The Checker Maven

Showdown in Abilene

Abilene Texas is cowboy country, partner, you just better believe it. The home of many a Hollywood showdown between the guys in the white hats and the guys in the black hats, Abilene is practically synonymous with the Wild West.

It's perhaps less well-known but every bit as important (at least to us) that Abilene has a history of great checker shootouts too. We recently came across the results of the 8th Semi-Annual West Texas Tourney, held on Washington's Birthday in 1935, and surely Abilene rocked and reeled that day, not from gunshots, but from the excitement of high-class competitive checkers.

We've chosen a situation from a game between a Mr. Geo. R. Gristy, of Eastland Texas (playing White) and Mr. A. H. Tate of Olden Texas (playing Black).


White to Play and Win


Believe it or not, there's only one winning move. Everything else draws or loses. Here Mr. Gristy played 24-20, allowing Mr. Tate to come up with a spectacular draw.

Can you win this unexpectedly difficult shootout? Can you figure out what Mr. Gristy should have played to win with the White side (instead of 24-20)? Can you show how Mr. Tate cleverly drew after 24-20?

Fight for the solutions, and then shoot back in time with us to Abilene Texas, 1935, to see the full game, explanatory notes, and the surprising answers. All it takes is a simple click on Read More.


Here is the complete game with brief annotations. The solutions to our problem are contained in the notes.

Black: A. H. Tate, Olden, Tex.
White: Geo. R. Gristy, Eastland, Tex.

10-14 22-18
11-15 18-11
8-15 25-22
6-10 23-18
14-23 27-11
7-16 22-18
4-8 29-25
8-11 25-22
3-7 31-27
1-6 24-20
16-19 27-24
19-23 26-19
11-15 18-11
7-23 24-19
10-14 20-16
9-13 22-18
13-17 18-9
5-14 16-11
17-22 19-15
22-25---A 11-8
25-29 15-11
29-25 8-3
25-22 3-8
6-9---B 11-7
2-11 8-15
9-13 28-24
12-16---C (diagram) 24-20---D
14-17---E 20-11
23-26 21-14
22-17 30-23
17-26 Drawn.

A---6-9 or 6-10 would draw here (KingsRow).

B---The move to draw here was 22-17 (KingsRow).

C---Mr. Tate comments: "Forms an interesting problem. White has a wide choice of moves now. 15-19 loses by 23-27 . . . The move taken as well as 24-19 or 30-25 or 15-11 only draw, while there is only one move to win and neither of us saw it until the game was over."

D---32-28 was the winning move here that Mr. Gristy missed: 32-28 16-19 (not 16-20? 15-10!) 24-20 and Black goes down a man and loses. White Wins.

E---This move gives Mr. Tate a rather flashy draw. He noted that Mr. Gristy was pretty shocked, having "already chalked up the win."

12/16/06 - Category: Problems -Printer friendly version-
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