The Checker Murders is a 16,000 word novelette published in seven monthly installments. It is perhaps the most extensive work of checker fiction ever published. We hope you enjoy it, but if you wish you can skip to the end to see this week's checker problem. Be forewarned that the problems in this series are very difficult.
Mortimer S. Holmes was a nerd, if not exactly an unabashed one. He very predictably spent a lot of time in front of his computer, playing the old adventure games, with interludes of online chess and checkers.
Still, he tried not to look and act the part. He made an effort to be cool. Sometimes he wore a baseball cap backwards and dressed in a tee shirt and baggy shorts. He went to the bar and had a beer or two. He tried to make time with the chicks.
But it just didn't seem to work out. The beer made him dizzy, the chicks ignored him, and the baggy pants didn't fit his skinny frame and kept slipping down. Usually after an hour or two at the bar, he and his friend Roger paid their tab and left. Or more like slunk out a side entrance, trying not to garner any more negative attention.
You have to give Mortimer credit, though; he kept trying. Twenty-two years old and an engineering grad student at University of Colorado in Denver, he was nothing if not persistent. He kept on trying, figuring that he'd eventually get it right.
His favorite place was the Baker Street Pub, in nearby Lakewood, Colorado. He liked it because they served food and eating kept down the dizziness. He also thought he somehow fit in. His middle initial, S, stood for Stephen but he always said his middle name was Sherlock. "M. Sherlock Holmes," he would say, "the Modern Sherlock Holmes," and then he'd wonder why the girls suddenly had something they needed to do and left him sitting alone.
He kept going back every Friday evening with great predictability. Other regulars learned to steer clear, lest they hear yet another tale about how the Modern Sherlock Holmes solved yet another difficult mystery, even if that mystery happened to be embedded in an adventure game.
So it happened that one Friday evening in the spring Mortimer and his friend Roger were at the Baker Street Pub, eating chicken wings and drinking draft beer. Roger was showing Mortimer the latest edition of the Denver Post newspaper.
"They're calling it ''The Checker Murders'," Roger said, pointing to the photo on the front page. "This is the third one already."
The photo showed a checkerboard with checkers arranged on it, right next to a picture of the deceased. "Checkers Murderer Strikes Again," the large headline read.
"Terrible, just terrible," Mortimer said.
"Yes, three dead already," Roger replied.
"No, no," Mortimer said, "that's not what I mean, well, sure, it's tragic, but look at this!" He pointed to the photo.
"Look at what?" said Roger.
"The checkerboard, of course," Mortimer said, "it's just not right."
"It's one of those red and black things, with red and black men. An /official/ checkerboard is green and buff with red and white men. Obviously the murderer didn't know about regulation checker sets."
Roger was Mortimer's best friend, but he still couldn't suppress a groan.
"And not only that," Mortimer went on, "the headline should read 'Checker Murderer,' not 'Checkers Murderer.' I've got half a mind to call the newspaper first thing Monday morning and tell them to run a correction."
Mortimer's seeming insensitivity aside, it was a bizarre case. Someone, evidently a serial killer, was murdering people and leaving a checkerboard at the scene of the crime. The checkerboard was set up in a different way at each location. The murder victims seemed to be a random group, and for that matter so did the methods of murder.
The first murder took place in Littleton, Colorado. It was an elderly woman. She had burned alive in her bed, and in a bizarre twist, the murder apparently extinguished the fire afterwards. The second murder, in Fountain, Colorado, was a fifty five year old sales executive who had been bitten by a rattlesnake that was evidently released by the killer. The third murder, in Montrose, Colorado, was a thirty year old factory worker, thrown head first into a deep hole freshly dug in his back yard.
There was no robbery and no other evidence of foul play. The police were baffled. The murders seemed arbitrary and without motive, and the checkerboard aspect was beyond their comprehension.
It was just the kind of case that would intrigue someone who called himself M. Sherlock Holmes.
Mortimer would be up late that night, long after he and Roger would inevitably give up, once again, trying to find dates at the Baker Street Pub.
To be continued.
As always, you can click on Read More for the solution and explanatory notes.[Read More]
We're continuing our new Beginner's Corner series with a problem that has to be "seen" to be believed.
Don't worry; this problem is not especially hard, but requires a real effort at visualization. Try to solve the problem from the diagram if at all possible; only set up the position on a board if you must, and only move the pieces if absolutely necessary.
When you've "seen" the solution, click on Read More to check your answer.[Read More]
Byron had just proposed to Yvette. On bended knee, he had offered her a beautiful ring and asked her to be his wife.
But somewhat to his surprise, she did not take the ring at once.
"Pray thee stand, Byron," she said, "and hear what I have to say, for I have long anticipated this moment."
Byron stood, still holding the ring in his outstretched hand, clearly looking uncomfortable and uncertain. "Yes?" he said. It was more like a croak than a word.
"I take the counsel of Uncle Harvey," Yvette began.
Byron groaned inwardly, though he didn't dare let it show. Uncle Harvey was Yvette's stuffed shirt uncle in Chicago, a checkerist of a certain reknown, and well known for his opinions on how young people ought to be raised. So what came next was no surprise.
"Uncle Harvey has taught that a young lady should test the character of her intended young man by means of the game of checkers," she said. "By such trials, she will learn if the young man is indeed suitable."
Byron didn't say what he was thinking: that Uncle Harvey was a big blowhard with ideas as outdated as his starched collars. Instead, he said, "I thought Uncle Harvey also believed that checkers is for the boys at home, and the girls should stay with knitting or cooking."
Yvette stiffened. "That is of little consequence," she said. "If you wish me to marry you, then you shall submit to trial by checkerboard. If you succeed in the trial, I shall give you my hand. If you fail, or if you refuse the trial, then even though I love you dearly, we must part company for ever more."
What Byron really wanted to do was to take the next train to Chicago and strangle Uncle Harvey with his bare hands. But that wouldn't be likely to win him a bride.
"Very well, then," Byron said. "I shall undertake the challenge, but you must promise me that, if I am victorious, you will accept my offer of marriage and set an early date."
Yvette smiled. "But of course," she replied. "Come in to the dining room. I have laid out a position on the checkerboard. You must solve it ere you leave here this afternoon. Pray thee do not ascribe a failure to solve to an error in the setting."
Straight out of Uncle Harvey's booklet, Byron thought. He had read the booklet once, at Yvette's urging, and had gotten quite a laugh out of it until he realized that the old geezer was actually serious about what he said.
Now, Byron was a hard working and ambitious young man, helping his father sell modern luxury buggies, a fine business that would one day be his. He had little time for checkers, and frankly wasn't at all good at it.
"The position is not one that is easily solved," Yvette was saying, "but it is one that will prove--- or disprove--- the worth of a suitor."
Great, just great, Byron thought. I probably couldn't even solve an easy problem, let alone one that would prove "the worth of a suitor."
The two of them stepped out of the parlor and into the dining room. Byron looked and saw a checkerboard on the dining table, set up to the following position.
Would you have passed Uncle Harvey's test and won Yvette's hand? Click on Read More for the conclusion of our story and the solution to the problem.[Read More]
Although it doesn't come until later in the month, May is the time of year for the famed Indianapolis 500 car race, surely one of the best-known automotive sports events anywhere.
Our checker speed problems do garner a little less media attention than the Indy 500, but we think in their own way they're just as interesting, and don't require travel and tickets to experience in person. This month, our problem is relatively easy and we're only giving you ten seconds to solve it. Click on the link below when you're ready. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!
May Speed Problem (easy, 10 seconds)
When you've raced to a solution, click on Read More to check your answer.[Read More]
The acclaimed 2012 documentary King Me is now widely available on-line at a price much lower than the average movie ticket.
King Me, as described on the iTunes website, "explores the surreal world of competitive checkers play as seen through the eyes of South African township resident Lubabalo Kondlo."
Checker fans the world around won't want to miss this outstanding film. Get it from iTunes:
It is also available for purchase or rental from the VUDU streaming service: