The Checker Maven

Ballroom Dancing

Marvin J. Mavin had seemingly mended his errant ways, and had returned to the captaincy of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League. (In a previous column we related how Marvin had been sent down to a single-A farm club after showing disrespect to his manager.)

Marvin J. Mavin

Today, the Doublejumpers were in Miami for an exhibition match with one of Florida's top amateur teams, the Dancing Draughtsmen. Sponsored by the National Ballroom Dance Federation (NBDF), the Dancing Draughtsmen were captained by none other than NBDF President Vincent "Vinnie" Boggler. Vinnie, in addition to being a ballroom dancing star, was a strong amateur checker player who could have turned pro had ballroom dancing not been his first love.

Vincent "Vinnie" Boggler

A large crowd was in attendance to cheer for their local favorites and their anticipation grew as match time approached.

Marvin, in his position at first board, was making what he thought were clever remarks to himself prior to Vinnie's arrival. "Ballroom dancing," he muttered. "That's for old fogeys who watch too many movies with that guy Freddie whatchacallit. Give me a rave any day!"

"Did you say 'rave'?" he heard a voice ask. Marvin looked up and his face immediately turned red. Vinnie had arrived and evidently had heard Marvin's last comment.

"Raves are for people with no dancing talent. Not everyone has what it takes to excel at ballroom dance. And," Vinnie continued, "not everyone has what it takes to excel at checkers." With this, he gave Marvin a pointed look and offered to shake hands. Marvin did so in a half-hearted fashion. Embarrassed on the one hand for being overheard, he was angry on the other over Vinnie's sharp put-down.

Vinnie took his seat just as the whistle blew to signal the start of the match, and didn't hear Marvin mutter, "From the looks of you, you ain't never been to a rave, ballroom boy, and you don't know the first thing about them."

The game started out as follows.

1. 10-14 24-19
2. 11-16 28-24
3. 9-13---A

Marvin was grinning and couldn't keep back a comment. "Nerves, Vinnie? Three moves and you already blew it," he said. "Face it. I'm a checker pro and you're some kind of fancy-pants dancer. You don't have a prayer." And so saying, Marvin quickly made his move---- a little too quickly, in fact.

3. ... 22-17---B

Marvin sat back in his chair with a smug expression, then took a second look at the board. His expression quickly changed, being replaced with one of concern, then of dismay. Vinnie looked at him and smiled. "Trip over your own feet, did you? Nerves, Marvin?' he asked.

4. 13x22 25x9
5. 5x14 26-22

Vinnie concentrated intently. He and Marvin both knew that Black now had a draw in sight. The margin was slim and careful play would be necessary, but Vinnie was determined to put Marvin in his place. For his own part, Marvin knew that he had blown away the win. He could only hope that Vinnie stumbled in his attempt to find the right steps that lead to the draw.

WHITE (Marvin)

BLACK (Vinnie)
Black to Play and Draw


A---A weak move which very likely loses. 7-10 or 6-10 would have been best.

B---22-18 preserves the probable win.

Can you match steps with Vinnie and find the draw, or will the rhythm elude you? We'll warn you up front that the path to a draw is a long one. Take a whirl with it and then dance your mouse over to Read More to see the solution and the conclusion to our story.


The game played out as follows---C:

6. 16-20 22-18
7. 1-5 18x9
8. 5x14 29-25
9. 8-11 25-22
10. 7-10 22-18
11. 3-7 18x9
12. 6x13 31-26
13. 11-16 26-22
14. 4-8 30-25
15. 8-11 22-18
16. 13-17 21x14
17. 10x17 25-21
18. 17-22 21-17
19. 22-25 19-15
20. 16-19 23x16
21. 12x28 15x8
22. 25-30 8-3
23. 7-10 17-13
24. 30-26 3-8
25. 2-7 8-3
26. 26-22 18-14
27. 10x17 3x10
28. 22-26 13-9
29. 26-31 10-14
30. 31x24 14x21

At this point Marvin and Vinnie agreed to a draw, and the large crowd went wild. Their local favorite had scored a draw against one of the most highly rated professionals in the game.

Vinnie was all smiles. "Tell you what, Marvin," he said. "How about you come over to the dance studio tomorrow afternoon and I'll show you how we do things uptown. Or are you up to the challenge?"

Marvin, looking glum, didn't answer. He had just been shown up by a ballroom dancer, for crying out loud. Worse yet, his coach had him strictly on the wagon and he couldn't even drown his sorrows in a pitcher of beer.

"You see, Marvin," Vinnie said, "ballroom dancers are skilled, agile and quick on their feet. They think fast and act fast. They never miss on even the most complicated step patterns, yet they are always graceful and composed. There are many important lessons you can learn from us."

"Two o'clock, my friend," Vinnie continued. "We''ll be waiting for you."

Then, to the cheers of the enthusiastic crowd, Vinnie took a bow and made his way out of the arena.

C---Variations in the play are of course possible and can be further explored with the aid of a strong computer engine.

Today's column is dedicated to the memory of Vincent Bulger, the Editor's cousin and the former president of both the National Dance Council of America and Fred Astaire International.

10/08/11 - Category: Problems - Printer friendly version
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