August was in its latter half, and it was time for all the teams in the National Checker League to go to training camp prior to the start of the new season in September.
The Detroit Doublejumpers, the reigning American champions, held their camp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, at the Bois-du-Nord Resort near the town of (most appropriately) Au Train. There was plenty of room for the team's 15 person compliment of players and coaches, and there were many recreational options available after a hard day of training.
Beer, however, was strictly forbidden, as was any sort of alcoholic beverage. And that annoyed the Doublejumper's team captain, Marvin J. Mavin.
After a summer vacation that featured beer-at-will, Marvin was out of shape, and Head Coach Clyde Ronaldson made a point of insisting that his players be in top mental and physical condition. He well understood that professional checkers requires endurance and stamina.
Marvin didn't like the physical training at all. But there was no doubt that Coach Ronaldson ran the team. When Marvin checked in to camp, Coach took one look at him and immediately assigned him extra jogging and weight-lifting sessions. Marvin, who was always just on the edge of getting into trouble, kept quiet in front of the Coach, but grumbled to himself.
"How am I supposed to work on my game when I'm running laps up and down the lake?" he said. "And how can I relax and cool down without a tall cool one?"
It got worse. One day when Marvin lagged behind the rest of the team in the daily group run--- held at 5:30 in the morning--- he was assigned to play a simul against the rest of the team. That meant facing off against 9 other high-level professional players. He would have to run one half-mile lap for each draw and two for each loss; and to top it all off he would be playing White on each board.
Marvin was already exhausted from the morning run. He was further allowed only a salad and a glass of water for lunch as Coach said he was overweight and restricted his diet.
He was just beside himself. He was pretty sure he could beat the lower six players, but the next three were going to be trouble, and he didn't look forward to running still more laps in the afternoon heat.
At one o'clock on the dot, the players assembled on the canopy covered outdoor patio. Coach blew his whistle, looked Marvin straight in the eye, and said, "Play Checkers!"
It must be said that Marvin put in a great effort, and things went very well for him. He quickly won his games on the lower four boards, won the next three soon thereafter, and after another twenty minutes won on Board Two.
But Board One didn't look so good. He was playing against his Associate Captain, Pete Butterworth, a highly skilled player. In one-on-one competition, Marvin generally held a slight edge, but in a simul, Pete often had something of the upper hand.
If Marvin could win, he wouldn't have to run any laps, and at the moment, the thought of even a single lap was more than he could bear. Unless it was a lap into town to pick up a six-pack, but that would get him suspended from the team for sure.
However Marvin, with White, found himself in a man-down position. He was pretty sure he could draw, but he needed to find a win. That was asking for a lot.
"Sorry, Marv," Pete said. "Hate to have you run those laps, but ..."
Marvin, fidgeting in his chair as he so often did, replied, "Yeah ... me too. Maybe there's something here ..."
He thought for a while longer, and then gave Pete a little smile. "Watch this!" he said, and made his move.
Can you come up with a White win in this situation? If not, you'll be running laps! (On a volunteer basis, of course.) See if you can win it with White and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion to our story.
Conclusion and Solution
26-23 12-16 10-6---A 8-12 6-10 4-8---B 10-7 16-19 23x16 12x19 7x23 White Wins.
A---10-7 16-19 (8-12 loses) 23x16 8-12 7-3 12x19 3-7 11-15 7-11 15-18 11-15 to a draw.
B---8-12 11-8 4x11 6-10 11-16 10x19 16-20 23-18 White Wins.
"Well done, Marv!" Pete said, shaking hands with his Team Captain. "I thought I had a draw for sure."
"You had me worried there," Marvin said. "It was a good game."
Coach Ronaldson came over from the sidelines and also shook hands with Marvin. "Great performance," he said. "It's worth a reward."
Was it something in Coach's tone of voice that made Marvin suspicious? "Reward?" he asked. "What kind of reward?"
"Oh, it's the shutout rule," Coach said. "You shut out your team and so you run one lap for each defeated team member. That comes to nine laps. You can have a glass of water before you start."
"Aw, c'mon Coach, you made that rule up! I'm not supposed to run any laps! It ain't fair!"
"Fair?" Coach said. "Ah, Marvin, my boy, you should know by now that life isn't fair. And you better get going if you want to finish those laps before dinner."
Problem Credit: Graham Davies, London, circa 1938.