The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief


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Sal's Slip: A Beacon Cafe Story

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Sal Westerman left his modest home to walk the approximately half mile to the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota.

The Provident Life Building was where the Beacon Cafe was located, a popular place for coffee, sandwiches, and some of the best baked goods in Burleigh County, produced by blue-ribbon baker and proprietress Deana Nagel. It was also the place where, at 1 PM every Saturday except for holidays and summer months, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club gathered for an afternoon of checker fun accompanied by delicious treats.

The Coffee and Cake Club members, or "boys" as Sal called them, were all over 50 years old, and some, like Sal, much older. Of course, younger players were welcome. Age was not much of an issue except sometimes a couple of the "boys" would maybe feel a little stiff after an afternoon of play.

But today would turn out to be different.

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It had snowed three days ago, one of those heavy April storms that often marked the end of winter, and with a couple of days of subsequent thaws and freezes the streets and sidewalks were quite slick in places. The city and the residents did their best but it just wasn't possible to get rid of all the icy patches.

And so it happened that, just yards away from the Beacon Cafe entrance, Sal missed his footing on an ice patch and took a tumble, landing on his back and narrowly missing banging his head on the sidewalk.

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Sal groaned and tried to pick himself up. It was then that he realized he was unable to stand. He tried pulling up his legs but they wouldn't respond. He tried rolling and pushing with his hands, but with his legs not functioning, it was of little use.

"Hey!" he shouted. "I can't get up!" His back felt like it was on fire above the waist, but he didn't feel anything lower down.

It was a good thing that when he fell, he had rolled right in front of the Beacon's entrance. Deana, always alert, heard him and called to the boys. "Someone fell," she said, "come and help me."

She swung open the front door and gasped. "It's Sal!" she said. "He's hurt!"

"It's my back," Sal said, his voice now a bit weak. "I don't feel anything below my waist."

Delmer and Wayne, two of the boys, were outside with Deana. "Call an ambulance," Delmer said to Deana, who immediately returned to the Cafe. "And he needs a blanket!"

"We don't dare move him if it's his back," Wayne said, and then addressing Sal added, "Hang on, Sal, help is on its way."

Deana found a blanket in the Cafe's storeroom and she came back out and covered Sal with it. Within minutes an ambulance arrived and before much longer Sal had been carefully moved onto a lifting board and was on his way to St. Alexius Hospital. Meanwhile Deana called Sylvia, Sal's wife. The boys--- Delmer, Wayne, Dan, Louie, and Tom--- all walked to the hospital to await news. They promised Deana they would find a phone and call her as soon as they knew something.

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Of course only Sylvia, who arrived breathless and tearful in another 10 minutes, was allowed to be with Sal. There were X-rays taken and blood samples drawn.

It wasn't until almost 4 o'clock that Sylvia came out to report to the boys. "It's good news," she said, "at least relatively. Dr. Eriksson says that there are no broken bones. It's a pinched nerve in his spine, and Sal has already recovered some feeling in his legs. The doctor says he'll be on his feet in a few days and back to normal after a month or so of physical therapy. It could have been a lot worse. But you might know, Sal is already complaining about missing his checker club today."

"He'll be fine if he's doing that!" said Tom. All of the boys looked relieved. "Meanwhile, Sylvia, we're all glad to help you in any way possible."

Sylvia smiled. "Thank you. And wouldn't you know, Sal asked me to give you this. It was in his coat pocket."

Sylvia handed Tom a slip of paper which contained the following diagram.

BLACK
20220301-slip.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B7,10,15,17,27,K18,K23:W20,22,25,K3,K13,K32

"Must be the problem Sal was going to show us today!" said Wayne. "Hey ... the Beacon's open for another hour, let's go back and try it, and we can tell Deana what's going on!"

The boys of course would have rather visited with Sal, but the doctor had given him a sedative and wasn't allowing anyone to visit but immediate family. Still, it was about quarter to five by the time the boys got back to the Beacon and related everything to Deana over a quick cup of coffee and a chocolate coconut bar. The Beacon closed at five and they wouldn't have time to try Sal's problem.

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"Save it for next week, and maybe Sal will be back with us then," Delmer said. "And let's drop in on him as soon as he can have visitors."

Everyone agreed. After a quick round of farewells, the boys all started for home, and Deana began to close up until her Monday morning reopening.

It had been an unusual day for the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, one that they wouldn't wish to ever repeat, but one with a happy ending.

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Sal had brought along a nice problem from his Pennsylvania checker pen-pal, Ed. The "boys" will have to wait a week but you can try to solve it right now. Just don't slip--- with your line of play, we mean. Solve the problem and then slip your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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04/16/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin's Reconciliation

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Three weeks had passed since Marvin J. Mavin's disastrous experience at the engagement party put on for him and his (former) fiancee, Priscilla Snelson. In our previous story we related how Marvin refused to let the President of Priscilla's company, Rust Belt Holdings, win a game against Marvin in a 16 player simul. Priscilla was so angry she broke off their engagement and returned her $200,000 engagement ring to Marvin.

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Marvin was devastated, and we can only guess how much more devastated he was when Priscilla wouldn't answer his calls and texts for more than two weeks, and yet again even more devastated when he took the ring back to Sparkly Exclusives and found they would only give him $75,000 for the "used goods."

Marvin was out $125,000 and one fiancee and girlfriend.

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His team, the National Checker League champion Detroit Doublejumpers, had two days off, and Marvin was at home in his shabby little apartment trying to work out a problem in All Checkers Digest. But he just couldn't seem to keep his mind on it. His experience with returning the ring had lent an air of finality to things. He had lost his one true love, and it was time to face up to it.

BLACK
20220226-recon.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W5,9,K13,17:B1,K20,K22

He must have been on his third beer of the afternoon and was feeling sleepy. (Three beers and a tough checker problem are not a good combination.) He had started to doze off when he heard his doorbell ring. Thinking he was dreaming, he didn't pay any attention but the buzzing continued. Finally realizing that there might actually be someone there, even though he never ever got visitors, he slowly got up from his sofa, and, dodging beer cans and pizza boxes, made his way to the door.

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"Hey, quit with the noise already! Who's there?" he said in a grumpy tone.

"Marvin, open up! It's me!"

The voice was familiar. Priscilla.

Marvin paused to think. Was she hear to lecture him or something?

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Now Priscilla had quit ringing the bell and was pounding on the door with her fists.

Marvin pulled the door open. "What are you doing ... "

Priscilla shoved past Marvin and strode into the living room.

" ... here?" Marvin concluded.

"This place is a pigsty. There's a reason I never come here except when absolutely necessary, like now," Priscilla said.

"What are you talking about? Did someone kick the bucket or something?"

Priscilla plopped down on the sofa. "Don't you ever clean house?" she asked. "No, no one passed away. But I have a lot to talk to you about."

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"Huh ... you dumped me. You wouldn't take my calls. So finally I gave up and took the ring back. And now ... "

"You did what?" Priscilla exclaimed. "Marvin, tell me you didn't. Take the ring back, I mean. Why would you do such a thing?"

"Because you told me we're through!" Marvin was on the verge of tears, something almost unheard of for him.

"Oh, Marvin," Priscilla said, her voice suddenly soft. "Here, sit next to me. I have something to tell you."

Slowly, Marvin did as she asked.

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Frobtads Glulx

"You see, I got to thinking. Remember how President Frobtads Glulx made a comment about how the company valued dishonesty in the name of profit? Well, that was a big slip-up, and when word got back to the Board of Directors, they fired him."

"Fired him? What for?"

"For what he said. Oh, they weren't worried about honesty. They were worried about bad public relations. And then they had to choose a new President."

"Uh yeah, but ... "

"Well, guess what? They chose me! I'm the President of Rust Belt now! And then I took a cue from you and told the Board that from now on, honesty would be the order of the day. They didn't like it but they knew I meant business. And I owe it all to you, Marvy dear!"

Priscilla put her arm around Marvin and drew him close. "You see," she went on, "you were right about not sacrificing your principles, and not letting Frobtads win that game. I know I was angry at the time, but I was wrong. I should have been proud of you instead. I am proud of you!" Priscilla kissed his cheek. "And now our engagement is back on again!"

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"It is? Don't I have anything to say about it?"

"Of course not! You know that I know what's best for both of us. The only thing is, you're going to have to buy another ring and it's going to cost you ... again."

Marvin sighed. "Know what?" he said, "I need another beer."

But he didn't argue with Priscilla, and on his way to the fridge a little smile appeared on his face.


It happened again. Marvin didn't get to solve that problem in All Checkers Digest as he was somewhat "busy" for the next little while, and not with checkers. But you can solve the problem. See how you do with it and then click on Read More to see the solution.

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04/09/22 -Printer friendly version-
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A Windy Day: A Beacon Cafe Story

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On a Saturday in March, 1955, Sal Westerman was getting ready to go to the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, for the weekly meeting of his beloved Coffee and Cake Checkers Club. It was about 12:45 PM and the gathering started at 1 o'clock.

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A glance out the window told him that it was an especially windy day. His wife, Sylvia, sitting on a chesterfield in the living room, remarked, "They said on the radio that the wind is gusting up to 50 miles an hour and might even pick up some more."

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Phoebe Slivowitz

Now, Sylvia wasn't sitting alone on the chesterfield. Next to her was her sister, Phoebe, who lived about 90 miles away in Dickinson, North Dakota, and was visiting for the weekend.

Phoebe was, well ... okay, she was Sylvia's sister, after all. But let's just say the Sal preferred it when Sylvia went to Dickinson to visit Phoebe rather than when Phoebe came to Bismarck to visit Sylvia.

"I wouldn't let him go," said Phoebe to Sylvia, ignoring the fact the Sal was in the room. "You know your husband. He's clumsy and old and likely to get blown over and get hurt, and then you'd be stuck taking care of him, and what kind of fun would that be?"

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Sal, who had just put on his winter coat and was donning a scarf, looked over at Phoebe but didn't say anything. Phoebe glared back and went on, "I just don't see why you let him spend so much time on that foolish game of his. Don't you have things for him to do around the house? If nothing else, he could clean the basement. The walls need washing down there, and I'm sure there are plenty of other productive things for him to do. Checkers, indeed!" She sniffed as she said this and shook her head for good measure.

Sal had finished dressing for the weather and, deciding discretion was the best option, simply said, "I'm leaving now, I'll see you all just after five this afternoon."

"Just a minute, you!" Phoebe said in a loud, shrill tone. "Didn't you hear a word ... "

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Sal didn't hear the rest as the door closed behind him and he started down the street. Or tried to. The wind really was howling and walking wasn't easy.

Luckily it was only a few blocks to the Provident Life Building. But still it took Sal a while and he was five minutes late on arrival.

Five of the "boys" (all of them over 50) were in the big booth at the back. "Look what the wind blew in," exclaimed Delmer. "Literally!" added Dan. Wayne, Louie the Flash, and Tom all laughed as Sal made his way to their location. He plopped down next to Dan and took a deep breath before saying, "I'm going to get even with you boys for that! I've got a new problem from Brian and it's really something!"

The boys groaned in unison. Brian, in St. Louis, was one of Sal's checker pen-pals and he was a top composer with his problems regularly published in All Checkers Digest. His compositions were always clever and never easy.

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Deana, the proprietress of the Beacon, a top-notch baker and a great marketeer, called over, "I've got pecan brownies today!"

Now, the tradition was that if the boys couldn't solve Sal's problem, they would buy the treats, but if they could win it, Sal would buy. That meant Sal would buy for all of them, while they only had to buy for him and themselves, but it kind of evened out because Sal got to choose the problem, and he seldom chose a simple one.

Sal laid out the checkers as shown below.

BLACK
20220215-windy.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W6,9,19,20,22,26,30:B3,4,5,K7,14,21,24

"Go ahead, boys!" he said. "Thirty minutes should be enough!"

"Aw, Sal, give us an hour," said Louie. "Please?"

"Okay, sixty minutes and not a second more!"

Deana arrived to refill everyone's coffee mug but the boys had already started in on the problem


We don't know if it's windy at your place, nor do we know if you have a windy sister-in-law, but give our problem a try and see if you would have won a pecan brownie. You'll have to serve up your own coffee, though. When you're ready click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/26/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Engagement Party: A Marvin J. Mavin Story

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In our previous two stories, we told about Priscilla's ultimatum to Marvin, who did indeed go with Priscilla to Sparkly Exclusives to buy her an engagement ring that ran to just under $200,000 after adding in sales tax. Marvin had tried to negotiate but Priscilla told him that was gauche and made him pay full asking price, to the great delight of the tuxedo-clad salesman.

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While the wedding date wouldn't be set for some little while, as Priscilla wanted to plan a very lavish affair with hundreds and hundreds of guests, Priscilla's C-suite colleagues, delighted that she had finally become engaged, wanted to throw an engagement party in her honor. They booked it for a Friday evening at Excelsior Estates, a swank country club in the Detroit suburbs where the very wealthy met to play golf on a choice of three pro-caliber 18-hole golf courses, squash in the squash racquets complex, tennis on the four outdoor and six indoor courts, or checkers in the koa-paneled Draughts Room.

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It was the kind of affair Marvin would gladly have skipped, but Priscilla said they were going and that was the end of the discussion. Or rather, there wasn't even a discussion in the first place. Furthermore, Marvin would attend in black tie formal wear.

It was only while they were in Priscilla's limo, on the way to the venue, that Priscilla dropped the real bomb.

Marvin was fidgeting with his bow tie, trying to create a little space in the tight collar of his white ruffled shirt, when Priscilla said, "You know, dear, that Excelsior has a draughts room."

Marvin's face brightened a little. "Drafts room? You mean, like, they have German beer on tap and stuff?"

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Priscilla gently but firmly slapped Marvin's hand away from his collar. "Draughts as in checkers, Marvin. You know, the game you play so well?"

Marvin started to say something but Priscilla continued, "Some of my colleagues at Rust Belt play in the Executive Egotist League, you know, and they are quite good."

"Oh yeah, really? I don't know about that. Good, huh?"

"Yes, and you'll have your chance to find out just how good they really are."

Marvin suddenly looked wary. "Whaddya mean?"

"You'll be giving a simultaneous exhibition tonight as part of the festivities. You'll play 16 top executives from Rust Belt."

"Oh no I'm not ... I ain't gonna be some kinda show monkey ... "

"Yes you are, and not only that, there is one of them whom you have to let win." Priscilla reached into her purse and pulled out a small slip of paper. "Here, memorize this name. It's the executive you must let win. You can go ahead and win the other fifteen games, but the man on the list is very important and we have to stroke his ego a little."

Now, Marvin was an unusual character, but if he took anything seriously, it was winning. After a quick glance at the paper he said, "Frobtads von Glulx, President, Rust Belt Holdings. Uh, Prissy honey, I ain't gonna do that. If you wanna make me play, I'll do that for you even if I don't like it much. But lose on purpose? Not gonna happen."

"Marvin, I know you and I know how you feel about your checkers. But this will really help me a lot, okay? And it's all just for fun. Frobtads will figure out you let him win, but he'll still have something to boast about. Got it?"

When Marvin didn't reply, Priscilla simply said, "Good."

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Marvin and Priscilla were greeted at the ornate clubhouse entrance with much fanfare, and inside a string quartet was playing. The hors d'oeuvres were of the best quality and very plentiful. French champagne was on offer but when Marvin asked one of the servers for a can of beer, he was treated to a snooty look and told, "Monsieur, in this club we drink French champagnes and grand cru wines and only the best single malt Scotches. But if you'd like some Vichy sparkling water ... "

There were the inevitable toasts and wishes for the couple's future happiness. Marvin, who had no patience for slowly sipping expensive imported French beverages, drank uncharacteristically little, although he did find the Shrimp Dijon and Lobster Alsace hors d'oeuvres to his taste.

Then it was time for the simul. Everyone adjourned to the Draughts room, where still more champagne was served. Marvin was introduced to the players, who ranged from Alexander Antagony, Senior Vice President of Hostile Acquisitions, to Zumba Zelarkey, Vice President of Recreational Restructuring, and of course President Frobtads Glulx.

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Frobtads Glulx

The games began. Marvin found that the players weren't all that bad for amateurs. While he easily and quickly won twelve games, three more took a little longer and wouldn't you know it, the last game was with none other than Frobtads Glulx, and it was quite tight.

The following unusual position arose, with Marvin to play.

BLACK
20220212-frobtads.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W10,14,17,19,23,26:BK15,K21,K25,K30

It was interesting indeed. Marvin saw pretty quickly that there was a move that would definitely give him a win. However, he saw others that would put Frobtads in a winning position, and given that the Rust Belt President was quite a decent player, he would probably find the right play.

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Courtesty freepik.com

It was a dilemma. Should Marvin do as Prisilla asked, and let Frobtads have a win? Or should he do as he always did, which was always to seize victory when it was within his grasp? That was how he became a top professional player: By never compromising and never settling for less than the best he could do.

"Frobby, old boy," Marvin said, "you've played really well."

Frobtads smiled, even though no one ever but ever dared to call him "Frobby." He said, "Yes, I do think I have, and I'm about to hand you your only loss in this simul."

Marvin straightened up in his chair. "Now wait a minute there Frobster ... "

"President Frobtads," came the reply, "and there's no need for you to be a poor sport just because you're going to lose a game."

Marvin had had enough. "Lose? To you? Yeah, you're good but you ain't good enough to beat ole Marvin J. Mavin."

And Marvin made his move.


Can you find the winning play? Do you dare find the winning play? Luckily, no one's telling you to throw the game, so go ahead and work out the winning moves, after which you can click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/12/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Freezing Rain: A Beacon Cafe Story

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It was the Saturday after Valentine's Day, 1955, and the weather was wet in Bismarck, North Dakota. Snow mixed with rain was falling, and it was certain that after dark the roads and sidewalks would freeze over, making for dangerous driving and walking conditions.

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But Saturday was the day the Coffee and Cake Checker Club met at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, and Sal Westerman, the club's informal leader, wasn't about to miss his afternoon of checkers.

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Sylvia Westerman

Oh, his wife, Sylvia, urged him to stay home so he wouldn't have to return on slippery sidewalks. Sal, after all, was over 70 now, and if he took a tumble it wouldn't be a good thing. But Sal was determined. He put on his winter jacket, rubber overshoes and some warm gloves and set out at about 12:45 PM. The club met at one o'clock and he didn't want to be late.

The skies were gray and Sal pulled up his hood to ward off the chilling rain. But he didn't live far from the Beacon and he was there in about fifteen minutes, his trip taking just a little longer than usual.

Some of the "boys" (all of whom were over fifty) were already there. Sam, Wayne, Dan, Delmer and Tom were seated in the big booth in the back. They waved to Sal as he came back to join them. Deana, the proprietress and an award winning baker, gave Sal a friendly greeting, too.

Then Louie (also known as "Louie the Flash") and Kevin (also known as "Spooler") came in. It was quite a gathering and it made Sal smile and forget the weather.

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"Cherry muffins today," Deana said. "I got a shipment of really nice canned cherries and you're going to love these."

"We sure will," Sal said, "especially when the boys are buying."

That elicted groans and laughter from the boys. "Sure, Sal, whatever you say," Spooler said. The long-standing tradition was that Sal would set up a checker problem. If the boys could solve it, Sal bought, while if they couldn't, the boys bought.

"We'll see who laughs last," Sal replied. "I have a nice one from Ed."

Ed was Sal's checker pen pal in Pennsylvania, and his problems always were clever and always a challenge.

"Have a look at this," Sal said, and set up the following position on one of the checkerboards. "I'll give you an hour, and I think I'd better get you all some more coffee." Deana, never missing an opportunity, was already at the booth with a fresh pot ready to pour.

BLACK
20220122-foob.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK7,K12,K16,K25:B6,K15,K19,K23

The boys focused on the problem. From time to time Sal took a look outside. By about two-thirty, when the hour Sal had alloted was up, the roads were indeed freezing over.

"Can't get it," Delmer said. "We tried, but ... "

Deana arrived at just that moment with a tray of cherry muffins. "Who's buying?" she asked with a smile. Delmer slowly raised his hand. "My turn," he said sheepishly. "Now, Sal, how about you show us how to do this one?"


Will you have better luck than "the boys"? Or will you be the one to buy the muffins? At least you won't have to go home on frozen roads (well, we hope not). Give this a try and then cherry-pick the solution by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/19/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Baby It's Cold Outside

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It was the end of January in Bismarck, North Dakota, the coldest time of the year in a place known for its intemperately cold weather.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and at about quarter to one the temperature was still 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and that would be the highest the mercury reached that day. And to top it all off, the wind was blowing at 20 miles per hour. Of course the sun was out, but that wasn't of much help.

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Sal Westerman was undaunted. At one o'clock his Coffee and Cake Checker Club would meet as it did every week at the Beacon Cafe, normally a ten minute walk from Sal's home.

Sal was bundling up under the direction of his wife, Sylvia, who had even gone so far as to suggest that Sal stay home. But there was very little that could keep Sal from his beloved club, and cold weather didn't deter him.

So, as warmly dressed as a person could possibly be, Sal made his way to the club. The wind was biting and the cold wicked, and it took him longer than usual. It was nearly ten after one when Sal entered the Cafe, but as he passed through the door, he didn't feel the blast of heat that one usually felt when going from 20 below zero outside to 70 above zero inside.

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Then he noticed that there were only four other people in the cafe, all of them still dressed in their winter clothes, gloves, wool caps, and all. Club members Wayne, Dan, and Louie the Flash were sitting in the usual booth at the back, while Deana, the proprietess, was behind her counter, similarly bundled up. She had an electric heater rigged up and blowing on the only shelf that had anything on it, a tray of coconut chocolate chip bars. There was a big coffee urn plugged in, and that was it.

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"What's going on?" Sal asked.

"The gas heat for the building went out during the night," Deana said. "I have a couple of electric heaters running but it's still only 28 degrees in here. The gas company men were working on it but they said it'll be Monday until they can get the heat going again. They need a part from Minneapolis or something," Deana said.

"How come you don't close up?" Sal asked.

"Aw, I know how much you boys like your checkers," Deana replied. "Lucky I had a tray of bars I could go home and get. But I'm going to close early. It's just too darn cold in here."

"Yeah, it's cold even for checkers," Dan said. All of the boys (who were over 50) had big mugs of coffee in front of them. There was just a single checker board set up.

Sal got himself some coffee and went over to the booth. "Tell you what," he said. "I did bring along a problem from Ed. How about you boys try that while I go ahead and buy some bars. After that, we'll go home. What do you say?"

Everyone, including Deana, nodded agreement.

Sal laid out a position on the checker board. "Okay, here you go," he said. "Maybe make it quick as you can!"

But the boys knew a problem from Ed was seldom a quick solve.

BLACK
20211211-tfort.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:B2,12,19,20,22:W28,31,32,K1

"Bars on me today," Deana said. "They're a day old."

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In between sips of hot coffee the boys were working away at Ed's problem.


Hopefully, wherever you are, you're somewhere warm, and if you're in a cold climate, we hope the heating is working as it should. One thing for sure is that you'll warm up to Ed Atkinson's fine problem. See how you do and then give your mouse a heated click on Read More to see the solution.
20050904-symbol.gif

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01/29/22 -Printer friendly version-
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The Game of My Life

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In the columns of The Checker Maven we've presented a fair amount of checker fiction from the past (not that there's a copious amount to choose from). We've also presented a great deal of our own checker fiction, and will continue to do so.

But it's a real pleasure to be able to present contemporary checker fiction from another author. Grandmaster problem composer Ed Atkinson sent us a little story of his own, and we're delighted to present it here. Of course, it's accompanied by one of Ed's fine compositions. Ed took his inspiration from the famous story A Midnight Encounter.

The Game of My Life by Edgar Atkinson

It was late in the evening when I set up the checker board to go over a game played by one of the great masters of yesteryear. Then there came a knock on the door. Upon answering the knock, a tall stranger, wearing a black cowl and holding a large scythe, stood before me. I knew in a moment that it must be the Grim Reaper.

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"Why are you here?" I asked. "I am in good health and I have done no wrong."

"It is time for you to come with me," the Grim Reaper replied.

I had to think quickly. "Here," I said. "Sit down and we'll play a game of checkers. If I win, you can be on your way without me."

"Checkers?" the Reaper replied. "I have never been beaten. When I win the game, we will be off together."

20211205-reaper2.jpg

With a sigh of relief I sat down to play, knowing full well that I had more to gain than my adversary had to lose. This was to be the game of my life.

The game took an unusual turn. At a critical point the Grim Reaper, playing Black of course, attacked one of my pieces from behind, a move that would win the piece and apparently win the game as well.

"Now you will lose a piece and with it the game," the Reaper said. "Then we will be on our way together."

This was a pretty fix indeed. I gave the situation all the attention that I could muster. Suddenly I saw my way through. Not only would I escape, but also would pay back my tall adversary in kind.

This was the position on the board.

BLACK
20211205-goml.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W13,15,21,25,27,K1:B2,6,8,10,K19,K31

With trembling hand I reached out to make the first move of the combination that I had envisioned.


Ed Atkinson's problems are seldom easy, but always clever and entertaining. How would you do facing off against the Grim Reaper? Fortunately, you don't have to do so to solve Ed's problem. See if you can sow the right moves and reap the victory. There's no need to be grim as you can easily click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/22/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin's Agreement

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Marvin J. Mavin

In our last story, Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a top team in Major League Checkers, was in a tight spot. His long-time girlfriend, the wealthy business executive Priscilla K. Snelson, had given Marvin a holiday ultimatum: Go to Las Vegas and get married, or else. She sent Marvin home and said he had one week to decide.

Now, Marvin did not want to get married. But he didn't want to risk losing Priscilla, either. They had been together for ten years and he truly loved her.

20210218-oldvw.jpg

It wasn't for her money or any other ulterior motive. Marvin had a multi-million dollar contract with the Doublejumpers. He just chose to live simply, driving his old Volkswagen and living in a studio apartment in a less favorable section of Detroit. He didn't care about Priscilla's upscale lifestyle. It was just that he had never met anyone quite like her and she was the only one in the world for him.

Could he risk all of that?

He was in his little apartment, trying to focus on a problem in All Checkers Digest by Ed Atkinson, but his mind was elsewhere.

BLACK
20220108-fixup.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK5,K8,K10,15,K18:BK11,25,K26,27

He needed more time. The week Priscilla had given him would be up tonight. Should he call Priscilla and beg for another week? She probably would say "no" and then where would he be?

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Marvin's Parents

He had talked things over with his Mom, but of course she had long wanted him to marry, so that didn't help much. His Dad was no help either. He had just said, "Whatever makes you happy." Of course, Marvin didn't know what that was.

Maybe she'd be okay with just an engagement? And put off setting a wedding date? Sure, he could say that for a person in her position, a Las Vegas elopement wouldn't look very good. Yes, that was it!

20211202-martychex.jpg

He should call his friend Marty. Marty lived in Switzerland and was on the Swiss National Checker Team.

Marvin got out his cell phone, looked up Marty's number and called. After several rings, a sleepy voice answered, "Ja?"

"Marty, it's Marvin!" Marvin said cheerfully.

There was a pause and then a groan. "Marvin, it's 3 AM over here."

"Oh, uh, yeah, sorry, well ... "

"What is it, Marvin, that is so important that you had to call me at this hour?"

Marvin explained the situation and his proposed solution.

"You'd be pitching a piece with no compensation," Marty said. "Now, I have an early practice tomorrow, so good bye, Marvin."

The line disconnected.

"I gotta clear my head," Marvin said, and then went to his fridge and got out a beer. He took it back to his chair and began looking at Ed Atkinson's problem again.

After half an hour and another beer, Marvin said out aloud, "Ah, it ain't no use. I gotta call Priscilla and get this over with."

20211202-phbeer.jpg

Once again, Marvin picked up his phone and called a familiar number.


Hopefully, you won't be distracted and unable to focus as you try to solve Ed's problem. We definitely do not recommend beer, let alone two bottles of it. See how you do, make your decision on the right moves (something that Marvin needed to do albeit in a different context), and then dial Read More to see the solution and the rest of today's story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/08/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin's Holidays

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The holiday season was coming up, and the National Checker League took a two week break. So Marvin J. Mavin, superstar captain of the many-time World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers, would have a welcome vacation.

His long-time girlfriend, Priscilla K. Snelson, also decided to take two weeks off. As an important C-level executive at the multibillion dollar conglomerate, Rust Belt Holdings, it was something she almost never did. But she had an ulterior motive. It had all started on Thanksgiving Day, when at a disastrous dinner with Marvin at the Grosse Pointe home of her parents, her father had said one thing that stuck with her. It was time to move her relationship with Marvin forward. Quite far forward.

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She and Marvin had been keeping company for nearly ten years, since a time when Marvin had yet to become captain and she had yet to move to the executive suite. Although they had never really discussed the matter, she agreed with her otherwise strident father that it was time for them to get married, and in fact had been waiting for Marvin to propose for some little while. She was getting impatient and decided to set the stage on her own.

null

They were visiting one evening in Priscilla's upscale condo. Her staff had just cleared off the dinner dishes and Marvin was enjoying a beer (what else?), trying to solve a Brian Hinkle checker problem published in All Checkers Digest, while Prisilla was sipping a first flush Darjeeling tea from a renowed estate.

"Have you thought about where we should go on our vacation, dear?" she asked in as innocent a tone as possible.

"What? I've almost got this one ..."

"Put your magazine down and talk to me. I asked you about our winter vacation."

null

"Uh, yeah," replied Marvin, "it's been kinda cold here and I was thinkin' maybe we could go to Tahiti, you know, warm up a little, sit on the beach with a couple of Hinanos ... "

"Sounds great. Sitting and watching you drink beer. How original. No, I was thinking of somewhere else."

"Where? Hawai`i? I sorta didn't like it the last time I was there."

"Yes, you got yourself into trouble as I recall. No, I want to go to Las Vegas."

At that, Marvin did put his magazine down. "Las Vegas? I never heard of you gambling or nothing. What's in Vegas besides gambling and a bunch of expensive shows?"

null

"Marvin, they have a lot of nice chapels there. Very fancy. I'd ... like to see one of them."

"Just one of 'em? There must be dozens! And there are better churches in Europe so why ... oh." Marvin turned pale. "You're not thinking ... "

"I'm not thinking what, exactly, dear?"

"I mean ... uh ... in Vegas ... people ... they go there to ... oh, no. Are you serious?"

"Marvin, we've been seeing each other for how long now? I'll tell you. Ten years. That's a long time for a girl to wait. A very long time." Priscilla's tone had become more stern. "So, Marvin, what will it be?"

"You mean ... you mean I have choice?"

"You certainly do."

"Okay, then, let's just go to Tahiti, that would be my choice." He smiled but it was rather weak.

"Tahiti may be your choice but it isn't my choice," said Priscilla.

"I thought you said I could choose?"

null

"I said you had a choice, not that you could choose where we're going." It was Priscilla's turn to smile, but hers was an ironic smile.

"Uh, I don't get it ... "

null

Priscilla stood and put her hands on her hips. That was never a good sign. "Well, if you don't get it, then how about you go home right now, and don't call me until you do get it. Take your stupid magazine and leave! And just to be clear, you've got one week to get it ... or else!"

Marvin knew better than to ask "or else what." Silently he picked up his magazine and put on his winter jacket, which the butler conveniently proffered at just the right moment.

"Priscilla, won'tcha ... "

"Good night, Marvin!"

Knowing he had best cut his losses, Marvin hurried out the front door. Fortunately, as he and Priscilla had had a few previous rows, he knew where to find the nearest bar.

null


Marvin never did get to finish solving Brian's problem, and All Checkers Digest only prints the best compositions.

BLACK
null
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W18,19,21,K26:BK6,K10,K27

See if you can solve it, and then click on Read More to check your solution. But be careful. If, while you're solving, your significant other wants your attention, it might be wise to listen.null

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12/18/21 -Printer friendly version-
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Beacon Cafe: A Gift for Joyce

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It was a Saturday afternoon just two weeks before the holidays, and Sal Westerman had a problem. His daughter, Joyce, was coming home to Bismarck, North Dakota, to visit for ten days, something she wasn't able to do very often because of her work as a lawyer at the Washington D.C. firm of Dark, Darker, and Darkest, a high-end and very busy litigation practice. Sal wanted to get her a nice holiday gift but just didn't know what it should be.

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Joyce Westerman

Now, Saturday afternoons were when Sal's club, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, gathered at the Beacon Cafe for an afternoon of checker fun among checker friends. It was normally Sal's favorite part of the week, and he always looked forward to it. Today, though, he was preoccupied and his friends noticed.

Wayne, Delmer, Dan, Louie the Flash, Sam, and Tom were all on hand today, although another regular, Mike, wasn't able to make it. Deana, the proprietess of the Cafe, had announced that she had baked a couple of trays of festive cherry bars, and her baked treats were the best around.

null

Sal knew he should be happy and at his ease, but he just wasn't.

"Come on Sal, what's up?" Louie asked. "You're just not yourself today. Heck, you haven't even challenged us with a checker problem yet."

"I ... well, I forgot to pick one out," Sal said, a bit sheepishly.

"You forgot?" Dan said. They were all rather surprised. Sal never forgot anything to do with the club. "Gosh, something must be really wrong."

null

"It's like this," Sal said, realizing that he'd have to explain. "You all know my daughter Joyce? Well, she'll be here in a week for a holiday visit, and I just don't know what gift to give her. I've gone through all the department stores; Sears, A. W. Lucas, everywhere, and I couldn't find a single thing to get her. Not even in the Sears catalog, although it's a little late to order now."

"Hmm," said Wayne, "I never know what to get for my kids, either. Most of them farm and there's nothing that they really want. I always end up with a gift certificate to the farm supply store or something practical like that."

"Wouldn't help Joyce much," Sal said. "I guess I could get a Sears gift certificate but she doesn't really have time for much shopping, and I wanted something more personal."

"What kind of things does she like?" asked Tom.

"She likes to read," Sal said, "at least when she has time. Maybe a book or something?"

Then Sam spoke up. "Hey, I've got an idea. But tell you what, let's do a problem and have some treats first. I'll even buy!"

"Hey, nice of you," Sal said, "and I'd love to hear your idea. But as I said, I didn't remember to bring a problem today."

null

"Well, I've got one," Sam said. "At least I'm pretty sure I can remember it. I heard about it on late night radio this past week. You know that show where they give those hard checker problems and then have a commentator talk about the solution?"

"Sure," Dan said, "'The Midnight Checker Show.' Too late to stay up for me. And you have to get a board out to follow along with the moves."

"Well, here, take a look."

Sam set up the following position.

BLACK
20211211-subprob.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,15,17,18,29,30:B2,7,9,16,23,24

Sam smiled. "Now, Sal, I'll tell you my gift idea ... if you and the boys solve the problem."

"You strike a hard bargain," Sal said. "But I guess we really had better figure this one out."

Sam went to Deana's counter to order a dozen cherry bars and refills on coffee while Sal and the boys studied his checker problem.


Finding the right holiday gift can sometimes be pretty difficult, especially for people really close to you. You're luckier than Sal, though, as you'll be able to learn about his idea whether you can solve the problem or not. But do give it a good try and then click on Read More to see the solution and read the conclusion to our story.null

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