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 #68


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Season's End

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The Coffee and Cake Checker Club was in session at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was May 21, 1955 (it's always 1955 at the Beacon Cafe), the last Saturday before the Memorial Day weekend, and that meant it was the last time the club would meet before its summer break, which lasted until after Labor Day weekend in September.

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Sal Westerman

At just after one o'clock, there was already a great turnout. Of course Sal, the unofficial leader, had arrived on time, and also on hand were regulars Tom, Wayne, Dan, Louie the Flash, Sam, and Mike, as well as less frequent attendees such as Ron, Kevin (a.k.a. "Spooler") and Blaine, who at age twenty five was the only member under fifty years old.

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Deana Nagel

There were so many attendees that they took up two large booths in the back of the cafe, and Deana, the proprietess of the Beacon, couldn't have been happier. A good turnout meant good sales, and she didn't hesitate to announce that fresh Mixed Berry Bars were on hand in quantity to go along with large quantities of North Dakota style coffee (brewed traditionally with four scoops of coffee grounds per gallon of water).

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A lot of the chatter was about plans for the summer. Sal was going to Las Vegas to play in a major tournament, the North American Classic, a high caliber event which would feature both amateur and professional players. Dan and Wayne were going to play a couple of weekend tournaments in Minneapolis. And of course several of the others would play in the big tournament at the North Dakota State Fair up in Minot, North Dakota.

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It would be a busy summer, but Sal always missed his Saturday afternoon club meetings and by the time September rolled around, he would hardly be able to wait to get together with the "boys" once again.

Still, there was the rest of this afternoon to enjoy. The coffee was good, the companionship even better, and it didn't take long for those "boys" to ask Sal what he had for them in the way of a challenging checker problem.

"I have one from an old magazine," Sal said. "It's by a fellow named John Tonks. I've never heard of the gentleman, but it's a clever problem."

"Well there, Sal," Louie said, "you might just be buying for quite the crowd today." Louie was referring to the tradition that if the "boys" could solve Sal's problem, Sal would buy for all of them, while if they couldn't solve it, they would treat Sal. It wasn't quite a balanced arrangement, but Sal was a generous sort and just enjoyed the fun and competitive spirit of it all.

Sal needed to set up two checkerboards, one at each of the booths that the club was occupying.

BLACK
20230403-send.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W9,13,15,19,21:B1,2,7,14,K26

"How about 30 minutes, boys?" Sal asked.

"Aw, c'mon Sal, give us an hour, willya?" Blaine piped up.

"Okay, then," Sal replied, "but not a minute longer!"

As Deana refilled everyone's coffee mugs, the "boys" dug into the problem and soon North Dakota checker chatter filled the air.


We too are always wistful about saying good-bye to the Beacon Cafe for the summer, but we'll be sure to follow Sal as he goes on vacation and then plays in that big Vegas tournament. Meanwhile, though, play along with the "boys" and try to solve today's problem. When you're ready click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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05/27/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin Takes A Stand

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Priscilla K. Snelson

"Marvin, dear, I've made out your action list for you, and I suggest you read it over carefully, as there are many things you're going to have to get done in a relatively short amount of time."

Priscilla Snelson, the CEO of the international conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings, and the fiancee of superstar checkerist Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was addressing Marvin. As was typical for a Saturday afternoon when the Doublejumpers didn't have a match to play, and weren't on a road trip, Marvin was visiting Priscilla at her highly upscale condo, 6,000 square feet of the ultimate in luxury.

They were in Priscilla's living room, and she had just handed Marvin a sheaf of stapled papers, made up of perhaps 10 sheets, densely printed on both sides.

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Marvin, having little choice, accepted the sheaf from Priscilla and started to leaf through it. On each page about 15 items were listed, showing dates, locations, names of participants, and the nature of the "action items" as Priscilla had titled them.

"Gee, hon, there's like, I don't know, a bajillion things here, and I ain't gonna remember like hardly nothing ... "

"That's why you have a list, Marvin, so you can refer to it and not miss something important. And there aren't a bajillion action items. In fact there are only two hundred and thirty. There are twice that many on my list. Oh, by the way, don't bother to tell me how busy you are, as I'm just as busy if not more so, and I certainly won't use that for an excuse."

"Yeah but the World Series is coming up and stuff."

"The Doublejumpers won't be in the World Series this year. Your team won't make Divisional Champs. You had too many top players retire and your management didn't recruit as well as they should have. A lot of fans are upset. No, this year the Cleveland Cutters are going to knock you out. Just as well, as you'll be very busy with our wedding."

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Marvin, listening to this, felt his heart sink. He knew it was true; the Doublejumpers just weren't as good as they were in previous years. But to hear it from Priscilla, and to have her say it in such an unfeeling manner, hurt Marvin's feelings.

But Marvin didn't say anything and instead started looking at the list. "Lemme see ... cake tasting ... shoe fitting ... dress fitting ... hey Prissy, what's this about a dress fitting? I sure ain't going to wear no dress!"

"Oh, Marvin, that's my dress fitting, and you need to be there. And don't call me Prissy!"

"Why? You're the one wearing the dress ... "

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"That's my handmade Italian gown. It's $100,000 and it has to be adjusted for a perfect fit. Of course you'll want to be there to see how it turned out."

Marvin kept reading. "Makeup evaluation ... that's for you right?"

"It's for both of us."

"Huh?"

"Well, of course. You'll want to look your best, and the right makeup will bring out all your good features. It will be subtle, naturally. I've hired a makeup artist who works with top film stars."

"Uh, whatever." Marvin was starting to wonder what he had gotten himself into. Reading along, he came to another item that really got his attention. "What's up with 'hair styling'?" he asked.

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"Oh, that. You aren't going to like it, I'm afraid, but it's just how it is. You'll have to have your dreadlocks cut off, and you'll need a completely new hairstyle. I know your hair is kind of a trademark, but you simply can't appear that way at our wedding. Anyhow, you'll get used to the new style and you'll be very happy at how it makes you look. I've selected the close-cropped military look for you."

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Marvin J. Mavin

Marvin breathed in and breathed out. Then he put the action list on the coffee table and stood up. "Now look, Prissy, I can do a lotta things. I can listen to you tell me how bad my team is, even though you kinda really hurt my feelings. I can go and see that fancy dress with you. I can get shoes and taste cakes and even put up with makeup and all that stuff. But I will not cut my hair. No sir, no ma'am, I ain't gonna do that! My hair is the real me. My fans know me by my hair and I just won't won't won't won't won't cut it!"

Priscilla put her hands on her hips. Her face turned white as a sheet.

Oh boy, thought Marvin, here it comes.

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"You will have your hair cut and styled in a presentable and dignified manner. You will not look like a bum off the street at our wedding. There will be no further discussion of this. You will do as you're told, is that clear?"

Marvin hesitated a moment. "Yeah, Prissy, it's clear. Clear like the sky in a Michigan snowstorm." Marvin hesitated again. Then, without another word, he left the condo.

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Four hours later, in a dive bar near his apartment, Marvin, after more beers than he should have had, started to wonder if he had made a huge mistake. He was trying to distract himself with a checker problem, but it wasn't working. He couldn't focus and the beer wasn't the only reason.

BLACK
20230403-stand.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W17,18,25,K14,K21:B6,7,8,K22,K23

Sighing, he paid his tab, picked up his checker magazine, and went back to his apartment to sleep it off. He had no idea what tomorrow might bring, and he really didn't want to find out.


With the wedding just a month away, what will be the outcome? Should we caption this, "Priscilla to play, what result?" Or have we just encountered a situation of "Marvin to play and lose"? Stay tuned to this website for our next installment.

Was Priscilla too hard on Marvin? Was Marvin too stubborn? These are difficult questions, and we suggest for the moment that you just stick with checkers and try to solve the problem that Marvin simply couldn't concentrate on. See if you can find the correct play, and then click on Read More to view the solution. Would that life's problems be solved with just a mouse click!20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
05/20/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin J. Mavin: Tax Day

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April 15, the normal due date for income tax returns in the United States, falls on the day of publication of this column. However, being a Saturday, returns won't be due until the next business day, or Tuesday, April 18 (Monday, April 17, 2023 is a holiday in Washington, D.C.).

Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar captain of the champion Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, had yet to file his taxes, and his fiancee, Priscilla Snelson, wasn't pleased or amused.

Priscilla was the CEO of Rust Belt Holdings, a Detroit based multinational conglomerate, and a team of Certified Public Accountants completed her income tax filings every year. She had a compensation package which ran to about $5 million a year base pay, which doubled with bonuses and stock options, and strived to pay the minimum amount of tax, hence the highly qualified team of experts in her hire.

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Marvin was visiting at Priscilla's condo that Saturday afternoon, and of course he was fully occupied solving checker problems in the latest issue of All Checkers Digest. Or at least trying to solve them, as Priscilla was definitely on Marvin's case about his not filing his income taxes as yet.

"Marvin, you make fully half as much money as I do, with your $5 million a year 10 year contract with the Doublejumpers. Why don't you have your own team of accountants? Or just hire mine, they'd be glad to help."

"Yeah, for about $50,000 they would. I don't need those guys."

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"They're not all guys. They're about half women, and very talented, and you do need them. In fact I've already ... "

"Aw, Prissy, geez. I just use good old LightningTax, you know, on line, and for like a hundred and fifty bucks everything gets done in half an hour and then I can get back to my magazine. See, look, here's one by that guy Ed in Pennsylvania that I'm working on."

BLACK
20230204-companion1.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:B4,6,14,19,K27,K31:W8,15,21,30,K3,K11

Priscilla walked over to the Italian leather couch where Marvin was sitting, pulled his magazine out of his hands, and threw in onto the quartz crystal coffee table. "You pay probably twenty times the tax you ought to pay. And don't call me Prissy!"

"Aw, honey, like, I ain't got nothing to deduct. My paychecks go into that there Blackguard account and they put some in my checking, and it's sorta real easy. I don't need to worry about nothing."

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"Sure. You own a beat up old Volkswagen, you rent a grungy apartment in a terrible neighborhood, you don't have any investments other than that one Blackguard index fund, which by the way I set up for you, and ... you earn a great deal but you just don't care about your money!"

"Yeah, 'cept, I, like, you know, got enough and stuff and I don't need nothing."

"Well, let me tell you, fiance of mine, when we get married your attitude will be a big liability because then we'll have to deal with joint filing, and things are going to change. Big time. I won't let you waste our money like you're doing now. Do I make myself clear?"

"Ah, yeah sure, whatever you say." Marvin reached for his magazine but Priscilla pulled it off the table and tossed it across the room.

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Sylvia Yang

"Now, Marvin, you will be doing your taxes right now. As I was starting to say earlier, I've made arrangements for you. Sylvia Yang is coming here and she'll arrive momentarily. She's a senior partner at FatFingers, the accounting firm I use. You'll treat her with respect and deference and you'll do exactly what she tells you to do, immediately and with no argument or discussion."

"Right now? But you didn't tell me nothing about that and I was busy with my magazine. There's that real good problem ... "

"You'll have a really bad problem if you don't listen."

Marvin, through long experience, knew when arguing would just make things worse, and at that moment, the intercom sounded. It was the doorman of Priscilla's condo building.

"Ms. Snelson, there is a Ms. Yang to see you."

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Priscilla pressed a button on the intercom. "Thank you, Jackson, please send her up."

A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Priscilla pulled the door open an in swept a woman dressed smartly in business attire, carrying a leather briefcase with gold hasps. She went immediately to the conference room (Priscilla had a very upscale condo), sat at the table, took a laptop from the briefcase and started it up.

"Mr. Mavin?" she called. "Over here, please, we must start at once."

Marvin slowly got up from the couch, took a longing glance at the checker magazine lying in disorder in the corner of the living room, and entered Priscilla's conference room.

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"I'm Senior Partner Yang," the woman said. "Don't bother attempting to shake hands, there is no time to waste on pleasantries."

"Uh, okay, yeah ... "

"Sit down, Mr. Mavin. The first thing I need from you is a retainer check, and you'll need to sign our retainer agreement. I think $25,000 will be sufficient to start, and we'll bill you for the balance later on. So if you would kindly get out your checkbook ... "

"Uh, I ain't got it with me."

Ms. Yang gave Marvin a deprecating glance. "Oh, really? You're that unprepared? All right then, we'll take a credit card for a three percent upcharge. You do have a credit card, don't you?"

Marvin shrugged his shoulders and got out his 10 year old duct-tape wallet. He had a feeling that the next few hours wouldn't be very pleasant.

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It seems to happen often. Poor Marvin doesn't get to solve an interesting checker problem, and instead needs to follow Priscilla's directions. Or else.

Now, you may not have a $5 million per year 10 year contract with a professional checker team (or do you?), but you can work on today's problem at your leisure. That's something, at least!

When you're ready, you can click on Read More to see the solution. We promise not to bore you with the details of Marvin's afternoon as Senior Partner Yang from FatFingers completes his income tax returns. Suffice it to say that a fun day was not had by all. Or at least not by Marvin.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
04/15/23 -Printer friendly version-
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It's April Once Again: A Beacon Cafe Story

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This had never happened before, not in all the years that Sal Westerman had been running the Coffee and Cake Checker Club.

Regular readers will be familiar with our setting; a version of Bismarck, North Dakota, where it's eternally 1955, and in the Provident Life Building near downtown Bismarck, we find the Beacon Cafe. The proprietress is Deana Nagle, and she's one of the top bakers in the Prairie states. The cafe is open from 7 AM until 5 PM Monday through Saturday (except in August), and from September through May, the big booths in the back are occupied by the Coffee and Cake Checker Club on Saturday afternoons.

There were a dozen or more members of the club, all but one of them over fifty years of age. Everything was kind of informal, of course, and depending on the weather, the time of year, and so on, attendance would range from four or five to as many as twelve.

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Not this Saturday afternoon. Sal had arrived at 1 PM and was the first one to come through the cafe's front door and greet Deana. But ... he was also the only one. It was now 2 PM and Sal was in the big booth in back all by himself.

Sal thought back as he nursed his second cup of coffee. Once, he recalled, it was just him, Dan, and Wayne--- three of them. But never less than that and certainly never just Sal.

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Deana Nagel

He looked over at Deana, stationed as usual behind her counter, and smiled wistfully. "I think I'm it for today," he said.

"Well, Sal," Deana replied, "do remember what day it is."

Sal let out a bit of a sigh. "Of course," he said, "it's the first Saturday in April, isn't it?"

"It is."

About three years ago, in a previous Beacon Cafe story, we explained about the first Saturday of April and how in Bismarck, it was an unwritten law that if you were a homeowner, you would rake up your yard to get it ready for spring. It didn't matter if there was snow still on the ground, or if it was raining or even snowing. You raked up your yard because that's what you're supposed to do. Failure to comply was the next best thing to a criminal offense.

Sal hadn't even thought about it. Being older, he engaged the services of a nice, enterprising young fellow who took care of yard work for him.

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But the rest of the club members thought that doing it yourself was more meritorious and that hiring it out was something like cheating. Sure, Sal thought, they didn't get the raking done in the morning and had to work into the afternoon. That was it. In other years, they had finished earlier, or at least several of them had, and had been able to make it to the club. Today, though, most likely under the watchful eyes of their wives, they were being held to account for performance of this traditional task, and there would be no checkers until the raking was done, all of the dead grass and debris bundled into bags, the tools cleaned and stored, and a subsequent wash-up and change of clothing accomplished.

Sal sighed once more. He thought that at least Louie the Flash, who wasn't married, might have showed up, but perhaps his latest girlfriend was also making him toe the line. And young Blaine, the only member under fifty years old, was likely in Minot helping his parents with the raking (a similar April raking rule held sway throughout most of North Dakota).

"Hey Sal, cheer up, I've got lemon bars today. I know you like those," Deana said.

Sal actually hated lemon bars. His frown must have been visible, because Deana smiled and quickly said, "Hey, I'm just April fooling you. Actually I have apple crumble. Would you like one?"

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"Sure would," he replied, "and can you refill my coffee? I think I'll stick around just a little longer."

Sal thought maybe he could read the checker news in this month's issue of the State checker magazine, the Roughrider Checker Bulletin. Sal enjoyed his dish of apple crumble--- Deana had added a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it was delicious--- and had just finished reading about a tournament in Williston, when in came Louie the Flash and Mike!

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Louie the Flash

"Hey, you look pretty lonely back there!" Mike said. "We know it's already after 3 PM but we can still spend an hour together, and I'm sure you have a problem for us."

Sal couldn't hide his big smile. It would be a good Saturday after all. "Done raking?" he asked.

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Judy

"Yeah," Louie said. "My girlfriend Judy said she wouldn't keep company with a guy that can't even rake his yard when he was supposed to, so I had to get on it. But then about halfway through I went back inside and told her I can't keep company with a girl who keeps a guy away from his checker friends. So we split up on the spot and here I am."

"I ran late this year," Mike said, "but I'm all done, and the wife let me loose for a little while."

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"Well then, there's just time enough for this one. It's in the Roughrider magazine. I haven't looked at it yet so how about we all solve it together?"

Deana brought over two mugs of coffee and a couple more dishes of apple crumble. "Here you are boys, better late than never!"

Sal referred to his magazine and laid out this position on one of the checkerboards.

BLACK
20230328-april1.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W13,16,17,19,21,25,26,30:B5,6,8,9,10,12,14,23

"Let's get started," Sal said. "See if we can solve it in an hour."


Apple crumble, often locally called krumkake is certaily delicious. Unfortunately we can't supply that for you. But you can enjoy the checker problem that Sal and the "boys" are working on. Find the right moves and then don't let your mouse be lonely--- click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
04/01/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin in Las Vegas: Good Luck 13

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

BLACK
20220716-gl13.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win 13 Ways

W:WK8,9,10,16,25,26,28:B1,2,12,K17,18,K19,27

"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."

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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

[Read More]
03/25/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Winter: A Beacon Cafe Story

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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.

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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.

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Phoebe

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."

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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.

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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.

20230116-dcbb.jpg

"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.

BLACK
20230116-march55.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W14,17,K20,26,29,30:B5,6,28,K31,K32

"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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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.

20230108-nonogo.jpg

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.

20230108-fleabag.jpg

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.

20230108-nothing.jpg

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.)

20230108-fauxluxe.jpg

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.)

20230108-gaston.jpg
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.

20230108-clublime.jpg

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.

BLACK
20230108-concede.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W11,21,22,25,26,27,29,31:B3,5,9,10,13,14,19,20

"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 ... "

20230108-click.jpg

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 ... "

20230108-nodozeit.jpg

"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."

20230108-countd.jpg

"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?"

20230108-domp.jpg

"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.

20230108-twok.jpg

"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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02/25/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Valentine's Day: A Beacon Cafe Story

20190430-beacon.jpg

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

null
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.

20200102-sylvie.jpg
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."

20230107-imitmateeau.jpg

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."

20200102-awlucas.jpg

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.

20230107-barsz.jpg

"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.

BLACK
20230107-valentime.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W7,11,15,16,20,32,K6:B17,22,25,28,K19,K29

"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."

20230107-initimateparf.jpg

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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Setting the Date: A Marvin J. Mavin Story

20050222-marvinjmaven.jpg
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.

20221221-beer3.jpg

"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.

20221221-thedate.jpg

"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.

20221221-deluxe.jpg

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."

20221221-historic.jpg

"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?"

20221221-marvinkids.jpg

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.

20221221-sunset.jpg

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.

BLACK
20230128-thedate2.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK9,10,11,K16,22:B3,4,15,K18,K29

"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

20190430-beacon.jpg

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.

null
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."

20221211-squeak.jpg

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?"

20221211-redear.jpg

"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."

20221211-aspirin.jpg

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.

20221211-dcbars.jpg

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.

BLACK
20221211-cordial.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W6,21,28,32:B10,11,18,K9

"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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