It was the All-Star break during this year's National Checker League season, and as part of the week-long festivities, Marvin J. Mavin, checker star and team captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, was doing a promotional tour in Great Britain.
Certainly it would come as no surprise to know that one of the stops on Marvin's tour was the city of Manchester, truly one of the checker--- or should we say draughts--- capitols of England. Marvin had undertaken to play a simultaneous exhibition against the members of the British Amateur Championship team, the Chorley Checker Chaps. A fivesome made up of star draughtmen, their roster was impressive: Matthew Eek; the eminent mathematician and team captain Dr. John Algeeber; Donald Oligarch; Melvyn Emerald; and Eddie O'Gollie.
The match was taking place at that noted local enterprise, the Multicorn, where it was said that the beer and ale were of the highest quality and the atmosphere most suited for a serious match of draughts.
When told of the arrangements, we understand that Marvin approved wholeheartedly, even though his coach had warned him to maintain a positive image and keep in mind the public relations purpose of the tour: in other words, keep away from the beer, stay sober, and play winning checkers.
There were a couple of problems with that directive, however. First, Marvin, being more than a bit of an iconoclast, always had shall we say a bit of a problem in following the directions of higher authorities. Second, as we all unfortunately know, Marvin was rather partial to a good pint of beer, and was known to partake at inappropriate moments, and in fact at any moment possible. (Recall our earlier Checker Maven story in which Marvin lost a game to his arch-rival, Dmitri Tovarischky, after having enjoyed Octoberfest beverages a little too freely.)
Marvin was in full form for today's exhibition, and he would need to be at his best; the Checker Chaps were no easy targets, being the best amateur players in England. The playing room was ready; the Checker Chaps were seated at their boards, and the room was filled to overflowing with enthusastic fans.
The match was about to begin when to everyone's surprise (or perhaps to no one's), Marvin suddenly called for "a pint of Base Ale all around."
The Checker Chaps did their best to mutter polite refusals but not a few of the fans, and Marvin himself, soon had in hand a frothy mug of ale. Play began, and it quickly became evident that the Checker Chaps would provide Marvin with stiff competition.
Marvin quickly won his game on Board 4 after taking advantage of a positional error. Board 5 ran into a quick draw, as did Board 3. On Board 2, Marvin lost a piece in a tricky exchange and graciously (at least by Marvin's standards) resigned the game, quickly calling for another pint of Base Ale to assuage his disappointment with the loss.
The game on Board 1 with Dr. Algeeber would decide the match. It had played out thus far as follows:
Black: Marvin J. Mavin
White: Dr. John Algeeber
The situation was tense. Dr. Algeeber wanted to win the game and take the match on behalf of his team and the home town fans. Marvin, of course, as a star professional player, had a reputation to uphold. But Dr. Algeeber was an expert in his own right and an opponent not to be taken lightly.
Of course, one had to ask if Marvin should really have called for that third pint of Base Ale, "to clarify his thinking" as he told the barmaid.
Dr. Algeeber had again declined, this time noting in a somewhat pointed manner that "draughts of ale and draughts over the board really don't mix all that well, you know." The British team captain was now on move, and realized that he had chances to perhaps pull through with a win. The board position was as follows.
Marvin, as usual, was fidgeting in his chair, taking frequent sips from his mug. Though he found this all more than a bit annoying and distracting, Dr. Algeeber, being the gentleman that he was, refrained from complaining. Finally, though, he allowed himself a bit of a smile as he made his move.
Would you have been able to win this position against someone with Marvin's finely honed professional skills? Would you have been able to keep cool despite Marvin's constant fidgeting, muttering, and slurping of ale, or would you have been tempted to dump a water pitcher over his head?
Well, we certainly wouldn't recommend something so impolitic as the latter, but we do recommend that you try to find the winning move, and then click on Read More for the conclusion of the story and the solution to our problem.
As we said, Dr. Algeeber did allow himself the faintest of smiles as he made this move:
and surely he must have felt at least a modicum of satisfaction as a look, first of puzzlement, then of concern, and finally of dismay, spread over Marvin's face. "Uh ... um .... uh," Marvin was heard to say, continuing with "Er ... eh .... Oh my....." as the game continued.
|17.||17x26||14-9||Black resigns; White wins.|
There was cheering from the crowd, nearly all of whom had stayed to the finish, and handshakes from Dr. Algeeber's teammates. He had won the game, and the match went to the home team by the narrow margin of two wins, one loss, and two draws.
After the hearty congratulations had subsided, the Checker Chaps lined up to shake hands with Marvin. But ... Marvin was nowhere to be seen! Finally the barmaid related that "the Yank bloke wot drinks 'is ale too fast" had slipped out the back door and was seen heading in the direction of a decidedly less reputable district of Manchester, mumbling something like "I gotta find some American beer someplace."
The barmaid concluded, perhaps most appropriately, by saying, "Blimey! If'n I wuz that bloke's coach, I'd box 'is ears good an' proper!"
Here is the complete game, with notes and analysis.
A---1-5 or even 3-7 is best. This move, while not necessarily losing, gives the advantage to White.
B---Loses. 15-19 would likely draw here according to both King's Row and original expert analysis, though the situation is a tough one to evaluate. Play might continue 15-19 23-16 12-19 25-22 11-15 21-17 14-21 30-25 21-30 22-17 30-23 27-2 and the neat in-and-out shot ends in a draw.
C---The winning move, and a hard enough one to find over the board.
D---7-11 is better, but probably still not good enough.
E---Sealing the win. 32-27 surprisingly is only good for a draw as the reply 3-8 will hold the game according to King's Row.