The Checker Maven

A Sports Bar Debate

There was a big Sunday afternoon crowd at the Mojo Sports Bar in downtown Detroit. Glasses and bottles were everywhere to be seen as the crowd buzzed over a just-completed exhibition match, narrowly and unexpectedly lost by the hometown Major League team, the Detroit Doublejumpers, to the Bridgeport Breeches of the AAA Northeastern League. The match, of course, was viewed on the bar's large-screen TV, and broadcast by the Checker Television Network.

In the final round, Detroit captain Marvin J. Mavin had lost his first-board game to Bosco della Bruggia of the Breeches, costing the Doublejumpers the match. The network commentators thought the game wasn't all that well played; and they felt Marvin had missed a last-ditch draw. Some of the bar patrons agreed with this assessment, but they were in turn opposed by a number of the other patrons, who, as fierce hometown supporters, backed Marvin avidly.

A large group was gathered around a table where a pair of fans were going over the game. One of the onlookers, Johnny Jack Jackson by name, had played some semipro checkers a few years back, and was generally held to be the bar's champion (he would play for a beer and rarely went home sober). Johnny was commenting on the game as the moves were run up.

Johnny Jack Jackson Does the Play-By-Play

11-15 23-18
8-11 18-14

"Most of 'em plays 27-23 or some of 'em plays 26-23. 18-14 is a little different but it's OK. I seen it before from that guy Ed Queensline who plays AA checkers for Morristown out in Jersey."

9-18 24-19
15-24 22-8
4-11 27-20

"Aw c'mon Marvin, you oughtta capture toward the center with 28-19."


"I wouldda played 5-9 but this ain't so much worse."

... 28-24

"25-22 or maybe 21-17 .... you're givin' Bosco the edge here, Marv!"


"Now, I'd a played 5-9 right away. I 'spose Bosco was goin' for that element of surprise bit."

... 26-23

"Marvin, you give 'em a little on each move! You still couldda played 25-22. You probably got a loss now, pal."

5-9 21-17
9-14 25-21
15-18 ...

"Marv, I'd say you got a real big problem.... like, you lose!"

... 32-27
18-22 30-26

"Some a you guys wouldda played 30-25 instead, but after 1-6 it ain't so great. It's a two for two and Black gets an even easier win."


"What a stinko move, Bosco! 11-15 wouldda nailed down the game but now Marvin's right back in there."

14-17 21-14
10-17 23-18

"We're headed straight for a draw now."


White to Play and Draw

... 18-14

"Marvin, you're a dumb bum! You blew it---- again!"


"Well, OK there Bosco, you still win just fine, but I kindda like this line: 12-16 14-7 3-10 26-23 10-15 23-18 6-9 13-6 2-9 27-23 17-21 game over."

... 14-7
3-10 27-23
10-14 23-19
6-10 13-9
14-18 9-5
18-23 5-1
23-20 Black Wins.

"So our boy Marvin runs into an early loss but then Bosco plays a bonehead move and puts Marv back in the game. Does he get his draw? Noooo! He's gotta blow it away a second time with that 18-14 move! Ahhh.... it wasn't such a great game anyhow. Exhibitions, they just goof around sometimes instead a playin' serious."

Loud discussion ensued, with some thinking that 18-14 was indeed the best move and others not so sure. But Johnny insisted, and pretty soon little groups around the bar were playing out the variants and wagering a few tall cool ones on the results.

What do you think? Could Marvin have saved the draw? Would you be willing to bet Johnny a beer (or two) on your answer?

Click on Read More when you've decided.


Johnny was right. Marvin indeed missed a draw:

24-19 6-9 13-6 2-9 26-23---C 6-13 18-15 11-18 23-7 3-10 27-23 10-14 19-15 Drawn.

C---If 27-23---D then 12-16 19-12 10-14 and White is an a real jam.

D---The three for three draws as well: 19-16---E 12-19 26-23 19-26 29-25 22-29 31-6 29-25 6-2 25-22 2-7 22-15 7-14 15-19 14-10 Drawn.

E---Likewise 19-15 10-19 29-25 22-29 26-23 19-26 31-6 Drawn, as above.

How did you do on this one? Did you win a beer from Johnny or will you have to buy one for him? Either way, be sure to call him a taxi. We definitely can't let him drive home!

(Computer analysis for this article was by Kingsrow 1.15a.)

03/25/06 - Category: Games - Printer friendly version
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