The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

Published each Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

Contests in Progress:

Composing Championship #71

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Three Kings


The photo above is of the Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It's a fitting header for today's Checker School column in which we present not just one but two problems involving three kings. Not ancient kings perhaps, but kings that figure prominently in instructive endgames.

The following pair of positions appeared in Andrew Banks' eclectic book Checker Board Strategy, which has been the basis of many recent Checker School columns.

The first one is really easy and is sort of a speedy warm-up. It's an illustration of finding a way to draw when a piece down. (Mr. Banks points out, however, that this position couldn't have arisen had not White blundered into it. Well, as they say, anything can and does happen in over the board play.)

Black to Play and Draw


The second one will be easy for the experts and good practice for the improving player. Winning three kings against two baffles many a novice, and even a surprising number of players above the novice level.

White to Play and Win


Give these problems a royal effort, and after you've put on the crowning touches, click on Read More to verify your solutions.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/09/23 -Printer friendly version-
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The Checker Maven: 19th Anniversary


This week The Checker Maven celebrates its 19th publication anniversary, and as we've said every year for some little while, we never expected to get this far, and we wouldn't have without our many loyal readers. We have no timetable and no prediction for how long our column will continue. It depends a lot on your aging editor's health and eyesight, neither of which are the best. All we can do is repeat that we'll go on as long as we reasonably can.

This anniversary we turn to someone whom we see as something of a role model, Bill Salot, who at above 90 years of age is still as active and productive as many who are many decades younger. We present one of Bill's best problems, about which noted problemist Brian Hinkle had the following to say.

"Roy Little and I decided to solve Bill's masterpiece The Clincher together by discussing it over the phone. We worked on it together, off and on, for about two months. I finally came up with the winning theme and shared my solution with Roy and he quickly agreed that I was correct."


This problem first appeared in Elam's Checker Board, April 1962, Page 5260, Scorpion Club Column, where it was called Traveling Man.

Tom Wiswell included it in his The Science of Checkers and Draughts, 1973, Page 46, where he renamed it The Clincher.

Mr. Salot notes, and Mr. Hinkle confirms, "Brian Hinkle took days to solve it."

White to Play and Win


Obviously this one isn't easy, but please join us in celebrating our anniversary by trying this one out. We're sure you'll like it, and you can always click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/02/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Thanksgiving Weekend 2023


This column will appear on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, 2023. We hope you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Perhaps you were off on Friday and are enjoying a four-day weekend. Maybe you participated in the crazy shopping day known as "Black Friday" when, it is said, the ledger sheets of merchants turn from loss (red) into profit (black).

However, and even if you are celebrating, it's a weekend that can always use a good checker problem and maybe you have a little extra leisure time to take one on. We often turn to Tom Wiswell for a holiday problem, so here's a position we think you'll really enjoy.

Black to Play and Win


Mr. Wiswell calls this one "The Gold Brick" and informs us as to its origin.

" ... White has just played 19-16 which allows Black a fine win. XXXX would have drawn, but many experts have walked into this inviting trap ... which originated from some analysis by the author (Mr. Wiswell) and Monte Schleifer."

We've redacted the move that White should have played and leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Try to solve this one. Maybe coffee and slice of pumpkin pie can be your reward once you win it ... or even if you don't, since you can always see the solution by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/25/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Problem Composing Contest 71: Pitches


Throwing pitches is a big part of the game of baseball. The heart of the sport is the battle between the pitcher and the batter, and a good pitcher (considering modern baseball contracts) is worth literally many times his or her weight in gold. (180 pounds of gold at the time of writing is valued at about US $5 million.)

Pitches are also a big part of the game of checkers. Pitching a piece, while on the surface a loss of material, can result in a winning situation some moves later--- if it's a good pitch and doesn't let the opponent hit a home run and win the game.

Contest 71, in Bill Salot's superb long running series of checker problem composition contests, involves pitches. The four contest problems can be found here. Be sure to check them out and vote for the one you like best.

As an introduction to the theme, here's an example by noted player, writer, analyst, and problemist Jim Loy. It's an excellent problem which Jim created independently. Unfortunately it didn't qualify for the contest as it had previously been discovered and published with colors reversed by T. Riley, as Problem 513 in Horsfall's Problem Book, 1909.

White to Play and Win


Will this problem throw you a curveball or be a sinker? We hope it's just a fastball that you can hit out of the park. Take a swing at it and then connect your mouse with Read More to see the solution. After that, go on to the contest page.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/11/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Every Way You Look At It, You Lose


In Simon and Garfunkel's famous song, Mrs. Robinson, there are the famous lyrics

"When you've got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose."

Seems like something that might often apply to our game of checkers, but do the lyrics apply to the following position?

White to Play and Draw


Well, not quite every way you look at it. There's one and only one way to draw in this position. Can you find it? This is not really a speed problem but neither is it too difficult; perhaps it's on the edge between "easy" and "medium." In any case don't be like Mrs. Robinson. Choose but don't lose, then click on Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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11/04/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Sorry About That


"Sorry about that" is a phrase that is often said when one isn't all that sorry about--- whatever "that" is. In the photo above, you would think whoever rammed the boat through the wall will be pretty darn sorry when they get the bill for repairs, if they aren't truly sorry already.

"Sorry about that" is sometimes said in our game of checkers, when a player wins a game that the opponent was hoping to win or at least draw themselves. Here's an example.

White to Play and Win


Black is hoping for a outside chance at a draw given the bridge position. As White, can you spoil it? The problem is very much on the easier side and probably qualifies as a "speed problem" but it still takes a bit of vision. Try it out. Don't just say "sorry about that." In any event, clicking on Read More will reveal the snappy solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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10/07/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Oh No!


"Oh no" was a song sung by a group called Marina and the Diamonds back in 2010. We must admit that no one in the Checker Maven offices has either heard of the song, or the group, for that matter. However the song contains the following timeless lyrics:

Da-da-dum, da-da-dum
Da-da-dum, da-da-dum
Da-da-dum, da-da-dum
Oh! Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no, oh!

In checkers, some of us tend to say "Oh no!" when we see a problem like the one below, with the dreaded label "Black to Play, White to Win." But nevertheless we've selected it as this month's Checker School entry. It's rather a challenge and is attributed to a Mr. E. A. Jones of Australia, date unknown but certainly prior to 1945, when it appeared in Andrew J. Banks' eclectic book, Checker Board Strategy.

Black to Play, White to Win


Can you solve this one or will you just say "Oh no!" or even "Da-da-da-da-da-da-dum"? No matter; clicking on Read More yields an "Oh yes!" about showing you the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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09/30/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Contest 70: Pawns Beat Kings


Although we have never been much for checker variants, there is an entertaining game called "Fox and Hounds." It can be played on a checkerboard. The fox has to escape the hounds and the hounds have to trap the fox. This is, in turn a variant of the old "Fox and Geese" game with similar rules but played on a board similar to that of Nine Men's Morris.


What does this have to do with us? Well, in the 70th iteration of Bill Salot's amazing Checker Problem Composing contests, the theme is "Pawns Beat Kings" and is in many way reminiscent of Fox and Hounds. Can the uncrowned men (hounds) defeat the powerful King (fox)?

There are three great problems on the contest page. Please try them out and then be sure to cast your vote for the one you like best. Meanwhile, here's an example of the theme. It's called Optical Illusion No. 81 and the composer is none other than Bill Salot himself--- at the age of 16! It was published in Elam's Checker Board on January 21, 1946.

White to Play and Draw


You don't need to defeat the mighty King; a draw will do. But can you manage it? Don't be a goose; try to outfox the opposition! When you're done, click on Read More to see the solution. Then, head on over to the contest page.20050904-symbol.gif

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09/16/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Labor Day 2023


In the United States and Canada, Labor Day, a day to honor the worker, takes place on the first Monday of September. (In most of the world, it's on May 1 and goes under various names.) The Checker Maven has always respected workers of every category and we believe there is no work, no matter what it may be, that doesn't deserve recognition and appreciation when it is done honestly and with good intent. Hats off to the workers of the United States and Canada!

This Labor Day we turn to a great American problemist of yesteryear, Charles Hefter. His composition is simultaneously practical and elegant. Tommie Wiswell said it may be one of Mr. Hefter's best.

White to Play and Draw


To paraphrase a great modern day American problemist, Brian Hinkle, "Forces are even; it should be easy, right?" Actually, we rate it as moderate in difficulty, just right for a little Labor Day amusement in-between the picnics and the parades.

"Work" it out and then "work" your mouse over to Read More to view the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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09/02/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Checker School: All Kings


The picture above shows the Battle of Kings Mountain from the American Revolution. It was a common thing back in the day for battles to involve locations named for kings, be fought under kings, and at times even fought by the kings themselves. A battle of kings is certainly common in our game of checkers, and in this month's Checker School column, we look at a massive battle of five kings against four.

That would seem to be simple, wouldn't it? After all, the side with five kings has greater forces and ought to win. But it may (or likely may not) surprise you to know that many untrained checker players have trouble with two kings defeating one, and absolutely no idea what to do with three kings against two, let alone the larger arrays of four against three or five against four. You have to know what you're doing and in the larger settings patience and technique make up the order of the day.

Here's a five against four situation. Are you up to winning it?

White to Play and Win


Give this position a royal effort and then click on Read More to see one possible solution and some additional commentary.20050904-symbol.gif

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08/26/23 -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 2004-2023 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.


Numbered Board and Notation

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Reisman: Checkers Made Easy

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