Checkmate!

Kilby sent in this double puzzler:

“When I wrote Leigh Rubin to point out that one of the three checkers should already have been doubled to form a ‘king’, he mentioned that he had submitted the comic to the syndicate with a caption, but that this caption never made it to the published version.”

Puzzle #1:

Submit a caption that might fit this cartoon.

Puzzle #2:

Assuming the pieces can move (and capture) only according to their own “rules”, which side would win the endgame shown in the comic?

The knight, as white, should have the first move. In checkers, red goes second. Now, if we assume the knight is at a1, then the checker at c1 should have been made a king. So, we need to assume that the knight is at h8, and the red checkers have to start by moving away down the board.

OR, you can assume the red checker has just gotten to c1, and is being crowned as we speak; this puts the knight at a1.

The history of these games can also be discussed in the comments.

By the way, I’m on chess.com as zbicyclist; anyone like a game?

31 Comments

  1. Personally, I vastly prefer the second assumption, that the red checker has just arrived at c1 (moving from right to left), and is in the process of being crowned. As noted above, this puts the knight at a1, and it is the knight’s turn to move first from the position shown.

    For the first premise given above, I disagree that the knight should have the first move from h8. I would say that the knight has just arrived there (capturing a checker), so that the remaining checkers now must start to move “away” (from left to right).

  2. What difference does the color of the pieces make? You immediately assume this is a mid-game thing, so why can’t the knight have just moved to that square, making it Red’s turn? Granted, that would be a very, very stupid move.

  3. The comments at GoComics included what I believe to be the most-likely caption so I won’t repeat it here. It does help the comic make sense.

  4. @ Powers – Not only does the intended caption appear in the reader’s comment, it seems that Leigh Rubin was able to get GoComics to update the image so that the caption is now shown in the comic. What is unusual is that this was done “invisibly” (preserving the existing file name), rather than by replacing the old image with a new file. However, comparing the image currently shown there with the copy that appears above reveals that not only did they add the caption, they also adjusted the colors, making them darker:

  5. This is an aspect of comics being online that I really enjoy – being able to interact with the artists of said comics, whether via COMMENTS or, as I’ve often done, directly via email. Even better would be going to one of their appearances at a comiccon, but THAT ain’t gonna happen, so conversing with them online is the next best thing.

  6. @ Anonymous – I actually think moving to h8 was a good idea. No matter which checker is moved next, the knight can position itself to “fork” one of the other checkers (guarding both the square it is one, as well as the only square it can move to), guaranteeing a capture on the knight’s second move.

  7. I don’t see why the checkers couldn’t be on their first 3 rows, with the one from 4 either having moved to 8 or been captured by the knight.

  8. @ Downpuppy – The checkers could indeed be in their “initial” positions on their first three rows: that is the “first” premise, which I simplified a little in the second paragraph of my initial comment @1.

  9. Andréa, I recall when we realized the guy who does “The Big Picture” made an occasional habit of responding to reader comments (and on this occasion it was you), and not always politely, right inside a subsequent issue of the comic. He seems to make it an occasional standard feature of the strip, and a claque of reader-commentators seem happy to play along.

  10. Oh, dog – I’d completely forgotten about that. I have to say, he’s the ONLY one who wasn’t very nice. Everyone else has been and has even thanked me in my role as Ms Pedant, as Dave Kellett once called me (a nickname I proudly acknowledge).

  11. @ Andréa – I’m just relieved that I didn’t witness it happening at the time, and I’m now glad to see that the strip went into reruns in April 2021.

  12. With Rubin’s cutline, it becomes funny. It has been so many decades since I played checkers, I had to look up the rules, and I was amazed to see the various international variations.

    There are four possible board orientations, in two of which kinging must be (about to be) in progress. That means the checkers’ turn is about over and the next move is the knight’s, and either of its moves would bring it to safety, since checkers can’t touch the white squares. It would necessary then be threatening one checker, and we can’t see enough of the board to know what checker moves are blocked or what multiple jumps would be enabled.

  13. @ Boise Ed – While it is possible to (successively) rotate the board by 90 degrees to produce four alternative orientations, only two of them are “legal”. The standard in both chess and checkers requires the lower right and upper left squares (h1 and a8) to be white.

  14. Why is everyone assuming there’s a game in progress? They are just game pieces talking to each other. A checker can be on the 8th rank without kinging because they aren’t playing.

    The knight even talks about ‘my game’ anf ‘your game’, that shows they are different games, and not playing against each other.

  15. So if you are combining the two games, whose rules for capture pertain? Since the knight actually can skip, does that mean he’s the only chess piece that can successfully capture a checker? Or does he have to land on the checker, whereas the checker has to jump over the knight to capture? Or can the checker capture this chess piece by just occupying the same space?

  16. @ Pete – I’m sure that Leigh Rubin never intended to imply that these pieces were involved in a game; for his purposes, they were merely standing on a common board. The “endgame analysis” was just an idea from me.

    p.s. @ larK – The rule for a mixture of game are indeterminate, but my proposal is implied in the line stating that “the pieces can move (and capture) only according to their own rules“, meaning that the knight can jump over anything, but needs to land on a checker to capture it, whereas the checkers must jump the knight to win. I think the knight has a lopsided advantage, being able to capture a piece on his second move (using either scenario), and able to “run away” at any time, but I’m not sure whether this advantage would be enough to force a win (by capturing all three checkers).

    P.P.S. Nobody needs to point out that this s a silly idea, I knew that when I submitted it.

  17. P.P.P.S. @ Grawlix – Colors for “Rubes” are applied by the syndicate, Leigh was surprised both by the change and that the caption had been restored (too late, of course, for the newspaper editions).

  18. Oops, you’re right, Kilby. All checkers have to be on black squares, and 90º makes this corner white.

  19. Y’all assuming that once out of a game of checkers (like, say, in a game that involves a chess knight) the checkers are constrained by the rules of checkers.

    Maybe they aren’t, and move like chess pawns.

  20. @MITCH4: Speaking of making misteaks in Lennie’s The Big Picture, this is today’s . . .

    This week, I sent ERRATA emails to WAYNO [Bizarro] and Martin Lee [The Other Ones], and both thanked me, and corrected their comic, insofar as they were able.

    What can I say . . . being retired, English as a second language . . . I’m a Pedant and Proud Of It.

  21. I did see Wayno’s callout to you, but I thought it was crediting for help ID’ing that musician photo, not specifically a correction.

  22. “The Big Picture” referenced above originally ran in the newspapers 20+ years ago. That ended quite some time back after the cat seen in the final panel died. For a while, he was making a lot of new ones, but has gone back to mostly reruns with very occasional new ones. Those tend to feature their new cat.

    I am possibly the long continuous (at least as continuous as the strip) reader of the online version. I had added it to my lineup because it ran in the Post-Dispatch. When it originally stopped syndication, updates stopped. Then one day years later, reruns started up. Then Lennie started adding new material.

  23. In high school I played on the school’s (unofficial) chess team. Don’t be impressed, I played “last board”. If the other team had more players than our team did, they got to play against me (and win). I was also the only female on the team – which as my mom understood, was a good part of why I joined the team.

    Over the decades Robert and I have played many games of chess. We tend to be fairly evenly matched. About a year into the pandemic he went rummaging in our basement metal closet that holds all of our non-computer games (meaning it does not contain the Atari 2600, Commodore whatever it was, etc. – which are stored in “the teddy bears’ room” aka the spare bedroom, in addition to those games playable on our assorted Windows computers and cell phones) to find a chess set so we could play. We know we have my dad’s travel set (early plastic) and we looked it for it. (I really think we put in our RV early on, but he says no). I did find a wooden travel set in that basement cabinet for us to use. We sat down to play. I tried my hardest to lose – basically making moves either at random, stupid moves or moves against my interest – somehow I still won. He has not wanted to play again since.

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