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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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!"
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.
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?"
"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.
Solution and Conclusion
Sal and Young Bill continued to chat quietly while the boys worked on the problem. But at 2 PM sharp, Young Bill called time.
"Did you get it, boys?" he asked.
"No, we didn't," Dan said. "Even with that big hint, we couldn't quite work it out."
"Well, then, that's a good lead-in to my talk. Here's how it's done.
Young Bill demonstrated the following solution.
*22 18, 26-19, *20 24, 19-23---A, *24 20, 23-14, *30 26, 21-30, *28 24, 30-23, *24 19, 23-16, 20 18 Quadruple, White Wins.
A---19-16, *30 26, 21-30, *24 20, 30-14, 20 18 Quadruple, White Wins.
Everyone oohed and aahed as Young Bill made the final quadruple jump.
"Can you boys guess who composed this one?" he asked. When no one replied, he said, "It was Young Ed Atkinson, a real up and comer in the problem composition world. He's known for his elegant problems which have a touch of humor. He called this one 'Tilt-A-Whirl.' But now, let's talk for a while on what it takes to compose problems such as these. Go ahead and enjoy your treats while I talk."
Deana had just brought over two big trays of chocolate chip bars. The boys--- and Young Bill--- eagerly dove in.
Young Bill talked and answered questions for well over two hours, until it was just about closing time. He ended by saying, "Thanks for listening, boys. It was great fun for me, though I'm not looking forward to going out there in the cold again!"
Deana didn't mention that she had just heard the temperature was now ten below zero and dropping, for fear of frightening her East Coast guest.
"Don't worry," Sal said, "my wife Sylvia will pick us up, and she'll warm up the car before she leaves home."
All of the boys expressed their thanks to Young Bill for providing them with a great afternoon of checker fun and lore.
"Come again one day," Dan said, "but maybe come in May?"
Today's problem appeared in Contest 23 in August, 2015, and won second place. Our story of course is completely fictional, although we must say it would have been wonderful had it been true.
Now, on to the contest page!