Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was once again at a New Year's Eve party at the swank condominium home of his girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson. As was the case last year, Priscilla, who was a C-level executive at Rust Belt Holdings, invited only the elite of the elite, a sophisticated, moneyed crowd of influential executives, politicians, business magnates, and even a couple of Hollywood stars.
And Marvin. Who felt very uncomfortable. His idea of luxury consisted of a few cans of beer enjoyed while relaxing on a couch in front of the TV, clad in a sweatshirt and cut-offs. That wasn't going to happen at this upscale party.
Of course everyone present was passionate about checkers, the undisputed national sport, and so Priscilla had organized a little competition. Party-goers were invited to bring along a checker problem and attempt to "stump Marvin." The first one to do so would win a $4,000 bottle of French champagne, provided by Priscilla from her vast collection of rare wines.
"You can buy a lotta beer for four grand," was all Marvin had to say. But when Priscilla told him to do something, he did it, and there was no further discussion.
During the evening, Marvin was presented various problems by the party-goers. He solved them all with little difficulty. Of course, his success was aided by the fact that Priscilla had told her serving staff not to give Marvin anything stronger than tomato juice, as she didn't want a repeat of last year's embarrassments (see previous Checker Maven story).
When the clock struck eleven, Priscilla's little contest was winding down, and would end just before the New Year rang in. No one had yet claimed the bottle of 1955 Champagne Krug Clos d'Ambonnay. But then Suzette Slinky (the stage name of a very famous Hollywood movie star) sashayed up to Marvin and batted her eyelashes at him. Putting her hand lightly on his arm, she said, "Hey, big boy, wanna try a real checker problem?"
Now, Marvin and Priscilla had been in a relationship for quite a few years, and Marvin loved her dearly. But Marvin, being a guy like most guys, found someone like Suzette, well--- a little hard to resist. He smiled sheepishly and said, "Uh, sure, beautiful, whaddya got for me?"
Did Priscilla overhear him, or did her expression harden just a little, or did she turn in his direction for some other reason?
Suzette reached into her dress, such as it was, and pulled out a small slip of paper. "Here's something sweet for you, Marv," she said, as she ever so slightly touched her hip to his.
"Perfume," Marvin said, taking the paper from her hand and holding it near his nose. Their fingertips touched briefly. "Uh, yeah, I mean, a checker problem, right?"
"Sure is, Captain Marvin," she cooed. "You think you can solve my problem?" She put her arm around Marvin's waist and drew him closer.
Priscilla's expression, if had not changed before, surely changed now. She started across the room toward Marvin.
"Solve your problem?" Marvin said. "Oh, yeah, honey, I can ..."
"That's enough, Marvin," Priscilla snapped. "And as for you, Miss Slinky Hussy, you can leave right now!"
"Marvin, are you going to let her talk to me like that? Won't you protect me?" Suzette said, pulling Marvin even nearer and pouting at Priscilla.
"Hey, Prissy, you shouldn't ..." Marvin began, but he was immediately interrupted.
"OUT! NOW!" Priscilla pulled Marvin away from Suzette's grip and held him by his collar. "OUT! OUT! OUT!"
"Well, if that's how you are, Priscilla, and Marvin, if you're too afraid to say anything ..."
"I'm leaving," Suzette said, "don't worry. And don't think this won't be in the Movie Star Tattler tomorrow morning! You'll see, Miss Priscilla."
Priscilla kept her grip on Marvin's collar until Suzette made her exit and her stunned guests returned to their drinks and conversation. Then she dragged Marvin out to the kitchen, opened the service door, and propelled him into the corridor. Still holding on to him tightly, she called for the service elevator, shoved Marvin inside, and closed the door.. Through the door he heard, "Call yourself a taxi. You're not coming back to my place."
The elevator descended to the ground floor and Marvin stumbled out. Another door led him to an alleyway where he promptly tripped over some debris and landed in a pile of trash.
He started to shiver. It was cold in the alley, and just then he realized he had left his cell phone in his coat in Priscilla's hall closet.
Oh well, there was a bar he knew of nearby, where he could have a couple of beers and drown his sorrows. The bartender would get him a taxi. He would make up with Priscilla in a few days, although he knew it wouldn't be easy, and he would have to grovel ... a lot.
It was only very late the next morning when, alone in his apartment, Marvin awoke and found that Miss Slinky really had given him a checker problem on that perfumed slip of paper, one that she had gotten from her Uncle Brian in St. Louis.
It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the Coffee and Cake Checker Club had gathered as they did every Saturday during the checker season at the Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. There would be no meeting over Thanksgiving weekend; the Beacon would be closed and everyone would be visiting with their families for the holiday.
So Sal Westerman, the unofficial leader of the Club, wanted to have a really great session before the holiday weekend.
Deana, the Beacon's proprietor and the best baker anyone had ever met, felt the same way. As soon as the boys (all of them over fifty) had gathered in the big booth at the back, she announced, "I've got pumpkin raisin bars today. Thanksgiving special!"
The boys smiled and expressed approval. Today Dan, Larry, Wayne, Delmer, Kevin ("Spooler") and Louie ("The Flash") were on hand, along with Sal. Pumpkin raisin bars were a once a year thing and always eagerly anticipated.
"I've got one from Ed," announced Sal, "and I think, seeing that we're not meeting next week, you boys ought to buy me two bars when you can't win it."
"Only if you buy us two when we do win it," said Spooler. "Fair is fair."
"Not fair!" Sal objected. "There are six of you and just one of me." Sal went on, "But tell you what. If you boys can win it I'll buy a dozen bars for all of us to share. How's that?"
"Great!" said Flash. "Lay 'em out and let's get going. An hour, right?"
"Stacking the deck, are you?" Sal said. "Forty-five minutes and not a second more."
Sal arranged the checkers on one of the boards as follows.
"Hey, wow man!" Flash said, as he always did, while the rest just stroked their chins or groaned a little.
"Time's a wasting!" Sal chided. "Forty-four minutes and thirty seconds left!"
Anything from master problemist Ed Atkinson is bound to please--- and never be easy. Pumpkin bars sound good, even if virtual, but you'll have to earn one. See how you do (take as long as you wish) and then click on Read More to view the solution and conclusion of the story.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin
Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was in hot water.
In our previous story, Marvin faced off on Opening Day against Sunny Sunshine, Captain of the Dallas Defiance, and while Marvin won his game, Sunny was offended by some of his remarks. True to her promise, she filed charges with the Commissioner of the NCL, accusing Marvin of Misogynist Microaggression Offending (MMO) and Incorrect Gender Address (IGA). These were serious charges, and Sunny had the full backing of the powerful LTBO (Looking To Be Offended) Movement.
The NCL normally did whatever the LTBO Movement asked, for fear of having the NCL advertisers and sponsors boycotted.
A hearing was swiftly called, and it wasn't long before Marvin sat in the Hearing Room at NCL Headquarters in Belpre, Ohio.
His long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson, sat with Marvin at the Defendant's table.
They were joined by Marvin's legal counsel, Cynthia Worthingsworth.
At the plaintiff's table sat Sunny Sunshine.
Ms. Sunshine's personal legal counsel was Hazel "How High Am I" Hightower.
Joining the Plaintiffs as an amicus curiae was LTBO representative, Tom "Tommy Tom-Tom" Thomas.
Presiding over the hearing was the NCL Vice-President for Legal Affairs, Billie "Bill the Bill" Bilboy.
Mr. Bilboy rapped his gavel and called the hearing to order. "In the matter of Sunny Sunshine vs. Marvin J. Mavin," he announced in grave tones, "charges of MMO and IGA." Mr. Bilboy shook his head and added, "Serious indeed."
Ms. Hightower called Sunny as her first witness. As she was being sworn in, Priscilla looked over at Marvin. "What are you doing? she whispered.
Marvin had his phone out and was busy studying a checker problem. "It's a hard one," he whispered back. "That guy Brian in St. Louis composed it."
"Put that away," Priscilla hissed. "You might be held in contempt!"
"Aw, but I've almost ..."
"Silence in the Hearing Room!" Mr. Bilboy thundered. "One more disturbance from the Defendant's table and I will forfeit the case!"
Priscilla kept silent but Marvin didn't stop working on the checker problem.
Meanwhile, Ms. Sunshine was describing how Marvin had addressed her on Opening Day, explaining that he was disrespectful merely because she was a woman who was successful at checkers, and that until she insisted, Marvin refused to address her in gender-free terms despite her obviously being offended.
Her testimony ended and Ms. Worthingsworth stood up to cross examine.
Suddenly, Marvin leaped up and exclaimed, "Got it!"
Mr. Bilboy was about to pound his gavel when Ms. Worthingsworth said, "Sir, if you would please allow me a word with my client, I believe I can get everything under control."
Mr. Bilboy put down his gavel. "Very well, counselor, but see that this is the last of Mr. Mavin's poor behavior.
Ms. Worthingsworth went over to Marvin and Priscilla. "Look Marvin," she began, but Marvin cut in.
"I've got it! I've got it!" He was so excited he was fidgeting.
"Got what?" Priscilla asked, "your precious checker problem ... when your career is at stake?"
"Well, yeah," Marvin said, "I did solve the problem. See, what you do is ..."
"Never mind that," Ms. Worthingsworth said, "you need to sit down and be very quiet."
"No, no, no, that's not all," Marvin said. "Listen ... "
Marvin whispered in Ms. Worthingsworth's ear. "Oh," she said. "I see."
What did Marvin discover? A solution to the problem or perhaps something more?
This is another of Brian's challengers but we urge you not to try to solve it if you happen to be in a courtroom. Work it out in the comfort of your home and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story, in which you'll find out what Marvin told his lawyer.[Read More]
It was Saturday, October 29, 1955. That meant that Monday would be October 31. Halloween.
Now, every Saturday except during the summer and major holidays, the Coffee and Cake Checker Club met at The Beacon Cafe in the Provident Life Building in Bismarck, North Dakota. Bismarck was a very traditional, home-town sort of place, and holidays were celebrated with enthusiasm.
So Deana Nagle, the proprietor of the Beacon and the best baker in a dozen counties, decided that on Saturday she'd give free coffee to anyone in costume. She couldn't do it on Sunday, when the Beacon was closed, or on Monday, when folks had to wear work clothes, so Saturday was it.
There's nothing a hometown likes more than something for free, and all Saturday morning, customers in various types of costume came in for free coffee. Of course Deana was as good at business as she was at baking, and as she expected, a lot of customers bought her baked treats. Deana had even dressed up herself--- as a baker, of course!
But the afternoon would be slower. Some folks still had leaves to rake and yards to prepare for winter, and important chores like that weren't put off in a town like Bismarck. Still, the Checker Club would be there. Would they wear costumes? Deana didn't know what to wish for. The "boys" of the Club (all of them over 50) drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of baked goods. It would be quite a bit of free coffee to hand out. On the other hand, the boys were good natured and usually left tips in addition to all the goodies they bought.
One o'clock rolled around and the first one through the door was Sal Westerman, the leader of the Club. Sure enough he was dressed as a college professor, in an academic gown and wearing a mortarboard. It suited him well, Deana thought as she poured him a cup of coffee and returned his greetings.
Next in was Wayne.
He was dressed as a farmer. Deana thought that hardly qualified, as Wayne grew up on a farm north of town. But he got his free coffee anyhow.
Then Dan came in. He was costumed as a cowboy--- not much of a costume in western North Dakota, but still, he was in the spirit of the day.
Next was Louie, appearing as the comic book character Flash (Louie's nickname was itself "Flash").
Sam then appeared, in a clown suit.
Finally there was Tom, appearing as a football player (Tom had played football in college).
That was a lot of free coffee already, and when Sal laid out the checkers on a board in the big booth at the back, and announced, "This is a tough one from my checker pal Brian in St. Louis," Deana knew the coffee would have to keep flowing.
"I've got raisin pumpkin bars today," Deana announced, and there were grins all around. She knew she'd be selling a good dozen of them in a little while, as the boys would each have one and some of them would take a couple home for their grandkids.
But for the moment, the concentration was intense. Deana sat back and relaxed. Half an hour passed and Sal called "Time!" She heard Wayne say, "We can't get it. You win, Sal. Show us."
She watched as Sal began to move the checkers and explain the solution.
You don't have to dress up in Halloween garb to solve this problem, unless, of course, you wish to do so. Costume or no costume, see how you do with this one. In the spirit of Halloween, it's "scary" hard! But don't be scared off. Try to find the win and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and explanatory notes. Who knows, you might win a (virtual) raisin pumpkin bar.[Read More]
Election Day in the United States is not far off, and The Checker Maven urges all of our eligible American readers to get out and vote, whether by mail, in-person, or however it works in your particular place of residence. We're not going to express any opinions on how you should vote. Cast your vote as you see fit, but definitely vote!
The story below may perhaps be taken as a bit of a cautionary tale. It is of course purely fiction but may highlight what can happen when the wrong person gets elected ... something for which the voters are directly responsible.
Marcy Baloner was a United States Senator from a state quite distant from the nation's capitol. (She was the older cousin of Mary Baloner, whom we met in another Checker Maven story some years ago.)
Now, Senator Marcy wasn't quite the brightest lightbulb in the chandelier, and she wasn't the most stable person, either. In fact, some of her critics called her "Crazy Marcy" because of the way she acted during Congressional hearings. She was always outraged over something and didn't hesitate to express her emotions.
Little known to those outside of her advisory circle was that each morning, her staff briefed her on what she ought to be outraged about on that particular day. They even had assigned outrage themes to the days of the week, much like the old Mickey Mouse Club had daily themes. For instance, Monday was Gender Identity Outrage Day; Tuesday was Evil Capitalism Outrage Day, and so on.
At nine o'clock on a Thursday morning, Senator Marcy sat down in her conference room for her daily briefing. "What have we got for today?" she asked her assembled staff.
Her Chief of Staff replied, "Well, Thursday is Microaggression Outrage Day. The St. Louis newspaper's checker column has a checker problem by Brian someone or other, and it's filled with microaggressions."
Senator Marcy thought for a moment. "St. Louis? Is that in my constituency? Where is St. Louis, anyhow? Did they vote for me in the last election?"
The Chief of Staff, accustomed to such questions, replied calmly, "No, Senator, St. Louis is in Missouri. You represent ..."
"Oh, right, of course," the Senator replied. "Well, anyhow, what's my stand on this?"
"Brian refers to the checkers as 'men' and 'kings.' Obvious microaggressions. Your position is that checkers is a misogynistic, racist game that has no place in America."
"Oh, racist, too?" the Senator said. "That sounds great. I can get really mad. Two things at once to yell at people about."
"Well, Friday is Racism Outrage Day, but I see no problem in advancing that to Thursday and combining it with Microaggression Outrage Day," the Chief of Staff said. "After all, Brian also calls the checkers Black and White, and he even dares to capitalize White!"
Marcy shook her head. "Terrible, terrible. Something must be done about checkers! Maybe I should introduce a bill. Like, eliminate the teaching of checkers in the schools and substitute something else. Except I don't know what."
"You can make your usual point about Mindful Woke Pronouns," the Chief of Staff suggested.
"Oh ... is that my usual point? You would know better than I would," the Senator said. "Write a speech for me and tell me when I should yell and frown and throw stuff. It's going to be a great day. And make sure the networks and newspapers all cover it."
"I'm on it, Senator," the Chief of Staff said. Gosh, but how she loved her job, working with such a distinguished Senator.
Brian's outrageous checker problem is show below, and we hope you're not too offended or outraged yourself to give it a try. Brian says it's about 7 out of 10 in terms of difficulty, and he notes that some skilled solvers are having a little trouble with it.
When you're outraged enough to see the solution, click on Read More to see the winning moves and composer's notes.[Read More]
Excitement and electricity were in the air, for today began the new season of the National Checker League. Each and every team was hopeful, their eyes set on unseating the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers and claiming the crown for themselves.
It would take a lot of good checkers and maybe a few breaks to accomplish that, but the Pennant Race would soon be on.
No team was more optimistic than the Dallas Defiance, led by their new captain, a young lady who went by the name of Sunny Sunshine. She was a bit, shall we say, theatrical, but she had earned her team captaincy by showing skill and daring at the checkerboard.
Today, in the Dallas Checkerdrome, she would face Marvin J. Mavin, superstar leader of the aforementioned World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers.
The Checkerdrome was packed with a sellout crowd of over 50,000 rabid Dallas fans. Soon the players and umpires were introduced and the teams stood at attention in front of their dugouts for the playing of the National Anthem.
Then the players took the field, and the season was on!
But where's this Sunny lady? Marvin asked himself as he stood in front of first board, his playing position. His opponent seemed to be missing--- oh, you've got to be kidding me! he thought.
For here came Sunny Sunshine, riding a unicycle in from the outfield! The crowd roared its appreciation and Sunny waved and blew kisses and she made her way toward first board.
She rode straight up to Marvin, jumped down from her unicycle, and cast it aside as she offered Marvin a handshake.
"Pleased to meet you, Marvster!" she said. "Ready to get your pants handed to you?" As attendants cleared the field of the unicycle, Sunny laughed and slapped her knees, and the crowd laughed with her.
Marvin, for once, was speechless.
"Lost your voice, Marvster?" she asked as she did lively dance steps over to her side of the board. "Doesn't matter. Won't change anything. But you're going to look pretty silly without pants!"
Finally Marvin spoke. "Oh yeah, well you're going to ... "
"Ah, watch what you say, Marvster," Sunny interrupted, "wouldn't want to get charged with Misogynist Microaggression Offending, now, would you?"
Marvin stopped mid-sentence. MMO would be a very serious thing indeed, and could even tank his career. The National Checker League had become very careful about staying on the good side of the LTBO (Looking To Be Offended) Movement.
"Hey," he finally said, "how about we just, you know, compete over the checkerboard?"
"You're on," Sunny said, "that's just what I had in mind." She grinned. "But I'd still hang on to your pants."
Before Marvin could either attempt a reply or realize that he had best stay silent, the whistle blew and the call "Play checkers!" resounded through the stadium.
The game was a tough one and for the most part it went on in silence. Finally Marvin, playing White, felt he had an advantage in a very complicated and unusual position.
But at that moment, Marvin forgot himself. "Well there girl, looks like I just might win this one and keep my pants." Marvin, thinking he had been very clever, chuckled.
"What did you call me?" Sunny exclaimed. "Did you call me girl?" She stood up behind her board, hands on her hips.
Marvin replied, "Well, yeah, uh, I mean you are a ... you know ... "
Sunny interrupted. "After a remark like that you still think you're going to win?"
"Well, look here young .... um, person, I got eight men to your seven, even though you got a lotta kings ..."
"Men," Sunny said in a clearly derisive tone. "And Kings. It figures. You know what this game is called in French and German? Bet you don't because you're not exactly educated. It's called Jeux de dames and Damenspiel--- the game of Queens. So don't you ever call me girl or any sexist term again. From now on you'll either call me Ms. Sunshine or Queen Sunny, is that clear?"
"Uh, yeah. Clear as Sunshine on a Sunny day. Well then, Queen Sunny, watch this."
Marvin made his move. Sunny quickly sat back down and studied the board, a frown on her face.
What will happen next? Can Marvin pull off a win? How will Sunny react? Is Marvin in hot water?
Solve the problem as best you can and then click on Read More for the solution and some answers to these questions.[Read More]
It was Saturday morning and as usual, Tommy Wagner was sitting on Uncle Ben's porch for his weekly checker lesson. Uncle Ben wasn't really Tommy's uncle, but everyone called him that. Tommy had much potential as a checker player, and the kindly old retired checker professional had been tutoring him for several years.
But Tommy surely didn't look happy this morning.
A month had passed since Tina had caught Tommy at the movies with Letitia. Although Tommy had apologized, Tina was continuing to give him the cold shoulder, barely even responding to his greetings when they passed in the hallways of their central Florida high school.
Tommy, knowing his chances of getting a date with Tina were about zero, had called Letitia a couple of times, not realizing that if Tina ever found out, he might as well forget about Tina for the rest of his life. But Letitia, although receptive to Tommy's calls and polite enough, had refused multiple requests to go out with him, and finally Tommy stopped calling.
Tommy was feeling pretty down about the whole situation and his checker playing suffered. He had risen to Team Captain of the Junior Varsity team, no small feat for a 9th grader, but lately his performance had been well below his usual standard.
Uncle Ben noticed Tommy's diminished focus, and said, "Still having girl trouble, are you Tommy?"
"Yes, Uncle Ben, I sure am. I did what you said and apologized but it didn't really make a lot of difference, I guess."
"Didn't it? Do you mean that your apology was wasted?"
"Well, kind of ... I mean ..."
"You thought they would just forgive you and everything would be as it was."
"Yes sir, I suppose I did."
"Well, Tommy, there are two reasons to apologize. One reason is for them, and the other is for you."
Tommy continued to look confused. "I'm not sure I understand, Uncle Ben."
"You apologize to them because you did something to offend or hurt them, and they deserve to hear that you recognize that you did something you shouldn't have, and regret having done it. But you apologize for yourself so that you can do better in the future, and that can only happen when you accept the fact that you had gone wrong."
"Sure, Uncle Ben, but ..."
"... but you have to recognize that actions have consequences. If Letitia and Tina remain angry with you, or perhaps have lost faith and trust in you, then you'll have to accept that."
"I know, you're right, but it's so ... miserable!"
Tommy turned his head away. He didn't want Uncle Ben to see the tear in the corner of his eye.
"It can be miserable. But on the other hand you can't let it take over your life. You did the right thing by apologizing, and if there's nothing more you can do, you have to move on and try not to let it affect things that are important to you. One day, perhaps, your apologies may be fully accepted, but until then, you must deal with things as they are."
"You mean ... oh ... I haven't been playing very well lately, have I?"
"Honestly ... no, and no doubt your coach has noticed."
"Yes. He's talked to me. He told me I need to pull out of it and get my head together, although he doesn't know anything about Letitia and Tina."
"Well then ... nothing like some good hard practice. Are you ready for a challenge? Accompanied by some fresh lemonade?"
Tommy managed a smile. "Yes sir, I'm ready."
"Okay, young man. You just take a look at the position on the checkerboard while I pour us some refreshment."
Tommy did as he was instructed. Very shortly thereafter, Uncle Ben handed him a tall frosty glass. Tommy took a sip and then refocused on the checkerboard.
"This is a hard one, Uncle Ben. I think ... aha! That's the idea!"
"Show me, Tommy." Uncle Ben smiled inwardly. He knew there was nothing like a good mental workout to chase away worries. And he knew that, given time, Tommy would have internalized a difficult life lesson, and have become a better person by it.
We can't say if you've been on-track or off-track lately, but we can say that a mental workout is good for all of us no matter what the situation. Can you solve this one? Focus! With or without lemonade, give it your best effort and then click on Read More to see the solution, notes, a sample game, and numerous additional examples of the theme.[Read More]
Marvin J. Mavin, star professional checkerist and Captain of the World Championship Detroit Doublejumpers, was on top of things this year.
He dutifully reported to training camp in August, which was once again at a lakeside resort in Northern Michigan near the town of Au Train. But this year he made sure he was in good shape, both physically and mentally.
The previous summer, Coach Ronaldson had been tough on Marvin, making him run extra miles along the lake and watching him closely to be sure he didn't break any of the team's strict training rules. Marvin wasn't about to go through that again, so he trained over the summer break, going jogging with his girlfriend Priscilla, playing tennis with his friend Brian, and keeping sharp with tough matches against the top-flight King of Checkers computer program.
During the first week of camp, Coach Ronaldson noticed the difference. Marvin's usual irreverent attitude was even missing. The Coach was pleased and didn't feel the need to single out Marvin for special 'attention.' But privately the Coach wondered if the 'new' Marvin was a temporary thing.
Toward the end of the second week of camp, Coach found out.
It was in the evening after a hard day of training and the customary team dinner, a time when the players had precious leisure time. Coach was in the resort's lounge, studying from the latest book by Dr. Reginald Pastor, when Marvin came up to him.
"Coach? Can I ask you something?"
Coach Ronaldson looked up. "Yes, what is it, Marvin?"
"Well, Coach, maybe you noticed that this year for me is a lot different than last year."
"Yes, it would be hard not to notice. Frankly, I'm a little surprised but quite pleased with your preparedness, and especially with your positive attitude."
Marvin grinned. "Gee, thanks, Coach, I was hoping you'd say that, so I was wondering, if like, maybe, you know as a sort of reward, well ..."
Coach frowned. He had an idea what might be coming, and he didn't like it. "Get to the point, Marvin."
"Okay, you know, Sunday being our day off and stuff, like maybe we could go into town for a couple of beers?"
Coach sat up straight, his frown deepening. "Tell you what, Marvin. Solve this problem in five minutes or less." Coach indicated a problem in the book he was holding.
"Uh, sure coach ..." Marvin scratched his head, looked puzzled, and then grinned. "Black to play and win, right? You're kiddin' me. Easy. Black is two pieces ahead ..."
"Yes, Black to play and win. Now show me, if you think it's so simple."
Marvin, now a little uneasy at the Coach's sharp tone, thought for a couple of minutes. "Oh wait ... heh heh, well Coach, maybe it ain't all that easy ... "
A few more minutes passed. "Aha!" Marvin exclaimed, and then began to show Coach the solution.
If your Coach challenged you with a problem like this, could you solve it in five minutes? Well, we won't hold you to any particular time limit; take as long as you like and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of today's story.[Read More]
It was July, 1955, and the summer heat had invaded Bismarck, North Dakota. Known for its cold and prolonged winters, those who didn't live there never realized that summer on the prairie, though very short, could be intensely hot, with the mercury rising above 100 degrees on some days.
Sal Westerman, the informal leader of Bismarck's Coffee and Cake Checker Club, found himself missing the club's weekly meetings at the Beacon Cafe. The club took a summer break between Decoration Day and Labor Day. The cafe itself closed for about six weeks as the proprietor, Deana, enjoyed summer with her parents on the family farm near Gackle, in eastern North Dakota.
Sylvia, Sal's wife, had talked Sal into renting a small cabin near Lake Sakakawea. It was a bit cooler up there, with breezes off the lake, and a simple lifestyle with few intrusions. Sal had to admit he enjoyed the long, lazy summer afternoons, and although he wished he could be at the Beacon, he had a stack of checker magazines to keep him busy.
One Tuesday, after doing a little fishing in the morning when it was cooler, Sal and Sylvia were relaxing in wicker chairs on the shaded veranda of their cabin. Sal had a copy of Checker Digest on his lap and Sylvia was doing some knitting. It was a peaceful scene.
"Anything good in your magazine?" Sylvia asked.
Sal figured she was just making conversation, as he replied, "Yes, they've got this three-by-three problem from Brian in St. Louis, that's really kind of fun. I think I've almost got it."
To Sal's surprise, Sylvia said, "Oh? Let me see!"
Sal, puzzled, handed his wife the magazine, saying, "It's this one here in the middle of the page."
Sylvia frowned a bit. Something like four or five minutes passed, with Sal looking on in bewilderment.
"Oh, here's how you do it," Sylvia said, a big smile on her face. "It's not that hard, you know!"
Did Sylvia actually solve one of Brian's problems? Can you solve it? Take four or five minutes, or as long as you wish, and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of the story.[Read More]
In our previous episode, Detroit Doublejumpers captain Marvin J. Mavin drew in the deciding game of the World Series of Checkers, forcing a sudden death playoff on the following day.
Sudden death playoffs were conducted solely between the team captains. That meant that Marvin would be playing a series of five minute games against Los Angeles Leapers captain Hyun-Mi Park. The first player to win a game would bring home the championship.
To put it mildly, the pressure was on, and Hyun-Mi was known to be a deadly opponent at speed checkers. Marvin, on the other hand, was stronger in games with longer time limits. Las Vegas book was a whopping 5 to 1 in favor of Hyun-Mi.
Marvin knew full well that he was the underdog. It was a situation that called for a beer, but there was no chance of that, and anyhow Marvin knew he had to keep a clear head. So in his warm-up prior to the game, he tried chewing gum. When that didn't help, he gargled mouthwash for a full 90 seconds. His coach told him to spit it out and run in place for a while, but that only made Marvin's legs hurt.
Marvin then asked for a cheeseburger and fries, but the coach refused, instead having a plate of carrot sticks sent in from the stadium's kitchens.
Marvin barely had time to scowl before the players were called on the field for the playing of the National Anthem.
After the Anthem and the ceremonial playing of the first move by the Governor of Michigan, Hyun-Mi and Marvin met at the center of the field for handshakes and photographs. Hyun-Mi was, as always, stern and composed, while Marvin did his awkward best, all the while trying not to tremble with what he would never admit was fear.
Then the preliminaries were over and the whistle blew, indicating the start of the game. Just before pressing the clock button, Hyun-Mi looked into Marvin's eyes with her patented steely gaze and sent shivers down Marvin's spine.
The first five games ended in draws. Hyun-Mi had the advantage in most of them, but Marvin managed to hold out, though the effort was exhausting. Hyun-Mi, on the contrary, remained cool and composed, content to just wear Marvin down.
There was a fifteen minute break, and Marvin retreated to the Doublejumper dugout for a few cups of sports drink and a toweling down of his face, neck, and arms.
"She's getting the better of you," Marvin's coach remarked pointedly.
As if I didn't know, Marvin thought, but knew better than to say it out loud. Under the rules, the coach could bring in a pinch checkerist at any time, and Marvin didn't want to suffer the humiliation.
Seemingly reading Marvin's mind, the coach said, "Maybe I should bring in Pete Butterworth to pinch play for you. What do you think?"
"I can do it coach, I really can," Marvin said. "Just give me a chance."
"Okay, one more set of five, after that Butterworth comes in. And don't even think about losing."
The whistle blew and Marvin and Hyun-Mi resumed their match.
Three draws ensued, then a fourth. As the fifth game began, Marvin knew it was his last chance.
Hyun-Mi, for her part, never thought Marvin would last this long. She was the best speed checkerist anywhere, and she should have won during the first two or three games of the first round. Was her confidence shaken, if ever so slightly? No matter. She would never show it. If there was one thing she had learned in North Korea, other than checkers, it was how to hide her emotions.
The players moved rapidly, and after a few minutes the following position was reached.
Marvin felt he actually had a chance, if he could just work it out quickly enough. There was only a minute left on his clock. He would have to make his move while still keeping enough time in reserve to finish out the game. Fifteen seconds at best to find the right move.
Sweat was pouring off him. He was fidgeting in his seat as he always did when things got tough. The seconds ticked by ...
And then he made his move.
What do you think of this position? Marvin has five men vs. four kings, is that the better side to have?
The position is not especially difficult but under intense pressure anything can happen. Give thanks that you're not facing Hyun-Mi, and can take your time to find the solution in the comfort of your own non-North Korean surroundings. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of the story.[Read More]