The Checker Maven

Coffee and Cake at The Beacon

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Back in the day, around 1955, Sal liked to wear a white shirt with a bow tie, a checkered jacket, and tweed pants. He said it fit his style, and he wore it pretty often, especially on Saturday afternoons when he went to The Beacon Cafe to preside over the Coffee and Cake Checker Club.

The coffee and cake idea wasn't original with Sal; he had read about it in one of Willie Ryan's books. Sal thought of Willie as the greatest checker player ever and had once hoped to meet him in person.

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Sal

But that never happened. The Beacon was in the Provident Life Building at Fifth Street and Rosser Avenue in Bismarck, North Dakota, a kind of out of the way city in an out of the way state that didn't attract a lot of visitors; and sadly, Willie had just recently passed on.

The proprietor at The Beacon was a lady named Deana Nagel. She was also the chief cook and baker. Deana put in a lot of hours and could be testy once in a while, but she was fond of her regulars.

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Deana Nagel

Most of the boys in the checker club, like Sal, were somewhat on the elderly side although a few youngsters (meaning someone under the age of fifty) showed up once in a while. A typical Saturday in the winter would bring in five or six, besides Sal. Summers were a little slower and they didn't even bother to meet in July and August.

They played, as you'd expect, for coffee and cake. The losers would buy for the winners (Deana never gave out freebies, not even to Sal himself). Sometimes a member would set up a checker problem and bet coffee and cake that the others couldn't solve it. That led at times to some lively debates about who really had the right answer.

Sal had a checker pen pal down in St. Louis, name of Brian, who would send him checker problems that he had composed himself. They were never easy but they were always clever. Some of the boys thought it wasn't completely fair of Sal to bet coffee and cake on a problem someone else had composed, but they usually went along with it because Brian's problems were always good entertainment.

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Brian

"Got a new one from Brian," Sal announced one cold November Saturday, "and Deana's got German Chocolate Cake today. Anyone up for a try?"

There were a few groans, but the prospect of German Chocolate Cake and a new problem from Brian was really too much to resist. Most of the boys were there today: Wayne, Delmer, Louie, Dan, Larry and Mike were all on hand.

"Brian says his checker buddies Edgar and William love it, but I'm not telling you any more than that." Quickly, Sal laid out the position on one of the checkerboards on the table in the big booth where everyone was sitting.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK8,K12,22,30,31:B5,6,14,15,K24

Deana, back behind the counter, was all smiles. She knew she was going to be selling at least seven more pieces of cake and lots of coffee. And the boys were pretty good tippers, too. Pretty clever of her to set out the German Chocolate just when she figured Sal was about to spring a challenge. Deana was very good at reading people and there wasn't a guy worth the name this side of Montana who could resist her cake.

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The boys thought about it for quite a while. Sal wouldn't let them move the pieces around--- said it was cheating--- and they were just about to give up when Wayne shouted, "Got it!"

Sal shook his head. He liked it a lot better when someone bought his coffee and cake rather than him buying for another fellow. "Show me," he said.

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Deana's German Chocolate Cake indeed looks mighty good. Do you think you can win coffee and cake from Sal? You'll have to be pretty sharp to win it, but it's worth a try, and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.null

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05/25/19 - Printer friendly version
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An Exercise in Technique

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The great guitarist Andres Segovia once said, in effect, that technique either advances or retreats; it never stays the same. Of course, he was talking about the classical guitar, but the same applies to the game of checkers. We need to constantly strive to improve our technique and not allow it to slip back.

In today's Checker School entry, we divert briefly from our "gem" problems and present an exercise in endgame technique. It's a bit on the long side, but it's very instructive.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK15,K20,K28,K30:B5,K27,K29,K32.

White has a win on the board; that's probably obvious to the experienced eye. But the win takes patience and the skilled application of technique. Can you find the winning path? It's well worth your time and effort; do give it a solid try before you click on Read More to see the details.null

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05/18/19 - Printer friendly version
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Diagramless

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Diagramless.

A diagramless crossword puzzle is exactly what the name implies--- you get the clues but no diagram. You've got to figure out the diagram on your own. Quite the challenge.

Diagramless checker problems exist, too. They're not nearly as insidious as a diagramless crossword; they are simply problems published without a diagram, just a listing of what pieces go on what squares.

Now, in today's column, we won't put you through the exercise of visualizing the board without benefit of a diagram. In doing so, we're really not keeping with the 'diagramless' theme, but we suspect that you, our valued reader, will prefer this slight breaking of the rules.

This one is credited to John Tonks who was from West Lorne, Ontario, back in the day.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W9,13,15,19,21:B1,2,7,14,K26.

Now, 'diagramless' is not 'clueless' so don't be clueless yourself; the problem isn't terribly hard, although it does have a clever twist. And we'll clue you in: clicking on Read More will show you the solution.null

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05/11/19 - Printer friendly version
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Not Quite So Fast

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Hey, slow down a bit! What's the rush?

At times things just take a little longer. The driver of the car above is likely headed for trouble.

In the game of checkers, not everything can be done quite so quickly all the time, so this month we have a speed problem that, while not so hard, might take a bit longer, and we've dispensed with the Javascript clock. Take as much time as you need--- although we suspect it won't be too very much. Maybe.

BLACK
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WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W18,21,22,23,24,26,27,28,30,31,32:B2,3,4,5,8,9,11,12,13,14,15.

The procedure is straightforward, you just have to think it through a little. Mind the speed limits, solve the problem, and then hasten--- cautiously--- to click on Read More to see the solution.null

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05/04/19 - Printer friendly version
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