Marvin J. Mavin, famed team captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was on a vacation. The World Series of Checkers had just concluded, with the Doublejumpers taking the championship for the third straight year.
Marvin had eight weeks off before the next season got underway at the first of the new year, and he decided to spend a few weeks in Hawai`i. His girlfriend, business executive Priscilla Snelson, could only spend a week with him due to a busy schedule doing mergers and acquisitions.
It was about halfway through Marvin's stay. Priscilla had gone off to Japan, searching for companies to buy out. Marvin was staying at the Hilman Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, and he loved to walk on Kalakaua Avenue along the beach. He'd wear beach slippers and a hat to try to remain incognito. Not that he didn't care about his many fans; he just needed a little time off between seasons.
Marvin had just finished eating a Hawaiian plate lunch, with macaroni salad, rice, and garlic shrimp. He loved the local food and could be heard to say, "I ain't paying thirty bucks for a tofu burger at the hotel." Feeling good, and enjoying the beautiful Hawaiian weather, he strolled on down Kalakaua with the goal of going all the way to the Aquarium and back.
At Kealohilani Avenue, he stopped for a moment at the beach tables, where visitors and locals would play checkers all through the day and evening. Each time he passed by, Marvin resisted the urge to sit down and play, and possibly reveal his identity. But today one of the tables looked especially interesting.
A succession of tourists were playing a rather rough looking local, and Marvin guessed he was probably homeless. But he was playing very well, defeating one challenger after another, and collecting five dollars every time. Marvin suspected that playing for money wasn't quite legal, but no one seemed to mind.
It was just too much. Marvin felt himself weakening, and after watching half a dozen games and just as many five dollar bills go to the local guy, Marvin spoke up.
"I'd like to try," he said, addressing the local guy, who had just pocketed some more money.
"I Charlie," the guy said. "Dey call me 'Cheap Charlie' 'cause noboddy nevah get five bucks offa me. You wanna play? You no get nothin' neithah. Show me da five bucks and den I give you lickens."
"Well, uh ..." Marvin hesitated. Would this really be fair?
"Scared? Den step aside, brah, oddah playahs stay waitin'."
No one accused Marvin of being scared. Grim faced, he pulled out ten dollars and set it next to the board.
"Ten dollah! Hoo, you one crazy haole! You like give me money, I like take it." Charlie placed two fives on top of Marvin's ten.
Marvin sat down. "Play," he said, his lips narrowed.
"Whatevahs," Charlie said, and the game began.
A small crowd had gathered, and amazingly, Marvin's disguise was working; no one recognized him.
The Trade Winds were brisk this afternoon and Marvin put a couple of captured checkers on top of the five and ten dollar bills.
"Dat money ain't going noweah," Charlie said, "'cept fo' my pocket!"
That got a laugh from a few of the bystanders. But the fact was, Charlie had made a few small errors, and Marvin knew that a win was on his doorstep. A couple of the more astute onlookers suspected the same thing, but they kept a discreet silence.
Marvin spent a couple of minutes in thought, and then, sure of himself, he reached out to make his move.
He took his hand off the piece and looked up. To his surprise, the crowd of spectators had completely disappeared.
"What's going on ..." he began, and then felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"You two bums gambling? You know that's illegal." The speaker had a little wallet flipped open to show his Honolulu Police Department badge.
"Aw, c'mon officah, we just havin' fun," Charlie said.
"Gambling?" Marvin said. "But checkers is a game of skill and ..."
"Shut up, you," the plainclothes policeman said. "I don't care what you say, it's not legal, and both of you know it. But I'm feeling generous today so you got a choice."
Marvin was fidgeting but Charlie, who had clearly been through this routine before, sat quietly.
"All right, officer," Charlie said. He pulled out a plastic bag and began to pack the checkers.
"Hey, our game!" Marvin objected.
"Okay, buddy," the officer said, looking at Marvin. "The homeless shelter or a trip downtown to headquarters?"
"The homeless shelter? But I'm ..."
"Good choice, boy. Saves me doing the paperwork it'd take to lock you up. Now come on, you two, there's a cruiser over there that'll drop you off at the Mission. And we better not see you leave until morning."
"But ... but I'm ..."
"One more word outta you and you wait in jail to see the judge."
Marvin noticed the officer slipping the game money into his pocket, but he didn't think it would be a good idea to say anything.
Can you find a winning sequence in the diagram above? It's a much easier problem than you might expect! See if you can solve it without getting nabbed, then click on Read More to go, not to jail, but to see the solution.
5-9!---A 10x17 21-25!---B 30x21 31-27 Black Wins.
A---31-27 leads to a similar solution with a switched move order.
B---Although this is clever, correspondent Bill Salot points out that it's not necessary and 31-27 is good enough right away. The text move is the computer's choice.
Marvin wins the game, but in another sense, loses.