Marvin J. Mavin was in Bellman, Ohio, the home of the National Checker League, for a special gala event to benefit the NCL Youth Fund. Various other top professionals would be playing simultaneous exhibitions, giving lessons and demonstrations, and analyzing games submitted by attendees. But the featured event, the real headliner, would be a single game match-up between Marvin and the President of the NCL, Elan Hallmion.
President Hallmion was a former top-ranked professional player; some thought he was every bit as good as Marvin. But there was more to the story.
The truth is, despite Marvin's popularity, President Hallmion was no great fan of Marvin. He didn't like Marvin's antics, especially his beer drinking; he thought it set a rather bad example for young players and fans who idolized Marvin. The scheduled contest between Marvin and Elan was being touted by the press as a "grudge match," although President Hallmion, always the gentleman, said that it was just a charity benefit in which he was most happy to participate. Any grudges, he added, were Marvin's alone.
Marvin, for his part, wasn't quite as gentlemanly. When asked about the match by the press, he said, "Oh, yeah, that dude Hallmion don't like me so much. But hey, whatever, he ain't got my reputation. I'll like, you know, take him on, sure, why not?"
The time for the match soon rolled around. Marvin had arrived in Bellman the previous evening and had spent the day (at least half of it, as he apparently slept until noon) signing autographs and meeting with the hundreds of NCL fans who had come to town for the exhibition.
President Hallmion made sure Marvin was taken to dinner by a couple of NCL officials, who whisked Marvin off to a restaurant that didn't serve beer. The NCL leader wasn't going to risk a possibly embarrassing situation later on when Marvin appeared for his match.
Indeed, at game time, Marvin was on the wagon. He had complained a little at dinner but when it became obvious that it wouldn't do any good, he stopped. He did try to slip away from his escort at one point, but the NCL officials were quite alert and Marvin didn't succeed.
The crowd cheered equally for both Marvin and President Hallmion. While Marvin was a darling of the fans, President Hallmion was highly respected for his integrity and his very competent management of the affairs of the NCL.
After shaking hands--- was Marvin a little reluctant?--- the contestants sat down to play. Marvin had drawn the Black pieces and President Hallion the White. The game started out as follows.
Marvin had what some thought to be the harder end of this 3-move ballot, but he seemed quite unperturbed, although he was doing his normal fidgeting.
After the double exchange, White has a small advantage; and President Hallmion knew it. In fact, he appeared to be smiling ever so slightly.
26-23 might have been stronger. Marvin glanced up at his opponent, evidently surprised by this move.
11-15 or 9-14 would have been better. Had Marvin's concentration lapsed? In professional checkers, that often proves fatal.
White seizes the advantage....
... only to give it back again. 24-19 would have held the lead. Marvin actually looked relieved at this turn of events. "Well there, Shorty," Marvin said, most disrespectfully, "ya thought ya had something, didn't ya! But now ya ain't got nothing."
Seeing this clever shot, the crowd oohed and aahed and then broke out into applause for President Hallmion. Meanwhile Marvin was frowning and scratching his head perplexedly.
President Hallmion sat back in his chair, and being the gentleman that he was, merely smiled. Marvin was in a tough spot and was going to have to think hard if he was to save the draw. "What's with this?" Marvin said. "You can't win, Shorty, you just can't!" The crowd, hearing this, let out a collective grumble. They all loved Marvin, but they also expected President Hallmion to be treated with proper respect.
Can you find the draw in this critical position? Can Marvin? Try to solve it, and then click on Read More for the solution and the rest of the story.
Solution and Conclusion
Marvin had found the right move; nothing else will draw (use your computer to check the alternatives). The crowd applauded; they knew good play when they saw it. Marvin's previous rudeness was forgotten in the excitement of the moment.
President Hallmion, for his part, nodded his head. He apparently wasn't surprised that Marvin had played correctly. The game went on a few more moves before a draw was agreed.
"Good game, Shorty, good game," Marvin said as the two contestants shook hands. It was probably as close as Marvin was going to come to being polite, and besides, he was wanting to get out of the arena and go find a beer. He and President Hallmion headed for their locker rooms to the continued applause of the crowd, who knew they had witnessed a fine exhibition of checker play.
Marvin, upon reaching his locker, was surprised to see the two NCL officials who had taken him to his beer-free dinner.
"We'll be driving you back to your hotel," one of them said. "And seeing that you stay there," said the other.
Marvin shrugged his shoulders and accepted the inevitable.