On a fine fall Saturday afternoon, with the temperature in the upper 50s, the sun shining, and a light breeze stirring the few fallen leaves that had escaped the eager rakes of the residents of Bismarck, North Dakota, Sal Westerman set out for the Beacon Cafe and the weekly meeting of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. Sal was the unofficial leader and he always looked forward to Saturday afternoons with great anticipation.
The members of the Club, or the "boys" as Sal called them, were all over 50 years old. Sal himself was now in his 70s but he and the rest of the Club members remained active and engaged. After all, what could be more pleasant than an afternoon of checker fun? Add that to Deana's baked treats--- she was the proprietress of the Beacon and a prize winning baker--- and you had everything for which you could ask.
Sal arrived at the Beacon just a few minutes after one o'clock. A few of the boys were already there. Dan, Wayne, Larry, and Louie the Flash were all seated in the big booth in the back with mugs of coffee in hand. Sal greeted everyone and sat down, and then the whole crew got quite a surprise, when in came regular member Tom with a younger fellow. Younger indeed, why, he couldn't even be older than his thirties!
Upon reaching the back of the Cafe, Tom said, "Boys, I'd like you to meet Blaine. He's quite the player. He's new to town, just moved here from Minot to take a job with the electric company. He might just become our newest member."
They allgreeted Blaine warmly and shook his hand in welcome. Then Tom said, "I explained to Blaine how the Club works and how Sal brings us a problem to solve each week, and whether we win it or not determines who buys the treats." Tom smiled. "But I also explained as how a new member buys the treats the first time he attends."
"But," Wayne said, "we haven't had a new member since ... "
"Shush!" Tom said, raising a finger to his mouth.
Blaine smiled. He knew what was going on. "Happy to buy," he said, "and happy to be here."
"I've got zucchini nut bars!" said Deana from behind her counter, never missing a chance to market. "Fresh and hot!"
"Tell you what," Sal said, "let's get our treats now instead of waiting, and we can enjoy them while you boys--- and Blaine--- work on this one that I got from Brian in St. Louis."
"Hey Blaine, you know about Brian?" asked Louie.
Blaine replied, "Sure do. He has some real tough ones in All Checkers Digest."
The rest of the boys exchanged knowing looks. It seemed like Blaine was a knowledgeable young fellow.
Sal laid out the following problem while Blaine bought a platter of zucchini nut bars and Deana refilled everyone's coffee.
"Okay boys--- and Blaine--- here you go. Take as long as you like."
Everyone, including Blaine, set to work. Time passed quickly, as it does when people are enjoying themselves. Finally at about 2:30, Wayne said, "We've got it."
Your age doesn't matter. You might be over 50 or over 70, or even in your thirties or any other age at all. A good problem is a good problem. So see how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution.
"Blaine's the one that figured it out," Wayne said, "so he'll show you, Sal."
Blaine played out the following moves.
24-20*---A 18-23 20-16* 11x20---B 15-11 8x15 10x17 Drawn.
A---24-19? 22-17 10-7 17-14 7x16 18-23 16-20 23-26 19-16 8-12 16-11 14-18 20-24 26-31 24-19 31-26 19-24 26-23 24-28 23-19 15-10 19-15 Black Wins.
B---11x18 16-11 8x15 10x17 Drawn.
"Great work, boys--- and Blaine!" Sal said. "Looks like we have a most welcome new member! Blaine, we hope you can join us regularly."
Blaine smiled and said that although his job would keep him busy, he'd come to the Saturday meetings whenever he could.
Everyone played skittles and talked checkers for another couple of hours, until Deana was ready to close the Cafe at 5 PM.
Sal went home happy, as always, and very pleased that the Club had a new, young member who had lots of checker talent.
The Checker Maven thanks grandmaster problemist Brian Hinkle for this problem, solution, and notes.