The Checker Maven

Beacon Cafe: The Challenge


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.

Don Steam

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 Nagel

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?"

The Home of the Fargo Club

"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."

Mayor Lips

"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.

White to Play and Win


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.null


It was around three-thirty when the boys knew they had it licked. They chose Dan to demonstrate the play.

1-6 10-15---A 6-10 15-19---B 10-15 11-25 31-27 White Wins.

A---11-15 22-18 15-22 6-15 White wins.

B---29-25 10-19 22-18 19-15 White wins.

"Nice problem," Wayne said. "Ed always comes up with great ones."

"That's why he's a grandmaster composer," Sal said. "He called this one 'shortstop.' But look, we've got an hour left before we have to go home. Let's play some good practice games."

The boys indeed played hard until almost quarter to five. They'd be back again the following Saturday to continue training for the big match with Fargo.

03/27/21 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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