The Checker Maven

Marvin's New Year's Eve


Priscilla Snelson, Chief Operating Officer for the international conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings in Detroit, was putting on an exclusive New Year's Eve party at her upscale condo in the swanky suburb where she resided.

Priscilla Snelson

The party was what you would expect from someone of her business standing. Only top executives and wealthy friends were invited. The food was catered from a company run by a three-star Michelin chef. The music came from Priscilla's ten thousand dollar custom audio system.

Marvin J. Mavin

Of course, Marvin J. Mavin, Priscilla's long-time boyfriend--- although she referred to him as her "beau"--- was there. Not exactly by invitation; high end parties weren't his thing. More by fiat. Priscilla had told him that he was to be there or else, and that was the end of the discussion.

Everyone was circulating around the huge living room and kitchen, drinks in hand, making small chitchat.

Marvin was bored out of his mind. As Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, one of the top teams in the National Checker League, his interests definitely didn't run to the price of scrap tin in Kurdistan or the molybdenum futures market.

No, Marvin liked a good beer or two. Or more. And this party was definitely one of those "more" occasions.


So, at some point into the evening, Marvin was on perhaps his fifth beer--- he had lost track of the exact count--- and he was starting to feel pretty loose and relaxed.

At that moment Priscilla, who until now had been far too busy with her guests to pay much attention to Marvin, came over to where he was standing, a young girl in tow.

Harriet Liang

"Marv," she said, "I'd like you to meet ..." Priscilla stopped in mid-sentence when she saw that Marvin was in a somewhat zozzled state.

"Oh, dear," she said, "maybe another time."

"Oh, no, no, Auntie Prissy!" the little girl piped up. "I want to meet Captain Marvin! He's my hero! Some day I'm going to grow up to be a checker star just like him!"

"Another time, dear," Priscilla said, but Marvin interjected, "Yeah, Prissy! She wants to meet her hero! Ain'tcha gonna let her?"

Priscilla scowled, but she knew she was trapped. "Very well, then," she said, "Marvin, this is Harriet Liang. She plays for her grade school checker team over in Dearborn, and she's very good."

Marvin leaned down to shake hands. "Nice to meet ya," he said, his voice a bit slurred.

"Auntie Prissy, why is Captain Marvin talking so funny?" Harriet asked.

"Oh, it's just because ... well, never mind that," Priscilla said. "Now, why don't you show Uncle Marvin your problem."

Harriet beamed, "Oh wow, yes!" She pulled a sheet of paper from the pocket of her dress. "Here, Captain Marvin. It's a checker problem, and my Uncle Brian said to try it out on you!"


Black to Play, White to Win


Marvin looked at the diagram and then looked puzzled. "Hey, what's a little kid like you doing at an adult party ..."

"Her Uncle Brian, from St. Louis, is working on a major deal with us, and he asked me if I would introduce his niece to you."

"I see," Marvin said. "The old you scratch my back I scratch yours routine, hey?" He reached for Priscilla's arm but she stepped back away.

"Okay, okay." Marvin turned to Harriet. "Well, let's see now, this should be easy, you just ... hmm, no, I guess you don't. Suppose you ... nope, doesn't work either."

"Captain Marvin, I solved in four minutes and my coach told me I was very smart!" Harriet said.

Marvin now regretted having those last couple of beers. If only he could think straight! Then Priscilla, as if she had read his mind, said, "I hope you learn something from this. Come on, Harriet, let's get you a soda and a snack. I think Captain Marvin is going to need a while."

It's pretty clear that drinking too much didn't lead to a good outcome; after all, it never does. Can you keep a clear head and solve the checker problem that Marvin, in his "zozzled" state, couldn't handle? Little Harriet won praise for her rapid solution. How well can you do?

Try it out and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.null

Conclusion and Solution

Marvin woke up around ten the next morning in the guest bedroom. "Priscilla?" he called, but there was no reply.


He got up, groaning and holding his head. He looked around the condo but Priscilla was nowhere to be found. There were plates and glasses and the remains of the party, but no one else was around. Finally, Marvin spotted a note on the kitchen counter.


Little Harriet was very disappointed in you and frankly I was too. You weren't much of an ambassador for your checker team, and I'm sorry to say I wasn't at all proud of you.

I had to go to the office for a while. Make yourself some coffee and think about how you're going to make this up to me--- and to Harriet.



After a couple of cups of coffee, Marvin found Harriet's problem diagram on one of the coffee tables.

In the sober light of day, he made short work of it. But getting back in Priscilla's good graces was going to be a much tougher challenge.


Black to Play, White to Win


Problem, solution, and notes are all by regular contributor and master problemist Brian Hinkle.

19-23 20-24---A 14-17 30-26 23-30 24-27 17-26 27-31 White Wins.

A---22-18? 14-17 18-15 23-18 15-11 18-15 10-6 15-8 20-16 17-22 6-1 13-17 1-6 17-21 6-10 22-25 10-15 25-29 16-11 8-12---B 15-18 29-25 and Black has the move and a draw.

B---8-4? 30-26 21-25 15-19 25-30 11-16 30-23 19-26 White Wins. This is the same ending that arises from Alex Moiseyev’s favorite checker problem called The Long, Long Trail at the 71st move, published in The Science of Checkers and Draughts p.50 by Tom Wiswell.

We hope you enjoyed this story and problem, and we wish everyone a Happy New Year!


12/28/19 - Category: Problems -Printer friendly version-
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