Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, a highly ranked team in the National Checker League, was on summer vacation. The League wrapped up the World Series of Checkers in May, and players were off until training camp started up at the beginning of August.
Ten weeks of vacation. He'd spend some of it with his girlfriend Priscilla, although she could only get away from her corporate executive job for a week at a time, and only now and then. He'd spend four weeks doing outreach work in the inner cities. And he'd spend three blessed weeks at a lake cabin, kicking back and thinking of little else but when to pop open his next beer. No cell phone. And definitely no checker board.
Except it didn't work out exactly like that.
Marvin booked a cabin in Idaho under the name of John Smith. He thought that was pretty clever. Of course, he was a national sports figure and pretty easy to recognize, but he always looked for a cabin that was out of the way and isolated, and then he stuck pretty much to himself, arranging to have the refrigerator well stocked before his arrival, so that he could just hang around the cabin, walk down to the lake, and not be bothered by anything or anyone.
It must have been on the third or fourth day when he saw a familiar looking figure walking further down the lakeshore. Now, Marvin's cabin was indeed well separated from the others, so it was pretty far, but the figure was quite unmistakable. Marvin just hoped he hadn't been noticed, and he was pretty careful to check each time he went to the lake thereafter.
Two evenings later, Marvin had just finished with dinner --- he had plenty of microwave meals in the cabin's freezer --- he was about to open another beer when there was a knock at the cabin door.
Marvin was pretty surprised. Could it be the camp manager? No one else was supposed to bother him. He got up, opened the door, and saw ---
Yes indeed, Dmitri Tovarischky. The guy he had seen further down the lakeshore. The guy who was his archenemy, a former Soviet champion who was asked to leave the National Checker League over a gambling violation, and who now stalked the star players.
"Ah, Checkers Boy. I see you other day by lake. How conwenient we are staying in same campsite," Dmitri said. "Maybe coincidence, maybe not, eh? I come in now, da?"
Dmitri entered before Marvin could reply.
Marvin made a mental note to later find out who leaked his vacation plans.
"We play one game, da?" he said. "Play maybe for wodka. I win, you give me couple bottles Stolichnaya. You win, I give you same thing, only you don't win, this I know already."
"I ain't got no 'wodka,' Pinko. Never touch the stuff. Now leave and don't come back."
"Ah, Checkers Boy should not be rude. I have little set here, I put on table." Boris quickly got out a portable checker set and made it ready. Marvin could tell it was going to be hard getting rid of him. "Maybe play for hundred bucks?"
So that was what it was all about. Dmitri was an inveterate hustler. Marvin replied, "Okay. One game. A hundred bucks to the winner. Nothing on a draw. But no matter what you get lost permanently."
"Easy money for me," Dmitri said. "Deal."
The two of them sat down and the game began. Outside, the sun was setting over the lake and the air was cooling. It was a beautiful Idaho evening but neither of them noticed.
Dmitri played Black and Marvin had White.
26-22 was weaker than 25-22. Perhaps Marvin was throwing Dmitri a bit of a curve ball? But Dmitri missed the opportunity to reply with 15-18.
"Hoo, Checkers Boy, you are making stupid move. Why you not play 23-19? Now Dmitri have big winning game!"
"Dmitri can even win by playing of 12-16. So many ways to win, so nice, da?"
Marvin, for his part, was starting to sweat. How could he have made such a blunder?
"Uh, hey there Commie, I think you blew it. You even mentioned 12-16 your own self, why didn't ya play it?" Marvin said.
"I am still going to win, Checkers Boy, do not worry yourself." But Dmitri sounded a bit less confident.
At this, Marvin started to laugh. "Nice try, get an early king, that's what you think? You shoulda played 8-11, pal. Now you lose."
Does Marvin now have a win on the board? Did Dmitri make a huge blunder in his own right? Study the position and see if you can find the winning moves. This one actually falls on the easy side. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.
Solution and Conclusion
White Wins. After 23-27 20-16 27-31 16-12 the win is assured.
Dmitri scratched his head. "Is possible Dmitri lose to Checkers Boy? Okay, wery good game. Dmitri will be going back to own cabin now."
"You owe me a C-note," Marvin pointed out as they stood up from the table.
"C-note? What you mean? Like half step above B?"
"Pay up, Commie."
"Da, da, Dmitri honorable player. I go my cabin for getting cash and bringing you in morning, da?"
Dmitri acted with surprising speed and before Marvin could react, Dmitri was out the door and had disappeared into the darkness of the night, leaving Marvin certain that he'd never see the hundred dollars Dmitri lost on the game.
"Whaddya expect from a Red," Marvin muttered. "Can't never trust 'em."
Marvin got himself a bedtime beer from the fridge and went out on the porch to stargaze for a while. He still had a couple of weeks of vacation left and he wouldn't let his enjoyment be spoiled by a poor loser.
Game and problem supplied by Brian Hinkle. Thank you, Brian!