dame with a full four-year checker scholarship.

"So let's do a little practice, shall we?" Uncle Ben asked. "I'm going to put you through your paces with a dozen problems today, and you'll only have five minutes for each. So have some lemonade and get ready for some hard work while I set up the first problem."


Tommy eagerly accepted a glass of lemonade and sipped thoughtfully while Uncle Ben laid out the following position.

Black to Play and Draw


Do you think you can find the solution in five minutes, as Tommy has been asked to do? Since you're playing along at home, you can actually take as long as you wish. Then, when you're ready, you can click on Read More to see the solution, and a dozen or so additional problems and solutions on the same theme. You'll have to provide your own lemonade, though.null

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06/26/21 -Printer friendly version-
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The Teacher Gets an "F"


In today's Checker School column we return to Andrew J. Banks' curious and entertaining book, Checker Board Strategy, and our old friends Skittle and Nemo, who are joined by Stone. It's an example of how not to teach checkers. Let's hear the story in Mr. Banks' own words.

"Solve it yourself!" boomed the gray haired State Champion. By his perennial cheerfulness, Skittle had won friends in the Nation's Capital. His mirth was "like a flash of lightning that breaks through the gloom of clouds." He wished to be a "big shot" in Nemo's eyes; therefore, he had asked Champion Stone to teach him how to play expertly. Stone had set up a tough problem. Skittle was baffled.

"Show me how to solve it," he repeated, whereupon Stone roared, "Solve it yourself!"

Was Stone's method wrong? Yes; he failed to show where and why his pupil had failed--- consequently Skittle was crushed. A teacher must adapt his teaching to the ability and temperament of his student. Moreover, he must proceed from the simple to the complex. Do you not agree?

Indeed, hardly the way to encourage a student of the grand old game. The problem in question was a very old one by William Payne. It won't be hard at all for an experienced player but is a good exercise for the student.

White to Play and Win


We can't really understand why Stone thought this was a hard problem. Be that as it may, an expert will solve it in seconds though a progressing player might take a little longer. We're happy to show you how to solve it; just click on Read More, and we promise that no one will shout at you.null

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06/19/21 -Printer friendly version-
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2021 ACF National: A Big Thank You


After a year's hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the ACF National Tournament is slated to return in October, 2021, and it's all thanks to the efforts of Joe McDaniel and his family.

It's shaping up to be one of the great competitions of checker history with a prize fund of epic proportions, running into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The tournament will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, October 4-7, 2021. You can read full details in the tournament flyer by clicking here.

Mr. McDaniel granted The Checker Maven an interview, which we're pleased to publish today. Joe had the following opening comment.

Joe McDaniel

"Since 1943 I have been fascinated by checkers. The fact that on the surface it appears to most everyone to be a simple game, for children and very old folks. This is one thing that intrigues me.

I am not a really good player. If I finish half way in the minors in a major tournament I am happy."

Well, Joe, we're not so sure about you being a "not really good" player, but here's the rest of the interview.

Q. After a year's hiatus due to Covid, the 2021 ACF National Tournament looks to be one of the most spectacular offerings in tournament history, with $32,000 in guaranteed prizes. How did this come about?

Mr. and Mrs. Joe McDaniel

A. Most of the prize money for the 2021 national tourney is from my wife and me. ACF will provide $9,000 and individual donations will be about $1,500. My sons have given $16,000.

Danielle Winkler and David Seres

We are also giving $5,000 for the Kondlo/Bernini GAYP match which will happen right after the tourney. We will also give $4,500 for the World Qualifier here in Tulsa in November.

The total cost for the tourney and match will be about $47,000. This includes helping with the hotel rooms for several individuals. Also, the cost of entry fees and ACF membership will be around $3,000. Missouri Checker Association fees will be around $300.

The love of the game has motivated me to be the major sponsor.

Q. Tell us more about the decision to honor a great champion, Alex Moiseyev.

Alex Moiseyev

A. We believe Alex M. deserves to be the honoree based on his accomplishments. He is arguably the best player in the country.

Q. What do you expect to see in the way of participation? Do you anticipate much in the way of youthful contestants?

A. We had 56 players in the last national 3-move in Branson in 2015. Hopefully we can have the same number in Tulsa. We are personally contacting several young players.

Q. Do you expect any difficulties with Covid restrictions?

A. If Covid is still a threat we may have to postpone the tourney into 2022.

Q. How can the checker community help out with this tournament?

A. We are asking for contributions in the letter we have sent to over 100 players. If you wish to help with the prize fund, send your contribution to: 1416 S. Marion Ave., Tulsa, OK 74112. Make checks payable to Joe McDaniel. Contact you have any questions.

Thanks, Joe, for this fascinating information, and for everything you do for the great game of checkers. We all look forward to this year's tournament.

We asked Joe for his favorite checker problem, and he mentioned one by grandmaster problemist Brian Hinkle that we've previously published. Rather than repeat that problem, Brian generously provided us with another of his sparkling compositions.

White to Play and Win


Give this one a try and you'll understand why Joe picked one of Brian's problems as a favorite. When you're ready click on Read More to see the solution.null

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06/12/21 -Printer friendly version-
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The Weasel


For the first problem of the month we've got one that's very easy and yet very entertaining. When you see the solution you'll understand the title of today's column.

White to Play and Win


Players beyond beginner level will get this one in a few seconds, and for beginners, the solution will be an amusing discovery.

Don't weasel out; solve the problem and then click on Read More to verify your solution.null

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06/05/21 -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 2004-2021 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.

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