Marvin J. Mavin had been on the injured list for almost two weeks, sitting out something like ten matches.
It had all started in Boston. Marvin's team, the National Checker League champion Detroit Doublejumpers, was visiting Beantown to play a three-match series against the Boston Bristols. Marvin complained that he had a sore elbow, and the Doublejumper's trainer, Gus "Gassy" Gustafson, recommended that Coach Harry Butterfield sideline Marvin until his elbow healed.
"The boy been practicin' too much," Gassy commented. "Done hurt his elbow liftin' them checkers an' he needs ta' lay off 'em fer a spell."
But there was another version of the story making the rounds. Marvin had been seen in Boston's famous Durbin Park Pub, showing his prowess by drinking straight out of one of the pub's massively heavy stone beer crocks. A photo in the local paper, the Boston Probe, showed Marvin at one of the pub's tables, holding his elbow and wincing with pain.
But tonight, though, the Doublejumpers were in Portland at the Portland Playpen Arena, and Marvin had been given the all-clear. He'd be back at the Doublejumpers first board position, where he'd face ace player D. Rock Noodle of the Portland Pitchers.
D. Rock, a brash but highly talented youngster, stepped up to the board and shook hands with Marvin.
"Hey, take it easy, that's my bad arm," Marvin complained.
D. Rock grinned. "Heard all about that one, Marv," he said. "Too much practice or too many brewskies? What's the real story, old timer?" Noodle held his grin, taunting Marvin.
Marvin, turning red, was on the verge of replying when Referee Jack "Acky" Ackerman blew his whistle, signaling the start of the match.
The players made several moves each and the game started to get complicated. It was now Marvin's turn and he was taking quite a bit of time to work out his move. Finally, he decided on a line of play and made his move.
D. Rock looked at the board, looked at Marvin, and looked again at the board, plainly puzzled.
"Oops," Marvin said. He realized at once that he'd blundered. Noodle was grinning again, and Marvin knew he'd have to think fast.
"Ow!" Marvin yelped. "My elbow!" With a swift theatrical move, Marvin dropped to the floor and rolled, holding his left elbow with his right hand. "My elbow! It's gone out again!" He continued rolling around the floor, groaning and grimacing all the while. A murmur rose from the huge crowd.
Trainer Gustafson and Coach Butterfield rushed out onto the playing floor. Gustafson dropped to one knee, bending over Marvin. He softly whispered, "Marvin .. you be holdin' the wrong elbow."
Marvin quickly switched his grip, covering his motion with another loud yelp, hoping no one would notice.
Referee Ackerman made his way over.
Coach Butterfield took a look at the board and realized at once what was going on. "Marvin must be allowed to take back his last move," the Coach said to Ackerman. "Obviously his elbow spasmed and he dropped his checker on the wrong square."
Referee Ackerman was well known for being impartial and fair. He was also no one's fool. "The move stands, Coach," the referee said in a very quiet voice. "Rule 5-c-1. If I were you, I wouldn't push things."
Coach Butterfield quickly decided it would be best to drop the issue.
"What's your decision, Coach?" Ackerman asked. "You can put in a substitute if you want. Or if your player isn't injured too severely, he can stay in."
The Coach glanced again at the board and realized the position was so bad that a substitute player could never save the game.
"Despite his injuries, Marvin will play on," the Coach declared. The crowd, some of whom had figured things out and some of whom hadn't, reacted with a mix of cheers and boos.
Meanwhile, Trainer Gustafson had rigged up a sling for Marvin's arm. Marvin, playing it for all it was worth, rose painfully from the floor with the help of both Gustafson and Butterfield. Marvin slumped into his chair and stared at the board, awaiting D. Rock's move.
"You oughta be an actor," D. Rock said, "because you sure can't play checkers worth a hoot."
D. Rock made his move and now Marvin faced the following position. Marvin knew that he would have to make every play with precision. There could be no more blunders.
The draw isn't easy to find. If you were substituting for Marvin, could you save the game? Match wits with D. Rock Noodle and when you've come up with your answer, click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of our story.
Solution and Conclusion
Marvin used up quite a bit of the remaining time on his clock before he determined his line of play. Now it was his turn to grin. "Thought you had me, there, Rocky, didn't you," he said. "Well, even though I'm seriously injured, I can still pull this one out of the fire."
Play continued as follows.
22-17 doesn't work: 22-17 14-18 (11-15 is answered by 32-28) 17-14 10-17 21-14 20-24 and White loses a piece.
If 26-22, 18-15 draws.
"Not bad," D. Rock said. He stood up and offered to shake hands with Marvin.
"I'm wounded, remember?" Marvin replied.
"Oh, knock off the act," said D. Rock. "You got your draw, so don't go trying to win the prize for best clown in the circus. Go find yourself a beer or something."
"Excellent idea," Marvin said. "I just might do that."