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 #75


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Harder Than You Think

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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.

BLACK
20240115-harder.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W19,K22,23,24,27,30,32:B8,12,13,16,20,21,K31

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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03/02/24 -Printer friendly version-
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One of Those Things

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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.

WHITE
20240115-schoon.png
BLACK
Black to Play, White to Win

B:WK10,13,K17,K23,32:B5,12,K22,K29,K31

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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02/24/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Revenge! Part 2

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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."

20240118-emt.jpg

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."

20051004-marvingf2.jpg
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.

# # #

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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.

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"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.

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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

BLACK
20240118-part2.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:W19,21,22,23,30,31:B1,3,9,11,12,14

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 ...

# # #

20240118-whine.jpg

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.

20240118-call.jpg

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.

20240118-sdoor.jpg

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.

20240118-gg.jpg

"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?"

20240118-cop.jpg

"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.

20240118-tab.jpg

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!"

20240118-swap.jpg

"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

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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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?"

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"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).

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"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."

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Moira

"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.

BLACK
20240101-valentimes.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK4,14,15,18,27,28,30,32:B1,2,11,12,16,20,21,K25

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

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"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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You Can't Win 'Em All

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You can't win 'em all? No, you can't.

We've all heard the checker maxim "Keep the draw in sight." But we've also heard it said, "You have to take the chances to make the chances."

When we're a piece up, we expect to win. That's another bit of checker wisdom, and it's true--- except sometimes when it isn't. That practical maxim, "You can't win 'em all" might apply, as it does in the position below.

BLACK
20231230-winem.png
WHITE
White to Play and Draw

W:WK2,K6,11,29,30:B3,12,K13,14,15,K19

Black is a piece up but White can draw the game with the right play. It's really pretty easy and well within the reach of nearly all players. See how fast you solve it. Call it a personal win if you find the draw. After solving the problem a winning move would be to click on Read More to verify your solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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02/03/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Beginner's Jinx

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Pictured in the drawing above is a character named Jinx from The League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle game. No, we didn't know anything about the game or the character either, and with no disrespect intended towards players of the game, that might be just as well. On the fan site we are told this. "A manic and impulsive criminal ... Jinx lives to wreak havoc without care for the consequences."

We hope that there are few if any checker players who are manic and impulsive criminals, much less living to wreak havoc in any manner except across the checkerboard. And indeed today we're going to look at the more commonly known kind of jinx, something that brings bad luck. The following position, from Andrew Banks' quirky book Checker Board Strategy, is referred to by said Mr. Banks as "The Beginner's Jinx" and goes back to William Payne. It's this month's entry in our long running Checker School series.

BLACK
20231229-classic.png
WHITE
White to Play, Black to Win

W:WK9,K27:BK10,K15,K19

Of course this classic 3x2 ending will present no difficulties for the experienced player, and is covered in many texts. Indeed you may wonder why we even bother to feature it. But we've presented such positions in the past because this ending can be baffling for newer players. The Checker Maven strives to provide a little something for everyone.

So don't jinx yourself. Novices and beginners, see how you do. Experienced players should solve it in seconds. Either way it's good practice, and clicking on Read More won't bring you bad luck but instead will show you one way to win it.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/27/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Revenge! Part I

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Portland, Oregon

It was January and the National Checker League season was back in full swing after the holiday break. The Detroit Doublejumpers, a former championship team trying to make a comeback, was in Portland for a three match series with the Portland Paisleys. They would go on to San Franciso, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and finally Cleveland before beginning a home stand back in Detroit. It was a long road trip, and Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar champion of the Doublejumpers, would be away from his wife, Priscilla, for an extended period. (Recall that, in a previous series of stories, we recounted Marvin and Priscilla's summer wedding and European honeymoon.)

On a Monday the Doublejumpers had just arrived in Portland on a short flight from Seattle, where the Doublejumpers had swept a four match series with the Seattle Switchers. Everyone on the team was feeling good and the mood was upbeat.

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Coach Davey Anderson

After a team dinner, carefully overseen by new head coach Davey Anderson to ensure that there would be no imbibing of spirits, something strictly forbidden during active playing dates, everyone retired to their rooms to relax and rest, as they would need to turn out for the team bus just after lunch the following day to go to the Portland Checkerdrome for practice sessions and then their series opener at 6 PM against the Paisleys.

Marvin decided to read the Portland newspaper instead of watching a movie on the room's big screen TV. The newspaper, the Portland Portlandian, had a daily checker column and Marvin enjoyed that even more than the funnies. (On occasion, he was even known to read the news although he didn't make a habit of it, leaving it to Priscilla to catch him up with current events when the Doublejumpers were at home.)

Tonight, Marvin decided to do things in reverse order. He got into his pajamas and bathrobe and read Blondie, Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, and his favorite of all--- Dennis the Menace--- before turning to the checker column. And it was there that he saw the following headline and news story.

20230716-chacha.jpg
Cha Cha Hopkins

"Disgraced Coach Finds Post in Semi-Pro League"

"Charity Chastity Hopkins, commonly known as 'Cha Cha', has taken a position as the Head Coach of the Manasquan Muppets, a semi-pro team in the Jersey Shore League on New Jersey's Atlantic coast. Cha-Cha, who had coached briefly in the majors, was accused of the attempted second degree murder of Marvin J. Mavin, the Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers. Charges against Cha-Cha were dropped due to a serious case of misgendering, but the NCL Players' Union said they would go on strike again if Cha Cha was made a coach in any NCL or affliate team, from the Majors right on down through the Rookie Leagues.

"Cha Cha was reported as having said, 'I wanted to stay in checkers. I'm a great coach and I have a lot to offer. I took what I could get, but someone of my caliber shouldn't be reduced to this. I blame that miserable maggot, Marvin J. Mavin. It's all his fault and one day I'll get even. He and that skanky wife of his had better watch their backs."

"When asked if she was threatening Marvin or his wife Priscilla, Cha Cha replied, 'It's not a threat, it's more like a promise.'

"NCL officials could not be reached for comment, but one representative who spoke on condition of anonymity said, 'We won't be pursuing this. After that misgendering incident, Cha Cha is pretty much untouchable.'"

The first thing Marvin wondered was why he hadn't been asked to comment. But he guessed that the NCL top brass warned off the press, again because of his misgendering Cha Cha and thereby getting criminal charges against her dropped due to his use of "fightin' words" (recall from previous stories that Marvin had called Cha Cha a "woman" and had failed to ask her for her preferred pronouns).

20231228-tfone.jpg

At the trial, Cha Cha had said she would get even. Now, she had gone public about it. Marvin further wondered if Priscilla had heard about this. Then, as if on cue, the room telephone rang before Marvin even had a chance to look at the checker problem printed below the news article.

Marvin located the phone on a nightstand next to the bed and picked it up.

"Hullo?" he said.

"Marvin, it's Priscilla. Why aren't you answering your cell phone?"

"Uh ... what? Oh yeah, that. I gotta charge the battery but I don't know what I did with the charger and I been busy and stuff so you know ... "

"Okay, stop. Look, dear, I'm still at work, it's been very busy, but I just got a call from one of my researchers."

"Still at work, wow, ain't it kinda late over there?"

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A Rust Belt Holdings Property

Priscilla was the CEO of the international conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings and had a very busy work life.

"Never mind it being late, the researcher found an article that appeared in the checker columns of several major newspapers. It's about that woman that attacked you ... "

Marvin chuckled. "Yeah, Cha Cha. I just seen the article in the Portland newspaper. Kinda concerning."

"It sure is."

"Yeah, ain't nobody asked me what I think. It's all about that woman--- uh, I mean that person."

Marvin heard an exasperated sigh as Priscilla went on, "Marvin! She's threatening us! And she's very violent! What are you going to do about it?"

"I dunno. Ain't much to do. I'd just get in trouble again and after that hearing I don't need no more trouble. She ain't going to do nothing anyhow."

20231228-secur.jpg

"She already tried to kill you once, how can you say that?" Priscilla paused. "Well, if you're not going to do anything, I will. I'm going to get Rust Belt Security to set up monitoring at home, in the office, and in my limo and all of my cars. And I suggest you tell your Coach about this."

At that, Priscilla hung up the phone.

Marvin thought about calling Priscilla back but then realized he first had to find his cell phone and charge it up. Then he thought he'd just get another earful in any event, or even worse, Priscilla might be angry enough not to even take his call.

It took him a good fifteen minutes to find his phone and charger, and by then he decided to call it a night. He didn't even bother with the checker problem the Portland paper had published that day.

WHITE
20231229-revenge1.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Draw

B:W11,13,21,25,26,28,30,31:B2,3,5,6,9,14,19,23

Marvin, as was typical, slept through breakfast and was barely in time for the team bus. Upon arrival at the Checkerdrome, there was a working lunch with the Tactics Coach and then sessions with the Openings Coach and the Endings Coach. Blitz scrimmages followed and practice wound up about 90 minutes ahead of the match with the Paisleys.

The match went well and the Doublejumpers won handily by a score of 7 to 3. It was only when Marvin arrived back at his hotel room and ordered a room service dinner that he thought to look at his phone. The coaching staff didn't permit the team members to take cell phones to the stadium for fear they would be distracted, and most of the team couldn't wait to check for messages once they got off the bus at the hotel. Marvin, however, was not so attached to his phone.

20231228-missed.jpg

To his utter consternation, his phone showed eighteen missed calls, two voicemails, and ten text messages. Every single one of them from Priscilla. Marvin started through them. Most of them just said "call me" albeit in a more and more exasperated tone. The final voicemail said, "I can't reach you so I tried calling the team office. They refused to put me through. They said your match can't be interrupted and they didn't care that I was the Team Captain's wife. I said I would sue. I asked them if they knew who I was and what a powerful position I held. They wouldn't budge. I've got a mind to call a lawyer and start a suit against your team. But if you don't call me right now I may call a different lawyer. The kind that specializes in divorce settlements."

That was the end of the message.

Needless to say, Marvin called Priscilla's number at once.

She answered at once. "About time," she said curtly. "Didn't you realize how urgent this is?" Then, not giving Marvin a chance to respond, Priscilla went on, "I got an envelope in the mail today. My office mail, no less."

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"Uh yeah honey well gee, dontcha get a lot of mail and stuff?"

"Not this kind. It was a small brown envelope, hand lettered with no return address. It made me very suspicious. I called the mail room and chewed them out for not having it checked, and then had security take it off and examine it. And do you know what was in it?"

"Uh ... like ... a bomb or something?"

"No, no, although it's just as bad. You know that news article about Cha Cha and her saying she'd get even. Well, what was in the envelope was a copy of the article with "You're next after him" scrawled across it in red crayon."

"You're next ... like ... you're going to be the next pro-am coach or something? I can't figure ... "

"NO, you idiot, it's a THREAT! Don't you get it? A threat!

"Uh, yeah, you're right. You gonna call the cops?"

"I did. They said they can't do anything. There's no proof that this came from Cha Cha. But of course it did. So as I told you earlier, I have a Rust Belt security detail watching the house, and they'll be driving me wherever I need to go. But you better watch out yourself."

"Sure honey, yeah, whatever you ... "

20231228-bang.jpg

The windows of Marvin's hotel room shattered as the rocket propelled grenade exploded against them. The phone dropped from Marvin's hand and everything turned black.

To be continued.


Will Marvin ever get to solve that checker problem? You'll have to tune in next month for the second part of this three part story. But you can solve it right now (we hope you haven't experienced any exploding windows) at your leisure. Don't bomb out. Solve the problem and then detonate your mouse on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/20/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Young Bill Salot at the Beacon Cafe: Contest #72

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Editor's note: The following story serves as an introduction to Bill Salot's Problem Composing Championship, #72 in the series, which can be found on the contest page.


Winter had closed in on Bismarck, North Dakota. It was January, 1955 (it's always 1955 in these stories), and on a very cold and windy Saturday afternoon, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club had gathered for its weekly meeting.

At just after 1 PM, the usual starting time, several of the regulars were on-hand, occupying the big booth in the back of the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, the club's long-time regular venue. Wayne and Dan were there, along with Delmer, Louie the Flash, and Mike. Ron and Larry, who were less frequent attendees, had also come out, as Sal Westerman, the club's unofficial leader, had promised something special for this week.

In fact, Sal had just come through the front door of the cafe, along with a companion whom everyone instantly recogized from his frequently appearing photo in All Checkers Digest.

20231119-youngbills.jpg
Young Bill Salot

The guest was none other than Young Bill Salot, who was only in his twenties but was already known to be a prolific problem composer, and the sponsor of the problem composing contests which ran every other month in the aforementioned All Checkers Digest.

The contests had been ongoing for quite some time. Young Bill would name a theme and solicit compositions from the best problemists in America, Canada, and beyond. Readers of the magazine would mail in their votes for their favorite problem, and the winning composer would receive a fabulous $100 prize.

Young Bill was on a nationwide lecture tour, discussing the art of problem composition at checker clubs throughout the land, and Sal had asked him to visit Bismarck--- in January, no less, even though Young Bill hailed from much warmer Virginia. Young Bill readily agreed to stop in and present a challenging problem and then give an informal talk about problem composition, even while expressing reservations about Bismarck's winter weather.

Everyone stood to greet Young Bill, who managed to shake hands with all of the "boys" (who were easily twice Young Bill's age), despite Young Bill's shivering and being red-faced from the zero degree outside temperature, not to mention the 20 mile-per-hour wind.

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Deana Nagel

Deana, the proprietress of the cafe, came over from behind her counter to also offer Young Bill a cordial greeting. "Welcome to Bismarck," she said, "hope you like our weather!" She gave out a hearty laugh. "Sal tells me you're a fan of hot chocolate, would you like a cup to warm you up?"

Young Bill readily assented, and soon he was seated among the boys in one of the big booths.

After some preliminary chatter about Young Bill's lecture tour, and his highly regarded problem contests, Young Bill took the floor.

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"The contest that was just published in All Checkers Digest, has a very special theme. It's called "Deferred Quadruples" and the name speaks for itself. Problems with this theme take a lot of skill to compose, and it's the kind of thing that doesn't come up very often over the board. But solving problems of this type are a great way to improve and train your tactical vision. A little later on, we'll get into some of the nitty-gritty detail, but for now I want you boys to try out a sample problem that isn't part of the contest but nicely illustrates the contest theme."

Young Bill set up the following position on a couple of the checkerboards which were on the booth's tables.

BLACK
20231119-tilta.png
WHITE
White to Play and Win

W:WK20,22,23,25,28,30:B6,7,10,21,K26

"Now, I hear from Sal that you have a tradition about who buys the treats. If you solve the problem, Sal buys for everyone, but if you don't get it, you buy for Sal and his wife--- and for me, too, I hope!"

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Everyone chuckled, and Deana, who never missed a trick, announced "I've got chocolate chip bars today!"

Young Bill smiled. "That's quite the incentive, so go to it, boys, and while you do, I'll warm up some more with another cup or two of Deana's great hot chocolate."

Deana hurried over and refilled everyone's coffee mugs and brought Young Bill his hot chocolate while the boys dug into the new checker problem.

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Sipping his hot chocolate, Young Bill said quietly to Sal, "You think they'll get it?"

"They're quite good," Sal replied, "and telling them the theme was a huge hint. So I think I'll be buying today."

It was Young Bill's turn to chuckle. "All the same to me," he said. "I'm looking forward to those chocolate chip bars no matter who buys. From what you've told me, I've got a real treat in store."

"How long will you give them to solve it?" Sal asked.

"We'll keep it to about 45 minutes so I have enough time to give my talk," Young Bill replied. "I sure want to get back to the Patterson Hotel before it gets much colder."

"My wife Sylvia and I will host you for dinner at the Patterson's restaurant," Sal said. "A shame you have to leave tomorrow morning. Where do you go from here?"

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"Bozeman, Montana," Young Bill said. "I'll be speaking at the Montana State Checker Federation, and I'll get to meet up with that six-year old prodigy, Little Jimmy Loy, who already is making a name for himself. But it's probably just as cold there as it is here. Next time remind me to tour the northern states in the summer!"


You won't have to look for a January 1955 copy of All Checkers Digest to become a solver and a voter in the modern Bill Salot's 72nd contest in his ongoing series; all you need to do is click here to go to the contest page. Try out the three excellent problems found there and be sure to vote for your favorite. Unlike in our story, there are no prizes, but there is certainly plenty of great checker entertainment.

However, first try your luck against the boys and Young Bill with the sample problem above. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our little story.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/13/24 -Printer friendly version-
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A Lot of Work

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It's often said, and with good reason, that the road to success is paved with hard work. We've experienced this ourselves and we're sure many of our readers have as well. But the task above is seemingly impossible. It does pay to work smart as well as to work hard.

Now, although we're going to start off the New Year by working you quite hard, the task we're setting is achievable and we hope will prove to be worth your time and trouble.

Have a look at the following position.

WHITE
20231110-workhard.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W15,19,21,23,25,30,31,32:B2,3,5,10,12,13,16,24

Certainly, Black has a small but visible advantage here; the question is, can you turn it into a win? You'll have to put some mental exertion into this one, but there is a way.

Work it out and then work your mouse over to Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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01/06/24 -Printer friendly version-
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Happy New Year 2024

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The New Year is just about upon us. What will you be doing for New Year's Eve?

Will you be out ballroom dancing?

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Will you be on a New Year's Eve cruise?

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Will you be celebrating at a big New Year's Eve party?

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Or, will you be enjoying a quiet evening at home, perhaps solving a checker problem? This one is quite easy and we challenge you to find two solutions.

WHITE
20231110-twoway.png
BLACK
Black to Play and Win

B:W13,10,5,K7,K2:B3,1,K16,K9

Whatever your choice, we hope you enjoy. For ourselves, as we've gotten older, New Year's Eve at parties or dances has become less appealing, and with the price of a cruise ... well, we'll probably just stay home. But that's just us. In any event, see how you do with today's checker problem and then click on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif

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12/30/23 -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.

MAVEN, n.:

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