The Checker Maven

A Midnight Encounter

A reader recently asked us if we had a bibliography of checker-related fiction; we didn't, and so we decided to research the topic a bit. It was an interesting exercise; on the internet, we found out about Checkers restaurants, auto parts, taxicabs, hockey teams, and much more, but disappointingly little checker-related fiction.

Of course, there's the Sliders T4 story, certainly the best modern example. And we found references to a few more stories in old fiction magazines: Altruism and Checkers, by Jessie Bartlett Davis, in Poker Chips, #4, September 1896; She Played Checkers, by Sam Allison, in Western Action, Vol. 19, #6, May 1956; Back to Checkers, by Edward Leonard, in Western Story Magazine, Vol. 37, #1, August 25, 1923; and The Checkers Match by 'Gepruitt', found on Blogit, which will cost you about ten dollars for an access subscription. (Checkers, the novel by John Marsden, is about a dog, not our game of checkers.) In addition, we found the Chess N Checkers Restaurant in Allentown, Pennsylvania, hardly fiction, but a place we really must visit some day!

Still, wanting to give you a story to read and a couple of problems to boot, we dug through our own collection and found our single item of checker fiction, a short piece called A Midnight Encounter, attributed only to an author named 'Martin'. We hope you enjoy the story and the problems contained therein.

A Midnight Encounter

The game of checkers, to one who can comprehend its deeper mysteries, is one of the highest intellectual amusements. In my own estimation it occupies the first place, and chess owes its superior reputation to the complexity of its manceuvers rather than its opportunities for scientific play. But my intention is not to write a panegyric upon my favorite game, but to narrate a most singular event, which made an impression upon my mind that many years have failed to efface.

At the time of this occurrence I was about twenty, and enthusiastically fond of checkers, in which I had attained such proficiency as to conquer all players in my own New England village. A signal victory over an old sea-captain, who alone disputed my supremacy, determined me to make a journey to England and cultivate my talents under the instructions of the London masters. That I did not carry out this design is owing to the following remarkable adventure:

A short time before my intended departure, I was seated in an old country inn on one of the dullest and rainiest days it was ever my fortune to see. I had been playing checkers with mine host, but found him such a mere tyro, that there was no sport in beating him. I therefore dismissed him and proceeded to solve a problem of Sturges; but the old master of checkers had constructed so difficult a position that I could see no solution to it; but I scorned to refer to the book for assistance. Suddenly happening to look up, I perceived a tall old man gazing upon me with an air of triumph. Seating himself opposite to me, he solved the problem with a few simple moves, and offered me the choice of men.

I looked at him with some surprise, and beheld a really handsome man, although much beyond the prime of life, with a grave, studious sweetness of look. I moved 11 to 15 and the struggle commenced. The game occupied nearly an hour, for I was determined to do my best against this strange antagonist, and played with great deliberation. He moved apparently without a moment's thought, but so skillfully, that in several instances only the greatest concentration of my power enabled me to save my game. At length the following position was brought about:

BLACK (Myself)

WHITE (Stranger)
White to Play and Win


Here, it being my antagonist's turn to move, he uttered a low, musical laugh and said: "Sir, you have played this game very prettily, but you will now lose every one of your pieces in just eight moves." Of course he was right and I was beaten.

We fell to conversation upon the game, when the stranger related anecdotes and displayed problems that filled me with amazement. The colloquy was so interesting that I should never have desired it to cease, had not the stranger broken off, exclaiming: "Favor me, sir, with one more game, for my time is short, and I have not played for many years."

Again we engaged. The game was most absorbing, and I had strong hopes of victory. I was surprised at myself, and my adversary no longer played with the careless rapidity of the former game. With beating heart I sternly determined that I would win, if any skill would enable me to do so. At length this was the position:

WHITE (Myself)

BLACK (Stranger)
Black to Play and Win


Here, considering my superiority in kings, I thought myself sure of victory; but my rival, whose turn it was to play, said mildly. "You lose every one of your pieces, sir, in just nine moves."

The nine moves followed, and I again yielded to superior skill. I asked the name of the stranger.

"Joshua Sturges, friend. Farewell, with thanks."

He was gone with the first streak of dawn, and I gave up my voyage to England and my game of checkers.


But this need not be the end for you; clicking on Read More will show you the solutions to the problems.


First Problem

1. 10-6 2x9 2. 18-14 9x18 3. 15x22 13-17 4. 22x13 29-25 5. 13-17 25-30 6. 17-22 4-8 7. 11x4 30-26 8. 22x31 White Wins.

Second Problem

1. 22-25 29x22 2. 23-26 32x23 3. 26x17 13x22 4. 6-9 5x14 5. 15-11 16x7 6. 3x19 12-8 7. 19-15 8-4 8. 15-11 4-8 9. 11x4 Black Wins.

01/13/07 - Category: Problems -Printer friendly version-
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