Recall from last month's story that in the Division Playoffs between the Kansas City Kingers and the Detroit Doublejumpers, the final match had ended in a tie, when Marvin J. Mavin came from behind to take a game from the Kansas City captain, Dr. Sharper.
But the game ended in controversy with Dr. Sharper accusing Marvin of cheating and demanding that the referee, Dasha Dachner, search Marvin's copious hair for concealed communications devices. A near-riot took place and Dasha ordered all the players off the field while she made an urgent phone call to National Checker League President Nhoj Rekca.
Dasha then used her wireless mic to announce, "Mr. Rekca has ruled. Searches must be requested before a game begins, not after it ends. The result stands and a sudden-death game will begin."
Booing came loudly from the huge Kansas City hometown crowd, but it wasn't going to change anything. Dasha called Marvin and Dr. Sharper back to the field and announced the terms of the Playoff version of the sudden death round.
"Play continues, alternating colors, until one player wins. If the other player doesn't win the next game, the match is over, otherwise the match continues until a player wins two games in a row, or scores a win followed by a draw. After six games, the first player to win carries the day.
"Gentlemen, play checkers!"
"But what about his hair?" complained Dr. Sharper.
"What about your hair?" said Marvin. "You ain't got much and it's probably full of cooties!"
"The decision of the NCL President is final!" said Dasha. "Begin play now or you will be ordered out of the match."
After a few stares and glowering looks passed between Marvin and Dr. Sharper, play did finally commence. There were two draws, then Marvin won a game but Dr. Sharper won the next. Another two draws followed.
The next player to take a game would claim the Division Title for his team.
Two more draws later, the following position was on the board with Marvin to play.
"Another draw," said Dr. Sharper, "unless, of course, you blow it and lose. Which you will. I'm a doctor and I can see how tired you are."
"Hey, Sharpie, cut the talk. I ain't tired. And I ain't going to lose neither."
"Right, you'll cheat again."
"That does it!" Marvin stood up and remained silent for a moment. The crowd fully expected him to call for the referee and make a complaint.
But instead, Marvin made his move.
What move would you have made in this position? Is the game a dead draw as Dr. Sharper claimed? Or did Marvin have a "sharper" view of the position?
Stay sharp, solve the problem, and give a sharp click of your mouse on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.
Problem and solution are by grandmaster problemist Brian Hinkle.
A---8-3 5-9---B 3-7 9-13---C 7-2 6-9 2-6 9-14 6-9 14-17 9-14 17-21 14-18 13-17 18-14 17-22 14-17 22-25 17-22 25-29 22-26 29-25 31-27 25-29 27-23 29-25 23-19 25-29 19-15 29-25 15-10 25-29 10-7 29-25 7-2 25-29 2-6 29-25 6-10 25-29 10-14 29-25 14-18---D 25-29 18-22 21-25 26-30. White Wins.
A---Please note that White doesn’t have the move but will still win. Also note that if the man on 31 was on 30, then it would be a draw. This may be the earliest possible setting of Situation #1 in Payne’s book from 1756.
B---6-9 3-7 9-13 7-10 5-9 10-6 ... same.
C---9-14 7-2 6-9 2-6 9-13 ... same.
D---Now this has transposed into Payne’s Situation #1 with Black to move after 3 moves.
Somewhere around the twelfth move above, Dr. Sharper couldn't help but realize that his position was hopelessly lost. Yet he still refused to resign, and Marvin had to play the game out until the very last move was made.
"You cheated," Dr. Sharper said. "I know you did."
"Aw, not again," said Marvin. "I ain't never met a poor sport like you. Betcha you're the cheater when it comes to billing your patients, you old quack!"
"Off the field!" the referee ordered. "Detroit has won the match and there is no more to say. One more word from either of you and I'll have you both suspended for a full season! Sportsmanship is the hallmark of championship checkers and I won't tolerate this!"
The players knew of Dasha Dachner's fearsome reputation. She wasn't kidding around. Both of them quickly left the field while the crowd continued to boo, although it wasn't entirely clear at whom their jeers were directed. Marvin, for taking the title? Their hometown Captain, for losing? The referee ... just for being the referee?
One thing was clear, and unfortunate. Dr. Sharper and Marvin weren't going to shake hands. Some great checkers had been played out on the field, but sportsmanship had suffered a loss, and all the fine play in the world wouldn't make up for it.
Editor's Note: We've brought up the topic of sportsmanship more than once recently, and, in the words of our story's referee, we do indeed believe it to be the hallmark of the game of checkers, something that sets the standard for other intellectual sports. At The Checker Maven we believe that every single player of checkers, from an utter novice to a multiple-time world champion, can be a lasting credit to the game by playing with honor, respect, humility, grace, and sportsmanship. We hope you'll agree.