Tommy Wagner was pretty nervous, uncharacteristically pacing up and down and wringing his hands. "It's my big chance, Uncle Ben, but he's so good!"
It was a sunny Florida Saturday morning, and as he had done on most Saturdays for the past eight years, Tommy Wagner was on the front porch of Uncle Ben's house. Ben, a retired checker professional, wasn't really Tommy's uncle, but all of his checker students called him 'Uncle Ben' out of respect.
Tommy, a ninth grader, was talking about the upcoming intramural match between his high school Varsity Checker team and the Junior Varsity team. Tommy had already risen to Captain of the Junior Varsity, and so in the match he would have to play a senior, Reynaldo Lopez Garcia, who was the Varsity Captain and a titled Master.
"Yes, Tommy," Uncle Ben said, "he is good. There's no other way to become a Master. And we both know you haven't reached his level yet, although I'm certain you will one day."
"He's going to kill me," Tommy said. He had stopped pacing and flopped into the porch chair next to Uncle Ben.
"What's the worst thing that can happen?" Uncle Ben asked.
"I don't know ... I'll lose my game against him?" Tommy said.
"Have you lost any games before?"
"Well, sure, but ... "
"Has Reynaldo lost any games? Did I lose any games when I was playing professionally?"
"Yes, of course, but ..."
"Everyone loses games, Tommy. Even Marvin J. Mavin and the very top players. And you never know. Anything can happen. You've got to go in there and play to win. You might win, you might lose. There is no shame in losing to a Master as long as you do your best and especially if you're a good sport about it."
"I know, Uncle Ben, but I really want to show something to Coach Schann and maybe make Varsity next season."
"Of course you do, and to do that, what steps should you take?"
"Um ... practice and study?"
Uncle Ben smiled, "Right on the mark. Let's pour a couple of glasses of lemonade and get into today's lesson, then, shall we? I've got an important situation set up on the checkerboard here."
Tommy smiled back. Win or lose, everything was going to be fine ... and he'd sure do his best to try to win. He turned his attention to the position that Uncle Ben had laid out.
"White to play and draw?" Tommy asked.
"Yes," Uncle Ben said. "Very good. It's known as the McCulloch-Miller Draw, an important drawing technique."
Tommy thought for a while. "Got it, Uncle Ben! Let me show you."
Tommy was able to work this one out. Can you? You don't need to be a titled master to solve it. When you have your solution, click on Read More to see the solution, notes, and several additional examples of the theme.[Read More]
It was another Saturday afternoon at The Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club was in session in one of the large booths.
Sal was the leader and there were five others present today. It was cloudy, windy, and chilly outside and the coffee was flowing.
After the boys had played an hour or so of informal games, one of them, Mike, said, "Hey Sal, don't you have a coffee and cake problem today? You didn't have one last week and I've been kind of wanting to win another piece of cake off you."
Sal frowned. The last time he tried, Mike had indeed solved Sal's problem and Sal had to buy coffee and cake. But then Sal's frown turned into a smile. "Matter of fact, Ed sent me a real nice one."
"Uh-oh," Mike said. Whenever Sal had a problem from either Brian in St. Louis or Ed in Harrisburg, it was bound to be tough. Top quality for sure, but never easy.
Sal leaned back against the seat. "Are you up for it?"
Mike and the rest of the group hesitated a little, but Deana, the owner, knowing just when to jump in, said from behind her counter, "I've got fresh apple kuchen this afternoon, boys!"
Well, that did it. Deana's apple kuchen, like most of her desserts, was irresistible.
"Lay it out," Mike said to Sal, pointing to one of the checkerboards, "and pretty soon I'll be enjoying that kuchen you're going to buy me."
"There it is," Sal said after setting up the position. "Take your time. Just not too long. I don't want to have to rush the kuchen that you'll be buying me, Mike!"
Mike laughed. "We'll see about that," he said. But five minutes later, all of the boys were still scratching their heads.
"I'll give you five more minutes but that's it," Sal said. He was greeted by the usual groans.
Once again we're asking if you can win coffee and cake from Sal, but unlike at The Beacon, you can take all the time you wish. When you're finished, click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Some of us need to be on diets. 1,000 calories a day, maybe? That doesn't allow for much. Salads with no-fat dressing, if any dressing at all; steamed vegetables (hold the butter, thank you), and a little protein. Just a little.
Fortunately our game of checkers doesn't involve diets, but it can involve small servings in the form of miniature problems. Today in Checker School we continue with another composition by William Veal--- a small slice, if you will.
Well, yes, White is a man up and should win, but maybe it's not as easy as all that. The White men look pretty exposed and Black might be able to chase one of them down ... but we'll let you figure out the best line of play. In the end, it's a fairly small effort. So slice (and dice) this one, and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Summer speed. It can mean a number of things, but today we encourage you to enjoy the way things slow down to 'summer speed' during those long, warm days. Take some time to relax and get out of the daily rat race that persists during the larger part of the year. Surely take time to enjoy a little checkers.
Surely you've solved it already, but if you'd like to double-check, click on Read More to see the snappy solution.[Read More]