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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Schaefer is the ...

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Was checkerist A. Schaefer in any way connected to the famous, and once family owned and New York based, F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company? It's one of those things that are possible, but doubtful. In any case, Schaefer, like all New York City breweries, left the city many years ago, and is now owned by Pabst, who still operate the brand.

Schaefer used to advertise itself as "the one beer to have when you're having more than one." In all honesty, The Checker Maven doesn't think "having more than one" is always a good idea (we ourselves choose not to drink alcoholic beverages). If you've "had a few" as the saying goes, you're not likely to be able to solve interesting Checker School problems such as the one below.

A. Schaefer
WHITE
20170301-brooklyn.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W28,27,26,22,20,14:B19,15,13,7,5,3.

Black actually looks like he could lose if he's not careful. How is he supposed to win? But there is a way, and it's subtle and pleasing with a key move at a key moment. You won't need "more than one" checker problem today, as this one is very satisifying. Give it a try and then click your mouse --- just once --- on Read More to see the solution, sample games, and detailed notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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04/22/17 - Printer friendly version
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The Tax Man

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This column appears on April 15, 2017. April 15, in the United States, is the infamous day on which income tax returns are due, along with any money you might still owe. Checker Maven staff get hit pretty hard every year; we certainly hope that you do better, regardless what country you call home.

We have a slight reprieve, as when April 15 falls on a weekend, we're ever so generously allowed until Monday to pay up. So, let's enjoy a checker problem before we face the music two days hence.

BLACK
20170228-taxman.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W31,28,27,24,22,K1:B20,14,13,12,10,7,2.

White is a piece down and it's not looking so good. Would you say it's kind of like the way the tax man hits us with a big bill when we can least afford it? But in this case, White can beat the tax man and break even (try to do that with the IRS)--- no cheating required.

Tax your brain instead of your wallet. The solution is elegant and pleasing, if every bit as hard to find as enough cash to pay that tax bill. See how you do, then file your return by clicking your mouse on Read More to get your refund--- or if not exactly a refund, a look at the solution and some explanatory notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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Without

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The picture above dates to World War II, when many did without in support of the war effort. Luckily, today, in the free world we generally don't have to do without, as a minimum, the basic necessities.

In checkers, there is "doing without" as well; in today's study, the winning side has to make do without "the move." This is called in textbooks, logically enough, "first position without."

We know that first position is a win with two kings against a king and a man, as long as the side with two kings has the move. But checkers is full of subtle twists, and there are wins in some of these positions without having the move on the stronger side, hence the name "first position without." There are supposedly twenty or so of these exceptions to the general rule. Below you'll find one of them.

WHITE
20170215-without.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W22,K5:BK15,K6.

There are a couple of ways to do this, depending on how White plays. One of them is as proposed decades ago in Dr. Call's book of "Midget" problems. Another line is preferred by our KingsRow computer engine.

Can you find the win here, or will you have to do "without"? See how you do, and then "without" hesitation, click on Read More to see the solutions.20050904-symbol.gif

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April 1, 2017

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March is over and April has come around again, as it always does, with perhaps a promise of spring. This column is being first published on April 1, 2017, and you might do well to bear that in mind as you take a look at today's checker problem.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W22,K18,K17,14:BK32,K27,21,13.

We rate this one as very easy. You can solve it in seconds if you get the idea. But it's almost surely impossible if you don't see what's going on.

Are you sharp today? Don't fool around; puzzle it out and then click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

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In a recent article we asked you about your preferences in board diagrams, and although there were various opinions, a clear (and nearly overwhelming) majority seem to prefer black and white diagrams with the corresponding side notations of "Black" and "White." So, as of today, we're switching over. A good picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

The problem is that we didn't think the black and white diagrams were of especially high quality. But we're happy to say that we've found a way to "port" the excellent black and white diagrams used in our print publications over to the web. We'll spare you the technical details, which involve rather arcane Linux knowledge, and instead hope that you like our new, larger, clearer diagrams. Do write and let us know what you think.

So, let's start off with a fine problem from Samuel Gonotsky. This one is taken from over the board play and it's quite a nice early endgame study.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W11,13,21,26,32:B1,3,15,18,24.

Against best play by Black, White will have to work pretty hard to get the draw. Situations such as these are seldom pure black and white. Can you find your way through? Our computer found a neat move to make things much harder than we think Mr. Gonotsky intended, but that's the black and the white of it. Give it a try and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/25/17 - Printer friendly version
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A Little Lesson

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The young fellow above seems to be having some trouble with his lesson, at least judging by the state of the blackboard, the look on his face, and the number of books piled up beside him. Could those possibly be checker books, and might the bottom one be a library edition of Complete Checkers? We can't say for sure, but one can always hope.

In today's Checker School entry, we present a little lesson with a big payoff. The position is shown below.

J. WYLLIE
BLACK
20170209-fp177.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W27,24,19,17,13,K7:BK25,20,12,9,6,1.

What can White do here? The man on 17 is doomed and apparently White can only shuffle his king around and wait to lose. Yet there is an astounding draw here, one most worthy of the Herd Laddie. We call this a "little lesson" because Ben Boland was unusually brief in his commentary and there is only one sample game. Nonetheless we're certain you'll love this study, which is now approaching 150 years in age.

Give it a little try and then click your little mouse on the little Read More button to see the larger than life solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Unpublished Variation(s)

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The above quotation comes from the popular television series Downton Abbey, and surely it rings true for life in general.

But for our game of checkers, we suggest that the situation is different, and bringing to light unpublished play is sometimes instructive and revealing.

That's the case today, as we conclude our extended series on the Kelso taking from Willie Ryan's famed Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, with something Willie calls "a fine unpublished variation."

Let's first give the entire run-up, without commentary.


1. 10-15 22-18
2. 15x22 25x18
3. 6-10 18-14
4. 10x17 21x14
5. 9x18 23x14
6. 1-6 29-25
7. 12-16 26-23
8. 16-19 24x15
9. 11x18 28-24
10. 8-11 24-19
11. 4-8 31-26
12. 6-9 19-15
13. 11-16 26-22
WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W32,30,27,25,23,22,15,14:B18,16,9,8,7,5,3,2.

The critical position. Willie gives the following spectacular clearance as his main line draw:


14. 16-19 23x16
15. 7-11 16x7
16. 3x26 30x14
17. 9x18 27-23
18. 18x27 32x23
19. 2-7 Drawn.

But let's go back to the diagram. Willie says, "If 9-13 is played, 14-10, 7-14, 15-10 will be good enough ..." and certainly after 2-7 22-15 the draw is on the board. Now, Willie goes on to claim: ... if 16-20 is selected, the following leads to a draw: ..." and then he gives J. P. Murray's previously unpublished variation.

So, from this position:

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W32,30,27,25,23,22,15,14:B20,18,9,8,7,5,3,2.

can you find the White draw? This isn't especially easy, but what's interesting is that there are actually two drawing moves for White, one of which the computer discovered ... perhaps a whole new unpublished variation?

Give it your best effort, and the solution, which we'll certainly not leave unpublished, can be reached by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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As Easy As Pie

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We've often said that we present a range of problems in our Checker Maven columns; sometimes they're grandmaster tough, sometimes beginner easy, but most are usually somewhere in-between. We have readers with a very wide range of skills, and we try to provide something for everyone. We suggest the following: when you find a problem is tough, study the solution with a view to learning technique; when it seems easy, try for rapid sight recognition.

Today, though, we've got a truly easy-as-pie problem that even many early-stage checkerists will solve right away. See how quickly you can spot the solution!

WHITE
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BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W15,12,K9:B7,3,K1.

By the time you read this line, you've probably already solved it, but just in case, you can ease over to Read More to check your answer.20050904-symbol.gif

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Winter Break

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If you live in a cold North American climate, you probably can use a bit of a winter break. Now, there's a definite difference between a winter break--- an escape from the cold--- and a spring break, which is often associated with hijinx on the part of college students.

But we think a winter break can also stand a bit of mischief, at least of the checker nature. So we've chosen a problem that was originally titled "Maryland Mischief." Surely, Maryland can suffer from some serious winter weather, and perhaps this is a Marylander's way of taking a break. Have a look and see what you think.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play, What Result?

W:B7,11,17,22,24,K18,K31:W8,19,28,29,K4,K25.

Attributed to a Wilson Coudon of Elkton, Maryland, you can tell you're in for some mischief from the problem terms alone, as it's one of those "What Result?" puzzlers that often leave you guessing. That diagonal lineup looks pretty mischievious, too. Perhaps the fact that White is down a piece will provide a clue?

Take a short winter break and see what you can do with this one, then click your playful mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Leeds Express

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The British train known as the Transpenine Express certainly goes to Leeds, but the title of today's Checker School column deals with a position first published in an old newspaper known as The Leeds Express.

Surprisingly, our intrepid research department didn't turn up very much on this publication, which obviously enough once featured a draughts column. The most likely candidate is the Leeds Evening Express, published by Frederick Robert Spark starting in 1867. Today, there is a Leeds Express published by Johnston Publications, a major British publisher of local and regional newspapers. There was also the Skyrack & East Leeds Express, later called the Leeds Skyrack Express and then Leeds Express, which ended publication in 2002. But given the date of today's study, we'd stick with the Leeds Evening Express as the source.

Confusing? Unraveling publication histories is at times as difficult as solving a challenging checker problem. Now, the position below may not be the toughest ever, but it too surely requires some thought.

BLACK
20170108-fp177.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W27,24,19,17,13,K7:BK25,20,12,9,6,1.

Can you unravel this one? We ourselves had some serious unraveling to do, as you'll see when you click on Read More to see the solution, notes, and a sample game.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/18/17 - 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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