Sal wasn't happy. That didn't happen very often, and just about never on a Saturday afternoon at the Beacon Cafe in Sal's home town of Bismarck, North Dakota.
Every week during the checker season, Sal and "the boys"--- a group of checker enthusiasts who were all over 50--- met at the Beacon for an afternoon of checker fun, enhanced with the great baked treats made by Deana, the proprietor. The group even called itself The Coffee and Cake Checker Club, inspired by a passage in one of Willie Ryan's books.
So what was bothering Sal on his favorite afternoon of the week?
"Some nerve those fellows have," he said. "Can't hardly believe it."
On hand today were Wayne, Dan, Louie, Larry, and Mike. Dan said, "'Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, Let's Have Another Piece of Pie' --- it kind of has a ring to it, even if it is a bit on the long side."
As if on cue, the group, except for Sal, started humming the old tune of the same name.
Did Sal turn a little red? "Stop it, boys! Now cut it out, right this instant!"
The humming ceased and Louie said, "Gee Sal, I never saw you so upset before."
"How dare they!" Sal spluttered.
What had Sal so irritated is that a brand new checker club had started up in Fargo, North Dakota, about 200 miles east of Bismarck.. The Fargo group met at a coffee shop in Fargo's Hotel Powers, also on Saturday afternoons.
"They're just copying us in every way possible!" Sal said. "And then they presume to challenge us!"
In Wednesday's mail, Sal had received a letter from Don Steam, the leader of the new club, challenging Sal's group to a problem solving contest. The idea was that they would exchange problems and see who could solve the problem posed by the other group. Don closed the letter with, "The loser, which will be you, will send money to the winner--- that would be us--- to buy coffee and pie for our group. You haven't got an icicle's chance in August so we won't even talk about money for coffee and cake."
Sal had shared the letter with the group. "Yeah, they are pretty arrogant," Wayne said. "What they need is a good lickin'! Well, over the board, I mean."
"German chocolate cake today," Deana called out from behind her counter. "No pie!" Deana never missed a word that the boys said and was always on top of her marketing game.
"Well, boys, how about you try out this one from Ed," Sal said. Ed was Sal's checker pen pal in Pennsylvania. "Let's see if it's tough enough to show those braggarts in Fargo a thing or two. Ed calls it Kaleidoscope."
Sal, after a few deep, calming breaths, set up the following position on one of the checkerboards the boys had put out.
"See what you think," Sal said. "If you can win it, I'll buy the coffee and cake, but we'll have to find something harder to send to those big-talking upstarts. I'll give you, oh, half an hour or so."
The boys nodded in agreement and set to work on the problem.
 Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee is a famous song by Irving Berlin, first heard in 1932 in the show "Face the Music."
Is this problem tough enough to challenge the Fargo bunch? Take as long as you like and have some coffee and cake if you wish. Then click on Read More for the solution and the rest of our story.
Solution and Conclusion
Sal let a full hour go by, with the boys trying one line of play after another, without success. Finally, he called time.
"Definitely tough enough," Louie said. Dan and the others agreed, with Wayne saying, "Looks like we're buying today."
Deana, one step ahead, was already on her way over with a tray laden with plates of German Chocolate cake and a fresh pot of coffee.
"Well, here's how it goes," Sal said, and then demonstrated the following play.
26-23 19-26 1-6 12-19 22-17 13-22 11-7 2-11 14-10 5-14 6-2 15-6 2-25 21-30 8-22 White Wins.
"That's a beauty," Dan said. "They'll never get it!"
Sal grinned. "I think Ed's the one that ought to be having coffee and cake," he said. "We'll have to send him a Sears gift certificate or some such. But I'll get this out in Monday's mail. Then we'll see if that bunch is still full of big talk!"
The boys enjoyed their treats and played skittles until after 4 PM, when it was time for everyone to return home. But they were all wondering if they had heard the last from the Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee club. Sal especially had his doubts. This might be the start of a long-term rivalry if not a downright feud.
Stay tuned to The Checker Maven for further developments.