The Checker Maven

Halloween At The Beacon


It was Saturday, October 29, 1955. That meant that Monday would be October 31. Halloween.

Now, every Saturday except during the summer and major holidays, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club met at The Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. Bismarck was a very traditional, home-town sort of place, and holidays were celebrated with enthusiasm.

Deana Nagle

So Deana Nagle, the proprietor of the Beacon and the best baker in a dozen counties, decided that on Saturday she'd give free coffee to anyone in costume. She couldn't do it on Sunday, when the Beacon was closed, or on Monday, when folks had to wear work clothes, so Saturday was it.

There's nothing a hometown likes more than something for free, and all Saturday morning, customers in various types of costume came in for free coffee. Of course Deana was as good at business as she was at baking, and as she expected, a lot of customers bought her baked treats. Deana had even dressed up herself--- as a baker, of course!


But the afternoon would be slower. Some folks still had leaves to rake and yards to prepare for winter, and important chores like that weren't put off in a town like Bismarck. Still, the Checker Club would be there. Would they wear costumes? Deana didn't know what to wish for. The "boys" of the Club (all of them over 50) drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of baked goods. It would be quite a bit of free coffee to hand out. On the other hand, the boys were good natured and usually left tips in addition to all the goodies they bought.


One o'clock rolled around and the first one through the door was Sal Westerman, the leader of the Club. Sure enough he was dressed as a college professor, in an academic gown and wearing a mortarboard. It suited him well, Deana thought as she poured him a cup of coffee and returned his greetings.


Next in was Wayne.


He was dressed as a farmer. Deana thought that hardly qualified, as Wayne grew up on a farm north of town. But he got his free coffee anyhow.


Then Dan came in. He was costumed as a cowboy--- not much of a costume in western North Dakota, but still, he was in the spirit of the day.


Next was Louie, appearing as the comic book character Flash (Louie's nickname was itself "Flash").


Sam then appeared, in a clown suit.


Finally there was Tom, appearing as a football player (Tom had played football in college).

That was a lot of free coffee already, and when Sal laid out the checkers on a board in the big booth at the back, and announced, "This is a tough one from my checker pal Brian in St. Louis," Deana knew the coffee would have to keep flowing.

White to Play and Win


"I've got raisin pumpkin bars today," Deana announced, and there were grins all around. She knew she'd be selling a good dozen of them in a little while, as the boys would each have one and some of them would take a couple home for their grandkids.


But for the moment, the concentration was intense. Deana sat back and relaxed. Half an hour passed and Sal called "Time!" She heard Wayne say, "We can't get it. You win, Sal. Show us."

She watched as Sal began to move the checkers and explain the solution.

You don't have to dress up in Halloween garb to solve this problem, unless, of course, you wish to do so. Costume or no costume, see how you do with this one. In the spirit of Halloween, it's "scary" hard! But don't be scared off. Try to find the win and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and explanatory notes. Who knows, you might win a (virtual) raisin pumpkin bar.null


10-7*---A,B 13x22 7-11* 15-18 11-15 19x10 9-14 10x17 21x30 20-24 32-28 24-27 30-26 22x31 28-32 White Wins.

A---32-27? 13x22 27-23 26-31 23x16 15-18 16-19 22-26 21-25 18-23---C 25-30 31-27 19-24 26-31 9-14 27-32 24-28 31-27 14-17 23-26 30x23 27x18 Drawn.

B---9-14? 13x22 14-18 26-31---D 18x25 15-18 25-30 18-22 10-14 19-23 32-28 22-25* 21-17 25-29 17-22 31-27* 22-26 27-24* 26x19 24x15 Drawn.

C---26-30 10-15 30x21 15x22 31-27 9-14 27-32 14-18 32-28 18-23 28-32 23-26 32-28 19-23 28-32 26-31 32-28* 23-26 28-32 26-23 32-28…draw. Please note that if the Black man on 20 were on 12 instead, then it would be the nice white win shown in Ben Boland’s Famous Positions p. 73, Bowen’s Twin #3, colors reversed.

D---26-30 18x25 15-18 10-14 19-23* 14-17 20-24 17-22 24-27 22x15 23-26 32x23 26x10 Drawn.

"Amazing," Wayne said.

"Scary hard," Dan added (have we heard that somewhere before?).

Then Sal said the magic words. "Okay, boys, time to buy those pumpkin bars!" Deana ended up selling the rest of her tray, 14 bars in all. It was worth all the free coffee.

And Deana got another surprise around four-thirty, when it was time for the boys to head on home and for her to start closing up. After saying their good-byes and making their exit, what did Deana see but a two dollar bill on the table! That was a really generous tip[1]. All the boys must have chipped in.


Deana couldn't help but smile. Her Halloween promotion had been a great success, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club had been a nice part of it.

[1] Two dollars in 1955 is the equivalent of nearly twenty dollars in 2020.

Our thanks to master problem composer Brian Hinkle, who created this problem and provided us with the solution and notes.

10/31/20 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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