The Checker Maven

Anticipating Thanksgiving at The Beacon Cafe


It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club had gathered as they did every Saturday during the checker season at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. There would be no meeting over Thanksgiving weekend; the Beacon would be closed and everyone would be visiting with their families for the holiday.

So Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Club, wanted to have a really great session before the holiday weekend.

Deana, the Beacon's proprietor and the best baker anyone had ever met, felt the same way. As soon as the boys (all of them over fifty) had gathered in the big booth at the back, she announced, "I've got pumpkin raisin bars today. Thanksgiving special!"


The boys smiled and expressed approval. Today Dan, Larry, Wayne, Delmer, Kevin ("Spooler") and Louie ("The Flash") were on hand, along with Sal. Pumpkin raisin bars were a once a year thing and always eagerly anticipated.

"I've got one from Ed," announced Sal, "and I think, seeing that we're not meeting next week, you boys ought to buy me two bars when you can't win it."

Kevin ("Spooler")

"Only if you buy us two when we do win it," said Spooler. "Fair is fair."

"Not fair!" Sal objected. "There are six of you and just one of me." Sal went on, "But tell you what. If you boys can win it I'll buy a dozen bars for all of us to share. How's that?"

Louie the Flash

"Great!" said Flash. "Lay 'em out and let's get going. An hour, right?"

"Stacking the deck, are you?" Sal said. "Forty-five minutes and not a second more."

Sal arranged the checkers on one of the boards as follows.

White to Play and Win


"Hey, wow man!" Flash said, as he always did, while the rest just stroked their chins or groaned a little.

"Time's a wasting!" Sal chided. "Forty-four minutes and thirty seconds left!"

Anything from master problemist Ed Atkinson is bound to please--- and never be easy. Pumpkin bars sound good, even if virtual, but you'll have to earn one. See how you do (take as long as you wish) and then click on Read More to view the solution and conclusion of the story.


Two o'clock came around and then two fifteen. Finally at two thirty Sal said, "You've had well over an hour. Time's up!"

"We can't get it," Wayne said. "You win, Sal. Show us."

Sal demonstrated the following play, explaining as he went.

12-8 31-29 19-15 28-19---A 14-9 11-18 9-6---B 4-11 10-14 1-10 14-23-16-7-14-21---1 White Wins---2.

A---If 11-18 White wins in the same way.

B---A fake solution is 10-7 4-11 7-21 which only draws.

1---Jumping around the circle in the reverse direction of course works too---Ed.

2---A position worth noting. White is a man down but Black loses at once by either 29-25 21x30 13-17 30-25 17-21 25-30 or 13-17 21x14 29-25 14-17 25-21 17-22---Ed.

"We couldn't win it," Dan said, "but it sure is a fine one. Tell you what. I'll be a sport and buy that dozen bars today."

Deana, all smiles, had already arranged a big platter of bars and brewed a fresh pot of coffee. The boys enjoyed their treats while discussing various aspect's of Ed's problem. After that they played some skittles and talked checkers until about four thirty, when it was getting dark outside and time to go on home.

"See you in two weeks," Sal said.

"Happy Thanksgiving to everyone," Deana said as she waved goodbye.

There was just a light dusting of snow on the sidewalks as Sal contentedly made the fifteen minute walk back to his home.


The Checker Maven thanks Ed Atkinson for this amazing problem, solution, and notes.

11/21/20 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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