In the Northern Hemisphere, it's now officially summer; and what is better in summer than, at a picnic or outdoor gathering, to play a few games of checkers? A cool drink, a slice of watermelon, and a friendly contest or two over the board ... that's life at its best. At least, it usually is....
In today's column, we join Billy (we've already met him in one of our earlier stories), who is off for a month at summer camp. As one of the top players on his school team, Billy has become a sort of informal checker instructor. It's mid-afternoon, and the boys, having just finished a somewhat rowdy game of leap frog in a nearby field, have gathered at a picnic table and are settling down to some checker work.
"Here," said Billy, "let me show you guys one that's kinda like playin' some more leap-frog." He then set up the position below.
"Can ya believe it," Billy continued, "White can win this here one!"
The rest of the boys were talking among themselves, expressing more than a little skepticism. "But it don't look so good," objected Willy, one of the younger and less experienced players. "I mean, Black's got a king and stuff!"
Just then Mort arrived with a big plate of watermelon and a tray of sodas. He had been last at leap-frog and so was made to "go fetch" for the other boys. "Well," Mort exclaimed, glancing at the checkerboard as he set down the refreshments, "I ain't so good at leap-frog but I can win that game there!"
The words "yeah, right" were heard repeatedly as the gang attacked the food and drinks. "I can too!" Mort said in a loud and exasperated voice. "I'll show ya!"
Billy sat back a little, put down his soda, and said to the other boys in a firm tone, "Hey guys, give 'em a shot at it." This was accompanied with a bit of a wry grin that Mort didn't catch. "Tell ya what. If he figgers it out, somebody else gets the next tray of sodas. If he don't get it, maybe he needs a bath or somethin'."
Everyone started to laugh except Mort, who realized now that if he didn't find the solution, he was probably going to get summarily tossed into the lake. But there was no turning back. Shaking just a little and hoping the boys wouldn't notice, he sat down at the board.
Don't be all wet yourself. Solve the problem and click on Read More to check your solution.
Was Mort sweating? Perhaps it was just the heat of the summer day.
He grabbed the checker on 26 and moved it up to 23. "What's with that?" said another of the less skilled boys, "yer just givin' 'em away!"
"Hold on now," said Billy, "let's play it out." He chose the 17-26 jump. Mort now moved the checker on 19-16. "Yer losin' another one!" said the boy who had spoken earlier. Billy now jumped 27-18. Mort looked very relieved and actually smiled. He played 30-7, wiped his face with his forearm, and declared, "Got it!"
"Yup," said Billy, "that's it. Mort, ya got it sure enough. Somethin' like leap-frog, but it's also called a back stroke." Billy's brow furrowed as he thought briefly, and then grinned. "Hey! Mort knows how to do the back stroke! Whaddya say we give 'em another chance at it!"
Everyone started cheering as a frightened look stole over Mort's countenance. "Hey..." he started to protest, but the boys had already picked him up by the arms and legs and were on their way down the path to the lake. "It ain't fair!" Mort was shouting, but it wasn't going to do him any good.
At a summer camp for boys, after all, fair play doesn't always carry the day.
26-23 17-26---A 19-16 27-18 30-7 White Wins.
A---If 27-18 then 19-16 17-26 30-7 White Wins.