First, Martin Fierz has released a new version of CheckerBoard (click on the link to download). This release fixes and adds a few things, but mostly allows use of Hans L'Hoest's OCA database, a very large collection of checker games.
Checkerboard is surely one of the premiere checker interfaces available. We all owe Martin, big time, for developing, maintaining, and enhancing this fine software.
Second, Draughts Razoo, which to my knowledge is the only full-fledged checker print magazine (there are several newsletters), is discontinuing publication. The editor, Nick McBride, simply doesn't have the time any longer for such a major undertaking. 'Tis a pity. The days of my grandfather were filled with checker magazines and newspaper columns. Is there a single one left? Comment here if you know of any, for the benefit of us all.
Al Lyman, noted commentator, correspondence player, and checker educator, has proposed a monthly on-line magazine. This would be a "complete" magazine going well beyond an episodical blog such as The Checker Maven. Al is certainly well-qualified to do this and I wish him success. It's a lot of work; don't I know it! Keeping up The Checker Maven is effort enough, but a full monthly magazine will require concerted effort and a lot of help. I hope it works out and enriches the checker world thereby.
It doesn't come close to world-class results in Blondie24 either, despite the authors claim of expert-level play (although it doesn't do that badly either). However, though neural network programming is interesting and different, that isn't at all what makes this program unique. I won't spoil it for you here; just use as a clue the fact that the game is subtitled "Checkers With An Attitude."
Take a look at the review, check out the Digenetics web site, and see what you think. Then, for an objective look, check out this animated game between Blondie and Simple Checkers, showing surprising over-the-board play quality.
an original problem by contributing author Brian Hinkle
Only 2 players in the world have solved this 6x5 puzzle! Can you become the 3rd person to solve it?
So far only Alex Moiseyev and Jim Morrison could solve it.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most difficult) Alex gave it a 7, and Jim gave it an 8.5. Both enjoyed it thoroughly.
Gerry Lopez, Leo Levitt, Carl Reno and many others have all failed to solve it - even with computer help! A number of players simply thought it was set up wrong!
The solution will be published online here in The Checker Maven on May 7, 2005.
Please send any human (no computers answers please!) solution to:
How hard is this puzzle? Cast your vote here.
February 1, 2005 update: solved by Albert Tucker! Will you be the next one to crack this toughie?
Drop in the Chinook 8-piece database, and I bet you don't beat this one over the board.
In game 5, Willie Ryan made what was reported to be a colossal blunder, perhaps the worst of his career, and in the end it cost him the championship in this closely contested match (it ended 4 wins each with 42 draws, but Willie was the challenger and so failed to gain the crown).
In corresponding with skilled analyst Brian Hinkle, we challenged him with the position at which Ryan blundered. Brian of course figured out the correct move in only about five minutes, but then looked further. He did some detailed computer analysis which appears to show that Ryan's "blunder" actually could have garnered a draw, but he made a real slip some half-dozen moves later, costing him the game!
Could this have all gone undetected for 55 years? Have a look at the web page that we've put together, with computer analysis, diagrams, and the complete game and notes from the book:
That brings up the question that is often heard about checkers being "dead." The best computer programs today are at an extraordinarily advanced level, very likely beyond the best human players. Computer programs were always relatively good in checker tactics; but now, with enormous opening databases of half a million to a million positions, endgame databases which comprehensively solve endgames of up to 10 pieces, computer programs seem to know just about everything about checkers. The University of Calgary has as its goal the complete "solution" of checkers, and they think they will do this in the next few years. We believe that they will, in fact, accomplish this feat.
But does the fact that a "solution" for checkers exists (or will exist) mean that the game is "dead"? We think that is only true if you are playing against the world-class computer programs that know the "solution." In a game between humans, especially an over the board game, checkers is not and will never be "solved." There is too much challenge and enjoyment in the game as played by mere mortals.
What has this got to do with checker problems? It's simply that these problems, especially the better and more clever or entertaining ones, show the depth of the game. Struggle with a couple of these gems and you'll see what we mean. You'll find that there's a lot left for you personally in the grand old game. Visit Jim Loy's site and start with his beginner's problems. You'll quickly understand.
To follow the play presented in The Checker Maven you need to understand the numbered board and checker move notation.
With Black at the top, White at the bottom, the board is numbered in rows from left to right and top to bottom.
With White at the top, Black at the bottom, the board is numbered in rows from right to left and bottom to top.
These two numbering schemes are of course really the same thing; you are just looking at them from opposite sides.
A move is shown by listing the "from" and "to" square with a dash between them. For instance, 11-15 is the most popular Black starting move; Black moves the man on square 11 to square 15. 22-18 in reply forms the famous "Single Corner" opening; White moves the man on square 22 to square 18.
Captures are shown in the same way. Sometimes a dash is still used, sometimes an x. So continuing our game, Black jumps 15-22 or 15x22 if you prefer; Black jumps the man on 15 over to square 22 (capturing the White man on 18).
Multiple jumps, such as a double or triple jump, require you to pay attention, as the convention is to just show the start and end squares and not the in-between or intermediate squares. So the notation 1-3 would mean a King does a double jump from 1 to 10 to 3. The intermediate square is only shown if there are two ways to jump and it would not be clear otherwise.
In practice this is all very much easier than you might think, and you can learn the numbers with a couple of hours of practice. Some people prefer using numbered diagrams or a numbered board as a "helper." It's your choice, but we feel in the long run you are better off taking the time to learn the numbers, and avoiding long-term reliance on numbered boards and diagrams. Really, it's a piece of cake.