Slocum strokes

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#12 – November 15, 1889

This is the third time a Slocum composition has been published only once (until now).
Eight months have passed since #2 and #3 were published, but the melody lingers on. Slocum just had to play that old finale again.
With most of the Red pieces hiding around the edges of the board, they do not appear vulnerable to forcing moves, and the setting does not suggest that a stroke is in the offing. But looks can be deceiving. A litany of forced and forcing moves followed by a deferred stroke is about to begin.
White is a piece up. That situation can enable an opportunist to force the victim to either steal a piece or lose by numerical inferiority. The victim’s forced steal creates a free move for the opportunist. Slocum was beginning to like this ploy.
He was not above applying it as a prelude to a pitching party. Here we go again.


White to Play and Win

Solution #12:
*6 2A, 7 3B, *8 11C, 1-5D, *9 6A, 5-1D, *32 27E, 1-10, *11 15, 10-19, *27 23, WW by the exchange and the Fork
A – As in #10, White is a piece up, and a steal is threatened. In this case White, in order to win, is forced to avoid the steal.
B – Forced because 7-10 would allow *9 5, WW by numerical superiority

C – The only way to turn the tables on the upcoming steal

D – The two squeezes are forced to equalize forces
E – The forced steal gives White this needed free move. If you can abide the stroke definition in the Terminology section, what follows is a stroke.
Lessons for Composers:
30. Some moves are both forced and forcing.
31. Forcing the opponent to steal gives you a free move.
Bibliography #12: (one item)
November 15, 1889, American Checker Review, Volume II, Page 221, Problem 171, colors reversed

#13 – December 26, 1889

This is Slocum’s twelfth composition published in the year 1889. Is his one per month rate of output increasing or decreasing? We shall see.
This pure stroke is flawed in that the sequence of pitches may be varied without affecting the outcome.
It is the fourth time (and second consecutive time) that a Slocum composition was published only once (until now). The publishers were a discriminating audience.

The well hidden slip pitches generate a quaint pair of quintuples, one of which wins while the other loses. Amazing!

There are two simple ways to improve the setting of #13 and make harmony out of discord.






White to Play and Win
Solution #13:
4 8A, 11-4, 20 16A, 12-26, 27 24B, 28-19, *18 15C, 9-18, *10 7CD, WW by the quintuple jump and the Fork
A (two places) – Or play 27 24 first leads to the same epiphany; two unnecessarily discordant flaws
B – Or 18 15 first; an unavoidable shortcoming
C – The two concluding slip pitches are hard to anticipate.
D – Not 10 14, which also generates a quintuple, but loses because it drops the fork. Composers should note that critiquing the setting of #13 will raise a number of points:

  1. The Red pieces on 12 and 25 need not be kings for the solution to work. Why did Slocum make them kings? If it was to make Red seem more formidable, why not make the Red piece on 17 a king?

  1. The White piece on 20 need not be a king for the solution to work. Why did Slocum make it a king . . . an editorial error?

  1. The optional timing of 27 24 can be eliminated by moving the White king from 20 to19, thus converting the pitches at A to stars, Milton Johnson, private communication, 1970. (Another way is change the Red king on 12 to a single piece. Then 20 16 must precede 27 24, an example of a single piece being stronger than a king. That is two improved settings for the price of one.)

Lessons for Composers:

32. Critiquing problems can be more rewarding than solving them.
Bibliography #13: (one item)
December 26, 1889, American Checker Review, Volume II, Page 245, Problem 190, colors reversed.

#14 – before March 13, 1890

Slocum found a different stage for this strange looking arrangement. It was the first Slocum problem to appear in the Chicago Evening Lamp.
The exact date of its Evening Lamp appearance has not yet been determined, but it took at least a cross-country ride plus an ocean voyage before it arrived for a March 13, 1890, publication date in Otago, New Zealand.
#14 generates a kaleidoscope of free moves, including three ways of generating them: 1) a forced steal, 2) a domino pitch, and 3) an in and outer. Slocum then adds a quadruple for the epiphany, and closes with his familiar favorite fork finale for the fourth time. You will seldom see so many motifs in a single setting.

“No 14 made me go WOW! - The finale so cleverly hidden and disguised. It is amazing how after publication in the Otago Witness it apparently fell from view”, Liam Stephens





White to Play and Win

Solution #14:

*29 25A, 4-11, *17 14B, 10-17, *22 18C, 1-10, *32 27D, 24 31, *18-23, WW by quadruple jump and fork

A - The first free move, courtesy of the threatened steal converted to an obligatory jump. White is a piece up. 8 3 is an inviting false solution, but it allows a draw by *10-15.
B – Slocum’s first domino pitch
C – The second free move, this one courtesy of the domino pitch
D – Slocum’s fourth in and outer
E – The third free move, this one courtesy of the in and outer
Lessons for Composers:
33. Domino pitches create free moves.
34. Multiple motifs in a single setting confuse solvers.
Bibliography #14: (two items)
Well before March 13, 1890, Chicago Evening Lamp
March 13, 1890, Otago Witness, Problem 761, refers to the Chicago Evening Lamp, solution April 3, 1890, “Mr. Slocum’s is one of a deceptive character that probably will not occur in play, but elucidates the numerous ways that an ending can be won by a stroke”, Joseph Abernethy,
#15 – January 20, 1890

This was the final issue of Volume II of the American Checker Review. With the completion of Volume II, Hefter left the concern, and Reed assumed sole charge of the magazine.
This composition was the fifth on a growing list of those not picked up for republication (until now). Could it be that editors, other than Hefter, saw a fatal dual solution, which has remained unpublished (until now)?
Slocum’s solution was a clever combination of forced steal, resulting free move, and slip pitches leading to Slocum’s first deferred 2-way epiphany. 2-way pitches would soon become one of Slocum’s favorite motifs.

The dual solutions were equally shocking. Yes there were two. Both could have been avoided by a minor change in the setting.

Have you ever seen three more unusual solutions to one problem?



White to Play and Win

Solution #15 (Slocum’s solution):
25 22A & Var.1, 20-16B, *19 24C, 16 7, *22 18D, 13-22, *15 11D, WW by the 2-way stroke
A – White is a piece up, but must permit Red to recover it. Slocum undoubtedly intended the inviting 17 14 to be a false solution. See Variations 1 and 2 for the remarkable dual wins, which spoiled the false solution. Composers should note that the dual could be eliminated by resetting the White piece from 25 to 22, and the White king from 12 to 16. Then *16 12 intersects Slocum’s solution after the first move, and bypasses the dual.
B – A forced pocket steal to avoid losing by numerical inferiority
C – A free move generated by a forced pocket steal

D – Two slip pitches; the second one offers Red 2 ways to jump, both succumbing to a stroke. Unlike #2, it is a prototype of Slocum 2-way pitches to come.

Variation 1 (first dual solution) off Slocum’s solution at A
17 14, 20-16E, 15 10F & Var. 2, WW by 3-way maintenance of numerical superiority
E - If 31-26 or 31-27, *11 7 WW by numerical superiority

F – This remarkable 3-way pitch trumps the 2-way pitch in Slocum’s solution. But 15 10 is not a star move. 19 23 also wins impressively, as in Variation 2. Chalk up both of these corrections to the computer age. Slocum was disadvantaged by having no computers to check his work.

Lessons for Composers:
35. 2-way and 3-way pitches are deceptive to solvers.
36. Use a computer program to check your compositions.

Variation 2 (second dual solution) off Variation 1 at F
19 23, 16 7, *15 11, 7-16, 12 19, 6-10, 14 7, 2-11, 25 22G, 13-9, *22 18I&J, 9-13, *18 14, 13-17, *14 9K, 17-14, *9 5L, 14-10, *19 24M, 10-14, *24 28N, 14 10, 5 1, 10-7, 1 6O, 7-3, 6 10, 3-8, 28 24, 8-12, 24 19, WW by the Move or the steal
G – At this point, there are two ways to win, but neither is easy. The second way is by 25 21, 13-9, *19-24 (21 17 is Note H), 9-14, *24 28, 14-10H, 21 17, 10-7, 17 14, 7-3, 14 10, 3-8, 10 7, 8-3, 7 2, 3-7, 2 6, WW, same as Variation 2 at O
H – 14-9, 21 17, 9-13, 17 14, 13-17, 14 10, 17-22, 10 7, 22-25, 23 27 (now or later), WW by the steal.
I – Not 22 17, *11-15, 19 10, *9-14, draws by pitch and breeches.
J - Not 19 24, then either 11-15, 24 28, *15-19, 23 16, *9-14, or 11-16, 24 20, *16-19, 23 16, *9-14 draw; both by a pitch and steal
K – Not 14 10, *17-14, 10 6 or 10 7, *14 10 followed by *11-15 Draws

L – Not 9 6, same as Note J

M – Not 5 1, *11-15, 19-24, *10-14, 24 28, *15-18, Draws
N – Not 5 1, same as Note L
O – Same as Note G at end; White can win various ways from here.
Bibliography #15: (one item)
January 20, 1890, American Checker Review, Volume II, Page 268, Problem 213, colors reversed.

#16 – before May 22, 1890

Like #14, this problem in the Chicago Evening Lamp (date unknown) was discovered by way of New Zealand.
Simpler than his recent efforts, #16 was one of three Slocum compositions, along with six similar problems by other authors, to reappear in 1944 on “The Tyro’s Page” of Wood’s Checker Player.
It was only Slocum’s third setting to appear later in Horsfall’s 1909 and Wendemuth’s 1923 Problem Books. #1 and #3 were the other two.
The finale of #16 is called “Payne’s Lock” because it is identical to one by William Payne, 1756. In lock finales, one piece beats three, which, in a way, is more pleasing than fork finales, where one piece only beats two.
It takes some deft forcing moves to snap the lock on this setting.



White to Play and Win

Solution #16:

*23 19, 15-18, *31 26A, 25-30B, *26 22, 18-25, *19 16, WW by Payne’s 3-piece lock

A – 19 16 is a mildly misleading false solution. The Move is wrong.
B – Forced because of the threat to squeeze
Lessons for Composers:
37. Show versatility; diversify compositions
Bibliography #16: (9 items)
Before May 22, 1890, Chicago Evening Lamp, colors reversed
May 22, 1890, Otago Witness, Prob 782, colors rev, sol’n June 5, 1890
1909, Horsfall’s Problem Book, Page 62, Prob. 550, colors reversed
February 6, 1914, Western Mail, Perth, Australia, Pg 38, Prob 844, colors reversed
February 20, 1914, Western Mail, Perth, Australia, Pg 88, Prob 846, colors reversed
1923, Wendemuth’s Checker Companion, Pg 151, Prob. 95, colors reversed
September 13, 1924, Brisbane Courier, Problem 183, colors reversed

“Slocum was one of the most noted of American composers of problems. His positions invariably are of great practical interest and of very natural construction. Neat strokes are prominent features in the situations composed by him, and the ‘Slow come’ strokes, so named as an appropriate play on his name, besides aptly describing the nature of the composition – a series of forced moves and then sacrifices ending in the stroke capture of several of the opposing units – made his reputation in every country in which draughts was played. Today’s problem is a little example of Slocum’s genius”, ‘Oblique’

April 1944, Wood’s Checker Player, Vol 7, Pg 211, “Tyro’s Page”, Prob. 5, colors reversed, Solution: Page 223, the finish “is by William Payne and was given in his Game of Draughts in 1756; it should be called Payne’s Lock”

July 1992, Keystone Checker Review, Pg 379, Prob 20, cols rev, sol’n on Pg 397 of same issue, part of Bob Crue’s collection of Slocum problems

#17 – February 1890

Volume III of the American Checker Review began with this issue under J. P. Reed’s sole leadership. The publication was about to start downhill.
Is the same true of Slocum’s compositions? His #7 and #15 suffered the cacophony of dual solutions. With #17 comes a worse nightmare, a setting with terms that cannot be met. It is Slocum’s sixth composition to not reappear in any other publication (until now).
Keep in mind however that Slocum at this point has been composing problems for less than 18 months. His primary publisher is struggling. He has no idea of the acclaim his themes are generating. Some of his offerings have shortcomings of which he is unaware.
Discounting the flawed beginning of #17, composers should find this, Slocum’s first slip squeeze and first compound stroke, a neat 3 for 2 triggering a 2 for 1, worthy of note.




White to Play and Win, but corrected to a Draw

Solution #17 (Slocum’s unsound solution):

22 18A, *25-30, 17 22B, 26-31C, *18 15, 31-24, *22 26, WW by a 2-piece pitch and a compound stroke to gain numerical superiority

A – One might call this a slip squeeze. Composers should note that the Red piece on 8 is a king. Why? Slocum may have believed that, if it were not a king, White would have a dual win by 19 16 at A. But he may have been wrong here too because, in that situation, following 19 16 with *25-30 and computer aided afterplay seems to draw.
B – Slocum thought this press would force Red to steal, thereby creating the free move needed to set up the compound stroke.
C – Loses! Slocum overlooked Red forcing White to steal by playing the surprising free move: *30-25, 22 31, *25 22 leading to an easy draw. Again credit the computer.
Lessons for Composers:
38 – Don’t assume your work is flawless.
39 - Compound strokes are crowd pleasers.
Bibliography #17: (one item)
February 1890, American Checker Review, Volume III, Issue 1, Page 6, Problem 8, colors reversed.

#18 – March 1890

If you are looking for a basic 2-way stroke, this is it. Of course, being a piece up, you must first dodge the false solution, force steals, get free moves, and make both attacking and 2-way pitches. After all that, the twin epiphanies are pure symmetry, and pure Slocum.
#18 is a difficult setting worthy of admiration by all problem composers.
In this setting, it is not clear why the Red piece on 10 is a king. Slocum may have been trying to avoid extended or inconclusive variations.
Lessons for Composers:

40. Deciding whether or not a piece should be a king may be crucial or may only be a personal preference.

41. Extended or inconclusive variations are not attractive.





White to Play and Win

Solution #18:
*18 14A, 20-27, 14 7, 8-3B, *7 2, 30-25B, *2 7C, 3-10, *17 14D, WW by one of two appealing, parallel triples
A – With a piece up and a steal threatened, 24 19 is a fleeting temptation, but admits of easy draws, allowing Red more than one way to recover the piece and draw. Slocum intended similar false solutions at the first moves of #15 and #17, but they were flawed. In contrast, there is no doubt that 24 19 here is a false solution. *18 14 at A is correct; a free move generated by allowing the steal. Composers should note:

  1. The Red piece on 10 need not be a king. Slocum may have made it a king to better ensure against a dual solution. On the other hand, leaving it a single piece may have made the false solution more inviting.

  2. The Red piece on 20 may not need to be a king, but then the play after 24 19 would be extended and perhaps inconclusive. Such play does not enhance a composition.
  3. If both of the Red pieces on 10 and 20 are single pieces, then 24 19 is a dual solution.

B – Red is forced to steal, or lose by remaining a piece short.

C – This free move, generated by the forced steal, is an attacking pitch. Red must either jump the attacking piece or be jumped by it.
D – Slocum’s first 2-way, 2-piece pitch leading to seldom seen stroke symmetry.
Bibliography #18: (one item)
March 1890, American Checker Review, Volume III, Issue 2, Page 18, Problem 19, colors reversed. Note: This and the next problem were in the same issue.
June 1998, ACF Bulletin, Issue 273, Page 5, colors reversed, solution Page 7

#19 – March 1890

Are you game for another fork? It is the fifth in Slocum’s first nineteen compositions. Forks are always pleasing. This one requires a bewildering set of pitches before you can get there from here.
Since #18 and #19 were published together, and since both settings incorporate a threatened steal and have a little triangle of white pieces on 17, 18, and 22, they probably evolved in close succession, but they ended up very different.
Unlike #18, the kings in #19 are all necessary. #19 also bears ancestral resemblance to #13 in the pattern and type of pitches. Ideas never die.
#19 was not published again (until now), making 7 such out of 19 total.
Lessons for Composers:
42. The construction path into a composition is as important as the solution path out of it.


White to Play and Win

Solution #19:
*7 2A, 1-10, *17 14B, 10-17, *26 23C, 17-26, *18 15C, 27-18,

*20 16, 12-19, *11 7D, WW by the quadruple into the fork while retaining the Move on the loose piece

A – Although White again is a piece up, the false solution by 6 2 cannot save all of the vulnerable White pieces. Question: Why did Slocum set this up as a forced steal, rather than a pitch? Answer: It created a false solution and a subtle free move. Selecting *7 2 as the free move requires the solver to visualize the solution all the way to the end.
B – The first of 5 consecutive, critically sequenced pitches
C – These two slip pitches are at the heart of the deception, as in #13
D – The importance of *7 2 at A is now evident. Composers should note that the Red pieces on 4 and 25 could be kings without changing the solution. Without a compelling reason to make them kings, Slocum in this case apparently favored the cleaner appearance of fewer kings, quite the opposite of his choices for #18.

Lessons for Composers:
43. Forced steals create automatic opportunities for both free moves and false solutions.
Bibliography #19: (one item)
March 1890, American Checker Review, Volume III, Issue 2, Page 18, Problem 20, Note: This and the previous problem were in the same issue.

#20 – April 1890


After two excellent settings in the March 1890 issue, Slocum added two more in the April 1890 issue. All four threatened a steal at the outset. Although flawless, three of the four were not published again (until now), bringing that total to 9 out of 21. One wonders whether the low response resulted from the magazine, rather than from Slocum’s work.

#20 is the only one of the four where White is not a piece up. Unlike #19, which relied heavily on slip pitches, #20 is built on less common, but equally effective, attacking pitches. Frustrating to the solver are the many White options that all appear hopeless, not to mention the complications of a compound stroke that you can’t see coming.
Slocum used attacking pitches only twice before (#2 and #18) and a compound stroke only once before (#17).
Lessons for Composers:
44. Excellence is its own reward.




White to Play and Win

Solution #20:
*21 17A, 3-10B, *19 16C, 12-19, *20 16C, 11-20, *2 6, 14-21,*6 24D, WW by the compound stroke and the Move on the remaining piece
A – The threatened steal gives White a selection of free moves. False solutions include 2 6, *11 2 draws, and 20 16, *11-20 draws, and 19 16, *3-10, 16 7, *9-13 draws. Composers should note that the trunk *21 17 is not an attacking pitch because, if Red does not jump it, there is no immediate counter-jump.
B – Or 14-21, *19 16C, 12-19, *20 16C, 11-20, *2 6 back to the trunk win

C (4 Places) – Two incredible, but essential, attacking pitches in proper sequence and quick succession; Red can jump in any sequence, but cannot avoid losing three pieces.
D – The purpose of the attacking pitches is now evident.
Lessons for Composers:

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