Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League, looked somewhat uncomfortable and perhaps more than a bit out of place.
The occasion was the Annual Tasting Gala of the Greater Detroit Fine Champagne Association, and Marvin had been brought to this event, despite his protests, by his girlfriend, Priscilla K. Snelson. Priscilla, who to her disliking was affectionately called "P.K." by Marvin, is Executive Vice President for Marketing at the Mighty Motor Company of Detroit. A graduate of University of Manchester and the Sloan School of Economics, she is a cultured and sophisticated businesswoman, and, well, we must admit it, rather a contrast to her boyfriend Marvin.
The waiter glared and Priscilla hissed, "Marvin, please!" Marvin, touching her arm, whined, "Aw, P.K., you know I don't dig this Frenchy stuff.... what's wrong with a nice cold bottle a Belcher's?"
Priscilla, not deigning to answer, quickly steered Marvin away from the group and in another direction. "How can you be like that," she said in a tight and clearly displeased voice. "And don't call me P.K.!"
A small, stocky man waved from the other side of the room. Priscilla brightened and waved back. "Come, Marvin," she said, "I want you to meet Dmitri. Perhaps you can try to get along with my friends?"
"Checker boy?" Marvin exclaimed, "I happen to be a top ranked professional checker..."
"Da, da," interrupted Dmitri, "checkers boy! I am myself very high rank master of shashski... shashki master can crush any silly checkers boy." (Editor's note: shashki is Russian draughts.)
Marvin was getting more than a bit red. "Marvin...." Priscilla cautioned, but Marvin had already erupted. "Listen here, Comrade Commie, hows about you put a few rubles behind your big mouth and play a little friendly game, hah!"
"How dare you insult my friend..." Priscilla began, but Dmitri interrupted, "Oh, checkers boy becoming angry checkers boy," he oozed, "da,da, we play game for one thousand dollars US, you think?"
"A thou...that's a lotta beer," muttered Marvin under his breath, and then said aloud, "Yer on, Pinko."
"MARVIN, ENOUGH!" shouted Priscilla, but he was already on the way out to the parking garage to fetch his checker set from Priscilla's Mercedes. "Be right back P.K.... er... honey," he called over his shoulder.
Fifteen minutes later Marvin and Dmitri were seated on opposite sides of the checker board, with a very displeased Priscilla standing at the side, and a crowd of onlookers, bearing champagne glasses, gathered around the table.
The play was intense, and somewhere along the line, Marvin went down a piece, with the game finally arriving at the following position.
Dmitri was clearly grinning, looking about at the crowd for signs of approval. "You see it, da? American checkers boy is down one piece. Dmitri will be winning 1,000 dollars US very soon. Will buy fine Russian vodka for all good champagne people cheering for Dmitri!"
At this, the crowd was smiling, relishing the thought of a vodka chaser to their liberally imbibed glasses of champagne. But Marvin, in contrast, looked more than a bit worried; he was fidgeting in his chair and repeating over and over, "If only I had a beer...."
Can Marvin pull this one out, as he has done in the past with so many other tough positions? Will Priscilla remain angry or will they patch things up? Will Marvin ever get his beer?
Learn the answers to these questions when we conclude the story in a month or so, but meanwhile, see what you can do with the challenging position shown above.
Editor's Note: We believe this to be quite a difficult position to work out, but we invite you to match wits with our hero Marvin and see how you do.