User Guide

Currently there are three tools available for practicing checkers (droughts). The tactics puzzles should be fun and challenging. The opening explorer shows what openings the experts play and how well they do. And the game search lets you explore the database and analyse master level games. I want to add more extensive help files but in the mean time I'll try to answer any questions you post in the forum.

  • Tactics Puzzles (Next Puzzle)

    These are scenarios taken from games where one player had an opportunity to gain a decisive advantage. Whether or not that player found the right move(s), your task is to grab that opportunity. You won't play the whole game, just long enough to convince the computer you found the winning combination. Converting the endgame afterwards might be quite difficult but is not part of the puzzle.

    If you get the problem wrong or are surprised by the computer's chosen defense, the right side bar shows some analysis which may help. And the left side bar may have user comments about the puzzle.

    The analysis is the computer's claimed main line. The 'other tries' and 'defenses' buttons give a list of alternative moves at every step. Each move shows three pieces of information; the move description, the position's evaluation for the player, and a principal variation.

    The evaluation is the computer's calculation of how good a move is for you. 0's are draws, positive 100 is winning by a full checker, negative numbers are good for your opponent. Values above 1000 indicate the engine 'sees' a forced win in the endgame database.

    The principal variation (behind the details button) is the computer's best guess as to how play would continue from that point. Hopefully it will reveal why other defenses fail or why other tries are not as good as the main line. Unfortunately in the case of 'database draws' the computer often doesn't give this principal variation and won't be as helpful. In that case look to the comments section. Maybe someone has already answered your question or you can be the first to ask, you're probably not alone in your confusion.

  • Opening Explorer (Database → Opening Explorer)

    This section is primarily useful after you come back from a game. Use the board to plug in the moves made by you and your opponent and watch the win rates on the right.

    If you made a move that few/no experts made it may be a mistake, especially if there are more popular moves. Try to remember the better move and play it next time.

    If you played the opening well but had trouble coming up with a plan afterwards, use the games on the left. Maybe you can borrow a plan for the next time you see that opening.

  • Games (Database → Games)

    This section is primarily for fun and interest, see what you can find. If you have a player whose style you would like to emulate, view and study their games.

    On the left are a list of players for whom I have more than 250 games, sorted by how many games I have.

    Some of my favorites finds:

    • Marion Tinsley has 667 games in the database, 146 wins, and only 16 losses!
    • Asa Long was playing in 1920 and still playing in 1985!
    • The games of Chinook (The Deep Blue of checkers).