A Guest Column by Kookaburra
I live in Adelaide which is the capital city of the state of South Australia and I play checkers / draughts. South Australia is quite remote as it is in the middle of Australia, and within a short distance of Adelaide is total wilderness: The Outback.
Here we have extremely hot summers with stretches over 40 degrees Celsius and winters that are mild by world standards--- no snow but a little frost. The wildlife is wonderful and unique.
I started playing chess about four years ago after a health problem and also tried a stack of other games: Backgammon, Scrabble, Four in a Row, etc., and also Checkers. Thanks to a nice and skilled checker player I met online, I became a devotee of the game.
The reality of being a checker enthusiast today is that many of us are isolated. I play checkers (or draughts) in a country where checker players are as thin as kookaburraís teeth. This however should not stop any of us from enjoying this great and beautiful game. The fact you are reading this from far away from where I live is evidence that the tyranny of distance can be overcome.
Indeed, there arenít many serious checker players here in Australia at all. I have made contact with a couple and hope to play them crossboard at some point. For the most part, I play online, and have met some amazing people that way. Checkers is unique in that it offers a friendly, accepting fraternity who have embraced my presence as a new player.
It is difficult being isolated but checker players are not so common any longer, even in more populated parts of the world, and so all of us are becoming more isolated. My goal is to be the best I can at this beautiful game and not worry about other people or the isolation but to focus on the game and my skills in it. Then it doesnít matter.
One of my role models in checkers is the late Jan Mortimer, from New Zealand, who overcame the isolation of living in this part of the world to be a world class Checker player. I donít think enough women play this game and wish more did although I think checkers needs more players; more women, more men and definitely more beginners as it is tough when you first start and it takes a big leap to go from a recreational player who knows very little to a serious player who studies the game. And I am grateful to those who have and are currently helping me leap across this great divide.
I am hoping to promote the game whenever and wherever I can and help others learn about this beautiful underrated game even from this isolated area of Australia. I play online under the name Kookaburra.
Here is my advice for any modern checker player who may not have anyone around close by to play against.
Obviously the internet is extremely useful. Play turn based and speed games both to gain as much variety and experience of playing. Turn based sites are great for the social aspects of meeting and chatting to other players from around the world. Checker players are friendly and ask them about checkers and they chat and advise and online Iíve met some amazing players Also play speed games as thatís the way proper games are played. Start to end. Makes you think about strategy and think on your feet.
Start a checker book collection. There are great books out there. Start with beginner books and work your way up. There is enough out there to last a lifetime.
Research checker history. Some of the books I have now are from the 19th Century. The oldest is 1886. Reading them gives a fascinating incite into how the World was back then.
Join a checker association. The newsletters are great and it is worth it to hear news and make contacts from around the world and get to know who are the current and past checker champions.
Use social networking tools. Make a connection with other players.
If you want to play crossboard and canít find any checker players, join a club for another game with a similar board and use it to practice playing face to face.
Here is an exerpt from an old checker book dated 1911: Draughts Praxis or Modern Match Games, by Frank Dunne.
Check the last rule proposed to players over 100 years ago:
LOSE WITH GOOD TEMPER, AND WIN WITH SILENCE AND MODESTY
Amazing advice, I think!
And now I'd like to share my favourite problem. I like the fact Dr Marion Tinsley almost got stung with it, making for a connection to checker history.
Can you solve Kookaburra's favorite (or should we say favourite) problem, one that gave pause to Marion Tinsley? It's not as hard as you might suspect. Don't be left out (back); give it your best and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Snow can still come in April in many parts of North America, and if it does, you had best be careful and not suffer the type of mishap that of the unfortunate lady above.
Perhaps it's simplest to show you the diagram and let you find out for yourself.
Watch your step, and solve this step by step. The next step? Clicking on Read More to check your solution.[Read More]
The sculpture above is found near the Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a city we've visited a few times. We don't know what the young lad is musing upon; could that be a book of checker problems next to him?
Whatever he's contemplating, it's unlikely that it's today's checker problem, another fine entry sent to us by master composer Ed Atkinson. He calls it Thinking It Over. Let's let him describe it in his own words.
"Here is the problem. It is only the unusual setting and the first few moves that are original. The resulting end game can be traced back through the centuries to the very first problem published in English, a 262 year time line.
The references can be found in Boland's Border Classics, page 59 and Famous Positions, page 8. Closely related material was published by several in the mid 19th century."
What's this? White is up two pieces, so where's the problem? But it won't take you long to realize that White's big advantage is greatly at risk, and getting the full score is anything but easy.
Okay, you know what we're going to say: think it over, and find the winning moves. As often is the case, the key is to find the right first move. After you've given this enough thought, think about clicking on Read More to see Ed's solution and notes.[Read More]
Checker history is about to be made starting April 20, 2018, when an all-star team of American players travels to Rome, Italy to face top Italian players. While US vs. Great Britain matches have taken place numerous times over the last century, with the US largely dominating, this US-Italy match-up is a first, and the Italians are very strong indeed.
The US team faces significant costs, and you can help by following this link to the American Checker Federation on-line store, and donating whatever you wish.
Of course, The Checker Maven is US-based, so we're behind our US team, but we wish the best of luck to all in what we're sure will be a spectacular event.
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Four: Second Move
It was quite a while until Reggie was able to get out of his seat. He stayed in the empty classroom, numb, nearly unable to process what had happened to him. But finally, students started arriving for the next class. He must have sat there for over an hour, right through lunch and into the following class period.
He folded Katieís note and stuck it in his backpack, stumbled to his feet, and left. He went straight to the bus stop. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was skipping classes, and even worse, skipping draughts practice. He didnít even want to talk things over with his friend Jack. He just wanted to go back to his rented room, get into bed, pull the covers over his head, and never get up again.
The next day was Friday, and there were no classes and no practice. It was just as well, and although Reggie did manage to get up in the morning, he had no desire to see Katie in Chaucer class. It would have been more than he could have borne.
He had a lot of homework to do and no wish to do that, either, and in addition, he was supposed to go through his opening repertoire and do some problem practice, as the draughts match with Lyme Regis was just five days away.
He knew he had better get out of his room, even though he didnít want to; he couldnít let himself become paralyzed with depression. Maybe, he thought, it was best to leave the pursuit of women to people like Jack, who had the right skills. If it had been anyone but Katie ...
She was intelligent, she had a sense of humor, and she played draughts besides. What could get better than that? Oh, and of course she was beautiful, but to Reggie that was almost a sort of afterthought. Who cared what she looked like? She was just this amazing ...
Stop it, Reggie told himself. Maybe sheís all of those things but forget it, you lost your chance, now move on, youíve got a lot of things to get done and not a lot of time to do them.
Reggie sighed and put his books into his backpack. He looked wistfully at his Chaucer book and wanted to rip the pages out of it. But that went into the backpack too, along with his book of draughts openings and draughts problems.
Heíd go to the school library. With no classes on Fridays, the library would be pretty deserted, and he could work quietly. Maybe heíd even be able to get his mind off Katie and concentrate a little.
Reggie went outside and took the bus to the college.
The school library was indeed as empty as Reggie had expected it would be. The many long wooden tables were virtually unoccupied. Students generally left homework until Sunday; Friday and Saturday they avoided the campus as if it were off-limits.
Still, Reggie went down to the very end of the main hall and sat at a table in the far corner. He decided he'd work on his differential equations class. That would keep his mind off ... other things. Then maybe, just maybe, he'd face up to it and crack open his Chaucer book.
A couple of hours must have passed by when Reggie finished his homework assignment, hoping that he'd never again in his life have to do a problem set on the Method of Frobenius.
Fine, he said to himself, now it's time to confront reality. He pulled out his Chaucer book, vowing to himself that he would study and not think of ... her. "I shall have no fear," he said to himself. "I shall look the beast in the eye and ..."
"Reggie, who are you calling a beast?"
Had he actually spoken out loud? And who was ... no, it couldn't be.
Katie sat down in a chair on the other side of the table. She wore a big smile.
"I thought ... I mean, there was no one here and I wasn't ..."
"I know, Reggie. I was just teasing."
"Wh--- why are you here?"
"Because we need to talk a little, and because I knew there would probably be no one here on a Friday except maybe you. So I took the chance. I wanted to talk in person, not over the phone."
"You did? I thought ..."
"Yes, I know what you thought after that 'Goatgetter' note I sent you. Reggie, I'm really sorry about that. I went too far and I was too harsh. But I was just trying to get a message across."
"A message ... I got the message that you were angry and didn't want to see the movie with me any longer."
"Yes, it was that, but I lost my temper. I thought you were making fun of my family origins, in a poor mill town. Didn't I tell you about that?"
Reggie had long ago turned red, but he made a valiant effort to regain his composure. "Yes, you did, but I thought Maid of the Mill would be a kind of tribute, and then there's the Suffolk Fair Maid. I hoped you would be pleased. I'm sorry too, I didn't mean to offend."
"I believe you, and as I said, I regret what I wrote. So I'd like to make a suggestion."
Reggie leaned on his elbows, moving forward in his seat.
"What?" he asked eagerly.
"How about we start over. You go home and write another note to me, and bring it to class on Monday. I'll answer you, and then everything should be smooth and we can go to that movie. I'm sure it will still be playing next weekend. What do you think?"
"Great idea!" Reggie said. "I know I'll get it right this time!"
"I'm sure you will, Reggie. Now I'll let you get back to your Chaucer." She looked pointedly at his open textbook. "I just know how much you love Dr. Rowan's class!"
They both laughed, and Katie took her leave.
Reggie knew he wasn't going to be studying Chaucer. He had something else to work on.
Fortunately it was a Friday and the buses still ran frequently. Reggie couldn't make it home fast enough. He was on a mission.
But he found that it wasn't a mission easily accomplished. He had to get it right this time. After having started half a dozen notes and in the end tearing up every single one of them, he found himself wishing that Katie had given him some idea of what to write instead of what not to write.
He made himself stop for dinner, another cheese and pickle sandwich, but he didn't care. He was hoping that a short break would provide him with some inspiration. Then he took a short walk around the neighborhood to clear his head, feeling very proud of himself for having thought of the idea.
Somehow, it worked, or, at least it worked in combination with Reggie's next activity; for when he got back to his room, he thought he would solve a checker problem before returning to his note writing.
He didn't find it very hard. And then he realized that he had found two solutions; one to the checker problem, and one other that was about something quite different.
He knew what to write to Katie.
Smiling and chuckling, he put pen to paper and wrote out his note. Okay, he had made a mistake the first time, but this was perfect. Quickly, he consulted his Chaucer book. Was Katie ever going to love this!
Finally, the note was completed. Reggie went back over it and made some corrections, then wrote it out again as neatly as he could on a fresh sheet of paper. He folded it, wrote "Katie" on the front, and put it in his Chaucer book to keep it safe and to be sure he wouldn't forget it.
And that was just the first half of Reggie's plan.
To be continued.
Can you solve Reggie's checker problem? We're sure you can; it's not that difficult and it's rather pleasing. Set aside your love notes and cheese and pickle sandwiches and give it a try, then click on Read More to see the run-up and the solution.[Read More]
Richard Pask has retired! Actually the photo above dates back to mid-2017, when Richard did indeed retire from his position as an educator.
But retired, for Richard, may mean something very different from what it means to others; this gentleman has been very busy indeed. Last week we published his revised edition of Complete Checkers, and this week we're proud to put forth the first book in his new series, which is called Logical Checkers.
The series, expected to consist of five volumes, will present a layered approach to checker tuition, from novice through master. Book 1 is the "Novice" guide but it contains much of interest even to a more experienced player. Rules and basic principles, tactics and strategy, common endgames, and an initial opening repertoire (for Go As You Please players) are all presented in 127 full-size pages illustrated with 128 diagrams.
Down the road, after the series is completed, we plan to once again offer a combined edition in both electronic and print formats.
We predict that Logical Checkers will do no less than revolutionize checker tuition.
Richard, once again, is very generously giving us his work free of charge. It can be downloaded here or from the Richard Pask page as linked in the right-hand column.
Here's one of the tactical examples given in the book.
It's not that hard; this is, after all, a book aimed at relatively new players. But it's nonetheless pleasing. See how quickly you can find the solution and then click on Read More to see how you did. And be sure to grab your copy of the new book. Thank you, Mr. Pask![Read More]
The weather in the Dorset area, on England's south coast, hasn't been so great this winter. The photo above is of a frozen-over window in Richard Pask's home. Brrr!
But if the cold weather has kept Richard indoors, we are the beneficiaries, for today we're pleased to announce the immediate availability of the second edition of Richard Pask's landmark work, Complete Checkers. This edition incorporates about 100 changes, updates, and corrections. The Checker Maven thanks Mr. Pask for the continuing privilege of publishing and presenting his work to you, the checker players of the world.
Of course, the revised book can be downloaded in PDF format, completely free, either here or from our Richard Pask page, as linked in the right-hand column. The printed edition has also been updated and can be obtained from Amazon's US, UK, and European outlets (although going to the expense of replacing your first edition printed copy is by no means necessary).
Here's an example of a new idea in the new edition.
This is Ballot 102.
Several moves draw here. In the 1st edition, with play attributed to Willie Ryan, Richard showed a draw after 29-25, but in the second edition, 24-19! is presented (also attributed to Ryan). The computer tells us that 24-20 and even 17-13 are also probably draws, although the draws are definitely more difficult than in the line of play after the brilliant 24-19. (For subsequent play after 24-19, refer to the book, game #1748 on page 482.)
But what if White tries a hasty and badly mistaken 31-26? Then we have this:
It doesn't look so good for White, does it? Black indeed has a win. But can you show it over the board? It isn't especially difficult if you know the technique, but it's one of those highly practical things that you simply must know if you're to succeed at the upper levels of the game.
See how you do (are you stuck indoors too?) and then click on Read More to view the solution.>[Read More]
You probably learned in basic math classes that any quadratic equation has dual solutions, though they may not be unique, and when solving such equations, you were surely asked to find both solutions.
But as we've noted before, in checker problem competitions, "dual" solutions are frowned upon; a composition should have a but a single path to correctness. But with our speed problems, and with a mind to improving over the board visualization skills, sometimes a problem with a "dual" can be of value --- if you can find both solutions.
The following problem was sent to us by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon of Toronto, who developed it in conjunction with noted contemporary problemist Bill Salot. It has a dual solution.
Can you find both paths to victory? You'll get half credit for finding one of them, but full credit only if you work out both. The challenge is fair in that one solution is not simply a variant of the other.
Give this at least a "couple" of tries, and then click on Read More to see how you've done.[Read More]
Some of our board diagrams, notably those published between 2005 and 2011, have started to display incorrectly on the Chrome browser as of Chrome version 64. There are no problems with Chrome version 63 or earlier, and we don't yet know why only some diagrams are affected.
There's little we can do about this, and we can only hope that Google fixes their browser as soon as possible.
If you run into this issue, we suggest using a different browser (such as Firefox). Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience, which is outside our control.
Update as of March 8, 2018: We reported the problem to Google and it's fixed in Chrome 65.
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Three: First Interlude
When Reggie arrived at class the following morning, Katie was already in her seat near the front of the room. She was deep into her Chaucer book, no doubt doing some last-minute review. Reggie dropped his backpack onto the floor near his own usual seat, and made his way to toward the front, clutching his carefully written note.
But his bus had been a little late and the classroom was already filling up. Everyone was taking their seats. He saw Katie close her Chaucer book and put it under her chair.
Dr. Rowan strode into the room, carrying a sheaf of papers. Reggie was now the only student not seated.
"Planning to take the quiz standing up, Mr. Pastor?"
Once again, all heads turned toward Reggie. But Katie turned her gaze away quickly.
"Uh ... no, sir, I ..."
"Then you'd best be seated. At once." There was no mistaking the stern tone in Dr. Rowan's voice.
Reggie got through the quiz, somehow; he even knew most of the answers to the fill-in-the-blank questions, although he had a bad time with the translation section. Who cared about Middle English verbs, anyhow?
It was over. The quiz papers were passed to the front, and the students were dismissed. Everyone packed their things and prepared to leave.
Reggie saw Katie make a rush for the door, carefully avoiding looking in his direction. Reggie grabbed his backpack and ran after her.
He managed to catch up with her in the hall. "Katie! Katie! Please wait!"
She did stop, and turned to look at him. "What is it you want, Reggie? I don't want to be late for my next class."
Next class? It was lunchtime. Reggie knew she had the next period free. "Please, Katie, just take this." He held out his hand, in which he held his note.
"But ... all right." She took the note and slid it into a pocket in her backpack. "I'll read it later. Now, I really have to get moving."
With that, she was off down the hallway at a rapid pace, and Reggie thought it best not to follow her.
Perhaps he could be brave enough to call her tonight. Or maybe, when she read the note, she would call him. Yes, he was sure that was what would happen. He'd have to be certain to have his phone with him at all times.
"I can't believe it!" Katie said.
The school day was over and she was in the little apartment she shared with her roommate, Barbara Lamont. Barbara was a short, thin, dark-haired 20 year old from the outskirts of London, who decided on school in Weymouth to get away from what she called "the insanity of the city."
"What's wrong? He's asked you out, just as you told me wanted. You were pretty upset when he didn't do that yesterday, so what's the problem now?"
"It's the way he did it," Katie said. "Here, read the note." Reggie's note was laying on the coffee table. Katie picked it up and handed it to Barbara.
Barbara read the note aloud.
11-15, 22-17, 8-11, 17-13, 15-18
My dear Suffolk Maid,
I ask you for the honour of your company at the new movie opening in Weymouth on Saturday.
Would you be willing to be my guest at the nine o'clock evening show?
Perhaps we could have a light dinner beforehand.
I await the favour of your reply.
Ever at your service,
"What are those numbers at the top?" Barabara asked.
"Those numbers are what I'm upset over," Katie replied. "Look, I know you're not a draughts player. But those numbers represent a draughts opening. Do you know what it's called?"
"Of course not. What does it matter?"
"It matters. That's The Maid of the Mill!"
"He refers to me as a 'Suffolk Maid.' Is that how he thinks of me? A pretty girl from a blue collar family? He must have found out ... or maybe I told him, I don't remember ... that my parents came from mill families in Rochdale. They worked their way up and moved to Suffolk. I tell you, this is absolutely insulting and unbelievably disrespectful."
"Are you maybe being a little too sensitive?"
"Too sensitive? Well, I've got a reply for him!"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, he'll find out. Tomorrow, at class."
Reggie's practice that afternoon went a lot better, and his coach noticed it. "Ah, I see girl trouble is over," Coach Talovich joked. "Draughts playing is better when not having distraction."
Reggie was anxious to talk to Jack again after practice. Coach Talovich let the club out a little early and neither Reggie nor Jack had to rush to the bus stop.
Reggie and Jack stopped outside the door of the practice room. The corridor was silent and their words echoed in the post-school-day stillness.
"Did you ask that girl out?" Jack asked.
"Sure did," Reggie said. He smiled and shifted his feet around.
"Oh, got you nervous? She didn't turn you down, did you?"
"Well, then, you've got yourself a date!" Jack clapped Reggie on the back. "Good going! Always listen to old Jack!"
"What is it? Aren't you happy?"
Reggie got it out all in a rush. "She hasn't answered yet. But I'm sure she'll call me any minute now?"
"She'll call? What in the world are you talking about? I thought you already called her."
Reggie told Jack about the note he had written, and pointed out that the note was so good that he just knew Katie would call.
Jack shook his head as he listened. Finally, when Reggie had concluded, he said, "Reggie, you're great at draughts, better than I am, better than probably anyone on the team. But you don't know anything about girls."
"But I ..."
"Yes, you wrote a nice note, I'm sure it was great. Actually, I'm not so sure. That 'Maid of the Mill' thing was clever but she could take it the wrong way. And expecting her to call you? You think she'll be so excited by a guy asking her out with a note--- not even a call--- that she'll take the lead and phone you? Reggie, my friend, you're kidding yourself. That just isn't going to happen."
"So what do I do then? Wait until I see her at class, I imagine ..."
"Call her tonight. Do what you should have done last night."
But Reggie didn't call, and just as Jack had predicted, Katie didn't call him, either. Around midnight, Reggie gave up waiting and went to bed.
She wanted to accept in person. That must be it, he thought as he tried in vain to fall asleep.
He made sure he was at class ten minutes in advance the next morning, catching an earlier bus just to be sure. He was in his seat, waiting, as Katie entered the classroom.
Katie headed straight toward Reggie's seat. Great! He knew it would all work out! But she wasn't smiling. Why was that?
Katie handed Reggie a slightly wrinkled sheet of paper. "Here," she said, and before Reggie could reply, she had turned and gone off to her own seat.
Dr. Rowan entered the classroom. Reggie, despite his burning desire to read what Katie had given him, knew better than to do so in front of his instructor. He'd have to face the interminable wait until class was over.
"Not so good at Middle English verbs, are we, Mr. Pastor?" Dr. Rowan was standing directly in front of Reggie, holding Reggie's quiz paper. "But you did pass after all," he continued. "Frankly, I was surprised, given your obvious dislike of one of the greatest English writers of all time." Dr. Rowan dropped the paper on Reggie's desk and walked off, distributing graded quiz papers to the other students.
Reggie really did try to pay attention for the next hour. He tried not to look in Katie's direction. He tried not to finger the note Katie had given him. He tried to take notes on Dr. Rowan's explanation of Chaucer's use of metaphor in the something-or-other tale. But it was pretty much in vain.
Finally the hour was over. Katie once again rushed to the door, and this time Reggie didn't chase after her. He would have to read her note first.
Everyone was gone and Reggie had remained behind in the now empty classroom. Dr. Rowan had even turned off the lights on his way out and Reggie was in semi-darkness, the only illumination coming from the small windows that were near ceiling-level in the room.
He opened the note. It was fairly brief.
10-15, 23-18, 6-10
I do not accept your invitation, as I found your reference to me as a "Suffolk Maid" and "Maid of the Mill" to be rather insulting. You knew of my family's mill-town ancestry and how my forebears struggled to rise from poverty.
I am disappointed, Reggie. I had thought much better of you.
Reggie couldn't believe it at first. The shock numbed him. Everything suddenly seemed unreal. As if in a dream, he noticed the streaks on the blackboard and the grime on the windows above. There was a chewing-gum wrapper on the floor.
Why did the mind focus on such little details when one's personal world was coming apart? He had read something about that somewhere ...
But the worst of all was the first line of the note. He had sent her 'Maid of the Mill' and she had responded with a draughts reference of her own.
10-15, 23-18, 6-10. Also known as 'The Goatgetter.'
To be continued ....
Everything so far is by the book, and now Black should play 14. 11-16 to hold the draw. But what if Black plays the seemingly natural 14. 9-14? That would bring us to the position below.
White will indeed get Black's goat and come out the winner, but it isn't that easy. Can you work it out? We think that if you find the correct first move, you'll be able to solve it. Don't let it get your goat and don't become the goat ... give it your best try and then click on Read More to see the solution. And be sure to join us in about a month for the next chapter of our story.[Read More]