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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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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01/28/17 - Printer friendly version
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Sinclair's Sacrifice


Sinclair gasoline stations are common in the western United States, with some in the Great Plains and just a handful on the East Coast--- but not a single one in Hawai`i. We can only guess that Sinclair Oil decided to sacrifice participation in the admittedly small and difficult to supply Hawaiian market, in favor of more profitable ventures. We can hardly blame them.

But our subject today is a study attributed to checkerist A. Sinclair, a gentleman who we are almost certain is in no way an antecedent of today's Sinclair Oil. The study is taken from Ben Boland's marvelous classic, Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

Black to Play and Draw


Black is a man up, but with no safe moves, that advantage is highly temporary. How can he get the draw here? We think you'll find the solution nothing short of amazing, and the title of this column gives you a big hint. Does that oil the skids enough to lead you to a solution? Step on the gas and work it out, then motor your mouse over to Read More to see the amazing drawing method, explanatory notes, several sample games, and two supplementary positions.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/21/17 - Printer friendly version
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Uncle Ben's Porch: Tommy Goes to High School


Tommy Wagner was learning that high school is a scary place for a new freshman.

He had been a star in his central Florida middle school, maintaining top academic status while leading his checker team to a State Championship.

But now he was at a large regional high school, which drew students from all over town, and he was a lowly freshman to boot.

Of course, he wanted a spot on the Checker Team, and he knew he was good, but he'd have to compete with experienced 11th and 12th graders. The Checker Varsity even had a titled Master player on their roster. Tommy knew he would have to play Junior Varsity for at least a year, maybe two.

It bothered him. A lot.

It was a Saturday morning, and he was on his way to Uncle Ben's place. Uncle Ben was the kindly retired professional checkerist who gave Tommy free lessons nearly every week. He wasn't really Tommy's uncle, of course, but everyone just called him "Uncle Ben."

But Tommy didn't want to go this morning. He wanted to stay home and sulk, and would have done that had his mother not chased him out of the house.


"You've been in a terrible mood these past few days," she had said, "and I don't really like it. Now you get on over to Uncle Ben's and don't keep him waiting! And make sure you're polite when you get there!"

Tommy didn't answer, and let the screen door bang a little too hard on his way out. He even kicked at a garbage can after he had walked a couple of blocks.

Finally he reached Uncle Ben's porch. Hands in his pockets, he shuffled up the steps.


Uncle Ben, of course, instantly saw that something was wrong, and it wasn't very hard for him to guess what it was.

"Tommy. You need to stop this," he said, in a stern tone that Tommy had never, ever heard from him. It got Tommy's attention.

He took his hands out of his pockets and sat in a chair next to Uncle Ben. He was on the verge of tears.

"I know how badly you want to play Varsity," Uncle Ben said. "We went through the same thing in middle school, remember?"

"Yes ... but ... that was different," Tommy managed to say.

"Different? How so?"

Coach Schann

"I just captained the State Champion middle school team!" Tommy said. "Why can't Coach Schann see that?"

"I'm certain he does see that," Uncle Ben replied, "but do you realize that he has a titled Master and four ranked Experts on his team right now? Tommy, what's your rank?"

"Class A," Tommy said, almost in a whisper.

"What was that, Tommy? I don't think I heard you."

"Class A, Uncle Ben." Tommy swallowed hard, fighting back emotion.

"Yes, you made Class A at the end of last year. Now, do you suppose you should replace an Expert or a Master on the high school team? Do you expect Coach Schann to just say, here comes Tommy Wagner, I'll put him on the team even though he's lower ranked than everyone else?"

"But I ..."

"Yes, Tommy, you lead your team to victory, and that was a great achievement. You should be proud. But you should not be vain. You're good, but there are others who are better, and you'll have to earn your way up through study and practice."

"I had to do that in middle school! I don't want to do it all over again!"

"But do it you must. And it will be another new game when you get to college in a few years. In this life, we are always earning our way. Nothing worthwhile is given to us for free."


Uncle Ben poured some lemonade from the waiting pitcher. For a while, neither he nor Tommy said a word. Tommy was obviously thinking about what Uncle Ben had said.

Finally, Tommy broke the silence.

"Time's passing," he said. "I had better get to work if I want to make Varsity in the next year or two."

Uncle Ben just smiled, and turned to the waiting checkerboard. "Very well," he said, "how about taking a look at this position and see what you make of it?"

Black to Play and Win


Would you make it to the High School Varsity? How about the Junior Varsity? Solve the problem, then click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and fourteen additional examples of this theme.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/14/17 - Printer friendly version
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January Kickoff


Did you watch football on New Year's Day? Although we're writing this column weeks in advance, we can tell you for sure that no, The Checker Maven staff didn't watch football on New Year's Day or any other day, although we do admit to having seen a football game on television as recently as 1978. We understand football's great popularity, but it just isn't our thing.

So instead we'll kick off our checker year with a game that dates back even further, to 1908. The game is a bit flawed but nonetheless an interesting over the board contest. Let's have a look.

1. 10-15 23-18
2. 12-16 26-23
3. 16-20 21-17
4. 9-13 17-14
5. 8-12 14-9
6. 5x14 18x9
7. 4-8

7-10 was likely better here, though the text move certainly allows for a draw.

7. ... 24-19
8. 15x24 28x19
9. 7-10

11-15 evaluates to a likely draw and may be best. Deep analysis also evaluates the current position as a probable draw that may be more difficult to find over the board.

9. ... 23-18

22-18 was correct. The edge passes to Black who now might win.

10.11-16 27-23

This unfortunate move turns a probable Black win into a certain White win, and now your New Year's task is twofold. First, correct this last error and give what could have been Black's winning move. Then, continuing on from the text move, show how White wins (it's rather easy). When you've got it, click on Read More to see the solution.

White to Play and Win



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01/07/17 - Printer friendly version
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New Year's Eve 2016


Are you thinking checkers or partying today? We realize that this column will appear on New Year's Eve, and you may not have a lot of time for checkers today (sad as that might be). So we'll give you something quite a bit easier than usual this week, and we won't even annoy you with our Javascript clock.

White to Play and Win


Easier? Did we say easier? Actually, it is, and it won't take time away from your celebrations. So work it out, check your solution by clicking on Read More, and then have a happy and safe New Year's Eve.

Happy New Year from The Checker Maven!20050904-symbol.gif

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12/31/16 - Printer friendly version
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Happy Holidays 2016


The Checker Maven wishes all of our readers the happiest of holiday seasons. Regardless what holiday you might celebrate or how you might celebrate it, we hope this time of year brings you happiness and contentment.

During the holidays perhaps you have a little more free time, but even if you're busier than can be, one can always make time for some checkers. Today we present a study by that renowned player and author, the late Ken Grover; it's quite interesting and should give you plenty of holiday checker enjoyment.

White to Play and Win


Can you find a winning line of play? We'll be fair about it: Mr. Grover published one win and the computer found another that was similar but not quite the same. See if you can work it out and then click on Read More to see the solutions.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/24/16 - Printer friendly version
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Coffee and Cake, 2016


A bit of a holiday season tradition at The Checker Maven has been the presentation of a "coffee and cake" problem. This is the sort of problem that you show to your checker friends and bet them coffee and cake that they can't solve it.

We think this year we have one that will put you in the winner's circle and garner you a nice Saturday afternoon treat at your local café or coffee shop. Let's have a look.

White to Play and Draw


You might initially ask, what's the difficulty? Are those Checker Maven people asking me to just give away some coffee and cake? But when you take a closer look, you'll see that White is mighty short of options. Maybe your friends won't get their coffee and cake so easily after all.

Now, it's only fair for you to try to solve this one first, before you spring it on your unsuspecting friends, don't you agree? So give it your all, and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/17/16 - Printer friendly version
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Does Cress Make You Well?


All over the internet and in the foodie and gourmet magazines, you can read about the many and wondrous benefits of watercress. Whether you put it in your salad or use it as a garnish, you're promised untold health benefits, with the idea that cress can indeed make you well.

Of course that leads us to a horrible pun, as we present a position that arose in a game between classic checkerists E. E. Cresswell and J. Wyllie. The problem dates back around 80 years and is our current Checker School entry.

White to Play and Draw


There's no doubt that Black has the initiative and will try for a win, but White can find a narrow draw. It's not easy, but it's worth your time, as the play is quite instructive. When you've gotten as far as you can, click on Read More to see the solution, a sample game, and copious notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/10/16 - Printer friendly version
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12 Years


Today The Checker Maven completes a dozen years of no-fail weekly publication, something we modestly believe is a significant accomplishment. We hope we've being doing our share in promoting the great game of checkers, and we do hope to be able to continue publishing for at least a few more years.

Someone who has contributed immensely to our game is Richard Pask, and to celebrate the "12" theme, we're taking a position that arises from Ballot 12 in his upcoming book, Complete Checkers. (It will be published by us most likely in spring 2017.)

White to Play and Win


Black has just blundered with 2-6 instead of the "star" move given in the Complete Checkers text, 17-22. How does White bring home the win? We suppose you ought to get 12 minutes to solve it, or 12 attempts, or something of the sort, but just do the best you can. Then, you can click on Read More once (not 12 times) to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/03/16 - Printer friendly version
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Thanksgiving Weekend 2016


We've always written about how we love the Thanksgiving holiday, a holiday that unites everyone. No matter what your race, religion, color, or political leanings, giving thanks is an American tradition that we can all support.

On this wonderful weekend we usually try to feature a problem from a great American composer or great American players. Today we'll look at a position that arose in a match game between two of the all-time greats, Walter Hellman and Maurice Chamblee.

Black to Play and Win


Black is a piece up, and you'd think he should win handily. But it isn't as easy as all that. Can you find the right line of play that will carry Black to victory? You may be surprised!

Find the way to the laurel wreath, and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/26/16 - Printer friendly version
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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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