Contests in Progress:
It wasn't just an ordinary Saturday for Sal Westerman and the members of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. Today, they wouldn't be gathering in the big booth at the back of the Beacon Cafe in Bismarck, North Dakota. Instead, a team of five club members would depart early in the morning, bound for Fargo, North Dakota, about 200 miles to the east.
It was the big day, the day that the Coffee and Cake Checker Club would contest a team match with Fargo's new Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, Let's Have Another Piece of Pie Checker Club.
And it wasn't just an ordinary match. Bismarck club leader Sal Westerman had exchanged letters with Professor Don Steam, the leader of the Fargo club, and the Professor's tone had been rather aggressive. They challenged each other to solve checker problems with neither club gaining the advantage, and now the fight for supremacy would take place over the board--- or rather, five boards, with the five top players from each club facing off.
The match would take place at high noon at the coffee shop of the Powers Hotel, the Fargo club's home venue. Sal, as captain, would play against Professor Steam.
Fueled with coffee and some sweet rolls made by Deana, the proprietor of the Beacon Cafe and a baker without equal in a dozen counties or more, the "boys" (all of them over 50) got on the road at 7 am for the nearly four-hour trip on Highway 10 to Fargo. They were all in good spirits. The team consisted of Sal, Dan, Wayne, Delmer, and Louie, and they were all squeezed into Wayne's station wagon.
They arrived at the Powers Hotel right on time and were greeted by the Fargo club at the entrance to the coffee shop. While the Fargo "boys" (all of them over 50 as well) were mostly quite friendly, there was a definite coolness between Sal and Professor Steam.
The format of the match was simple. Each player would play two go-as-you-please games with his opponent, once with Black and once with White. Two team points for a win; one each for a draw. The Fargo team would stand lunch for everyone after the match ended. Stakes for the match were five dollars per point, a pretty steep amount.
Professor Steam had notified the media and there was a reporter and photographer on hand from the local paper, the Fargo Forum. It was rumored that Fargo Mayor Herschel Lashkowitz would make an appearance at lunch to congratulate the winning team, although some thought he just was looking for a free meal.
It was almost time to start.
"Welcome to the first Fargo-Bismarck club match," Professor Steam announced to the small but growing group of spectators. "It's likely to be the last match, too, as we expect the Bismarck club to slink off with their tails between their legs after we demolish them today."
"Let's find out over the board!" Sal said, "and let's do it politely, shall we?"
"Well, then, it's time to get down to business," Professor Steam replied.
The match began just a few minutes later. Wayne and Dan were calm, but Delmer and Louie were a bit nervous and fidgety.
Nearly two hours passed. Delmer lost to Kraanz, 2-0, and Louie lost to Krabz, 2-0. But on boards two and three, Wayne beat Kracz 2-0 and Dan beat Kradz 2-0. On board one, Sal and Don drew the first game and were well into the second game. The score so far was Bismarck 9 and Fargo 9.
But in the final game of the match it appeared Professor Steam had the upper hand against Sal. The position on the board was as follows, with Sal to move.
Sal knew he would have to fight for a draw, just to draw the match, and it didn't look easy. To make it worse, Professor Steam kept up a barrage of trash talk.
"Give it up and save us some time. The Mayor's here and you're holding up lunch. You haven't got what it takes to pull off a draw. Why don't you just admit it?"
Sal did not reply. The referee, Miss Kraetz, should have asked Professor Steam to quit disturbing Sal, but she was from Fargo and clearly biased.
But Sal closed his eyes and focused, picturing the position in his mind. There ... there ... and there.
"Let's just play it through," he said, looking squarely at Professor Steam, "and we'll see just what happens."
Sal reached out and prepared to make his move.
Facing a rival who has done everything possible to infuriate you, how would you do? Could you save the match for your team? Think it over and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.[Read More]
The annual Spring Classic, the World Series of Checkers, was coming up soon for the National Checker League. But first there would be the Division Playoffs, and the Detroit Doublejumpers were facing the surprisingly good Kansas City Kingers for the American Conference title and the right to go on to the World Series.
The Doublejumpers had handily won their Division, but the Kingers had amassed nearly as high a winning percentage in their own Division of the American Conference. In a huge surprise that had oddsmakers scrambling for cover, the Kingers were leading 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 in the best of five playoff series. The Doublejumpers had to win the fifth match in order to force a sudden-death playoff. A tie wouldn't do.
And so the pressure was on as the match opened in the Kansas City Checkerdrome. The Doublejumpers fought valiantly on boards 2 through 5, but those games concluded with a 2-2 score. It was all down to first board, and that meant that the Doublejumper Captain, Marvin J. Mavin, would have to notch a win. Not a draw, but a win.
His opponent, the Captain of the Kingers, was a noted physician who left the University of Kelowna Teaching Hospital for the world of Major League Checkers. Everyone just called him Doctor Sharper because of his sharp wit, sharp play, sharp temper, and sharp elbows.
The game did not look good for Marvin, as he faced the following position.
"Resign now, my boy, or I'll even be generous and offer you a draw," said Doctor Sharper. "Save us both some time. The Kingers have outplayed your soon to be ex-champion team and you might as well just admit it and go drown yourself in beer afterwards."
"Oh, you think so, pill-pusher? Well Marvin J. Mavin ain't done 'til he's done."
"You're done! Ha ha! You have that part right at least!"
"Well I ain't one of your students and you ain't telling me nothing about who's better and who ain't."
"Taken a remedial English course lately?" the Doctor asked. "Sounds like you could use one. And for the record, I would never deal with a patient as non-compliant as you."
"You need a course in manners, sawbones. And maybe checkers, too." Watch this.
So saying, Marvin made his move.
Doctor Sharper seems quite sure of himself. Did Marvin find the winning move? Could you? Cast a sharp eye on the position and look for a sharp continuation, then click your mouse sharply on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.[Read More]
Sal Westerman had gotten another letter from North Dakota State University Professor Don Steam, who was the leader of Fargo's Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, Let's Have Another Piece of Pie Checker Club.
Recall that Sal's club, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, which met at the Beacon Cafe in Bismarck, had exchanged checker problems with the Fargo club. Each club managed to solve the problem sent by the other club, and the score was even.
It was a Saturday afternoon in March, 1955, and Sal and the "boys"--- none younger than 50--- were having their regular weekly meeting. Once again Sal was indignantly waving Don's latest letter about.
"Read it to us, Sal," said Dan, who along with Mike, Louie, Wayne, Delmer, and Larry made up the day's contingent.
Sal cleared his throat. "Dear Mr. Westerman, frankly we're surprised you were able to solve the problem we sent you. Maybe you aren't quite as bad as we thought you were. Or maybe you are and just got lucky. Well, with the score even, we propose that you come to Fargo for a match. Five boards, two games per board, go-as-you-please. We're giving you a break there, as we doubt you can handle three-move ballot. Match to take place in April. Prize five dollars per point. The loser pays the difference in scores to the winner. Will you show up and play, or are you all a bunch of chickens? Sincerely yours, Dr. Donald Steam."
Deana, the proprietor of the Beacon Cafe and the best baker anyone had ever met, gave a low whistle. "Five bucks a point? These Fargo guys must be loaded!"
"What should we do, boys?" Sal said. "The weather's usually a little better in April and driving to Fargo might be okay. But do we want to?"
"We sure do," Wayne said. "And we need to clean their clocks. Arrogant bunch."
Everyone nodded in agreement, although Dan said, "Can we afford it? What if we lose and have to pay them? A shutout would cost us a hundred bucks."
"We'll get sponsorship," Sal said. "I'll talk to the Mayor. He'll put up a stake for us." Mayor Evan Lips was a good friend of Sal's and could be relied on for support. "He might even cover our gas and lodging." Sal paused a moment. "But we better start practicing. Let's begin with a problem Ed sent me." Ed was Sal's checker pen-pal in Pennsylvania.
With perfect timing, Deana called out, "You boys are going to need some refreshments. I've got peanut butter bars today, fresh and hot."
Everyone smiled. "I'll buy today," Wayne said. "Deana, we'll need a dozen bars at least, and a lot more coffee!"
The boys began work on the following position.
After an hour, Delmer said, "Gosh, if we can't get this one, how are we going to beat ..."
"Hey wow man, you gotta think positive," Louie interrupted. "Here, have another bar and get back to work." Louie passed Delmer the now nearly empty plate of peanut butter bars, and the boys continued to study the position.
How would you train for a big, important match? Certainly solving some problems would be part of the program. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.[Read More]
It was spring break, and according to longstanding tradition, the National Checker League observed a weeklong holiday.
Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, wanted to do something with his long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson. But Priscilla, as a C-level executive at Rust Belt Holdings, was to be the keynote speaker at a conference in Turkmenistan, and she would be away from home during Spring Break.
That left Marvin on his own, and he decided to go on a road trip in his trusty if aging Volkswagen. It was something he did every so often; head off with no particular destination in mind, stopping over at cheap motels and eating in roadside diners and truck stops. He said it cleared his head. Of course he always stopped somewhere close to a dive bar where he could enjoy a couple of his favorite brews.
Somewhere in southern Indiana, Marvin pulled in at the Chuckie Checkers Truck Stop. He had read about it in his automotive travel guide; it was said to be a place where truckers who were checker fans (and what red-blooded trucker wasn't) liked to stop for a couple of informal games along with good food and coffee. Marvin put on his sunglasses and pork-pie hat in an attempt to go incognito. Often, it worked. But not always.
As he expected, the place was filled with truckers, families on vacation, and a few businessmen. Quite a few of the truckers had skittles games going while they ate their dinners and drank their coffee.
Marvin found an open seat at the gleaming chrome wraparound counter. A friendly waitress suggested the Trucker Special, a large slice of meat loaf served with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas and carrots. She brought him coffee right away; even Marvin knew better than to ask for beer in a roadside eatery.
While he sipped his coffee, Marvin took a look around. There was a large video display with a checker position shown on it. The position was titled "18 wheeler" and looked like the diagram below.
Sitting to the left of Marvin was a fellow who was obviously a trucker. He noticed Marvin's intent gaze at the display, and remarked, "Some guy Brian down in Missouri named that one for us. You know, 18-wheelers, the rigs we drive."
"You don't say, good buddy," Marvin replied. He knew about 18-wheelers and had learned some CB radio talk in a younger day. "Ten-four on that one!" Marvin grinned.
But the trucker didn't. "Hey, you makin' fun of me?" he asked.
Marvin couldn't miss the rather menacing look on the trucker's face. "Uh, no, I was just, like, trying to talk your lingo ..."
"That stuff went out thirty years ago, and you ain't even hardly that old," the trucker said. "What, you think all of us are hams? Hey, in high school I played for the school team. I was pretty good too. Ha! I know. You're one of them hams yourself. Probably couldn't even win two kings against one. Well, smart guy, hows about a little bet?"
Marvin swallowed hard. "What kind of bet?"
"You show how to win that 18-wheeler up there, I buy your dinner. You don't get it, you buy mine. And I won't make you apologize neither for gettin' my dander up if you be a sport and take my bet."
"And if I don't?" The moment he said it, Marvin regretted it.
"You don't wanna find out, 'good buddy.'" The trucker snorted. "Now what'll it be?"
Just then, the waitress brought Marvin his Trucker Special.
"Er ... you're on? After I eat?"
The trucker snatched away Marvin's plate and set it off to the side.
"Work before play. Hey, you shoulda ordered the Ham Special! Now get goin'. You got five minutes to solve it, just like anybody else."
We should point out to those readers not familiar with Willie Ryan's publications that "ham" is the name he gave to lesser players. We'd surely never call one of our readers a "ham"; we'd just prefer to say "improving player." But regardless of that, can you wheel out the solution? Truck right along and then click on Read More to see how it's done and read the conclusion of our story.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin, professional checkers superstar and Captain of the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers, had gotten himself into serious trouble with his long-time girlfriend, corporate executive Priscilla Snelson.
At her swank New Year's Eve party, Marvin had responded in what Priscilla felt to be an inappropriate manner to the advances of the Hollywood starlet known as Suzette Slinky. Priscilla threw both Suzette and Marvin out of her condo, and it was more than two weeks before Priscilla would even answer Marvin's phone calls.
Marvin, of course, apologized profusely. He sent candy and flowers and his own homespun version of love notes. He even considered taking out newspaper ads asking for forgiveness. But in the end, Priscilla came up with an alternative.
"If you want to get back in my good graces," she told Marvin during a tense phone call, "you'll do what I ask."
Priscilla told Marvin was to appear at the Annual Meeting of the Women's Entrepreneur Network Communal Help (WENCH), a non-profit of which Priscilla was President. The theme of this year's meeting was "How Women Can Be Equal Partners in Professional Sports."
But it was hardly as simple as just making an appearance. Priscilla, who had connections in very high places, arranged for Marvin to play a match with a rising Japanese checker star, Yuko Hashimoto. However, there was more to this than met the eye, though Priscilla wasn't letting on as to the full content of her plan.
Now, recall that Marvin had recently gone on trial for Misogynistic Microaggression Offending and Improper Gender Address in the court of the National Checker Federation. While Marvin won the case, most people thought it had been on a mere technicality and that Marvin had actually been in the wrong.
When Marvin appeared on the field in the Tampa Checkerdrome in front of 25,000 members of WENCH, he was greeted by a chorus of boos, jeers, and catcalls. Priscilla had told him what to expect, but Marvin was still taken aback.
"Aw, gee, folks," he said, being careful not to use the word 'ladies', "I ain't that bad."
This only made things worse. But when Yuko Hashimoto took the field, the booing subsided and was replaced by loud cheers and thunderous applause.
Marvin took a look at Yuko as she shook hands with him and then sat at the checkerboard. He was about to say something, but uncharacteristically thought better of it, and then the huge crowded hushed as the match began.
It was a tensely fought contest, and Marvin soon realized he was up against a top contender in Yuko. Finally, Marvin got what he felt to be a bit of and advantage, and thought he had a chance to win.
Marvin looked over at Yuko. He started to say, "Betcha can't ..." but the words caught in his throat as he pictured Priscilla glaring at him from her 50 yard line seat.
The position was as follows. Yuko was playing the White pieces.
Several minutes passed, with Yuko's gaze focused intently on the board. Then she looked up at Marvin. Her expression gave Marvin the shivers. Yuko didn't say a word and simply made her move.
Could you pull off a draw in this situation? Do you have Yuko's calm disposition and steady nerves?
This problem was sent to us specifically for this story by master problem composer Brian Hinkle. As our regular readers know, this means it will be a fine problem but not an easy one. The problem is Brian's modification of a correction to Ben Boland, as found by Jim Loy using the KingsRow engine.
When you're ready, click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of our story.[Read More]
"They solved it," Sal Westerman said, with obvious distaste. "They solved Ed's 'Kaleidoscope' problem. Now they say we owe them, and not only that, they sent us one in return."
It was a Saturday afternoon in February, 1955, and the "boys" (who were all over 50 years old) were gathering as they always did in the Beacon Cafe in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was a blustery day, snow mixed with rain and an iron-gray sky, and Sal thought the weather suited his mood.
Sal was the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, which had been meeting at the Beacon for years. Recently, what Sal referred to as an "upstart" club had sprung up in Fargo (see previous Checker Maven story). They called themselves "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, Let's Have Another Piece of Pie" and they had challenged Sal's club to a checker problem solving contest. Sal sent them his Pennsylvania pen-pal's "Kaleidoscope" composition, and Don Steam, the Fargo club leader and a professor at North Dakota State University, soon afterwards sent Sal a letter in reply.
"Listen to what this character told me," Sal said. He was waving Professor Steam's letter around. "'Send us something challenging next time. Something worthy of our skills. The solution to your trivial problem is below, along with one for your club to solve. Which you won't, because you haven't got the chops."
There were mutterings around the table in the big booth at the back of the Cafe. Larry, Dan, Wayne, Delmer, and Louie were on hand today. "Pretty rude and arrogant," Delmer said.
"And not only that," Sal exclaimed, "they sent us a problem composed by Brian in St. Louis! I thought Brian was my pen-pal, but he's been two-timing us!"
"Easy now, Sal," Larry said. "Brian is a nationally famous grandmaster problemist. He probably corresponds with lots of people."
Sal shuffled a little in his seat. "I suppose," he said, "but does it have to be that bunch of scoundrels?"
"Let's see it," Wayne said. "We better get it. We all ready owe them for one round of coffee and pie."
"Yes, and this Steam character told me to send him five bucks," Sal said. "Imagine!"
There was a low whistle from behind Deana's counter. Deana was the proprietor and a championship baker. She sold coffee for ten cents and her bars were two for a quarter. "Five bucks! Are there forty of them or something?" she asked. "But hey, I've got cherry granola bars today!"
"Sure thing," Sal said. "I'll buy a dozen. The boys need to be fueled up so they can crack this one."
"Thanks, Sal!" Wayne said, and the others added their agreement. "Now let's get at it!"
Sal laid out the following position on one of the checkerboards.
"No time limit today, boys," he said. "We just have to solve it."
A large platter of bars and a fresh pot of coffee arrived at the table. The boys dug in while talking over the problem.
Would you be able to handle Professor Steam's--- or should we really say Brian's--- challenging problem? Another fiver is on the line, and in 1955 that represented a significant amount (almost $50 in today's terms). You too can take as long as you want and indulge in your favorite snack. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.[Read More]
Sal wasn't happy. That didn't happen very often, and just about never on a Saturday afternoon at the Beacon Cafe in Sal's home town of Bismarck, North Dakota.
Every week during the checker season, Sal and "the boys"--- a group of checker enthusiasts who were all over 50--- met at the Beacon for an afternoon of checker fun, enhanced with the great baked treats made by Deana, the proprietor. The group even called itself The Coffee and Cake Checker Club, inspired by a passage in one of Willie Ryan's books.
So what was bothering Sal on his favorite afternoon of the week?
"Some nerve those fellows have," he said. "Can't hardly believe it."
On hand today were Wayne, Dan, Louie, Larry, and Mike. Dan said, "'Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, Let's Have Another Piece of Pie' --- it kind of has a ring to it, even if it is a bit on the long side."
As if on cue, the group, except for Sal, started humming the old tune of the same name.
Did Sal turn a little red? "Stop it, boys! Now cut it out, right this instant!"
The humming ceased and Louie said, "Gee Sal, I never saw you so upset before."
"How dare they!" Sal spluttered.
What had Sal so irritated is that a brand new checker club had started up in Fargo, North Dakota, about 200 miles east of Bismarck.. The Fargo group met at a coffee shop in Fargo's Hotel Powers, also on Saturday afternoons.
"They're just copying us in every way possible!" Sal said. "And then they presume to challenge us!"
In Wednesday's mail, Sal had received a letter from Don Steam, the leader of the new club, challenging Sal's group to a problem solving contest. The idea was that they would exchange problems and see who could solve the problem posed by the other group. Don closed the letter with, "The loser, which will be you, will send money to the winner--- that would be us--- to buy coffee and pie for our group. You haven't got an icicle's chance in August so we won't even talk about money for coffee and cake."
Sal had shared the letter with the group. "Yeah, they are pretty arrogant," Wayne said. "What they need is a good lickin'! Well, over the board, I mean."
"German chocolate cake today," Deana called out from behind her counter. "No pie!" Deana never missed a word that the boys said and was always on top of her marketing game.
"Well, boys, how about you try out this one from Ed," Sal said. Ed was Sal's checker pen pal in Pennsylvania. "Let's see if it's tough enough to show those braggarts in Fargo a thing or two. Ed calls it Kaleidoscope."
Sal, after a few deep, calming breaths, set up the following position on one of the checkerboards the boys had put out.
"See what you think," Sal said. "If you can win it, I'll buy the coffee and cake, but we'll have to find something harder to send to those big-talking upstarts. I'll give you, oh, half an hour or so."
The boys nodded in agreement and set to work on the problem.
 Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee is a famous song by Irving Berlin, first heard in 1932 in the show "Face the Music."
Is this problem tough enough to challenge the Fargo bunch? Take as long as you like and have some coffee and cake if you wish. Then click on Read More for the solution and the rest of our story.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was once again at a New Year's Eve party at the swank condominium home of his girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson. As was the case last year, Priscilla, who was a C-level executive at Rust Belt Holdings, invited only the elite of the elite, a sophisticated, moneyed crowd of influential executives, politicians, business magnates, and even a couple of Hollywood stars.
And Marvin. Who felt very uncomfortable. His idea of luxury consisted of a few cans of beer enjoyed while relaxing on a couch in front of the TV, clad in a sweatshirt and cut-offs. That wasn't going to happen at this upscale party.
Of course everyone present was passionate about checkers, the undisputed national sport, and so Priscilla had organized a little competition. Party-goers were invited to bring along a checker problem and attempt to "stump Marvin." The first one to do so would win a $4,000 bottle of French champagne, provided by Priscilla from her vast collection of rare wines.
"You can buy a lotta beer for four grand," was all Marvin had to say. But when Priscilla told him to do something, he did it, and there was no further discussion.
During the evening, Marvin was presented various problems by the party-goers. He solved them all with little difficulty. Of course, his success was aided by the fact that Priscilla had told her serving staff not to give Marvin anything stronger than tomato juice, as she didn't want a repeat of last year's embarrassments (see previous Checker Maven story).
When the clock struck eleven, Priscilla's little contest was winding down, and would end just before the New Year rang in. No one had yet claimed the bottle of 1955 Champagne Krug Clos d'Ambonnay. But then Suzette Slinky (the stage name of a very famous Hollywood movie star) sashayed up to Marvin and batted her eyelashes at him. Putting her hand lightly on his arm, she said, "Hey, big boy, wanna try a real checker problem?"
Now, Marvin and Priscilla had been in a relationship for quite a few years, and Marvin loved her dearly. But Marvin, being a guy like most guys, found someone like Suzette, well--- a little hard to resist. He smiled sheepishly and said, "Uh, sure, beautiful, whaddya got for me?"
Did Priscilla overhear him, or did her expression harden just a little, or did she turn in his direction for some other reason?
Suzette reached into her dress, such as it was, and pulled out a small slip of paper. "Here's something sweet for you, Marv," she said, as she ever so slightly touched her hip to his.
"Perfume," Marvin said, taking the paper from her hand and holding it near his nose. Their fingertips touched briefly. "Uh, yeah, I mean, a checker problem, right?"
"Sure is, Captain Marvin," she cooed. "You think you can solve my problem?" She put her arm around Marvin's waist and drew him closer.
Priscilla's expression, if had not changed before, surely changed now. She started across the room toward Marvin.
"Solve your problem?" Marvin said. "Oh, yeah, honey, I can ..."
"That's enough, Marvin," Priscilla snapped. "And as for you, Miss Slinky Hussy, you can leave right now!"
"Marvin, are you going to let her talk to me like that? Won't you protect me?" Suzette said, pulling Marvin even nearer and pouting at Priscilla.
"Hey, Prissy, you shouldn't ..." Marvin began, but he was immediately interrupted.
"OUT! NOW!" Priscilla pulled Marvin away from Suzette's grip and held him by his collar. "OUT! OUT! OUT!"
"Well, if that's how you are, Priscilla, and Marvin, if you're too afraid to say anything ..."
"I'm leaving," Suzette said, "don't worry. And don't think this won't be in the Movie Star Tattler tomorrow morning! You'll see, Miss Priscilla."
Priscilla kept her grip on Marvin's collar until Suzette made her exit and her stunned guests returned to their drinks and conversation. Then she dragged Marvin out to the kitchen, opened the service door, and propelled him into the corridor. Still holding on to him tightly, she called for the service elevator, shoved Marvin inside, and closed the door.. Through the door he heard, "Call yourself a taxi. You're not coming back to my place."
The elevator descended to the ground floor and Marvin stumbled out. Another door led him to an alleyway where he promptly tripped over some debris and landed in a pile of trash.
He started to shiver. It was cold in the alley, and just then he realized he had left his cell phone in his coat in Priscilla's hall closet.
Oh well, there was a bar he knew of nearby, where he could have a couple of beers and drown his sorrows. The bartender would get him a taxi. He would make up with Priscilla in a few days, although he knew it wouldn't be easy, and he would have to grovel ... a lot.
It was only very late the next morning when, alone in his apartment, Marvin awoke and found that Miss Slinky really had given him a checker problem on that perfumed slip of paper, one that she had gotten from her Uncle Brian in St. Louis.
It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club had gathered as they did every Saturday during the checker season at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. There would be no meeting over Thanksgiving weekend; the Beacon would be closed and everyone would be visiting with their families for the holiday.
So Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Club, wanted to have a really great session before the holiday weekend.
Deana, the Beacon's proprietor and the best baker anyone had ever met, felt the same way. As soon as the boys (all of them over fifty) had gathered in the big booth at the back, she announced, "I've got pumpkin raisin bars today. Thanksgiving special!"
The boys smiled and expressed approval. Today Dan, Larry, Wayne, Delmer, Kevin ("Spooler") and Louie ("The Flash") were on hand, along with Sal. Pumpkin raisin bars were a once a year thing and always eagerly anticipated.
"I've got one from Ed," announced Sal, "and I think, seeing that we're not meeting next week, you boys ought to buy me two bars when you can't win it."
"Only if you buy us two when we do win it," said Spooler. "Fair is fair."
"Not fair!" Sal objected. "There are six of you and just one of me." Sal went on, "But tell you what. If you boys can win it I'll buy a dozen bars for all of us to share. How's that?"
"Great!" said Flash. "Lay 'em out and let's get going. An hour, right?"
"Stacking the deck, are you?" Sal said. "Forty-five minutes and not a second more."
Sal arranged the checkers on one of the boards as follows.
"Hey, wow man!" Flash said, as he always did, while the rest just stroked their chins or groaned a little.
"Time's a wasting!" Sal chided. "Forty-four minutes and thirty seconds left!"
Anything from master problemist Ed Atkinson is bound to please--- and never be easy. Pumpkin bars sound good, even if virtual, but you'll have to earn one. See how you do (take as long as you wish) and then click on Read More to view the solution and conclusion of the story.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin
Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was in hot water.
In our previous story, Marvin faced off on Opening Day against Sunny Sunshine, Captain of the Dallas Defiance, and while Marvin won his game, Sunny was offended by some of his remarks. True to her promise, she filed charges with the Commissioner of the NCL, accusing Marvin of Misogynist Microaggression Offending (MMO) and Incorrect Gender Address (IGA). These were serious charges, and Sunny had the full backing of the powerful LTBO (Looking To Be Offended) Movement.
The NCL normally did whatever the LTBO Movement asked, for fear of having the NCL advertisers and sponsors boycotted.
A hearing was swiftly called, and it wasn't long before Marvin sat in the Hearing Room at NCL Headquarters in Belpre, Ohio.
His long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson, sat with Marvin at the Defendant's table.
They were joined by Marvin's legal counsel, Cynthia Worthingsworth.
At the plaintiff's table sat Sunny Sunshine.
Ms. Sunshine's personal legal counsel was Hazel "How High Am I" Hightower.
Joining the Plaintiffs as an amicus curiae was LTBO representative, Tom "Tommy Tom-Tom" Thomas.
Presiding over the hearing was the NCL Vice-President for Legal Affairs, Billie "Bill the Bill" Bilboy.
Mr. Bilboy rapped his gavel and called the hearing to order. "In the matter of Sunny Sunshine vs. Marvin J. Mavin," he announced in grave tones, "charges of MMO and IGA." Mr. Bilboy shook his head and added, "Serious indeed."
Ms. Hightower called Sunny as her first witness. As she was being sworn in, Priscilla looked over at Marvin. "What are you doing? she whispered.
Marvin had his phone out and was busy studying a checker problem. "It's a hard one," he whispered back. "That guy Brian in St. Louis composed it."
"Put that away," Priscilla hissed. "You might be held in contempt!"
"Aw, but I've almost ..."
"Silence in the Hearing Room!" Mr. Bilboy thundered. "One more disturbance from the Defendant's table and I will forfeit the case!"
Priscilla kept silent but Marvin didn't stop working on the checker problem.
Meanwhile, Ms. Sunshine was describing how Marvin had addressed her on Opening Day, explaining that he was disrespectful merely because she was a woman who was successful at checkers, and that until she insisted, Marvin refused to address her in gender-free terms despite her obviously being offended.
Her testimony ended and Ms. Worthingsworth stood up to cross examine.
Suddenly, Marvin leaped up and exclaimed, "Got it!"
Mr. Bilboy was about to pound his gavel when Ms. Worthingsworth said, "Sir, if you would please allow me a word with my client, I believe I can get everything under control."
Mr. Bilboy put down his gavel. "Very well, counselor, but see that this is the last of Mr. Mavin's poor behavior.
Ms. Worthingsworth went over to Marvin and Priscilla. "Look Marvin," she began, but Marvin cut in.
"I've got it! I've got it!" He was so excited he was fidgeting.
"Got what?" Priscilla asked, "your precious checker problem ... when your career is at stake?"
"Well, yeah," Marvin said, "I did solve the problem. See, what you do is ..."
"Never mind that," Ms. Worthingsworth said, "you need to sit down and be very quiet."
"No, no, no, that's not all," Marvin said. "Listen ... "
Marvin whispered in Ms. Worthingsworth's ear. "Oh," she said. "I see."
What did Marvin discover? A solution to the problem or perhaps something more?
This is another of Brian's challengers but we urge you not to try to solve it if you happen to be in a courtroom. Work it out in the comfort of your home and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story, in which you'll find out what Marvin told his lawyer.[Read More]