On a Saturday in March, 1955, Sal Westerman was getting ready to go to the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, for the weekly meeting of his beloved Coffee and Cake Checkers Club. It was about 12:45 PM and the gathering started at 1 o'clock.
A glance out the window told him that it was an especially windy day. His wife, Sylvia, sitting on a chesterfield in the living room, remarked, "They said on the radio that the wind is gusting up to 50 miles an hour and might even pick up some more."
Now, Sylvia wasn't sitting alone on the chesterfield. Next to her was her sister, Phoebe, who lived about 90 miles away in Dickinson, North Dakota, and was visiting for the weekend.
Phoebe was, well ... okay, she was Sylvia's sister, after all. But let's just say the Sal preferred it when Sylvia went to Dickinson to visit Phoebe rather than when Phoebe came to Bismarck to visit Sylvia.
"I wouldn't let him go," said Phoebe to Sylvia, ignoring the fact the Sal was in the room. "You know your husband. He's clumsy and old and likely to get blown over and get hurt, and then you'd be stuck taking care of him, and what kind of fun would that be?"
Sal, who had just put on his winter coat and was donning a scarf, looked over at Phoebe but didn't say anything. Phoebe glared back and went on, "I just don't see why you let him spend so much time on that foolish game of his. Don't you have things for him to do around the house? If nothing else, he could clean the basement. The walls need washing down there, and I'm sure there are plenty of other productive things for him to do. Checkers, indeed!" She sniffed as she said this and shook her head for good measure.
Sal had finished dressing for the weather and, deciding discretion was the best option, simply said, "I'm leaving now, I'll see you all just after five this afternoon."
"Just a minute, you!" Phoebe said in a loud, shrill tone. "Didn't you hear a word ... "
Sal didn't hear the rest as the door closed behind him and he started down the street. Or tried to. The wind really was howling and walking wasn't easy.
Luckily it was only a few blocks to the Provident Life Building. But still it took Sal a while and he was five minutes late on arrival.
Five of the "boys" (all of them over 50) were in the big booth at the back. "Look what the wind blew in," exclaimed Delmer. "Literally!" added Dan. Wayne, Louie the Flash, and Tom all laughed as Sal made his way to their location. He plopped down next to Dan and took a deep breath before saying, "I'm going to get even with you boys for that! I've got a new problem from Brian and it's really something!"
The boys groaned in unison. Brian, in St. Louis, was one of Sal's checker pen-pals and he was a top composer with his problems regularly published in All Checkers Digest. His compositions were always clever and never easy.
Deana, the proprietress of the Beacon, a top-notch baker and a great marketeer, called over, "I've got pecan brownies today!"
Now, the tradition was that if the boys couldn't solve Sal's problem, they would buy the treats, but if they could win it, Sal would buy. That meant Sal would buy for all of them, while they only had to buy for him and themselves, but it kind of evened out because Sal got to choose the problem, and he seldom chose a simple one.
Sal laid out the checkers as shown below.
"Go ahead, boys!" he said. "Thirty minutes should be enough!"
"Aw, Sal, give us an hour," said Louie. "Please?"
"Okay, sixty minutes and not a second more!"
Deana arrived to refill everyone's coffee mug but the boys had already started in on the problem
We don't know if it's windy at your place, nor do we know if you have a windy sister-in-law, but give our problem a try and see if you would have won a pecan brownie. You'll have to serve up your own coffee, though. When you're ready click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.
An hour went by, and then a little more. Finally at 2:30 PM Sal called a halt. "Time's up, boys, and unless you can show me the solution I'm going to enjoy my brownie ... the one that you're buying for me!"
"No way, Sal," said Delmer. "Have a look at this."
Delmer demonstrated the following play.
30-25 21x30 20-16 30x23 16-12 23x16 22-18 14x23 6-2 5x14 2x9 White Wins.
Sal smiled. "Well done, boys! Deana--- brownies all around on me!"
The boys enjoyed their treats and more coffee, and talked checkers and played skittles until about 4:50 PM, when it was time for Deana to start to close up.
Sal put on his coat and slowly walked to the door. Louie, noticing Sal's slow pace, said, "Hey Sal, you don't seem too anxious to head on home. Maybe you're not looking forward to walking in this windstorm?"
"It'll be windy after I get home, too," Sal said under his breath.
The Checker Maven thanks grandmaster composer Brian Hinkle for this problem, solution, and notes.