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

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Composing Championship #74

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State Fair: Part 2


All play halted as everyone either dove to the floor or fled the tent. Mortimer thought at once of Sheila and hurried to her seat. He practically tackled her to the ground when he reached her. "You okay, honey?" he asked.

It took a moment for Sheila to recover her wits. By then the tent had largely emptied. "I'm fine, you?"

"Yeah, but, uh ... what happened? Is that guy ... you know ..."

"I'm pretty sure Mr. Pace is dead, yes. He was shot," Sheila said.

"I heard a noise and then I saw him fall off his chair," replied Mortimer.


A couple of State Fair security guards had arrived. One of them addressed Sheila and Mortimer. "Everyone out until we secure the area, please."

"You sure that's a good idea?" Sheila asked. "You're asking the shooter, if he's still here, to disappear into the crowd?" Sheila was certain that had already happened, but this was really poor procedure.

The burlier of the two guards wasn't pleased. "Look ma'am, I said 'out' and I won't tell you again."


Sheila showed her FBI identification.

"Oh ... I see ... well, the Des Moines cops will be here in a minute ... you can work with them, Agent."

Sheila didn't bother to point out that she was a lab tech and not a Special Agent.

Mortimer sat by as Sheila began an examination of the site. She only had a few minutes before the local police arrived. The security guards, having already chased everyone out of the tent, stationed themselves on either side of the entrance.

Two Des Moines police officers arrived. "What's going on here?" the larger of the two bellowed, addressing no one in particular. His name tag read "Hulme."

The other officer, clearly the junior of the two both in size and rank, stood next to his partner with his arms folded and his legs in a wide stance, obviously making an effort to look important. Whereas his companion was tall and wide, he was short and relatively thin. His name tag said "Schreiber."

One of the security guards thought fit to answer. "Someone's been shot," he offered. "Up there." He gestured to the playing area at the far end of the tent.

"Yeah, we know that," Hulme said. "But where's everybody? There's nobody in here but ... hey ... YOU over there, what do you think you're doing?" This was clearly aimed at Sheila, who was hovering over Bob Pace's body, making notes in a little notebook.


Sheila straightened up as Officer Hulme approached. "FBI," she repeated for his benefit, once again holding up her ID.

"FBI? You guys ain't got jurisdiction, unless you're takin' over ... hey, that don't make no sense. And you don't look like no Special Agent neither."

"I'm not," Sheila replied, "I work in the Denver crime lab. I'm making observations before a bunch of ... well ... others ... contaminate the crime site."

Hulme lifted his cap and scratched his head. "Well, I s'pose, but look here Miss, when our people get here you give 'em that there little book a yours, and then you skeddadle, got it?"

"Yes, officer," Sheila replied, and bent back down again, continuing to make notes.

Hulme looked over at Mortimer, but before he could say anything, Sheila said, "It's okay, he's my assistant."

"You FBI too?" Hulme asked Mortimer.

"Uh ... well ... no. I'm a detective, you know, like Sherlock ... "

"Didn't know the FBI called 'em detectives. Well, whatever, we just gotta secure the site till the rest get here. Chief ain't gonna like it that them hicks they hired let everyone take off, though."


Mortimer quietly pulled out his cell phone. Well, not his fault if he didn't get to finish his sentence and allow as he was after all an amateur detective, although he certainly could claim to have worked on a case with the FBI in the past. Okay, not exactly with the FBI, but it was good enough.

Well, then, he might as well do some detecting. He turned on his camera and walked around the playing area, taking photos of all the checkerboards. Hmm ... interesting position on this one ...

White to Play and Draw


Nah, he didn't have time for that. Maybe later.

Actually he wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he just took pictures of everything. The floor of the tent, the walls, anything he could think of.


By the time the Des Moines Crime Scene Unit arrived, perhaps 20 minutes later, he had taken photos of virtually everything. And it was a good thing, because the Police Chief, who was now on site of what would undoubtedly be a high profile crime, and who was trailed closely by the media, wasn't happy to see Mortimer and Sheila inside the tent. Office Hulme explained the FBI connection but that made Chief Easton even less happy.

"This is OUR jurisdiction," he roared at Sheila, who was just putting away her notebook. "You ain't got NO right to be here unless I invite you! And I ain't invited you neither, so get on outta here now afore I call the Des Moines Field Office and raise a ruckus!"

Sheila, not thinking it wise to say she was actually from Denver, motioned to Marvin. "Let's do as the Chief asks, Marvin," she said, "right now."

"Hey, Chief," spoke up Officer Hulme, "they been takin' notes and photos and so on ... mebbe they oughta give 'em to you?"

"Nobody asked you fer advice, Hulme!" the Chief thundered. "I don't need their gol dang FBI notes! My own crew's here now and they'll do just fine without any fancy help from the Feds, no thank you!"


Marvin and Sheila quickly exited. Once outside, Sheila said as they walked away, "It's amateur hour in there. First security lets everyone leave, then the local cops let us prowl around, then the chief doesn't want to see what we found--- even though we really shouldn't have been looking. I was hoping to help, but strictly speaking the local police are in charge. One phone call and I could maybe change that, but let them figure it out for themselves."

Mortimer gave Sheila a certain look. Sheila paused walking for a moment. "Mortimer, really?"

"Yeah, it's an interesting case, you've got to admit."

Sheila sighed. "Actually, it is. But we could get in trouble if we poke our noses in."

"Poke our noses in? No, 'course not!" Marvin smiled.

"I don't like that smile," Sheila said, "we've been there and done that and nearly got ourselves killed by that serial murderer."

"Yeah, the Checker Murderer. Great case. Hey, you made a lot of notes and I took a lot of pictures. Let's just, you know, kind of ... go over them? The Fair's going to be shut down for sure after this and it would cost a lot to change our flight ... what else is there to do in Des Moines, anyhow?"


Sheila sighed again. "Not much," she said. "We won't even get to watch the corn shucking contest, and that would have been the thrill of the week. Okay, let's get a rideshare back to the motel and we'll see what we can piece together."

(to be continued)

Mortimer was too busy to dig into the "interesting" position he saw on one of the checkerboards, but hopefully you have a little time. It's really quite intriguing. Don't just say something corny like "Aw shucks!" but instead give the problem a try. There's a kernel of enjoyment and instruction in there. When you're ready to see the solution, just click on Read More for full details.20050904-symbol.gif

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06/22/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin on Tour

Marvin J. Mavin

It was June, and Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar Captain of the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers, was on a summer publicity tour.

Now, recall that Marvin had gotten himself into hot water with both his team and the National Checker League (NCL) over a dispute during the semifinals in the previous season's playoffs. It was quite controversial and after hearing all sides of the issue, the NCL had given Marvin a one week suspension, to be served at the opening of the coming season. They also hit him with a $100,000 fine and ordered him to do the NCL equivalent of community service.

His team's anger had subsided and he was left in place as Team Captain. However the team fined him a further $100,000 and put a warning in his personnel record.


So, Marvin was on tour, by order of the NCL. It wasn't all bad although it was very long and tiring, and as a kind of punishment or penance, the NCL's order stipulated that he was to travel only by bus or train, not by air, and that he couldn't stay in any lodging rated higher than 2 stars by the AAA. His tour took him through the central states and provinces, starting in Manitoba and making his way down through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma and then various stops in Texas before he would eventually finish up in El Paso.

He was currently scheduled to appear in Wacko, Texas. Wacko was a small town of about 10,000 but it was the home of the Wacko Woozies, an amateur checker team that perennially took the Orange County championship and was always a contender for the Texas "Champion of Counties" title.


Marvin arrived at the Wacko Train Depot at midday. He was greeted by a big turnout with a lot of fanfare. The newly elected Mayor, Cloudy Summer, gave a short speech (at least it was her idea of short). The Captain of the Woozies, Danny Dan Daniels, gave a little talk of his own, and then sprung something of a surprise.

Danny Dan Daniels

"Here in the great state of Texas, we do things the Texas way. And that means big. Why Texas is so big that ... "

Danny went on to tell a couple of Texas jokes, neither of which Marvin really got. Then Danny continued, "In fact, in Texas, we play Texas checkers. Why, another Texan, Willie Whatsis, done gone and invented it. We play it on a 20 by 20 board with would ya believe, 90 pieces per side. That there is one big game. Maybe you'd like give 'er a whirl, Marvin?"


Down below the podium, a couple of workers whisked off the covering of a large table to reveal a Texas Checkerboard, fully four feet square.

"Uh, you know, Danny, actually ... "

"Aw, can't blame ya, son, it's a tough game and a game does kinda take a while with all them pieces. And dang if near all the time, it ain't nuthin but a draw."

Danny shook his head wistfully and then said, "Anyhoo, you ain't here for that. What you are here fer, is to give a simul ... Texas style. And by Texas style, I mean ... "

"Big," Marvin piped up. "Yeah, Texas style is big. I got it, Danny."

"Durn if that city boy don't catch on fast!" Danny said, and the crowd laughed. "Well, then, a Texas style simul is you against a hunnert of the town's best!"


"A hundred?" Marvin said. "That's a lot of ... "

"What, ain'tcha up to it?" Danny asked. "There's a lotta folks here just waitin' fer a chance ta play ya. 'Course iffn ya wanna be yeller an' back out, why, that's up ta you."

"I'll do it," Marvin said. He didn't look happy but he felt like he had been painted into a corner with no other way out.


The crowd cheered and yelled. "Let's go!" Danny said. "Over to the auditorium! And there's Texas bar-bee-koo for everyone after the simul's over!"

Sure, Marvin thought, with a hundred players it'll be over around noon tomorrow. Even a game of Texas Checkers wouldn't take that long. Well, his thoughts went on, maybe if I play fast enough I'll get to have dinner before the sun comes up in the morning.


Marvin, led by Danny and followed by the big crowd, went over to the auditorium, which turned out to be an enormous service club dance hall.

"Yup," Danny said, "we do that there line dancin' on Saturday nights. You ever done that, Marvy? Ah, 'course ya ain't. You don't look like a line dancin' kind a feller."


Marvin didn't reply. The only dancing he ever did was ballroom dancing with his wife Priscilla, and he didn't do it very well. Priscilla also dragged him off to the ballet from time to time.

The hall was set up with indeed a hundred numbered tables arranged in a huge circle. Townsfolk were quickly taking their places as Danny remarked, "Now looky here, Marvy, these folks paid real good for a place in the simul. We done charged 'em a hunnert bucks each. Real good fundraiser for the team, ya know? But seein' as how they paid all a that there money, you give 'em a real good show, ya hear me?"

Marvin nooded his head, all the while wondering just how good a show he'd be able to put on with so many contestants.

Willie Whatsis

The chief referee turned out to be Willie Whatsis himself. Willie quickly went over the rules for the competition, after which an air horn sounded and play began.

With such a large number of players, there was bound to be a mix of skill levels. It took less than an hour for Marvin to win fifty of the games, and another hour to win thirty more. In the third hour, Marvin won ten games. That left ten to play against opponents who obviously were skilled checkerists.

Marvin won five more in the fourth hour. That made the score 95-0-0. A little more play scored him three more wins and one draw. This changed the score to 98-0-1 but there was one game left and Marvin thought he could get at least a draw and maybe a win. The opponent was a very strong player who went by the name of Southpaw Steve. Steve was not only good at checkers, but was reputed to be the best bull rider in the county. Of course Marvin didn't know that.

Southpaw Steve

Danny came over to Marvin and whispered to him, "Marvie, I said give 'em a good show. You done wiped most of 'em out, now you gotta let the local folk go home with one win anyhoo. You gotta lose this last one, okay?"

"What?" Marvin said, rather loudly, but Danny whispered, "Keep your voice down, boy, you gotta make it look fair and square even if'n it ain't. Get it over with an' then get yorsef some a that there Texas bar-bee-koo."

Despite Danny's admonition to keep quiet, Marvin almost said something, but then just shook his head and changed his mind. Throw a game? That would be the day. He just couldn't see why a dishonest win would be of any value to the local boys, and if word ever got out, Marvin would be in even deeper trouble with the NCL. It could very well be a career ending event.

It was Marvin's move and the position was as follows.

Black to Play, What Result?


Marvin made a decision.

And then he made his move.

What would you do? You're in a big simul and you've done really well, but the organizer asks you to lose the last game on purpose, and there will be consequences if you do and consequences if you don't? Fortunately you don't have to make such a decision, you just need to try to solve today's problem and then click on Read More to see the solution. You'll have to provide your own bar-bee-koo, though!20050904-symbol.gif

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06/15/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Bye For Now

It was May, 1955, and the last Saturday before Memorial Day weekend. In Bismarck, North Dakota, the weather was still on the cooler side with lows around 40F and highs around 60F. But this Saturday was bright and sunny, and Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, planned to enjoy it to the fullest.

His club met every Saturday afternoon at 1 PM at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building near downtown Bismarck. But, as was common practice in Bismarck, the club didn't meet during the summer months, as everyone wanted to enjoy the outdoors, tend to their yards, and maybe even go on vacation. So from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, there were no get-togethers.

Deana Nagel

The final session of the season was something of a bittersweet occasion. There was always a good turnout. Lots of skittles, a checker problem or two, plenty of checker chatter, and great coffee and treats provided by the Cafe's proprietess, Deana Nagel, who was one of the best bakers in central North Dakota.

On hand today were Wayne, Delmer, Larry, Louie the Flash, Dan, young Blaine, and even Tom, Ron, and Old Frank. With Sal that made ten and they filled both large booths in the back of the Cafe. Talk was at first about what they'd do over the summer. Wayne was going to work on the family farm; Louie was going to spend time with the latest in his long series of short-lived romantic interests, and so on. Sal said he would be visiting his cousin Maurice in Jamestown for a checker festival being put on by that city.


But when Deana announced from her station behind her counter that the strawberry bars were hot and fresh, everyone knew it was time to turn to the first order of business.

Every week Sal brought along a checker problem. Sometimes it was from All Checkers Digest, sometimes from his checker pen pals, and sometimes from other sources, but the premise was always the same. The "boys" as Sal called the club members (all of whom but Blaine were over 50) would try to solve the problem. If they did, Sal would buy the treats. If they couldn't, they would buy their own plus some for Sal, including an extra for him to take home to his wife Sylvia.

"Ready, boys?" Sal asked.

"Sure are, what have you got for us?" Dan said.

Sal laid out the following position on one checkerboard in each booth.

White to Play and Win


"There you go," he said, "and seeing as it's about 1:30, how about I give you, say, 45 minutes?"

The boys, who thought Sal was only going to give them half an hour, eagerly agreed and set to work as Deana came around and refilled their coffee mugs.

Sal spent the next little while talking with Deana. Other than the checker club, the Cafe was pretty quiet on a Saturday afternoon. Deana told Sal that she had recently broken up with Clyde, her boyfriend, and was looking forward to spending August on the family farm in Gackle, North Dakota. "It'll do me good," she said, "and help me get over that two-timing you know what."


Deana always closed down in August to help out with the harvest at home. But Sal was sad to hear about her breakup. She had been with Clyde for a couple of years and was actually thinking about marriage, when she learned he had a girlfriend on the side in Valley City. But then Deana mentioned a big baking competition in Fargo and smiled again, saying, "I'm going to win!"

"I'm sure you are," said Sal, "but hey, it's time to see how the boys did."

Sal went back over to the big booths. "Time's up, boys. Did you get it?"

"We did," Ron said, "and here's how it's done."

Fortunately, the end of the season for the Coffee and Cake Checker Club doesn't mean the end of the season for The Checker Maven, even though we too won't return to the Beacon Cafe for a few months. However, Sal will be around during the summer months with more checker stories and problems. For now, though, compete with the "boys" and see how you do with today's problem. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our little story.20050904-symbol.gif

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05/25/24 -Printer friendly version-
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State Fair: Part 1


"The Iowa State Fair? Seriously?"

"Aw, c'mon Sheila, we both could use a vacation, and it would be a lot of fun."


The speaker was Mortimer Holmes, and Sheila Larkspur, his fiancee, was listening without a lot of enthusiasm. It had been about two years since the events of "The Checker Murders" (as told in previous Checker Maven columns and in the book "Mr. Darcy Plays Draughts"). Mortimer was close to finishing his Ph.D. while Sheila had completed grad school and was now a full-time lab tech for the FBI in Denver. For the past little while they had been sharing an apartment in suburban Littleton. They had yet to set a wedding date; it would probably be after Mortimer finished his doctorate in six months or so.


"You really want to go, Mort?" Sheila's expression had softened. It was so hard to say 'no' to Mortimer when he really wanted something, and in turn he never refused her anything.

"It would be fun. There would be rides, and all sorts of great food ... and of course there's the checker tournament."

Sheila smiled. "Of course. You planning to win it?"

Mortimer had been playing at the school club, but he had no illusions. "No, I don't expect to win. The competition is stiff. But I can play in one of the lower classes and still have a good time. And it would be a nice change from summer in Denver."


"Right. Flat landscapes. Waving fields of corn. Lots of flying bugs. Blue Ribbon Beer. The sun bearing down."

Mortimer couldn't hide his look of disappointment.

"But let's do it! I know how much you want to, and I'm game. As long as you agree to Thanksgiving with my parents."

Mortimer hesitated, if only briefly. Sheila's parents were fine, but that brother of hers, Stan, who talked about football 24 hours a day and referred to Mortimer as "the useless wimp" ... oh well. "Done!" he said. "I'll book the tickets."

# # #

There was a direct flight to Des Moines, Iowa, where the Iowa State Fair would take place on the eponymous Fairgrounds. Mortimer, knowing Sheila wouldn't care for his favorite hotel chain, Motel 9, had reserved a room at the much more upscale Diplomacy Suites. It cost about twice as much but at least there was a great breakfast buffet, and they would only be staying a few days.

The morning after their arrival the couple took a rideshare over to the Fairgrounds. Even though it was only the first day of the Fair, there was a large crowd on hand. Mortimer made sure to sign up for the checker tournament right away. He glanced at the list of players, and noticed some big names in the Master's Division. It was going to be very interesting. The tournament would begin tomorrow morning and run most of the day.


But today they would enjoy the Fair. Mortimer took Sheila on at least half a dozen rides, including the Ferris Wheel, and stole a kiss when their car reached the top. They feasted on roast corn, watermelon and BBQ beef, and Sheila even asked for some cotton candy.

Back at the hotel Sheila allowed as she had had a much better time than she'd ever expected.

"Tomorrow's the tournament, though," said Mortimer. "I hope you won't be bored."

"Oh, no, I'll watch for a while and then maybe wander around. You said the tournament's double elimination? Then I won't have to ... "

"Aw, honey, don't say it. You won't have to wait long because I'll get knocked out pretty fast, right?"

Sheila smiled. "Never said that!"

# # #

The next day was bright and sunny, and Mortimer and Sheila were at the Fairgrounds at opening time, 9 AM. The tournament would start at 10 AM sharp. Mortimer checked in while Sheila found a seat in a row of chairs close to the playing area.


The tournament was taking place inside a large tent. There were five divisions: Masters, Expert, and classes A through C. Eight players were signed up for the Masters, a dozen for Expert, around two dozen in Class A, and three or four dozen each in Classes B and C, making for nearly 120 players in all. In Iowa, checkers was often serious business. Mortimer would be playing in Class C.

In the Masters, two players were about even odds as the favorites. Sam Stecher was a top amateur player from Dubuque, and Bob Pace of Des Moines was just as highly regarded. It would probably all come down to them.

The tournament began on the dot of ten. There was quite a crowd of spectators. Sheila found the whole thing a lot more engaging than she had expected. Mortimer won his first round game, then lost in the second round, but won again in the third and fourth. Sheila realized he was doing a lot better than he had ever expected, although it would just take one more loss to put him out of the tournament.

There was a break for lunch after the fifth round. Mortimer had won again.


Mortimer and Sheila had a couple of corn dogs and sodas.

Returning to play, Mortimer won in the sixth round and drew in the seventh. He was only one draw away from elimination, but he had made it much farther than he had ever expected.

In the eighth round, the following position came up. His opponent, a fellow from Lindyville named Danny Ziegler, was on move with White. Mortimer wasn't optimistic about making it to the ninth round.

White to Play and Win


Meanwhile, the other, smaller divisions were wrapping up. Sam Stecher and Bob Pace were the only ones left standing in the Masters, and so far they had played three draws against each other. The rules stated that with only two players with equal scores left, they would play until someone won a game, thereby taking the title.


Mortimer's opponent Danny was taking his time, looking for a move that might bring the game to a finish. Mortimer was looking over at Sam and Bob as they played for the Blue Ribbon. That's when it happened.


There was a sharp cracking sound. Bob Pace tumbled back in his seat, his mouth agape, and then slumped to the ground.

There were screams from the crowd and many of them started to flee the tent in a panicked rush. But Sam Stecher just sat, looking with disbelief at Bob Pace's body, blood pooling from the bullet wound in the center of his forehead.

Someone shouted for a doctor, but Bob was already beyond help.

To be continued.

Our original concept, a series of columns on checkers at various State Fairs around the U.S., took a change in direction. The real Iowa State Fair has had a checker tournament for quite a number of years. We wrote to the organizer asking for details to form the basis of our first article, but we never heard back. (We don't seem to have much luck getting Iowans to respond to our requests.) So instead we launched into a purely fictious account of happenings at a purely fictitious Iowa State Fair. It was a great opportunity to reintroduce Mortimer and Sheila in another serialized story. We hope you enjoy it.

But before we move on, what do you think? Would Danny have beaten Mortimer in the position shown above? See if you can figure it out and hopefully you won't be distracted by untoward events such as in our story. When you're ready, shoot your mouse onto Read More to see the answers.20050904-symbol.gif

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05/18/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin J Mavin: The Playoffs

Detroit Checkerdrome

The Detroit Doublejumpers had had a good season. Recall from previous stories that their prior year hadn't been so great and they hadn't even made it into the playoffs. But this year was different. After some drama concerning spring training, new coaches, and an attempt on their superstar Captain's life, all had gone well. Led by the aforesaid superstar, Marvin J. Mavin, the Doublejumpers had made it through the first round of the playoffs and were now up for their Division Championship.

They were facing the Tampa Bay Tinsleys in a best of seven contest, with the winner moving on to the World Series of Checkers. The Tinsleys were a strong team and did very well against the favored Doublejumpers. In fact, the series was tied with three wins each, and it was time for the seventh and final match.


The venue was to be in the hometown Detroit Checkerdrome, in front of a 50,000 strong sellout crowd. Even though reselling was, strictly speaking, illegal, it was heard that tickets were being sold for over $1,000 in dark recesses on the outside of the Checkerdrome.

The National Anthem was played, the players took their seats, the referee's whistle blew, and the call of "Play Checkers!" reverberated throughout the stadium.


Marvin's opponent on first board was none other than an old foe, Dmitri Tovarischky, who has appeared in some earlier Checker Maven stories. This season Dmitri had come off a five-year ban from professional play due to gambling offenses; however he remained in top championship form and the Tinsleys were willing to overlook his past history in order to obtain his skills for their franchise.

Dmitri looked over at Marvin and commented, "Well Checkers Boy, I am ready to show you what real star player does with lesser opponent. Dmitri is better player. Much better player."

"Lesser opponent, huh? Better player, are you?" Marvin replied. "Checkers Boy, is it? Well Mr. Red Commie, we'll just see who will 'lose game' today."

Dmitri laughed and made his first move.

All of the games were hard fought. Board two and three went to the Tinsleys while board four went to the Doublejumpers and board five was a draw. The score was 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 in favor of the Tinsleys, and it was all down to the game on first board. Marvin was in a must win situation. That would tie the score at 2 1/2 - 2 1/2 in which case the win on first board would give the Doublejumpers the match on tiebreaks. But only a win would do. Even a draw would give the match to the Tinsleys.

White to Play and Win


No doubt about it, Dmitri, anticipating his team's victory, was gloating, even if relatively silently, and it bothered Marvin no end, even though he knew it was a psychological tactic.


"Checkers Boy is finished," Dmitri said in a half-whisper. "No more super star. Dmitri is new superstar. Was always superstar. Game is draw. Checkers Boy is not good enough and cannot win. Now proof of pudding is in eating. Eat pudding, Checkers Boy!"

Marvin was doing his classic fidget, legs bouncing and head shaking from side to side. But his clock was running down and he had little time to spend. He was ready to make his move and ...

Did Marvin find the win, or was it true that Dmitri had a clear draw? What would you have done in such a tense situation with a trip to the World Series of Checkers on the line? Unlike Marvin, you can take all the time you wish and there's no pressure. The problem is actually on the easy side. See what you can do and then click on Read More to see the solution and the surprising conclusion to our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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04/20/24 -Printer friendly version-
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An April Storm: A Beacon Cafe Story


It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-April, 1955, and in Bismarck, North Dakota, snow had been falling with a vengeance for hours.

Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, looked out the living room window of his modest home. His club met at the Provident Life Building, which normally would be only about a ten minute walk from his house. But, as was typical for late season snowfalls, the snow was thick and heavy and walking or driving would be hazardous if not downright impossible. But Sal was not one to miss a Saturday afternoon with his checker friends.


He had asked his wife Sylvia if she could give him a ride. Normally she would have been glad to do so but today she said, "I think you had better cancel your meeting. There's always next week and it just isn't worth the risk. It's been snowing all day and there's easily a foot and a half of snow on the ground."

Sal was beside himself. He loved his club with all of that intense passion a true checker fan could muster.

But Sylvia could be right.


It was nearly one o'clock now, the club's starting time, and Sal was still at home. If he was going to walk, he'd arrive quite late. It would likely take at least twenty minutes to get there, maybe longer.

He decided to call the Beacon Cafe and ask Deana, the proprietress, how many of the "boys" (all but one of whom were over 50 years old) had arrived.


He went over to the telephone in the dining alcove and called the Beacon's number. The phone rang a good eight or nine times before he gave up. Then he decided he'd call Deana at her home in Mandan, North Dakota, just across the Missouri River from Bismarck.

Deana answered on the third ring. Sal explained why he was calling, and Deana confirmed what Sal had expected to hear: the cafe was closed due to the weather. "I was supposed to open at seven, as usual," Deana said, "but it looked really bad out. There wouldn't be much business, what with everyone staying home, and I didn't want to risk driving over from Mandan and back."

Sal said he understood and hung up the phone. He fully agreed, of course, but he still was a bit sad. There would be no club meeting until a week from today.

But then he had an idea.

Every week Sal took along a good checker problem for the boys to solve, and whether or not they could win it determined who would pay for Deana's amazingly good baked treats.


Sal got out the telephone book, checked a number, and made another call.

"Dan?" he said when the call was answered. "Hey, you probably figured the club wouldn't meet today."

"Right, no way I'm going out in this weather," Dan said.

"Just as well, Deana didn't even open the cafe today," Sal said. "But listen, take down this checker position."

"Uh, sure," Dan said, "let me get pencil and paper."

Black to Play and Win


Dan quickly returned and Sal gave him the details and terms of the position. "So, I'm going to call Wayne and Ron. How about you call Louie the Flash and Old Frank? I'll ask Wayne and Ron to make a couple of calls too. That way we can contact everyone, and you all can still have a problem to work on. You'll have to provide your own coffee and treats, though. Then around four thirty I'll call you boys back with the solution."


"Sounds like fun," Dan said. "None of us really wanted to miss out on the club today, but this is a great idea."

As the afternoon passed the snow kept falling. It was a good thing, Sal thought, that he had an agreement with a neighboring lad to shovel his sidewalks and back driveway. That wet snow was going to be really heavy, and on the radio they were predicting two feet before the storm ended sometime after midnight.


Sal went and got himself a cup of coffee and settled down in his nice warm living room with the latest issue of All Checkers Digest. It wasn't going to be a bad afternoon after all.

Wherever you may be we hope you're not encountering a massive snowstorm. But if you are, we further hope that you are safe at home. No matter your current environment, we invite you to solve along with the "boys." Don't let the problem snow you; find the solution and then let your mouse fall on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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04/13/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Revenge! Part 3

Marvin J. Mavin

The atmosphere was taut and tense in a small conference room in the Portland Checkerdrome. Marvin J. Mavin, in the company of several uniformed police officers and an FBI agent, was staring at a tablet screen with a live video connection to his wife Priscilla's condo back in suburban Detroit. Marvin's nemesis, Charity Chastity "Cha Cha" Hopkins, had gained entry to Priscilla's condo and had captured her and tied her to a kitchen chair. Cha Cha was now brandishing a long bayonet and was holding it at Priscilla's throat.


"Say goodbye to your skanky rich wife," came Cha Cha's voice from the tablet's speaker, "I'll give you thirty seconds starting right now."

Marvin could see Priscilla quivering with fear, the edge of the knife touching her throat.

"No ... no ... wait!" Marvin said. "Can't we like figure this out?"

"SWAT's three minutes out," one of the officers whispered after muting the sound on the tablet. "Hold her off. You know how to talk to her." The officer turned the sound back on."

"Any tricks and you won't even get your thirty seconds," Cha Cha said, "and that's now down to twenty seconds."

There was a roaring in Marvin's head as he confronted a situation that went beyond his worst nightmares. But suddenly the roaring ceased and Marvin said, "Look, can you give it a couple of minutes? I got something to say."

Cha Cha Hopkins

"Ten seconds," Cha Cha replied, "unless it's really good."

"I can get you your old job back," Marvin said. "Just let me get the coach in here."

"I'll get him," one of the officers said and hurried out of the room.

"What are you talking about?" Cha Cha said. But the knife move an inch or two away from Priscilla's throat.

Coach Davey Anderson

"The policeman just went to get Davey, our coach," Marvin said. "What if he stepped down and named you the Doublejumper coach, like you used to be, well, for a little while anyhow."

"He would do that?" There was a curious look on Cha-Cha's face. "Really? He would?"

"Davey's a sport," Marvin said. "He'll see that you won this round. He'll go along with things. Only one thing."

"What?" Cha Cha said. "No tricks, remember?" She again brought her knife close to Priscilla.

"No tricks," Marvin said. "It's just like, if you hurt Prissy, you'll go to jail and stuff and you can't coach us from jail."

Priscilla K. Snelson

"Don't call me Prissy!" Priscilla hissed. "Things are bad enough!"

"You keep quiet, Prissy," Cha Cha said. Then turning back to the video connection, she said, "I'm not going to jail. No one will catch me."

"Yeah but if you're on the run you still can't coach."

Cha Cha seemed to hesitate. "Yeah, I suppose you're right. So what's the deal exactly?"

"You let Prissy--- I mean Priscilla--- go. Davey steps down and you step in. Piece of cake. You good with it?"

"Let me hear it from Davey."

"Sure. He'll be here in a jiff."

One of the officers, out of sight of the camera, mouthed to Marvin, "One minute."

Just then Davey Anderson came into the room with the officer who had gone to find him. "What's this about, now?" he asked.

Marvin quickly explained the deal. Davey took one look at the tablet screen, gulped and turned nearly white before saying, "Uh ... yeah it's a deal. Cha Cha can take over as soon as she can get here."

Then the video screen went blank.

# # #

Several flash-bang grenades went off as the SWAT team, automatic weapons raised, charged through the condo. Two officers soon reached the kitchen. "In here! The hostage!" one of them called.

They quickly freed Priscilla, who was still blinded and deafened from the grenades.

"She's okay!" the officer in charge said into his radio. "Relay that back to Portland!" Then he said, even though Priscilla couldn't make it out, "Come on, ma'am, we'll have you checked out at the hospital." He gently guided her out of the room.

The rest of the team quickly reassembled. "The condo's clear," one of them said. "No sign of the perpetrator."

"Where could she have gone?" the team captain asked.

The officers searched the rest of the building and then around the neighborhood. There was no sign of Cha Cha, and no one had seen anything. She was gone without a proverbial trace.

# # #

It was a big story and it was in all of the newspapers.


Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar captan of the Detroit Doublejumpers, saved the day and the life of his wife Priscilla, with his quick thinking and creativity while under intense pressure. When asked how he did it, Marvin replied, "That Cha Cha is trouble. But she thinks she's some kind of hot coach. I figured if I played to her big ego, she'd fall for it, and sure enough, she bought my story about making her head coach of the Doublejumpers. You gotta be really full of yourself to fall for that but I'm sure glad she did."

The big mystery remaining is what became of Cha Cha. She had somehow gotten out of the condo despite the presence of the SWAT team. "Can't figure it," was all the SWAT captain had to say. "We threw them grenades and that shoulda stunned her. But she got clean away. Never seen nothing like it."

When asked if he was concerned that Cha Cha was still at large, Mr. Mavin replied, "Nah." He declined to elaborate, citing a wish to take a few days' leave from the Doublejumpers to be with his wife as she recovered from her traumatic experience.

# # #

Marvin read the story in his hometown newspaper, The Detroit Divulger, and Priscilla even cut out a copy to save in a scrapbook. But the newspaper naturally had a checker column and Marvin seemed much more interested in the checker problem of the day rather than what he now considered to be old news. "Tom Wiswell--- he's good," Marvin said to himself, "now let me see ... hmm ... "

Detroit Divulger
Checker Problem of the Day
by Tom Wiswell
White to Play and Win


# # #

The woman had just rented a room in a hostel in an Eastern European capital, saying she'd be staying for a few months. It would take her that long to regroup and plan her next move. She smiled, although the smile was more of a grimace. The world hadn't heard the last from her. Not by a long shot.

The End --- for now!

Our story has concluded with a literal flash and a bang. We hope you enjoyed it. We also think you'll enjoy today's problem. Can you solve it in a flash or will you have to bang away at it? Try to swat it down and then fire your mouse on Read More to view the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/30/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Revenge! Part 2

Marvin J. Mavin

"Mr. Mavin ... Mr. Mavin, can you hear me?"

The voice came as if from a distance, at the end of a long tunnel. Someone was saying something. Marvin thought he heard his name but everything was so hazy. He couldn't focus; he couldn't make out the words. Just his name or something that sounded like his name.

" ... starting an IV ... "

Marvin felt something jab his arm and suddenly he opened his eyes.

"Can you follow my flashlight?" a different voice said. A light, way too bright, was now shining in his eyes.

"Hey cut it out!" Marvin managed to say, although he hardly recognized his own voice, it was so weak and raspy.

"He's responding," the same voice said. "Now, Mr. Mavin, please, following my flashlight."


The light began tracing a path to Marvin's right. Marvin tried to sit up but firm hands held him down.

"Please don't move, Mr. Mavin, until we can assess your condition."

"Did I have, like, too much beer or something?" Marvin asked.

"No, Mr. Mavin, there's been an explosion and you were knocked unconscious. Now please, work with us while we assess your condition and then get you to the hospital."

"Hospital? I ain't going to no ... "

And then it all came back. Marvin sank into the cushions of the gurney, no longer trying to sit up, He had been on the phone with Priscilla. Something had been wrong. A threat. That was it. And then there was this bright flash and loud noise and then utter blackness.

"Priscilla ... is she okay?"

"I'm sorry sir, who? There was no one else here with you."

"It's his wife," the other voice said. "Priscilla is Mrs. Mavin."

Priscilla K. Snelson

"Oh, yeah," Marvin said, "yeah, she's in Detroit. So she must be okay, right? Can you like, you know, call her? Her number's on my cell phone."

"I'm afraid there's not much left of your phone, sir. Now please, let us finish checking you over. The hospital staff will be happy to call your wife for you."

"I don't wanna ..."

"Mr. Mavin, we'll give you something to help you relax." The EMT quickly injected Marvin with a tranquilizer.

"Ow! That hurt! Now look, I ..."

That was all Marvin said. He was once again unconscious.

"Gee," the EMT said to his partner, "I know the guy's a superstar and all that, but he sure is a handful. Let's get him off to the Emergency Room where he'll be someone else's problem.

# # #


Someone at the hospital did finally call Priscilla, who said she would take her private jet to Portland as soon as it could be readied. But the nurse in charge reassured Priscilla that Marvin wasn't seriously injured and would be released soon. She further told Priscilla that Marvin would be busy with the police and the FBI for quite a few hours, and it wasn't worth her flying all the way out from Detroit. Priscilla reluctantly agreed.

"Whew, dodged that one," the nurse said to the others in the nurses' station. "Can you imagine having a rich entitled prima donna right up in our faces?"

Marvin spent the night at the hospital with a policeman outside the door of his room. In the morning, he was discharged and the policeman took him to Portland FBI headquarters. He was interviewed for several hours.

"Cha Cha" Hopkins

He told the agents the whole story about Cha Cha, and they said they would look into it but that there was really very little to go on. Someone had launched a rocket propelled grenade at the hotel and hit the window of Marvin's room. The agents were inclined to think that wasn't accidental.

"The thing is," one agent said, "is that there's no evidence. Nothing on CCTV of any use, not even anyone at the front desk that can recall being asked for your room number. So we're kind of stuck. We'll keep investigating but meanwhile just watch your back, okay?"

With that, Marvin was sent back to his hotel, where he was offered a different room. "Of course," the clerk said, "there's the matter of damages to your other room. You know, the broken window and damage to the walls. Normally a customer would be asked to pay for this, but given the circumstances, the General Manager says we won't be charging you."

Marvin gave the clerk a bewildered look. "Yeah, real nice," he finally said, "me not having to pay for someone trying to kill me and all. Hey look, I gotta get to my match."

Marvin walked away. Golly, but a beer would be nice, except coach wouldn't approve.

He knew he really ought to call Priscilla before he got on the team bus to go to the match. But his phone had been smashed and he didn't have time to go to his new room and call from there. Prissy was going to be pretty upset with him but the hospital had told him they had been in contact with her and let her know that everything was okay.

Al Caius Caszmir

Marvin did his best in that evening's match. He was playing first board against the Paisley's top player, a fellow named Al Caius Caszmir. He had been a star in the Eastern Europe League before landing a contract with the Paisleys.

At some point, the game reached the following position. Marvin had winning chances and both he and his opponent knew it

White to Play and Win


Marvin spent a few minutes, fidgeting in his characteristic manner and muttering to himself. Finally he said loudly "Aha!" and was about to reach out and make his move when ...

# # #


Priscilla was shaking as she sat in one of her designer leather couches, her cell phone hanging loosely from her left hand, a glass of Chateau LaFitte in her right. She lifted the glass to take a sip but her hand was trembling so badly she had to set the glass down on the crystal coffee table in front of the couch. Even at that, she managed to spill a few precious drops.

She shouldn't have listened to that nurse last night. She should have ordered the corporate jet readied and flown to Portland at once. She could have been there inside of a few hours.

Instead she had tried to sleep with no success. Her chauffeur picked her up in the morning and took her to work as always, but she couldn't focus and ended up canceling her afternoon meetings and going home early. She had put on a yoga DVD but yoga didn't calm her either. Now it was early evening. She had no appetite and even a fine wine didn't appeal.

She hadn't heard any more from Marvin. All she know is that he had left the hospital and was supposed to be playing in a match right about now.

She had dismissed her security detail, figuring she was being overly paranoid. Now she wasn't so sure if it was a wise idea.

Finally she had enough. She was going. She needed to be with Marvin. He would be in Portland for two more days. She'd order the jet and who cared what the shareholders thought. She'd just reimburse the expense. Or get her Board to approve it as an emergency. She didn't care.


Rust Belt had a transportation coordinator on duty all the time. She called that office and made arrangements. The coordinator told her the jet could be ready to go in three hours; that's how long it would take to call in a pilot and a steward, do fueling and checks, and file a flight plan.

It was 7 PM. Priscilla arranged for a chaffeur to pick her up at 8. That would get her to the airport at 8:30. Maybe her arriving early would get the staff to move things along a little faster.

She spent the next little while packing a bag. As an experienced traveler, that didn't take very long.


At 8:00 there was a knock on her service door. Good. The driver was early. Transportation must have sensed her mood.

She went to the service door and peered through the spyport. It was a female driver she didn't recognize. Maybe they had hired someone new. She would have liked to have had her favorite night driver, Manny, but he must have had the night off.

She unlatched the door and swung it open. "I'm glad you're early, and I'm all set to go ... "

A strong foot kicked the door open the rest of the way and Priscilla found hersef facing a silenced 9 mm Glock automatic held by none other than Cha Cha Hopkins.


"Make a sound, lady, and it's the last one you'll ever make."

# # #

... a uniformed police officer came running across the playing field and over to Marvin's seat at home plate. He wore a sergeant's stripes, making him a little older than the less senior officers, and he was clearly out of breath. "Mr. Mavin," he began, "you need to come with me. Right now."

Marvin, his hand still outstretched over the board, ready to make his move, turned his head and said, "Hey there, bro, we're in the middle of a match here and you're interrupting. Now lay off, okay?"


"Sir," the officer replied, "I told you, you need to come with me now!" This latter was delivered in a commanding tone. "Now, I said."

Marvin looked around, seeing where the referree was ... there, sitting in his chair a few feet off the left side of the board.

"Hey ref," Marvin said, "can you tell this dude to like, buzz off?"

The sergeant's face turned red and with a beefy hand under each of Marvin's shoulders, he pulled Marvin up and out of his seat and started to drag him towards the player's entrance.

"Bro, I gotta make my move! My clock's running down! Let go of me!"

The sergeant didn't reply and just kept pulling Marvin to the entrance. Marvin was already through the door when the stadium announcer told the assembled crowd that Pietri Donaleki would be substituting for Marvin J. Mavin.


The policeman meanwhile had gotten Marvin into a small room filled with other police officers. They were standing around a tablet computer which was clearly running a video calling program. Marvin took a quick look and then a long look. He couldn't believe his eyes.

# # #

"Say hello to your beloved hubby," Cha Cha said, holding her cell phone up to Priscilla's face. Priscilla was tied firmly to a chair in her kitchen. Her hair was dishelved and she had a couple of bruises on her face. "He's got the police with him but that won't do you any good."

"Marvin!" Priscilla shouted. "Help me!"


"SWAT team is on the way," one of the policeman said to Marvin. "Don't worry." It all came through clearly on Cha Cha's end.

"I heard that!" Cha Cha said. "They'll never get here in time, and I'll be long gone."

She paused for a moment.

"And so will Priscilla. Watch what happens next, Marvin."

To be continued.

It's a tense situation for Marvin and Priscilla, but we'll have to wait until next month to see how things turn out. Yet you don't have to wait at all to try out today's problem, which is a very practical one. You won't need to call in a SWAT team; just solve it on your own and click on Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/17/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Beacon Cafe: A Valentine's Day Gift


Valentine's Day was just around the corner, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club was talking about Valentine's Day gift giving.

The year was 1955 and the place was the Beacon Cafe, on the ground floor of the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. The Coffee and Cake Checker Club, informally led by Sal Westerman, a kindly elderly gentleman, met at 1 PM sharp on Saturdays from September through May.

Meetings often followed a routine. The members--- Sal called them "the boys" even though all but one of them were at least 50 years old--- would visit a little over coffee. Then Sal would present a checker problem which he had selected during the week. The boys would try to solve it. If they did, Sal would buy them all treats, baked by Deana, the Beacon's proprietress and a baker without equal. If the boys couldn't solve it they'd buy treats for Sal and his wife Sylvia.

Young Blaine

But today young Blaine was in attendance, along with regulars Dan, Wayne, Larry, Mike, and Louie the Flash (that's what everyone called him).

You may recall our holiday story in which young Blaine was being pressured to make a Christmas marriage proposal to Moira, his long-time girlfriend. Blaine did indeed propose, and Moira accepted. It was a joyous holiday season for them, and they agreed upon a June wedding date.

It goes without saying that young Blaine was once again being teased by the rest of the boys. This time it was about what he was going to give his new fiancee for Valentine's Day.


"Come on there, young Blaine, she'd really appreciate a new car, maybe one of those Caddys," Dan said.

"Take it easy on me, guys," young Blaine replied, "I can't afford anything like that. I'm just a junior engineer at the power company. I'll be in hock for months for the engagement ring I got her at Christmas."

"Well, I can tell you if you don't come up with something nice, you'll be in hot water," Wayne said. "I think it's happened to all of us. Don't let it happen to you!"

"If you can't get her a new Caddy, maybe you could get her some more jewelry," Louie the Flash offered.


Deana, stationed as always behind her counter, chimed in, "Girls always like diamonds. Get her diamond earrings or a diamond necklace to match that engagement ring."

"I'm not made of money," Blaine said, "like I told you I'm a junior engineer with a junior engineer's pay. Wouldn't a dozen red roses do the trick?"


"Might be," Sal said, "but only if you take her out for an expensive dinner, like maybe at the Patterson." The Patterson Hotel was an upscale hotel with an upscale restaurant.

"That could work," Deana said, "but you still have to give her something on the side, and please don't say perfume."

Everyone nodded their heads, thinking back to a disastrous experience Sal had once had (see a previous Checker Maven story).


"You know what," Mike said, "offer to take her shopping at A. W. Lucas and buy her anything she wants."

"I hate shopping, young Blaine said. "But Moira loves it."


"See, we've got it all figured out for you," Louie the Flash said. "Invite her down from Minot for the weekend. Put her up in the Patterson, get her roses, take her out for dinner, and the next day take her shopping. She'll love it, and it shouldn't cost you more than ... well, less than a diamond ring, anyhow."

Blaine groaned and tried to change the topic. "Shouldn't we be solving Sal's checker problem instead of spending what little money I have left?"

That got a good laugh from everyone, and Sal said, "Very well then, here we go." He arranged the following position on one of the waiting checkerboards.

White to Play and Win


"Okay, boys," Sal said, "you've got an hour, and after that you'll be buying for sure."


"M & M bars today," Deana told the group. "Great for Valentine's Day."

The boys quickly forgot about teasing Blaine and dug into the checker problem. Meanwhile Sal ambled over to Deana's counter to chat a bit.

"I knew he'd propose," Sal said, "and I knew it would work out."

"It was pretty obvious," Deana replied. "You know how it works. He chased her until she caught him! I'm happy for them both, and I think he gets the message about Valentine's Day."

Sal and Deana both shared a smile and a chuckle.

The Checker Maven won't presume to suggest what you should or shouldn't do for Valentine's Day. That all depends on your own situation and your own preferences. But we do suggest you try out today's problem. Give it a "hearty" try and then with a "flowery" gesture, click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of today's little tale.

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02/10/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Revenge! Part I

Portland, Oregon

It was January and the National Checker League season was back in full swing after the holiday break. The Detroit Doublejumpers, a former championship team trying to make a comeback, was in Portland for a three match series with the Portland Paisleys. They would go on to San Franciso, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and finally Cleveland before beginning a home stand back in Detroit. It was a long road trip, and Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar champion of the Doublejumpers, would be away from his wife, Priscilla, for an extended period. (Recall that, in a previous series of stories, we recounted Marvin and Priscilla's summer wedding and European honeymoon.)

On a Monday the Doublejumpers had just arrived in Portland on a short flight from Seattle, where the Doublejumpers had swept a four match series with the Seattle Switchers. Everyone on the team was feeling good and the mood was upbeat.

Coach Davey Anderson

After a team dinner, carefully overseen by new head coach Davey Anderson to ensure that there would be no imbibing of spirits, something strictly forbidden during active playing dates, everyone retired to their rooms to relax and rest, as they would need to turn out for the team bus just after lunch the following day to go to the Portland Checkerdrome for practice sessions and then their series opener at 6 PM against the Paisleys.

Marvin decided to read the Portland newspaper instead of watching a movie on the room's big screen TV. The newspaper, the Portland Portlandian, had a daily checker column and Marvin enjoyed that even more than the funnies. (On occasion, he was even known to read the news although he didn't make a habit of it, leaving it to Priscilla to catch him up with current events when the Doublejumpers were at home.)

Tonight, Marvin decided to do things in reverse order. He got into his pajamas and bathrobe and read Blondie, Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, and his favorite of all--- Dennis the Menace--- before turning to the checker column. And it was there that he saw the following headline and news story.

Cha Cha Hopkins

"Disgraced Coach Finds Post in Semi-Pro League"

"Charity Chastity Hopkins, commonly known as 'Cha Cha', has taken a position as the Head Coach of the Manasquan Muppets, a semi-pro team in the Jersey Shore League on New Jersey's Atlantic coast. Cha-Cha, who had coached briefly in the majors, was accused of the attempted second degree murder of Marvin J. Mavin, the Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers. Charges against Cha-Cha were dropped due to a serious case of misgendering, but the NCL Players' Union said they would go on strike again if Cha Cha was made a coach in any NCL or affliate team, from the Majors right on down through the Rookie Leagues.

"Cha Cha was reported as having said, 'I wanted to stay in checkers. I'm a great coach and I have a lot to offer. I took what I could get, but someone of my caliber shouldn't be reduced to this. I blame that miserable maggot, Marvin J. Mavin. It's all his fault and one day I'll get even. He and that skanky wife of his had better watch their backs."

"When asked if she was threatening Marvin or his wife Priscilla, Cha Cha replied, 'It's not a threat, it's more like a promise.'

"NCL officials could not be reached for comment, but one representative who spoke on condition of anonymity said, 'We won't be pursuing this. After that misgendering incident, Cha Cha is pretty much untouchable.'"

The first thing Marvin wondered was why he hadn't been asked to comment. But he guessed that the NCL top brass warned off the press, again because of his misgendering Cha Cha and thereby getting criminal charges against her dropped due to his use of "fightin' words" (recall from previous stories that Marvin had called Cha Cha a "woman" and had failed to ask her for her preferred pronouns).


At the trial, Cha Cha had said she would get even. Now, she had gone public about it. Marvin further wondered if Priscilla had heard about this. Then, as if on cue, the room telephone rang before Marvin even had a chance to look at the checker problem printed below the news article.

Marvin located the phone on a nightstand next to the bed and picked it up.

"Hullo?" he said.

"Marvin, it's Priscilla. Why aren't you answering your cell phone?"

"Uh ... what? Oh yeah, that. I gotta charge the battery but I don't know what I did with the charger and I been busy and stuff so you know ... "

"Okay, stop. Look, dear, I'm still at work, it's been very busy, but I just got a call from one of my researchers."

"Still at work, wow, ain't it kinda late over there?"

A Rust Belt Holdings Property

Priscilla was the CEO of the international conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings and had a very busy work life.

"Never mind it being late, the researcher found an article that appeared in the checker columns of several major newspapers. It's about that woman that attacked you ... "

Marvin chuckled. "Yeah, Cha Cha. I just seen the article in the Portland newspaper. Kinda concerning."

"It sure is."

"Yeah, ain't nobody asked me what I think. It's all about that woman--- uh, I mean that person."

Marvin heard an exasperated sigh as Priscilla went on, "Marvin! She's threatening us! And she's very violent! What are you going to do about it?"

"I dunno. Ain't much to do. I'd just get in trouble again and after that hearing I don't need no more trouble. She ain't going to do nothing anyhow."


"She already tried to kill you once, how can you say that?" Priscilla paused. "Well, if you're not going to do anything, I will. I'm going to get Rust Belt Security to set up monitoring at home, in the office, and in my limo and all of my cars. And I suggest you tell your Coach about this."

At that, Priscilla hung up the phone.

Marvin thought about calling Priscilla back but then realized he first had to find his cell phone and charge it up. Then he thought he'd just get another earful in any event, or even worse, Priscilla might be angry enough not to even take his call.

It took him a good fifteen minutes to find his phone and charger, and by then he decided to call it a night. He didn't even bother with the checker problem the Portland paper had published that day.

Black to Play and Draw


Marvin, as was typical, slept through breakfast and was barely in time for the team bus. Upon arrival at the Checkerdrome, there was a working lunch with the Tactics Coach and then sessions with the Openings Coach and the Endings Coach. Blitz scrimmages followed and practice wound up about 90 minutes ahead of the match with the Paisleys.

The match went well and the Doublejumpers won handily by a score of 7 to 3. It was only when Marvin arrived back at his hotel room and ordered a room service dinner that he thought to look at his phone. The coaching staff didn't permit the team members to take cell phones to the stadium for fear they would be distracted, and most of the team couldn't wait to check for messages once they got off the bus at the hotel. Marvin, however, was not so attached to his phone.


To his utter consternation, his phone showed eighteen missed calls, two voicemails, and ten text messages. Every single one of them from Priscilla. Marvin started through them. Most of them just said "call me" albeit in a more and more exasperated tone. The final voicemail said, "I can't reach you so I tried calling the team office. They refused to put me through. They said your match can't be interrupted and they didn't care that I was the Team Captain's wife. I said I would sue. I asked them if they knew who I was and what a powerful position I held. They wouldn't budge. I've got a mind to call a lawyer and start a suit against your team. But if you don't call me right now I may call a different lawyer. The kind that specializes in divorce settlements."

That was the end of the message.

Needless to say, Marvin called Priscilla's number at once.

She answered at once. "About time," she said curtly. "Didn't you realize how urgent this is?" Then, not giving Marvin a chance to respond, Priscilla went on, "I got an envelope in the mail today. My office mail, no less."


"Uh yeah honey well gee, dontcha get a lot of mail and stuff?"

"Not this kind. It was a small brown envelope, hand lettered with no return address. It made me very suspicious. I called the mail room and chewed them out for not having it checked, and then had security take it off and examine it. And do you know what was in it?"

"Uh ... like ... a bomb or something?"

"No, no, although it's just as bad. You know that news article about Cha Cha and her saying she'd get even. Well, what was in the envelope was a copy of the article with "You're next after him" scrawled across it in red crayon."

"You're next ... like ... you're going to be the next pro-am coach or something? I can't figure ... "

"NO, you idiot, it's a THREAT! Don't you get it? A threat!

"Uh, yeah, you're right. You gonna call the cops?"

"I did. They said they can't do anything. There's no proof that this came from Cha Cha. But of course it did. So as I told you earlier, I have a Rust Belt security detail watching the house, and they'll be driving me wherever I need to go. But you better watch out yourself."

"Sure honey, yeah, whatever you ... "


The windows of Marvin's hotel room shattered as the rocket propelled grenade exploded against them. The phone dropped from Marvin's hand and everything turned black.

To be continued.

Will Marvin ever get to solve that checker problem? You'll have to tune in next month for the second part of this three part story. But you can solve it right now (we hope you haven't experienced any exploding windows) at your leisure. Don't bomb out. Solve the problem and then detonate your mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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