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]
Ed Atkinson, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is well-known in the checker community as a top player and skilled problemist. He is also, we're proud to say, a regular Checker Maven reader and occasional correspondent.
Ed offered us an original problem for publication and as you might expect, it's a dandy. He calls it Patterns, and you'll see why if you find the winning moves.
You'd think White would have an easy win here; after all, he's got two kings and Black has none. But White looks a bit crowded around Black's single corner, and the win isn't at all easy to find. This is a top-notch, difficult problem with a rewarding solution. Can you find the pattern?
See what you can arrange, and then click on Read More to check your work.[Read More]
North America is in the depths of winter once again; it's the time of year when there's been enough winter weather that you really, really want spring to come. But you'll have to wait another eight weeks or so for that.
Fortunately, checkers never gets tiresome, and if you've got to be indoors, what better way than with a hot beverage and a fine checker study? The one below, attributed to old-time player Charles Hefter, is surprisingly good.
Looks easy, doesn't it? Black has two kings and White has but two ordinary men. But in fact winning this position requires careful play.
Can you get the full score or will you tire of the effort? Of course you won't, and clicking on Read More will allow you to check your solution.[Read More]
Two-for-the-price-of-one promotions are certainly popular in the world of marketing, making the buyer believe they're getting a good deal. Sometimes you do get a good price, and at other times (such as in the photo above), not so much. We occasionally refer to some bad deals as giving you "fifty percent off twice the price" or what is known in French as a "fausse solde."
But to start off February we have, indeed, two checker problems for the price of one, and it's definitely a good deal. (Not that you ever have to pay to read The Checker Maven, of course.)
The first situation is a true speed problem, and a rather nice one sent to us by regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon. It's not terribly hard, probably of the 30 second variety.
But what is interesting, though, is that if White plays 2-6 the game is lost, yet that's the move one might make reflexively. This one is somewhat longer and a bit more difficult, and can't really be called a speed problem.
Don't sell out; instead, double down on these two problems, then click on Read More to see the solutions.[Read More]
The photo above shows a very narrow drawbridge somewhere in Holland. Now, in checkers there are bridges and draws, and some of those draws are narrow indeed. Today, we'll look, not at a bridge, but at a narrow draw, which we'll define loosely as one that is difficult to find over the board and requires precise play, hewing to a "narrow" path.
We've been exploring the final part of Willie Ryan's Tricks Traps & Shots of the Checkerboard with a series of variations on some rather tricky play. Today, we ask you to join Willie in helping the White pieces find a narrow draw.
Here's the run-up one more time, with just a couple of notes as reminders.
A---Loses. 28-24 and several other moves would draw.
B---Willie claimed that this draws, but the game was lost earlier.
C---Black's winning move was 25-29; now White can draw.
This one is tough, no doubt about it, and the path is indeed narrow and long. Still, it's a really terrific study, filled with checker wisdom. Do give it more than a narrow try before clicking on Read More to see the solution and notes.[Read More]
The Checker Maven site was down for more than nine hours yesterday (Saturday, January 21, 2018), in what was probably the longest outage in our more than thirteen years of publication. Of course, it would have to take place on a Saturday, which is our weekly publication day, and when offices are closed and tech support staff are few and far between.
After 70 minutes on the phone with hosting provider GoDaddy, we were told that the server had gone down (we knew that) and it could take as long as three days to move us to a new server. Fortunately, that got done in about six more hours, and then we were up again.
Well, not quite. The new shared hosting server had some configuration differences, and we were here in the office well into Saturday evening getting things squared away. Doing this kind of work "au pied levé" isn't anyone's idea of fun, but we have to do what we have to do.
Fortunately, all is well once again, and our headache is receding. Our apologies for the inconvenience and our thanks for staying with us.
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]
Last month we presented a "twin" problem by Brian Hinkle. Today's Checker School entry is a bit reminiscent of the "twin" idea. Originally found in Ben Boland's classic Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers, Mr. Boland showed a position in which, supposedly, if Black plays then White wins, while if White plays, then Black wins.
But much to our surprise, we found that, in the original edition of the book, the second member of the twin was in error!
The first problem, which Mr. Boland says isn't that difficult for top players, requires quite a lot of nuanced play.
The second problem, which existed for many years without the correct solution being found, may prove difficult, but honestly, we thought it was relatively straightforward--- if and only if you find the correct first move, something that eluded the experts. (We understand that the problem terms and solution were corrected in a later edition of Mr. Boland's book.)
It's not a "twin" problem; it's more like the "evil twin." Can you solve both parts? If you can, consider yourself a top player, but in any event, clicking on Read More will show you the solutions, several sample games, and detailed notes and analysis.[Read More]
The New Year has sped in with a bang. The holidays are over and it's back to work and back to school.
Can you rush to a solution and work out the winning moves? When you've got it, click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
We're publishing this column just ahead of New Year's Eve. Now, usually our New Year's column appears just after the holiday, and we like to publish an easier problem in case you, well, indulged in a bit of celebration, such as the Honolulu revelers above are doing.
But you've got until Sunday night this year (2017) which gives you most of a weekend, so we don't at all feel guilty about publishing something a little more difficult.
This is indeed fascinating. Black seems hemmed in and has little in the way of safe moves. How can he possibly win it?
Finding the solution actually isn't all that hard, and it's a very pleasing one. Can you do it before the year runs out? That's your challenge, to ring in the New Year with a checker victory. Clicking on Read More will allow you to verify your work.[Read More]