The Checker Maven

The World's Most Widely Read Checkers and Draughts Publication
Bob Newell, Editor-in-Chief

Published each Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawai`i

Contests in Progress:

Composing Championship #74

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An April Storm: A Beacon Cafe Story


It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-April, 1955, and in Bismarck, North Dakota, snow had been falling with a vengeance for hours.

Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, looked out the living room window of his modest home. His club met at the Provident Life Building, which normally would be only about a ten minute walk from his house. But, as was typical for late season snowfalls, the snow was thick and heavy and walking or driving would be hazardous if not downright impossible. But Sal was not one to miss a Saturday afternoon with his checker friends.


He had asked his wife Sylvia if she could give him a ride. Normally she would have been glad to do so but today she said, "I think you had better cancel your meeting. There's always next week and it just isn't worth the risk. It's been snowing all day and there's easily a foot and a half of snow on the ground."

Sal was beside himself. He loved his club with all of that intense passion a true checker fan could muster.

But Sylvia could be right.


It was nearly one o'clock now, the club's starting time, and Sal was still at home. If he was going to walk, he'd arrive quite late. It would likely take at least twenty minutes to get there, maybe longer.

He decided to call the Beacon Cafe and ask Deana, the proprietress, how many of the "boys" (all but one of whom were over 50 years old) had arrived.


He went over to the telephone in the dining alcove and called the Beacon's number. The phone rang a good eight or nine times before he gave up. Then he decided he'd call Deana at her home in Mandan, North Dakota, just across the Missouri River from Bismarck.

Deana answered on the third ring. Sal explained why he was calling, and Deana confirmed what Sal had expected to hear: the cafe was closed due to the weather. "I was supposed to open at seven, as usual," Deana said, "but it looked really bad out. There wouldn't be much business, what with everyone staying home, and I didn't want to risk driving over from Mandan and back."

Sal said he understood and hung up the phone. He fully agreed, of course, but he still was a bit sad. There would be no club meeting until a week from today.

But then he had an idea.

Every week Sal took along a good checker problem for the boys to solve, and whether or not they could win it determined who would pay for Deana's amazingly good baked treats.


Sal got out the telephone book, checked a number, and made another call.

"Dan?" he said when the call was answered. "Hey, you probably figured the club wouldn't meet today."

"Right, no way I'm going out in this weather," Dan said.

"Just as well, Deana didn't even open the cafe today," Sal said. "But listen, take down this checker position."

"Uh, sure," Dan said, "let me get pencil and paper."

Black to Play and Win


Dan quickly returned and Sal gave him the details and terms of the position. "So, I'm going to call Wayne and Ron. How about you call Louie the Flash and Old Frank? I'll ask Wayne and Ron to make a couple of calls too. That way we can contact everyone, and you all can still have a problem to work on. You'll have to provide your own coffee and treats, though. Then around four thirty I'll call you boys back with the solution."


"Sounds like fun," Dan said. "None of us really wanted to miss out on the club today, but this is a great idea."

As the afternoon passed the snow kept falling. It was a good thing, Sal thought, that he had an agreement with a neighboring lad to shovel his sidewalks and back driveway. That wet snow was going to be really heavy, and on the radio they were predicting two feet before the storm ended sometime after midnight.


Sal went and got himself a cup of coffee and settled down in his nice warm living room with the latest issue of All Checkers Digest. It wasn't going to be a bad afternoon after all.

Wherever you may be we hope you're not encountering a massive snowstorm. But if you are, we further hope that you are safe at home. No matter your current environment, we invite you to solve along with the "boys." Don't let the problem snow you; find the solution and then let your mouse fall on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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04/13/24 -Printer friendly version-
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The Long Pitch


Who doesn't love sitting through a long sales pitch or marketing meeting? Honestly we can't think of anyone who would be particularly thrilled by the idea. We certainly aren't and we're glad the The Checker Maven staff doesn't have to deal with anything like that.

Of course, we've just given you a giant hint to the solution of today's Checker School problem! Have a look.

Black to Play and Win


This one isn't so difficult to begin with, and with that big giveaway in the title, you shouldn't take "long" to solve it, or at least that's the idea we're pitching. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the snappy solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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04/06/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Revenge! Part 3

Marvin J. Mavin

The atmosphere was taut and tense in a small conference room in the Portland Checkerdrome. Marvin J. Mavin, in the company of several uniformed police officers and an FBI agent, was staring at a tablet screen with a live video connection to his wife Priscilla's condo back in suburban Detroit. Marvin's nemesis, Charity Chastity "Cha Cha" Hopkins, had gained entry to Priscilla's condo and had captured her and tied her to a kitchen chair. Cha Cha was now brandishing a long bayonet and was holding it at Priscilla's throat.


"Say goodbye to your skanky rich wife," came Cha Cha's voice from the tablet's speaker, "I'll give you thirty seconds starting right now."

Marvin could see Priscilla quivering with fear, the edge of the knife touching her throat.

"No ... no ... wait!" Marvin said. "Can't we like figure this out?"

"SWAT's three minutes out," one of the officers whispered after muting the sound on the tablet. "Hold her off. You know how to talk to her." The officer turned the sound back on."

"Any tricks and you won't even get your thirty seconds," Cha Cha said, "and that's now down to twenty seconds."

There was a roaring in Marvin's head as he confronted a situation that went beyond his worst nightmares. But suddenly the roaring ceased and Marvin said, "Look, can you give it a couple of minutes? I got something to say."

Cha Cha Hopkins

"Ten seconds," Cha Cha replied, "unless it's really good."

"I can get you your old job back," Marvin said. "Just let me get the coach in here."

"I'll get him," one of the officers said and hurried out of the room.

"What are you talking about?" Cha Cha said. But the knife move an inch or two away from Priscilla's throat.

Coach Davey Anderson

"The policeman just went to get Davey, our coach," Marvin said. "What if he stepped down and named you the Doublejumper coach, like you used to be, well, for a little while anyhow."

"He would do that?" There was a curious look on Cha-Cha's face. "Really? He would?"

"Davey's a sport," Marvin said. "He'll see that you won this round. He'll go along with things. Only one thing."

"What?" Cha Cha said. "No tricks, remember?" She again brought her knife close to Priscilla.

"No tricks," Marvin said. "It's just like, if you hurt Prissy, you'll go to jail and stuff and you can't coach us from jail."

Priscilla K. Snelson

"Don't call me Prissy!" Priscilla hissed. "Things are bad enough!"

"You keep quiet, Prissy," Cha Cha said. Then turning back to the video connection, she said, "I'm not going to jail. No one will catch me."

"Yeah but if you're on the run you still can't coach."

Cha Cha seemed to hesitate. "Yeah, I suppose you're right. So what's the deal exactly?"

"You let Prissy--- I mean Priscilla--- go. Davey steps down and you step in. Piece of cake. You good with it?"

"Let me hear it from Davey."

"Sure. He'll be here in a jiff."

One of the officers, out of sight of the camera, mouthed to Marvin, "One minute."

Just then Davey Anderson came into the room with the officer who had gone to find him. "What's this about, now?" he asked.

Marvin quickly explained the deal. Davey took one look at the tablet screen, gulped and turned nearly white before saying, "Uh ... yeah it's a deal. Cha Cha can take over as soon as she can get here."

Then the video screen went blank.

# # #

Several flash-bang grenades went off as the SWAT team, automatic weapons raised, charged through the condo. Two officers soon reached the kitchen. "In here! The hostage!" one of them called.

They quickly freed Priscilla, who was still blinded and deafened from the grenades.

"She's okay!" the officer in charge said into his radio. "Relay that back to Portland!" Then he said, even though Priscilla couldn't make it out, "Come on, ma'am, we'll have you checked out at the hospital." He gently guided her out of the room.

The rest of the team quickly reassembled. "The condo's clear," one of them said. "No sign of the perpetrator."

"Where could she have gone?" the team captain asked.

The officers searched the rest of the building and then around the neighborhood. There was no sign of Cha Cha, and no one had seen anything. She was gone without a proverbial trace.

# # #

It was a big story and it was in all of the newspapers.


Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar captan of the Detroit Doublejumpers, saved the day and the life of his wife Priscilla, with his quick thinking and creativity while under intense pressure. When asked how he did it, Marvin replied, "That Cha Cha is trouble. But she thinks she's some kind of hot coach. I figured if I played to her big ego, she'd fall for it, and sure enough, she bought my story about making her head coach of the Doublejumpers. You gotta be really full of yourself to fall for that but I'm sure glad she did."

The big mystery remaining is what became of Cha Cha. She had somehow gotten out of the condo despite the presence of the SWAT team. "Can't figure it," was all the SWAT captain had to say. "We threw them grenades and that shoulda stunned her. But she got clean away. Never seen nothing like it."

When asked if he was concerned that Cha Cha was still at large, Mr. Mavin replied, "Nah." He declined to elaborate, citing a wish to take a few days' leave from the Doublejumpers to be with his wife as she recovered from her traumatic experience.

# # #

Marvin read the story in his hometown newspaper, The Detroit Divulger, and Priscilla even cut out a copy to save in a scrapbook. But the newspaper naturally had a checker column and Marvin seemed much more interested in the checker problem of the day rather than what he now considered to be old news. "Tom Wiswell--- he's good," Marvin said to himself, "now let me see ... hmm ... "

Detroit Divulger
Checker Problem of the Day
by Tom Wiswell
White to Play and Win


# # #

The woman had just rented a room in a hostel in an Eastern European capital, saying she'd be staying for a few months. It would take her that long to regroup and plan her next move. She smiled, although the smile was more of a grimace. The world hadn't heard the last from her. Not by a long shot.

The End --- for now!

Our story has concluded with a literal flash and a bang. We hope you enjoyed it. We also think you'll enjoy today's problem. Can you solve it in a flash or will you have to bang away at it? Try to swat it down and then fire your mouse on Read More to view the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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Birthday Special


This past week your editor celebrated his 75th birthday. It was a milestone event but also a reminder that The Checker Maven, like anything in this world, can't go on forever.

But for now, onward we go, and today we have a problem sent to us a while back by Bill Salot. We chose it for today because it was first published in Elam's Checker Board in March 1949, the month and year of your editor's birth. It most appropriately appeared in the Poetry of Checkers column. Mr. Salot noted that it stumped Matt Long, but Ben Boland solved it quickly and later called it Bill's Bridge. The composer, of course, was Young Bill Salot.

White to Play and Win


Join the celebrations and solve this intriguing problem. The solution can of course be seen by clicking on Read More.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/23/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Contest 73: High Level Strategies


In big business, strategy at a high level is all-important. Should we buy out that other company? We think we can get it for just a few billion dollars. Should we do a stock split? It would make our shares more affordable to those poor unfortunates who earn less than $2 million a year. What should be done about lagging sales in our international markets? Are there perhaps a few politicians we forgot to pay off? The list goes on and on.

There are high level strategies in our game of checkers, too, although that's something we perhaps don't think a lot about until we reach a somewhat advanced level of play. Tactics come first, then basic strategy, but how do the masters and grandmasters think?

Bill Salot, in his 73rd of his incredible ongoing problem composition contests, has put together some excellent examples of this concept. They can of course be found on the contest page. You are invited to try out the problems and then vote for your favorite.

To get us all started, Bill has provided a sample problem composed by Jim Loy. It's excellent. Jim calls it Elegant and that's just what it is. High level strategies, when well formulated, definitely have a touch of elegance about them.

Elegant by Jim Loy
White to Play and Win


So here's what your strategy should be. Try this one, click on Read More to see the solution, and then go on to the contest page for three more great problems.20050904-symbol.gif

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03/16/24 -Printer friendly version-
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March Craziness: A Beacon Cafe Story


It was March, 1955, and in Bismarck, North Dakota, everyone was waiting for the worst of winter to come to an end. March alternated between snow and cold and some balmier weather.

This Saturday was a day with a foreshadowing of spring in the air. The sun was out and the temperature had reached a pleasant 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Sal Westerman had an enjoyable walk just before 1 PM from his home to the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, where his beloved Coffee and Cake Checker Club was due to have its weekly meeting.


Sal expected a good turnout, as today's activities would be a little different. It was March and this was the week of the big intercollegiate national checker tournament, often referred to as "March Craziness." The nation's attention was focused on this biggest of all college checker tournaments, and the Club was going to listen on the radio to the final, championship match between the University of North Dakota (UND) and the University of Michigan. This year UND had an especially strong team and had managed to snag a rare invite to the tournament. They had been a low seed but, defying all predictions, they had fought their way through to the finale. Of course the odds today were still heavily against them winning the championship, as the Michigan powerhouse was a formidable opponent.

Sal came through the door of the Cafe a few minutes after one and saw that there was already a large group gathered: Dan, Mike, Wayne, Louie the Flash, Tom, Ron, Larry, Delmer, and even Barry and Old Frank, two seldom seen members, were on hand. With Sal, that made eleven, a sort of record attendance which took up both of the large booths in the back. One of the "boys" (all of whom were over 50) had brought along a small radio and had plugged it in to an electrical outlet.

"Come on, Sal!" Ron said. "The match is just getting started!"


"And I've got some nice blueberry bars today!" Deana, the proprietress, announced from her post behind her counter. Deana's baked goods simply had no equal anywhere in the region.

"I guess everyone's buying their own today," Sal observed. Generally Sal would present a checker problem and if the boys could solve it, Sal would buy, otherwise the boys would pick up the tab.

The match indeed had gotten underway. The radio announcer, Van Skulky, was giving the play by play with commentary and analysis from a couple of retired professional players. Van would announce the move on each of the five boards as they were made and would urge listeners at home to follow along on their own checkerboards. Every so often, Van would recap the positions of the pieces.

The boys drank coffee and enjoyed several orders of blueberry bars. Sales were up and Deana was smiling.


The games on the lower boards came to a conclusion ahead of the others. North Dakota won on board five but Michigan won on boards three and four. A little later, board two turned out to be a draw. The score was now 2 1/2 for Michigan and 1 1/2 for North Dakota.

The game on board one was still ongoing. North Dakota needed a win to draw the match, but then they would get the win on tiebreaks, as the rule was that the team with a win on the highest board would prevail in case of a tie score. However Michigan needed only a draw to carry the day.

Russell Gietzman

The top North Dakota player, rated as a Master, was Russell Gietzman. But Michigan's top player, Sy Stinge, was a Grandmaster and she was heavily favored to win.

Sy Stinge

However the game had reached this position, with White (Gietzman, North Dakota) to play.

White to Play and Win


The radio announcer was beside himself with excitement. "This is incredible," he said. "North Dakota has winning chances. Somehow Gietzman has gotten Stinge into a difficult position. What do you think of that, Don?" he said, referring to commentator Don Dinsman.

"It's amazing, Van," Dinsman said. "Here we have a Grandmaster who should have defeated her opponent handily, in a position where she might not even be able to get a draw. But the position isn't easy, and I'm not sure Gietzman will find his way through to a win. If a win is there, it's probably a thin or tricky one. I don't yet see it myself, I just feel it must be there."

"Well, yes, White looks strong all right," said Van, "but Gietzman is using a lot of time and he'll need to choose a move real soon now. "


Sal quickly set up the pieces on one of the boards on the big booth's table according to the announcer's layout. The boys studied it carefully.

White to Play and Win


"Gee Sal, this looks tough," Dan said. "You know Russ personally, do you think he'll find something?"

"Russ is hoping to get picked in the pro draft," Sal said, "and if he wins this one, he'll be a shoo-in. But can he do it? He's good. I think he has a shot at it."


Suddenly the radio announcer spoke out in an excited voice. "Gietzman is making his move! It's ... "

Match wits with the best intercollegiate players of our fictional 1955 season. Do you think Sy will get the draw for her team and snag the national title? Or will Russ carry the day and bring the championship to North Dakota for the first time ever?

See how you might have done, by solving the problem and then clicking on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our little story.20050904-symbol.gif

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Harder Than You Think


Riding a sheep is a lot harder than you think, as this young fellow at a rodeo is finding out.

Even in day to day life, some things do turn out to be harder than you think. Any one of us can think of numerous examples.

Now, in our game of checkers, certain positions are surprisingly hard, much harder than they look and much harder than you think.

Although this column appears on the first Saturday of the month, our traditional "speed problem" day, today's problem isn't quite a speed problem. It's really all about finding the right first move and then the follow-up will be fairly clear for most players, even if it's a number of moves in length. So see how fast you can find the winning move. It may perhaps surprise you and depending on your skill level you may find it harder than you think.

White to Play and Win


If you don't see the solution right away, try harder. When you're ready, though, you won't have to try very hard to click your mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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One of Those Things


In our game of checkers, one of those things has, at least for us, brought to mind a couple of items, one of which is a problem with the terms shown below, Black to Play, White to Win, our latest entry in our ongoing Checker School series.

How are we supposed to know how Black is going to play when we're trying to win with White? Add to that, the diagram is shown on the Black side as our convention is to orient the board to the side which is on move.

However, there is a saving grace in that it's a very nice little problem, attributed to a noted Colorado problemist of bygone days, L. J. Vair. Yes, it's one of those, but it's worth the relatively minor annoyance.

Black to Play, White to Win


Don't yourself be one of those; solve the problem and then click on Read More to see the solution and notes.20050904-symbol.gif

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Revenge! Part 2

Marvin J. Mavin

"Mr. Mavin ... Mr. Mavin, can you hear me?"

The voice came as if from a distance, at the end of a long tunnel. Someone was saying something. Marvin thought he heard his name but everything was so hazy. He couldn't focus; he couldn't make out the words. Just his name or something that sounded like his name.

" ... starting an IV ... "

Marvin felt something jab his arm and suddenly he opened his eyes.

"Can you follow my flashlight?" a different voice said. A light, way too bright, was now shining in his eyes.

"Hey cut it out!" Marvin managed to say, although he hardly recognized his own voice, it was so weak and raspy.

"He's responding," the same voice said. "Now, Mr. Mavin, please, following my flashlight."


The light began tracing a path to Marvin's right. Marvin tried to sit up but firm hands held him down.

"Please don't move, Mr. Mavin, until we can assess your condition."

"Did I have, like, too much beer or something?" Marvin asked.

"No, Mr. Mavin, there's been an explosion and you were knocked unconscious. Now please, work with us while we assess your condition and then get you to the hospital."

"Hospital? I ain't going to no ... "

And then it all came back. Marvin sank into the cushions of the gurney, no longer trying to sit up, He had been on the phone with Priscilla. Something had been wrong. A threat. That was it. And then there was this bright flash and loud noise and then utter blackness.

"Priscilla ... is she okay?"

"I'm sorry sir, who? There was no one else here with you."

"It's his wife," the other voice said. "Priscilla is Mrs. Mavin."

Priscilla K. Snelson

"Oh, yeah," Marvin said, "yeah, she's in Detroit. So she must be okay, right? Can you like, you know, call her? Her number's on my cell phone."

"I'm afraid there's not much left of your phone, sir. Now please, let us finish checking you over. The hospital staff will be happy to call your wife for you."

"I don't wanna ..."

"Mr. Mavin, we'll give you something to help you relax." The EMT quickly injected Marvin with a tranquilizer.

"Ow! That hurt! Now look, I ..."

That was all Marvin said. He was once again unconscious.

"Gee," the EMT said to his partner, "I know the guy's a superstar and all that, but he sure is a handful. Let's get him off to the Emergency Room where he'll be someone else's problem.

# # #


Someone at the hospital did finally call Priscilla, who said she would take her private jet to Portland as soon as it could be readied. But the nurse in charge reassured Priscilla that Marvin wasn't seriously injured and would be released soon. She further told Priscilla that Marvin would be busy with the police and the FBI for quite a few hours, and it wasn't worth her flying all the way out from Detroit. Priscilla reluctantly agreed.

"Whew, dodged that one," the nurse said to the others in the nurses' station. "Can you imagine having a rich entitled prima donna right up in our faces?"

Marvin spent the night at the hospital with a policeman outside the door of his room. In the morning, he was discharged and the policeman took him to Portland FBI headquarters. He was interviewed for several hours.

"Cha Cha" Hopkins

He told the agents the whole story about Cha Cha, and they said they would look into it but that there was really very little to go on. Someone had launched a rocket propelled grenade at the hotel and hit the window of Marvin's room. The agents were inclined to think that wasn't accidental.

"The thing is," one agent said, "is that there's no evidence. Nothing on CCTV of any use, not even anyone at the front desk that can recall being asked for your room number. So we're kind of stuck. We'll keep investigating but meanwhile just watch your back, okay?"

With that, Marvin was sent back to his hotel, where he was offered a different room. "Of course," the clerk said, "there's the matter of damages to your other room. You know, the broken window and damage to the walls. Normally a customer would be asked to pay for this, but given the circumstances, the General Manager says we won't be charging you."

Marvin gave the clerk a bewildered look. "Yeah, real nice," he finally said, "me not having to pay for someone trying to kill me and all. Hey look, I gotta get to my match."

Marvin walked away. Golly, but a beer would be nice, except coach wouldn't approve.

He knew he really ought to call Priscilla before he got on the team bus to go to the match. But his phone had been smashed and he didn't have time to go to his new room and call from there. Prissy was going to be pretty upset with him but the hospital had told him they had been in contact with her and let her know that everything was okay.

Al Caius Caszmir

Marvin did his best in that evening's match. He was playing first board against the Paisley's top player, a fellow named Al Caius Caszmir. He had been a star in the Eastern Europe League before landing a contract with the Paisleys.

At some point, the game reached the following position. Marvin had winning chances and both he and his opponent knew it

White to Play and Win


Marvin spent a few minutes, fidgeting in his characteristic manner and muttering to himself. Finally he said loudly "Aha!" and was about to reach out and make his move when ...

# # #


Priscilla was shaking as she sat in one of her designer leather couches, her cell phone hanging loosely from her left hand, a glass of Chateau LaFitte in her right. She lifted the glass to take a sip but her hand was trembling so badly she had to set the glass down on the crystal coffee table in front of the couch. Even at that, she managed to spill a few precious drops.

She shouldn't have listened to that nurse last night. She should have ordered the corporate jet readied and flown to Portland at once. She could have been there inside of a few hours.

Instead she had tried to sleep with no success. Her chauffeur picked her up in the morning and took her to work as always, but she couldn't focus and ended up canceling her afternoon meetings and going home early. She had put on a yoga DVD but yoga didn't calm her either. Now it was early evening. She had no appetite and even a fine wine didn't appeal.

She hadn't heard any more from Marvin. All she know is that he had left the hospital and was supposed to be playing in a match right about now.

She had dismissed her security detail, figuring she was being overly paranoid. Now she wasn't so sure if it was a wise idea.

Finally she had enough. She was going. She needed to be with Marvin. He would be in Portland for two more days. She'd order the jet and who cared what the shareholders thought. She'd just reimburse the expense. Or get her Board to approve it as an emergency. She didn't care.


Rust Belt had a transportation coordinator on duty all the time. She called that office and made arrangements. The coordinator told her the jet could be ready to go in three hours; that's how long it would take to call in a pilot and a steward, do fueling and checks, and file a flight plan.

It was 7 PM. Priscilla arranged for a chaffeur to pick her up at 8. That would get her to the airport at 8:30. Maybe her arriving early would get the staff to move things along a little faster.

She spent the next little while packing a bag. As an experienced traveler, that didn't take very long.


At 8:00 there was a knock on her service door. Good. The driver was early. Transportation must have sensed her mood.

She went to the service door and peered through the spyport. It was a female driver she didn't recognize. Maybe they had hired someone new. She would have liked to have had her favorite night driver, Manny, but he must have had the night off.

She unlatched the door and swung it open. "I'm glad you're early, and I'm all set to go ... "

A strong foot kicked the door open the rest of the way and Priscilla found hersef facing a silenced 9 mm Glock automatic held by none other than Cha Cha Hopkins.


"Make a sound, lady, and it's the last one you'll ever make."

# # #

... a uniformed police officer came running across the playing field and over to Marvin's seat at home plate. He wore a sergeant's stripes, making him a little older than the less senior officers, and he was clearly out of breath. "Mr. Mavin," he began, "you need to come with me. Right now."

Marvin, his hand still outstretched over the board, ready to make his move, turned his head and said, "Hey there, bro, we're in the middle of a match here and you're interrupting. Now lay off, okay?"


"Sir," the officer replied, "I told you, you need to come with me now!" This latter was delivered in a commanding tone. "Now, I said."

Marvin looked around, seeing where the referree was ... there, sitting in his chair a few feet off the left side of the board.

"Hey ref," Marvin said, "can you tell this dude to like, buzz off?"

The sergeant's face turned red and with a beefy hand under each of Marvin's shoulders, he pulled Marvin up and out of his seat and started to drag him towards the player's entrance.

"Bro, I gotta make my move! My clock's running down! Let go of me!"

The sergeant didn't reply and just kept pulling Marvin to the entrance. Marvin was already through the door when the stadium announcer told the assembled crowd that Pietri Donaleki would be substituting for Marvin J. Mavin.


The policeman meanwhile had gotten Marvin into a small room filled with other police officers. They were standing around a tablet computer which was clearly running a video calling program. Marvin took a quick look and then a long look. He couldn't believe his eyes.

# # #

"Say hello to your beloved hubby," Cha Cha said, holding her cell phone up to Priscilla's face. Priscilla was tied firmly to a chair in her kitchen. Her hair was dishelved and she had a couple of bruises on her face. "He's got the police with him but that won't do you any good."

"Marvin!" Priscilla shouted. "Help me!"


"SWAT team is on the way," one of the policeman said to Marvin. "Don't worry." It all came through clearly on Cha Cha's end.

"I heard that!" Cha Cha said. "They'll never get here in time, and I'll be long gone."

She paused for a moment.

"And so will Priscilla. Watch what happens next, Marvin."

To be continued.

It's a tense situation for Marvin and Priscilla, but we'll have to wait until next month to see how things turn out. Yet you don't have to wait at all to try out today's problem, which is a very practical one. You won't need to call in a SWAT team; just solve it on your own and click on Read More to check your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/17/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Beacon Cafe: A Valentine's Day Gift


Valentine's Day was just around the corner, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club was talking about Valentine's Day gift giving.

The year was 1955 and the place was the Beacon Cafe, on the ground floor of the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. The Coffee and Cake Checker Club, informally led by Sal Westerman, a kindly elderly gentleman, met at 1 PM sharp on Saturdays from September through May.

Meetings often followed a routine. The members--- Sal called them "the boys" even though all but one of them were at least 50 years old--- would visit a little over coffee. Then Sal would present a checker problem which he had selected during the week. The boys would try to solve it. If they did, Sal would buy them all treats, baked by Deana, the Beacon's proprietress and a baker without equal. If the boys couldn't solve it they'd buy treats for Sal and his wife Sylvia.

Young Blaine

But today young Blaine was in attendance, along with regulars Dan, Wayne, Larry, Mike, and Louie the Flash (that's what everyone called him).

You may recall our holiday story in which young Blaine was being pressured to make a Christmas marriage proposal to Moira, his long-time girlfriend. Blaine did indeed propose, and Moira accepted. It was a joyous holiday season for them, and they agreed upon a June wedding date.

It goes without saying that young Blaine was once again being teased by the rest of the boys. This time it was about what he was going to give his new fiancee for Valentine's Day.


"Come on there, young Blaine, she'd really appreciate a new car, maybe one of those Caddys," Dan said.

"Take it easy on me, guys," young Blaine replied, "I can't afford anything like that. I'm just a junior engineer at the power company. I'll be in hock for months for the engagement ring I got her at Christmas."

"Well, I can tell you if you don't come up with something nice, you'll be in hot water," Wayne said. "I think it's happened to all of us. Don't let it happen to you!"

"If you can't get her a new Caddy, maybe you could get her some more jewelry," Louie the Flash offered.


Deana, stationed as always behind her counter, chimed in, "Girls always like diamonds. Get her diamond earrings or a diamond necklace to match that engagement ring."

"I'm not made of money," Blaine said, "like I told you I'm a junior engineer with a junior engineer's pay. Wouldn't a dozen red roses do the trick?"


"Might be," Sal said, "but only if you take her out for an expensive dinner, like maybe at the Patterson." The Patterson Hotel was an upscale hotel with an upscale restaurant.

"That could work," Deana said, "but you still have to give her something on the side, and please don't say perfume."

Everyone nodded their heads, thinking back to a disastrous experience Sal had once had (see a previous Checker Maven story).


"You know what," Mike said, "offer to take her shopping at A. W. Lucas and buy her anything she wants."

"I hate shopping, young Blaine said. "But Moira loves it."


"See, we've got it all figured out for you," Louie the Flash said. "Invite her down from Minot for the weekend. Put her up in the Patterson, get her roses, take her out for dinner, and the next day take her shopping. She'll love it, and it shouldn't cost you more than ... well, less than a diamond ring, anyhow."

Blaine groaned and tried to change the topic. "Shouldn't we be solving Sal's checker problem instead of spending what little money I have left?"

That got a good laugh from everyone, and Sal said, "Very well then, here we go." He arranged the following position on one of the waiting checkerboards.

White to Play and Win


"Okay, boys," Sal said, "you've got an hour, and after that you'll be buying for sure."


"M & M bars today," Deana told the group. "Great for Valentine's Day."

The boys quickly forgot about teasing Blaine and dug into the checker problem. Meanwhile Sal ambled over to Deana's counter to chat a bit.

"I knew he'd propose," Sal said, "and I knew it would work out."

"It was pretty obvious," Deana replied. "You know how it works. He chased her until she caught him! I'm happy for them both, and I think he gets the message about Valentine's Day."

Sal and Deana both shared a smile and a chuckle.

The Checker Maven won't presume to suggest what you should or shouldn't do for Valentine's Day. That all depends on your own situation and your own preferences. But we do suggest you try out today's problem. Give it a "hearty" try and then with a "flowery" gesture, click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of today's little tale.

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02/10/24 -Printer friendly version-
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The Checker Maven is produced at editorial offices in Honolulu, Hawai`i, as a completely non-commercial public service from which no profit is obtained or sought. Original material is Copyright 2004-2024 Avi Gobbler Publishing. Other material is the property of the respective owners. Information presented on this site is offered as-is, at no cost, and bears no express or implied warranty as to accuracy or usability. You agree that you use such information entirely at your own risk. No liabilities of any kind under any legal theory whatsoever are accepted. The Checker Maven is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bob Newell, Sr.

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