The Checker Maven

Valentine's Day: A Beacon Cafe Story


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

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.

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."


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."


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.


"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.

White to Play and Win


"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."


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


"It goes like this," Delmer said, and demonstrated the following play.

6-10 19-12 20-16 12-19 10-14 19-3 14-30 29-25---A 30x21 22-26 21-25 26-31 25-22 White Wins.

A---The best of a choice of losing moves.

"Nice work boys," Sal said, "everything turned out okay after all. I got the right gift for Sylvia, you solved the problem, and the Deana's bars are as fantastic as they always are!"

By then it was three-thirty, but there was still over an hour left before closing. Sal would have some more checker fun after all. His Saturday was complete.

Today's problem is by the late grandmaster composer Ed Atkinson. He called it "Revolving Door." Ed noted in an email to us, "As far as I know the final position is unique. The back and forth pitches at the outset are not at all new although they are probably unfamiliar to quite a few checkerists."

02/11/23 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
You can email the Webmaster with comments on this article.