The Checker Maven

A Checker Wedding


It was Byron and Yvette's wedding day; they had waited the requisite year after their engagement and were anxious to finally be married. And so, on a beautiful summer day, they took their vows in a beautiful new church in downtown Denver.

A large tent had been set up on the lawn across from the church. The wedding reception would take place there. Many guests were in attendance from both families, some of them having traveled substantial distances.

One of the guests who had made such a long journey was Yvette's Uncle Harvey.

Now, as you will know if you've read our story about Yvette and Byron's engagement, Uncle Harvey was, well--- a little rigid in his ways. He was an expert checker player the author of a little instructional booklet called "Our Boys at Home." The booklet recommended checkers as the pastime of choice for young men (certainly not young ladies, who ought to be knitting or cooking), steering them away from all sorts of evil things, like going to baseball games or being out after dark.

Uncle Harvey, you may recall, felt that young women could determine if young men were suitable to "embark upon the sea of matrimony" by testing their character via games of checkers. (Uncle Harvey didn't explain how the young ladies could do this if they were knitting or cooking instead of playing checkers.)

Yvette did test Byron with a checker problem, but it was a test of character, not of checker knowledge, and Byron passed easily.

This did not satisify Uncle Harvey, and he told Yvette as much in every letter he wrote to his seemingly errant niece.

"Marry him if you must," he had said upon greeting her last week when he arrived at the Denver train depot, "but if the boy can't even play checkers properly, he's probably doing all sorts of bad things."


In fact, Byron worked very hard at his father's buggy business, although it must be said that he did at times go out at night and was quite guilty of playing baseball on some weekends.

But Yvette and Byron's happiness couldn't be diminished by Uncle Harvey's dissatisfaction; after all, he /did/ condescend to attend the wedding, coming all the way from Chicago to do so.

Everything was fine until the newlyweds, making their rounds at the reception, came to Uncle Harvey's table, where he was sitting with his wife, Mrs. Hopkins, and some other Chicago-area relatives.

"Congratulations, you two," he said. "It may not be a union that I would bless myself, but nonetheless I wish you well, even if the odds are not in your favor."

"Why Uncle Harvey, whatever do you mean?" Yvette exclaimed.

"You know what I mean, niece," Uncle Harvey said. "The young man was not tested properly. In a true trial, he would undoubtedly have failed."

"Uncle Harvey, Yvette did offer me a trial by checkers, and I passed the trial," objected Byron. He was starting to fidget a little. Yvette squeezed his arm as a sort of warning: best not to dispute with her Uncle.

"You did no such thing!" Uncle Harvey said. "Please do not claim a victory that you did not earn. My niece explained to me the circumstances of the trial, and you most certainly did not solve the problem she set before you. And pray do not ascribe failure to solve..."

"... to an error in the setting." Byron concluded the sentence for him. "I /have/ read that booklet of yours, you know."

Yvette glared at Byron, but it was too late.

"Is that how you speak to your elders and betters?" cried Uncle Harvey. "You, who play at baseball and are not home some nights, dare to mock my work and make light of the sound principles expounded within it?"

Byron waited for him to comment about children today having no respect. He didn't have to wait long.

"No respect, none at all, the younger generation is morally bankrupt, and no wonder, what with baseball games being played at night under electric lights and other such societal corruption!"

Yvette's fingers were digging into Byron's ribs, warning him again to back off before an irremediable breach occurred. Byron realized that he had best heed her warning, and attempted to become conciliatory.

"Uncle Harvey, perhaps you could teach me a bit about checkers so that you may become convinced of my worth and sincerity in becoming a member of your family. I did not intend to malign your excellent booklet and apologize to you."

In uttering these words, Byron did his best in managing not to look ill.

Uncle Harvey glowered, but he stopped his tirade. "Harrumph," he said, "maybe there is hope for you after all." He paused for a moment. "Well, then, I propose we contest a game of checkers straight away so that I can at least get a preliminary sense of your depth of character."

"Right now, Uncle?" Yvette said. "But we must visit with our guests...."

"Won't take long, my dear," Uncle Harvey said. "Your young man will be quickly defeated, I am certain. Then you may return to your visiting. Ten minutes should suffice. Allow your Uncle this small satisfaction, and allow your new husband the chance to show what stuff he's made from."

Yvette noticed that Uncle Harvey had a little trouble saying "husband" in reference to Byron. Oh well, let him have his wish. It was her duty as a niece.

"All right, Uncle," she said. "I have no doubt you will quickly prevail."

To no one's surprise, Uncle Harvey just happened to have a checker set handy. He quickly set up the board and pieces on the table and bade Byron to sit opposite him.


Now, Byron and Yvette shared a little secret. Byron, in an attempt to improve his mind, had been faithfully attending the local checker club ever since his engagement to Yvette. For the past year, he had played and studied checkers with a level of dedication and commitment that surprised himself as much as anyone else. The players at the club had remarked at his enormous progress over the course of the year.

Yvette had wanted to tell Uncle Harvey about this, but Byron had begged her not to, saying that he wanted to be accepted on his own merits, and not just because he had a newly found interest in checkers.

This game with Uncle Harvey was definitely going to be interesting.

Uncle Harvey took the Blacks and made the first move.

1. 9-13

"There," he said, "I have deliberately chosen the weakest opening move in order to give you more opportunity."

1. ... 24-19
2. 6-9 28-24
3. 11-15 22-17
4. 13-22 25-11
5. 8-15 21-17
6. 9-14 17-13
7. 4-8 29-25
8. 8-11 25-21
9. 5-9

"Why Uncle," said Byron, "should you not have instead played 15-18? Is 5-9 not a bit unusual?"

Uncle Harvey gave Byron a "how would you know" look but said nothing.

9. ... 13-6
10. 2-9 26-22
11. 1-5

"Oh, Uncle," Byron said, "surely you did that on purpose to find out if I can win the game, for your move most definitely loses. Would not 9-13 have been the proper play?"

Uncle Harvey harrumphed, not once but twice. "What are you saying, boy? I have made a fine move. Fine move, I say."

By now the game had drawn quite a few bystanders and observers, several of them keen checker players in their own right. Several whispered side conversations were going on.


Byron's time at the checker club and with his checker books had not been for naught. He had a win on the board, and he knew it.

White to Play and Win


Byron seems pretty confident. Can you find the win that he sees here? When you've solved the problem, click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion to our story.20050904-symbol.gif

Solution and Conclusion

11. ... 23-18
12. 14-23 27-18
13. 9-14 18-9
14. 5-14 30-25

Was Uncle Harvey's stiff collar a bit damp from perspiration? There was no mistaking the unhappy look on his face, and both Byron and Yvette noticed.

15. 3-8

"Drat it all!" exclaimed Uncle Harvey. He couldn't have played 11-16 in view of the reply 31-27, nor would 14-18 work after 24-20. He knew he had a lost game and was just hoping Byron would stumble.

11. ... 23-18
12. 14-23 27-18
13. 9-14 18-9
14. 5-14 30-25
15. 3-8

"Yes, Uncle; you have little choice. Had you played 11-16 I would win with 31-27. If you had tried 14-18 then 24-20 would secure my victory."

15. ... 22-17
16. 15-18 19-15
17. 10-28 17-3
18. 11-16 3-7
19. 16-20 7-10
20. 18-23 10-15
21. 20-24 15-19

"I resign," said Uncle Harvey. "White wins. Bravo, my boy." There was genuine admiration in his voice. While Uncle Harvey certainly did not like to lose, it must in all fairness be said that he was a sportsman about it.

He stood up from the table and shook Byron's hand. Then he smiled at Yvette, a warm and genuine smile. "Quite a fine husband you've gotten for yourself," he said. "Well done, well done, both of you!"

Yvette and Byron would talk about this day for years to come. Certainly, it was their wedding day and that alone was memorable enough, but that game of checkers would be forever a cherished memento. And Uncle Harvey and Byron remained on fond and cordial terms for the rest of their days.

06/22/13 - Category: Games - Printer friendly version
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