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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In the Grand Manner

We spent a pleasant interval at our Honolulu office, where we made quite a bit of progress on our "electronic classics" projects. But now we're back in Santa Fe, and, lo and behold! The Santa Fe Opera performance season is in full swing!

Along with the Grand Old Game, there is little that is as wonderful as Grand Opera, performed by a truly world class company such as we are privileged to have here in Santa Fe.


White to Play and Win
To celebrate this summer's opera season, we turn, as one might expect, to Tom Wiswell, and a fine problem he captions In the Grand Manner. Give it a try and see if you don't think it, too, is world class. Then, click on Read More to verify your moves, and try out a thematically-related "bonus" problem.

Just a word of caution: today's problem is "grand" in terms of difficulty as well as content. If you solve it, congratulations --- you might wish to reward yourself with a front row seat at the Santa Fe Opera!

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07/30/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven is Looking for Stringers

One of the most asked-for items in our recent user survey was annotated games from recent events. We've earlier remarked that delivering on this will not be easy, and so we're looking for volunteer "stringers" among our readership and elsewhere.

Now, we know that up-to-the-minute tournament results and standings are generally posted on the Checker Solutions BBS (see link at left), or on specific websites. We're not looking to compete or "double up" in this area, and we're not looking to publish games, play, or analysis without proper permissions and clearances. We know that in a number of cases, game scores are kept in reserve for contributors.

However, having said all that, if you're in a position to provide us with timely news, play, or commentary from checker events, and doing so wouldn't be in conflict with what we've stated above, your contributions would be heartily welcomed. Full credit would be given, and in return you can have any share you want of our subscription fees. (Let's see, we learned in school that any number times zero is ....)

We hope to hear from you!

07/27/05 - Printer friendly version
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Welcome to Checker School

Our May Checker Maven Reader's Survey demonstrated to us the popularity of our electronic republications of classic checker literature, and contained suggestions to publish more as time permits. In response to these requests, we're inaugurating a new series that we're calling Checker School. This will, over time, amount to new electronic editions of Ben Boland's classics Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers, and Familiar Themes. These are seminal works that prove as valuable today as they did when they were published over six decades ago. Now, these books contain much complex material, so a complete reissue will likely take many months if not years, but we're working at it!

Let's get started with a delicate endgame of a very practical nature. Class is in session!

N. Currie

Black to Play and Draw

Click on Read More for the solution, a runup to the position, and additional notes and quotes from Famous Positions.

(Editor's Note: the color diagrams will return as soon as we work through our article backlog.)

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07/23/05 - Printer friendly version
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Three Easy Strokes, Part Three

Here's the last of our "easier" stroke problems, at least in this series. Will you find this one to be a July cruiser, or something more? Solve it, check your solution by clicking Read More, and then prepare yourself --- next month's problem is going to be a summer scorcher.


White to Play and Win
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07/16/05 - Printer friendly version
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Two Easy Pieces: Sixth Edition

Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard, presented here in a new electronic edition, is up to the sixth installment. Here's what Willie has to say on page 16 of the book.


White to Play and Win
'The issue is clearly drawn in Example 11. The white king on square 22 has a strangle hold on black's pieces on squares 13 and 29, but the black king on square 1 is threatening to go 1-5 next, followed in order by 5-9 and 9-14, and then releasing his impounded pieces by squeezing 14-17, thus driving the white king on square 22 from its potent position. The proposition, therefore, is for white to maintain control of square 22 by preventing the black king on square 1 from effectively advancing up to square 14. This is artistically accomplished by the "shift and stem" principle. It's easy to master these tactical "killers" with step-by-step study.

White to Play and Win
And now we come to one of the most common of all tactical tricks--- the ever useful pinch play. As the term suggests, a pinch is a move that puts pressure on an opposing piece so that it cannot avoid capture, whereas in a "squeeze" play the threatened piece can avoid capture by moving to an adjoining square. All checker strategy is premised on force, carried out by tactical devices, and the pinch and squeeze are two of the most frequently employed weapons of the adroit tactician. Example 12 is a sparkling illustration of a delayed pinch, wherein white eventually forces black to lose a piece (and the game) by a perfectly timed pincer.'

You can check your solutions by clicking on Read More.

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07/09/05 - Printer friendly version
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Get on the Merry-Go-Round with this month's speed problems. How fast can you turn them around? The clock is running, can you solve these before your ride is over?

Click on Read More to check your solutions.

(We are always in need of speed problems. If you have any that you'd like us to publish, please contact us using the contact link in the left column.)

Problem 1. Very easy.

Problem 2. Easy.

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07/02/05 - Printer friendly version
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Fifth Reprise: Two Easy Pieces

Here is the fifth installment of our continuing series from Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard. As always, we're here to listen to the man himself; click on Read More to check your solutions.


White to Play and Win
'Example 9 is such a simple win that white can polish off black in just three of his own moves; and yet this "pitch-a-piece and block" coup has been muffed even by better class players. At first glance, white appears to have a win by playing 32-28, but black counters with 14-17, 22-13, 7-10, 13-9, 10-14, 19-15, 16-19, 23-16, 12-19, 9-6, 14-18, and steals the piece on square 27 to draw. One of the most fascinating factors in scientific checker play is the element of surpirse. Example 9 features a position that, by ordinary processes of play, can only be drawn; but a jolting pitch (sacrifice) at the right moment changes the complexion of the situation decisively.

White to Play and Win
White doesn't have the move or opposition to win in Example 10, and there appears to be no way to effect an exchange to get it. This poses the question, "Is there any way white can alter the move in Example 10 without actually making an exchange?" The answer is yes---by the "pitch and grip" idea. The pitch and grip is precisely what the term implies. You pitch a piece and then apply a grip that forces black to lose not only a piece but the move and the game as well. Some of the ideas we have discussed in this chapter occur more often than others in play, but all are equally important to mastery of the game. Usage of all sorts of ideas is what makes checkers a fascinating study and a challenge to one's ingenuity.'

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06/25/05 - Printer friendly version
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A Great Shot, But Can You Win The Ending?

(We are taking a short break and so this really is our last Wednesday column until September. Saturday columns will of course continue without interruption.)

On this "Anything Can Happen" Wednesday, we bring you a game played by guest author Ingo Zachos in a recent matchup on the It's Your Turn on-line game site. Capitalizing on an error by his opponent, Ingo finds a thrilling shot--- and then still has to demonstrate the win in the endgame! We've interspersed Ingo's own interesting comments and analysis with our own, which are due to running the world-class King's Row program at 15 minutes per move.

Ingo Zachos - Raymond Faircloth
It's Your Turn January 2005
with commentary by Ingo Zachos

1.11-15 23-18
2.8-11 27-23
3.4-8 23-19
4.10-14 19x10
5.14x23 26x19

I know 6.7x14 is the fashion, but I was inspired by Game 7 of the GAYP World Championship of 1956, Wiswell- Fraser, after reading International Checkers and Draughts.

7.7x14 24-19
8.11-16 31-26

Here Fraser played 8...19-15 and after 9.16-19 22-17 10.14-18 25-22 11.18x25 29x22 12.12-16 22-18 13.16-20 17-14 14.9-13 14-10 15.19-23 18-14 16.2-7 31-26 17.7-11 26x19 18.11x18 he played 19-16 and lost, thus: (18...32-27 19.18-22 19-16 20.8-12 16-11 21.12-16 28-24 22.22-25 21-17 23.13x22 30x21 24.22-26 21-17 25.26-31 10-7 26.3x10 14x7 27.1-6 7-3 28.6-10 3-7 29.10-15 7-10 30.16-19 27-23 31.19x26 10x19 32.20x27 19-23 is given by Dr. Fraser as drawn.) 19.18-23 16-12 20.8-11 10-7 21.3x17 21x14 22.1-6 12-8 23.13-17 8-3 24.17-21 3-8 25.23-27 8x15 26.6-9 32x23 27.9x27 28-24 28.27-31 24-19 29.20-24 15-18 30.24-28 19-16 31.28-32 18-22 32.32-27 16-12 33.5-9 22-17 34.27-23 12-8 35.23-19 8-3 36.19-15 3-7 37.31-27 7-2 38.15-10 17-22 39.27-23

9.16x23 26x19

10.9-13 trying to avoid the rapid advance of White's single corner side, is better, but I underestimated the power of the man on 15. (King's Row thinks any of 2-6, 1-6, 2-7, 8-11, 9-13, or 3-7 are about equal. --Ed.)

11.11x18 22x15

I also calculated 12.2-7 28-24! but there seemed to be equality with less chances of a tactical surprise. (The idea was the trick 12...15-10? 13.14-17 21x14 14.9x18 to a neat win.) 12.3-8?! would be a minor variation because of 15-10 and the piece on 10 is very disturbing. (In fact, Kings's Row agrees that 3-8 is weak. --Ed.)


Sometimes masters say they calculate 50 moves ahead. Well, here I already saw the final position of this game in my mind very clearly and knew it was won.

13.1-6 as indicated by the programs, might be better, but during the game I evaluated it as drawn.

(Editor's note: King's Row thinks 12. ... 15-11 is inferior, though not an outright loss, and prefers 30-26 or 25-22. But King's Row disagrees with our author over 13.14-17, rating the resulting position as a draw. As our author points out 1-6 is preferred but the game is still far from a win.)

14.9x18 30-26?

Believe it or not, this is already the fatal mistake.


Red to Play and Win

(Editor's note: let's pause here. Ingo is about to play an exciting shot. Can you spot it? And if you can, are you able to demonstrate the win after the shot is complete? When you've figured it out, click on Read More to see the rest of the game.)

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06/22/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Last of the Masked Men

Our Masked Man problem series draws to a close with this month's article. We hope you've enjoyed it. Perhaps we can run another similar series sometime in the future.

If you can identify the problemist in the photo below, you're doing really well at this sort of thing.

Now, here's his problem. Our guest problemist gives the terms as White to Play and Win. What do you think?

White to Play and Win
Can It Be Done?
White is a man up and by rights ought to win, but can you do it? Can it in fact be done at all?

Check your solution by clicking on Read More. Intended to be of "medium" difficulty, this one packs a surprise. Even if you solve it easily, though, by all means read the commentary which accompanies the solution.

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06/18/05 - Printer friendly version
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Three Easy Strokes, Part Two

We continue again this month with our "summer light" series of easier-than-usual stroke problems with this offering for June, which is, as you will see if you figure it out, a bit mis-labeled. And be forewarned, after this series concludes it's back to the hard ones!

After you solve it click on Read More to check your answer.


White to Play and Win
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06/15/05 - Printer friendly version
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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i, as a completely non-commercial public service from which no profit is obtained or sought. Original material is Copyright © 2004-2019 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.

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