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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Richard Pask's Revised 'Key Openings'

We are very pleased and privileged to offer for download Grandmaster Richard Pask's revision to his classic 1999 work, Key Openings. The book can be downloaded here in PDF format, which, though giving rise to a larger download, is a stable format which will reproduce in the same manner on all computers and printers.

Our thanks to Mr. Pask for the opportunity to place this work before the checker playing public.

04/29/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Masked Man is Back in Town

Continuing our monthly "Masked Man" series, this month's offering is perhaps the most difficult to date. Can you identify the problemist pictured above (posing with his daughter), and then solve the problem below?
BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Draw
Forces are even, but White's freedom of movement seems limited... can you pull off the draw? No less than four "star" moves will be necessary.

Check your solution, and learn the identity of the composer, by clicking on Read More.

[Read More]
04/27/05 - Printer friendly version
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A Draw Move Is To Be Made Every Time

The history-in-the-making internet match between the US and Great Britain is moving to a conclusion, with the British leading as of this writing with a tally of four wins, two losses, and 22 draws. Three board positions are still in progress. Complete details are on the official tournament site.

Here at the New Mexico office of The Checker Maven we're continuing to muse over articles published in 1926 in The Morris Systems Checkerist just prior to the 2nd International Match, played between the US and Great Britain over the board, back in those Golden Days. But things were not simple then, either; the magazine tells of quite a heated controversy in selecting the final two American players for the twelve-player team. We've simply got to requote in part a short piece that the magazine reproduced from the Lynn Item:

"...They have selected 10 players for American team and these are Heffner, Banks, Horr, Gonotsky, Long, Ginsberg, Reynolds, Lieberman, Hanson and O'Grady. There are two more to be chosen and they talk of such men as Bradford, Duffy, Lieber and Dossett.

"It would have been better had the team been held down to 10 men a side, which was the number 20 years ago. The 10 now selected are all good players although there are one or two who should do a lot of practicing from now until the opening of the match; and then play safe and sure instead of taking new lines which they have picked out for themselves and which they may think will trip their opponents. Cooks are not to be thought of in this kind of play but a draw move is to be made every time."

The piece was written by John H. Finn, who, obviously, would not have been of a mind with the likes of draughts champion Derek Oldbury or American football coach Vince Lombardi.

04/25/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Fun Shot in the Single Corner Opening: Conclusion

(Please see our previous article for the first part of this story.)

BLACK

WHITE
White to Move - and Win?
Billie stood confidently in front of the big demonstration board at the front of the crowded auditorium, squinting his face and waggling his tongue. The audience was cheering and chanting, "Billie! Billie! Billie-Billie-Billie!" Then Billie made his move. It was----

26-22.

Was that a smug look on Marvin's face? Could our hero possibly be thinking, well, less than charitable thoughts about getting even after being heckled by Billie and some of the others? Would Marvin J. Mavin do such a thing?

Marvin smiled, and said, rather loudly, "Hmmph. Well, son, that was a logical move, but unfortunately, it won't get you a win!"

Billie seemed taken a bit aback. He thought for a moment, remembering his teacher's instructions to be "on your best behavior," and then replied with a snicker, "Wanna bet, beer belly?" There was a ripple of laughter from the audience, although clearly the adults in charge seemed rather unhappy with this turn of events.

"Well, young man, I imagine I had better teach you a lesson," said Marvin in his most authoritarian tone.

The game then continued along, with Marvin and Billie moving the pieces about on the demonstration board:

17x26 31x22 1-6 28-24 4-8 23-19 6-10 19-16 8-11 16x7 2x11 24-19 9-14 32-28 5-9 27-23 11-15 30-25 15x24 28x19 9-13 25-21 13-17 22x13 29-25 13-9 25-22 9-6 22-18 21-17 18x27 17-13 Drawn.

(Click here for animation.)

"And now, my fine little friend, what do you think?" asked Marvin.

"Uh, I, well, uh, ya know, I 'spose mebbe it's like, ya know, a draw or sumthin'.....," stammered Billie.

"And INDEED IT IS! It's a DRAW!" exclaimed the hero of the Doublejumpers. "Shall I show you how you should have played it?" he added.

Billie's face had that "I'd rather be anywhere but here" look, and the crowd didn't seem very happy, either.

"Of COURSE you want to know!" continued Marvin. He reset the pieces (to the state diagrammed at the beginning of this article) and then showed the following play (neglecting, of course, to attribute this winning line to the KingsRow computer program):

28-24 1-6 24-19 9-13 19-15 17-21 15-11 29-25 26-22 25x18 23x14 13-17 31-26 6-9 14-10 9-13 26-23 17-22 10-7 22-25 7-3 5-9 23-19 2-6 3-7 9-14 19-15 13-17 7-10 6-9 27-23 25-29 10-6 9-13 6-9 White Wins.

(Click here for animation.)

"It's not a simple win, and White has to play it correctly, but the win is there IF you are good enough to figure it out!" Marvin concluded. But Billie had slunk back off the stage, muttering to himself something about how computers make funny-looking moves.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) there was no applause. The young audience was filled with frowns and sullen looks. Their school champion, Billie, had been shown up by Marvin. Now, at first one by one, and then a few at a time, and finally in large groups, the audience began to silently exit the auditorium. In just a few minutes, there was no one left but Marvin, a few teachers, and the Principal, Mr. I. B. Cylindrical. This latter august personage went up to Marvin, shook his hand, and said, "Um, yes. Well. Um, thanks. Yes, thanks. For visiting our school. Um, the children, yes, the pupils, well. It's clear how much they admire you."

There was a long, quiet pause. "Um, seems cold for April, don't you think? Yes, um, cold. It feels chilly in here." Mr. Cylindrical continued with a few more equally apt remarks as he accompanied Marvin out of the auditorium. Marvin then said his farewells and crossed the parking lot, where his 1973 Volkswagen Beetle was waiting to take him to the nearest bar.

[Read More]
04/23/05 - Printer friendly version
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Crime Does Not Pay

A little while back we lamented the presence of computer-using cheaters on the major online play sites. We recently came across an article published over 80 years back in the Morris-Systems Checkerist magazine that highlights a similar problem, and how one cheater got what he had coming. We've reprinted the article below.

Illegal Move Proves Boomerang
Falls Into Graceless Trap After Double Move
The desire to win in any form of competitive sport is a very human one. Facing a man who is a degree stronger or more skillful, and submitting to defeat after defeat is a test of character, temper, fortitude--or, reduced to one word, a test of sportsmanship. Occasionally we encounter an individual for whom the hunger of victory is so intense that while he would probably shrink from attempting an unfair or unethical move in other walks of life, he has but meager scruples as to the management of his game, and in order to gain the upper hand resorts to illegitimate tactics. The number of such is of course infinitely small compared with those who would rather be riddled to pieces than surrender their principles of good sportsmanship; but even the insignificant number of sly-hand movers is to be regretted.

Not always, however, is it profitable for the sly-hander to make his moves unseen, and the man who thinks he is "getting away with it" will find now and then that he has dug a pit for himself too deep for escape.

We happened into a rather amusing demonstration of this not long ago while watching a player of good repute in a park exhibition where he was handling a number of boards simultaneously. As the exhibition player went from board to board we noticed that one of his opponents near us advanced a piece as if to test the position, then glanced up to see if he had been observed. When the exhibition player appeared at this board again the opponent made his regular move, but the piece he had advanced a minute before remained where he had placed it. The exhibitionist was plainly surprised. Evidently he had remembered the earlier position. We saw him eye his man with a keen glance, but said nothing, made his move and then went on to the next board.

Later, in the end game, the position on the board was as shown (below).

Exhibition Player--White

"Double Mover"--Black
The exhibition player had the white side. As he passed down the aisle to other boards, the "double mover," seeing himself pursued by the white king, made another illegitimate move, going from 5 to 9, with the thought of preventing white from playing 8-11 (which would then lose to 20-16 --Ed.). He scratched his head as if wondering whether his conscience would stand for it. When the checker performer returned to the board he caught the situation at a glance. He raised himself to a straight posture and looked squarely at his man, puzzled for words, but unwilling to embarrass the other while the crowd stood by. Nevertheless, his steady, searching look told the "double mover" he was discovered. Here is a picture of the board after the illegitimate move:
Black--"Double Mover"

White--Exhibition Player
White to Move and Win
Studying the situation carefully the exhibition player smiled inwardly as he became aware that his opponent had unwittingly entangled himself in the coils of a binding trap.

Had the "double mover" been content with his first illegal move he might have gained a draw, but when he repeated his offense, he apparently aroused the wrath of the checker g-ds and brought himself to swift and sorry doom.

How did the Exhibition Player give the "Double Mover" his comeuppance? Solve the problem and click on Read More for the solution.

[Read More]
04/20/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Manchester Draughts Club

It's a Wednesday evening, and you've just finished a day at one of the editorial offices of The Checker Maven. You're in the mood for a good game of checkers and you wouldn't mind a beer as an accompaniment.

If you're at our Santa Fe office, you might head out to your favorite cantina for chips and salsa, and a Dos Equis Amber to go along with them, but the only checker competition you'll find is on the internet.

If you're at our Honolulu office, you can catch the live-on-the-beach sunset show on Kalakaua Boulevard, and afterwards maybe have a Hinando at Duke's Barefoot Bar; and you can even play chess at the famed beachfront pavilion at the corner of Kealohilani. But if you want to play checkers, you'd better head back to the office and go online.
If you were in Manchester, England, though, you'd really be in luck. No, The Checker Maven isn't going to be opening an office there, at least not yet. But even better, Manchester is home to the Manchester Draughts Club, which meets Wednesday evenings at The Castle.
Founded in its present form by Dr. John Reade and Bill McKay in 1990, the club chose The Castle because of its old-fashioned ambiance, good service, and fine selection of Robinson's Cask Beers. These draughts players know what enjoyment truly is!

The club was created to provide a venue for casual cross-board play, as a welcome alternative to correspondence play, which had been the only local option for nearly a decade. But under the inspiration of Frank McDonald, the club soon introduced competitive play, which quickly rose to a high level of skill and achievement.

Internally, the club sponsors both 3-move and go-as-you-please (freestyle) leagues and knockout tournaments. Winners from these competitions qualify as challengers for the Lancashire 3-move and freestyle championships each year. As of this writing (April 2005) Frank Bednall is the reigning 3-move champion, while Donald Oliphant holds the freestyle crown. In addition, the club puts on two open tournaments each year, in memory of two former Lancashire players: the Arthur Jones 3-Move Tournament, played in the spring, and the Ronald Bumby Freestyle Tournament, played in the autumn.


Donald Oliphant, 3-Move Lancashire County Champion, and Melvyn Green, Challenger
Photo by Sue Reade
But the club doesn't stop with just that. Lancashire County enters two teams for the British Counties Championship each year, and the Lancashire South team is staffed by the Manchester Draughts Club. Lancashire South won the championship in 2003, and is through to the second round thus far this year (2005).

Lancashire South (Manchester) Win the 2003 British Counties Championship
From left: Matthew Eke, John Reade, Donald Oliphant, Melvyn Green, Eddie O'Gara
Photo by Sue Reade
Dr. Reade extends his invitation to checkers and draughts players who find themselves in the Manchester area on a Wednesday evening to ring him at 0161-643-2985 and arrange for a few games at The Castle. The club plays from opening at 7:30 PM until closing at 11:00 PM, and you're certain to find top-notch competition and the best of British beer.

To be sure, chips and salsa in Santa Fe is fine fare, and the sunset show on the beach in Waikiki is a great experience, but compared with quality over-the-board draughts play and a few pints of Robinson's, you know what our choice would be.

The Checker Maven thanks Dr. John Reade for providing text and photos as the basis of this article.

04/16/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Lancashire Checker Newsletter

You've read in our companion article about competitive over the board play and excellent beer at the Manchester Draughts Club. The "rest of the story" is the Lancashire Checker Newsletter, published on alternate months, also by Dr. John Reade. This is a professional quality twelve page printed newsletter, with feature articles, news items, commented games, and challenging problems.

The best of this is that the newsletter is available by subscription to anyone who wants it; the annual cost is just 10 pounds in the UK, 15 euros in the rest of Europe, and $20 in the USA. Dr. Reade offers the first two years for the price of one at initial signup. He may be reached by email at sue.reade@virgin.net. Trust us; you won't want to miss out on this fine publication.

Dr. Reade has given us permission to feature a problem from the February 2005 newsletter. It is by American problemist Will H. Tyson, who lived from 1865 to 1928.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Move and Win
You will find this of approximately intermediate difficulty, with a nice theme, an instructive solution, and a great opportunity for less experienced players such as the editor of The Checker Maven to go badly wrong. As usual, click on Read More to check your answers.

[Read More]
04/16/05 - Printer friendly version
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Hidden Beauty on a Draughtsboard

Our article title is the subtitle of Melvyn Green's Stroke Problems, a large and grand collection of original compositions by the Salford, England master of the art. Mr. Green has very kindly given us permission to publish one of what he terms the "easier" situations from his book.

Melvyn Green's Stroke Problems - #82
BLACK

WHITE
White to Move and Win
Well, easy is relative; try your luck on this entertaining and very pleasing offering. We're sure you'll be delighted, and will want to have your own copy of Melvyn's book; you can contact the webmaster for information on how to obtain it.

Oh, the solution? Click on Read More.... but only if you must!

[Read More]
04/13/05 - Printer friendly version
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Richard Pask's Supplement to Oldbury's Move Over

Grandmaster Richard Pask has completed his supplement to Derek E. Oldbury's classic Move Over, and has very kindly allowed us to offer it here for download.

Move Over (which itself can be downloaded from here) is a true classic, a work that was controversial in its time and which still excites the interest of every two-fisted checker player. Now, Grandmaster Pask has provided insightful commentary on the original text, as well as solutions to the problems at the end of the book--- problems which have proven perhaps somewhat more challenging than Oldbury had anticipated.

Be sure to read Mr. Pask's latest work, which is as much a fine tribute to a great player as it is a superb elucidation of a classic text.

Note: the download at the moment is in "Word" format, meant to be printed on A4 paper, and requiring Jim Loy's checker font to render the title page illustration correctly.

04/11/05 - Printer friendly version
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Masterpiece

Here is an elegant problem by an unknown author, as originally published by Tom Wiswell. It is not easy but is worth the effort.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win
Mr. Wiswell called it Masterpiece and we're sure you'll agree when you have it figured out. His solution can be seen by clicking on Read More.

What, indeed, makes a problem a true masterpiece? Is it an elegant solution, a deep or hidden theme, a surprise ending, or other factors? We'll combine today's problem with this short survey asking what you like most in a checker problem.

[Read More]
04/09/05 - 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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