It was July, 1955, and the summer heat had invaded Bismarck, North Dakota. Known for its cold and prolonged winters, those who didn't live there never realized that summer on the prairie, though very short, could be intensely hot, with the mercury rising above 100 degrees on some days.
Sal Westerman, the informal leader of Bismarck's Coffee and Cake Checker Club, found himself missing the club's weekly meetings at the Beacon Cafe. The club took a summer break between Decoration Day and Labor Day. The cafe itself closed for about six weeks as the proprietor, Deana, enjoyed summer with her parents on the family farm near Gackle, in eastern North Dakota.
Sylvia, Sal's wife, had talked Sal into renting a small cabin near Lake Sakakawea. It was a bit cooler up there, with breezes off the lake, and a simple lifestyle with few intrusions. Sal had to admit he enjoyed the long, lazy summer afternoons, and although he wished he could be at the Beacon, he had a stack of checker magazines to keep him busy.
One Tuesday, after doing a little fishing in the morning when it was cooler, Sal and Sylvia were relaxing in wicker chairs on the shaded veranda of their cabin. Sal had a copy of Checker Digest on his lap and Sylvia was doing some knitting. It was a peaceful scene.
"Anything good in your magazine?" Sylvia asked.
Sal figured she was just making conversation, as he replied, "Yes, they've got this three-by-three problem from Brian in St. Louis, that's really kind of fun. I think I've almost got it."
To Sal's surprise, Sylvia said, "Oh? Let me see!"
Sal, puzzled, handed his wife the magazine, saying, "It's this one here in the middle of the page."
Sylvia frowned a bit. Something like four or five minutes passed, with Sal looking on in bewilderment.
"Oh, here's how you do it," Sylvia said, a big smile on her face. "It's not that hard, you know!"
Did Sylvia actually solve one of Brian's problems? Can you solve it? Take four or five minutes, or as long as you wish, and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.
Solution and Conclusion
22-18---A 14x23 12-16---B 19-24 16-19 24-28---C,D 19x26 28-32 26-23 to a White Win by 1st position---E.
A---The only move to win.
B---Another star move.
C---24-27 19-26 same idea.
D---23-26 19x28 26-30 28-24 30-26 24-27 White Wins.
E---The win might go something like this: 32-28 11-7 4-8 7-3 8-12 23-19 28-32 3-8 32-28 8-11 28-32 11-16 32-28 16-20 28-32 20-24 32-28 24-27 28-32 19-23 16. 32-28 27-32 28-24 23-18 24-28 18-15 28-24 32-28 24-27 15-18 12-16 28-32 27-24 18-15 24-28 15-11 16-19 32-27 28-32 27-31 19-23 11-15 32-28 15-19 White Wins.
Sylvia explained the solution to Sal in a matter-of-fact manner. When she was done, Sal said, "My goodness--- you've got it! How did you ever figure that one out? First Position? Amazing!"
Sylvia gave Sal her patented "little do you know" look, something he'd seen many times before. "Sal. You've been playing checkers all the while we've been married. That's 45 years. What would make you think I haven't learned anything in that time?"
Sal was speechless. He got out of his chair and gave Sylvia a warm hug. The two of them then quietly enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.
Thanks go to Brian Hinkle for sending us another of his fine compositions.