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 #74

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State Fair: Part 2


All play halted as everyone either dove to the floor or fled the tent. Mortimer thought at once of Sheila and hurried to her seat. He practically tackled her to the ground when he reached her. "You okay, honey?" he asked.

It took a moment for Sheila to recover her wits. By then the tent had largely emptied. "I'm fine, you?"

"Yeah, but, uh ... what happened? Is that guy ... you know ..."

"I'm pretty sure Mr. Pace is dead, yes. He was shot," Sheila said.

"I heard a noise and then I saw him fall off his chair," replied Mortimer.


A couple of State Fair security guards had arrived. One of them addressed Sheila and Mortimer. "Everyone out until we secure the area, please."

"You sure that's a good idea?" Sheila asked. "You're asking the shooter, if he's still here, to disappear into the crowd?" Sheila was certain that had already happened, but this was really poor procedure.

The burlier of the two guards wasn't pleased. "Look ma'am, I said 'out' and I won't tell you again."


Sheila showed her FBI identification.

"Oh ... I see ... well, the Des Moines cops will be here in a minute ... you can work with them, Agent."

Sheila didn't bother to point out that she was a lab tech and not a Special Agent.

Mortimer sat by as Sheila began an examination of the site. She only had a few minutes before the local police arrived. The security guards, having already chased everyone out of the tent, stationed themselves on either side of the entrance.

Two Des Moines police officers arrived. "What's going on here?" the larger of the two bellowed, addressing no one in particular. His name tag read "Hulme."

The other officer, clearly the junior of the two both in size and rank, stood next to his partner with his arms folded and his legs in a wide stance, obviously making an effort to look important. Whereas his companion was tall and wide, he was short and relatively thin. His name tag said "Schreiber."

One of the security guards thought fit to answer. "Someone's been shot," he offered. "Up there." He gestured to the playing area at the far end of the tent.

"Yeah, we know that," Hulme said. "But where's everybody? There's nobody in here but ... hey ... YOU over there, what do you think you're doing?" This was clearly aimed at Sheila, who was hovering over Bob Pace's body, making notes in a little notebook.


Sheila straightened up as Officer Hulme approached. "FBI," she repeated for his benefit, once again holding up her ID.

"FBI? You guys ain't got jurisdiction, unless you're takin' over ... hey, that don't make no sense. And you don't look like no Special Agent neither."

"I'm not," Sheila replied, "I work in the Denver crime lab. I'm making observations before a bunch of ... well ... others ... contaminate the crime site."

Hulme lifted his cap and scratched his head. "Well, I s'pose, but look here Miss, when our people get here you give 'em that there little book a yours, and then you skeddadle, got it?"

"Yes, officer," Sheila replied, and bent back down again, continuing to make notes.

Hulme looked over at Mortimer, but before he could say anything, Sheila said, "It's okay, he's my assistant."

"You FBI too?" Hulme asked Mortimer.

"Uh ... well ... no. I'm a detective, you know, like Sherlock ... "

"Didn't know the FBI called 'em detectives. Well, whatever, we just gotta secure the site till the rest get here. Chief ain't gonna like it that them hicks they hired let everyone take off, though."


Mortimer quietly pulled out his cell phone. Well, not his fault if he didn't get to finish his sentence and allow as he was after all an amateur detective, although he certainly could claim to have worked on a case with the FBI in the past. Okay, not exactly with the FBI, but it was good enough.

Well, then, he might as well do some detecting. He turned on his camera and walked around the playing area, taking photos of all the checkerboards. Hmm ... interesting position on this one ...

White to Play and Draw


Nah, he didn't have time for that. Maybe later.

Actually he wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he just took pictures of everything. The floor of the tent, the walls, anything he could think of.


By the time the Des Moines Crime Scene Unit arrived, perhaps 20 minutes later, he had taken photos of virtually everything. And it was a good thing, because the Police Chief, who was now on site of what would undoubtedly be a high profile crime, and who was trailed closely by the media, wasn't happy to see Mortimer and Sheila inside the tent. Office Hulme explained the FBI connection but that made Chief Easton even less happy.

"This is OUR jurisdiction," he roared at Sheila, who was just putting away her notebook. "You ain't got NO right to be here unless I invite you! And I ain't invited you neither, so get on outta here now afore I call the Des Moines Field Office and raise a ruckus!"

Sheila, not thinking it wise to say she was actually from Denver, motioned to Marvin. "Let's do as the Chief asks, Marvin," she said, "right now."

"Hey, Chief," spoke up Officer Hulme, "they been takin' notes and photos and so on ... mebbe they oughta give 'em to you?"

"Nobody asked you fer advice, Hulme!" the Chief thundered. "I don't need their gol dang FBI notes! My own crew's here now and they'll do just fine without any fancy help from the Feds, no thank you!"


Marvin and Sheila quickly exited. Once outside, Sheila said as they walked away, "It's amateur hour in there. First security lets everyone leave, then the local cops let us prowl around, then the chief doesn't want to see what we found--- even though we really shouldn't have been looking. I was hoping to help, but strictly speaking the local police are in charge. One phone call and I could maybe change that, but let them figure it out for themselves."

Mortimer gave Sheila a certain look. Sheila paused walking for a moment. "Mortimer, really?"

"Yeah, it's an interesting case, you've got to admit."

Sheila sighed. "Actually, it is. But we could get in trouble if we poke our noses in."

"Poke our noses in? No, 'course not!" Marvin smiled.

"I don't like that smile," Sheila said, "we've been there and done that and nearly got ourselves killed by that serial murderer."

"Yeah, the Checker Murderer. Great case. Hey, you made a lot of notes and I took a lot of pictures. Let's just, you know, kind of ... go over them? The Fair's going to be shut down for sure after this and it would cost a lot to change our flight ... what else is there to do in Des Moines, anyhow?"


Sheila sighed again. "Not much," she said. "We won't even get to watch the corn shucking contest, and that would have been the thrill of the week. Okay, let's get a rideshare back to the motel and we'll see what we can piece together."

(to be continued)

Mortimer was too busy to dig into the "interesting" position he saw on one of the checkerboards, but hopefully you have a little time. It's really quite intriguing. Don't just say something corny like "Aw shucks!" but instead give the problem a try. There's a kernel of enjoyment and instruction in there. When you're ready to see the solution, just click on Read More for full details.20050904-symbol.gif

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Marvin on Tour

Marvin J. Mavin

It was June, and Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar Captain of the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers, was on a summer publicity tour.

Now, recall that Marvin had gotten himself into hot water with both his team and the National Checker League (NCL) over a dispute during the semifinals in the previous season's playoffs. It was quite controversial and after hearing all sides of the issue, the NCL had given Marvin a one week suspension, to be served at the opening of the coming season. They also hit him with a $100,000 fine and ordered him to do the NCL equivalent of community service.

His team's anger had subsided and he was left in place as Team Captain. However the team fined him a further $100,000 and put a warning in his personnel record.


So, Marvin was on tour, by order of the NCL. It wasn't all bad although it was very long and tiring, and as a kind of punishment or penance, the NCL's order stipulated that he was to travel only by bus or train, not by air, and that he couldn't stay in any lodging rated higher than 2 stars by the AAA. His tour took him through the central states and provinces, starting in Manitoba and making his way down through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma and then various stops in Texas before he would eventually finish up in El Paso.

He was currently scheduled to appear in Wacko, Texas. Wacko was a small town of about 10,000 but it was the home of the Wacko Woozies, an amateur checker team that perennially took the Orange County championship and was always a contender for the Texas "Champion of Counties" title.


Marvin arrived at the Wacko Train Depot at midday. He was greeted by a big turnout with a lot of fanfare. The newly elected Mayor, Cloudy Summer, gave a short speech (at least it was her idea of short). The Captain of the Woozies, Danny Dan Daniels, gave a little talk of his own, and then sprung something of a surprise.

Danny Dan Daniels

"Here in the great state of Texas, we do things the Texas way. And that means big. Why Texas is so big that ... "

Danny went on to tell a couple of Texas jokes, neither of which Marvin really got. Then Danny continued, "In fact, in Texas, we play Texas checkers. Why, another Texan, Willie Whatsis, done gone and invented it. We play it on a 20 by 20 board with would ya believe, 90 pieces per side. That there is one big game. Maybe you'd like give 'er a whirl, Marvin?"


Down below the podium, a couple of workers whisked off the covering of a large table to reveal a Texas Checkerboard, fully four feet square.

"Uh, you know, Danny, actually ... "

"Aw, can't blame ya, son, it's a tough game and a game does kinda take a while with all them pieces. And dang if near all the time, it ain't nuthin but a draw."

Danny shook his head wistfully and then said, "Anyhoo, you ain't here for that. What you are here fer, is to give a simul ... Texas style. And by Texas style, I mean ... "

"Big," Marvin piped up. "Yeah, Texas style is big. I got it, Danny."

"Durn if that city boy don't catch on fast!" Danny said, and the crowd laughed. "Well, then, a Texas style simul is you against a hunnert of the town's best!"


"A hundred?" Marvin said. "That's a lot of ... "

"What, ain'tcha up to it?" Danny asked. "There's a lotta folks here just waitin' fer a chance ta play ya. 'Course iffn ya wanna be yeller an' back out, why, that's up ta you."

"I'll do it," Marvin said. He didn't look happy but he felt like he had been painted into a corner with no other way out.


The crowd cheered and yelled. "Let's go!" Danny said. "Over to the auditorium! And there's Texas bar-bee-koo for everyone after the simul's over!"

Sure, Marvin thought, with a hundred players it'll be over around noon tomorrow. Even a game of Texas Checkers wouldn't take that long. Well, his thoughts went on, maybe if I play fast enough I'll get to have dinner before the sun comes up in the morning.


Marvin, led by Danny and followed by the big crowd, went over to the auditorium, which turned out to be an enormous service club dance hall.

"Yup," Danny said, "we do that there line dancin' on Saturday nights. You ever done that, Marvy? Ah, 'course ya ain't. You don't look like a line dancin' kind a feller."


Marvin didn't reply. The only dancing he ever did was ballroom dancing with his wife Priscilla, and he didn't do it very well. Priscilla also dragged him off to the ballet from time to time.

The hall was set up with indeed a hundred numbered tables arranged in a huge circle. Townsfolk were quickly taking their places as Danny remarked, "Now looky here, Marvy, these folks paid real good for a place in the simul. We done charged 'em a hunnert bucks each. Real good fundraiser for the team, ya know? But seein' as how they paid all a that there money, you give 'em a real good show, ya hear me?"

Marvin nooded his head, all the while wondering just how good a show he'd be able to put on with so many contestants.

Willie Whatsis

The chief referee turned out to be Willie Whatsis himself. Willie quickly went over the rules for the competition, after which an air horn sounded and play began.

With such a large number of players, there was bound to be a mix of skill levels. It took less than an hour for Marvin to win fifty of the games, and another hour to win thirty more. In the third hour, Marvin won ten games. That left ten to play against opponents who obviously were skilled checkerists.

Marvin won five more in the fourth hour. That made the score 95-0-0. A little more play scored him three more wins and one draw. This changed the score to 98-0-1 but there was one game left and Marvin thought he could get at least a draw and maybe a win. The opponent was a very strong player who went by the name of Southpaw Steve. Steve was not only good at checkers, but was reputed to be the best bull rider in the county. Of course Marvin didn't know that.

Southpaw Steve

Danny came over to Marvin and whispered to him, "Marvie, I said give 'em a good show. You done wiped most of 'em out, now you gotta let the local folk go home with one win anyhoo. You gotta lose this last one, okay?"

"What?" Marvin said, rather loudly, but Danny whispered, "Keep your voice down, boy, you gotta make it look fair and square even if'n it ain't. Get it over with an' then get yorsef some a that there Texas bar-bee-koo."

Despite Danny's admonition to keep quiet, Marvin almost said something, but then just shook his head and changed his mind. Throw a game? That would be the day. He just couldn't see why a dishonest win would be of any value to the local boys, and if word ever got out, Marvin would be in even deeper trouble with the NCL. It could very well be a career ending event.

It was Marvin's move and the position was as follows.

Black to Play, What Result?


Marvin made a decision.

And then he made his move.

What would you do? You're in a big simul and you've done really well, but the organizer asks you to lose the last game on purpose, and there will be consequences if you do and consequences if you don't? Fortunately you don't have to make such a decision, you just need to try to solve today's problem and then click on Read More to see the solution. You'll have to provide your own bar-bee-koo, though!20050904-symbol.gif

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Get It Right the First Time


We've always liked those World War Two inspirational posters which urged American citizens to do their all and give their best in support of the war effort. The poster above warns of the dangers of aiding the enemy through carelessness and emphasizing the need to get things right the first time.

That surely applies to our game of checkers, where carelessness can indeed cede the day to our opponent, and we may have one and only one opportunity to "get it right" and find a win or a draw.

In the following situation, Black has one and only one move to draw. He has to get it right the first time as there won't be a second chance.

Black to Play and Draw


The position is more of a practical exercise than a contest-grade problem, but we think it's worthy of study. Will you get it right on your first try, or will it take a couple of tries? Unlike in an over the board contest, you can try as many times as you wish, and when you're ready, one try at clicking your mouse on Read More will bring you to the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Seeing Stars


"Seeing stars" can have several meanings. If you're out in the country, far from city lights, on a clear evening "seeing stars" means taking in a magnificent heavenly display of millions of stars, covering the sky in brilliant beauty. On the other hand, if you accidentally bump your head on a hard, fixed object, you'll be "seeing stars" in a much different and decidely less pleasant way.


In today's problem, shown below, you'll be "seeing stars" --- star moves, that is. Recall that a "star" move is one that is essential to either win or hold the draw. It's the one and only correct move, and it's annotated with an asterisk, or star. The terms of the problem are "Black to play and draw" but actually star moves--- a number of them--- appear on both sides as Black and White both navigate through a finely balanced position.

Black to Play and Draw


We wouldn't call this an exciting or elegant problem but it certainly is practical and didactic. Be a star and solve it, then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Bye For Now

It was May, 1955, and the last Saturday before Memorial Day weekend. In Bismarck, North Dakota, the weather was still on the cooler side with lows around 40F and highs around 60F. But this Saturday was bright and sunny, and Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, planned to enjoy it to the fullest.

His club met every Saturday afternoon at 1 PM at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building near downtown Bismarck. But, as was common practice in Bismarck, the club didn't meet during the summer months, as everyone wanted to enjoy the outdoors, tend to their yards, and maybe even go on vacation. So from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, there were no get-togethers.

Deana Nagel

The final session of the season was something of a bittersweet occasion. There was always a good turnout. Lots of skittles, a checker problem or two, plenty of checker chatter, and great coffee and treats provided by the Cafe's proprietess, Deana Nagel, who was one of the best bakers in central North Dakota.

On hand today were Wayne, Delmer, Larry, Louie the Flash, Dan, young Blaine, and even Tom, Ron, and Old Frank. With Sal that made ten and they filled both large booths in the back of the Cafe. Talk was at first about what they'd do over the summer. Wayne was going to work on the family farm; Louie was going to spend time with the latest in his long series of short-lived romantic interests, and so on. Sal said he would be visiting his cousin Maurice in Jamestown for a checker festival being put on by that city.


But when Deana announced from her station behind her counter that the strawberry bars were hot and fresh, everyone knew it was time to turn to the first order of business.

Every week Sal brought along a checker problem. Sometimes it was from All Checkers Digest, sometimes from his checker pen pals, and sometimes from other sources, but the premise was always the same. The "boys" as Sal called the club members (all of whom but Blaine were over 50) would try to solve the problem. If they did, Sal would buy the treats. If they couldn't, they would buy their own plus some for Sal, including an extra for him to take home to his wife Sylvia.

"Ready, boys?" Sal asked.

"Sure are, what have you got for us?" Dan said.

Sal laid out the following position on one checkerboard in each booth.

White to Play and Win


"There you go," he said, "and seeing as it's about 1:30, how about I give you, say, 45 minutes?"

The boys, who thought Sal was only going to give them half an hour, eagerly agreed and set to work as Deana came around and refilled their coffee mugs.

Sal spent the next little while talking with Deana. Other than the checker club, the Cafe was pretty quiet on a Saturday afternoon. Deana told Sal that she had recently broken up with Clyde, her boyfriend, and was looking forward to spending August on the family farm in Gackle, North Dakota. "It'll do me good," she said, "and help me get over that two-timing you know what."


Deana always closed down in August to help out with the harvest at home. But Sal was sad to hear about her breakup. She had been with Clyde for a couple of years and was actually thinking about marriage, when she learned he had a girlfriend on the side in Valley City. But then Deana mentioned a big baking competition in Fargo and smiled again, saying, "I'm going to win!"

"I'm sure you are," said Sal, "but hey, it's time to see how the boys did."

Sal went back over to the big booths. "Time's up, boys. Did you get it?"

"We did," Ron said, "and here's how it's done."

Fortunately, the end of the season for the Coffee and Cake Checker Club doesn't mean the end of the season for The Checker Maven, even though we too won't return to the Beacon Cafe for a few months. However, Sal will be around during the summer months with more checker stories and problems. For now, though, compete with the "boys" and see how you do with today's problem. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our little story.20050904-symbol.gif

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State Fair: Part 1


"The Iowa State Fair? Seriously?"

"Aw, c'mon Sheila, we both could use a vacation, and it would be a lot of fun."


The speaker was Mortimer Holmes, and Sheila Larkspur, his fiancee, was listening without a lot of enthusiasm. It had been about two years since the events of "The Checker Murders" (as told in previous Checker Maven columns and in the book "Mr. Darcy Plays Draughts"). Mortimer was close to finishing his Ph.D. while Sheila had completed grad school and was now a full-time lab tech for the FBI in Denver. For the past little while they had been sharing an apartment in suburban Littleton. They had yet to set a wedding date; it would probably be after Mortimer finished his doctorate in six months or so.


"You really want to go, Mort?" Sheila's expression had softened. It was so hard to say 'no' to Mortimer when he really wanted something, and in turn he never refused her anything.

"It would be fun. There would be rides, and all sorts of great food ... and of course there's the checker tournament."

Sheila smiled. "Of course. You planning to win it?"

Mortimer had been playing at the school club, but he had no illusions. "No, I don't expect to win. The competition is stiff. But I can play in one of the lower classes and still have a good time. And it would be a nice change from summer in Denver."


"Right. Flat landscapes. Waving fields of corn. Lots of flying bugs. Blue Ribbon Beer. The sun bearing down."

Mortimer couldn't hide his look of disappointment.

"But let's do it! I know how much you want to, and I'm game. As long as you agree to Thanksgiving with my parents."

Mortimer hesitated, if only briefly. Sheila's parents were fine, but that brother of hers, Stan, who talked about football 24 hours a day and referred to Mortimer as "the useless wimp" ... oh well. "Done!" he said. "I'll book the tickets."

# # #

There was a direct flight to Des Moines, Iowa, where the Iowa State Fair would take place on the eponymous Fairgrounds. Mortimer, knowing Sheila wouldn't care for his favorite hotel chain, Motel 9, had reserved a room at the much more upscale Diplomacy Suites. It cost about twice as much but at least there was a great breakfast buffet, and they would only be staying a few days.

The morning after their arrival the couple took a rideshare over to the Fairgrounds. Even though it was only the first day of the Fair, there was a large crowd on hand. Mortimer made sure to sign up for the checker tournament right away. He glanced at the list of players, and noticed some big names in the Master's Division. It was going to be very interesting. The tournament would begin tomorrow morning and run most of the day.


But today they would enjoy the Fair. Mortimer took Sheila on at least half a dozen rides, including the Ferris Wheel, and stole a kiss when their car reached the top. They feasted on roast corn, watermelon and BBQ beef, and Sheila even asked for some cotton candy.

Back at the hotel Sheila allowed as she had had a much better time than she'd ever expected.

"Tomorrow's the tournament, though," said Mortimer. "I hope you won't be bored."

"Oh, no, I'll watch for a while and then maybe wander around. You said the tournament's double elimination? Then I won't have to ... "

"Aw, honey, don't say it. You won't have to wait long because I'll get knocked out pretty fast, right?"

Sheila smiled. "Never said that!"

# # #

The next day was bright and sunny, and Mortimer and Sheila were at the Fairgrounds at opening time, 9 AM. The tournament would start at 10 AM sharp. Mortimer checked in while Sheila found a seat in a row of chairs close to the playing area.


The tournament was taking place inside a large tent. There were five divisions: Masters, Expert, and classes A through C. Eight players were signed up for the Masters, a dozen for Expert, around two dozen in Class A, and three or four dozen each in Classes B and C, making for nearly 120 players in all. In Iowa, checkers was often serious business. Mortimer would be playing in Class C.

In the Masters, two players were about even odds as the favorites. Sam Stecher was a top amateur player from Dubuque, and Bob Pace of Des Moines was just as highly regarded. It would probably all come down to them.

The tournament began on the dot of ten. There was quite a crowd of spectators. Sheila found the whole thing a lot more engaging than she had expected. Mortimer won his first round game, then lost in the second round, but won again in the third and fourth. Sheila realized he was doing a lot better than he had ever expected, although it would just take one more loss to put him out of the tournament.

There was a break for lunch after the fifth round. Mortimer had won again.


Mortimer and Sheila had a couple of corn dogs and sodas.

Returning to play, Mortimer won in the sixth round and drew in the seventh. He was only one draw away from elimination, but he had made it much farther than he had ever expected.

In the eighth round, the following position came up. His opponent, a fellow from Lindyville named Danny Ziegler, was on move with White. Mortimer wasn't optimistic about making it to the ninth round.

White to Play and Win


Meanwhile, the other, smaller divisions were wrapping up. Sam Stecher and Bob Pace were the only ones left standing in the Masters, and so far they had played three draws against each other. The rules stated that with only two players with equal scores left, they would play until someone won a game, thereby taking the title.


Mortimer's opponent Danny was taking his time, looking for a move that might bring the game to a finish. Mortimer was looking over at Sam and Bob as they played for the Blue Ribbon. That's when it happened.


There was a sharp cracking sound. Bob Pace tumbled back in his seat, his mouth agape, and then slumped to the ground.

There were screams from the crowd and many of them started to flee the tent in a panicked rush. But Sam Stecher just sat, looking with disbelief at Bob Pace's body, blood pooling from the bullet wound in the center of his forehead.

Someone shouted for a doctor, but Bob was already beyond help.

To be continued.

Our original concept, a series of columns on checkers at various State Fairs around the U.S., took a change in direction. The real Iowa State Fair has had a checker tournament for quite a number of years. We wrote to the organizer asking for details to form the basis of our first article, but we never heard back. (We don't seem to have much luck getting Iowans to respond to our requests.) So instead we launched into a purely fictious account of happenings at a purely fictitious Iowa State Fair. It was a great opportunity to reintroduce Mortimer and Sheila in another serialized story. We hope you enjoy it.

But before we move on, what do you think? Would Danny have beaten Mortimer in the position shown above? See if you can figure it out and hopefully you won't be distracted by untoward events such as in our story. When you're ready, shoot your mouse onto Read More to see the answers.20050904-symbol.gif

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Contest 74: 16 Pieces


The 16 piece Barbie tea set above might make a nice gift for a young daughter or granddaughter, or perhaps even for an avid collector of such things. There are also 16 piece china sets, 16 pieces per side in the game of chess, and 16 balls in a game of pool. Most caterpillars have 16 legs, and there are 16 personality types on the Myers-Briggs classification. (You might look that one up and see where checker players might fit in.) Last but not least, there is the "sweet sixteen" birthday tradition, and we should also point out that base 16 (hexadecimal) numbers are very commonly utilized in the world of computers.

In the latest of Mr. Bill Salot's ongoing series of checker problem composition contests, we see a different use of 16; Mr. Salot presents us with three problems, each of which contains a total of 16 pieces. These are massive stroke problems and will require great visualization skill to solve without moving pieces on a board. The problems can all be found on the contest page". Be sure to vote for your favorite!

As an introduction to this contest's theme, Mr. Salot sent along this 16 piece beauty from the late and much missed grandmaster composer Ed Atkinson. It's called Tossed Salad.

White to Play and Win


Take as long as you wish. Give it at least 16 good attempts before clicking on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Jump? How High?


We've surely all heard variants of the dictate, "When I tell you to jump, you're supposed to ask me, 'How high?'" It's usually implied rather than said outright by, perhaps, a mean boss or someone who abuses their authority.

You'll see the relationship to our game of checkers in the problem below (of course without the abuse factor). The question that arises is more one of "Which way?" rather than "How high?" although the second question does also apply.

Black to Play and Draw


Get a jump on this one; the solution isn't terribly difficult to find but the play is interesting. When you're ready you won't have to jump your mouse very high to click on Read More to view the solution.20050904-symbol.gif20050904-symbol.gif

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World Healing Day


This column will first appear on April 27, 2024, which in 2024 is World Healing Day, a successor to World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. Of course April 27, 2024 has many other celebrations, such as National Devil Dog Day, National Prime Rib Day, Babe Ruth Day, and even National Gummi Bear Day, to name just some. But we like World Healing Day.

Why? Because we like to think checkers can play its own role in world healing. We've seen it in the work of luminaries such as Iqbal Ahmed Salarzai, who conducts international tournaments via the internet; the friendly rivalries between the US and England and now the US and Italy; the presence of international players in major tournaments; and many more examples that show how checkers can pull people together in spirited competition that leads to long lasting friendships among all nationalities, races, and creeds. Great stuff and something the world can use more of.

For World Healing Day we'll present a checker problem of unknown origin that isn't difficult at all, but will perhaps provide a few moments of entertainment and relaxation. Just the right thing to take your mind off whatever's bothering you and promote a bit of your own self-healing on World Healing Day.

White to Play and Win


Solve the problem as best you can, and then click--- ever so gently--- on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Marvin J Mavin: The Playoffs

Detroit Checkerdrome

The Detroit Doublejumpers had had a good season. Recall from previous stories that their prior year hadn't been so great and they hadn't even made it into the playoffs. But this year was different. After some drama concerning spring training, new coaches, and an attempt on their superstar Captain's life, all had gone well. Led by the aforesaid superstar, Marvin J. Mavin, the Doublejumpers had made it through the first round of the playoffs and were now up for their Division Championship.

They were facing the Tampa Bay Tinsleys in a best of seven contest, with the winner moving on to the World Series of Checkers. The Tinsleys were a strong team and did very well against the favored Doublejumpers. In fact, the series was tied with three wins each, and it was time for the seventh and final match.


The venue was to be in the hometown Detroit Checkerdrome, in front of a 50,000 strong sellout crowd. Even though reselling was, strictly speaking, illegal, it was heard that tickets were being sold for over $1,000 in dark recesses on the outside of the Checkerdrome.

The National Anthem was played, the players took their seats, the referee's whistle blew, and the call of "Play Checkers!" reverberated throughout the stadium.


Marvin's opponent on first board was none other than an old foe, Dmitri Tovarischky, who has appeared in some earlier Checker Maven stories. This season Dmitri had come off a five-year ban from professional play due to gambling offenses; however he remained in top championship form and the Tinsleys were willing to overlook his past history in order to obtain his skills for their franchise.

Dmitri looked over at Marvin and commented, "Well Checkers Boy, I am ready to show you what real star player does with lesser opponent. Dmitri is better player. Much better player."

"Lesser opponent, huh? Better player, are you?" Marvin replied. "Checkers Boy, is it? Well Mr. Red Commie, we'll just see who will 'lose game' today."

Dmitri laughed and made his first move.

All of the games were hard fought. Board two and three went to the Tinsleys while board four went to the Doublejumpers and board five was a draw. The score was 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 in favor of the Tinsleys, and it was all down to the game on first board. Marvin was in a must win situation. That would tie the score at 2 1/2 - 2 1/2 in which case the win on first board would give the Doublejumpers the match on tiebreaks. But only a win would do. Even a draw would give the match to the Tinsleys.

White to Play and Win


No doubt about it, Dmitri, anticipating his team's victory, was gloating, even if relatively silently, and it bothered Marvin no end, even though he knew it was a psychological tactic.


"Checkers Boy is finished," Dmitri said in a half-whisper. "No more super star. Dmitri is new superstar. Was always superstar. Game is draw. Checkers Boy is not good enough and cannot win. Now proof of pudding is in eating. Eat pudding, Checkers Boy!"

Marvin was doing his classic fidget, legs bouncing and head shaking from side to side. But his clock was running down and he had little time to spend. He was ready to make his move and ...

Did Marvin find the win, or was it true that Dmitri had a clear draw? What would you have done in such a tense situation with a trip to the World Series of Checkers on the line? Unlike Marvin, you can take all the time you wish and there's no pressure. The problem is actually on the easy side. See what you can do and then click on Read More to see the solution and the surprising conclusion to our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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04/20/24 -Printer friendly version-
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