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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Marujito: A New Checker Playing Engine

There's a brand-new checker playing engine just released. It's called Marujito, named after a yellow canary that is a character on the Barcelona television comedy show Plats Bruts. It (the engine, not the canary) runs with Martin Fierz's CheckerBoard interface, and was developed by Angel Galan Galan of the University of Barcelona. He bundles it here under the name Matilde with two other engines that play European checker variants.

As those of you know who follow my checker program review page, I test nearly all new programs against Martin Fierz's Simple Checkers, an engine that I rate as "Class C" meaning it plays a good casual game, if short of expert or master level. Simple generally destroys the competition as, alas, the majority of checker programs out there aren't all that great.

Well, this new kid on the block is no comical bird, despite its name. Marujito clearly outplayed Simple Checkers in a test game! The game was a very interesting matchup, with Marujito calculating a pretty way to win a piece and then correctly winning a 3 kings vs. 2 kings endgame--- something that the more basic programs very often fail to do.

You can view the full game in animated form, with comments and evaluations, here. But before you do that, take a look at this position:

WHITE (Simple Checkers)

BLACK (Marujito)
Black to Play and Win
Simple has just blundered by playing 25-22, a losing move. But it looks like a pretty natural move in this position. Can you see the way to a Black victory? Try your hand at it, and check your winning ways against the actual game as linked above. You'll see that Marujito handles this very nicely.

The Checker Maven congratulates program author Angel Galan Galan on turning out a checker engine that plays a very good game and will be a lot of fun to use as a casual sparring partner.

A summary review of Marujito now appears on the review page.

02/12/05 -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.

[Read More]
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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Solutions and Follow-Ups from January, 2005

January's feature problem was Coffee and Cake, a classic from the early Willie Ryan days. Click on the link to review the problem and see the animated solution. Did you win it?

Also last month, we updated our review of the Blondie24 computer program. Click on the link, and then take a look at the animated game between Blondie and Simple Checkers to see how surprisingly well these two fare over the board.

And finally, we've done a complete rewrite of our article, So This Is Checkers?, as we've come across a lot of supplementary information about interesting checker variants both old and new.

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.

[Read More]
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)

[Read More]
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?

[Read More]
01/29/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Major Update to Program Reviews

The Program Review web page (see link in the right column) has been completely overhauled, with a streamlined rating system and more accurate evaluations. Dozens of checker-playing computer programs are reviewed and no-nonsense recommendations provided. Check it out soon!

01/21/05 -Printer friendly version-
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A Real Mind-Boggler

The Checker Maven presents as its most unusual offering for January the following mind-boggler attributed to a Mr. W. Veal. It is a "stroke" problem, that brand of spectacular, if unrealistic fireworks that appeals to some and is anathema to others.

To be sure, the position below is composed and obviously impossible; there just aren't that many pieces in a game, and they could never get into such a contorted distribution. But for the fan of the stroke problem, realism isn't the issue. The whole point is a clever key move or two, and lots of action afterwards.

Now, depending on what computer program you use, you may or may not be able to coax it into solving this for you. But you really should try it on your own. And since the play is mostly all forced, the challenge is more in trying to visualize the moves than it is in actually finding the solution. But the visualization challenge is mind-boggling indeed. Can you make it out or will this just drive you over the edge?


White to Move and Win
Click on diagram for a very large version
Click here for an animated solution, very kindly supplied by Martin Fierz.

01/21/05 -Printer friendly version-
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A Flora Temple Thriller

The Flora Temple attack has been an interesting line of the Single Corner opening for many decades, and much has been published about it. I was doing some research, trying to understand a man-down draw arising in the Flora Temple, and came across a real thriller of a game in an old checker manual. It took place many, many years ago as part of a match between the London Wanderers and the Manchester Central Draughts Club. Here's the game (in PDN notation):

[Event "London v. Manchester"]
[Date "Long Ago"]
[Black "Blakely"]
[White "Strudwick"]
[Result "0-1"]
1. 11-15 22-18 2. 15x22 25x18
3. 12-16 29-25 4. 9-13 24-19
5. 16-20 28-24 6. 8-11 19-16
7. 4-8 16-12 8. 11-16 18-14
9. 10x17 21x14 10. 6-10 25-21
11. 10x17 21x14 12. 13-17 23-18
13. 2-6 26-23 14. 6-9 24-19
15. 17-21 19-15 16. 1-6 31-26
17. 7-10 14x7 18. 3x19 12x3
19. 19-24 3-8 20. 24x31 8-12
21. 31x15 12x1 22. 9-13 1-6
23. 5-9 23-18 24. 20-24 6-10
25. 13-17 10-15 26. 17-22 15-19 0-1

A nice win for White.

You can play through an animated version by clicking here.

Now, here's the question: where did Black go wrong? There's a very definite spot in the game where the losing move is played. Can you find it, and can you come up with the correct move to draw?

Click on Read More when you think you have the answer and compare your solution with KingsRow.

[Read More]
01/20/05 -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.


Numbered Board and Notation

Book Reviews

Game Site Reviews

Program Reviews

A Mind Sport for the Common Man

Learning Checkers

The Unknown Derek Oldbury

Rediscovering Checkers

Regulation Checker Sets

Marvin's World


Richard Pask Publications

Reisman: Checkers Made Easy

Clapham Commons Draughts Book

Grover/Wiswell: Let's Play Checkers

Bob Murray's School Presentation

Jim Loy Publications

PDN collections

Oldbury: MoveOver

Reinfeld: How to Win

Ginsberg: Principles of Strategy