The Checker Maven presents as its most unusual offering for January the following mind-boggler attributed to a Mr. W. Veal. It is a "stroke" problem, that brand of spectacular, if unrealistic fireworks that appeals to some and is anathema to others.
To be sure, the position below is composed and obviously impossible; there just aren't that many pieces in a game, and they could never get into such a contorted distribution. But for the fan of the stroke problem, realism isn't the issue. The whole point is a clever key move or two, and lots of action afterwards.
Now, depending on what computer program you use, you may or may not be able to coax it into solving this for you. But you really should try it on your own. And since the play is mostly all forced, the challenge is more in trying to visualize the moves than it is in actually finding the solution. But the visualization challenge is mind-boggling indeed. Can you make it out or will this just drive you over the edge?
The Flora Temple attack has been an interesting line of the Single Corner opening for many decades, and much has been published about it. I was doing some research, trying to understand a man-down draw arising in the Flora Temple, and came across a real thriller of a game in an old checker manual. It took place many, many years ago as part of a match between the London Wanderers and the Manchester Central Draughts Club. Here's the game (in PDN notation):
[Event "London v. Manchester"]
[Date "Long Ago"]
1. 11-15 22-18 2. 15x22 25x18
3. 12-16 29-25 4. 9-13 24-19
5. 16-20 28-24 6. 8-11 19-16
7. 4-8 16-12 8. 11-16 18-14
9. 10x17 21x14 10. 6-10 25-21
11. 10x17 21x14 12. 13-17 23-18
13. 2-6 26-23 14. 6-9 24-19
15. 17-21 19-15 16. 1-6 31-26
17. 7-10 14x7 18. 3x19 12x3
19. 19-24 3-8 20. 24x31 8-12
21. 31x15 12x1 22. 9-13 1-6
23. 5-9 23-18 24. 20-24 6-10
25. 13-17 10-15 26. 17-22 15-19 0-1
A nice win for White.
You can play through an animated version by clicking here.
Now, here's the question: where did Black go wrong? There's a very definite spot in the game where the losing move is played. Can you find it, and can you come up with the correct move to draw?
Click on Read More when you think you have the answer and compare your solution with KingsRow.
(This article was rewritten on 09 February 2005 due to newly found information affecting its accuracy.)
Take a good look at the image below. It's an artist's conception of a serious checker game in a rural grocery store. Nice drawing, but the artist was clearly not a checker player.
However, the game these two are playing in fact could be one of two (or maybe even more, but we know of two) little-known checker variants, one of them quite old and the other quite modern. The game also looks a lot like (but isn't quite) several other unusual variants.
Do you know what variants would be an exact match? Can you name a few also-rans that don't quite make it?
Click on the picture to see a larger version; then come back and click on Read More for the solution.[Read More]
The title of this problem is a saying of Tom Wiswell's, and when you find (or see) the solution, you'll understand the wisdom of it. The position arose in a handicap game that Mr. Wiswell played something like 50 years ago.
You might find this one a little difficult unless you're used to solving a certain type of problem (but if I told you what type I might be giving away too much). Good luck! When you've solved it, click here for an animated solution.
These have been fine items, though the "swirly" checkers are not strictly regulation, and the Danish checkers are a bit on the thin side. Now, Carol has improved her offerings by obtaining Roger Blaine's special order stock of genuine solid color Crisloid red and whites, in both 1.25 and 1.50 inch diameter sizes.
I splurged on both of these sets, and they are wonderful. The color and manufacture is uniform and the "feel" of the pieces is great. These are true regulation checkers, and an excellent value at $20 for the small and $30 for the large, plus $4 for shipping. Get them while they last!
You can reach Carol through her web site, as linked above, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On January 11, Mississippi newspapers published this article about Walker's January 7 arrest and indictment on Federal money laundering charges. The charges are tied to a series of companies operated by Walker, including the International Checkers Hall of Fame.
Prominent checker personalities and officials have been quick to point out the outstanding contributions made over a period of decades by Mr. Walker to the game of checkers. He has been a tireless promoter and organizer and has worked hard on behalf of the checker-playing community.
The charges against Mr. Walker are serious indeed. But let's not forget that in America, a man is innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Walker deserves fair consideration and a fair trial. And no matter the outcome, his record of service to the checker world will always stand.
February 1, 2005 update: additional news stories can be found here.
"This problem has been dubbed by experts the champion 'coffee and cake' problem. This means that you can set this problem up for your friends and bet them coffee and cake that they cannot win it."
I bet Brian Hinkle coffee and cake, and not surprisingly, I now owe him! But can you win it? Give it a good try and then treat yourself to coffee and cake no matter the outcome.
You can view an animated solution here. Did you win coffee and cake?
In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, January is a cold month, and so a warmup might be just the thing! Here is a simple problem to get you started with this month's Checker Maven challenges--- but beware, they all won't be this easy!
Brian Hinkle sent us this run-up from the Double Corner opening:
A---A defense from Teschelheit's Master Play of the Checkerboard, unfortunately unsound.
B---Loses at once, although White is probably already lost. One alternative line of play from the KingsRow computer engine is this: 26-23 19x26 30x23 11-15 18x11 8x15 32-27 5-9 31-26 4-8 25-22 8-11 23-18 15-19 27-23 11-16 17-13 7-11 29-25 1-5 22-17 3-8 17-14 8-12 25-22 11-15 18x11 9x27 Black Wins.
After 31-27, the following position arises:
How quickly can you solve this one? Click on Read More for the solution - but give it a good try first.[Read More]
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.