# The Checker Maven

### The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication Bob Newell, Editor-in-ChiefPublished each Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

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### Composing Championship #76 <!-- var today=new Date(); var cend=new Date("10/31/2024"); var one_day=1000*60*60*24; document.write(`Less than \${1+ Math.ceil((cend.getTime()-today.getTime())/(one_day))} days remaining!<br>`); //document.write("Composing Championship Contest 75 Complete, Results posted.<br>"); //document.write("Contest 76 starts September 14, 2024<br>"); //document.write("<a href=\"https://www.bobnewell.net/checkers/contests/2023review.html\">2023 Composing Contests Year in Review</a>") //-->

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### Problem Composing Contest 76: Two-Part Blends

The two, two-part blends above are symbolic of Bill Salot's newest Problem Composing Contest. No, Bill didn't switch from checkers to coffee--- we understand in fact that he personally eschews coffee--- but what he has done is to present us with two two-part blend problems which will challenge and entertain you as never before. You can find them on the contest page, where you are invited and requested to vote for the one you like best.

As a sample of what awaits you, here is a previously unpublished two-part problem composed by Mr. Salot himself. He calls it The Albatross for two reasons. One is that the setting (somewhat) resembles an albatross. The other is that an Albatross symbolizes something that makes accomplishment particularly difficult, as in the expression "an albatross around one's neck" which takes its derivation from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's celebrated poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W6,K7,18,24,25,K27,K29:B2,8,9,K11,15,16,K20,22

Will this problem be the albatross that hangs around your neck? We certainly hope not, for after giving it a go you can always click on Read More to see the solution.

09/14/24 -Printer friendly version-

### A New Season at the Beacon Cafe

It was the first Saturday after Labor Day Weekend, 1955, and for Sal Westerman, that meant his Coffee and Cake Checker Club would resume its weekly meetings.

The Club met at the Beacon Cafe, in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota, at 1 PM each Saturday from just after Labor Day until just before Memorial Day, with only short breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

Now, summers in North Dakota were fine times, but Sal sorely missed his checker friends, and he was happy to see fall roll around. It was a fine day in early autumn and Sal made sure he arrived at the Cafe at a couple of minutes before one o'clock, so he could greet the returning members.

Deana Nagel

Of course he first said hello to Deana, the proprietess and one of the best bakers anywhere. "How did the championships go?" Sal asked her, referring to a very big baking contest in North Dakota's easternmost city, Fargo.

"I won three blue ribbons and two red," Deana said with a big smile, "so I scored in all of the categories I entered."

"Not surprised to hear it," Sal said, but just then in came Larry and Delmer, closely followed by Wayne, Tom, Kevin (a.k.a. "Spooler"), Ron, Dan, and young Blaine. Bill also arrived; he was seen only a few times a year but made it on this opening day.

Coffee cups were filled and the "boys" as Sal called them, even though Blaine was the only one under age 50 and most were well beyond that, took seats in the large booths at the back of the cafe.

Talk started with summer activities. A few members had gone to the family farms to help out during the busy summer months. Others had just enjoyed time at home with occasional fishing and camping trips. Young Blaine had to work, of course, but he and his fiancee did take a week off to go climbing in Wyoming. Spooler had played in a tournament in the Minneapolis area, although he would only say that he didn't do all that well.

Of course everyone knew about Sal's checker booth at the fair, and Sal talked a little about his adventures in Jamestown.

But soon it was time to get down to business. Checker business.

"It's been a long summer without Deana's treats," Tom said, "so show us what you have for us today, Sal; we're all anxious for you to buy!"

"We shall see," replied Sal. The tradition was that Sal would always bring along a checker problem and buy treats for the boys if they solved it; otherwise the boys would buy for Sal and his wife Sylvia as well as themselves.

"I've got chocolate chip brownies today!" Deana called out from behind her counter. "Not to be missed!"

Meanwhile, Sal laid out the following position on a couple of the waiting checkerboards. "There you go," he said, "and I'll give you 45 minutes, seeing as how we've spent a lot of time already in chatting."

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W19,30,K9,K11:B4,17,K10,K22

There were a couple of brief groans but it didn't take long for the boys to get down to that aforementioned checker business.

We don't know if you did or didn't do much in the way of checkers over the summer, or if you missed going to your favorite club, cafe, or coffee shop, but whatever the case, join the boys in opening the new season at the Beacon by trying out this problem, and then clicking on Read More to see the solution.

09/07/24 -Printer friendly version-

### Labor Day 2024

You might be a blue collar worker, such as the plumbers shown above.

Or you might be a white collar worker or even a business executive.

Labor Day is for all of you and for all of us, as we recognize once again that all honest work deserves respect, and that every worker is an important contributor to our economy and our way of life. It's a great American (and Canadian) holiday.

For this celebration, in our Checker Maven columns we typically turn to Tom Wiswell, a great American checker champion, checker writer and teacher, and one of the most outstanding checker problemists in the history of the game. Today we invite you to try out The Sea Dog, which Mr. Wiswell dedicated to William Grover, the brother of another checker great, Ken Grover. William Grover served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and became a prisoner of war.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK2,9,22,25,27,31,32:BK1,15,18,20,23,24,28

As is typical for Mr. Wiswell, this is an elegant problem and you will enjoy solving it. When you're done, click on Read More to see the run-up and the solution.

08/31/24 -Printer friendly version-

### State Fair: Part 4

Sheila and Mortimer took a moment to regroup after the surprise visit from the police detective.

"So," Mortimer began, "we know someone shot from the outside with, presumably, a gun--- likely a pistol or something relatively small--- pushed up against the tent wall. That sounds kind of random."

"Let me see that photo again," Sheila said, and then laughed. "It would really frost that detective if he knew we had made copies. Well, he probably figured we did, I suppose."

Mortimer opened his laptop and brought up the photo of the small hole in the tent with burn marks.

"Enlarge it," Sheila said, "and enhance the focus if you can."

Mortimer did as Sheila asked, and then said, "Well, I'll be ... "

"Yes," Sheila said, "there's the hole marked by burns, such as from the muzzle of a gun, but the burns are more on the sides than the top and bottom, and there's a longer slit running up and down from the hole."

"So not random," Mortimer said. "Someone cut a slit to have a look, probably to take aim, and then inserted the pistol and fired."

"You know my next question," Sheila said, placing a hand on Mortimer's shoulder.

Bob Pace

"Yup," Mortimer replied. "Was Bob Pace the target, or just a target of opportunity."

"In other words," continued Sheila, "did someone just want to shoot someone ... "

" ... or did that someone want to specifically shoot Mr. Pace," Mortimer finished. "This calls for some research. I can probably do a lot of it online."

"Good," said Sheila. "Meanwhile, I'll look over my own photos a little more closely. I took quite a few of the body and the floor and so on. Maybe that will give me some ideas."

"This is all kind of straightforward so far," Mortimer said. "Don't you think the police will be a few steps ahead of us?"

"They might be," Sheila replied, "but if they were very far ahead they wouldn't have come here asking for our photos, I don't believe. They're looking for leads, but they're too proud, or stubborn, to ask directly for help, despite this being a high profile crime."

But Mortimer hardly heard Sheila; he was already deep into his research.

###

About an hour went by. "Interesting," Mortimer finally said.

"What did you find, dear?" Sheila replied. Then she hesitated. "Oh, I hope it's not some checker problem ... "

Mortimer had this on his screen ...

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W5,17,20,25,26,27,28,30,31,32:B1,2,3,6,7,8,10,15,19,21

... but he quickly switched views. "Uh, yeah, sweetheart, I found out some stuff about ... about Bob Pace."

"Like?" Sheila had her hands on her hips, and Mortimer knew that could go one of two ways. Sheila did have a temper at times, even though it wasn't very often.

"He's a well known player. But not the best in Iowa. Not the best in Des Moines either."

"I see," Sheila said, "and yet he was playing for first prize. Makes me wonder ... and combine that with what I found out, too."

"What?"

"Well, obviously I couldn't do an autopsy, and for sure the police aren't going to share those results with me, but Mr. Pace was hit squarely in the forehead with a single shot. That's not something your average random shooter does."

"You mean ... "

"Yes. A random shooter, shooting at just any target, would be in a hurry and wouldn't be so precise. That's not impossible, of course, but it's not the typical profile. No, I'll bet Mr. Pace was deliberately targeted, and by a professional. I'd say I'm certain, except for one thing."

"Which is?"

"It's too complicated and risky," Sheila went on. "If someone wanted to do a hit on Bob Pace, why would they do it in such a public setting? Why take the risk when they can corner him somewhere when he's alone and out of sight and just do him in then? No, something doesn't fit, or else we're missing something."

"Look," Mortimer said, "there's a lot here on the internet from the Des Moines Checker Club and Bob Pace's page on MyFace and so on. But we need to get more of the inside scoop."

"How do we do that?"

Mortimer smiled. "That's easy," he said. "We go to a checkers sports bar! There are a couple of them in Des Moines, and maybe we should start at the biggest one and do a little asking around from the local fans. We can do that tonight. The place is called Checkers on the Cob Sports Bar."

"Checkers on the Cob? You're making it up, right?"

"Dear, no one could make up a name like that."

###

Sheila insisted on Chinese for dinner saying she had enough of midwestern food, so she and Mortimer took a ride-share to Iowa Woks, which was just a block away from Checkers on the Cob.

Although the waiter insisted that the Sweet and Sour Corn Fritters were not to be missed, Sheila and Marvin both passed and they ordered Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry and Chicken Lo Mein.

"Pretty Americanized," was all that Mortimer would say, and Sheila didn't disagree. Mortimer said there would be stale fortune cookies along with the check, and it turned out he was right.

But then it was time to go to the sports bar. "Bet they serve corn on the cob," Mortimer said.

"No bet," Sheila replied.

They arrived a few minutes later. The place was large, with modern tables, wall murals, and a long bar that ran nearly the length of the main room. The lighting was surprisingly warm and bright, and it wasn't especially noisy inside, let alone rowdy.

A number of patrons were at the bar.

"Let's sit up there instead of at a table," Sheila suggested. "It'll be easier to talk to people."

"Uh, yeah," Mortimer said.

"You getting cold feet?" Sheila asked. She knew that Mortimer was on the shy side and not so great at talking to strangers.

"N..no," he replied, "this was my idea in the first place."

They took a couple of stools nearby but not adjacent to a couple of people who looked like regulars. On Sheila's left was a lady about 45 years old, with dyed blonde hair, plenty of makeup, and unexpectedly expensive looking clothes. On Mortimer's right was a burly guy in a muscle shirt and wearing sunglasses.

"What's popular?" Mort asked the bartender.

"Corn on the cob, what else!" the bartender replied. He was a chubby young fellow with a black bow tie that didn't match his brown apron and blue button-down shirt. "But look, if you're not hungry, a couple of Blue Ribbons ought to do ya."

"Okay," Mort said, "a couple of Blue Ribbons, then."

"You're joking," Sheila whispered. "Blue Ribbon beer? That's like drinking ... "

"Don't say it, honey," Mortimer whispered back, "they'll be offended."

The beers arrived and Mort took a sip. He grimaced, and the fellow next to him noticed.

"You from outta town?" he asked. "Don't like our beer?"

"Uh ... yeah ... I mean no ... I mean ... well yeah I'm from Denver. Here for the State Fair. And the beer ... just not used to it."

"State Fair, huh? Well that didn't work out, did it now, what with that guy Pace gettin' killed. Hey, you weren't in that tournament, were ya?"

"I was, actually," Mortimer said. "Kind of had an abrupt ending."

Ike

The big guy laughed. "Yeah, sure did! Hey, you ain't bad for an out of town doofus. What's yer name? I'm Ike, but my friends just call me Ike." He let out a loud laugh and offered his hand. Mortimer put out his own right hand and it was at once enveloped in a bone crushing grip.

"Ow," Mortimer said, but Ike just laughed again as he let go.

"Holy cow ... anyhow, my name's Mort," said Mortimer.

"Mort, huh? Well you're kinda short so I guess you're Short Mort!" Another laugh. "Hey, you any good? At checkers I mean, 'cause you ain't no good at handshakes!"

"Not great," Mortimer said, "but I was doing okay and maybe could have won some prize money. Guess I'll never know now. It's all closed down." He took another sip of beer and this time tried not to grimmace. "So you know anything about this guy that got shot?"

"Bob Pace?" Ike replied. "Yeah, kinda sorta good player but he ain't no pro, or I oughta say he wadn't no pro. Plays around town a lot. The type a guy what finishes third or fourth most a the time. Don't never win first place much. Maybe second once in a while."

"He was doing pretty well," Mort said. "He was in line to win."

"Yeah, that was a big soo-prise to a lotta people," Ike said.

Rosie

Meanwhile, Sheila had struck up a conversation with the lady next to her, who, as it happened, called herself Rosie. "Like my complexion, you know," she had said with a titter. "I'm from New York, actually, but it's kind of fun to hang out in these little towns and I sorta struck up a--- well--- a thing with Ike over there."

Sheila didn't think Des Moines was all that little, but maybe compared to New York, it would seem that way. She also didn't know what Rosie might see in Ike, but appearances can be deceiving.

"Those two are talking about that Bob Pace fellow," Rosie went on. "Bet Ike doesn't give your boyfriend the real inside scoop, though."

"Oh," said Sheila, "you mean there's deeper story?" She gave Rosie a conspiratorial wink. "Buy you a drink if you spill," she said.

"Honey, you got a deal," Rosie replied. "Hey Larry," she said, calling for the barkeep, "double shot of rye straight up."

Sheila wasn't surprised when Rosie took the shot in one gulp. "Ah, love that rotgut," Rosie said. "Well, here's the deal. That Bob Pace, he was an okay player like Ike said but he wasn't nothing great. Thing is, he liked to bet a few dollars on the side. Like quite a few. Liked to bet on himself, too. Lost a lot of the time. Heard he was in hock to some people that ... well let's say they ain't too nice, and ain't too forgiving, if you get me."

Sheila knew there was organized crime in Des Moines, but didn't know a lot about it. "Hmm," she said, "no kidding."

"Well," Rosie said, putting her head close to Sheila's and whispering, "I think there was somethin' goin' on."

"Really? We were right there when it happened. Kind of scary. What do you think it was all about?"

"Don't know. Just know that Pace played at this illegal gamblin' joint that kinda specializes in checkers. Better not say more, though." Rosie leaned back toward her own seat.

"Where's this place?" Sheila asked. "My boyfriend here ... he likes to place a bet or two on his games and we haven't seen any action around here."

"I shouldn't tell ... it ain't safe ... but if you buy me another drink ... "

This time Sheila was surprised when Rosie put down another double rye without so much as taking a deep breath.

"It's not far ... you go over to the next block ... there's the Sweet Corn Cafe. Go in and ask for Colonel Checkers ... "kernel" checkers, get it?" Rosie laughed. "They'll take care of you from there. They'll ask who sent you and you say, "Rosie Double Rye." Then they'll know you're legit. But keep this to yourselves, okay?"

"Thanks Rosie ... well, uh, we have to go." Sheila turned to Mortimer. "Honey, we have to go. Pay the tab and come on."

"But ... okay," Mort said. "Nice to meet you Ike but I'll skip another handshake, okay?"

On the way out Mort asked, "What's the rush?"

Sheila replied, "You won't believe what I found out. We have one more stop to make."

Sweet Corn Cafe

"The Sweet Corn Cafe."

"The Sweet Corn ... "

Mortimer wore a puzzled look as Sheila pulled him through the door and out onto the street.

To be continued.

Do you, like Mortimer, take little breaks from your work to look at checker problems? We can't blame you if you do; just don't let the boss find out. In any case, try out the problem that was distracting our hero and see how you do. Clicking on Read More will show you the run-up and the solution.

08/24/24 -Printer friendly version-

### Sal Goes to Jamestown

It was August, which was usually the hottest month of the year in Bismarck, North Dakota, and 1955 was no exception. Although North Dakota is often rightly thought of as a very cold place, summers, though brief, could be scorching hot, with temperatures above a hundred degrees on some days.

Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, usually stayed in town during August. His wife Sylvia always went to Dickinson to spend two or three weeks with her sister Phoebe, and while she was away Sal would retreat to the relative coolness of his basement to read his checker magazines and do some study from his large checkers library. The Club didn't meet during the summer, and in fact their usual venue, the Beacon Cafe, closed down in August so the proprietress, Deana, could go to Gackle to visit with family and help with the wheat harvest.

Maurice Kamsky

But this year Sal decided to do a little travel as well. His nephew, Maurice Kamsky, ran a plumbing business in Jamestown, and was himself a decent amateur checker player. Maurice was always trying to get Sal to visit, and when he pointed out that Jamestown was having a first ever checker festival, Sal finally agreed to go.

So, on a Friday morning in early August, Sal gassed up the family sedan and rode east on Highway 10 toward Jamestown. The ride took around three hours and Sal finally parked in front of Maurice's modest house at about noon. Maurice saw Sal's arrival and rushed out to help Sal with his suitcase, getting him settled in the guest room before his wife Kate put out a lunch of pastrami sandwiches.

The three chit-chatted over lunch making mostly small talk. Sal wanted to talk about the checker festival, which would take place the following day, with lessons, casual play, and a rapid-play tournament in the afternoon. But before Sal could say much, Maurice said, "It's boy's night out tonight, Sal ... Friday night." Maurice looked over at his wife. "Right, honey?" he said.

"I suppose," Kate said with a bit of a sigh. "As long as you keep it to once a month. Anyhow, I'll go out for ladies night. That will be a lot more fun, I'm sure."

Maurice looked over at Sal and winked. "We'll have fun, too," he said. "Best you get a little rest after lunch as sometimes we have, well, a lot of fun."

Kate raised her voice ever so slightly. "Now, Maurice, watch the drinking, okay? There's that tournament tomorrow, you know."

"Oh honey, I'm not worried about the tournament." He turned and winked again at Sal.

"Well, yes," Sal said, "you have to remember I'm older and shouldn't make a late night of it."

"Aw, get in a nap this afternoon and you'll be good to go, you won't even notice the time," said Maurice. "Look, I need to get back to the shop. Dinner is usually around five-thirty and we'll take off after dinner at seven." Maurice got up, said good-bye, and headed out the back door. In a few minutes Kate and Sal heard his old pick-up truck pull out of the driveway.

"I think I will take that rest," Sal said to Kate. "Thank you for a nice lunch."

###

Dinner was pot roast with vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, and lime Jello for dessert. Kate served coffee but it was obvious that Maurice really wanted to get going.

"Well, I don't know," Sal replied, "I know you'd like me to go with you on your boy's night out, but I really wanted to study a little checkers before the tournament tomorrow."

"Ah, no worries Uncle Sal, you'll win in a breeze. Let's go!"

Reluctantly, Sal put on his jacket and Fedora and followed Maurice out to his pickup.

Within moments they were on a seedy part of Jamestown's Main Street. Maurice pulled up in front of a wide storefront with a sign over it that only said "Island Bar."

"Island Bar?" Sal asked. "Seems kind of odd."

"You'll see. This ... uh ... this kind of bar is sort of ... its own thing, if you know what I mean."

Maurice held the door open for his uncle to enter, and the scene that greeted Sal was like something from a movie shot during the Roaring Twenties. The large bar room was crowded and filled with smoke. Nearly all of the patrons were men, and then Sal saw why. At the front of the room was a sort of raised stage, and on the stage were a dozen or so young girls dressed in, shall we say, a provocative fashion. A piano player was playing just below the stage and the girls were all dancing in an approximation of a Folies Bergere manner.

Sal stopped and turned to Maurice. "I don't think this is quite appropriate for me," he said, "and probably not for you either."

"Hey, come on Uncle, it's just good fun. Anyhow I have a surprise for you a little later. Let's have a couple of drinks first and enjoy the show. Something a bit different is good for a guy sometimes ... "

"But I don't ... "

A waitress, dressed in approximately the same way as the girls on stage, arrived almost at once.

"Beer," Maurice said.

The waitress nodded and looked at Sal. "What'll you have, hon?" she asked.

"Hon?" Sal muttered under his breath but then continued, "Coca Cola, please. Just a small glass."

The waitress, whose name tag read "Candy," replied "If you say so, hon, but a shot of whiskey would do you good and loosen you up some." She bustled off before Sal could say anything further.

Maurice had his beer, and several more, while Sal nursed his Coca Cola and got increasingly irritated by the smoke and the noise. He didn't pay any attention to the stage show, but Maurice watched it eagerly and let out cheers and yells from time to time. Finally, he looked at his watch and said to Sal, "Nine o'clock. Time for your surprise."

"More like time to go home," Sal said but Maurice got up from the table and motioned for Sal to follow. He led his uncle to a door in a corridor at the very end of the bar room.

Sal entered and to his surprise saw about half a dozen checker boards and an equal number of games going on. The players all had glasses of beer or liquor at hand and were evidently drinking steadily.

"Checkers, what else?" Maurice replied. "This is the big time, way bigger than the tournament tomorrow. There you just get a ribbon or something. Here you can win ... big ... if you're good enough and have the courage to play."

"You mean play for stakes?" Sal said.

"Big stakes. Serious play, serious money."

"And serious drinking? That doesn't go with good play ... "

"Tell these boys that. Or better, don't tell them as they might not take too kindly to it."

"I'm leaving," Sal said. "You can drive me or I can call for a taxi, but one way or the other, I"m leaving."

Mike Laury

However just at that moment, one of the games finished. The winner looked up and saw Sal. "Well lookie here," said the man, who had a gruff look, a lined face, and some of the attributes of a heavy drinker. "New blood. Kind of an old codger but if Maurice brought him here, maybe he'll have what it takes to play me."

"That's Mike Laury," Maurice said in a low voice. "He's pretty good."

Laury stood up. "Ain't you going to answer me, old timer? You in or are you chicken? A hundred bucks says I can take you."

"Sorry, I don't play for money," Sal said, "but thank you for the offer."

"Scared are ya? Now listen up and listen good. Maurice brought you here and anyone who comes here plays. Thems the rules and a hundred is our usual stake."

"I said I don't play for money," Sal replied, "and I don't have a hundred dollars on me in any event. So I'll be going now."

"You ain't goin' nowhere!" Laury said. "Maurice'll give me a marker for your hundred, won't you, Maurice?"

Maurice said, "Yeah sure, why not. But I'm warning you, my Uncle Sal is darn good. In fact he's the ... "

"Good is he? Well I'm better. Now get over here and sit down, old man, before I make you."

Sal's temper started to rise, something that was quite rare. "Now look here, you, I don't have to ... okay, you know what? You want to play so badly, we'll play. My nephew tried to warn you."

"Ha ha ha! Warn me did he? About what? That you'll have a heart attack while you're drinking soda pop? Let's go!"

Sal sat down and the game began. Laury was surprisingly good, especially for someone who had half a dozen empty shot glasses at this side. After a while, the game reached the following position with Sal to play.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W13,14,17,18,26,30,32:B2,5,7,10,19,21,24

Sal thought for a little bit and the said, "You were warned, Mr. Laury, so fair is fair." Sal then made his move.

We'll guess that none of our readers has ever been to a 1955 dive bar in Jamestown, North Dakota, where checkers was played in a back room for high stakes; after all, our story is fictitious. But could you have defeated an ornery old cuss like Mike Laury, who despite everything else had talent? We suggest you don't drink six shots of rotgut before trying this problem (none would be the right amount). See how you do and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.

08/17/24 -Printer friendly version-

### Marvin at Training Camp

It seemed to Marvin J. Mavin that August rolled around quickly this year, quicker, in fact, than in previous years. Of course that was all pretty subjective, but for Marvin, August had become a harbinger of fear and dread.

We all know by now that Marvin J. Mavin is the Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League. The Doublejumpers last season had recovered from their poor showing two seasons ago, and had made it to the semi-finals of the World Series of Checkers. However the popular view was that they didn't make it to the finals because of bad behavior on the part of Marvin.

Whether or not that is the case, gentle reader, is something for you to decide for yourself by reading or re-reading the previous stories in this series. Suffice it to say, however, that Marvin was fined a lot of money, sent on a grueling and punitive publicity tour, and only barely retained his team captaincy.

But that wouldn't be all. August was pre-season training month. The Doublejumpers always gathered for training camp at the appropriately named resort town of Au Train, Michigan. Training was a combination of physical and mental effort meant to prepare the players for a tough season ahead.

Marvin always suffered during training, being made to run laps around the lake, do calisthenics, and being denied even a single beer the entire month. This year, though, all of the Doublejumper coaches had promised him "special treatment" in light of his perceived transgressions.

Everything was fine on the bus trip from Detroit, where all the players gathered for the several hour long ride to Au Train. Nothing was said and Marvin wasn't singled out, not even at the lunch stop.

It was on arrival that the fun began.

Training took place at a nice, if rustic resort camp. Each player had an individual room in a series of cabins with several rooms per cabin. However, Coach Anderson signaled to Marvin to come over to where he stood in front of the lodging area. When Marvin approached, Coach handed him a large duffel bag.

"There's a tent in here," Coach said, "and I suggest you set it up in a sheltered area, but be sure it isn't somewhere that has much runoff when it rains."

Marvin looked perplexed. "I don't get it," he said, "why should I set up a tent? I'm usually in Room One, Cabin One, you know, the Captain's room."

Coach smiled and it wasn't an agreeable smile. "Not this year," he said, "You get Tent Number One in Space Number wherever you set it up. Like I told you, find a dry, sheltered spot. And oh, yeah, there's some mosquito spray in the bag. You're going to need it."

Marvin sputtered incoherently but it was all no use.

The next morning Marvin crawled out of his tent tired and stiff. Well, at least there was breakfast, as he saw the other players entering the Mess Hall. But when Marvin reached the door, Coach was waiting for him.

"Laps? What laps?" Marvin replied.

"Your five laps around the lake before breakfast."

"Is everyone doing that?"

"Just you. You're special, remember? Now off you go and make it fast. We're not keeping the Mess Hall open just to wait for you. And no cheating. I'll be watching and counting."

Marvin started jogging and got back only five minutes before the Mess Hall was closing. He had to eat fast and didn't even get to finish his tomato juice.

The players gathered in the main Training Room for their first session. Training was set up with group sessions, individual study, game play, physical training and so on.

Coach Jiggy Jigson

When the players were seated, the new tactics coach, Jiggy Jigson, took the floor. Jiggy had recently been hired to replace the previous coach, who had retired.

"Okay, team, " Jiggy began, "this year we're starting with something different. Our boy Marvin is going to do an exhibition. We'll be showing checker problems on the projector and Marvin will be solving them. He has one minute per problem and for each one he fails to solve correctly within that time, he'll have to run a lap around the lake before lunch. That's in addition to the five laps he's already accountable for ahead of each meal. You love running laps, right Marv?"

Everyone laughed--- except Marvin.

The session began. Marvin didn't do too badly but pretty soon he accumulated five more laps.

At that point Jiggy said, "Okay, Marv old boy, tell you what. How about double or nothing. You do one more problem and the rest of the team does it along with you. If you get it right before anyone on the team solves it, we'll cancel your extra laps. If not you run double --- ten laps, plus five, making fifteen. Won't leave you any time for lunch but ain't that a shame!"

There was more laughter from the other team members, who didn't seem at all sad to see Marvin being given a hard time.

"Come on, Jiggy," Marvin said, "can't I catch a break?"

"That's 'Coach Jiggy'," Jiggy replied, "and I should give you extra laps for disrespect. But I'll let it go one time only, okay? Now, are you in or are you out?"

"I'm in," Marvin said, thinking that no matter what he'd be running laps until he fell on his face with exhaustion.

"Great," Jiggy said, "here we go."

The following problem appeared on the screen, with a timer on the bottom.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK4,6,10,11,17,K18,19,28:B1,2,3,5,9,12,20,25,26,K27

Marvin set to work, knowing he might not even have sixty seconds, as a teammate might solve it at any moment.

Do you think you can beat Marvin and the other Doublejumpers by solving this one quickly? Fortunately, there's no need to rush and you won't have to run laps unless you wish to. Be forewarned, in this problem there are some move order transpositions that may give the appearance of dual solutions, but there is really only one winning line. When you've given this your best, race over to Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.

08/10/24 -Printer friendly version-

### Precision

There's the classic precision of a Swiss watch. There's the precision of a talented musician playing a difficult solo piece or the precision flying of Air Force pilots. The list goes on, and in our game of checkers, there is precision, too. Some lines of play leading to a win or saving the draw require extreme precision wherein one false move leads to either failure to bring home the win or an ignominious defeat.

The following position is from a recent game played between regular Toronto based contributors Lloyd and "Gosh Josh" Gordon. While after the first few moves many variations are possible, precision play is required by White to obtain a draw--- and careful play is required by Black to avoid a possible loss if a wrong move is made.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK4,10,14,15,16,30:B1,3,5,22,K27

How precise is your play? See if you can draw this one, and then click your mouse precisely on Read More to see one version of the solution.

08/03/24 -Printer friendly version-

### State Fair: Part 3

Sheila and Mortimer walked over to a cafe down the street from their motel and had what Sheila called "The Iowa Special": pork chops with baked potatoes and corn on the cob. When Mortimer suggested apple crunch bars for dessert, Sheila declined and said that tomorrow they'd have to find whatever might pass for Chinese in Des Moines.

Back at the motel, they started to discuss the day's events.

"The big question," Mortimer put forth, is why would anyone murder a checker player?"

"It's happened before," Sheila replied. "But this is hardly the same, and a different question is why commit the crime right out in the open when there's such a high chance of getting caught? Why not pick a better time and place?"

"Unless it's a complete psycho. But that type would charge in with some kind of automatic weapon and just shoot up the place, right?" Mortimer said.

Sheila shivered at the thought. "Well, maybe. I think there's more to this. But you heard the Chief of Police. He doesn't want us involved in any way. Besides it's not an FBI matter ... and I'm not a Special Agent either."

Mortimer half grinned. "C'mon, Sheila, you know you want to figure this one out."

"I know you do, Mort!"

"Hey, I was in the line of fire, kinda. I mean, I was up there in the play area ... "

"Quite a few rows back as I recall," Sheila said. "Hey, look, I'm grateful, if you were winning the tournament you would have been up front and it might have been you ... "

"Wait a minute, Sheila! You just gave me an idea!"

Sheila shook her head and groaned. "Heaven spare us from your ideas," she said. "Okay, what?"

"What if it wasn't just a random shooting?"

"It might have been, it might not have been. What does that tell us?"

"It gives us a place to start."

"How?"

"Well," Mortimer continued, "we can look into this Bob Pace guy and see if we find anything interesting. The other thing we can do is go over all those photos we took before we got kicked out."

"If we find anything, we aren't going to be able to get back in there without probably getting arrested ourselves," Sheila said. "But ... oh, okay. We can have a look. Let's upload our photos into our laptops and we'll start going through them. In the morning, with some coffee? It's already 9 o'clock and I think everyone around here goes to sleep at this hour."

"Can't we just ... okay, in the morning then."

###

They went to Pancake House and had another "Iowa Special": pancakes with sausage patties. Then they filled up a large thermos with fresh coffee and went back to the motel room.

Sheila and Mortimer each started up their laptops. A couple of hours passed as they paged through dozens and dozens of photos. Every time a photo contained a checkerboard, Mortimer would stop to examine the position.

"Hey, here's something," he said to Sheila. They were sitting on opposite sides of one of those small motel room tables that you always seem to find between the bed and the heating and cooling unit.

"What, honey?" Sheila asked, getting out of her chair and coming around to the other side of the table. Instead of looking at the crime scene photos, Mortimer was on an internet checker site looking at The Checker Fan's Problem of the Week.

"See, now if the next move is this ... "

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W19,21,22,27:B7,10,13,20

"Oh, Mort! Stay on task, will you?" Sheila gave him a tap on the top of his head. "You're supposed to be examining photos, not cruising the web for checker problems!"

Sheila waited until Mortimer switched back to the photo directory, and then resumed her seat. They kept working for another hour, after which Mortimer said, "Look! There really is something here!"

Sheila gave him a wry expression. "It better not be another checker problem!"

"No, no, really! Look!"

When Sheila reached the other side of the table Mortimer was pointing excitedly at a the photo that was on his screen. "Right here, honey, see?"

"Just the wall of the tent," Sheila said, and then peered closer. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Yup. Looks like a small hole maybe six feet up, and the edges are a bit charred."

"Like someone ... "

" ... put a gun against the tent wall and fired a shot!" Mortimer concluded. "I didn't notice it at the time because the tent walls weren't really all that clean and I was kind of in a rush what with the police showing up and all."

"Likely the police lab will have found it as well, and they'll be able to do some measurements and so on."

"We can make some estimates from the photo," Mortimer replied, "and ... I'm not so confident that the local police will have noticed, either."

"So we really need to tell them. Otherwise we're withholding evidence," Sheila pointed out.

"You think they'll listen to us?" Mortimer asked.

"No. The Chief made that pretty clear. And me being with the FBI and all, he's even less likely to listen," said Sheila.

A moment passed. "Speak of the devil," said Sheila, looking out the window. A Des Moines police car had just pulled up in front of their motel unit. A burly uniformed officer, accompanied by a shorter man in a suit, got out of the cruiser and went straight up to their door.

The uniformed officer knocked on the door, quite hard. "Police!" he said in a gruff, loud voice.

"Close the laptops," Sheila said to Mortimer, "quick!" Mortimer did as instructed as Sheila opened the door.

"Yes?" she said.

"Des Moines police. I'm Officer Tumah and this is Detective Roger. The detective has questions for you two."

Without being invited, the two men pushed past Sheila and into the motel room.

"You two Sheila Larkspur and Mortimer Holmes?" the detective asked, not bothering with introductions. He sat down on the bed while the uniformed office stood at the now-closed door, his arms crossed and legs spread as if he were on guard.

"Yes," Sheila replied. "How did you know ... "

"Chief remembered your name from your FBI badge," Roger said. "Called FBI in Denver. Got all the dope on you including about this here boyfriend of yours. Found out where you were staying, too. FBI ain't the only ones good at detecting. Turns out you ain't no Special Agent and neither is this boyfriend of yours."

"We never claimed to be. So how can we help you, Detective Rogers."

"Roger," the detective said loudly. "Roger, get it, not Rogers. Only one of me and you sure better be glad of that."

"You two was takin' all sorts of pictures yesterday. I come here to get 'em, so hand 'em over."

"Why would you need our photos?" Sheila asked. "You're good at detecting, you said, surely you'll have no use for anything we could give you."

"Don't go gettin' smart with me, lady, I don't care if you're some FBI hot shot, that don't mean nothing to me. Now, the pictures, I ain't got all day. And hey don't this here wimpy lookin' boyfriend of yours ever say nothing?"

Mortimer, who didn't at all like the way Roger was talking to Sheila, finally spoke up. "Yes, I've got something to say, Detective. Show me your warrant."

"Mort, don't ... " Sheila said, but Mortimer kept on talking.

"No warrant no pictures, get it?"

Roger stood up. "Don't you wise off too, peanut," he said. "Gimme the pictures and shut your trap or I'm takin' you both downtown. Got half a mind to do that anyhow."

"All right," Sheila said. "Let me get the cameras and you can take the memory cards."

"That's more like it," Roger said.

Sheila took the cameras out of a dresser drawer, withdrew the memory cards and handed them to the Detective. "You'll return these, right?"

"Don't count on nothin'," Roger said. "Anyhow you got a fancy FBI salary, you can go out and buy a couple more cards no problem." He laughed. "Well, be seein' ya."

Without saying anything more, he and Officer Tumah left the room, got back in their police cruiser, and drove off.

"It was interesting," Sheila said. "They figured out how to find us. Sure, that wasn't too difficult. But don't you see? They wanted our pictures because they know I'm from a major FBI crime lab and probably found some things they missed."

"Why didn't they just ask you what you saw?"

"Because they don't want to look like they're asking for help. So they did this big intimidation thing to get their hands on the photos. As if I couldn't see through it. I also think it was a kind of warning for us to keep our hands off the case."

"And?"

"And," Sheila went on, "now I'm with you, Mort. We're going to figure this one out before they do, aren't we?"

Mortimer smiled. "Yes, dear, we most certainly are."

To Be Continued

Sheila insisted that Mortimer stick with the program and not solve checker problems in-between. But certainly you can enjoy today's problem; after all you don't have a murder mystery to solve (at least we hope not). Give it a go, and there's no need for a search warrant for you to click on Read More to view the solution, notes, and run-up.

07/27/24 -Printer friendly version-

### Marvin's Vacation

"We're going on vacation," Priscilla announced one evening at dinner. Priscilla and Marvin were dining at home in Priscilla's enormous upscale condo, in the family dining room (as opposed to the much larger formal dining room). Dinner was rack of lamb with a mint sprig garnish, as prepared by Prisilla's personal chef.

Priscilla, as Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit based multinational, Rust Belt Holdings, and the daughter of very wealthy parents, appreciated--- and could afford--- an elegant lifestyle. Her husband, Marvin J. Mavin, a superstar professional checker player who was Captain of the National Checker League team the Detroit Doublejumpers, was much more of a simple guy, but since his marriage to Priscilla his lifestyle had changed quite a lot.

"Vacation? You're really gonna take time off?" Marvin said, knowing that Priscilla rarely took more than a day or so off work except on very special occasions.

"Yes, I am," Prisiclla said, "but the point here is that you are going to take time off. And by that I mean time away from checkers. This is going to be a one hundred percent no-checkers vacation. No tournaments. No exhibitions. No games in coffee shops. No internet play. No checker magazines. No checkers, period, in any form whatsoever."

Marvin put down his knife and fork and rested his hands on the edge of the table. "I don't get it, honey, what's the idea?"

"The idea, husband of mine, is that you've had enough checker stress. You've had all that trouble with the league and you just got back from that long, punitive tour they made you do. Besides, next month is training camp and they're going to be very hard on you."

"Aw, it ain't no big deal or nothing ... "

"Then what would you consider a 'big deal'?"

Recall in our previous stories that Marvin had gotten into a dispute during the National Checker League Championship Playoffs. He had been in trouble with the League as well as his team, and there was some doubt if he would remain as team Captain. But an agreement was worked out. Marvin paid a large fine to the League and another to the team. He then spent a month touring and doing exhibitions, starting in Canada and ending up in Texas, traveling only by bus or train and staying only in 2-star or 1-star motels. The tour was indeed as much a punishment as it was a public relations event.

"I dunno."

"Well, it doesn't matter. We're going to spend seven days on a private island. I've rented one off the coast of Belize."

"Bel--- what? I ain't never heard of that one."

"It's a country on the northern part of South America. Everyone knows that ... well almost everyone. The island has a nice villa and a staff that lives on a nearby island and comes over every day. Except for a couple of guards, at night we'll have the island to ourselves, and it's only \$30,000 a night so it's very affordable. The whole trip won't even cost one percent of my annual bonus, and that includes the use of my private jet."

"Sounds kinda rich to me and anyhoo what's there to do?"

"Swim, snorkel, paddle a canoe around the island, lots of things, and you know, spend time together for a change. And NO checkers. Read a good book. Read Shakespeare or Chaucer and take in something cultural. Try your hand at cooking. Or play tennis ... there is a nice clay court on the island."

"Yeah, I 'spose ... sure, we can spend some time together and stuff, but can't I at least take a few issues of All Checkers Digest?"

"No, you may not, and there will be no further discussion. We leave day after tomorrow. I'll have the butler pack for you and he'll make sure you don't sneak any of those magazines into your luggage."

The next evening Priscilla's personal attendant, Rebecca, packed for Priscilla while the butler, Randolph, packed for Marvin. When the bag was packed, Priscilla personally inspected it for "contraband" as she called it, and told Randolph to immediately lock it in the trunk of Priscilla's Rolls Royce limo. So in the morning they were off for the airport--- after Priscilla also inspected Marvin's carry-on backpack.

The flight was uneventful, if a bit long, but Priscilla's Gulfstream jet was very comfortable. Marvin, who was additionally forbidden to take along a laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone for fear it might contain a checker app, watched a couple of superhero movies. Later he picked up a newspaper. He turned to the sports section and what did he see but this.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W15,19,21,23,26,28,32:B1,2,3,6,8,14,24

But Priscilla, ever alert, snatched away the newspaper, saying, "Oh, no you don't." She ripped out the checker column, tore it to shreds, and then handed back the paper. "Okay, you can read it now, and no more funny business," she proclaimed. "Or would you like to borrow my Riverside Chaucer instead, and improve your checker obsessed mind a little?"

A taxi took them from the airport in Belize to the harbor, where a chartered boat was waiting to take them to the private resort on Happiness Island. They were greeted on arrival by a small staff who promised them the best in service and announced that a late dinner of Belizian specialties was prepared and waiting.

The first couple of days went well. It was almost like a second honeymoon. Marvin and Priscilla swam, paddled, and relaxed together. There was no television reception in the villa although there was a selection of English language movies and a radio that could pick up the news on the AM band. The food, of course, was top quality with fresh fruit at all meals, the best of everthing as prepared by a top chef, and a well stocked bar that even had Marvin's favorite brands of beer.

The staff came and went every morning and evening with only a security guard on the island at night.

However after the third day Marvin, well, started to get a little antsy. Oh, he was having a great time and all, but the total ban on checkers was just a little too much. He didn't dare bring it up to Priscilla as he knew any attempt at negotiation would be quickly cut short.

But then Marvin came up with a plan.

The staff were very accomodating and helpful, and if the couple needed anything, like extra toiletries or the like, they had it sent over at once, even if it had to be gotten by helicopter from the mainland (for an extra charge, of course). So one afternoon while Priscilla was sunning in a lounger out on the grounds, Marvin went up to one of the housekeepers, Celia, and said, "Celia, I need your help."

"Yes senor, I am happy to help. What may I do for you?"

"Uh, well, it's like this ... lemme just cut to the chase ... can you get me a copy of All Checkers Digest? Any copy will do. Any edition."

Celia smiled, "Oh, yes, Senor Marvin, we have many of All Checkers Digest in our staff residence on the neighbor island. I will radio Danilo to send over several of them when he comes here tonight for his security watch."

Marvin smiled and patted Celia on the shoulder, then slipped her a hundred dollar American banknote. "Thank you, thank you!" he said, "but there's one more thing."

"Yes, Mr. Marvin?"

"Can you like ... you know ... make sure Priscilla doesn't know anything about it?"

"Oh, it is a big secret, eh?" Celia said. "Do not worry, Mr. Marvin, we will keep your secret. Especially if you are also generous with Danilo."

Marvin cheerfully gave Celia another hundred and then walked away whistling a happy little tune.

That evening after dinner while Priscilla was looking for a nice romantic Hallmark movie to watch with Marvin, Danilo arrived. Marvin met him outside of the villa and Dnailo slipped him an envelope. "It is what you wanted, senor," he said, "but please be careful with it." Marvin thanked him and quietly took the envelope into the guest bedroom, where he put it between the mattress and box spring of the king-sized bed. Tomorrow, when Priscilla was again sunning herself outside, Marvin would finally get to read All Checkers Digest and spend at least an hour or so on his beloved checkers.

They watched "Roses, Romance, and Red Sunsets" and Priscilla pronounced it a wonderful movie while Marvin simply said, "Yes dear, wonderful."

The next afternoon came around and as had become her regular practice, Priscilla went out to sun herself while Marvin said he would take a short rest inside in the air-conditioning. A few minutes later he was in the guest bedroom eagerly opening the envelope Danilo had given him the previous evening.

He pulled out the contents and in the envelope was ...

... an edition of Chaucer's Book of the Duchess.

"What the ... " he exclaimed, and then, carrying the book, went looking for Celia.

He found her in the kitchen cleaning up from lunch.

"Celia, why did I get this instead of All Checkers Digest like you promised me? I gave you and Danilo a nice tip and everything ... "

Celia blushed a little but still smiled. "Oh, Senor Marvin, I am so sorry to have deceived you but it is what Senora Priscilla wanted."

"What do you mean?"

"Senora Priscilla said to me that you may try to 'pull a trick' as she called it, and that this was what I was supposed to do. She gave me that book and said that if you asked for your checker magazines I was to give you the book instead. And tell her that you asked, too. So I did as Senora commanded."

"But you told me ... I mean ... "

"Oh Senor, yes, you did, and you were very generous too, but Senora Priscilla gave us each one thousand American dollars and said we could also keep anything you gave us. And she told us you would give us much less than she did so we must listen to her, and that is what we did. Please do not be angry with me or Danilo."

"Angry? No ... aw, forget it. I shoulda known."

Marvin left the kitchen. When Priscilla came in from sunbathing, she gave Marvin an odd smile but didn't say a single word.

It seems to happen often in these stories; Marvin finds an interesting checker problem but doesn't get to solve it. Would you enjoy a checker-free vacation? Marvin seems to have had no choice. But you do, of course, and we hope you'll choose to solve today's problem. After you're done you can choose to click on Read More to see the solution.

07/20/24 -Printer friendly version-

### Sweeps

Above we see an old-fashioned chimney sweep. There is a lot of lore surrounding "sweeps" including their often worn uniform of top hat and tails; we'll leave it to you to find out more if you're so inclined. But today, in Bill Salot's 75th Problem Composing Contest, we'll look at sweeps of the checker variety: Big problems with big action wherein pieces are swept off the board. This one will be a real challenger and we urge you to check out the contest page and vote for the one you like best.

As an introduction and to whet your interest, here's a problem called The Magnificent Seven, an 8x9 composition by the late Roy Little. It tied for second in Contest 38 in April 2018.

BLACK

WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK1,7,10,K11,14,16,K17,22,30:BK2,3,12,K19,K20,21,K25,K27

See what you can do with Mr. Little's teaser, and then click on Read More to see the solution before moving on to the contest page.

07/13/24 -Printer friendly version-

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