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]
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Five: Second Interlude
This time, Reggie was going to play it to the hilt. It would be a one hundred percent effort.
Luckily, he had the weekend to prepare. He even telephoned his friend Jack to ask him about the idea.
"Seems a bit over the top, wouldn't you say?" said Jack after Reggie explained everything. "But I'm glad you didn't give up. That first mistake --- the Maid of the Mill thing --- that really wasn't completely your fault. Of course, you're pretty clueless, but this time I think you hit a sore nerve. A spot of bad luck for you."
"Over the top, perhaps, but don't you think she'll like it?" Reggie said. He didn't say anything about his being clueless; he actually was too painfully aware of it.
"Depends. You say she's a literary type as well as a draughts enthusiast? Impressive, you must introduce me some time." Jack laughed.
"Now look, Jack, you have a million girls already ... "
"Just kidding, old chum. Look, I've got to move along, I'm scheduled for doubles tennis with three lovely ladies ... "
"See what I mean? Give us less fortunates a break, will you?"
"Sure, Reggie, best of luck. So long now!"
There was just enough time on Saturday to visit the campus and look up a friend in the arts department.
"Yes, we have that," Grant said. Grant Pearson was a friend of Reggie's from a class in the previous semester. "You can borrow it if you return it right after you're done. For Monday, you say? Sure. Just bring it back later on in the afternoon."
Reggie hauled a substantial parcel back to his rented room. Fortunately the Saturday buses weren't as crowded as they were on weekdays.
Almost everything was ready. Reggie just had to write his note, and that was going to be easy this time.
Fortunately there was no draughts practice this weekend. The club coach didn't believe in weekend practices just before a big match; he thought it put too much pressure on non-professional players. That suited Reggie just fine. He was able to get some homework done, and make sure his note and everything else was ready for the next morning.
It's safe to say that Reggie didn't sleep all that well Sunday night. He was just too excited. Everything was just perfect!
Monday morning finally rolled around, and for once Reggie didn't have to drag himself out of bed to go to class. He had math before Chaucer, and he was going to skip it today. He wondered what was becoming of him ... skipping class again. But he didn't care.
He opened up the parcel and got everything ready. When he was fully dressed, he grabbed his backpack, double-checking to make sure the note was safely inside, and then made his way out to the bus.
He got some odd looks, first from the driver and then from the passengers, one of whom complained to the driver about whether Reggie should be allowed on the bus. But the driver just shrugged his shoulders, closed the doors, and put the bus into motion.
When the bus stopped in front of the college, Reggie rushed straight to his classroom, attracting still more attention from the students on the grounds and in the hallways. He quickly reached the relative safety of the classroom and took his seat, which fortunately wasn't in a direct line of sight from the doorway.
A couple of students came in and started murmuring to one another. Then Katie came in, looked in his direction and gasped. She took a few steps toward Reggie and said, "Reggie, what on earth---"
She was interrupted by the entry of Dr. Rowan, who also did what was, at least for him, a double-take.
"Well, Mr. Pastor, this is certainly going to be interesting."
Reggie normally would have reacted with anything between mild embarrassment and utter mortification. But not today. He was on a mission and would not be deterred. Totally ignoring Dr. Rowan, he went over to Katie's desk and with a deep bow and a dramatc flourish, laid down his note.
However, Dr. Rowan was not accustomed to having his remarks ignored, and his expression showed it.
"Just a moment, Mr. Pastor. This is a serious classroom, and perhaps you might explain yourself."
Reggie, just turning back toward his desk, replied, "Sir?"
"Your outfit. The note you just left on Miss Walton's desk. Is this some sort of elaborate but highly out of place courting scheme?"
Reggie was struck silent. This was not going as he intended.
"Nothing to say? Well, then, perhaps you might come to the front of the room and read the note aloud, after which you can explain your costume."
All of the class members were now present. There was a bit of quiet snickering, but all eyes were on Reggie.
And on Katie, who was turning redder by the second.
Reggie knew he didn't dare defy Dr. Rowan any further. Reluctantly, he moved to the front of the classroom, stopping to pick up the his note from Katie's desk. She favored him with a frosty glare.
"Whenever you're ready, Mr. Pastor. Or should we say, 'Sir Pastor'?
Everyone laughed except Katie and Reggie.
Reggie began to read, his eyes down.
"To my dearest Ladye Katie, I bring these words:
11-15, 23-19, 8-11, 22-17, 9-13, 17-14, 10-17, 21-14."
Dr. Rowan interrupted, "Those are not words, Mr. Pastor, those are numbers. There is actually a difference."
Reggie glanced at Katie. From the look on her face, he knew she had understood. But still, she looked very angry.
Reggie continued reading.
"Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
There was a duke that highte Theseus.
Of Athens he was lord and governor,
And in his time such a conqueror
That greater was there none under the sun.
Full many a riche country had he won.
What with his wisdom and his chivalry,
He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie."
Reggie stopped reading. "Um, well, that's all, sir."
"How interesting, Mr. Pastor. I must say you deserve credit for reading from Chaucer's Knight's Tale and dressing up in a very detailed knight's costume, complete with sword and helm. I imagine you attracted a lot of attention this morning.
"But really, the last line, 'He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie' ... did you bother to ascertain the meaning prior to addressing this phrase to Miss Walton?"
Dr. Rowan didn't wait for an answer. "You see, Mr. Pastor, 'the regne of Feminie' doesn't mean conquering a woman's heart. The 'regne of Feminie' actually refers to a race of Amazons, whom Chaucer's knight claims to have conquered. Are you suggesting that Miss Walton is an Amazon?"
The class roared with laughter and Katie looked as if she was about to cry.
"So," Dr. Rowan said when the laughter died down, "I ask you, Miss Walton, what is your reply to this somewhat misinformed suitor?"
Katie stood up and picked up her backpack. She looked straight at Reggie and said, "25-22." Then she stormed out of the room, trying valiantly to maintain control.
Reggie, horrified, made as if to go after her, but just at that moment, two uniformed security guards entered the room.
"There's a report of someone wif a weapon," one of them said. "There 'e is!" said the other, pointing to Reggie. "Come quietly with us now. You're in a 'eap 'o trouble fer carryin' a sword on campus. Don't make us get rough wif ya."
They took Reggie's costume sword and backpack, and marched him over to the Campus Security office. After searching his backpack, making him remove his costume, and searching his person, they asked him to explain himself.
It all took quite a little while, but Reggie was finally able to convince them that a wooden theatre sword, painted silver, wasn't a real weapon. The security officers then pointed out that it looked enough like the genuine article to be used to threaten others. But they realized in the end that Reggie was just playing a part, as it were, and they let him off with a lecture about not doing foolish things that could get him in hot water.
They wouldn't return the sword or the knight's costume; they told Reggie they would get it back to the Theatre Department themselves. "Best you not be seen wif that no more, eh?" one of them said.
Reggie got out of there as soon as they let him. But now he had to face what to him was the real problem.
He thought he had been clever. The draughts moves he had read corresponded to the Laird and Lady opening sequence. Katie obviously knew that. But when she replied simply "25-22" Reggie had his answer.
That was the line known as the Laird and Lady Refused.
To be continued ...
We wonder if Katie knew that Laird and Lady Refused is now known to be a White loss; and did Reggie realize, in the moment, that it was a Black win? Is there a hidden meaning in all of this?
You'll have to continue to follow the story to find out, but in the meanwhile let's have a look at this line of play.
Of course Laird and Lady Accepted, with 17-14, would have been best, both in terms of checkers and for our hapless protagonist. But, much as Reggie must strive to win Katie, winning Laird and Lady Refused is not so simple. Can you do it? Here's the position.
Accept the challenge and see if you can find the win. Just because it's difficult, don't refuse ... make the attempt and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Four: Second Move
It was quite a while until Reggie was able to get out of his seat. He stayed in the empty classroom, numb, nearly unable to process what had happened to him. But finally, students started arriving for the next class. He must have sat there for over an hour, right through lunch and into the following class period.
He folded Katie’s note and stuck it in his backpack, stumbled to his feet, and left. He went straight to the bus stop. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was skipping classes, and even worse, skipping draughts practice. He didn’t even want to talk things over with his friend Jack. He just wanted to go back to his rented room, get into bed, pull the covers over his head, and never get up again.
The next day was Friday, and there were no classes and no practice. It was just as well, and although Reggie did manage to get up in the morning, he had no desire to see Katie in Chaucer class. It would have been more than he could have borne.
He had a lot of homework to do and no wish to do that, either, and in addition, he was supposed to go through his opening repertoire and do some problem practice, as the draughts match with Lyme Regis was just five days away.
He knew he had better get out of his room, even though he didn’t want to; he couldn’t let himself become paralyzed with depression. Maybe, he thought, it was best to leave the pursuit of women to people like Jack, who had the right skills. If it had been anyone but Katie ...
She was intelligent, she had a sense of humor, and she played draughts besides. What could get better than that? Oh, and of course she was beautiful, but to Reggie that was almost a sort of afterthought. Who cared what she looked like? She was just this amazing ...
Stop it, Reggie told himself. Maybe she’s all of those things but forget it, you lost your chance, now move on, you’ve got a lot of things to get done and not a lot of time to do them.
Reggie sighed and put his books into his backpack. He looked wistfully at his Chaucer book and wanted to rip the pages out of it. But that went into the backpack too, along with his book of draughts openings and draughts problems.
He’d go to the school library. With no classes on Fridays, the library would be pretty deserted, and he could work quietly. Maybe he’d even be able to get his mind off Katie and concentrate a little.
Reggie went outside and took the bus to the college.
The school library was indeed as empty as Reggie had expected it would be. The many long wooden tables were virtually unoccupied. Students generally left homework until Sunday; Friday and Saturday they avoided the campus as if it were off-limits.
Still, Reggie went down to the very end of the main hall and sat at a table in the far corner. He decided he'd work on his differential equations class. That would keep his mind off ... other things. Then maybe, just maybe, he'd face up to it and crack open his Chaucer book.
A couple of hours must have passed by when Reggie finished his homework assignment, hoping that he'd never again in his life have to do a problem set on the Method of Frobenius.
Fine, he said to himself, now it's time to confront reality. He pulled out his Chaucer book, vowing to himself that he would study and not think of ... her. "I shall have no fear," he said to himself. "I shall look the beast in the eye and ..."
"Reggie, who are you calling a beast?"
Had he actually spoken out loud? And who was ... no, it couldn't be.
Katie sat down in a chair on the other side of the table. She wore a big smile.
"I thought ... I mean, there was no one here and I wasn't ..."
"I know, Reggie. I was just teasing."
"Wh--- why are you here?"
"Because we need to talk a little, and because I knew there would probably be no one here on a Friday except maybe you. So I took the chance. I wanted to talk in person, not over the phone."
"You did? I thought ..."
"Yes, I know what you thought after that 'Goatgetter' note I sent you. Reggie, I'm really sorry about that. I went too far and I was too harsh. But I was just trying to get a message across."
"A message ... I got the message that you were angry and didn't want to see the movie with me any longer."
"Yes, it was that, but I lost my temper. I thought you were making fun of my family origins, in a poor mill town. Didn't I tell you about that?"
Reggie had long ago turned red, but he made a valiant effort to regain his composure. "Yes, you did, but I thought Maid of the Mill would be a kind of tribute, and then there's the Suffolk Fair Maid. I hoped you would be pleased. I'm sorry too, I didn't mean to offend."
"I believe you, and as I said, I regret what I wrote. So I'd like to make a suggestion."
Reggie leaned on his elbows, moving forward in his seat.
"What?" he asked eagerly.
"How about we start over. You go home and write another note to me, and bring it to class on Monday. I'll answer you, and then everything should be smooth and we can go to that movie. I'm sure it will still be playing next weekend. What do you think?"
"Great idea!" Reggie said. "I know I'll get it right this time!"
"I'm sure you will, Reggie. Now I'll let you get back to your Chaucer." She looked pointedly at his open textbook. "I just know how much you love Dr. Rowan's class!"
They both laughed, and Katie took her leave.
Reggie knew he wasn't going to be studying Chaucer. He had something else to work on.
Fortunately it was a Friday and the buses still ran frequently. Reggie couldn't make it home fast enough. He was on a mission.
But he found that it wasn't a mission easily accomplished. He had to get it right this time. After having started half a dozen notes and in the end tearing up every single one of them, he found himself wishing that Katie had given him some idea of what to write instead of what not to write.
He made himself stop for dinner, another cheese and pickle sandwich, but he didn't care. He was hoping that a short break would provide him with some inspiration. Then he took a short walk around the neighborhood to clear his head, feeling very proud of himself for having thought of the idea.
Somehow, it worked, or, at least it worked in combination with Reggie's next activity; for when he got back to his room, he thought he would solve a checker problem before returning to his note writing.
He didn't find it very hard. And then he realized that he had found two solutions; one to the checker problem, and one other that was about something quite different.
He knew what to write to Katie.
Smiling and chuckling, he put pen to paper and wrote out his note. Okay, he had made a mistake the first time, but this was perfect. Quickly, he consulted his Chaucer book. Was Katie ever going to love this!
Finally, the note was completed. Reggie went back over it and made some corrections, then wrote it out again as neatly as he could on a fresh sheet of paper. He folded it, wrote "Katie" on the front, and put it in his Chaucer book to keep it safe and to be sure he wouldn't forget it.
And that was just the first half of Reggie's plan.
To be continued.
Can you solve Reggie's checker problem? We're sure you can; it's not that difficult and it's rather pleasing. Set aside your love notes and cheese and pickle sandwiches and give it a try, then click on Read More to see the run-up and the solution.[Read More]
Three Move Opening: A Checker Romance
Part Three: First Interlude
When Reggie arrived at class the following morning, Katie was already in her seat near the front of the room. She was deep into her Chaucer book, no doubt doing some last-minute review. Reggie dropped his backpack onto the floor near his own usual seat, and made his way to toward the front, clutching his carefully written note.
But his bus had been a little late and the classroom was already filling up. Everyone was taking their seats. He saw Katie close her Chaucer book and put it under her chair.
Dr. Rowan strode into the room, carrying a sheaf of papers. Reggie was now the only student not seated.
"Planning to take the quiz standing up, Mr. Pastor?"
Once again, all heads turned toward Reggie. But Katie turned her gaze away quickly.
"Uh ... no, sir, I ..."
"Then you'd best be seated. At once." There was no mistaking the stern tone in Dr. Rowan's voice.
Reggie got through the quiz, somehow; he even knew most of the answers to the fill-in-the-blank questions, although he had a bad time with the translation section. Who cared about Middle English verbs, anyhow?
It was over. The quiz papers were passed to the front, and the students were dismissed. Everyone packed their things and prepared to leave.
Reggie saw Katie make a rush for the door, carefully avoiding looking in his direction. Reggie grabbed his backpack and ran after her.
He managed to catch up with her in the hall. "Katie! Katie! Please wait!"
She did stop, and turned to look at him. "What is it you want, Reggie? I don't want to be late for my next class."
Next class? It was lunchtime. Reggie knew she had the next period free. "Please, Katie, just take this." He held out his hand, in which he held his note.
"But ... all right." She took the note and slid it into a pocket in her backpack. "I'll read it later. Now, I really have to get moving."
With that, she was off down the hallway at a rapid pace, and Reggie thought it best not to follow her.
Perhaps he could be brave enough to call her tonight. Or maybe, when she read the note, she would call him. Yes, he was sure that was what would happen. He'd have to be certain to have his phone with him at all times.
"I can't believe it!" Katie said.
The school day was over and she was in the little apartment she shared with her roommate, Barbara Lamont. Barbara was a short, thin, dark-haired 20 year old from the outskirts of London, who decided on school in Weymouth to get away from what she called "the insanity of the city."
"What's wrong? He's asked you out, just as you told me wanted. You were pretty upset when he didn't do that yesterday, so what's the problem now?"
"It's the way he did it," Katie said. "Here, read the note." Reggie's note was laying on the coffee table. Katie picked it up and handed it to Barbara.
Barbara read the note aloud.
11-15, 22-17, 8-11, 17-13, 15-18
My dear Suffolk Maid,
I ask you for the honour of your company at the new movie opening in Weymouth on Saturday.
Would you be willing to be my guest at the nine o'clock evening show?
Perhaps we could have a light dinner beforehand.
I await the favour of your reply.
Ever at your service,
"What are those numbers at the top?" Barabara asked.
"Those numbers are what I'm upset over," Katie replied. "Look, I know you're not a draughts player. But those numbers represent a draughts opening. Do you know what it's called?"
"Of course not. What does it matter?"
"It matters. That's The Maid of the Mill!"
"He refers to me as a 'Suffolk Maid.' Is that how he thinks of me? A pretty girl from a blue collar family? He must have found out ... or maybe I told him, I don't remember ... that my parents came from mill families in Rochdale. They worked their way up and moved to Suffolk. I tell you, this is absolutely insulting and unbelievably disrespectful."
"Are you maybe being a little too sensitive?"
"Too sensitive? Well, I've got a reply for him!"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, he'll find out. Tomorrow, at class."
Reggie's practice that afternoon went a lot better, and his coach noticed it. "Ah, I see girl trouble is over," Coach Talovich joked. "Draughts playing is better when not having distraction."
Reggie was anxious to talk to Jack again after practice. Coach Talovich let the club out a little early and neither Reggie nor Jack had to rush to the bus stop.
Reggie and Jack stopped outside the door of the practice room. The corridor was silent and their words echoed in the post-school-day stillness.
"Did you ask that girl out?" Jack asked.
"Sure did," Reggie said. He smiled and shifted his feet around.
"Oh, got you nervous? She didn't turn you down, did you?"
"Well, then, you've got yourself a date!" Jack clapped Reggie on the back. "Good going! Always listen to old Jack!"
"What is it? Aren't you happy?"
Reggie got it out all in a rush. "She hasn't answered yet. But I'm sure she'll call me any minute now?"
"She'll call? What in the world are you talking about? I thought you already called her."
Reggie told Jack about the note he had written, and pointed out that the note was so good that he just knew Katie would call.
Jack shook his head as he listened. Finally, when Reggie had concluded, he said, "Reggie, you're great at draughts, better than I am, better than probably anyone on the team. But you don't know anything about girls."
"But I ..."
"Yes, you wrote a nice note, I'm sure it was great. Actually, I'm not so sure. That 'Maid of the Mill' thing was clever but she could take it the wrong way. And expecting her to call you? You think she'll be so excited by a guy asking her out with a note--- not even a call--- that she'll take the lead and phone you? Reggie, my friend, you're kidding yourself. That just isn't going to happen."
"So what do I do then? Wait until I see her at class, I imagine ..."
"Call her tonight. Do what you should have done last night."
But Reggie didn't call, and just as Jack had predicted, Katie didn't call him, either. Around midnight, Reggie gave up waiting and went to bed.
She wanted to accept in person. That must be it, he thought as he tried in vain to fall asleep.
He made sure he was at class ten minutes in advance the next morning, catching an earlier bus just to be sure. He was in his seat, waiting, as Katie entered the classroom.
Katie headed straight toward Reggie's seat. Great! He knew it would all work out! But she wasn't smiling. Why was that?
Katie handed Reggie a slightly wrinkled sheet of paper. "Here," she said, and before Reggie could reply, she had turned and gone off to her own seat.
Dr. Rowan entered the classroom. Reggie, despite his burning desire to read what Katie had given him, knew better than to do so in front of his instructor. He'd have to face the interminable wait until class was over.
"Not so good at Middle English verbs, are we, Mr. Pastor?" Dr. Rowan was standing directly in front of Reggie, holding Reggie's quiz paper. "But you did pass after all," he continued. "Frankly, I was surprised, given your obvious dislike of one of the greatest English writers of all time." Dr. Rowan dropped the paper on Reggie's desk and walked off, distributing graded quiz papers to the other students.
Reggie really did try to pay attention for the next hour. He tried not to look in Katie's direction. He tried not to finger the note Katie had given him. He tried to take notes on Dr. Rowan's explanation of Chaucer's use of metaphor in the something-or-other tale. But it was pretty much in vain.
Finally the hour was over. Katie once again rushed to the door, and this time Reggie didn't chase after her. He would have to read her note first.
Everyone was gone and Reggie had remained behind in the now empty classroom. Dr. Rowan had even turned off the lights on his way out and Reggie was in semi-darkness, the only illumination coming from the small windows that were near ceiling-level in the room.
He opened the note. It was fairly brief.
10-15, 23-18, 6-10
I do not accept your invitation, as I found your reference to me as a "Suffolk Maid" and "Maid of the Mill" to be rather insulting. You knew of my family's mill-town ancestry and how my forebears struggled to rise from poverty.
I am disappointed, Reggie. I had thought much better of you.
Reggie couldn't believe it at first. The shock numbed him. Everything suddenly seemed unreal. As if in a dream, he noticed the streaks on the blackboard and the grime on the windows above. There was a chewing-gum wrapper on the floor.
Why did the mind focus on such little details when one's personal world was coming apart? He had read something about that somewhere ...
But the worst of all was the first line of the note. He had sent her 'Maid of the Mill' and she had responded with a draughts reference of her own.
10-15, 23-18, 6-10. Also known as 'The Goatgetter.'
To be continued ....
Everything so far is by the book, and now Black should play 14. 11-16 to hold the draw. But what if Black plays the seemingly natural 14. 9-14? That would bring us to the position below.
White will indeed get Black's goat and come out the winner, but it isn't that easy. Can you work it out? We think that if you find the correct first move, you'll be able to solve it. Don't let it get your goat and don't become the goat ... give it your best try and then click on Read More to see the solution. And be sure to join us in about a month for the next chapter of our story.[Read More]
Part Two: First Move
Our serialized story continues. Be sure to go back and read Part One if you haven't already done so.
Reggie even surprised himself, but he couldn't wait to get to his English class the next morning. For once, he found himself glad that the class met five days a week.
He was there early, waiting outside the door of the classroom, hoping to catch Katie on her way in. She was always early, so Reggie felt his chances were good.
But there were a couple of problems. First, Reggie had no idea what to say. It wasn't as if he and Katie were in any way acquainted.
He thought he might start with something like, "I didn't know you were interested in draughts." But that didn't seem very gripping. Neither did variations such as, "Hey! We're both draughts players!"
Reggie's experience with girls was pretty limited. He had had a few dates here and there, but they usually ended with the girl saying something about how she forgot that she had to be somewhere else.
The second problem developed a little later.
Dr. Rowan, coming down the hall to the classroom, noticed Reggie waiting outside. "Ah, Mr. Pastor," Dr. Rowan said, "while it's nice to see you here on time, the class actually takes place inside the classroom."
Reggie had no choice but to go in and take his usual seat. Katie entered a few minutes later, just as class was beginning. She muttered an apology to Dr. Rowan about having missed the bus. She didn't even glance in Reggie's direction.
Well, maybe he could catch her after class? But Dr. Rowan was directing a question his way about some Middle English verb or other. It was a not so subtle hint to pay attention.
Never did a class seem so long and dreary, but finally the bell rang and Dr. Rowan brought things to a close. "Quiz tomorrow!" he said, as everyone was getting up to leave. "It covers the first ten Canterbury Tales!"
Reggie packed his text and notebook as quickly as he could. Where had Katie gone? How did she get out of the room so quickly? Why had he lost track of her?
He was just getting out of his seat when he felt a warm hand on his shoulder.
"I saw you at the draughts exhibition last night." The voice was warm and sweet. Reggie turned.
"Katie?" It came out almost as a croak.
"I'm not Chaucer's Prioress!" she said, laughing.
"Uh ... yeah. Well, uh, I saw you there too," he said. Even he knew he wasn't exactly pouring on the charm, but he felt almost paralyzed.
"Are you going for lunch?" she said. What a smile she had! Reggie thought.
"Yes, I mean, yes, I am, I have my sandwich. You know, cheese and Branston pickle."
Katie raised her eyebrows a little. "I've got a salad. But let's go eat together and talk about last night's exhibition."
Reggie was ecstatic. So much so, that he tripped over his chair and almost went flying. Katie laughed and Reggie, picking himself up, turned red.
"That cheese sandwich has you pretty excited," she said.
They had a pleasant lunch together in the cafeteria area of the Student Union. Reggie, after a few false starts, managed to speak coherently, at least for the most part.
It turned out that Katie was indeed a draughts fan and followed the fortunes of the school draughts club; that's how she had come to know about Reggie, who was, she said, thought to be the most promising young player in the group.
Reggie said something self-effacing, and Katie encouraged him to have more self-confidence.
It was just about time for them both to leave for their next classes. Katie had math and Reggie was going to sociology.
"Oh, did you know," Katie said, "there's that new movie playing over the weekend. I'd really like to see it." She mentioned a title.
"Didn't know about it," Reggie said. "Well, got to run now."
Why did Katie frown? "I thought ... oh, never mind," she said. "I"ve got to go too." She abruptly turned and made for the exit.
Reggie knew something had gone wrong, but he couldn't say just what. All he knew was that that wonderful feeling he had been experiencing had gone away.
There was draughts practice after school; the club had a big match coming up the following week against a club from nearby Lyme Regis. And of course there was that dratted quiz on Chaucer to study for. But Reggie didn't want to study and didn't want to go to practice. He just wanted to mope, yet he was not one to skip practice, no matter how bad the circumstances.
What had he missed? What had gone awry?
He'd ask Jack at draughts practice. Jack Rite, a good friend, had some experience with girls. He'd gone out on quite a few dates. Reggie even recalled him once missing practice to go somewhere with a girlfriend. Reggie didn't understand it at the time and had even been critical of Jack. Now, suddenly, he understood. A little, at least.
The coach, a Mr. Talovich, pushed them hard that afternoon. In his distinctive Russian accent, he eminded them of the importance of next week's match and the need to be at the top of their game.
Reggie, though, was anything but that.
"Why you are making many mistake?" Mr. Talovich asked, as Reggie lost his second blitz game in a row. "You are better player than this. Something is wrong? Maybe you are having girl trouble?"
Reggie turned red and everyone in the room laughed, even Mr. Talovich. "No, no, is not possible," he said when the laughter had subsided, "Reggie would not be having distraction like girl. Life of Reggie is dedicated for draughts playing! Coach Talovich only make joke. Now, Reggie, play better next game, okay?"
Reggie had just played 27-24 instead of 26-23 which would have drawn easily.
Reggie did manage to win the rest of his games, but finally it was six-thirty and practice was over. He followed Jack out of the practice room and out of the building. Jack was tall and walked fast. Reggie had to hustle to catch up.
"Jack, Jack! Just a minute! I need to ask you something!" Reggie was out of breath and huffing, but Jack turned around.
"Reggie! What is it! Don't blow a lung or anything!"
When Reggie finally got his wind back, he told Jack about his conversation with Katie at lunchtime.
Jack shook his head. "Wow, Reggie! You really do have girl trouble! Who ever would have guessed? This is almost worth missing my bus for."
"I won't keep you, Jack," Reggie said, "I just want your take on what went wrong."
Jack gave a little chuckle. "What went wrong? You mean you don't know? It's so obvious!"
Reggie actually scratched his head. "I ... I just don't see it."
"Reggie, she wanted you to ask her out. Why do you think she was getting on about that concert the way she did? And then you didn't ask her out, and she was disappointed. What's not to get?"
"Really? It was a movie, not a concert."
"Yes, really, old pal, and it doesn't matter if it was a movie, a concert, or a funeral. Now look, I'm off to my bus, and if you've got half an ounce of sense, you'll call this young lady tonight to apologize and to beg her, if necessary, to let you take her to the movie. Got it?"
"Um, well, ..."
"See you!" Jack ran off toward the bus stop, where a bus was just pulling in.
Reggie walked much more slowly in the same direction. His bus wouldn't come for another ten minutes, and he needed that time to think.
Actually Reggie thought about Katie and the movie while he waited, on the entire bus ride back to his student apartment, and for some while afterward. He didn't even give a single thought to his imminent Chaucer quiz, and worse still, he didn't think a bit about draughts. He managed to make himself a peanut butter and banana sandwich for dinner, but he was hardly aware of what he was eating.
He'd probably be able to get hold of Katie's phone number one way or another. Come to think of it, Dr. Rowan had put everyone's email and phone number online to "foster discussion" as he called it.
Reggie looked up the number and got out his phone, and then stared at the screen in a near state of paralysis. He just couldn't do it. Yes, they had talked with great animation and pleasure at lunch, but now ... after the way Katie had walked off ... Reggie was, in a word, afraid.
But then it came to him. He thought back over their conversation ... of course draughts had figured prominently in it. But somewhere along the line, Katie had mentioned that she came from Suffolk.
It all clicked in Reggie's head. He quickly used his phone to access the internet. It was just as he thought ... Suffolk Fair Maids! That was a phrase that had been used centuries ago in praise of the beauty of the women of Suffolk.
He pulled out a sheet of paper and began to write.
He actually smiled. There was just no way this could fail.
In the end, he did three drafts of his letter before he felt it was perfect. He then carefully folded it and put it in an envelope. He wrote "Katie" on the outside. He'd give it to her before class tomorrow.
Oh ... class tomorrow. Reggie dug into his backpack for his Chaucer book. He still had a little time left to study.
Click on Read More to see the solution to the checker problem.[Read More]
Today we begin a seven-part, 10,000 word serialized novelette entitled: "Three Move Opening, A Checker Romance." It's our current intention to publish one installment per month from December 2017 through June 2018. We hope you enjoy our latest addition to the literature of checker fiction.
Reggie didn't necessarily find English Literature a thrilling subject of study, but it was something he had to get through. But couldn't it have a least been something a little more contemporary? At the rate the instructor was going, they wouldn't even make it out of the 16th Century before the end of the term.
Reggie was a student at Weymouth College, which was unsurprisingly located in Weymouth, on England's southern coast. Reggie had lived in the area for all of his 20 years, and really hadn't given much thought to going anywhere else. The Dorset area was nice, he loved the sea and the relatively mild seasons, at least by English standards, and he knew he never could have stood the hustle of London.
Dr. Peter Forbes Rowan, the instructor, was at the moment waxing enthusiastic about Chaucer. Reggie, whose enthusiasm was somewhat less, stifled a yawn and let his thoughts drift. There was a draughts exhibition that evening in the Student Union to be given by Dante Oldman, a great master of the game.
"Bored, Mr. Pastor?" The instructor's voice jarringly interrupted Reggie's little reverie. That was followed by a sinking feeling as Reggie realized the instructor was addressing him.
"Mr. Pastor, I asked you a question. Does Chaucer bore you? If so, I'm quite willing to excuse you from this class, permanently, if you so desire."
Reggie squirmed in his seat. All eyes had turned upon him, but he especially noticed Katie Walton staring in his direction, with what almost seemed to be a look of disappointment. Katie, a pretty blonde of about Reggie's age, normally sat toward the front of the classroom and participated eagerly.
"Um, no, sir, I'm not bored, I just didn't sleep well last night is all and ..."
"Excellent improvisation, Mr. Pastor," the instructor replied. "But from now on, please get sufficient rest and at least make an attempt at showing some interest."
Did Katie smile, if ever so briefly, before turning her attention back to the front of the classroom?
Reggie managed to be attentive for the rest of the class period, and the instructor didn't seem to notice that Reggie's gaze was focused more on the back of Katie's head than it was on the blackboard.
# # #
The draughts exhibition was to start at seven o'clock in the evening. Reggie figured he could defer homework until the following morning, even though he had a pretty long math assignment to do, and of course Dr. Rowan had assigned another of the Canterbury Tales to read. "In Middle English, please," he had said, "we don't want to ruin the experience with some horrid modern translation." Ugh. Well, Reggie told himself he'd get through it. Tomorrow.
Draughts wasn't the most popular sport at Weymouth College, but it still had enough of a following, and of course the presence of a superstar like Dante Oldman would draw at least a small crowd. Mr. Oldman was going to take on all comers in a "simultaneous exhibition" with dozens of checkerboards arranged on tables making a large circle. Mr. Oldman would play all of the games at once. There would be room for about fifty participants, and Reggie made sure he was near the front of the line when the doors to the venue opened.
Reggie passed the remaining time reading an old draughts book he had brought with him, sight-solving the problems with little difficulty; he had done most of them dozens and dozens of times. But finally, at a few minutes to seven, the line started to move forward and into the room.
Reggie quickly sat down at a draughts board, putting his book into his backpack and hanging it from the back of his chair. He recognized some of the others from the college draughts club, and nodded at a few of them as they too got settled.
Within about five minutes, most of the fifty boards were taken up by eager draughts players. There were only a couple of boards still vacant when Dante Oldman made his entrance.
He was impressive in every way. He dressed like a 19th century scholar, and he had a commanding presence, with piercing eyes that told of great intellect and prowess. He exuded confidence. The idea of playing almost fifty boards at once didn't seem to faze him in the least.
There was a polite round of applause from the assembled particpants, and the event's host, the president of the draughts club, made a brief introduction and then explained the rules of the exhibition. Mr. Oldman gave a slight bow and the exhibition was underway.
Reggie had already made his first move and was waiting for Mr. Oldman to reach his table, when out of the corner of his eye he saw someone arrive at the last open board. He glanced briefly in that direction and did a mental double-take, then took another look.
Suddenly Mr. Oldman was in front of him, offering to shake hands. Reggie tore his gaze away and, almost reluctantly, greeted Mr. Oldman, who then made his own first move and went on down the line to the next board.
Katie? At the draughts exhibition? A Chaucer enthusiast, no less?
Reggie knew he was going to have some trouble concentrating on his game this evening.
His game went on, although there were not-infrequent glances directed by him toward the end of the room where Katie was sitting. For some reason, he found the way she picked up the checkers and moved them utterly fascinating. Those long fingers, at once delicate and strong; her air of quiet confidence; the way her blond hair hung when she leaned over the board; it was just a magical combination.
But Reggie realized he had a combination of his own to make. His game had reached a critical point, and he was about to lose a man. But he thought he might see a way through; he had better bear down and concentrate fully. He'd have to will himself not to take his eyes off the board.
Could he get a draw against someone who was arguably England's best draughtsman?
The position on the board was as follows.
Reggie spent a while thinking, using his one-time option to wave Mr. Oldman off to gain extra time to consider his move. But finally, Mr. Oldman returned to Reggie's board on the next trip around, and Reggie had to make his move.
To see the rest of Part 1 and the solution to the position, click on Read More.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin, famed team captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was on a vacation. The World Series of Checkers had just concluded, with the Doublejumpers taking the championship for the third straight year.
Marvin had eight weeks off before the next season got underway at the first of the new year, and he decided to spend a few weeks in Hawai`i. His girlfriend, business executive Priscilla Snelson, could only spend a week with him due to a busy schedule doing mergers and acquisitions.
It was about halfway through Marvin's stay. Priscilla had gone off to Japan, searching for companies to buy out. Marvin was staying at the Hilman Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, and he loved to walk on Kalakaua Avenue along the beach. He'd wear beach slippers and a hat to try to remain incognito. Not that he didn't care about his many fans; he just needed a little time off between seasons.
Marvin had just finished eating a Hawaiian plate lunch, with macaroni salad, rice, and garlic shrimp. He loved the local food and could be heard to say, "I ain't paying thirty bucks for a tofu burger at the hotel." Feeling good, and enjoying the beautiful Hawaiian weather, he strolled on down Kalakaua with the goal of going all the way to the Aquarium and back.
At Kealohilani Avenue, he stopped for a moment at the beach tables, where visitors and locals would play checkers all through the day and evening. Each time he passed by, Marvin resisted the urge to sit down and play, and possibly reveal his identity. But today one of the tables looked especially interesting.
A succession of tourists were playing a rather rough looking local, and Marvin guessed he was probably homeless. But he was playing very well, defeating one challenger after another, and collecting five dollars every time. Marvin suspected that playing for money wasn't quite legal, but no one seemed to mind.
It was just too much. Marvin felt himself weakening, and after watching half a dozen games and just as many five dollar bills go to the local guy, Marvin spoke up.
"I'd like to try," he said, addressing the local guy, who had just pocketed some more money.
"I Charlie," the guy said. "Dey call me 'Cheap Charlie' 'cause noboddy nevah get five bucks offa me. You wanna play? You no get nothin' neithah. Show me da five bucks and den I give you lickens."
"Well, uh ..." Marvin hesitated. Would this really be fair?
"Scared? Den step aside, brah, oddah playahs stay waitin'."
No one accused Marvin of being scared. Grim faced, he pulled out ten dollars and set it next to the board.
"Ten dollah! Hoo, you one crazy haole! You like give me money, I like take it." Charlie placed two fives on top of Marvin's ten.
Marvin sat down. "Play," he said, his lips narrowed.
"Whatevahs," Charlie said, and the game began.
A small crowd had gathered, and amazingly, Marvin's disguise was working; no one recognized him.
The Trade Winds were brisk this afternoon and Marvin put a couple of captured checkers on top of the five and ten dollar bills.
"Dat money ain't going noweah," Charlie said, "'cept fo' my pocket!"
That got a laugh from a few of the bystanders. But the fact was, Charlie had made a few small errors, and Marvin knew that a win was on his doorstep. A couple of the more astute onlookers suspected the same thing, but they kept a discreet silence.
Marvin spent a couple of minutes in thought, and then, sure of himself, he reached out to make his move.
He took his hand off the piece and looked up. To his surprise, the crowd of spectators had completely disappeared.
"What's going on ..." he began, and then felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"You two bums gambling? You know that's illegal." The speaker had a little wallet flipped open to show his Honolulu Police Department badge.
"Aw, c'mon officah, we just havin' fun," Charlie said.
"Gambling?" Marvin said. "But checkers is a game of skill and ..."
"Shut up, you," the plainclothes policeman said. "I don't care what you say, it's not legal, and both of you know it. But I'm feeling generous today so you got a choice."
Marvin was fidgeting but Charlie, who had clearly been through this routine before, sat quietly.
"All right, officer," Charlie said. He pulled out a plastic bag and began to pack the checkers.
"Hey, our game!" Marvin objected.
"Okay, buddy," the officer said, looking at Marvin. "The homeless shelter or a trip downtown to headquarters?"
"The homeless shelter? But I'm ..."
"Good choice, boy. Saves me doing the paperwork it'd take to lock you up. Now come on, you two, there's a cruiser over there that'll drop you off at the Mission. And we better not see you leave until morning."
"But ... but I'm ..."
"One more word outta you and you wait in jail to see the judge."
Marvin noticed the officer slipping the game money into his pocket, but he didn't think it would be a good idea to say anything.
Can you find a winning sequence in the diagram above? It's a much easier problem than you might expect! See if you can solve it without getting nabbed, then click on Read More to go, not to jail, but to see the solution.[Read More]
A few months ago we heard from checkerist and champion problem composer Ed Atkinson, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who wrote:
"While doing background research on a new problem I came across some information which might be of interest to you. On page 59 of Boland's Border Classics there is a problem credited to F. C. Hopkinson. According to Boland this problem was originally published under the name "Martin" in 1857.
The charming story 'A Midnight Encounter', which has been reproduced a number of times, is also attributed to 'Martin'. This information strongly suggests that it was F. C. Hopkinson who wrote the story. Has this ever been pointed out?
While doing a google search I came across 'A Midnight Encounter' on a Checker Maven page published in January 2007. That is why I am contacting you."
Yes, Ed, we ourselves also republished 'A Midnight Encounter' some years ago, and, inspired by additional correspondence with you, we wrote a sequel, which we present below.
It was thirty years ago today that Joshua Sturges appeared to me, on a Monday evening in April in the year 1820. Having read of his passing in 1813, I realized I had seen an apparition. It caused me to forsake my trip to England, where I was to study draughts with the masters, and indeed, to give up the game altogether.
Now I am fifty years old, with a wife, four grown boys, and numerous grandchildren. In this, the year 1850, the boys now run my hardware business and I have taken my retirement, all in that same New England town which I nearly left so long ago.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and my life would have been very different, and likely much less content, had I gone on to England to become a draughts master.
So, tonight, as I have every year for some while on this April date, I thank Mr. Sturges for his intervention.
Of course, it is a story I tell to no one, not even my wife Elsabeth, for she and all others might think me insane. So I keep my silent thanks between myself and the spirit of Mr. Sturges, may he be resting in peace in that world beyond the draughtsboard.
My wife does not mind that sometimes of an evening I visit the public house that now stands on the site of the long-gone inn in which Mr. Sturges appeared to me. I enjoy an hour of visiting with old friends and neighbors and the ale tastes especially good on a warm spring evening. Some of the old boys play at draughts, and often they invite me, but I always decline. I have set my path and I have hewn to it.
At least, until last night.
Nothing seemed at all different. I went down to the familiar establishment at my usual hour, and lingered about as long as I did on most such visits. The usual folk were there and some games of draughts were contested amid such merriment, jesting, and laughter as was to be expected when the ale is good and the company is better.
It must have been approaching midnight when, suddenly conscious of the need to be up for work in the morning, everyone decided it best to return home. Our host, too, was ready to close up and turn in for the night.
I must have been the last to leave, or at least so it seemed, as I buttoned my overcoat and made my way to the door.
Before I could pull upon the handle, however, the door sprang open in front of me. Gusts of wind blew rain through the door and lightning eerily lit the street in front.
Strange; a storm had not been expected, yet this was a tempest of the first order! I turned to remark of it to my host, but he was nowhere to be seen. All the lamps had blown out and the empty interior of the tavern was lit only by flashes of lighting.
A bright flash illuminated a table near to the bar, and there, silhouetted in black, sat one whom I had hoped to never see again.
The lanky figure stood. "It is I," he said, raising a bony finger. "Be not afraid, for I have come to seek your help."
Despite his reassurances, I was paralyzed with fear and could not move or speak. Neither could I understand what was happening. Full thirty years had passed, what was the meaning of this?
The figure seemed to read my mind. "All those years ago I kept you from going astray, from becoming victim of your pride and arrogance. Did I not?"
I tried to nod my head and managed only a motion of an inch.
"And yet, you truly were great at draughts, but that was not to be your path, for had you traveled to England that morning, you would have faced a life of endless poverty, for no draughts-player, not even you, can ever make his way."
I understood the truth of his words. No one earned a living through draughts.
"But yet, I cannot rest, for one thing remains." Lightning flashed again, brightly enough for me to see the pain in those long dead eyes.
"There is one situation, crafted by a great master yet to be born, that even I have not be able to resolve. No, do not ask how I have come into possession of something that does not exist in this world, for the ways of the world to come obey not our rules."
Finally, I found my voice. "You want ... me ... to resolve this situation ... solve this problem," I said in a ragged whisper.
"Yes, so that I may rest at last," Joshua Sturges said. "White captures all of the Black men in ten moves. I cannot see the way of it." And then, at once, he was gone. The lamps were lit and my host stood behind the bar, looking at me in a most strange manner.
"Are you all right, sir?" he asked. "I thought you were leaving but you've been standing, completely motionless by the door for the last several minutes."
"Oh ... I don't ... yes, I'm fine," I said. "Just a momentary lapse of memory."
My host looked at me as if I had suffered something far worse, but I didn't notice, for I was looking at the draughts board at the table in front of the bar.
"Quick, a sheet of paper and a pen!" I cried.
"But sir, it's late, and I wish to close up and seek my bed."
"Never mind your bed!" I shouted. "Paper and pen at once!"
My host, now looking more frightened than tired, complied.
As rapidly as I could, I took down the position on the draughts board.
"Thank you, and good night," I said, folding the paper and leaving the pen on the table. I departed at once, leaving my astonished host still staring with mouth agape.
My wife was of course abed when I arrived home. I lit a lamp in my study and set up the position I had written down. When morning came, she found me asleep in my chair.
I still have not resolved the situation, and I feel that until I do, I shall be condemned to fretful days and restless nights.
How long shall I be able to endure? I can only pray that I find the solution before my mind or my body is gone and I face the same eternal fate as the ghost of Joshua Sturges.
Can you help our story's narrator avoid a fate literally worse than death? Solve the problem and give rest to the souls of the checkerists in our little tale. Click on Read More to verify your solution.[Read More]
Today we at last present the final chapter in our ongoing story. It's a long installment, and if you're just interested in the checker problem you can page down to the bottom. But of course, we hope you'll want to see how the story turns out!
"You're not going to tell me, are you?" Samantha asked. Even with the heater going full blast, it was chilly in the rental car. It was well past midnight and Andrew and Samantha were on their way back to Lindyville.
"I have an idea," Andrew replied, "that's all."
"And based on your brilliant, super-secret 'idea' we're driving on cold and lonely country roads at one in the morning, with a car full of burglary tools?"
"They're not burglary tools," Andrew said. "At least, not exactly."
"Well, now I feel better," Samantha said, and then turned silent, wrapping her arms around herself and staring out the passenger window, which by now was so fogged up nothing was visible.
They were approaching Lindyville. "Can you check the GPS for me?" Andrew said. "We need to find the exact location I wrote down."
Samantha grunted. But she did turn on Andrew's special scientific GPS and glanced at the coordinates Andrew had written on a sheet of hotel stationary. Samantha brushed away the remains of a small insect that was stuck to the paper. "Turn left at the dead bug," she said.
"What? Yeah, guess that paper was in the desk drawer for a while, huh?" Andrew attempted a grin. "C'mon, honey, help me track to those coordinates."
"Oh, well," Samantha said as Andrew turned into Lindyville's main street. "Hold on --- I think we're almost there. Let's see, 42 degrees 6 minutes 7 seconds north, and 94 degrees 32 minutes 52 seconds west, yes, coming right up!"
Andrew slowed the car to a stop. "It's right across the street, I think," he said. "The GPS is only accurate to 10 to 50 feet, but this just has to be it."
"There's nothing there but an old bank that looks like it's been out of business forever," Samantha said. Andrew had rolled down his window so they could both see out.
"Perfect," Andrew said. "This makes perfect sense."
"Maybe to you," Samantha said. "You still don't care to explain?"
"Come on, hurry. We've got to get those tools out of the trunk."
Samantha paused a minute. "Andrew, we're not going to do what I think we are --- are we?"
"Yes, dear, we are. We need to break into that bank."
"I just know we'll end up in jail," Samantha said. She was carrying the pickaxe and sledgehammer while Andrew was laden down with the rest of the tools. "I don't know why I'm doing this."
"Don't you want to solve the mystery?"
"Yes, but it isn't worth doing five to ten for breaking and entering."
They moved quickly. Andrew had pulled the car into an alley, out of sight from the main street. The alley lead around to the back of the bank.
"Aren't banks kind of hard to break into?" Samantha asked.
"They are, but this one has been closed for years, and there won't be any alarms or anything. Probably the locks are old and rusty. Or we can just break some glass windows or something."
"You're not very good at this sort of thing, are you?"
"No experience," Andrew simply replied.
They turned the corner out of the alley.
"That's funny," Andrew said.
"Just what about this is funny?" Samantha asked.
"Don't you see? There's a faint light coming from the basement.
Samantha peered toward the bottom of the building. There was a bit of a yellow glow coming through some cracks in the foundation.
"I wonder ... I bet .... look! The back door's open a crack!"
There was a heavy metal fire door at the back of the old bank, and it was open about two or three inches.
"Someone's down there," Andrew observed. "Probably still is. That can't be an electric light; the power to the building would be turned off, if it was even still working at all. We'd better be quiet and cautious."
"Maybe we'd better get out of here instead," Samantha said, but she knew Andrew wouldn't listen.
Andrew needed both hands to pull open the heavy door, and it made an ominously loud creak as it moved.
"Andrew, let's go!" Samantha said. But Andrew was already through the door, motioning for Samantha to follow.
Just inside the door there was an old stairwell leading to the basement. The stairs were wood and looked rotted. Andrew pointed to the steps, as if to say, be careful.
There was just enough light coming from the basement that Andrew decided not to use his flashlight and possibly alert whoever was down there. He took a couple of cautious steps. Samantha followed behind.
Suddenly there was a loud crunch and a yelp as Samantha's foot broke through one of the steps.
"Ssh," Andrew said, rather loudly.
"But I ... " Samantha began.
"Who's there?" came a voice from the bottom of the stairs. A flashlight beam caught Anthony and Samantha in its glare.
"Hold it right there!" the voice commanded. "I have a gun and I won't hesitate to use it!"
Samantha gasped. Neither she nor Andrew could see anything past the brightness of the flashlight, but they froze in place.
"Now come down here slowly. No quick moves."
Samantha and Andrew did as they were told.
"Into that room." There was a room at the bottom of the staircase, illuminated by an electric lantern. "Drop all your tools and step away."
The tools clattered to the floor. Andrew and Samantha backed up to the adjacent wall.
"It's ... you!" Samantha said, as the figure behind the voice stepped into the lantern light. "Miss Victor!"
It was indeed. The librarian, dressed in dirty coveralls, had a .45 automatic in her right hand and it was trained on the hapless couple.
"You!" Miss Victor replied in turn. "The troublemaker that stole my book! I should have known!"
Andrew started to edge forward, but Miss Victor was too alert. The gun turned in his direction. "Another inch and you're dead," she said through clenched teeth. "Maybe you're dead anyway. Both of you."
Andrew glanced toward the far wall. There was another pickaxe and a sledgehammer there, and a wide hole in the concrete floor.
"I was right," he muttered. "You're trying to find the gold bars, aren't you, Miss Victor?"
"How did you know about that?" Miss Victor couldn't hide her astonishment.
"Once I saw the checker book, it wasn't hard," Andrew said, trying to maintain a calm and even tone. He had to keep her talking, although he didn't really have any sort of escape plan.
"You see, I knew about the gold robbery way back when. The gold bars were never found, and they were very heavy. So they had to have been left somewhere. Then there was the murder later on ... and the pieces started to come together."
"Go on," Miss Victor said.
"You already know, of course," Andrew said. "Whoever left the gold probably buried it somewhere, and it had to be near here. He would have come back to get it later. It was surely a gang member who had killed his accomplices. That would explain all the bodies that the posse found. But then I realized another man from the gang might have gotten away, and come looking for the traitor later on.
"But in the meantime, Lindyville sprung up. It grew fast. And this bank was built. Right over where the gold was buried. Then the gang member returned, using the alias Cudworth, seeking the gold. He must have made a note of where he buried it, but it wouldn't be safe to leave such an incriminating note lying around. So he encoded the latitude and longitude into his little checker problem book, and he did it in a clever way. I'm surprised you know Gould's Problem Book, Miss Victor."
"I'm not stupid," Miss Victor said. "I'm a librarian, remember?"
"Yes. So you also realized that the problems in Cudworth's book weren't original. They were taken from Gould's. The problem numbers from Gould's spell out the latitude and longitude of where the gold is buried. Problem 42--- 42 degrees. Problem 6--- 6 minutes. And so on. Right under the bank. A nasty surprise for Cudworth. But before he could come up with a way to get at his loot, a surviving gang member must have found Cudworth and killed him, and then tore up the checker club office trying to find some indication of where Cudworth concealed the gold. The killer never realized that the location was encoded in Cudworth's innocent-looking checker problem book. But you worked it out, didn't you?"
"Yep," Miss Victor said. I worked it out a while ago. It's taken me that long to break through the foundation and dig down, a little every night so I wouldn't be caught. I had to dig around a lot but I finally found the gold bars. I was going to start taking them out tonight. But then you two showed up."
Miss Victor paused and breathed heavily. "Well, you ain't going to stop me. I'm going to kill you both and bury you right where the gold is. Then I'm outta here and off to South America. I'm done with this two-bit town and my two-bit librarian's pay. I'm gonna live it up real good."
"How come your English is so bad?" Samantha asked suddenly. "For a librarian, I mean. You sound like someone who didn't even finish high school. South America? Hah! I'll bet your Spanish is even worse."
"Watch your mouth, girl, or I'll finish you off first!" Miss Victor waved the gun around wildly. She was starting to sweat and looked nervous. Andrew sensed that this was his chance.
Making sure Samantha was shielded behind his body, Andrew charged at Miss Victor.
A shot rang out. There was a scream.
The gun dropped from Miss Victor's hand. A shocked spread across her face as she dropped to the floor.
"No one move!" It was a commanding male voice from the entrance to the room.
A large man in a sheriff's uniform was there, holding his smoking service revolver at the ready.
"I'm Sheriff Corman. Looks like I might have saved you two. But you're under arrest just the same. Unless you'd care to tell me what in blazes is going on here?"
Andrew and Samantha were in the little building that served as the Lindyville Sheriff's Office for the rest of the night, explaining everything over and over again. Finally Sheriff Corman said, "This is way too crazy for it to be a lie. And Miss Victor was holding a gun on you. Lucky I got there when I did."
"How did you know to go there?" Samantha asked. She rubbed her eyes. It had been a long, long day and night.
"One of the good citizens of Lindyville called me. They saw your rental car pull in by the old bank. They thought you were, you know, kind of suspicious. So I checked it out. I found the back door open and smelled trouble. Like I said, lucky for you. I think that old bat would have killed you both. Never did like her much. Always putting on airs just because she ran the library."
"How is she?" Samantha interrupted. "Miss Victor, I mean."
"Oh, she'll live," the Sheriff said. "Long enough to go to jail. I only shot her in the shoulder."
"Er ... what about us?" Anthony asked. He tried to make it sound innocent.
"I should lock you both up for breaking and entering," Corman said. "But I won't, if you promise to get out of town and not come back. We don't need outside agitators giving Lindyville a bad name."
Andrew didn't say anything about what the newspapers were going to make out of the story, unless the Sheriff found a way to keep it quiet. "Sure, Sheriff, if it's okay with you, we're out of here."
"Miss Victor already confessed. You won't have to testify or anything. Just as well. Now, skedaddle!"
Andrew and Samantha didn't need to be told twice.
They were at the Des Moines airport, waiting for the commuter flight to take them out of Iowa. "There's only one loose end," Andrew said idly.
"What's that?" Samantha asked. "Do I really want to know?"
"There were seven problems in Cudworth's book, not six. It only took six numbers to give the latitude and longitude of where he buried the gold. What was the seventh number, from the seventh problem?"
"I bet it was the number of gold bars he buried," Samantha said. "He'd want to make sure they were all there. What else would it be?"
Andrew smiled and put his arm around Samantha's shoulders. "Brilliant," he said, "brilliant. Problem 80--- 80 gold bars." He pulled her a little closer. "I really owe you, don't I?" he asked. "Not just for your help, but for putting your life in danger."
"You sure do owe me," Samantha said. "And I plan to collect." Samantha gestured with the ring finger of her left hand.
Andrew, surprisingly, wasn't surprised. "Anything you want, dear," he said. "Anything at all."
And now, here's the final problem in the series. You already know the secret, but please try it out instead of just looking it up. In any case, it's not very difficult.
We'll also leave you with this additional teaser. If the 80 gold bars that Miss Victor was trying to recover had been of standard gold bar size, what would they be worth today?
When you've struck gold, click on Read More to verify your solutions.[Read More]
Samantha was outside the library, waiting for Andrew to arrive. “Come, on, come on, before she realizes ...”
Thirteen long minutes passed before Andrew pulled up to the curb. Samantha tore open the passenger door and scrambled into the car.
"Go! Now! Quick!" she said as she swung the door shut behind her.
"What's going on ..."
"Go! Go! NOW!" Samantha said frantically.
Andrew pulled quickly away from the curb and drove down the street.
"Faster!" Samantha said, turning to look out the back window. "She'll be at the door any second now ... there she is! Turn the car, get it out of sight!"
Andrew made a quick right turn into the nearest side street and continued driving. Samantha let out a breath and turned back around to face forward again.
"Whew! That was close!" she said.
Andrew turned back on to the main street, driving in the direction of the highway back to Lake City. "Would you mind explaining?"
"It's complicated, but I think I found something. And we better leave town right away."
"We're on our way," Andrew said. "It's an hour back to Lake City. Plenty of time to explain, even if it's complicated."
# # #
On the drive back, Samantha told Andrew about Miss Victor's extreme unfriendliness, and about the book of checker problems Samantha had found on a shelf in the library.
"A copy, you say," Andrew said. "Not the original."
"Right, a photocopy."
"Then the original is somewhere else, or missing altogether. Maybe it's archived due to its age. Or maybe ..."
"Never mind. I need to have a look at it when we get back to the hotel. But I can't believe you stole it from the library!"
Samantha smiled and put her hand on Andrew's shoulder. "I'm just full of surprises," she said.
# # #
They were back in their Lake City hotel in the early afternoon. Both of them were hungry, and even though Andrew was itching to have a look at Samantha's "acquisition" she insisted that they eat lunch first.
"Chicken fried steak," Samantha said. "My stomach may never recover from this trip. When we get back to Albuquerque, I think I'm going to make you take me back to the Cattleman's Club."
Andrew groaned. "On a professor's salary?" he asked. "That's kind of a once a year thing."
"All right, then, I'll settle for Sadie's, but it will have to be twice."
Andrew nodded, his mind clearly elsewhere.
They were in their hotel room, and Samantha had just handed him "Cudworth's Checker Problems." Andrew was at the room's little table, minutely examining the photocopy.
"What should I do while you're, um, busy?" Samantha asked. She knew Andrew would probably spend hours with the stolen book.
"Umm ... go shopping or something," Andrew replied absently.
"Sure, since I've already toured the sausage factory, I might as well check out the couture at the Lake City General Store."
"Oh, there must be something," Andrew said.
"Right, well, I'll go find myself a nice hardware store or something. See you later." Samantha grabbed the rental car keys and was out the door.
Andrew didn't pay any attention.
# # #
Two hours passed, Andrew spending all of it looking at the slim book of checker problems. Something was familiar, but he couldn't place it. He went over and over the book, trying to make the connection, without success.
The book contained only seven problems, written out in an old-fashioned style with hand-drawn diagrams.
"These aren't original problems," Andrew muttered. "I know they're not, but ..."
Just then the door opened and Samantha came in, carrying a very large shopping bag.
"You won't believe what I found here," Samantha started to say, when all of a sudden Andrew looked up and shouted, "That's it!"
Samantha, taken aback, dropped her heavy bag. "What on earth do you mean?" she said. "I go to a quilt store and 'that's it'? What are you talking about?"
It finally registered in Andrew's mind that he had shouted his words at Samantha. "Oh, no, not you!" he said. "I mean I've got it!" He smiled, got up, and gave her a hug.
"What are you talking about?" she asked, hugging him back, rather tentatively.
"Well, I think I've got it," Andrew said. "I just have to check a couple of things on the internet. This hotel is supposed to have service, isn't it?"
"Don't you want to see our new quilt?" she asked. "I found ..."
"Yes, sure, honey, sure, right away, just as soon as ... now where did we put the laptop? We brought it with us, right?"
# # #
Samantha had folded, unfolded, and refolded her new quilt at least half a dozen times. Andrew hadn't even looked at it once.
"This internet connection is just too slow," Andrew said, probably for the tenth time. He had the stolen book opennext to the laptop and was scribbling notes on squares of paper from the little notepad he found on the hotel dresser.
About ten minutes later, he shouted, "That's it!"
"You said that before," Samantha said. "What's 'it' now?"
"I was right! I've got it!"
"You've got it? Well, I hope it's not catching. Now, can you please look at our new quilt?"
"Oh, yes, it's very nice, I love it," Andrew said. "But I knew there was something familiar about all this!"
"You've never been interested in quilts," Samantha said. "How could it be familiar?"
"No, the book! Cudworth's book! Don't you get it?"
"No. I don't. Tell me."
But Andrew was still talking. "We have to go back there."
"Lindyville, where else? But it will have to be a night. Tonight. Yes, we'll go tonight. Late. Very late."
"We can't. We have a flight back in the morning. We have to be at the airport by eight."
"Change it. We'll go back Monday. This is too important. Can you take care of it? We'll call in sick or something. We can crack this case if we just go back to Lindyville, I know we can!"
Samantha looked like she would rather crack Andrew's head than the case, but she knew how he was. "I'll take care of it," she said. "Then let's go for dinner. We can give Waffle House one last chance, I suppose."
# # #
All through dinner, Andrew kept a resolute silence about his conclusions, merely saying, "You'll see, you'll see," and then consulting his notes over and over again.
"I wish we had a printer," he said. "We'll have to make do with my sketches." He produced another couple of squares of paper with untidy scrawls all over them."
Andrew paid the check. "Come on, we need to buy a couple of flashlights and a few tools," he said. "There must be a hardware store that's still open."
"Oh, there is," Samantha said, "believe me, I've seen every store in this town."
Half an hour later, the rental car's trunk was loaded with flashlights, batteries, a crowbar, a pickaxe, a bolt cutter, a hammer, and some large screwdrivers.
"Planning a break-in or something?" the checkout clerk had asked. Andrew had just glared while Samantha stared open-mouthed.
"Let's get an hour or two of sleep," Andrew said. "We'll be on the road by eleven and get to Lindyville by midnight."
"What on earth are we up to?" Samantha asked.
"You'll see, you'll see," Andrew kept repeating, all the way back to the hotel.
The problem is of medium difficulty (or maybe not quite), but the solution is very appealing. See how you do and then click Read More to see the solution.[Read More]