It was spring break, and according to longstanding tradition, the National Checker League observed a weeklong holiday.
Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, wanted to do something with his long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Snelson. But Priscilla, as a C-level executive at Rust Belt Holdings, was to be the keynote speaker at a conference in Turkmenistan, and she would be away from home during Spring Break.
That left Marvin on his own, and he decided to go on a road trip in his trusty if aging Volkswagen. It was something he did every so often; head off with no particular destination in mind, stopping over at cheap motels and eating in roadside diners and truck stops. He said it cleared his head. Of course he always stopped somewhere close to a dive bar where he could enjoy a couple of his favorite brews.
Somewhere in southern Indiana, Marvin pulled in at the Chuckie Checkers Truck Stop. He had read about it in his automotive travel guide; it was said to be a place where truckers who were checker fans (and what red-blooded trucker wasn't) liked to stop for a couple of informal games along with good food and coffee. Marvin put on his sunglasses and pork-pie hat in an attempt to go incognito. Often, it worked. But not always.
As he expected, the place was filled with truckers, families on vacation, and a few businessmen. Quite a few of the truckers had skittles games going while they ate their dinners and drank their coffee.
Marvin found an open seat at the gleaming chrome wraparound counter. A friendly waitress suggested the Trucker Special, a large slice of meat loaf served with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas and carrots. She brought him coffee right away; even Marvin knew better than to ask for beer in a roadside eatery.
While he sipped his coffee, Marvin took a look around. There was a large video display with a checker position shown on it. The position was titled "18 wheeler" and looked like the diagram below.
Sitting to the left of Marvin was a fellow who was obviously a trucker. He noticed Marvin's intent gaze at the display, and remarked, "Some guy Brian down in Missouri named that one for us. You know, 18-wheelers, the rigs we drive."
"You don't say, good buddy," Marvin replied. He knew about 18-wheelers and had learned some CB radio talk in a younger day. "Ten-four on that one!" Marvin grinned.
But the trucker didn't. "Hey, you makin' fun of me?" he asked.
Marvin couldn't miss the rather menacing look on the trucker's face. "Uh, no, I was just, like, trying to talk your lingo ..."
"That stuff went out thirty years ago, and you ain't even hardly that old," the trucker said. "What, you think all of us are hams? Hey, in high school I played for the school team. I was pretty good too. Ha! I know. You're one of them hams yourself. Probably couldn't even win two kings against one. Well, smart guy, hows about a little bet?"
Marvin swallowed hard. "What kind of bet?"
"You show how to win that 18-wheeler up there, I buy your dinner. You don't get it, you buy mine. And I won't make you apologize neither for gettin' my dander up if you be a sport and take my bet."
"And if I don't?" The moment he said it, Marvin regretted it.
"You don't wanna find out, 'good buddy.'" The trucker snorted. "Now what'll it be?"
Just then, the waitress brought Marvin his Trucker Special.
"Er ... you're on? After I eat?"
The trucker snatched away Marvin's plate and set it off to the side.
"Work before play. Hey, you shoulda ordered the Ham Special! Now get goin'. You got five minutes to solve it, just like anybody else."
We should point out to those readers not familiar with Willie Ryan's publications that "ham" is the name he gave to lesser players. We'd surely never call one of our readers a "ham"; we'd just prefer to say "improving player." But regardless of that, can you wheel out the solution? Truck right along and then click on Read More to see how it's done and read the conclusion of our story.
It took Marvin almost the entire five minutes, and just as the trucker took a look at the big clock on the wall and started to grin, Marvin said, "Got it. Dinner's going to be on your nickel." Marvin looked down at his now cold mashed potatoes with the gravy congealed on top. "Oh, well," he said, "but anyhow, take a look at this."
10-7 3x10---A 17-14 10x17 31-27 1x10 27-24 20x27 26-23 19x26 5-1 12x19 11-7 4x11 18-15 11x18 1-5 2x11 5x14x21x30x23x14x7x16x23x32 White Wins.
A---1x10 17-14 10x17 31-27 3x10 same.
"Hey, wow, man," the trucker said, "I ain't never seen it done that way! Everyone else does it this way."
18-14 9x18 31-27 2x9 10-6 1x10 11-7 4x11 26-23 19x26 5-1 12x19 27-24 20x27 17-14 10x17 1-5 3x10 5x14x21x30x23x14x7x16x23x32 White Wins.
"Yeah, I saw that too. Heh. Pretty funny. Nine kings taken two different ways, that makes 18. Kind of like those 18-wheelers you guys drive!"
The trucker started to scowl but then seemed to change his mind, and broke into a laugh. "Ya know," he said, "I thought you was just funnin' me and I was about to rearrange your looks a little, but you're actually pretty cool. 18-wheeler, yeah, I guess that's why they call it that. Two times nine! Yep, dinner's on me all right. I keep my word."
The trucker reached out his hand to shake. "Name's Louie," he said. Marvin shook the proffered hand and said, "I'm Marvin."
The trucker looked Marvin up and down several times, and then shook his head. "Fer a minute there I thought you musta been Marvin J. Mavin! But he ain't no ham! So you gotta be a different Marvin. Maybe Marvin Hamsteak!" The trucker guffawed, entertained by his own humor, while Marvin called for the waitress to ask her to reheat his dinner in the microwave. He decided it would be best to eat quickly and get back on the road. This Louie character seemed a little on the volatile side. And maybe, Marvin thought, I should cruise the back roads for a while, away from the 18 wheelers.
This intriguing problem and its dual solutions were kindly provided by the composer, grandmaster problemist Brian Hinkle. It's indeed a unique composition and we hope you enjoyed it.