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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Two More Easy Pieces

We're continuing our long-term project of electronic republication of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard with another pair of introductory problems. As usual, Willie's own inimitable commentary accompanies each. When you've worked out your solution, click on Read More to check your answers.

White to Play and Win
'Basic ideas never change, but they may occur on different areas of the board with more or fewer pieces involved. In Example 3, we have a snap layout of a double corner compound in which the winning plan is precisely the same as the one used in Example 2, but the arrangement of the pieces is different. A common fault of the beginner is his tendency to associate a particular tactical idea with only one position. This is undoubtedly an obstruction to progress. The main purpose of studying a problem position is to master the idea (or ideas) it illustrates so that the student may use it in any other situation where the same idea can be successfully applied.'

White to Play and Win
'One of the more spectacular fundamental principles is the "smother" idea. Example 4 frames an easy setting of a delayed smother coup in which first black's piece on square 22 is driven to a fatal spot (square 25), and then white makes two sacrifices in succession, winning by a weird tie-up. The description given to each example in this review of basic ideas is intended to help the reader to develop concepts of logical procedure. If we say "delayed smother" we mean the smother is not immediate, but that white can force black to make a certain move (or moves) that enables white to drive black into the coup position.'

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03/05/05 -Printer friendly version-
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March Speedsters

To start the month, here are two more speed problems, with the timer running to see how fast you can find the solutions:

No. 1. Very easy.

No. 2. Easy.

After you've solved them, click on Read More to check your answers.

There's the green flag ..... go!

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Life Is Full of Tough Choices

The last offering for February is two problems in one. It's based on something published by Willie Ryan many years ago. The adaptation of the setting is rather liberal.

Here's the situation. You're in the final round of the Mega-Bowl of Checkers. The coveted title of Supreme Exalted Checker Champion hangs in the balance. Thousands of avid fans are watching from their $500 stadium seats and hundreds of thousands more are tuned in on the Checker Television Network. Sponsors have paid a million dollars each just for their 30-second commercial spots. This is really the Big Time, and you know if you win you'll become an instant media star, with wealth and fame yours without limit.

You're playing Black and it's your move:

WHITE (your opponent)

BLACK (you)
The tension in the air is electric. Your five minutes are almost up. You've narrowed your choices down to two moves: 2-6, and 2-7. Somehow, you know that one of these moves will result in victory and a life of ease, while the other will lead to ignominious defeat and a quick return to your old back-breaking job at the quarry pits.

What move do you choose? Can you show how that move wins and why the other move loses?

Make your choice carefully; a lot is riding on it. Then take a look at the animated solutions in which Black wins or White wins.

02/26/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Two Easy Pieces

Willie Ryan's Tricks, Traps, & Shots of the Checkerboard, published in 1950, is truly one of his best. Willie had as a goal the presentation of a graded compendium of tactical devices and examples, with shots and strokes the main feature, but various other motifs as well. By any measure, Willie succeeded rather well indeed.

This excellent book of tactics is extremely difficult to find at any price. Yet, it is such a valuable reference and training book for beginner and intermediate alike, that The Checker Maven has decided to produce, over a period of months, a freely available electronic version. (Recall that we did the same with Arthur Reisman's fine book of basics, Checkers the Easy Way, available in Postscript and PDF formats.) The copyright is long expired, and there are no legal or ethical barriers to republication.

We'll present a few pages in The Maven every few weeks, as mood and opportunity catches us; and we'll simultaneously gather it all together in what will eventually become a newly-typeset printable book.

Let's start off, then, with a pair of problems from the introductory pages of the book. We've called them Two Easy Pieces, and though these are speed-solvers for the experienced player, they present important basic concepts for the learner to master. Willie's own entertaining commentary accompanies each problem.


White to Play and Win
'A guileless amateur would be tempted to run for a king in Example 1, by moving 22-17; but black has a sure draw against that move by 7-11, 17-13, 11-16, 13-9, 16-19, etc. Instead of 22-17, white can make a win immediately by executing an elementary maneuver known as a "double exposure slip," which means that white can end all resistance by exposing two of black's pieces to capture at the same time. With this broad hint, the tyro should conceive the idea that gives black the heave-ho. A good plan for the beginner to adopt in studying a position is to allow himself a limited time, say five minutes, in which to find the right play without moving a piece; and failing in this, to consult the solution. This method enables the learner to correct his faulty calculations before they take root in his mind.'

White to Play and Win
'Again in Example 2, Mr. Tyro's policy of trying for a king by 18-14 is worthless, as black replies 6-9, 14-10, 13-17, 21-14, 9-18, with an easy draw in store. White simply does not have enough strength (placement of material) of position to make a strategic win, but in this case as in many others, a win can be effected by a tactical coup commonly termed "a compound stroke," so named because an opposing piece becomes an integral part of the scheme. In this example, we have the simplest form of a single corner compound in which the winning idea involves the single corner file or so-called "long diagonal."'

When you've given these a good try, click on Read More for the solutions.

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02/19/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Remarkable, Indeed

In January we presented a mind-boggler of a stroke problem (click here to see it again). This month, we offer another brain-twister of a different nature. Take a look at the situation diagrammed below, titled Remarkable Block Problem and attributed to an author calling himself "X.Y.Z."


White to Move and Win
Again, as in last month's stroke problem, the situation is artificial, but nonetheless diabolical. See if you can solve it without going off the deep end, and then take a look at the animated solution, here.

It all reminds us of Crowther's original Adventure game in which "you're in a maze of twisty passages..." But that was "XYZZY", not "X.Y.Z."

And, by the way, did you try to get your computer to solve this one? It's doubtful that any computer program would be able to come up with the solution. Click on Read More for some supplementary discussion on why this might be.

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02/19/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Who Was That Masked Man?

For the next little while, we'll be running a monthly "guess the author" feature problem. We'll present you with a checker problem, and a photograph; your challenge will be twofold:

1. Solve the problem (of course).
2. Identify the person in the photo (on the left), who is the problem's compositor. You can click on the photo for a full-size version.

February's entry will be what will probably turn out to be the easiest of the three, at least in terms of identifying the person in the photo; we're not so sure about the problem itself! Here it is:


Black to Play and Win
Click on Read More to check your answers.

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02/09/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Are You Faster Than the World Champion?

Click here for a checker problem reported to have been solved by the World Champion in something between 30 to 45 seconds.

Can you beat the World Champion? The clock is ticking!

(The Maven thanks Brian Hinkle for sending this one along.)

Now click here to see the animated solution. Did you beat the Champion? Record your results here.

02/05/05 -Printer friendly version-
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The Little Fooler

The feature problem for February is entitled The Little Fooler and is credited to Tom Wiswell and Jimmy Ricca. No less an authority than Ben Boland himself called this "a fine original problem." Skilled solver Brian Hinkle took almost a month to crack it.


White to Play and Win
There are only two pieces per side but there is no ease in simplicity here. In fact, long ago W. T. Call published a book of "Midget Problems" with just two per side, and they are widely regarded as real challengers.

Give this gem a really good try; your efforts will be well rewarded. After you've tried it, vote on how hard you thought it was, and click on Read More for the elegant solution.

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02/04/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Speed Department

As we race into February (where did those holidays go?) we'd like to introduce our Speed Department. These are easy problems to be sight-solved as quickly as possible. Click on the link for each problem and the diagram will appear.

How quickly can you solve these? A timer is running while you work! Click "Got It!" when you've figured it out and you'll see exactly how long it took.

Click Read More to check your solution.

These problems are provided courtesy of a gentleman named Charles, who in 2005 is celebrating his 60th year playing the Grand Old Game. He can be found on the GoldToken game site under the name NATONE. Look him up and play a friendly game or two.

Now: ready, get set, GO!

No. 1 (easy)

No. 2 (very easy)

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01/31/05 -Printer friendly version-
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But the Computer Says......

Here's a problem attributed to O. H. Richmond, and published a little over 50 years back by Tom Wiswell. He called it "Black Beauty":

Black to Play and Win
The White forces in the Black double corner are really boxed in, but Black has to find a way to make that into a win.

Now, you'll surely find that this is a neat problem and a "real twister" as Wiswell would say. So solve it, check your solution with the animation here, and then click on Read More to find out what the computer has to say about this problem. It won't be what you think--- or will it?

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01/29/05 -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.


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A Mind Sport for the Common Man

Learning Checkers

The Unknown Derek Oldbury

Rediscovering Checkers

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Richard Pask Publications

Reisman: Checkers Made Easy

Clapham Commons Draughts Book

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Bob Murray's School Presentation

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