The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

Published each Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

Contests in Progress:

Composing Championship #67

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Marvin in Las Vegas: Good Luck 13


Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, was in Las Vegas. His team had an exhibition match with the Las Vegas Lettuce, one of the top teams in the AAA West Coast League.

The Doublejumper coaches decided the team could do with a little recreation, and gave them the day off before the match. Now, Marvin would have liked to bring along his fiancee, Priscilla Snelson, but as CEO of Rust Belt Holdings it wasn't always possible for her to get time off. So Marvin had the day to himself.


He read a few of those ads that you find in the hotel room magazines, and one of them mentioned a bar and restaurant called "Good Luck 13" that supposedly had craft beers and "the best burgers this side of anywhere."


Good Luck 13 was within easy walking distance of the hotel, so around six in the evening Marvin moseyed on in. He found a clean and tastefully decorated place. There was a long curved bar, and a lot of booths with red leatherette seats. Being by himself Marvin decided to take a chair at the bar. He asked the bartender for a pint of his best local craft beer, and also a menu.


The menu was full of praise for the burgers, of course, and there was a large variety. But the following menu entry caught his eye.

"Good Luck 13 Burger. $39.95. Thirteen three ounce patties with bacon, lettuce, tomato, seven slices of American cheese, Good Luck 13 sauce, and grilled onions. If you like, add $10 to try our 'Good Luck 13' blindfold checker problem, and if you solve it, the burger and the problem are BOTH free."


Kinda like gambling, Marvin thought, but hey, it's Vegas. It would cost him $49.95 if he couldn't get the problem. However, how could he not be able to solve a checker problem? He was a top professional, and top pros play blindfold all the time. Or would it be cheating?

Marvin was a pretty straight shooter, so he told the bartender he was a professional player, and asked if he would still be eligible.


The bartender laughed. "Yeah, everybody knows you, you're Marvin J. Mavin and you're real good, least you think you are. Well, don't matter none. You ain't gonna solve Good Luck 13. Ain't nobody never done it. I'll let ya in on somethin'. The management goes halfsies with me on the extra ten bucks, so I kinda like encourage people. So go for it, make me an extra fiver."

Marvin agreed, although privately he wondered what he was getting himself into. The bartender put in the order for the giant burger, and then showed Marvin a diagram with the following position on it.

White to Play and Win 13 Ways


"Okay, here's the rules. First, you got one minute to memorize this 'cause it's blindfold, remember? No takin' notes or arranging your french fries or nothing. Then the time limit's an hour, and you have to find 13 different solutions to this problem --- Good Luck 13, get it? Yeah, and different ways of jumping are okay but transpositions ain't. Ha ha, well there it is, bud! Your minute starts now."


The bartender pulled out a stopwatch, set it to zero, and pressed the start button.

"Wait ... wait just a second. Thirteen solutions? You gotta been kidding ... "

"Them's the rules and times-a-running, bud. Better start thinkin'!"

After sixty seconds, the bartender snatched the diagram out of Marvin's hands and announced, "Fifty-nine minutes to go!"

"You said an hour ... "

"An hour total, bud. Ha ha, down to fifty eight fifteen now!"

The burger arrived about ten minutes later, a towering monstrosity of beef patties, cheese, bread, and fixings. But Marvin was deep into the problem.

"Let's see ... that's three ... no, here's another, so four ... thirteen? It has to be a trick of some kind ... "

Now, we can't offer you a free thirteen patty hamburger. You'll have to provide that for yourself. But we can supply you with a chance to solve an unusual and intriguing problem, without risking ten dollars or anything at all. Try to solve it blindfold if you can by just memorizing the diagram and working on it in your head. Otherwise see if you can do it without setting up a board and moving the pieces around. Or move them if you have to.

Spend some time on this and when you've found every solution that you possibly can, click on Read More to see the full suite of solutions and the rest of the story.20050904-symbol.gif

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Pictures At An Exhibition: Problem Composing Contest 67


Pictures at an Exhibition, composed in 1874 by Modest Mussorgsky, was originally a suite of ten piano pieces linked together by a "Promenade" theme, intended to represent the experience of walking through an exhibition of the paintings of artist Viktor Hartmann at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. The compositions were orchestrated in 1922 by Maurice Ravel, and this is the version that is most well known today.

We have something similar in checkers, and in this, the 67th Problem Composing Contest sponsored by Bill Salot, we'll see an exhibition of checker art that is visual as well as artistic in play quality. To illustrate this, here is one that Bill calls WreckTangle. It is credited to former World Champion Alex Moiseyev.

White to Play and Win


Bill notes that there are other famous images on a checkerboard, such as the Picture Frame arising from games in Boland's Famous Positions, Page 187. Bill goes on to remark that there are numerous other patterns published in various checker problem books.

In this month's contest, Bill features three "art works" so to speak (alas, not ten as in the original "Pictures at an Exhibition"). They can be found on the contest page. Be sure to try them out and then vote for your favorite.

The solution to WreckTangle can be seen (after you've tried to solve it, of course!) by clicking on Read More. We hope you enjoy it and all of the contest problems.20050904-symbol.gif

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Winter: A Beacon Cafe Story


March, 1955. The Kilauea volcano in Hawai`i had erupted. But in Bismarck, North Dakota, it was still winter, and the cold and snowy weather just didn't want to let go.

On a Saturday afternoon later in March Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, looked out of his living room window. It was about 12:45 in the afternoon, and the Club would have its regular Saturday meeting at one o'clock at the Beacon Cafe, the regular venue for the many years the Club had been in existence.


It wasn't looking good out there. The temperature was at about 20 degrees. It could have been a lot worse but the wind was at 25 miles per hour and there was a combination of snow and freezing rain falling. While Sal almost always walked to the Club meetings--- it was usually just a leisurely 10 minute stroll--- this time he didn't think it would be such a good idea. The sidewalks and streets would be treacherous, and he didn't want to take another fall as he had during a previous winter.

Well, he'd ask his wife, Sylvia, for a ride. That was something that she would be happy to help with, as she always worried for his safety (Sal, at 73, wasn't getting any younger). But there was just one little problem.


Sylvia's sister Phoebe was visiting. She had come from Dickinson a few days earlier and wouldn't go home until Tuesday. And Phoebe's goal in life was to make Sal miserable, or at least so it seemed.

Sylvia and Phoebe were at the kitchen table, chatting over a pot of tea. Sal knew what he was getting himself into, but he went into the kitchen and said, "Sylvia, do you think I can get a ride to the Beacon? The weather is awful and ... "

Phoebe interrupted, skipping her usual preliminary throat-clearing. "Can you not see that we are busy chatting? How rude of you to interrupt! And furthermore, you say the weather is awful but you expect your wife to go out driving on such a day? Is it some sort of emergency? Well, speak up, then!"

"My checker club ... "

"Your checker club? Why of all the foolishness." Phoebe looked over at Sylvia. "Sister dear, I thought we had spoken about you forbidding this ... man ... of yours from wasting more of his time on this checker nonsense of his, when he should be helping you with laundry and cleaning and so many other important things." She turned back to Sal. "Checker club, indeed! You can stay at home, where you belong, and do something useful for a change. Now, leave us alone and go wash some windows or something."


Sal addressed Sylvia again. "Syl, I'm going to be late ... "

"What did I just tell you?" Phoebe exclaimed. "How dare you!"

"It's fine, Phoebe, it's fine. I'll be right back." She stood up. "Come on Sal, I'll take you. I don't want you out walking today."

Sal and Sylvia exited the kitchen, leaving Phoebe sputtering into her teacup. About five minutes later, Sylvia stopped in front of the Beacon's entrance at the Provident Life Building.

"Be sure to call for a ride home," Sylvia said as Sal exited the car.

"Thank you, sweetheart," Sal said, "and my regards to your sister."

Sylvia gave Sal a sharp look, and then laughed prior to driving off.


It was already about ten after one, and as Sal entered the Cafe he saw that there was a smaller than usual group gathered in the big booth at the back. Wayne and Dan were there, as were Delmer and Louie the Flash, but that was all.

"Bad weather today," Sal said as he reached the back of the cafe, "must have kept most of the boys away." Sal referred to the members of the Club as the "boys" even though all but one of them were at least 50 years old.

"Well, we're here Sal," said Wayne. "But you're never late, so we wondered what went wrong."

"Phoebe is visiting," Sal said tersely.

"Oh," Dan said, and the rest of the boys quietly nodded their heads. They knew all about Sylvia's sister.

"Well, I'm here now," said Sal, "and I have a nice one from Brian in St. Louis." Brian was a grandmaster problem composer and one of Sal's checker pen-pals.

Sal looked over at Deana, the proprietress of the Beacon, who was stationed as usual behind her counter. "What have you got today?" he asked.


"Double chocolate brownie bars," she said, "just the thing for a winter's day. And lots and lots of fresh hot coffee."

"Well then," Sal said, "here you go." He laid out the following position on one of the checkerboards that the boys had set out.

White to Play and Win


"I think you boys will be buying today," he added. The tradition was that if the boys could solve the problem Sal would buy the bars, otherwise the boys would.

But as always the boys were already hard at work and didn't reply.

If, wherever you may reside, you experience bad winter weather, we do hope you'll be cautious when out walking or driving. Meanwhile, though, stay indoors and enjoy Brian's problem. A warm mouse click on Read More will of course bring you to the solution and the conclusion of our little story.20050904-symbol.gif

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Hopper: A Speed Problem


It's quite early for the Easter Bunny (Easter 2023 is on April 9) and somewhat late for Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit (January 22). So let's look at a little math problem instead:

"Chris is training Hoppity, her pet rabbit, to climb stairs. It will hop up one or two stairs at a time. If a flight of stairs has ten steps, in how many ways can Hoppity hop up the this flight of stairs?"

Oh, wait, this is a checker column. Well, in fact regular contributors Lloyd and Josh Gordon have sent along a "speed" problem they call "Hopper" so it seemed like something about a rabbit would be an appropriate lead-in. And no, the problem has nothing to do with the late GAYP master Millard Hopper.

The problem itself is a lot of fun, and of course the layout of the pieces, not to mention the problem's title, give a huge hint. It's certainly not a hard problem and can be quickly solved with just a bit of visualization. As we're fond of saying, top players will see it at once while the rest of us may require a few more seconds, or maybe even a minute or so.

Black to Play and Win


It doesn't matter what category you may fall in, whether top flight professional or enthusiastic novice. See how fast you solve it and then hop your mouse to Read More to jump to the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Marvin Concedes

Marvin and Priscilla

In our last story, Marvin J. Mavin, the team captain of the championship Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League, went on a weekend vacation to Key West, Florida, with his fiancee, Rust Belt Holdings CEO Priscilla Snelson.

The vacation didn't turn out the way either of them would have wished. Priscilla was insistent on setting a wedding date for the coming June, and Marvin was--- a little hesitant. Priscilla, as she sometimes does, got quite upset, and sent Marvin off to a hotel on the seedy side of town. They flew home separately, and, not for the first time, they hadn't seen each other, let alone spoken, for several weeks.


Regular readers of this series know the drill here. Priscilla expected Marvin to apologize and to accept Priscilla's wedding plans. There would be no negotiation, not that Marvin could ever win a negotiation with the high-powered CEO of a multinational corporation.


For the first week after the ill-fated weekend excursion, Marvin was himself angry with Priscilla. He thought it was pretty extreme on her part to send him off to a hotel that wouldn't even have rated one star if anyone had been brave enough to stay overnight and make a rating. Marvin focused on his play, as the Doublejumpers had a busy schedule including 10 days on the road.

But Priscilla was Priscilla, and after so many years of seeing each other, Marvin was used to it. When he got back to Detroit after the team's road trip, he had softened to the point that he was ready to do whatever it would take to make up with his fiancee, and he hoped Priscilla would be ready to accept his overtures.


She wasn't. For the coming week, she wouldn't take his calls or answer his texts. That stretched into nine days, and the Doublejumpers were facing another extended series of "away" matches. Marvin just had to get this settled before the team left town again.

So finally Marvin lined up his best move. He made a dinner reservation at Priscilla's favorite restaurant, the very upscale and very expensive "Le Faux Luxe." He rented a tuxedo from Swirly Tuxedos and Gaudy Gowns, putting up with the condescending attitute of the snooty proprietor. (Le Faux Luxe was very strict about their formal dress code.)


Then he sent a text to Priscilla, telling her about the reservation. This time she responded, even though it was just with a single word, "Okay." Further texts and calls went unanswered, but at least this was something.

The day came. Marvin picked up his tuxedo and endured the proprietor's endless recitation of dictates as to how the garment should, no, must, be worn. Marvin eventually managed to get himself into it, and then took a taxi to the restaurant, knowing that the valet there would have refused to park his beloved old Volkswagen. (That was another of Le Faux Luxe's rules; only cars of "suitable appearance" were allowed in the parking area. A late-model Lexus just barely met this standard.)

Gaston, matre d' at Le Faux Luxe

The reservation was at 7:30, and, quite uncharacteristically for Marvin, he arrived early, at 7:15. Of course the maitre d' asked if Marvin really cared to be seated before the arrival of Ms. Snelson, but Marvin got his back up a little and insisted. It would only be 15 minutes. Priscilla was nothing if not punctual.


Marvin thought about ordering a beer while he was waiting, but then thought twice. The waiter would probably have sneered out loud. So instead he ordered club soda with a twist of lime, something he didn't especially like but wouldn't cause a fuss.

At seven thirty, Priscilla had yet to arrive. This was not at all like her. She was always punctual with Swiss-train precision.

Seven forty five. Eight o'clock. Eight thirty.

No Priscilla.

Marvin had been passing the time doodling with his pen on the tablecloth. He had drawn out a checker problem and was looking it over when the maitre d' stopped by Marvin's table.

White to Play and Win


"Sir, what are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm trying to see how White can win. See, if you ..."

"Our tablecloths are not checkerboards, and you will kindly stop defacing them. Now, I need to point out that the restaurant is very busy tonight. Perhaps, sir, you might wish to leave, seeing as how Ms. Snelson is obviously engaged in more important matters at the moment and we really don't like having ill-mannered customers ... "


The maitre d' was interrupted by the rapid click-click of high heels as Priscilla suddenly appeared at the table. "It's okay, Gaston, we'll keep our table, thank you," Priscilla said. Looking down, she added, "And a fresh tablecloth, at once, if you please."

"Of course, Madame," replied Gaston, "Right away Madame. I was merely ... "

"Never mind," Priscilla said curtly, and the maitre d' quickly scurried away.

"Hey, Prissy, you're late ... " began Marvin.

"I was making a point," Priscilla said, "and don't you dare call me Prissy. If you want me to wait to get married, you can wait an extra hour for dinner. That is, if we get married at all."

"Aw gee, honey, I just wanted to make up with you ... "


"Don't you dare call me honey, either!" Priscilla exclaimed. "So you want to make up? Well, where are the flowers? Shouldn't you have thought to have a dozen roses sent to our table? Exactly what do you want to do in order to make up?"

"Hey, I set up this dinner at your fave place and I even went and rented this here fancy suit ... "

"Not good enough."

"C'mon, just tell me what to do ... "

"You shouldn't even have to ask. That just makes it worse. You know what to do. You agree to the June wedding date that we picked. That's what it will take. For starters."

"We agreed? You picked it ... "

Priscilla put her palms flat on the table. "Look, Marvin. It's like this. We either get married on June 10 or we don't get married at all. Your call. You've got about five seconds to make up your mind."


"But ... "

"Three ... two ... "

"Okay, okay, June 10."

"Well, you don't sound very enthusiastic."

"Sure, sure, June 10, I'd love it, I mean I'd love to."

"Say it. 'Priscilla dear, I'd love to get married on June 10 more than anything else in the world.'"

Marvin repeated this back to Priscilla in something of a flat monotone. He knew when there was no use arguing any longer.

"You could have said it with a little more spirit. But I'll accept your statement. Now, shall we order dinner? I'd like to start out with champagne to celebrate our ... agreement. Perhaps a bottle of Dom Perignon Cuvee 2003?"


"Dom whatsis ... ain't that kinda expensive?"

"Oh, Marvin, it's not even $1,000, and consider the occasion ... don't be cheap. You can afford that and a lot more."

Priscilla also ordered a platter of escargot with chervil garlic butter, served on grilled mushroom caps, and then the Beef Wellington for two, accompanied by a Chateau Lafitte Burgundy. That was followed by a green salad, and a dessert of the house specialty, creme brulee, with a California Sauterne. Finally coffee was served. By that time it was almost 11 o'clock.


"Well, Marvin, you've been a good sport, at least mostly," Priscilla said as the waiter handed Marvin the check. She overlooked Marvin's grimace as he muttered under his breath, "Two thousand bucks ... "

Priscilla continued, "I'll have my driver take us home. You can come over to my condo tonight if you wish." Marvin noted it sounded more like a command than an offer, but at least he was back in Priscilla's good graces.

Marvin dearly loved Priscilla. And there was little doubt that she dearly loved him. It was just that it didn't pay to disagree with her. Ever.

It's a shame that the problem Martin drew out on Le Faux Luxe's expensive linen tablecloth went straight to the laundry room. But you can still try to solve it, even if it likely won't be accompanied by an $800 bottle of champagne (although, who knows?). As always, clicking on Read More will reveal the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Checkers in Pakistan


Today The Checker Maven has a special feature highlighting the work of Pakistan's tireless checkers and draughts promoter, Iqbal Salarzai. Most active on-line players know about Mr. Salarzai through the English Draughts group on Facebook, where he organizes weekly tournaments which run on the PlayOk site. These tournaments are recognized and sanctioned by the World Checkers Draughts Federation, who have named Mr. Salarzai their first Draughts Ambassador.

Mr. Salarzai graciously answered a series of interview questions in which he describes his interest in checkers, his promotional efforts, the checkers scene in Pakistan, and his vision and hopes for the future.

Checker Maven Interview with Iqbal Salarzai

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

I am Iqbal Ahmed Salarzai, Founder and President of the Pakistan Checkers Draughts Association (PCDA). I am the world's first WCDF Draughts Ambassador.

I promote both 64 and 100 square draughts. I am the Honorary Principal of the First Experimental Primary (Draughts) School in China.

I am Pakistan's first international draughts player and the world's top online checkers and draughts tournament organizer.


So far I have organized many draughts tournaments and draughts training programs in different cities and villages of Pakistan in which a large number of children have participated. Apart from this I have to date conducted seven National Draughts Championships in which men, women and children participated in large numbers. I have also run a checkers training program in which children in primary schools in China were trained in checkers.

Q. Tell us about your interest in Anglo-American style checkers.

The game of draughts originated in the Indian subcontinent during British rule. Our elders used to play this game very fondly. During my childhood, checkers was a very popular indoor game played with passion by children, men and women alike. I also have loved the game of checkers since childhood.

Q. Tell us something about your many on-line tournaments. What led you to begin them? How successful have they been? Where do you see them going in the future?


In 2020, people were confined to their homes due to Covid-19 all over the world and offline tournaments were being canceled. That's when I felt the need to organize online tournaments.

Also, I think it's very important to organize online players and organize tournaments for online players because there are many players around the world who don't have the money to play tournaments. They cannot travel to other countries to play and many face difficulties in getting visas. Today, in our online tournaments, big players and new players from Africa, Asia, America and Europe play together without spending money and without traveling. Our Salarzai international online tournaments include the world's most famous players, such as Alexander Moiseyev, Sergio Scarpetta, Richard Beckwith, William Docherty, Donald Oliphant, Kent Layne, Filip Kareta, Alona Maksymova and other great players. Given the immense popularity of online tournaments, WCDF has established an online section in its event calendar and thus FMJD has a separate online section.

I organized the world's first Dr. Richard Beckwith Online Checkers World Cup 2021 to popularize online draughts and similarly organized the second Richard Beckwith Online Checkers World Cup in 2022. I have conducted more than 160 online checkers draughts tournaments so far. I believe that if online draughts are seriously worked on continuously, it will increase the number of players around the world and checkers will flourish all over the world. When online draughts players join offline tournaments, they will make offline tournaments stronger and more interesting, thus we will get new players.


WCDF awarded me the title of Draughts Ambassador in 2022 in view of my tireless work for checkers all over the world for which I am grateful to WCDF. I will always work for the development and promotion of checkers and draughts worldwide with the support and encouragement of WCDF, ADC and FMJD. I have done all this despite financial difficulties. If I have the financial resources, I believe with my enthusiasm and sincerity that I can make checkers more popular and developed worldwide in a very short period of time. There is still a lot to do in checkers.

Q. There is an active checkers scene in your country, Pakistan. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, checkers was a very popular game in our country until the 1980s, then gradually it declined, especially among children and women. The game of checkers almost became extinct. Seeing this I decided to re-popularize and organize this sport especially among children and women. Today again, due to our training programs and tournaments, the game of checkers is being played with renewed enthusiasm across the country and gaining popularity among the new generations.


Q. Tell us about Pakistan's top players. Do they have world championship ambitions?

Yes, there are very high quality checkers players in Pakistan who can not only play in, but also win any international tournament. The names of some of these players are Azhar Javed, Aqeel Ahmad, Muhammad Rafiq Baloch, Imam Bakhsh Khaskheli, Muhammad Shafiq and Salahuddin. Apart from this, there are many such players in Pakistan. But all these players belong to the middle class and have not been able to participate in any international tournament yet due to lack of financial resources. Some players plan to go to the GAYP WQT in Turkey in 2023 and are trying to get resources so they can participate in this tournament.

Q. Does your country sponsor national and international tournaments?

We have not received any financial support from the Government of Pakistan so far. All the national tournaments held in Pakistan have been made possible by my personal expenses and the support of checkers loving friends.

Q. Anything you'd like to add?

When I was young, I loved the game of draughts. I wanted to make a name for my country as a player but I saw that there was a dire need to organize the game in Pakistan according to international standards. Therefore, instead of playing, I worked to gather the players of the entire country in one place, and gave his players a strong platform in the form of thePakistan Checkers Draughts Association. I participated in the Thailand Open Draughts Tournament and Asian Draughts Tournament and saw international quality tournaments organized and learned from there to organize high quality tournaments in Pakistan. I am very grateful to Andrew Tjon A Ong (Thailand Open tournament organizer) and the President of the Asian Draughts Confederation, Baterdene Chimeddorj, for their cooperation in this regard.

Dr. Richard Beckwith

In my journey to success, WCDF President Dr. Richard Beckwith has given a lot of support and sincerity. If Dr. Richard Beckwith had not been with me, I would not have been able to promote Checkers. Apart from this, Alexander Moiseyev and many Pakistani and foreign friends have always encouraged me, for which I am grateful to all of them. I wish to establish a Draughts Academy in Pakistan to train men, women and children. I am working tirelessly to establish the academy. I will definitely succeed in my intentions one day.

On my behalf and on behalf of Pakistan Checkers, I am extremely grateful to Bob Newell, (Editor-in-Chief, Checker Maven Webzine) for interviewing me for the world's greatest checkers website. For Pakistan Checkers this is an honor. It will be very helpful in promoting checkers in Pakistan and the world.

We asked Mr. Salarzai for his favorite checker problem and he chose the following. We've seen it before but it is worth repeating. It's by L.J. Vair, who in his day as a resident of Denver was known as the "Kolorado Kowboy."

White to Play and Win


And, in order to have something new, here's another by L.J. Vair which we believe we've not previously printed in our columns.

White to Play and Win


We hope you enjoyed today's special spotlight on checkers in Pakistan and the work of Mr. Salarzai. Solutions to the problems above can be seen as always by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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Valentine's Day: A Beacon Cafe Story


Valentine's Day was coming up in a couple of days, and this year Sal Westerman was ready.

Sal Westerman

Sal was sitting in the big booth in the back of the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building on N. 5th Street in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was a Saturday afternoon, the meeting time for the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. Several of the "boys" (all but one over age 50) were present. Regulars Dan, Wayne, Larry, and Delmer were on hand, as well as Louie the Flash and young Blaine.

You might recall from a previous story, Sal once forgot to get a Valentine's gift for his wife, Sylvia and had to make a last-minute dash. But this year, 1955, was different. Sal had taken care of things that very morning prior to coming to the Beacon. He told Sylvia he was going to meet a friend for lunch. He figured a little white lie wouldn't do any harm.

Sylvia Westerman

"So what did you get for Sylvia?" Larry asked.

"I went to the department store and got her some of her favorite perfume," Sal replied, "and it was plenty expensive."

"Gee, Sal, how did you know you got the right one?" Larry went on. "I didn't know you knew about those sorts of things."

"Oh, easy," Sal said, "I looked on her dresser and noted down the brand name. Then I just went and got the same one. Look, see, I have it right here."


Sal took something from a shopping bag on the seat beside him. It was a box that said "Intimate by Revlon" in delicate print. He opened the box and withdrew a slim bottle.

"Uh, Sal, can I see that for a moment?"

That was Deana, the proprietress of the cafe, who was both a fabulous baker and a careful observer who missed nothing.

Sal took the bottle over to Deana's counter. She examined it quickly and said, "Sal, I hate to tell you, but you bought Intimate eau de toilette, not Intimate perfume. Now I'm sure that's a nice gift but maybe not quite what Sylvia's looking for."

"Eau de what?" Sal asked. "You mean perfume is different?"

"Afraid so, Sal. But look, if you hurry over to the store you can exchange it."


Sal sighed while the "boys" tried not to laugh. Sal would have to miss a good hour of the club meeting, as the lines at Lucas were always long on a Saturday.

"Oh, my," was all he said.


"Sorry to have been the bearer of bad news," Deana said. "But I have heart shaped cherry bars today. A treat for you when you return from the store."

"Thank you, Deana," Sal said. He turned back to the "boys" at the big booth. "Well, look," he said, "I have a problem to show you. Maybe you can work on it while I'm ... out."

"Sure Sal, sure," Wayne said, "and we'll buy the treats today, okay?"

Wayne got a couple of odd looks from the others. That wasn't the tradition; normally the "boys" would only buy if they couldn't solve Sal's problem, otherwise Sal would buy. But no one objected out loud.

"Okay, here you go," Sal said. He set up the following position.

White to Play and Win


"Off I go now," he said, and hurried out the door, heading in the direction of the Lucas Department Store.

It was over an hour until Sal returned, out of breath but smiling. He went straight to Deana and showed him his exchange. "I had to wait a long time, there was such a mob," he said, "but I got it."


Deana smiled as she looked at the Revlon box. "Yup, you got it right, Sal! Great work! Sylvia is going to be mighty pleased."

As Sal went to the big booth to have a seat, Delmer announced, "We solved it, Sal."

"Cherry bars coming up!" Deana said, once again not missing a word. In an instant, she delivered a big tray of treats to the boys and then refilled all of their coffee cups.

"Okay, Delmer, let's see it," Sal said, "show your stuff."

As usual with our Beacon Cafe stories, unless it's 1955 and you're in Bismarck, you'll have to supply your own coffee and cherry bars. But there's no closing time so you can take as long as you wish to solve today's problem. When you're done, click on Read More to see how Delmer and the boys solved it.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/11/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Quick As a Bee


You're likely familiar with the phrase, "quick like a bunny" or "quick as a bunny" meaning, in its imperative form, to tell someone to do something very rapidly. However, that phrase is relatively recent, dating back to only the 1940s according to most sources.

"Quick as a bee" has the same meaning, but is much older; 400 years older, to be exact. It appeared in John Heyward's Proverbs back in 1546. So for today, we'll weigh in on the side of history, and ask you to solve this month's speed problem "quick as a bee." In fact, it's quite easy, and an experienced player will see the solution in about two seconds. Novices should eventually get it as well.

Black to Play and Draw


Do you have the solution already? You can always buzz (1546) or hop (1940s) over to Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/04/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Setting the Date: A Marvin J. Mavin Story

Marvin J. Mavin

The Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League had a weekend lull in their schedule, and Marvin J. Mavin, their superstar captain, was going on a quick vacation with his fiance, Priscilla K. Snelson.

Priscilla, as CEO of the multinational conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings, didn't get much time away from the job. But she had her executive assistant work it all out. The couple would fly out from Detroit mid-day on Friday, arriving in Key West, Florida, late that evening. They could leave Sunday afternoon and be back in Detroit in time for a few hours of sleep before starting the next workweek.

When Priscilla phoned to suggest this to Marvin, he was all for it, and the conversation continued something like this.


"Gee, hon, that's a great idea! What kinda beer you suppose they got in Key West?"

"Oh, Marvin! Is that all you care about? We'll have a weekend together and can enjoy a break from cold weather. We can go to the beach, eat seafood, and ... we can talk about setting our wedding date."

There was silence on the other end of the phone connection.

"Marvin, did you hear me? Doesn't it all sound grand?"

Now, Marvin truly loved Priscilla, and even though their engagement was pretty much her idea, he did want to marry her. Eventually. It's just that he wasn't exactly in a big rush. He liked his shabby apartment, his old Volkswagen, his tatty clothes, and his free lifestyle. Even though he had a multiyear, multi-million dollar contract, he just wasn't into material things.

Priscilla, on the other hand, owned a small fleet of expensive cars, lived in a very large upscale condo, and dressed to perfection in a designer wardrobe.

Marvin was a bit --- fearful.


"Uh, yeah, hon, yeah, we can, you know, talk about dates and stuff. I guess."

"Not 'I guess.' I've made all the plans and it just remains to set a date. But we'll talk more about it." With that, Priscilla ended the call.


The fated weekend came and Priscilla and Marvin flew together in first class to Key West. The weekend started out well, with an oceanside breakfast in their four star resort hotel (Priscilla couldn't find a five star hotel, which would have been her preference). They followed breakfast with swimming and sunning on the beach, a fabulous seafood platter for lunch, and then more time on the beach. It was only after freshening up at the hotel, when they decided to take a walk into the town's historic district before dinner, that Priscilla brought up what she called the "main topic."


"Well, Marvin dear, what do you think about a June wedding?" Priscilla asked as they began their stroll, hand in hand. "It's very traditional."

"Uh, June ... that's like in five months ... ain't that kinda rushed?"

"Rushed? Marvin, we've been engaged for the better part of a year now. I believe in an appropriate amount of time for an engagement, but I think a year is more than adequate."

"Yeah, but ... "

Priscilla let go of Marvin's hand and stopped walking. "'But' what, Marvin?"

Priscilla's hands were now on her hips. Marvin knew this to be a clear warning sign.

"But ... well you know ... we gotta get everything prepared and stuff ..."

"Everything is already prepared. I've settled on all the arrangements, the guest list, the menus. Everything. And you know that very well."

"I kinda ... like ... uh ... hey, it's fun being engaged. Love to have fun, right?"

Now Priscilla glowered. Not good at all. "Yes, dear, fun is wonderful. But do you know what an engagement is?"

"Sure, it's like when I give you an expensive ring and ... oh, yeah ... "

"Right, Marvin, it's a promise to get married. And that's exactly what you're going to do. In June. Do I make myself clear?"


But before Marvin could answer, a group of children, most of them in the nine to twelve year old range, came running up to Marvin and Priscilla.

"Hey," one of them said, "aren't you Captain Marvin J. Mavin?" The rest of the children, about seven in all and a mix of boys and girls, all echoed this question.

"Well, yeah, that's me," replied Marvin sheepishly, "but we're like kinda busy right now ... "

Marvin's latter words went unheard. "Captain Marvin, Captain Marvin, can you give us a lesson? Just a quick one, please, please, couldya please?" the children pleaded.


Marvin looked at Priscilla. Priscilla looked back at Marvin. "Well, go ahead then," Priscilla said. "You've disappointed me. Don't disappoint the children, too. I'll just go back to the hotel and watch the sunset. We'll talk more tonight. A lot more. You can certainly count on that."

Without another word, she turned on her heel and strode off rapidly back in the direction of the hotel.

Was Marvin disappointed and worried? He would save that for later. At the moment, he actually felt a bit of a sense of relief, although that in turn was tinged with a bit of guilt. But the kids were waiting.

"Okay, kids, got a set handy?"

"Over here Captain Marvin," one of them said, and with two others taking one of Marvin's hands each, they led him to the side of the street where there was a checkerboard set up on a little table in front of a shop. "Here you go, Captain Marvin, now teach us!"

"All right then, take a look at this."

Marvin set up the following position.

White to Play and Draw


"Now, this one ain't exactly easy, in fact it's kinda tough but you look like tough kids. Think you can figure it out?"

There were many affirmative replies, and with a lot of chatter among themselves, the children worked on the position. After a few minutes, one of them said, "Captain Marvin, how about this?"

In Marvin's world, checker fans are everywhere, and kids look up to their checker superheroes. It certainly was good of Marvin to spend some time with his young fans, although what he might face when he gets back to the hotel may be less pleasant.

But for now, can you match wits with the youngsters? See how you do and then click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/28/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Beacon Cafe: Frostnip


The second half of January was typically the coldest time of the year in Bismarck, North Dakota, and 1955 was no exception. It was Saturday, and the temperature at noon had only reached -15F, after an overnight low of -30F, with the same expected the coming night.

At those low temperatures, the air can't hold much moisture, so it was usually sunny and clear. The sun warmed things up a bit, but everyone knew from long experience that after sunset, it would get a lot colder, and quickly.

Sal Westerman

Fortunately, there wasn't much of a wind. At about fifteen minutes before one, Sal Westerman, the eldery gentleman who was the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, bundled up for his walk to the Beacon Cafe, where the club met every Saturday afternoon.

"Don't forget your sunglasses!" his wife, Sylvia, called out as Sal was just about to open the front door. "There's a lot of glare off the snowbanks!"

"Thank you dear," Sal replied. "I'm all set."


As Sal went out and walked along, the snow on the sidewalks made the typical high pitched crunch characteristic of really cold weather. By the time Sal had walked the four blocks or so to the Beacon Cafe, his face was feeling a bit numb and his ears were cherry red. Uh-oh ... Sal wore a wool cap under his fedora, but he had forgotten to pull it down over his ears.

He pushed open the door and entered the Cafe. Deana, the proprietress, greeted him as always but immediately noticed his red ears. "Hey, Sal," she said, "do you have frostbite ears?"


"I'm afraid so," Sal replied, "I forgot to cover them."

Sal took a seat in the big booth at the back of the Cafe. He was a little early and was the first arrival. Deana brought over a steaming cup of coffee. "Warm yourself up, Sal," she said, "but not much we can do about your ears. You'll have to just grin and bear it. Want a couple of aspirin?"

Sal's ears now felt very hot, and were starting to throb. "I think so, Deana, thank you."


As Deana went back to her counter to get some aspirin and a cup of water, the "boys" --- all but one of them over age 50 --- started to arrive. Tom came in, followed by Dan, Wayne, and Sam. It was going to be a small group today; no doubt the cold weather kept some of the others away.

"Well, look at that," Wayne said, "Sal, you got frostbite ears!" He chuckled, but then added, "Sorry, I know it isn't really funny, but you should see yourself!"

Dan and the others added their own sympathetic remarks, tinged with a bit of teasing humor. Sal took his aspirin and kept drinking his coffee.


Deana came back to the booth and served coffee to all of the boys, who took the mugs eagerly. "I've got a nice winter treat," Deana said, "I made up some double chocolate fudge bars. They'll really warm your insides! And Sal, I'll give you one on the house just 'cause I feel kind of bad for you."

That was quite a moment. Deana was as good a businesswoman as she was a baker, and seldom gave freebies. However she quickly added, "The rest of you ... you're on your own!" She punctuated the remark with a hearty laugh.

"Well, boys, if Deana buys for me, how can you?" Sal asked. The tradition was that Sal would show the boys a checker problem. If they could solve it, Sal would buy for everyone, but if they couldn't, the boys would buy their own and also for Sal.

"Oh, that's easy," Sam said. "You just buy for us no matter!"

"Well, well, you've got me there," Sal said. "Okay, here's one for you. It's from my Pennsylvania checker pen-pal, Ed."

Sal set up the following position on one of the checkerboards.

White to Play and Win


"You know, Sal, the red pieces are the same color as your ears!" Dan said. But he didn't get a laugh, as the boys were already deep into analyzing the position on the board.

If you live in cold country, no doubt you know to keep your ears covered and your head warm on those really harsh winter days; and you'd likely rather be indoors with a hot cup of coffee, solving a checker problem. But whatever the current weather at your location, try out Sal's problem and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/21/23 -Printer friendly version-
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