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 #73

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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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03/05/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Introducing Marvin J. Mavin

We'd like to introduce you to Marvin J. Mavin, the hero of this webzine and the Captain and First Board player for the Detroit Doublejumpers, one of the leading teams in the Central Division of the National Checker League.

Marvin J. Mavin
Captain, Detroit Doublejumpers
Marvin is, of course, a leading professional in the highly popular sport-checkers world, and his team makes it to the playoffs more seasons than not. However, Marvin sometimes gets distracted by his lucrative promotional ad contracts, and he has been known to skip practice in order to shoot spots for his sponsors, Super Slick Shaving Soap and Belcher's Best Lite Lager. And as to that latter product, well, Marvin also sometimes misses practice to bend an elbow with a few of his buddies at the local watering holes. (We recommend that you not emulate this behavior yourself.)

Marvin was a top player on his grade school and high school teams, being named to the All-State squad three years running in his home state of New Jersey. He moved on to collegiate checkers, receiving a full-ride scholarship from the prestigious University of Champions in Mississippi. Following college he was a first-round draft choice of the St. Louis Switchers, who started him out with their Triple-A farm club, the Louisville Leapers of the Southeastern Checker League.

Marvin made the "big show" within a year, moving up to the Switchers, but became a free agent after his two-year contract expired, as he and the Switchers were unable to come to terms, with Marvin asking $12 million a year and the Switchers capping their offer at $8 million. The Doublejumpers then signed him on for $10 million per year plus performance based bonuses. The rest, as we all know, is history.

Join us in the columns of The Checker Maven later this month (March 2005), as Marvin pays a visit to a Detroit grade school and gives a lesson (or perhaps gets a lesson) on the "Fun Shot" in the Single Corner opening.

03/05/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Checker Maven Score Sheets

As a bonus to our readers, we'd like to direct you to some score sheet forms we developed a little while back. They are suitable for single or double-sided printing and are easy to use and logically arranged. Simply download and print to a PostScript capable printer.

You can get them here. Let us know what you think.

Oh...yes, these are for checkers, in case you were wondering!

03/01/05 -Printer friendly version-
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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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A New and Original Online Play Site

We've come across what must be a fairly new site but one that has really captured our attention. It's called TurnPlay and it's simple, focused, and unique. This site has a lot of promise and we hope that it attracts its share of users. It is sure to appeal to the serious checker player.

You can read our complete review, but very briefly, TurnPlay combines turn-based play and head-to-head play in a manner that is intuitive, appealing, and practical. It's one of the few truly original ideas in on-line gaming that we've seen in a very long time.

TurnPlay is not a site for a casual head-to-head "pickup" game. It is instead a site which you can use to establish games with other players, who don't even have to be members themselves, and then engage in serious play backed by a game moderation system that works the way it ought to, including the use of correct PDN for moves.

In addition, the site allows for setup and play of an arbitrary position, something we have yet to see elsewhere.

Memberships are inexpensive at $20 per year although free guest memberships offer many of the important features, including unlimited play.

Check out the review and then check out the site. And if you like it, support them by joining.


We did, by the way, also just now review another site which offers email turn-based play of something they believe to be checkers (although we beg to differ). We won't embarrass them, or us, by mentioning its name in The Maven, but the full review is here if you'd like to see for yourself.


Missing screen shot images for about half a dozen sites on the review page have been restored as of 05 March 2005; our apologies for any inconvenience.

02/25/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Computer Cheating in On-Line Checkers

We received this email today:

"I see a lot of people using a Cheating program for playing checkers on Yahoo. Where are they getting it from? Thanks"

The writer is correct; there are a lot of cheaters that use computer programs to play their games for them; then they actually believe their "wins" and "high ratings" mean something.

It's pretty sad, isn't it? We can only hope that some day, these folks might get a life and realize that there is no shame in losing with grace and sportsmanship, and that relying on your own skills and accepting the results is what makes a true winner.

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02/23/05 -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.

[Read More]
02/19/05 -Printer friendly version-
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Happy 90th Birthday, Mr. Richard Fortman!

Living checkers legend Richard "Dick" Fortman celebrated his 90th birthday on February 8, 2005. Mr. Fortman's checker career is nothing short of fabulous, as champion player, skilled analyst, and famed writer. You can send your birthday greetings to rlf111 at

02/12/05 -Printer friendly version-
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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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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 2004-2024 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