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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Who's Number One?

As this article goes to press, the battle has been joined to decide who is Number One in the world of British/American checkers and draughts. Alex Moiseyev of the United States is defending his world championship against long-time rival Ron "Suki" King of Barbados. Alex is providing his own colorful daily commentary on the Checker Solutions BBS, and it's not to be missed.

After today's play (27 May 2005) Alex is leading Ron 5 to 2 with 13 draws. This is spirited, fighting checkers - how often do we see 7 out of 20 grandmaster games end in a victory? But no matter who finally emerges from this battle as the present-day Number One, we're seeing checkers at its very best.

(Editor's note, 01 June 2005: Alex wins the match with a score of 8 wins, 3 losses, and 25 draws!)

Right now, though, we want to take you back to an earlier contest for the claim to the title of Number One, a match held in the U.K. in 1958 between the American great Marion Tinsley and the British grandmaster Derek Oldbury. Tinsley walked out the undisputed world champion with nine wins, one loss, and 24 draws. Despite the seemingly uneven score, the match was hotly contested and produced some very fine play.

But the match also produced a few unexpected and memorable errors! Today we'll ask you to take on the persona first of Marion Tinsley and next of Derek Oldbury, as you try to find the move to save the game, in positions unexpectedly lost by these stars of yesterday.

Here's a position from the very first game of the match:

WHITE (Oldbury)

BLACK (Tinsley)
Black to Play and Draw
Tinsley played 5-9? and lost at once to 7-16 12-19 27-24 White (Oldbury) wins. It was a shocking defeat, and The Times of London headlined: 'Sensational' Opening Win In World Draughts Contest. Can you find the line of play that would have secured the draw for Marion Tinsley?

Now let's leap ahead to Game Seven. Here's the situation:

WHITE (Tinsley)

BLACK (Oldbury)
Black to Play and Draw
Oldbury, to everyone's surprise, played 4-8 and lost to 19-16 12-19 24-15 10-19 23-16 8-11 16-7 2-11 26-23 11-16 28-24 White (Tinsley) wins. What would have been the course of action for Oldbury to get the draw?

Click on Read More to see how your play stacks up.

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05/28/05 -Printer friendly version-
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A Not-So-Mysterious Stranger

The May installment of our ongoing "Masked Man" series will give our readers a bit of a reprieve, and a chance to perhaps actually guess the identity of our featured problemist.

As in previous months, your task is to identify the problem composer pictured above, and solve his checker problem, given below.

Black to Play and Draw
Black is a man up, but about to lose (at least) one of the members of his armed forces. We'd rate this problem as at least medium in difficulty.

Check your solutions by clicking on Read More.

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05/25/05 -Printer friendly version-
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A Prize Problem - Well, Kind Of

A little while back we came into possession of a number of 1950-era issues of California Checker Chatter (CCC). The checker scene in California certainly seemed to be active in those days; the magazine talks of clubs in Oakland, Santa Monica, and other places around the state.

Out of those yellowing but fascinating pages from the past we've chosen our topic for today: the CCC "Prize Problem" for November, 1948. But, subsequent to publication, the "star" line was found to be faulty, and the problem flawed.

The original premise was this.


White to Play and Win
The problem composer, a Mr. Hawkins, had proposed 3-7 15-19 7-11 18-23 11-16* to a White win. But we'd best remove the star from that last White move, because a Mr. K.D. Hanson came along and showed a draw for Black. Here's the situation after 11-16.

Black to Play and Draw
Can you take the "prize" out of "prize problem" and find the Black draw?
Click on Read More to check your solution.

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05/21/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Three Easy Strokes: Part One

Our title, predictably, doesn't refer to an easy par-three golf hole, but to our desire to present a short series of stroke problems that, frankly, aren't quite as difficult as some of our earlier offerings.

Try your hand at this first one and decide for yourself if it's a spring breeze; then click on Read More for the solution.


Black to Move and Win
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05/18/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Minority Rules

We're really pleased to present this stunning Tom Wiswell problem. As usual, it is not easy, but it is elegant, entertaining, and instructive, and illustrates the depth and scope of our game of checkers. The setting is below; we think this is among the finest problems we've put forth to date.


White to Play and Win
There isn't a misprint here, and you didn't read it incorrectly. The premises are indeed White to Play and Win, despite being a man down. Now, White has two kings and Black is cramped, but we're not to find a draw for White, but a win.

Solve it if you can, and then click on Read More for the surprising solution.

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05/14/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Two Easy Pieces, Fourth Installment

As we continue our electronic republication of Willie Ryan's classic Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard we wish to thank those readers who pointed out typos in the original book. We also recognize there are some readers (your editor at times among them) who don't think these pieces are all that easy! But we'll let Willie carry on.


White to Play and Draw
'Take a good look at this simple little two-by-two setting. If that white piece on square 14 could speak up, he'd probably lament, "Woe is me. I can't move to the left, and I can't move to the right, and the black monarch (on square 25) is advancing to put me to flight." White's king on square 32 is seemingly too far away to save the endangered piece on 14, but thanks to the old reliable "sideboard seesaw" idea, example 7 has a happy ending. A thorough grounding in simple tactical tidbits, like the "sideboard seesaw," will soon put a novice in the advanced player's class. It's the flair for small details in basic study that makes the proficient player.

Black to Play and Draw
As we have already stressed in previous examples of "ideas at work," the novice should avoid associating any idea with only one or a few situations, because all ideas have a wide range of scientific application, and the seesaw is no exception. Example 8 highlights an early phase of the most common of all seesaw situations, the single corner hold. Black must move 11-16, then 19-15, 16-20; now white crowns the piece on 18, returns to square 6, and then plays 15-10, threatening to win by 10-7 next. All this is part of the general plan, with black, just in the nick of time, imprisoning white in the single corner.'

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05/11/05 -Printer friendly version-
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The Grandmaster Gem --- Solved!

Way back in December, we presented Brian Hinkle's Grandmaster Gem --- a problem which up to that point had been solved by only two people, and had baffled many master class players. Since we published it, only one correct solution has been received; but there have been numerous pleas for help!

We are at long last pleased to provide the solution, written and annotated by problem author and Checker Maven contributor Brian Hinkle.


White to Play and Win
1. 10-7 A 2x11 2. 24-20 B 22-26 C 3. 9-6 26x19
4. 6-2 D 19-15 E 5. 2-7 F 15-18 6. 29-25 G 18-15
7. 25-21 15-18 8. 21-17 18-15 9. 17-13 15-18
10. 13-9 18-15 H 11. 9-5 15-18 12. 5-1 18-15
13. 1-6 I 15-18 14. 32-27 J 18-22 15. 27-23 22-26
16. 23-18 26-22 K 17. 18-14 22-26 18. 14-9 26-23
19. 9-5 23-19 20. 5-1 19-23 21. 1-5 23-19
22. 5-9 19-23 23. 9-14 23-19 24. 14-17 19-23
25. 6-9 23-19 26. 9-14 19-24 27. 14-18 L 24-19
28. 17-22 19-15 29. 18-23 15-19 30. 22-26 19-24
31. 26-30 24-28 32. 7-10 28-24 33. 10-14 24-28
34. 14-18 28-24 35. 18-22 24-28 36. 22-26 28-24
37. 26-31 24-28 38. 31-27 28-24 39. 27-32 24-27
40. 23-18 27-24 41. 32-28 M 24-27 42. 28-24 27-31 N
43. 30-25 31-26 44. 25-21 26-31 45. 21-17 31-26
46. 17-14 26-31 47. 14-10 31-26 48. 10-7 26-31
49. 18-22 White Wins.

A - This 1. 10-7 pitch is the only move that wins with full plans to sacrifice another piece! It would be natural to try to keep the extra piece with 1. 10-6 or 1. 9-5 but Black will move 16-20 against either move and get a man-down draw. Another wrong try is

1. 24-20 16-19 2. 23x16 12x19 3. 20-16 8-12 4. 9-5 22-18 5. 16-11 18-15 6. 11-7 2x11 7. 5-1 15x6 8. 1x10 19-23 Drawn.

So Grasshopper, choose wisely: would you rather have a man-up draw or would you have the courage to sacrifice 2 men and get a man-down win?

B - Temporarily locking down Black's 4 pieces on 8, 11, 12, and 16.

Note: after 2. 24-20, this setting makes a beautiful twin with the terms: Either to play, White wins. Can you see how White would win if it were White's move?

( Diagram )
White to Play and Win
In a 5 minute crossboard test, this fooled the only three solvers of the 6x5 above (Alex, Jim and Albert). If you can solve this twin, then you may understand the importance of "the move" in this ending. After you solve both problems, how would you explain to a checker student why the solutions are different?

C - Black may as well chase the piece on 23 now and hope white moves 23-18? which would allow Black to draw.. Delaying with 22-17 will result in the same 2x4 cramp shown in the trunk line.

D - White is now a man-down after sacrificing a second piece. Does this position look like a white win to you? It is, believe it or not!

E - White gets the 2x4 bind regardless of where the Black king moves next.

F - The 2x4 cramp + "the move" = man down win. In this position "the move" means the total number of pieces in the columns up from squares 29, 30, 31 and 32 will total 5 when it is White's turn. If White doesn't have "the move", then it is only a draw!

G - White must crown the piece on 29 first. Starting the piece on 32-27 will allow Black to slip away with a draw with 18-22 7. 27-23 22-26 8. 23-18 26-23 9. 18-14 16-19 10. 7x16 23-18 11. 16x23 18x27... Drawn.

H - Going into the double corner makes for a quick win...18-14 11. 9-6 14-9 12. 6-1 9-5 13. 1-6 5-1 14. 6-10 1-5 15. 32-27 5-9 16. 27-23 9-5 17. 10-14 5-1 18. 7-10 1-5 19. 10-6 5-1 20. 6-9 1-5 21. 14-18 5x14 22. 18x9 White Wins.

I - White must park the second king here on square 6 so a winning swap can be threatened later as the piece on 32 moves up the board to crown.

J - With the White king placed on square 6 it is now time to get a third king.

K - If 26-23, 6-10 is the important swap that White needs to threaten.

L - Same as Ben Boland's Famous Positions p.135 after the 3rd move, colors reversed. Although not mentioned by Boland, it is important to note that if it were Black's turn, then it is only a draw. Having the 4x2 bind is not enough to win. Again, note that there are 5 pieces in the winning side's system ... a high five to the winner!

M - The only move to win.

N - 42. 27-32 18-15 43.11x18 20-4 44. 12-16 4-8 45. 18-22 8-12 46. 16-20 24-19 47. 32-27 12-16 48. 27-32 19-15 49. 32-27 15-18 White Wins, Famous Positions, colors reversed.

This checker problem was created after I noticed that the early 23-18 Switcher game between Alex Moiseyev and Louis Cowie played at the 2002 Ohio State tournament could have resulted in a strange man-down position. Later, I noticed this was the Fugitive King win in Famous Positions and I mentioned this to Rich Beckwith; it was an observation I made when I was going through a period without using any computer software.

Fascinated with this discovery, I decided to find the earliest possible setting of the Fugitive King win and then disguise it in a natural setting where 2 men must be sacrificed in order to get the pretty man-down win. It took about 10 hours of work to set it up just right after I understood everything, including "the move", using KingsRow. Back in June 2004 none of the checker programs with the 8 piece database could solve it so many players assumed it was a draw! Ed Gilbert confirmed it was a win with KingsRow's 9 piece database.

I congratulate the only 3 players in the world who solved it: Alex Moiseyev, Jim Morrison and Albert Tucker.

Almost everyone else thought this position was set up wrong, especially players who used checker software with the 8 piece database. This underscores a growing dependency on computers. It turns out that computers were not needed to solve this puzzle at all and in this case they just got in the way. The main thing you needed to solve this puzzle was knowledge of the Fugitive King win published in Ben Boland's Famous Positions.


1. 11-15 21-17 2. 9-13 23-18 3. 8-11 25-21 4. 6-9 27-23 5. 1-6 32-27 6. 3-8 30-25 7. 9-14 18x9 8. 5x14 24-19 9. 15x24 27x20 10. 6-9 22-18 11. 13x22 26x17 12. 11-15 18x11 13. 8x15 17-13 14. 4-8 13x6 15. 2x9 31-26 (Louis Cowie played 25-22? against Alex Moiseyev in the 2002 Ohio State tournament and lost.) 16. 8-11 26-22 17. 15-19 23x16 18. 12x19 22-17 19. 9-13 25-22 20. 11-15 20-16 21. 19-24 28x19 22. 15x24 (Left as a Black win in Master Play p. 351-P. Black will use knowledge of the Fugitive King ending to complete the win. From this point on, there is no draw escape for White.) 16-12 23. 24-27 12-8 24. 27-32 8-3 25. 32-27 3-8 26. 27-24 8-3 27. 24-19 3-8 28. 19-15 8-3 29. 15-11 29-25 30. 11-15 3-8 31. 15-19 8-3 32. 19-23 3-8 33. 23-26 8-3 34. 7-11 3-7 35. 11-16 7-2 36. 16-20 2-6 37. 14-18 6x15 38. 18-23 ... Black Wins.

1. 11-15 22-18 2. 15x22 25x18 3. 8-11 29-25 4. 4-8 24-20 5. 12-16 28-24 6. 10-15 26-22 7. 9-14 18x9 8. 5x14 31-26 9. 8-12 23-18 10. 14x23 26x10 11. 6x15 21-17 12. 1-5 17-14 13. 2-6 32-28 14. 3-8 14-10 15. 7x14 27-23 16. 5-9 24-19 17. 15x24 28x19 18. 9-13 22-18 19. 6-9 25-21 20. 13-17 30-26 21. 9-13 18x9 22. 17-22 26x17 23. 13x22 9-6 White Wins.

If you enjoyed this problem, then let me know.

If you have any additional run ups or associated positions to share, then please email me at

Due to the complexity of this solution and the many variants and runups, we haven't attempted to provide animations. We recommend that you click on the Printer friendly version legend below, print out a copy of this article, and enjoy it at your leisure in front of your checker board, with your favorite beverage at your side.

05/07/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Mayday! Mayday!

The month of May has begun, marked by the usual "May Day" celebrations around the world. But "Mayday!" has another meaning - send help fast!

We don't think you'll need help with this month's speed problems, but solving them fast is the goal. How well can you do? Try them out and click on Read More for the 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

Thanks to Brian Hinkle, an oversight in the setting and solution of Problem 2 has been corrected.

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05/04/05 -Printer friendly version-
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But Is It Worth Your Job?

In 1892, John T. Denvir was working at a lucrative $2,000 per year job. During the lunch hour, he would go to his checker club to play a few games in the space of the one hour lunch period. One day, he played a rather brilliant game against Lucius S. Head, which however caused him to return to work an hour late. He fully expected to be fired, and considered himself very lucky indeed to have gotten off instead with a stern scolding.

Here's the runup to the critical position:

11-16 23-18 10-14 18-15 16-19 22-17 7-10 24-20 9-13 26-22 5-9 30-26 8-11 15x8 4x11 27-23 2-7 23x16 12x19 32-27 11-15 20-16


Black to Play and Win
If you can solve it, you certainly have excellent visualization skills. Check your solution against our animation, which includes the whole game.

A brilliancy indeed, but is it worth your job?

04/30/05 -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?

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.

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04/27/05 -Printer friendly version-
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