The Checker Maven

The Cold War Revisited

Marvin J. Mavin, captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was not happy.

It all started out when the company for which Marvin did promotional ads, Belcher's, got wind of his ongoing rivalry with Russian emigre Dmitri Tovarischky, a top player from the days of the former Soviet Union. Belcher's thought that a highly-publicized "grudge match" would aid sales and brand recognition. Billed as "The Return of the Cold War" (even though Marvin was only about 10 years old when the Cold War ended), the match was set for an early spring evening in the Milwaukee Checkerdrome; and Marvin had little choice but to follow the wishes of his sponsor, even though his distaste for Dmitri was all too obvious.


To make it worse, Marvin's girlfriend, Priscilla K. Snelson, was to be in attendance, and Marvin knew that under her watchful eye he would have not a chance in the world of having a pre-game beer. Marvin received a stern lecture, reminding him of a previous loss to Dmitri which Priscilla blamed squarely (and very likely correctly) on over-indulgence.


And so, here he was, sitting at the checkerboard in the center of the enormous, fan-packed Checkerdrome, facing Dmitri once again, and not having had any beer for almost 48 hours. Huge American and Soviet flags flew from the ceiling of the Drome, as Belcher's went all-out to set the mood of conflict and rivalry.

Dmitri, for one, had no problem with such a theme, even though he was an emigre. "American Checkers Boy will lose again to superior Russian skills," he crowed loudly. "Checkers Boy is no match for champion like Dmitri."

Marvin seethed inwardly but did not respond, only mumbling under his breath, "Yeah, you'll see what Checkers Boy can do, you old Commie..." But to make things even worse, Marvin had been given the tough end of a very difficult opening ballot. Even though Marvin received draw odds, meaning that if he could but draw the game the match was his, he knew he had a very hard evening in front of him.

At that moment the referee blew his whistle, starting the game clocks, and the match was underway.

12-16 23-19 16x23 27x18 11-16 26-23 16-20 32-27 8-11 30-26 4-8 18-14 9x18 23x14 10x17 21x14 11-15 22-17 8-11 25-21 6-9 26-23 9x18 23x14 11-16 29-25 2-6 17-13 16-19 31-26 6-9 13x6 1x17 21x14 7-10 14x7 3x10 25-21 10-14

Dmitri was gloating and not trying in the slightest to hide it. "Game is over for Checkers Boy," he said. "Checkers Boy has only bad move and loses to Dmitri. Of course, Dmitri is not surprised because Checkers Boy is just inferior American amateur."

Now, there are limits. Marvin expected Dmitri's taunts, but being called an amateur was a bit too much. As a top professional Marvin felt he was owed at least a certain amount of respect.

He was about to lash out angrily and call Dmitri all sorts of names, when Priscilla, sitting in the front row, caught Marvin's eye and simply wiggled her left index finger. That was all it took to silence Marvin, who knew what kind of chewing out he would get later if he failed to heed the warning. Instead, he went back to mumbling. If you listened carefully, you might have heard words such as "old goat," "blowhard," and "beer"; but Marvin realized that the game was at a critical point and knew that he had better come up with something right now, right away.

The position that was on the board is shown below.


White to Play and Draw


Can you give Dmitri his comeuppance and find a move that gives White a draw? Or is all lost and Black will be the winner? Keep your cool, forget about mumbling, and work out the position before clicking on Read More to see how things turned out.


Marvin played 27-23, and Dmitri laughed out loud, and continued to laugh almost uncontrollably. "Checkers Boy, everyone knows you are amateur, but now you show them you are stupid also! Only stupid man plays move like this! You cannot see you going to lose man on 26?" And so saying, Dmitri jumped 20x27.

"Listen, you fat ....." Marvin started to hiss between clenched teeth, but another finger wiggle from Priscilla stopped him before he could say the unthinkable. He made the return jump, 23x16, smashing the checker down on the board and glowering at Dmitri, who followed with the expected 27-31.

Marvin, still staring straight into Dmitri's eyes, played 26-22, then sat back in his chair, folded his arms, and grinned. Then he looked over at Priscilla and gave a thumbs-up sign, receiving a warm smile in return.

Meanwhile, Dmitri was staring at the board and sputtering. "Why you not play 16-11 like Dmitri expect?" he said. "Now Dmitri not sure ... "

The players made a few more moves, but the result was clear, and they agreed upon a draw--- without shaking hands--- a half dozen moves later. Under the rules of the encounter, Marvin was declared the winner, to the thunderous applause of the crowd, many of whom were cheering, "USA! USA!" Dmitri made a rapid and silent exit, his head down and, incredibly, looking to be near tears.

Priscilla was holding Marvin's arm and beaming. "Thank you for behaving yourself tonight," she said, "and congratulations on a fine game. I'm so proud of you!" She gave Marvin a quick kiss and then she whispered in his ear the words Marvin had never thought he would ever hear, "How about you take me to a nice place for a beer?"

The lights in the arena were bright, but Marvin's smile outshone them.

After the match, fans toast Marvin's victory


27-23---A 20x27 23x16 27-31 26-22!---B 31-26 22-17 14-18 17-13 15-19 16-11 18-22 11-8 22-25 8-3 25-29 etc. Drawn.

A---The seemingly logical 26-22 would be a mistake, and loses after 14-18 22-17 19-23. Black Wins.

B---The White man is now safe and the draw is assured.

01/08/11 - Category: Games - Printer friendly version
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