Although your editor's degrees are in engineering, he's definitely not the kind of engineer shown above. Those engineers certainly earn a very nice living, and we suspect that quite a number of them play checkers while on the road.
Today's little problem was published decades ago by someone who simply called himself "The Engineer." We have no further information on who he might have been. Did he design bridges? Refine oil? Drive a train? Perhaps someone out there on the internet might know, but for now it remains an intriguing mystery.
His checker problem, though, won't stay a mystery for long.
Despite the sometimes unfair (and annoying!) "what result" terms, the problem is fairly easy if you take an engineering approach and do a little organized analysis. No slide rules required, just some orderly checker thinking. Do your calculations and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
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Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Six: Third Move
Reggie stumbled wearily out of the Security Office. He had been there for several hours and it was nearly time for draughts practice. The big match with Lyme Regis was to take place on the next day.
But all he could think about was Laird and Lady Refused. That was even worse, if such a thing could be imagined, than the humilation he suffered in front of his class--- in front of Katie--- at the hands of first Dr. Rowan and then the security officers.
Then he thought about the embarrassment Katie had been subject to, and he wanted to die. Literally. His life was over, there was nothing left. He had started with what he thought was a great idea and turned it into the most horrible experience of his life. Perhaps of Katie's life as well.
But his feet had taken him, seemingly unbidden, to the practice room.
Fine. He would go through practice, play the match at Lyme Regis tomorrow, and die afterwards. He supposed dying could be put off for a couple of days. After all, it was a really important match.
Coach Talovich noticed that Reggie was playing today's practice games in a rather aggressive manner, not in terms of draughts play, but physically. Never before had he seen Reggie slam the pieces down on the board when making a move. The coach watched over Reggie's shoulder for a few moments and decided against saying anything. Other team members were beginning to notice, too.
When practice was over, Jack, who had also observed Reggie's highly atypical behavior, caught Reggie at the door and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Do we need to talk, old chum?" Jack said.
Reggie shook his head and pulled away.
"Didn't your little stunt go well?" Jack asked, having no idea as to what had actually happened.
Reggie ran off into the parking lot without answering. Jack watched him for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders and gave up.
Katie had gone right back to the flat she shared with Barbara. There was no way she could have faced an afternoon of classes.
Barbara, who had no classes on Monday afternoon, was home when Katie arrived.
"My goodness, what are you doing home?" Barbara asked when Katie entered. "Was there an earthquake that swallowed up the school? Seems like that's what it would take to get you to miss classes."
Barbara was sitting on the living room settee, eating a buttered roll, a huge anatomy text in her lap. She was in the nursing program and was busy nearly all the time.
Katie turned toward Barbara, let her backpack fall to the floor, and at long last lost control. "I hate that boy!" she said, tears falling in streams. "I hate him, hate him, hate him!"
"Whoa, whoa, easy now," Barbara said. She pushed aside her textbook and stood, walking over to Katie and embracing her in a warm hug. "Something's seriously wrong, isn't it?"
It took a little while for Katie to stop crying. Barbara led her over to the settee and got her seated, then sitting down alongside her.
"So who do you hate so badly? Is it that boy Reggie?"
Katie nodded her head and looked as if she were about to resume crying.
"What happened now?" Barbara asked.
It took a little while, but Katie told Barbara the story.
"Unbelievable," Barbara said at first. But she was smiling.
"It isn't funny!" Katie said angrily.
"No, it isn't funny, and I'm not laughing."
"Then why are you grinning like that?" Katie said, clearly upset. Wasn't Barbara supposed to be her best friend?
"It's called a smile," Barbara said. "Look, I know you're very angry and you have every right to be. But not with Reggie."
"After what he did? After what he put me through, I'm not supposed to be angry with him? Are you crazy? I hate him! I don't ever want to be in the same room with him again!"
"Slow down now. Think a little. Who should you really be angry with?"
Katie gave Barbara a withering look.
"Not with me! Don't be silly! But look at what happened, what really happened. Reggie went way, way out of his comfort zone to try to make an impression on you, in a way that was clearly meant to please you."
"Being humilated in front of everyone doesn't exactly please me!" Katie snapped.
"No, of course not. But did Reggie humilate you?"
"What do you mean ... oh." Katie's expression changed and her voice dropped. "You mean ..."
"Yes. Reggie went to a lot of trouble to stage an elaborate scene. Dressing up in a Knight's costume so he could appeal to you with words from Chaucer. Picking out the appropriate draughts moves to correspond to his theme. He probably even thought Dr. Rowat would be pleased and amused."
Katie was silent for a few moments. "It's him," she said. "And I thought he was so interesting, so intellectual."
She furrowed her brows. "It's Dr. Rowan that I should be angry with, isn't it? He's always picked on Reggie. He's never liked him. And given the chance, he did everything he could to embarrass him in front of everyone."
"And you were collateral damage," Barbara said. "He may not have intended that, but the fact is that all of this grief would have been avoided if Dr. Rowan had shown some sense--- some decency."
All of a sudden Katie started to laugh.
"What?" Barbara said. "Now you think it's funny?"
"No, no, not at all. But poor Reggie, getting hauled off by Security officers! What a sight!"
"I'm sure he wasn't amused."
"No, I suppose not." Katie stopped and thought once again. "But ... still, I think he ought to apologize."
"Oh, yes, he should. No doubt about it. And maybe you should reach out to him, too."
"What do you mean?"
"He's been hurt at least as much as you have. And he's certainly thinking that he's lost you forever."
"Well, hasn't he?"
"Only you can answer that question, Katie."
The next day, the draughts club took one of the school's buses over to Lyme Regis. Reggie was in quite a state of mind. He had resorted to an over-the-counter sleeping remedy the previous evening, and he was still a bit groggy. He had been drinking coffee all day long, which meant constant trips to the restroom. Fortunately there was no English class on a Tuesday, and he did manage to get to the rest of his classes.
For someone who felt like he wanted to die, he thought he had done pretty well. He was quite proud of himself. In fact, he was even starting to rethink the idea that he would rather be dead. It did seem pretty drastic.
But try as hard as he could, there was no way to get Katie's stinging refusal out of his mind. Two refusals, actually, but he had blown his second chance with that ridiculous stunt. He should have known better, but it had just seemed like such a good idea at the time.
Never mind. Concentrate on the match. Put off the idea of wanting to be dead at least until he won his match. He was going to win and nothing was going to stop him.
It wasn't long until the bus arrived and not much longer until it was time to start the match. Reggie reached out and shook hands with his opponent, Sydney Miles, the captain of the Lyme Regis club. "Ow," said Sydney, pulling his hand back, "you don't have to break my fingers."
Reggie grinned, enjoying the look of fear on Sydney's face. Reggie was focusing all of his anger and all of his pain on the upcoming match. Someone was going to pay, and it would be his opponent.
The match began, with Reggie playing White. It must have been fate. The opening moves formed "Laird and Lady." That only served to increase Reggie's focus.
Reggie smiled inwardly. Sydney had blundered; he should have played 6-10 or 7-10, but now Reggie had a win. He made his move, and a few more moves later, the game was over. Reggie offered to shake hands again. "I don't think so," Sydney said. "My fingers still ache from the first time."
Reggie gave a little bow and walked over to the team seats to await the completion of the other games in the match. He accepted congratulations from the coach, but then needed to make another trip to the restroom. "Excuse me a moment," he whispered to the coach.
On the way back from the restroom, Reggie, for some reason, decided to check his cellphone. It wasn't something he was in the habit of doing. He had turned it off last night when he got home, not wanting to be disturbed. Of course, it wasn't like he got a lot of phone calls or text messages.
He waited a few moments while the phone powered up.
For the second time that evening, fate struck.
A half dozen messages flashed onto his screen.
Katie had called him not less than three times, and then left three text messages.
"Trying to reach you."
"Reggie, I want us to talk. Please call me back."
Reggie, stunned, quickly gave up the idea of being better off dead.
To be continued ...
Can you find the White win in the diagram above? It's a well-known position, but nonetheless elegant and pleasing despite its being published many times throughout checker history. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
In our long-running Checker School series, we've featured Ben Boland's Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers. We're almost to the end of that book and this will be the last study from that source. Later, we'll move on to other positions and books of a suitably didactic nature.
It's fitting, then, to be "Dunne" with a position attributed to old-time checker great Frank Dunne.
This isn't especially easy, and in Mr. Boland's notes, he points that out but is most unusually judgmental of a player who didn't find the win. In defense of the fellow that lost, this is an 11x11 position and it's easy to stray from the path.
Fortunately, The Checker Maven will never judge; we only encourage, and in this case, we urge you to find the solution. Don't stop until you're Dunne, and then click on Read More for the usual sample games and analysis.[Read More]
Sometimes, it all gets to be a little too much, and we need a break. We're not sure what the poor fellow in the picture above is working on; could he perhaps be doing a manual transcription of the 10-piece endgame database?
Today we have a speed problem, provided by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon, that will give you a break in checker terms: it's definitely on the easy side. While some may disagree, we believe that easy problems have a clear purpose: to improve both sight-solving skills and speed of analysis.
See how quickly you can solve this one, and then break over to Read More to verify your solution.[Read More]