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 #75

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Can You Be The Third Person In The World To Solve This?

an original problem by contributing author Brian Hinkle

Only 2 players in the world have solved this 6x5 puzzle! Can you become the 3rd person to solve it?


White to Play and Win
Click on diagram for full-size version

So far only Alex Moiseyev and Jim Morrison could solve it.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most difficult) Alex gave it a 7, and Jim gave it an 8.5. Both enjoyed it thoroughly.

Gerry Lopez, Leo Levitt, Carl Reno and many others have all failed to solve it - even with computer help! A number of players simply thought it was set up wrong!

The solution will be published online here in The Checker Maven on May 7, 2005.

Please send any human (no computers answers please!) solution to:

How hard is this puzzle? Cast your vote here.

February 1, 2005 update: solved by Albert Tucker! Will you be the next one to crack this toughie?

12/16/04 -Printer friendly version-
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New Release of KingsRow

Ed Gilbert has released version 1.14p of KingsRow, the powerful checker playing engine that lost a squeaker to Cake Manchester last month by the small margin of 1 win, 3 losses, and 630 draws. The new release contains Ed's giant new opening book with over 800,000 positions.

Drop in the Chinook 8-piece database, and I bet you don't beat this one over the board.

Go here and download your copy right away. A review of the new release will appear on my Checker Program Review Page sometime in early 2005.

12/16/04 -Printer friendly version-
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Undiscovered Draw in Game 5 of Hellman-Ryan, 1949?

When your editor was just two months old, Walter Hellman and William F. "Willie" Ryan squared off in Oklahoma City and Joliet, Illinois for the world checker championship. It is a famous match celebrated to this day. One of the checker books that came to our Santa Fe office in the mail this week, World Championship Checkers, is the record of this match.

In game 5, Willie Ryan made what was reported to be a colossal blunder, perhaps the worst of his career, and in the end it cost him the championship in this closely contested match (it ended 4 wins each with 42 draws, but Willie was the challenger and so failed to gain the crown).

In corresponding with skilled analyst Brian Hinkle, we challenged him with the position at which Ryan blundered. Brian of course figured out the correct move in only about five minutes, but then looked further. He did some detailed computer analysis which appears to show that Ryan's "blunder" actually could have garnered a draw, but he made a real slip some half-dozen moves later, costing him the game!

Could this have all gone undetected for 55 years? Have a look at the web page that we've put together, with computer analysis, diagrams, and the complete game and notes from the book:

Did Willie Goof?

12/04/04 -Printer friendly version-
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The Challenge of Checker Problems

We've been corresponding recently by email with Brian Hinkle, a highly skilled checker problemist and analyst. We send Brian problems that he solves in a few minutes; he sends us problems that we know we will never solve but we try nonetheless. We end up feeding them to a world-class computer program such as Cake or King's Row for analysis. The computer solves them without missing a beat.

That brings up the question that is often heard about checkers being "dead." The best computer programs today are at an extraordinarily advanced level, very likely beyond the best human players. Computer programs were always relatively good in checker tactics; but now, with enormous opening databases of half a million to a million positions, endgame databases which comprehensively solve endgames of up to 10 pieces, computer programs seem to know just about everything about checkers. The University of Calgary has as its goal the complete "solution" of checkers, and they think they will do this in the next few years. We believe that they will, in fact, accomplish this feat.

But does the fact that a "solution" for checkers exists (or will exist) mean that the game is "dead"? We think that is only true if you are playing against the world-class computer programs that know the "solution." In a game between humans, especially an over the board game, checkers is not and will never be "solved." There is too much challenge and enjoyment in the game as played by mere mortals.

What has this got to do with checker problems? It's simply that these problems, especially the better and more clever or entertaining ones, show the depth of the game. Struggle with a couple of these gems and you'll see what we mean. You'll find that there's a lot left for you personally in the grand old game. Visit Jim Loy's site and start with his beginner's problems. You'll quickly understand.

12/03/04 -Printer friendly version-
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The Numbered Board and Move Notation

To follow the play presented in The Checker Maven you need to understand the numbered board and checker move notation.

With Black at the top, White at the bottom, the board is numbered in rows from left to right and top to bottom.



With White at the top, Black at the bottom, the board is numbered in rows from right to left and bottom to top.



These two numbering schemes are of course really the same thing; you are just looking at them from opposite sides.

A move is shown by listing the "from" and "to" square with a dash between them. For instance, 11-15 is the most popular Black starting move; Black moves the man on square 11 to square 15. 22-18 in reply forms the famous "Single Corner" opening; White moves the man on square 22 to square 18.

Captures are shown in the same way. Sometimes a dash is still used, sometimes an x. So continuing our game, Black jumps 15-22 or 15x22 if you prefer; Black jumps the man on 15 over to square 22 (capturing the White man on 18).

Multiple jumps, such as a double or triple jump, require you to pay attention, as the convention is to just show the start and end squares and not the in-between or intermediate squares. So the notation 1-3 would mean a King does a double jump from 1 to 10 to 3. The intermediate square is only shown if there are two ways to jump and it would not be clear otherwise.

In practice this is all very much easier than you might think, and you can learn the numbers with a couple of hours of practice. Some people prefer using numbered diagrams or a numbered board as a "helper." It's your choice, but we feel in the long run you are better off taking the time to learn the numbers, and avoiding long-term reliance on numbered boards and diagrams. Really, it's a piece of cake.null

01/01/03 -Printer friendly version-
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03/11/51 -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