Contests in Progress:
In regular life, problems are, well, a problem, and we don't want too many of them. But in the game of checkers, it's another story altogether.
In our ongoing Checker School series we've often stressed the importance of solving checker problems. But you don't need to just take our word for it. The following interesting passage appears in Andrew J. Banks' eclectic book, Checker Board Strategy. The author is Willie Gardner, a reknowned player and analyst from days past, and was first seen in the publication North American Checker Board.
Problem solving is, in my opinion, the real science of draughts playing. In the study of problems one finds the greatest pleasure that the game affords, and at the same time insensibly imbibes all the requisites, analytical and constructive, that make the draughts player.
The study of the openings takes a second place in the education of the student. It is beneficial to the extent that the student may learn in an hour, from a compiled analysis of any opening, such traps and snares to avoid as would take him months, or probably years, to find unaided. However, in what position is the student who has crammed his head full of Sturges', Bowen's and Janvier's compilations, but has neglected the endings, when he finds himself with the winning side of First, Second, Third and other positions of the sort, and unable to effect the win? Such a player is celebrated for his great knowledge of the book; he is on a high pinnacle of fame, and the fall in his case is tremendous, sometimes greater than he can recover from. To play draughts well, and to find real pleasure in the game, I advise problems.
Sturges' collection is, perhaps, the best to begin with, and Gould's Book of Problems. Those with about four pieces on a side are my own especial favorites---long winded affairs, evolving the science of end-play. The two-to-two catch problems, though often brilliant, very rarely occur in play, hence their educational value is not so great. As to the crammer, what pleasure has he, with his mighty and extensive knowledge of every possible variation, when playing a game? He is simply automatic, if his opponent play so and so he knows the book reply, and there he sits, waiting for the other fellow to fall into some cut and dried loss, when he emits a mirthless chuckle, and remarks, so and so shows that to be a loss.
If the other fellow, however, gets off the beaten path, and wins, then Mr. Bookman cries, "I never saw that before! Where can I get some play on it?" Problem work is required throughout the game of draughts; its aid is required to win, and by its aid many an apparently hopeless game can be saved. Often I have heard the remark anent an old noted problemist, one of England's finest players in his day, that he never knew when he was beaten.
The end game student evolves from his every day practice his own natural systems of opening; this is the system that, I believe, brought forth the three greatest players the world has yet seen---Anderson, Wyllie, and Martins.
Interesting advice, and in accord with Grandmaster Alex Moiseyev's advice, "No opening books for the first thousand games!"
So let's solve a problem taken from Mr. Banks' book (he did not list the composer). This one is extremely easy.
How about one that's a little bit harder? This is from the same book and is attributed to Willie Ryan.
The problems are clearly at the beginner level, but as usual we invite more advanced players to see if they can solve them at a glance. Players of any level will of course have "no problem" clicking on Read More to see the solutions.[Read More]
Sal was looking forward to his trip to Las Vegas all summer, and the time had come. He and his wife, Sylvia, would fly from Bismarck down to Denver and then catch another plane to Las Vegas. It was expensive but they decided to splurge instead of spending a couple of days on the bus or the train.
While Sylvia was looking forward to shopping and shows, and perhaps a few pulls on the slot machines, Sal was going to play in the 1955 North American Checker Tournament. Given that he was the reigning North Dakota state champion, he qualified for the Masters Division. That would likely mean he'd have a couple of matches with Grandmasters and the odds were definitely against his winning the Division. But Sal was fine with that. He just wanted to play and enjoy the experience.
The plane trip took the better part of a Saturday, giving Sal just a little time before play began on Sunday afternoon. There would be one round on Sunday, two on Monday through Wednesday, and one on Thursday morning, or eight rounds in all. It was a long tournament and it always attracted several thousand players. There were over 200 registered for the Masters Division alone.
Sal and Sylvia had time on Saturday to enjoy one of the famous Las Vegas buffets. They hadn't planned on a show as it just seemed like too much. After dinner, Sylvia tried the slot machines while Sal went back to their hotel room to study a few opening lines in final preparation for the tournament.
The couple had a light lunch the next day and then Sal signed in at the tournament hall. It was quite a sight, with over a thousand checkerboards set up around the vast auditorium. The Masters would play in a segregated area at the front of the hall, with seating set up for spectators behind the velvet ropes and golden stanchions.
Play began. Sal was matched with a highly rated English grandmaster in the first round, and Sal lost one and drew one. He was pretty happy with his results and later told Sylvia so. She in turn had won $100 (a lot of money in 1955) at the slots, and decided to go shopping at a fancy boutique.
The tournament was "Swiss System" meaning winners play winners and losers play losers. Sal had an easier time of it on Monday and won all four of his games. On Tuesday he had tougher opponents and won three and drew one. It got even tougher from there. On Wednesday he won two and drew two. But he went into the final round on Thursday with nine wins, only one loss, and four draws. That gave him 22 out of a possible 28 points and he found himself in 4th place, with one master and two grandmasters ahead of him with 24, 26, and 26 points respectively.
Sal didn't have a chance for first place. But he did have a chance at 3rd place. Mostly, though, he didn't want to get knocked out of 4th place. He really needed to win both of his games to get 3rd, and that wouldn't be easy, as he was matched up against Bob "Newboy" Bertollin, a Master from Chicago who was very close to achieving Grandmaster.
Sylvia, having done enough shopping and seen enough shows, decided to buy a ticket for the gallery and watch the final games. That pleased Sal no end and he felt he would play better with her supporting him.
And indeed, in the first game, that's what happened. Sal played brilliantly against Newboy, and perhaps Newboy didn't take Sal seriously enough--- but Sal won the game.
Newboy was pretty shocked, but he was a good sportsman and congratulated Sal in a sincere manner. He did, however, tell Sal that he was determined to win the next game. That's fine, Sal thought, I'm just as determined.
The game was very hard fought, and Newboy held an advantage. It finally came down to the following position.
Sal wasn't going to win, and he knew it. But a draw would get him a tie with Newboy for third through fourth place, and $375 in prize money, a huge amount that would pay for the trip to Las Vegas and then some.
Sal thought for quite a little while. Finally, taking a look at his clock and realizing he had to make a move ... he did.
How would you do against that very talented player who everyone calls "Newboy"? Can you find the draw that would win Sal the prize money? (Alas, you won't get any prize money from us, but you'll certainly feel good about finding the solution.) Give it a go and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of today's story.[Read More]
The picture above represents what we suppose to be the components of what the seller calls a "Crowned Kingless Table Lamp." We have no idea what that means. The seller was asking a high price, so this must be something quite in demand in whatever circles Crowned Kingless Table Lamps have currency.
In our game of checkers, however, "kingless" has a different meaning, although we won't even try to associate "crowned" in this context. Bill Salot brings us once again a series of kingless problems in his latest problem composing contest, #69 in the series. A unique feature is that all of the positions are drawn when properly played.
As a nice example, here is a problem called Hot Spot, composed by Roy Little. It won 2nd place in Contest 45 a few years back.
Give this one a try (you can see the solution by clicking on Read More) and then head over to the Contest Page for four more excellent problems with the same theme. And don't forget to vote for your favorite![Read More]
For her honeymoon with Marvin, Priscilla spared nothing. She chartered a private jet to take her and Marvin on a direct polar-route flight from Detroit to Bastia on the island of Corsica. She booked the best suite at Casa Reale, Bastia's top (and most expensive) hotel. She arranged for a limousine and a driver for the extent of their one-week stay. She made sure they had reservations at a series of the finest restaurants. Not a single thing was left to chance.
You'll recall from our previous story that there had been some doubt in Marvin's mind whether or not the wedding would even take place. This was after he refused to cut his dreadlocks and stormed off in a huff. Fortunately everything worked out in the end. The ceremony and reception took place and soon afterwards Priscilla and Martin were comfortably seated in the Gulfstream jet that would take them to their destination. Flying time was around 10 hours and they would arrive the following afternoon. The jet of course was outfitted with sleeper couches.
Priscilla and Marvin were both tired from the celebrations. They had a nightcap--- Priscilla chose white wine and unsurprisingly Marvin had a beer--- and then slept for a few hours until the steward gently woke them to serve breakfast.
Soon, they landed in Bastia and quickly cleared customs and immigration. The limo awaited them and whisked them off to their hotel. The couple settled in and then took a leisurely stroll around the town, taking in its unique architecture and interesting sights.
They decided on an early dinner (at least by Corsican standards) and went to one of the restaurants on Priscilla's list, Nova. They had a marvelous meal and Priscilla even persuaded Marvin to try some French wine. Marvin pronounced it excellent and allowed that was almost as good as American beer. At that, Priscilla frowned, but only slightly and only for a moment. She was on her honeymoon, after all.
Everything was fine until the check was paid and they were on their way out to their waiting limousine. It was just outside the restaurant that Marvin saw a poster on a lamp-pole.
"Come on, Marvin, the limo's waiting," Priscilla said.
"Just a sec, honey, I want to read this poster. Hey ... uh ... you can like, read French, right? I can kinda make this out but well ... anyhoo ... "
Priscilla walked over and took a look. "Uh, sweetheart, you needn't worry about this poster," she said, but Marvin looked quite unconvinced.
"Aw, Prissy, it's about a checker tournament, ain't it? I can figger out that much. With a big prize and stuff. I wanna play. I ain't never played in this here Corsica before."
"Marvin, it's an open tournament. That means there will be a lot of amateurs present and it wouldn't be fair for you to play. And a 5,000 Euro prize fund is no big deal. You make more than that in just one game with your pro team. Besides, it would take four days out of our honeymoon. And ... could you not call me 'Prissy'?"
"Yeah but ... c'mon, it's only four days and ... "
Priscilla cut in. "Marvin, what is this trip called?"
"Whaddya mean? It's, like, Corsica, right? Like I was sayin' ... "
"Yes, Marvin, but why are we in Corsica?"
"'Cause you like it?"
"Because it's our honeymoon, Marvin. And what do newlyweds do on their honeymoon? They spend time together. One spouse doesn't go off and play all day for four days in a checker tournament while the other spouse does ... I don't know what."
"Hey, but you can catch up on your work and stuff ... "
"I took the week off. I told the C-suite at Rust Belt that I don't want to hear from them even if headquarters burns down and all our affiliates fold. I was not to be disturbed because it's my honeymoon, the only one I've ever had and, I hope, the only one I ever will have. Do you realize what a commitment I've made? And you want to take four days to play checkers when that's already what you do for a living as a professional, day in and day out?"
"But I'll be there with you after the games finish, right?"
Priscilla threw her hands up in the air. "Marvin, just get in the limo, will you?"
There was an eerie silence all the way back to the hotel and all the way up to their suite. Priscilla then busied herself watching a French news channel while Marvin pulled out a copy of the latest issue of All Checkers Digest. But as usual when he and Priscilla had a dispute, he couldn't focus, even though the following position should have held his interest. It was a problem by that Grandmaster Problemist, Ed from Pennsylvania.
The truth was, Marvin was a good guy and he truly loved Priscilla. It was just that he was a relatively simple guy and didn't always see things in, shall we say, a nuanced manner, and that led to misundertstandings and mistakes, sometimes pretty big ones.
"Aw, heck," Marvin said aloud to himself. He went into the other room where Priscilla was stationed on a couch, looking rather angry and upset.
"Hey, Priscilla," Marvin began, "you're right. I ain't gonna play in no checker tournament. I'm gonna spend the whole week with my lady love. There ain't nobody else anywhere like you, and I'm gonna give you all my time."
Priscilla turned off the TV and looked up quizzically at Marvin. "You sure?" she asked. "You really mean all of that?"
"Course I do," he said.
Priscilla's expression warmed into a broad smile. "Thank you, dear. We're going to have a wonderful week."
"Hey, but, you think like ... you know, the two of us, not just me ... maybe we could sorta drop by the tournamant site and say hi to the players, you know, just real quick?"
Priscilla started to frown but quickly resumed her happy expression. "Sure, honey, we can do that. But enough talk."
Priscilla took Marvin's hand and pulled him onto the couch next to her, and we must end our story here lest we intrude into Priscilla and Marvin's private life.
It seems that recently Marvin is constantly teased with an interesting problem that he doesn't get to solve for one reason or another, and if by chance you too are on your honeymoon, as much as we love checkers we definitely don't recommend doing checker problems! However that stricture will likely apply to very few readers, so do work out the solution at your leisure and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
We never get tired of saying that we love the 4th of July, America's birthday. We are proud and unapologetic American patriots.
For our 4th of July column, we always turn to an American checkerist. Often it's Tom Wiswell but today we'd like to feature another of America's all-time greats, Willie Ryan, with a game and problem from his aptly titled American Checkerist publication. Let's start with the run-up.
Ryan calls this a probable loss but today we know that although perhaps not the best choice, it doesn't lose.
Once thought to win, but only draws with correct play by Black.
The losing move. Correct would have been 4-8 or 6-10. it's easy for Black to go wrong in this line.
The winning line is quite long, and not all that easy to discover. However, it's very instructive and this problem is well worth your time. See how far you can go, and then click on Read More to see the solution.
 Tragically, today to some the concept of patriotism is viewed as politically incorrect at best and racist at worst. We strongly disagree, and prefer the statement put forth by Gaines Foster of Louisiana State University: " ... you're an American because you believe in democracy, you believe in equality, you believe in opportunity."[Read More]
Sal Westerman knew it was inevitable. The day had to come when he couldn't put it off any longer. He would have to go to Dickinson with his wife Sylvia to visit her sister Phoebe.
Sal had on a number of occasions been able to get away with driving Sylvia to Dickinson, where he would stay just long enough for an unpleasant dinner and then drive home, even though it would be pretty late when he got back to Bismarck. A week or two later he'd go back out to pick Sylvia up and bring her home.
It was more difficult when Phoebe came to Bismarck to visit Sylvia. Fortunately this was only a couple of times a year, and Sal could escape to the library or to the Beacon Cafe to get at least some relief.
However, it was summer. Sal's club, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club, wouldn't meet again at the Beacon until after Labor Day, and Sylvia had told Sal that this time he had to stay in Dickinson for nine days, from Friday night through the week to the following Sunday morning.
There was one bright spot. It would be the week of the Western North Dakota Summer Checkers Tournament, a fairly important event which would draw some of the top players from North and South Dakota, Montana, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and even a few from Minnesota. The tournament was hosted each year in a different city or town in the western part of the state, and this time it would be in Dickinson.
Now, regular readers know from previous stories that Phoebe and Sal didn't get along. Phoebe thought Sal was wasting time on checkers, when he could be doing useful things like painting the house, cleaning the basement, or at the very least washing the windows (inside and out, of course).
The day came and Sal and Sylvia made the several hour drive to Dickinson. On their arrival, Phoebe greeted them in her driveway, gave Sylvia a big hug, and then pointedly looked at Sal and said, "I hope you've come prepared."
Sal, thinking Phoebe was (surprisingly) referring to the tournament, which started on Monday, replied, "Yes, I've been preparing ... "
Phoebe gave him a quizzical look. "Preparing? What's to prepare? My house needs to be painted, there's some cranky plumbing to fix or replace, and my furnace needs to be cleaned out. You already know how to do those things and you've got more than a week to get them done. Even a lazy fellow could finish that little bit of work in a week."
"Paint your house? I don't think ... "
"Well, you'll need to scrape the old paint first. But you can get it all done in a couple of days. Leaves you lots of time for the other work. You can start first thing in the morning. I'll let you have off this afternoon seeing as how I'm feeling kind of in a good mood now that Sylvia's here."
"Phoebe, look, I can work on a few things over the weekend, but on Monday I'm playing in the big checker tournament and I'll be busy right through Friday."
"Oh, I think I read about that in the paper. Bunch of silliness if you ask me. Grown men pushing those checkers around when they should be doing an honest day's work. Well, forget that, there'll be no tournament for you."
Sal looked over at Sylvia. Sylvia mouthed silently, "I'll take care of it."
Sal was up early on Saturday morning. He started in on the plumbing as he wanted to get that done while the shops were open. He did get everything fixed up by evening, although Phoebe and Sylvia had dinner without him, Phoebe pronouncing him a slow worker who could eat cold leftovers later.
On Sunday Sal took on the furnace cleaning. It was hard and dirty work, but he got that done in time for dinner with the ladies, although Phoebe accused him of rushing and probably doing a shoddy job.
Tournament registration was on Monday at eight. Sal had breakfast at seven and got ready to depart.
"Where do you think you're going?" Phoebe asked, as Sal headed for the door. "You've got to start on house painting today. No more easy jobs for you, you'd better get that scraper working right now or you won't get done by dinner."
"Sal's too old for that kind of work," Sylvia said.
"Too old? He's only 74. Plenty of men ... "
"No, Phoebe," Sylvia replied, and the discussion went on as Sal slipped out the door and drove off as fast as he could.
Sal had a great time on the opening day of the tournament. He saw many old checker friends from around the region, and managed to win all 8 of his games, as there were two rounds in the morning and two in the afternoon.
Of course on his return to Phoebe's she gave him quite a cold reception.
"Sylvia tells me you'll be wasting away your days all week."
"Yes, the tournament runs through Friday ... "
"Then when do you propose to paint the house? That will only leave you Saturday and the likes of you can't work fast enough to do it in one day. Well, maybe you can work evenings. It's light until almost 10 in June. I can see Sylvia won't be able to talk any sense into you, so maybe that's the answer."
"No, Phoebe, I need to rest up for the next day's games."
"Rest? You rest all day sitting in front of those little pieces of wood, acting like a child ... "
"I'm sorry, Phoebe, I can't paint the house. I fixed the plumbing and cleaned the furnace for you. Now please let me play in my tournament."
It went on that way all week. Friday rolled around. There were just three rounds that day, and when the results were in, Sal had tied for first with Jimmy Loyal, the Montana champion.
So there would be a fourth round, a playoff between Sal and Jimmy. The first game ended in a draw. As they prepared to play the second game, the referee pointed out that if this game should end in a draw, the two players would split first and second prizes. First prize was $100 and second prize, $50. (Remember it was 1955 and that was a lot of money.)
The last game was hard-fought and went as follows.
Jimmy, not realizing he had made a mistake, looked pretty confident. Sal's clock was running low. Sal was sure there something in the position but had to find it fast. Should he play by instinct, or risk losing on time and take a little longer to think things over?
Sal went with instinct, and made his move.
In today's story, Sal is under all sorts of pressure. He's had to deal with Phoebe, and he's got a chance for first place in the tournament but not much time to find the win. Fortunately, there's no pressure for you (at least we don't think so), and you can solve this one at your leisure (unless you have a house to paint). Can you also figure out what move Jimmy should have made?
When you're ready, click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of our story.[Read More]
The late and legendary checkerist Richard Fortman in the 1970s assembled a set of typed manuscripts, in seven volumes, or parts, each one covering a family of opening moves. He called this collection Basic Checkers. It dealt with the first 20 moves in all of the then-current 3-move ballots. The book is filled not only with analysis and commentary, but also with anecdotes, stories, and much checker lore. It is to this day viewed as a classic and a must-study book for the aspiring master. The work was later revived in a modern one-volume edition, Basic Checkers 2010.
Noted author and analyst Jim Loy has extended Mr. Fortman's work with Basic Checkers: Part 8, providing play corrections, alternative lines, and additional commentary. Mr. Loy used modern computer tools not available to Mr. Fortman, as well as his own considerable analytical skills. Part 8 was written with Mr. Fortman's original edition in mind but it is equally usable with the 2010 reissue.
Mr. Loy has generously provided us with Part 8 for free electronic distribution to the checker playing public. You can download Part 8 here or via the Jim Loy page linked in the right-hand column.
So, where can you get Basic Checkers?
Basic Checkers 2010 isn't available online but can be purchased from Amazon in the US and elsewhere for a reasonable price. Alternatively, in Part 8 Mr. Loy references an on-line version of the original Basic Checkers. That particular link has gone off the air but you can as of this writing still obtain the on-line version via the link below.
As a sample, here's a position that can arise from the 9-13 23-18 12-16 ballot. (For the run-up and full commentary, see p. 10 of Part 8.) Once thought to be a White win, it turns out Black can draw. Can you work it out?
Yes, it's rather a challenge, but a fascinating one. Give it your best and then click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
It was three weeks since Marvin J. Mavin had angrily left Priscilla K. Snelson's condo. Three weeks with no contact at all, not even a single text message, let alone a phone call or in-person meeting.
Marvin was the superstar captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, and Priscilla was his fiancee. She was the CEO of Rust Belt Holdings, a major international conglomerate. They were something of an unlikely pair, but they had been seeing each other for quite a few years.
The cause of Marvin's rapid exodus was Priscilla's demand that he cut his trademark dreadlocks prior to their upcoming wedding. Upcoming? It was only two days away.
After their fight, Marvin wasn't sure what would happen. As the days wore on, he was less and less sure, until finally he didn't know if the wedding was on or off. He asked a few of his friends, those who had received invitations, and they said that they hadn't heard from Priscilla about a change in plans or a cancellation.
Many events at which Marvin was supposed to be present had come and gone. Or at least the dates had come and gone. There was Priscilla's dress fitting. There was the cake tasting. There was the meeting with the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, who was a personal friend of Priscilla's and was slated to officiate. And so on.
With the checker season over (the Doublejumpers didn't make the playoffs this year), and with some while until training camp began in August, Marvin had time on his hands, and he spent too much of it drinking beer at home or at a series of local dive bars. Truth have it, he was despondent. He thought he had driven Priscilla away once and for all. Although there had been a couple of close calls in the past, they had always resolved their difficulties. This time, Marvin wasn't sure.
The next day came. It was the day of the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. Marvin considered giving Priscilla a call, but then he ended up back at the bar around noon and, well, overindulged. He made his way home in a haze, fell asleep, and didn't awaken until 11 PM. If there had been a rehearsal and a dinner, he had missed them both.
He checked his phone. No messages from Priscilla. Nothing from her parents or his mother, either. This wasn't looking good, and Marvin, still feeling the effects of the afternoon, went back to bed.
It must have been in the middle of the night that Marvin made a decision.
He got up at around eight on Saturday morning. It was wedding day--- if there were to be a wedding. He had his doubts but decided to carry out his plan.
After a couple of cups of coffee, Marvin got in his old Volkswagen and drove to Twirly Tuxedos and Gaudy Gowns, determined to rent a tux for the wedding. He was going to show up at the Country Club. If the wedding was still on, great. If not, well, the Country Club had a great bar and he figured in a tux he would be welcome ... at least if Priscilla hadn't cancelled the associate membership she had gotten for him a little while back.
At Twirly Tuxedos, Marvin was received with the usual sneer by one of the staff named Stanley.
"Uh, yeah, Stan, I need like a, you know, tux, for a wedding."
"Sir, kindly address me as Stanley, if you please."
"Okay there, Stanley, but look I ain't got a lot of time."
"You're Mr. Mavin, are you not? I can tell by the way you ... well, are you or are you not Mr. Mavin?"
"Yup. The very same."
"There is a tux reserved for you, Mr. Mavin. It was reserved some while ago. I believe it suitable for a wedding, at least for someone a bit more refined in appearance than ... never mind. The tux rental, however, has yet to be paid. There is a note from Ms. Snelson that states that the wearer is to pay the bill."
Marvin reflected. What did this mean? He wasn't sure. "Okay, yeah, Stanley, how much?"
"A wedding tux of this caliber and quality rents for a bit of a higher price. It will be $1,000 plus tax and tip, plus a refundable $2000 deposit as a guarantee against damage."
"Two thousand deposit? How come?"
"We, shall you say, ask for a larger guarantee from ... certain classes of our clientele."
"Well, whatever, I ain't got much time." He pulled out his duct tape wallet and passed over a credit card.
Stanley ran the card. "I've added the customary 25% gratuity," he said.
"Gratuity? For what? You ain't done nothing."
"I did your fitting."
"Ahead of time."
"How can you ... oh forget it." Marvin signed the slip, took the tux, and hurried home to change. By the time he arrived it was close to noon and the wedding was at three. Maybe.
Now, Marvin wasn't quite adept at the various operations necessary for the donning of a tuxedo. He had a lot of trouble with the buttons and studs, particularly the cuffs, and when it came to tying the bow tie it was hopeless. He finally just made a shoelace bow and left it at that. Time was running short. It was already a few minutes after two.
He thought it best if he didn't drive his old Volkswagen to the Country Club. A taxi would be a better idea.
The trouble was, taxis didn't really like to come into Marvin's neighborhood, or at least not cabs from the better companies. The same was true for services such as Unter and Drop.
When it was two-thirty and no cab had come despite quite a few phone calls, Marvin had no choice but to drive his VW.
The last thing he needed was to get stopped for speeding, but he went as fast as he could and even pushed his luck a little. He pulled up to the Country Club parking lot at ten minutes to three.
As he expected, the attendant gave his car a long, hard look. The attendant, resplendent in Country Club livery, came over to Marvin's already-open window and pointed an immaculately white-gloved finger at him.
"You sure you're in the right place, pal? You don't look like it. Now if I was you I'd just turn yourself around and drive on out of here before one of our members catches something from that car of yours."
"Hey, man, I'm here for a wedding, can'tcha see there here tux I got on?" Marvin replied.
The attendant took a closer look. "Yep, it's a tux, all right, although the bow tie looks like some kid tied it. So exactly whose wedding are you here for?"
"It's my wedding. Well, at least I think it is. If there is a wedding."
"Your wedding? Now that's pretty funny. Best one I've heard all day. And you don't exactly sound sure. But there is a wedding here today. If you're on the level, you'll know whose wedding. So, tell me. Whose wedding?"
"I told you, mine. Marvin J. Mavin. The Mavin wedding."
"Sorry, wrong answer. So make tracks before I call security."
Marvin thought for a quick instant. It was now five to three. "No ... no ... it would be under her name ... the Snelson wedding! Priscilla Snelson!"
The attendant straightened up. "Yep, that's the one. So show me your invitation."
"I'm the groom and I don't need no steenkin' invitation!"
Now the attendant took off his cap and scratched his head, then replaced his cap. "Okay, whatever, I'll let the wedding people deal with it." He then lifted the gate to the parking lot.
Marvin, in his haste, almost stalled out the VW. "Look here," he said, "park this for me. I ain't got no more time. Priscilla will give you a nice tip."
Marvin got out of his car and ran toward the main building with the attendant shouting behing him, "I'm not the valet! I'll have this thing towed!" But Marvin paid him no heed.
He raced across the lawn and into the clubhouse. "The wedding ... where?" he asked a young woman on the desk staff, also impeccably dressed in Country Club livery.
"Out on the lawn," she replied. "But you can't just ... "
Marvin was already through the back door.
And there, quite a sight greated him.
There must have been two thousand people present, in dozens of long rows of chairs flanking a wide central aisle lined with large, colorful flower bouquets in elegant golden stands. At the front of the very long aisle stood the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, several maids of honor, a few men dressed in white tuxedos and ... Priscilla.
She was dressed in her hand-crafted Italian wedding gown, with a long train and a headress. Her makeup was perfect and her hair was piled in exquisite curls on top of her head. White lilies studded the hairdo.
She was standing with one hand on her left hip, with her right hand holding a watch, which she was closely regarding.
It was exactly one minute before three. Marvin started the long walk up to the front of the assemblage, his eyes popping and scarcely able to breathe. Could this all be real?
Yes. It was real, and he knew it the moment he reached the front and stood next to Priscilla.
"It's about time. I didn't know if you were going to show, and despite everything I wasn't about to call off the wedding. About twenty minutes ago I had the police dispatched to your apartment, to your favorite bar, and some of your other haunts. They were going to bring you here in handcuffs if they had to. You're lucky you showed up on your own and spared yourself the ignomy."
"But just look at you," she went on. "You're wearing a black tux, not a white one."
"Stanley rented me this one," Marvin interjected.
"Quiet. Don't speak. I will deal with Stanley in due course. Now, your bow tie is a disgrace. It looks like a child tied it."
"I heard that before ... "
"I said not to speak! I'm not finished! Worst of all, you never cut your dreadlocks!"
Priscilla paused, as if thinking. "Well, the wedding must go on. But we'll talk about all of this afterwards."
She turned to the front. "Justice, we're ready to begin."
Marvin stood in silence while the Justice said a few words about the occasion.
"Now, please join hands," he said to Marvin and Priscilla.
"I hope you at least washed your hands," Priscilla whispered. "No doubt you drove that filthy junkheap of yours."
Marvin took Priscilla's hands in his without replying.
"Marvin, repeat after me ... "
Marvin said his vows, and then Priscilla said hers.
"I now pronounce you spouse and spouse," the Justice concluded.
"Ain't it supposed to be man and wife?" Marvin asked out loud.
There was a murmur from the assembled crowd.
"No, Marvin, it's not. Join the 21st century," Priscilla said. Turning around to face the audience, she and Marvin walked hand in hand down the aisle. Cheers and applause rose and swelled to a crescendo.
The reception and wedding dinner and dance were held in the clubhouse, and went off without further difficulty and only a few minor disputes. When it was time to cut the wedding cake, waiters rolled out an enormous three tier cake, and to Marvin's delight, there was also a special sheet cake with the following design piped on it with red, green, yellow, and white icing.
"Hey," Marvin said, a wide grin spreading across his face, "White to play and win, right? Now, I think if you just ... "
"Later, Marvin," Priscilla said. "I'm so glad you like the cake but the checker problem really does have to wait."
"Aw, gee, Prissy ... "
Priscilla interrupted. "It's our wedding day so I'll let you get away with calling me 'Prissy'--- once. Now focus, Marvin, and not on the checker problem." Marvin, though looking a bit disappointed, proceeded gamely with his part in the festivities.
When the celebrations were finally coming to an end, Marvin and Priscilla went outside amidst another round of cheers to Priscilla's waiting limousine.
"Hey, what about my car?" Marvin asked.
"Oh, the Club had it towed. You won't need that old thing any longer."
"Hey I want my car back ... "
"No time. The limo is taking us to the airport. I've chartered a private jet to take us on our honeymoon."
"The one we agreed on. Well, the one I agreed on at least, while you were acting so childish about your dreadlocks ... which you managed to keep despite everything. But in any case, we're going to Corsica. I've managed a week off work."
"But I ain't packed or nothing."
"Don't worry, I've taken care of everything ... spouse." Priscilla gave Marvin a warm smile.
Marvin, charmed, smiled back. "Okay ... wife," he said.
"Um, Marvin? Remember? 21st century?" Priscilla paused. "Oh, the heck with it," she said, and pulled Marvin close as the limo sped off.
There seems to be a pattern to it. Marvin gets a glimpse of an interesting checker problem but doesn't get to solve it. However you, our reader, can solve it at your leisure (unless perhaps you're reading this column at your own wedding, something we don't recommend). It's another great composition from Grandmaster Composer Brian Hinkle; it's certainly not "a piece of cake" but it's quite something. Try it out and then marry your mouse to Read More to see the solution.[Read More]
The magician above is indeed full of all sorts of tricks and we might well call her a "tricky one" although likely she would rather be known by the more formal designation of prestidigitator.
Often in the early part of each month we present a "speed" problem--- something for you to solve as quickly as you can. Such problems generally fall into the "easy" category. Today, though, we have a "tricky one" sent along (with analysis) by regular contributors Lloyd and "Gosh Josh" Gordon of Toronto. Is it as full of tricks as the magician above? You'll have to decide for yourself.
Although the problem terms are for White to find the draw, see if you can also hold the draw for Black. Unless you're an upper-level player you may not solve this one speedily, but some effort will be well rewarded. When you're ready to see the solution, though, there's no trick; just click on Read More.[Read More]
The Coffee and Cake Checker Club was in session at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building, in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was May 21, 1955 (it's always 1955 at the Beacon Cafe), the last Saturday before the Memorial Day weekend, and that meant it was the last time the club would meet before its summer break, which lasted until after Labor Day weekend in September.
At just after one o'clock, there was already a great turnout. Of course Sal, the unofficial leader, had arrived on time, and also on hand were regulars Tom, Wayne, Dan, Louie the Flash, Sam, and Mike, as well as less frequent attendees such as Ron, Kevin (a.k.a. "Spooler") and Blaine, who at age twenty five was the only member under fifty years old.
There were so many attendees that they took up two large booths in the back of the cafe, and Deana, the proprietess of the Beacon, couldn't have been happier. A good turnout meant good sales, and she didn't hesitate to announce that fresh Mixed Berry Bars were on hand in quantity to go along with large quantities of North Dakota style coffee (brewed traditionally with four scoops of coffee grounds per gallon of water).
A lot of the chatter was about plans for the summer. Sal was going to Las Vegas to play in a major tournament, the North American Classic, a high caliber event which would feature both amateur and professional players. Dan and Wayne were going to play a couple of weekend tournaments in Minneapolis. And of course several of the others would play in the big tournament at the North Dakota State Fair up in Minot, North Dakota.
It would be a busy summer, but Sal always missed his Saturday afternoon club meetings and by the time September rolled around, he would hardly be able to wait to get together with the "boys" once again.
Still, there was the rest of this afternoon to enjoy. The coffee was good, the companionship even better, and it didn't take long for those "boys" to ask Sal what he had for them in the way of a challenging checker problem.
"I have one from an old magazine," Sal said. "It's by a fellow named John Tonks. I've never heard of the gentleman, but it's a clever problem."
"Well there, Sal," Louie said, "you might just be buying for quite the crowd today." Louie was referring to the tradition that if the "boys" could solve Sal's problem, Sal would buy for all of them, while if they couldn't solve it, they would treat Sal. It wasn't quite a balanced arrangement, but Sal was a generous sort and just enjoyed the fun and competitive spirit of it all.
Sal needed to set up two checkerboards, one at each of the booths that the club was occupying.
"How about 30 minutes, boys?" Sal asked.
"Aw, c'mon Sal, give us an hour, willya?" Blaine piped up.
"Okay, then," Sal replied, "but not a minute longer!"
As Deana refilled everyone's coffee mugs, the "boys" dug into the problem and soon North Dakota checker chatter filled the air.
We too are always wistful about saying good-bye to the Beacon Cafe for the summer, but we'll be sure to follow Sal as he goes on vacation and then plays in that big Vegas tournament. Meanwhile, though, play along with the "boys" and try to solve today's problem. When you're ready click on Read More to see the solution.[Read More]