The Checker Maven

It's Easy When You Know How

A recent addition to the library in our Santa Fe office is an item we've sought for quite some while: W.T. Call's Midget Problems, published in 1913. We think the following quotation from the preface to this little booklet is revealing:

'Are not these little problems easy?

'Yes, when you are looking at the solutions.'

Over the coming months we'll be featuring some selections from this work, which features nothing but problems with two pieces per side, hence the title, Midget Problems. But as the preface warns, these are small only in size, not in challenge.

We'd like to start out with an offering that you might consider trite; and frankly, we'd have to agree, yet there is a method to our madness. It is a setting of First Position, credited to Dr. T. J. Brown of Limerick, who put this forth around the year 1870.


Black to Play and Win
There's nothing new or different here, and yet we strongly urge you to try this out. Play it against your computer, or practice it with a strong opponent. How well do you really know First Position? Sometimes a thorough review of a familiar concept is a well-worthwhile exercise, as so often we find our knowledge isn't quite as solid as we would wish to think.

And when you've worked through this setting (you can click here for an animation of Dr. Brown's trunk solution), answer this trivia question, also credited to Dr. T. J. Brown. What is the earliest published example of First Position? Can you name the author and year? If you can, you really know your draughts history.

But before you're done, tell us, if you can, what White's last move might have been, and then draw a conclusion from your answer. (Thanks go to Brian Hinkle for this one.)

As usual, click on Read More for the answers.

The earliest published example of First Position is thought to be that of J. Sinclair, in 1832, with Black pieces on 18 and 22, and White pieces on 24 and 30. The runup to this position is given in this animation.

Oh, White's last move in the diagrammed position? Brian Hinkle obliquely pointed out to us that the setting in the diagram given by Dr. Brown is artificial, meant only to illustrate First Position, by challenging us to produce a run-up or lacking that, at least to give White's last move.

The issue is that White's two men are on the first rank and obviously have never moved. We might argue that Black had perhaps just captured White's last forward man, but then it would be White's move, not Black's! So the situation cannot arise in play, as there is no possible White move that would have arrived in this position with Black to play.

06/08/05 - Category: Problems -Printer friendly version-
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