Tinsley on Losing Checkers

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Tinsley on Losing Checkers

Postby B Salot on Sun Dec 20, 2009 5:48 pm

This is trivia, but true. I bring it up to ask a couple of nagging questions that I should have asked more than 60 years ago.

I first met Marion Tinsley in 1945. The unusual encounter was recorded on Pages 11 and 12 of the January 1988 issue of the International Checker Hall of Fame magazine "Checkers".

So when I saw him again at the 1947 6th District Tourney in Indianapolis, I was not bashful about striking up a conversation. By then he had played in five checker tourneys, winning four of them and placing 2nd to Willie Ryan in the 1946 National Tourney at Newark. Naturally he was strongly favored to win in Indianapolis too, which he did without losing a game.

Before play started, I facetiously suggested to him that, since he had become so hard to beat, the tourney directors ought to even the odds by changing the games in this tourney to "Losing Checkers" (the game sometimes called "Give Away", where the rules of Checkers are followed except the object is to lose).

Tinsley's response surpised me. He said, "I'm better at that than I am at straight Checkers!" I asked him to explain. He gave me a short lecture about "Losing Checkers" being easier than straight Checkers; about the key being to throw one of your opponent's pieces into the "Doghole"; and when you do, it's all over.

Since then, I have contemplated his remarks many times. There are no draws in "Losing Checkers". Even if both sides consistently play the best moves available to them, one side will successfully lose (i.e., win) every time.

Now here are the nagging questions that I should have asked then, but am asking now:

1. With perfect play, which side wins and which side loses at "Losing Checkers"?

2. And how can the answer be proven correct?

Bill Salot
B Salot
 
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