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 #72


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Marvin in Las Vegas: Good Luck 13

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Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, was in Las Vegas. His team had an exhibition match with the Las Vegas Lettuce, one of the top teams in the AAA West Coast League.

The Doublejumper coaches decided the team could do with a little recreation, and gave them the day off before the match. Now, Marvin would have liked to bring along his fiancee, Priscilla Snelson, but as CEO of Rust Belt Holdings it wasn't always possible for her to get time off. So Marvin had the day to himself.

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He read a few of those ads that you find in the hotel room magazines, and one of them mentioned a bar and restaurant called "Good Luck 13" that supposedly had craft beers and "the best burgers this side of anywhere."

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Good Luck 13 was within easy walking distance of the hotel, so around six in the evening Marvin moseyed on in. He found a clean and tastefully decorated place. There was a long curved bar, and a lot of booths with red leatherette seats. Being by himself Marvin decided to take a chair at the bar. He asked the bartender for a pint of his best local craft beer, and also a menu.

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The menu was full of praise for the burgers, of course, and there was a large variety. But the following menu entry caught his eye.

"Good Luck 13 Burger. $39.95. Thirteen three ounce patties with bacon, lettuce, tomato, seven slices of American cheese, Good Luck 13 sauce, and grilled onions. If you like, add $10 to try our 'Good Luck 13' blindfold checker problem, and if you solve it, the burger and the problem are BOTH free."

20220716-giantburger.jpg

Kinda like gambling, Marvin thought, but hey, it's Vegas. It would cost him $49.95 if he couldn't get the problem. However, how could he not be able to solve a checker problem? He was a top professional, and top pros play blindfold all the time. Or would it be cheating?

Marvin was a pretty straight shooter, so he told the bartender he was a professional player, and asked if he would still be eligible.

20220716-tender.jpg

The bartender laughed. "Yeah, everybody knows you, you're Marvin J. Mavin and you're real good, least you think you are. Well, don't matter none. You ain't gonna solve Good Luck 13. Ain't nobody never done it. I'll let ya in on somethin'. The management goes halfsies with me on the extra ten bucks, so I kinda like encourage people. So go for it, make me an extra fiver."

Marvin agreed, although privately he wondered what he was getting himself into. The bartender put in the order for the giant burger, and then showed Marvin a diagram with the following position on it.

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

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

"Okay, here's the rules. First, you got one minute to memorize this 'cause it's blindfold, remember? No takin' notes or arranging your french fries or nothing. Then the time limit's an hour, and you have to find 13 different solutions to this problem --- Good Luck 13, get it? Yeah, and different ways of jumping are okay but transpositions ain't. Ha ha, well there it is, bud! Your minute starts now."

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The bartender pulled out a stopwatch, set it to zero, and pressed the start button.

"Wait ... wait just a second. Thirteen solutions? You gotta been kidding ... "

"Them's the rules and times-a-running, bud. Better start thinkin'!"

After sixty seconds, the bartender snatched the diagram out of Marvin's hands and announced, "Fifty-nine minutes to go!"

"You said an hour ... "

"An hour total, bud. Ha ha, down to fifty eight fifteen now!"

The burger arrived about ten minutes later, a towering monstrosity of beef patties, cheese, bread, and fixings. But Marvin was deep into the problem.

"Let's see ... that's three ... no, here's another, so four ... thirteen? It has to be a trick of some kind ... "


Now, we can't offer you a free thirteen patty hamburger. You'll have to provide that for yourself. But we can supply you with a chance to solve an unusual and intriguing problem, without risking ten dollars or anything at all. Try to solve it blindfold if you can by just memorizing the diagram and working on it in your head. Otherwise see if you can do it without setting up a board and moving the pieces around. Or move them if you have to.

Spend some time on this and when you've found every solution that you possibly can, click on Read More to see the full suite of solutions and the rest of the story.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/25/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Winter: A Beacon Cafe Story

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March, 1955. The Kilauea volcano in Hawai`i had erupted. But in Bismarck, North Dakota, it was still winter, and the cold and snowy weather just didn't want to let go.

On a Saturday afternoon later in March Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, looked out of his living room window. It was about 12:45 in the afternoon, and the Club would have its regular Saturday meeting at one o'clock at the Beacon Cafe, the regular venue for the many years the Club had been in existence.

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It wasn't looking good out there. The temperature was at about 20 degrees. It could have been a lot worse but the wind was at 25 miles per hour and there was a combination of snow and freezing rain falling. While Sal almost always walked to the Club meetings--- it was usually just a leisurely 10 minute stroll--- this time he didn't think it would be such a good idea. The sidewalks and streets would be treacherous, and he didn't want to take another fall as he had during a previous winter.

Well, he'd ask his wife, Sylvia, for a ride. That was something that she would be happy to help with, as she always worried for his safety (Sal, at 73, wasn't getting any younger). But there was just one little problem.

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Phoebe

Sylvia's sister Phoebe was visiting. She had come from Dickinson a few days earlier and wouldn't go home until Tuesday. And Phoebe's goal in life was to make Sal miserable, or at least so it seemed.

Sylvia and Phoebe were at the kitchen table, chatting over a pot of tea. Sal knew what he was getting himself into, but he went into the kitchen and said, "Sylvia, do you think I can get a ride to the Beacon? The weather is awful and ... "

Phoebe interrupted, skipping her usual preliminary throat-clearing. "Can you not see that we are busy chatting? How rude of you to interrupt! And furthermore, you say the weather is awful but you expect your wife to go out driving on such a day? Is it some sort of emergency? Well, speak up, then!"

"My checker club ... "

"Your checker club? Why of all the foolishness." Phoebe looked over at Sylvia. "Sister dear, I thought we had spoken about you forbidding this ... man ... of yours from wasting more of his time on this checker nonsense of his, when he should be helping you with laundry and cleaning and so many other important things." She turned back to Sal. "Checker club, indeed! You can stay at home, where you belong, and do something useful for a change. Now, leave us alone and go wash some windows or something."

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Sal addressed Sylvia again. "Syl, I'm going to be late ... "

"What did I just tell you?" Phoebe exclaimed. "How dare you!"

"It's fine, Phoebe, it's fine. I'll be right back." She stood up. "Come on Sal, I'll take you. I don't want you out walking today."

Sal and Sylvia exited the kitchen, leaving Phoebe sputtering into her teacup. About five minutes later, Sylvia stopped in front of the Beacon's entrance at the Provident Life Building.

"Be sure to call for a ride home," Sylvia said as Sal exited the car.

"Thank you, sweetheart," Sal said, "and my regards to your sister."

Sylvia gave Sal a sharp look, and then laughed prior to driving off.

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It was already about ten after one, and as Sal entered the Cafe he saw that there was a smaller than usual group gathered in the big booth at the back. Wayne and Dan were there, as were Delmer and Louie the Flash, but that was all.

"Bad weather today," Sal said as he reached the back of the cafe, "must have kept most of the boys away." Sal referred to the members of the Club as the "boys" even though all but one of them were at least 50 years old.

"Well, we're here Sal," said Wayne. "But you're never late, so we wondered what went wrong."

"Phoebe is visiting," Sal said tersely.

"Oh," Dan said, and the rest of the boys quietly nodded their heads. They knew all about Sylvia's sister.

"Well, I'm here now," said Sal, "and I have a nice one from Brian in St. Louis." Brian was a grandmaster problem composer and one of Sal's checker pen-pals.

Sal looked over at Deana, the proprietress of the Beacon, who was stationed as usual behind her counter. "What have you got today?" he asked.

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"Double chocolate brownie bars," she said, "just the thing for a winter's day. And lots and lots of fresh hot coffee."

"Well then," Sal said, "here you go." He laid out the following position on one of the checkerboards that the boys had set out.

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

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

"I think you boys will be buying today," he added. The tradition was that if the boys could solve the problem Sal would buy the bars, otherwise the boys would.

But as always the boys were already hard at work and didn't reply.


If, wherever you may reside, you experience bad winter weather, we do hope you'll be cautious when out walking or driving. Meanwhile, though, stay indoors and enjoy Brian's problem. A warm mouse click on Read More will of course bring you to the solution and the conclusion of our little story.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/11/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin Concedes


Marvin and Priscilla

In our last story, Marvin J. Mavin, the team captain of the championship Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League, went on a weekend vacation to Key West, Florida, with his fiancee, Rust Belt Holdings CEO Priscilla Snelson.

The vacation didn't turn out the way either of them would have wished. Priscilla was insistent on setting a wedding date for the coming June, and Marvin was--- a little hesitant. Priscilla, as she sometimes does, got quite upset, and sent Marvin off to a hotel on the seedy side of town. They flew home separately, and, not for the first time, they hadn't seen each other, let alone spoken, for several weeks.

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Regular readers of this series know the drill here. Priscilla expected Marvin to apologize and to accept Priscilla's wedding plans. There would be no negotiation, not that Marvin could ever win a negotiation with the high-powered CEO of a multinational corporation.

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For the first week after the ill-fated weekend excursion, Marvin was himself angry with Priscilla. He thought it was pretty extreme on her part to send him off to a hotel that wouldn't even have rated one star if anyone had been brave enough to stay overnight and make a rating. Marvin focused on his play, as the Doublejumpers had a busy schedule including 10 days on the road.

But Priscilla was Priscilla, and after so many years of seeing each other, Marvin was used to it. When he got back to Detroit after the team's road trip, he had softened to the point that he was ready to do whatever it would take to make up with his fiancee, and he hoped Priscilla would be ready to accept his overtures.

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She wasn't. For the coming week, she wouldn't take his calls or answer his texts. That stretched into nine days, and the Doublejumpers were facing another extended series of "away" matches. Marvin just had to get this settled before the team left town again.

So finally Marvin lined up his best move. He made a dinner reservation at Priscilla's favorite restaurant, the very upscale and very expensive "Le Faux Luxe." He rented a tuxedo from Swirly Tuxedos and Gaudy Gowns, putting up with the condescending attitute of the snooty proprietor. (Le Faux Luxe was very strict about their formal dress code.)

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Then he sent a text to Priscilla, telling her about the reservation. This time she responded, even though it was just with a single word, "Okay." Further texts and calls went unanswered, but at least this was something.

The day came. Marvin picked up his tuxedo and endured the proprietor's endless recitation of dictates as to how the garment should, no, must, be worn. Marvin eventually managed to get himself into it, and then took a taxi to the restaurant, knowing that the valet there would have refused to park his beloved old Volkswagen. (That was another of Le Faux Luxe's rules; only cars of "suitable appearance" were allowed in the parking area. A late-model Lexus just barely met this standard.)

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Gaston, matre d' at Le Faux Luxe

The reservation was at 7:30, and, quite uncharacteristically for Marvin, he arrived early, at 7:15. Of course the maitre d' asked if Marvin really cared to be seated before the arrival of Ms. Snelson, but Marvin got his back up a little and insisted. It would only be 15 minutes. Priscilla was nothing if not punctual.

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Marvin thought about ordering a beer while he was waiting, but then thought twice. The waiter would probably have sneered out loud. So instead he ordered club soda with a twist of lime, something he didn't especially like but wouldn't cause a fuss.

At seven thirty, Priscilla had yet to arrive. This was not at all like her. She was always punctual with Swiss-train precision.

Seven forty five. Eight o'clock. Eight thirty.

No Priscilla.

Marvin had been passing the time doodling with his pen on the tablecloth. He had drawn out a checker problem and was looking it over when the maitre d' stopped by Marvin's table.

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

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

"Sir, what are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm trying to see how White can win. See, if you ..."

"Our tablecloths are not checkerboards, and you will kindly stop defacing them. Now, I need to point out that the restaurant is very busy tonight. Perhaps, sir, you might wish to leave, seeing as how Ms. Snelson is obviously engaged in more important matters at the moment and we really don't like having ill-mannered customers ... "

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The maitre d' was interrupted by the rapid click-click of high heels as Priscilla suddenly appeared at the table. "It's okay, Gaston, we'll keep our table, thank you," Priscilla said. Looking down, she added, "And a fresh tablecloth, at once, if you please."

"Of course, Madame," replied Gaston, "Right away Madame. I was merely ... "

"Never mind," Priscilla said curtly, and the maitre d' quickly scurried away.

"Hey, Prissy, you're late ... " began Marvin.

"I was making a point," Priscilla said, "and don't you dare call me Prissy. If you want me to wait to get married, you can wait an extra hour for dinner. That is, if we get married at all."

"Aw gee, honey, I just wanted to make up with you ... "

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"Don't you dare call me honey, either!" Priscilla exclaimed. "So you want to make up? Well, where are the flowers? Shouldn't you have thought to have a dozen roses sent to our table? Exactly what do you want to do in order to make up?"

"Hey, I set up this dinner at your fave place and I even went and rented this here fancy suit ... "

"Not good enough."

"C'mon, just tell me what to do ... "

"You shouldn't even have to ask. That just makes it worse. You know what to do. You agree to the June wedding date that we picked. That's what it will take. For starters."

"We agreed? You picked it ... "

Priscilla put her palms flat on the table. "Look, Marvin. It's like this. We either get married on June 10 or we don't get married at all. Your call. You've got about five seconds to make up your mind."

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"But ... "

"Three ... two ... "

"Okay, okay, June 10."

"Well, you don't sound very enthusiastic."

"Sure, sure, June 10, I'd love it, I mean I'd love to."

"Say it. 'Priscilla dear, I'd love to get married on June 10 more than anything else in the world.'"

Marvin repeated this back to Priscilla in something of a flat monotone. He knew when there was no use arguing any longer.

"You could have said it with a little more spirit. But I'll accept your statement. Now, shall we order dinner? I'd like to start out with champagne to celebrate our ... agreement. Perhaps a bottle of Dom Perignon Cuvee 2003?"

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"Dom whatsis ... ain't that kinda expensive?"

"Oh, Marvin, it's not even $1,000, and consider the occasion ... don't be cheap. You can afford that and a lot more."

Priscilla also ordered a platter of escargot with chervil garlic butter, served on grilled mushroom caps, and then the Beef Wellington for two, accompanied by a Chateau Lafitte Burgundy. That was followed by a green salad, and a dessert of the house specialty, creme brulee, with a California Sauterne. Finally coffee was served. By that time it was almost 11 o'clock.

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"Well, Marvin, you've been a good sport, at least mostly," Priscilla said as the waiter handed Marvin the check. She overlooked Marvin's grimace as he muttered under his breath, "Two thousand bucks ... "

Priscilla continued, "I'll have my driver take us home. You can come over to my condo tonight if you wish." Marvin noted it sounded more like a command than an offer, but at least he was back in Priscilla's good graces.

Marvin dearly loved Priscilla. And there was little doubt that she dearly loved him. It was just that it didn't pay to disagree with her. Ever.


It's a shame that the problem Martin drew out on Le Faux Luxe's expensive linen tablecloth went straight to the laundry room. But you can still try to solve it, even if it likely won't be accompanied by an $800 bottle of champagne (although, who knows?). As always, clicking on Read More will reveal the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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

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

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Sal Westerman

Sal was sitting in the big booth in the back of the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building on N. 5th Street in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was a Saturday afternoon, the meeting time for the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. Several of the "boys" (all but one over age 50) were present. Regulars Dan, Wayne, Larry, and Delmer were on hand, as well as Louie the Flash and young Blaine.

You might recall from a previous story, Sal once forgot to get a Valentine's gift for his wife, Sylvia and had to make a last-minute dash. But this year, 1955, was different. Sal had taken care of things that very morning prior to coming to the Beacon. He told Sylvia he was going to meet a friend for lunch. He figured a little white lie wouldn't do any harm.

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Sylvia Westerman

"So what did you get for Sylvia?" Larry asked.

"I went to the department store and got her some of her favorite perfume," Sal replied, "and it was plenty expensive."

"Gee, Sal, how did you know you got the right one?" Larry went on. "I didn't know you knew about those sorts of things."

"Oh, easy," Sal said, "I looked on her dresser and noted down the brand name. Then I just went and got the same one. Look, see, I have it right here."

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Sal took something from a shopping bag on the seat beside him. It was a box that said "Intimate by Revlon" in delicate print. He opened the box and withdrew a slim bottle.

"Uh, Sal, can I see that for a moment?"

That was Deana, the proprietress of the cafe, who was both a fabulous baker and a careful observer who missed nothing.

Sal took the bottle over to Deana's counter. She examined it quickly and said, "Sal, I hate to tell you, but you bought Intimate eau de toilette, not Intimate perfume. Now I'm sure that's a nice gift but maybe not quite what Sylvia's looking for."

"Eau de what?" Sal asked. "You mean perfume is different?"

"Afraid so, Sal. But look, if you hurry over to the store you can exchange it."

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Sal sighed while the "boys" tried not to laugh. Sal would have to miss a good hour of the club meeting, as the lines at Lucas were always long on a Saturday.

"Oh, my," was all he said.

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"Sorry to have been the bearer of bad news," Deana said. "But I have heart shaped cherry bars today. A treat for you when you return from the store."

"Thank you, Deana," Sal said. He turned back to the "boys" at the big booth. "Well, look," he said, "I have a problem to show you. Maybe you can work on it while I'm ... out."

"Sure Sal, sure," Wayne said, "and we'll buy the treats today, okay?"

Wayne got a couple of odd looks from the others. That wasn't the tradition; normally the "boys" would only buy if they couldn't solve Sal's problem, otherwise Sal would buy. But no one objected out loud.

"Okay, here you go," Sal said. He set up the following position.

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

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

"Off I go now," he said, and hurried out the door, heading in the direction of the Lucas Department Store.

It was over an hour until Sal returned, out of breath but smiling. He went straight to Deana and showed him his exchange. "I had to wait a long time, there was such a mob," he said, "but I got it."

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Deana smiled as she looked at the Revlon box. "Yup, you got it right, Sal! Great work! Sylvia is going to be mighty pleased."

As Sal went to the big booth to have a seat, Delmer announced, "We solved it, Sal."

"Cherry bars coming up!" Deana said, once again not missing a word. In an instant, she delivered a big tray of treats to the boys and then refilled all of their coffee cups.

"Okay, Delmer, let's see it," Sal said, "show your stuff."


As usual with our Beacon Cafe stories, unless it's 1955 and you're in Bismarck, you'll have to supply your own coffee and cherry bars. But there's no closing time so you can take as long as you wish to solve today's problem. When you're done, click on Read More to see how Delmer and the boys solved it.20050904-symbol.gif

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Setting the Date: A Marvin J. Mavin Story

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Marvin J. Mavin

The Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League had a weekend lull in their schedule, and Marvin J. Mavin, their superstar captain, was going on a quick vacation with his fiance, Priscilla K. Snelson.

Priscilla, as CEO of the multinational conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings, didn't get much time away from the job. But she had her executive assistant work it all out. The couple would fly out from Detroit mid-day on Friday, arriving in Key West, Florida, late that evening. They could leave Sunday afternoon and be back in Detroit in time for a few hours of sleep before starting the next workweek.

When Priscilla phoned to suggest this to Marvin, he was all for it, and the conversation continued something like this.

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"Gee, hon, that's a great idea! What kinda beer you suppose they got in Key West?"

"Oh, Marvin! Is that all you care about? We'll have a weekend together and can enjoy a break from cold weather. We can go to the beach, eat seafood, and ... we can talk about setting our wedding date."

There was silence on the other end of the phone connection.

"Marvin, did you hear me? Doesn't it all sound grand?"

Now, Marvin truly loved Priscilla, and even though their engagement was pretty much her idea, he did want to marry her. Eventually. It's just that he wasn't exactly in a big rush. He liked his shabby apartment, his old Volkswagen, his tatty clothes, and his free lifestyle. Even though he had a multiyear, multi-million dollar contract, he just wasn't into material things.

Priscilla, on the other hand, owned a small fleet of expensive cars, lived in a very large upscale condo, and dressed to perfection in a designer wardrobe.

Marvin was a bit --- fearful.

20221221-thedate.jpg

"Uh, yeah, hon, yeah, we can, you know, talk about dates and stuff. I guess."

"Not 'I guess.' I've made all the plans and it just remains to set a date. But we'll talk more about it." With that, Priscilla ended the call.

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The fated weekend came and Priscilla and Marvin flew together in first class to Key West. The weekend started out well, with an oceanside breakfast in their four star resort hotel (Priscilla couldn't find a five star hotel, which would have been her preference). They followed breakfast with swimming and sunning on the beach, a fabulous seafood platter for lunch, and then more time on the beach. It was only after freshening up at the hotel, when they decided to take a walk into the town's historic district before dinner, that Priscilla brought up what she called the "main topic."

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"Well, Marvin dear, what do you think about a June wedding?" Priscilla asked as they began their stroll, hand in hand. "It's very traditional."

"Uh, June ... that's like in five months ... ain't that kinda rushed?"

"Rushed? Marvin, we've been engaged for the better part of a year now. I believe in an appropriate amount of time for an engagement, but I think a year is more than adequate."

"Yeah, but ... "

Priscilla let go of Marvin's hand and stopped walking. "'But' what, Marvin?"

Priscilla's hands were now on her hips. Marvin knew this to be a clear warning sign.

"But ... well you know ... we gotta get everything prepared and stuff ..."

"Everything is already prepared. I've settled on all the arrangements, the guest list, the menus. Everything. And you know that very well."

"I kinda ... like ... uh ... hey, it's fun being engaged. Love to have fun, right?"

Now Priscilla glowered. Not good at all. "Yes, dear, fun is wonderful. But do you know what an engagement is?"

"Sure, it's like when I give you an expensive ring and ... oh, yeah ... "

"Right, Marvin, it's a promise to get married. And that's exactly what you're going to do. In June. Do I make myself clear?"

20221221-marvinkids.jpg

But before Marvin could answer, a group of children, most of them in the nine to twelve year old range, came running up to Marvin and Priscilla.

"Hey," one of them said, "aren't you Captain Marvin J. Mavin?" The rest of the children, about seven in all and a mix of boys and girls, all echoed this question.

"Well, yeah, that's me," replied Marvin sheepishly, "but we're like kinda busy right now ... "

Marvin's latter words went unheard. "Captain Marvin, Captain Marvin, can you give us a lesson? Just a quick one, please, please, couldya please?" the children pleaded.

20221221-sunset.jpg

Marvin looked at Priscilla. Priscilla looked back at Marvin. "Well, go ahead then," Priscilla said. "You've disappointed me. Don't disappoint the children, too. I'll just go back to the hotel and watch the sunset. We'll talk more tonight. A lot more. You can certainly count on that."

Without another word, she turned on her heel and strode off rapidly back in the direction of the hotel.

Was Marvin disappointed and worried? He would save that for later. At the moment, he actually felt a bit of a sense of relief, although that in turn was tinged with a bit of guilt. But the kids were waiting.

"Okay, kids, got a set handy?"

"Over here Captain Marvin," one of them said, and with two others taking one of Marvin's hands each, they led him to the side of the street where there was a checkerboard set up on a little table in front of a shop. "Here you go, Captain Marvin, now teach us!"

"All right then, take a look at this."

Marvin set up the following position.

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

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

"Now, this one ain't exactly easy, in fact it's kinda tough but you look like tough kids. Think you can figure it out?"

There were many affirmative replies, and with a lot of chatter among themselves, the children worked on the position. After a few minutes, one of them said, "Captain Marvin, how about this?"


In Marvin's world, checker fans are everywhere, and kids look up to their checker superheroes. It certainly was good of Marvin to spend some time with his young fans, although what he might face when he gets back to the hotel may be less pleasant.

But for now, can you match wits with the youngsters? See how you do and then click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/28/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Beacon Cafe: Frostnip

20190430-beacon.jpg

The second half of January was typically the coldest time of the year in Bismarck, North Dakota, and 1955 was no exception. It was Saturday, and the temperature at noon had only reached -15F, after an overnight low of -30F, with the same expected the coming night.

At those low temperatures, the air can't hold much moisture, so it was usually sunny and clear. The sun warmed things up a bit, but everyone knew from long experience that after sunset, it would get a lot colder, and quickly.

null
Sal Westerman

Fortunately, there wasn't much of a wind. At about fifteen minutes before one, Sal Westerman, the eldery gentleman who was the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, bundled up for his walk to the Beacon Cafe, where the club met every Saturday afternoon.

"Don't forget your sunglasses!" his wife, Sylvia, called out as Sal was just about to open the front door. "There's a lot of glare off the snowbanks!"

"Thank you dear," Sal replied. "I'm all set."

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As Sal went out and walked along, the snow on the sidewalks made the typical high pitched crunch characteristic of really cold weather. By the time Sal had walked the four blocks or so to the Beacon Cafe, his face was feeling a bit numb and his ears were cherry red. Uh-oh ... Sal wore a wool cap under his fedora, but he had forgotten to pull it down over his ears.

He pushed open the door and entered the Cafe. Deana, the proprietress, greeted him as always but immediately noticed his red ears. "Hey, Sal," she said, "do you have frostbite ears?"

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"I'm afraid so," Sal replied, "I forgot to cover them."

Sal took a seat in the big booth at the back of the Cafe. He was a little early and was the first arrival. Deana brought over a steaming cup of coffee. "Warm yourself up, Sal," she said, "but not much we can do about your ears. You'll have to just grin and bear it. Want a couple of aspirin?"

Sal's ears now felt very hot, and were starting to throb. "I think so, Deana, thank you."

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As Deana went back to her counter to get some aspirin and a cup of water, the "boys" --- all but one of them over age 50 --- started to arrive. Tom came in, followed by Dan, Wayne, and Sam. It was going to be a small group today; no doubt the cold weather kept some of the others away.

"Well, look at that," Wayne said, "Sal, you got frostbite ears!" He chuckled, but then added, "Sorry, I know it isn't really funny, but you should see yourself!"

Dan and the others added their own sympathetic remarks, tinged with a bit of teasing humor. Sal took his aspirin and kept drinking his coffee.

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Deana came back to the booth and served coffee to all of the boys, who took the mugs eagerly. "I've got a nice winter treat," Deana said, "I made up some double chocolate fudge bars. They'll really warm your insides! And Sal, I'll give you one on the house just 'cause I feel kind of bad for you."

That was quite a moment. Deana was as good a businesswoman as she was a baker, and seldom gave freebies. However she quickly added, "The rest of you ... you're on your own!" She punctuated the remark with a hearty laugh.

"Well, boys, if Deana buys for me, how can you?" Sal asked. The tradition was that Sal would show the boys a checker problem. If they could solve it, Sal would buy for everyone, but if they couldn't, the boys would buy their own and also for Sal.

"Oh, that's easy," Sam said. "You just buy for us no matter!"

"Well, well, you've got me there," Sal said. "Okay, here's one for you. It's from my Pennsylvania checker pen-pal, Ed."

Sal set up the following position on one of the checkerboards.

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

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

"You know, Sal, the red pieces are the same color as your ears!" Dan said. But he didn't get a laugh, as the boys were already deep into analyzing the position on the board.


If you live in cold country, no doubt you know to keep your ears covered and your head warm on those really harsh winter days; and you'd likely rather be indoors with a hot cup of coffee, solving a checker problem. But whatever the current weather at your location, try out Sal's problem and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/21/23 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin's New Year's Eve


Marvin and Priscilla

It was an opportunity that only came along a couple of times a year. Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, and Priscilla Snelson, CEO of megacorp Rust Belt Holdings, had time off together.

The National Checker League went on a 10-day hiatus during the holiday season, and Marvin was free from team commitments. Priscilla, who seldom took time away from her work, decided to take a week of vacation. As Marvin's finacee, she wanted them to have some precious time together.

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Detroit in December doesn't have the best weather, and so they decided to visit Hawai`i. They spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together, staying at the very upscale Hale Ali`i Hotel, enjoying great food, views of the ocean, relaxing spa visits, and sunning on the beach.

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But they decided that New Year's Eve should be special. They really hadn't done a lot to celebrate their engagement, even though it had taken place several months ago, and that would be the night. They booked the deluxe option of the famed Crown of Honolulu New Year's Eve dinner cruise, which included champagne, a gourmet filet mignon and lobster dinner, stellar live entertainment, drinks, and beautiful views of the O`ahu shoreline and the midnight fireworks display over Waikiki. It was expensive--- Marvin was heard to remark "How many hundred bucks a ticket did you say?"--- especially as Priscilla also booked a private limo from the hotel to the pier and back.

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New Year's Eve came along, and at 9 PM the limo picked up Priscilla and Marvin in front of their hotel. After a smooth and luxurious ride they arrived at the pier just in time for the dockside entertainment put on by a traditional hula halau. Then they boarded the ship and rode the elevator up to the open-air top deck.

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Quite a few people were doing just the same. The cruise would, as always, be sold out. Canapes and drinks were immediately availble. Priscilla had a Blue Hawai`i while Marvin tried a local craft beer. Everyone on board seemed content.

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At 10 PM sharp the ship left the dock and sailed out into the calm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Dinner was served at once. There were seats assigned; Priscilla and Marvin were seated at a table with couples from Texas, California, Vermont, and even London. The service was impeccable and the cuisine outstanding. A live band played soft jazz during the dinner, which finished with a traditional haupia pudding and Kona coffee.

Dinner ended a little after 11, and the shipboard guests would now have time to take in the views, perhaps enjoy another drink, and prepare for the coming of the New Year.

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Priscilla and Marvin were feeling the magic of the evening. The warm and gentle Trade Winds swept the deck, and they strolled about hand in hand, looking out at the dark ocean and the lights of O`ahu beyond. In the distance they could see the island of Moloka`i. Everything was perfect.

Priscilla looked into Marvin's eyes, and Marvin gazed back, and there was an understanding between them. Quietly, they descended a nearby ladder to the deck below, which seemed quite deserted, and where they could be alone together.

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Marvin put his arms around Priscilla's slim waist, and she put her arms around Marvin's neck. Slowly they drew together, their lips approaching, feeling the warmth of each other's breath ...

"Hey, Marvin, is that really you?" a loud voice rang out.

The moment lost, Priscilla and Marvin instantly drew apart. "What the ... " Marvin began but the voice, clearly fueled by perhaps one too many Mai Tais, continued.

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"I knew it was you, just knew it!" A figure approached. It was a slightly balding middle-aged haole, a bit on the rotund side, dressed in a very loud and tasteless tourist-style aloha shirt. He was holding a drink in his left hand and reaching out with his right. "Shake," he said, "I'm Ralph Bostich, I play on the Mililani Mills."

Marvin looked at the proferred hand and didn't take it. "The what?" he said.

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Ralph's hand dropped to his side. "You know, Mililani, it's a town in central O`ahu," he said. "Surprised you ain't familiar with the Mills, we're a Short Season A-League team, and we ain't bad at all. No siree, ain't bad at all." He took a sip of his drink. "Anyhoo, whatcha doin' here?" he asked.

It was Priscilla who replied. "We're here for New Year's Eve, what else?" she said, her tone not exactly friendly.

"Well, yeah, I'spose," said Ralph. "But hey, lookee see, Marv, since I met ya and all of that, how's about you take a look at this here little beauty I composed the other day." Ralph fished in his trouser pocket and drew out a scrap of paper. "Here," he said, offering it to Marvin.

WHITE
20221115-jhay.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK2,11,17,18,19,K28,29:B6,10,20,22,23,27

Marvin reached over and took it, and gave it a brief glance. "Real nice, Ralphy-boy, real nice. Says right here, J. Hay. Gee, thought your name was Ralph, you musta made a mistake or something, huh?"

"Ah well, you know, I uh ... lemme explain ... "

"Whatever, Ralphy, whatever. But you know, we're sorta here on vacation, okay, and we were having a little ... like ... private moment. So how's about you buzz on up back that there ladder and refill your drink. Maybe that'll help you figure out if you're Ralph or J. Hay. And you don't want to be holding an empty drink at midnight, do ya?"

"Uh, yeah, but ... well ... my little checker problem?"

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"Oh, that," Marvin said, holding the paper up above his head. "Yeah ... oh ... oops! Too bad about your little checker problem." Marvin had released the paper and the breeze swept it out over the rail where it slowly tumbled down into the ocean. "Sorry 'bout that," Marvin added, "but like I said, we're on vacation, and you're not exactly honest neither. Happy New Year, pal!"

"You ain't ... you ain't very nice," Ralph snapped, but the slur in his voice made it sound weak. Priscilla and Marvin watched him slowly and haltingly make his way up to the top deck.

Marvin looked at his watch. "We still got 20 minutes, hon," he said.

Priscilla smiled, and put her arms back around Marvin's neck.

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Well, it seems that Ralph was trying to claim credit for something that wasn't his. Of course, the problem is a nice one, and although Marvin was a bit preoccupied with, ahem, other things, you might wish to give it a try yourself. See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.null

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12/31/22 -Printer friendly version-
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A Holiday Gift

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Editor's Note: At 2,500 words this is a rather long story for a single weekly column. If you don't wish to read it, just skip down to the checker problem towards the end.


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Danny shuffled down the street, kicking a stone ahead of him along the sidewalk. It was just an idle kind of thing and he liked to do it, who knows why, but he better not let Dad catch him. Dad said it wore out the shoes too quick and if Danny ever did it again he'd get a right proper licking. Dad said there wasn't money to buy new shoes, on account of him being out of work because of the Depression.

So Danny stopped kicking the stone, and, hands in his pockets, in a half slouch, he continued on his way home. When he turned fourteen last month, Dad made him quit school and go look for a job, except there wasn't much in the way of jobs for a fourteen year old with no experience and not much education.

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Brody's Sandwich Shop

Danny had finally found work at Brody's Sandwiches. Old Mr. Brody was nice enough, letting Danny take a couple of leftover sandwiches home with him every night, and paying him twenty cents an hour. That was a good wage for a kid, but he had to give it all to his parents to help buy food. Dad couldn't get much work as a day laborer, and Mom didn't have many people anymore who could pay her to wash their clothes.

It was ten hours a day Monday through Friday and eight on Saturday. It was a lot for a fourteen year old and one thing Mr. Brody wouldn't put up with was you missing work. That didn't leave much time for Danny's greatest love, checkers.

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Danny would read the checker columns in the day old newspapers that the better-off people threw away after they were done reading them. Danny couldn't afford a checker set, so he made one up out of bottle caps and a scrap of tarpaper he found in an alley, scratching lines with a penknife to make the squares.

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Every time on the way to and from Mr. Brody's shop, he'd stop for a moment and look longingly in the big display window at Bamberger's Department Store, where among all the fancy Christmas displays they showed this really fine checker set, with those red and yellow Catalin pieces and a real board. Sure, the board was made of pressed cardboard, but still, it was a real one. Danny dreamed of buying the set, but it cost a whopping $3.95. That was twenty hours of his pay, and anyhow he didn't have any kind of allowance. Especially now it was winter when the family needed to heat the apartment at least some on the colder days, and what money didn't go for food went for coal. Danny didn't even mention a $3.95 checker set at home; that would get him a scolding for sure, or worse.

If there would be any Christmas presents, it would be hand-me-down clothes from his older brother, Nate, who was sixteen. Nate worked for a furniture store, helping with deliveries, but there wasn't work for him every day, either. It seemed like the world was on Danny's shoulders. Brody's Sandwich Shop did a steady business and Danny always had work. People had to eat and Mr. Brody didn't overcharge for his sandwiches.

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Finally it came around to Christmas Eve. The shop was closing at five and of course wouldn't be open on Christmas. It was a really busy day, and Danny made dozens of deliveries, mostly to folks who had some money and wanted a bag or two of sandwiches for Christmas Eve celebrations.

It started to get pretty cold outside as the afternoon wore on. Danny was on his last round of deliveries and was anxious to get back to the shop and call it a day. He was really looking forward to a holiday, even though he would be a day short next time he got his pay.

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His last delivery was at Mrs. O'Rourke's place. She ordered from Mr. Brody pretty often and seemed to be well enough off. Her husband was a policeman and had steady work at a good wage. But she was always grumpy and Danny didn't like going there. He hoped she would be in a good mood today.

Mrs. O'Rourke lived on the 3rd floor in a big apartment building. There was an elevator but Danny took the stairs after getting scolded by the superintendant, who didn't want his tenants to have to ride in the elevator with "a dirty faced little delivery boy." Danny couldn't figure it. He never had a dirty face. Mr. Brody wouldn't allow it. "My workers have to be clean inside and out," he would always say.

He went around to the back of Mrs. O'Rourke's building and went in by the trade entrance. That was another thing the super had told him he had to do. He went up the back stairwell, taking the steps two at a time, and then pushed open the door to the third floor. Mrs. O'Rourke was in number eight at the other end of the hallway.

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No sooner had he knocked on the door when it opened to reveal the substantial figure of Mrs. O'Rourke standing with hands on hips and a scowl on her face. She was an imposing sight and Danny was scared before she even spoke a word. But speak she did.

"It's about time you came! It's been half an hour since I placed my order! Where have you been, young man? In a back alley smoking, I suppose! Up to no good! Cheating Mr. Brody out of his wages?"

Danny opened his mouth but didn't know what to say. In any event, Mrs. O'Rourke went on, "Well, give me my sandwiches before they get even older and less fresh! What are you waiting for?"

Danny quickly passed over the last bag in his possession. Mrs. O'Rourke snatched it away roughly. Danny was again about to speak when Mrs. O'Rourke handed him three one dollar bills and slammed the door.

"But ... but ... " Danny sputtered to the shut door. "Eight sandwiches comes to two dollars ... "

Danny knocked on the door again, but there was no answer. What to do? He started down the hallway and then stopped in front of the stairway. "I know what I'll do," he said to himself, and hurried back to Mrs. O'Rourke's apartment.

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He didn't dare knock on the door again for fear of a scolding worse than the last one. So, as he had planned, he slipped the extra dollar under the door. The crack at the bottom was just large enough for Danny to push the dollar bill all the way through.

Then Danny got out of there as fast as he could.

It was about ten to five when Danny got back to the shop. By then it was fully dark outside.

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Mr. Brody

"Ah, Danny, there you are," Mr. Brody said, an odd look on his face, gazing directly at Danny. Now, Danny had seen that look before and it always meant that Mr. Brody had something pretty important on his mind. "Step back into the office, please, I need to talk to you."

Danny's heart skipped a beat and he felt his pulse start to pound in his head. Was he going to get fired? He couldn't. He needed this job. What would he tell his parents? What would his Dad do? Danny started to shiver.

"Come on, son," Mr. Brody said, "I want to close the shop soon."

Without waiting, Mr. Brody went through the door in back of the service counter that led to the tiny kitchen where the sandwiches were made. Just in back of that was an equally tiny and very cluttered office.

Danny followed, willing his legs to move, the ceiling swimming above his head, feeling as if he were going to black out. The kitchen was deserted. The sandwich makers, Manny and Irving, had already gone home.

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Mr. Brody's office just had a filing cabinet, a desk, two chairs, and a telephone. Mr. Brody took the seat behind his desk and motioned to Danny to sit in the remaining chair, a rickety old straight-back on the front side of the desk.

Danny sat down, keeping to the front edge of the chair. He couldn't get his body to move any farther back.

"Mrs. O'Rourke called me," Mr. Brody said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Twice, in fact. I got off the phone with her just a few minutes before you came in."

Danny's mouth opened wide and he couldn't help starting to stutter. "M.. M.. Mrs. O'Rourke called?" he barely managed to say.

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"Yes, Danny, she did. She told me she had accidentally given you an extra dollar and that you ran off with it as quick as could be. She said that you are a dishonest boy and that if I didn't fire you and have the police take you in, she'd spread the word that Brody's Sandwiches hired crooked delivery boys. Do you know what that would do to my business?"

Danny couldn't muster an answer, and Mr. Brody went on, "It would be very harmful, Danny. People don't care much for Jewish merchants, and they care a lot less for ones that aren't honest. You have no idea what it's like."

"S ... so ... am I going to jail?" Danny manfully managed another full sentence, but he was more frightened than ever.

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"Well, Danny, I haven't quite finished my story. I told you Mrs. O'Rourke called twice. The second time, she told me she found the dollar bill slipped under her door, and that you didn't steal it after all. She did say I should scold you for not counting the money in front of her, but I'll bet as soon as she paid you, she closed the door on you. Am I right?"

"Y ... yes sir, she did. Closed it kinda hard, too, 'cause she was mad on account of it took half an hour to get her sandwiches. When I saw there was a dollar over, I knocked on her door but she didn't answer, so's the only thing I coulda done was put the dollar under the door."

"I'm not surprised. I've delivered to her myself a few times, and she isn't really very nice. But, Danny, I think what really counts here is that you were honest and you did the right thing."

"Then I ain't fired and I ain't going to jail neither?"

"No, not at all. In fact, I have a Christmas bonus for you. I was going to put an extra two dollars in your pay but now I'll make it three dollars. What do you think about that?"

"Three dollars! Gee whiz, Mr. Brody, that's a lot of money!"

"You deserve it. And there's another thing. I need your help with something."

Wouldn't you know it, Mr. Brody had put a copy of The American Checker Player magazine down on his desk.

"Mr. Brody, I didn't know you cared about checkers," said Danny.

"Oh, I really enjoy a good game," Mr. Brody replied, "and some days after I close the shop, if business was good I go over to Benny's Bar for nickel beers and a few games with the gang over there. Benny runs a bar where Jewish people are welcome. But I know you're fond of checkers too, seeing the way you save those scraps of newspaper with the checker columns on them. So here, what about this little problem in this week's magazine. Maybe you can help me solve it.

WHITE
20221112-xgift.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:WK1,6,K10,14,18,20,22,K24,31:B3,5,12,K13,15,17,K25,26,K27

Danny took a look. "Golly Mr. Brody, it seems kinda like really hard. But maybe ... lemme see ... oh, yeah, sure ... now look, Mr. Brody ... "


Although life always brings its trials, we hope that your holidays will be filled with nothing but the joys of the season, no matter what holiday you do, or don't, celebrate. Perhaps the checker problem above will give you some extra enjoyment. Match wits with Danny and see if you can solve it, then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/24/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Beacon Cafe: Holiday Travels

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It was December 17, 1955, the Saturday before Christmas weekend, and in Bismarck, North Dakota, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club was about to have its final get-together before the holiday break. The club, informally led by Sal Westerman, met every Saturday at 1 PM from just after Labor Day to just before Memorial Day, only taking a break over Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas through New Year's Day, and Easter weekend. Their venue was the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, where proprietress Deana Nagel baked up the best treats anyone could ever ask for.

null
Sal Westerman

It was just after one and Sal was sitting in the big booth in the back with the "boys" (all but one of whom were over 50). There were Dan, Sam, Wayne, Louie the Flash, who all showed up nearly every weekend, and also Tom, Ron, Kevin the Spooler, Delmer, seldom-seen Frank, and even young Blaine. It was a great turnout and they spilled over into an adjacent booth.

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All the preliminary chit-chat was about the coming holidays. A number of the boys would be going back home to the farm to visit with family. Young Blaine would be going to see his parents up in Minot. Louie the Flash was going all the way to Minneapolis to see an old girlfriend of his. But it was Sal who was taking the longest trip of all.

Yes, Sal, at age 73, would be going with his wife Sylvia to Washington D.C. to visit their daughter Joyce.

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Joyce Westerman

"You're not going by airplane?" Frank asked. "Those airplanes get you there fast nowadays. You can get to D.C. the same day, if you leave early enough. Well, almost the same day. I think you get in at two in the morning or something. One of our Senators does that sometimes."

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"No airplanes for me," Sal said. "I like my feet on the ground, thank you. We're going by train. Taking the Empire Builder to Chicago and another train to D.C. from there."

"Gee, Sal, how long will that take?" Louie the Flash asked.

"About three days all together. Two nights on the train. We paid for sleeping compartments so it will be a nice relaxing trip."

"And three days back again? That's six days!" Louie continued.

"Yes, but I'll be back just in time for our next meeting on January 7. Couldn't miss that, you know. We leave tomorrow so there will be plenty of time for a nice visit."

"You going to all those museums?" Ron asked.

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"We sure are, and we won't miss a tour of the White House, either. Joyce is taking two weeks off of work and she'll show us around." Joyce was a lawyer at Dark, Darker, and Darkest, a prominient Washington law firm. She worked long and hard and had plenty of vacation time stored up.

"Going to do any checkers?" Frank inquired.

"Sure am. There's the "Day After Christmas" tournament and I'll be playing. Did I show you boys the flyer? It has a neat problem in it and I was going to see if you could solve it today."

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Deana, who always picked her moment carefully, said in a loud voice from behind her counter, "Cinnamon fruit bars today! A real holiday treat!"

The boys all smiled. "Well, Sal, let's see it!" Dan said.

Sal pulled a colorful flyer from his pocket. "Here it is, then," he said, and set it up on a checkerboard on each of the two tables. "See how you do! How about --- say --- an hour?"

The boys nodded their heads. Deana came over with the coffee pot to give everyone refills while the boys started to discuss the following position.

BLACK
20221112-bholi.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:W7,9,14:B1,K15,21

"Should be easy, right?" Sal said. "After all, only three per side!"

"Easy, sure, that's what you always say," groused Wayne, but everyone was already focused on the checkerboards, deep in thought.


We don't know what you'll be doing for the holidays. If you're in North America, train travel isn't what it used to be, and air travel surely isn't a lot of fun any longer. If you're in Europe, the trains are certainly a good option. But whether you plan to travel near or far, or stay at home, we hope you'll match wits with the boys at the Beacon and see if you can solve today's problem. When you're ready, travel your mouse over to Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/17/22 -Printer friendly version-
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Marvin's Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving was coming up, and Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar captain of the championship Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, had to make plans.

You may recall from an earlier story, last Thanksgiving Marvin went with his now fiancee, Priscilla Snelson, to her parents' posh estate home in suburban Grosse Pointe, and it didn't work out well to say the least. Mr. and Mrs. Snelson had, quite frankly, no use for Marvin, and Marvin and Priscilla ended up leaving the estate and going to an old-fashioned American diner for an old-fashioned American Thanksgiving dinner.

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This year Marvin suggested that they go back to the diner, but Priscilla (somewhat predictably) wanted something a bit more formal. She suggested that they might make another try of dining with her parents, but the suggestion was only half-hearted, as she knew Marvin wouldn't like the idea, and in any case she didn't want to witness another disastrous encounter.

So her next suggestion was that they have dinner catered at her upscale condo. The discussion was taking place at that very location, where Marvin had dropped in to visit during a brief pause in the Doublejumper match schedule.

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"Hey, yeah honey, that's a great idea, maybe we can order from that diner and have FastEats deliver ... oh, okay, guess you want something better than diner food, huh? Although that was pretty good last year ... "

It was then that the other shoe dropped.

"Oh, actually, we could have Served on a Silver Platter cater. They have a Michelin starred chef and ... "

"Ain't that kinda expensive?"

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"Value, Marvin, not cost. They provide value. And then we can invite some of my friends and associates, too."

Marvin swallowed hard. He knew about Priscilla's friends and associates. They were all super-wealthy (like Priscilla), and very conscious of social standing. Though they never said it in so many words, and despite Marvin's $100 million five year contract with the Doublejumpers, they viewed Marvin as more of a tradesman, who belonged to a lower class.

"Uh, gee Prissy, how many of your, uh, friends and stuff?"

Priscilla glowered a little. She didn't like to be called 'Prissy'.

"Not so many," she replied, "maybe a couple of dozen. My dining room can actually handle thirty or so, but we don't want to make it too crowded."

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"Yeah, sure, can't pack 'em in like sardines now, can we, heh heh."

Priscilla scowled. "Marvin, think of it as a small-scale rehearsal for one of our wedding dinners. It will do you good to mingle and maybe sharpen up your social skills."

Marvin laughed. "Social skills? Yeah, I ain't got a lot of those. I ain't never learned much about hangin' out with stuck-up rich folks and drinkin' them fancy cocktails and stuff. Gimme a good bar and a good beer any ole day."

"Oh, stop being so silly," Priscilla said. "Well, then, it's settled, so there's no need for further discussion. Now, come over here and look at this bridal catalog with me, won't you?"

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The next week passed quickly and Thanksgiving was upon them. In addition to having Served on a Silver Platter cater her dinner, Priscilla had hired Debonair Decorators to decorate her home in a festive Thanksgiving theme. Dinner was set for five o'clock with guests invited to arrive at four for cocktails served by Served on a Silver Platter wait staff, and mixed at one of Priscilla's wet bars by a certified senior mixologist from Mixology Masters.

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Marvin was required to dress in yet another $500 rented dinner jacket and ruffled shirt from Twirly Tuxedos and Gaudy Gowns.

The guests began to arrive, and everything went fine for a while. Marvin tried his best to mingle and make small talk, even though it wasn't quite his idea of fun. But after about twenty or thirty minutes of that, he decided that he'd like a drink, and so he went over to the bar.

The mixologist, who wore a name tag that said "Llewelyn --- Certified Senior Mixologist," gave Marvin a head-to-toe look. "Do you really belong here?" he asked.

"Whaddya mean? I been invited. 'Course I have, cause Prissy's ..."

20221012-plumper.jpg

Llewelyn interrupted, "Sorry, but despite your dinner jacket you kind of look like a tradesman. You know, a plumber or something!" Llewelyn laughed. "But I'll be generous and give you the benefit of the doubt, just this once. What can I mix for you?"

"What kinda beer you got? Maybe a Bud Lite or a Belcher's Best?"

But now Llewelyn sneered. "Beer? Excuse me, sir, I am a Senior Mixologist and will soon achieve Master level, and I do not serve beer, even to ... tradesmen."

Marvin turned a bit red. Raising his voice, he said, "Lookee here, bud, you was hired by us--- well, by Prissy anyhow, and you do what we say. Now ain't it fine that you're gonna be a Master Whatever. I'm a Grandmaster myself, so I got ya beat."

Llewelyn sneered again. "Grandmaster? I didn't know plumbers could be grandmasters."

"No, checkers, bozo!" Marvin said this in a shout, and conversation in the room abruptly stopped with all eyes turning towards the bar.

20220212-hips.jpg

Priscilla, very sensitive to the mood of the room, immediately strode over to Marvin and Llewelyn. "What's the problem here?" she asked. "Marvin, why are you causing a disturbance?"

However, Llewelyn spoke first, "Ma'am, my apologies, but I don't know how this tradesman got in, and he insulted me by asking for a beer. Imagine such a thing!"

20221012-fyred.jpg

Now it was Priscilla who turned red-faced. She looked at Marvin, thought for a moment, and then put a hand on his shoulder. Looking back at Llewelyn, she said, "Marvin is my fiance and a world-renowned checkerist. Furthermore, this is my party and you are to treat my guests with respect. You are dismissed. Leave at once, and on the next business day I'm calling Mixology Masters to make sure that you will never work at an exclusive event again. Before I'm done with you, you'll be happy to get a job at a dive bar in Williston, North Dakota."

20221012-divebar.jpg

"Y...y...yes ma'am," Llewelyn said, and made a dash for the door, sweat pouring from his face.

"Now, Marvin dear, since you seem to have the spotlight, how about demonstrating to my friends that nice checker problem you've just solved? I'm sure they would like it. Let's all step into my home theatre, shall we?"

20221012-theater.jpg

The guests murmured. Was it a murmur of assent and enthusiasm? Only they knew, but Marvin smiled broadly and pulled Priscilla close. "Thanks, hon, for sticking up for me," he whispered in her ear, and then followed everyone into Priscilla's elegant theatre room, where he demonstrated a fine problem that was just published in the latest issue of the quarterly magazine Creative Clever Challenging Championship Checker Compositions.

And after the demonstration, Marvin got his beer, served to him by Priscilla herself.

20221012-fancybeer.jpg


Unfortunately, you probably weren't on the guest list for Priscilla's Thanksgiving gathering, so you likely missed Marvin's problem demonstration. However, you can certainly try it on your own. Here's the position.

BLACK
20221015-marvint.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,K10,30,32:BK2,21,28,K29

This should give you quite a few nice minutes of Thanksgiving weekend checker entertainment. Marvin selected a problem that has become a real classic, despite his audience being made up of non-professionals. Give it your best and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

[Read More]
11/26/22 -Printer friendly version-
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