Marvin J. Mavin, superstar Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, was on summer vacation, that precious period of time between the World Series of Checkers in June and the start of training camp in August.
Each July he and Priscilla Snelson, his long-time girlfriend, took a week of vacation together. Priscilla was a C-level executive at Rust Belt Holdings and it wasn't easy for her to get time way, but she left her cell phone at home and treasured the undisturbed days spent in pure leisure.
This year she and Marvin went to Orlando, Florida, to make the rounds of the theme parks. They both tried their best to stay incognito and avoid attracting attention.
One of the parks they both had wanted to visit was Wacky World, a place noted for its strange and imaginative take-offs on everything from pop culture to Wall Street. And wouldn't you know--- checkers as well.
Priscilla was the first to spot it. "Look, Marvin," she said, "over there. There's a booth marked Checker Chuckles."
"Checker Chuckles? Really? Let's go see!"
It was a fairly small booth, not even a full-fledged exhibit. There were a couple of checkerboards on the counter, and sitting in the booth was an elderly fellow wearing a striped suit and bow tie. He had on a name tag that simply said, "Walt."
Spotting the approaching couple, Walt spieled, "Step right up. Play a game for a dollar. Winner takes all. One small dollar, maybe you'll win a prize!"
Indeed, sitting on a shelf in back of Walt was a collection of the largest Teddy Bears you could imagine.
"Oh, Marvin, win me a bear would you?" Priscilla said.
"Hey honey, never seen this side of you before! Didn't know you liked girls' toys!"
"I have my youthful moments, you know. Life isn't all mega-mergers and billion dollar contracts."
"I don't know, Prissy. Doesn't seem fair, me bein' ..."
"Afraid, son?" Walt interrupted. "The rules are easy. You pay a dollar. If you win, we play again. If you win three in a row, you get a Teddy Bear for the beautiful lady."
"What about draws?" Marvin asked.
"Wise guy, are you?" Walt's expression changed. "Nope, three wins in a row, them's the rules."
"But you could just play a drawing line ..."
"Oh, think you know all about the Grand Old Game, do you? Well, here's a different offer then, Mr. Ace Checker Player. You solve just one little checker problem, where White has 9 pieces and Black only has 6. White has to win. Anyone could do it, right, even you!" Walt snickered. "Yeah, even you!"
Marvin saw Priscilla's pleading look, but knew it would turn into something a bit difficult for him to handle if she didn't get her Teddy Bear. "Okay, there Walt," he said, "set 'em up."
Walt started arranging checkers on one of the boards. "I'm so generous, I'll even give you a hint," he said, "as you could probably use one. Now listen up. Remember that this is the Checker Chuckle booth at Wacky World. Here you go. I'll give you ten minutes. Now where's your dollar?"
Marvin forked over a dollar as Walt finished his set-up. Marvin faced the following position.
"You're right, Walt, old boy, that sure is a wacky position. But I don't get the chuckle part. Oh ... wait ... hmmm."
Marvin twisted his dreadlocks and leaned his elbows on the counter. "Now if I ... no ... how about ..."
Can you figure out this definitely wacky position? You won't win a Teddy Bear but you might get a couple of chuckles. Still, don't laugh it off; give it a try and then click on Read More to see the solution and the rest of our story.
Nine minutes passed. "Sorry, bud, time's almost up," said Walt, and chuckled again.
"Hey, that's it!" Marvin said. "Look here, Walt, this is how you do it."
Marvin played the position out as follows.
9-6 2x25 26-23 19x26 5-9 12x19 10-6 1x10 9-14 10x17 11-16 3x10 16x7 White Wins.
(Composer Brian Hinkle notes: "This is a pure stroke so giving up 8 pieces is the only way to win. This position is obviously a very fake setting but I thought it might be interesting to some players. It was inspired by a position that Ed Atkinson sent to me. Sometimes it is fun to be silly!")
"Well, I'll be," said Walt, and this time he didn't chuckle. "I never thought ..." All of a sudden, Walt looked at Marvin and squinted. "Hey!" he said. "I know you! You're Marvin J. Mavin!"
It was Marvin's turn to chuckle.
"Well, Mr. Checker Champion, you don't get no prize," Walt said flatly.
"Hey, you're the one who told me the rules ..." Marvin said, puzzled.
"Yeah, I make the rules. Read 'em and weep." Walt pulled out a printed sheet of paper and pointed to a line in the middle of the page. "Right here, 'professionals not eligible to compete.' You don't get nothing. No Teddy Bear. Now beat it before I get upset."
"Marvin!" Priscilla said. "What are you going to do?"
"I'll take care of it honey," Marvin said. He turned back to Walt. "Okay, okay, whatever. I'll just buy a Teddy Bear from you, how's about that?"
Walt once again chuckled. "Sure, boy," he said, "cost you a C-note. Don't wanna disappoint the lady, do you?"
"A hundred bucks? No way? Fifty bucks or nothing."
Walt didn't chuckle out loud this time. The bears only cost him twenty dollars at wholesale, and it would take a while to pull in fifty dollars from the marks in the park. "Okay, you got it."
Marvin paid Walt and Priscilla got her Teddy Bear. Then Marvin said, "Hey Walt, what's your full name? Shouldn't I know you from somewhere? And where'd you get that wacky problem? Don't tell me you created it, 'cause there's no way you did."
"I'm Walt Ditzy. I used to play Single-A checkers for Rancho Cucamonga. I'm good enough to beat most of the marks--- uh, customers--- that stop by here. And I got the problem from Brian Hinkle, that big-name guy over in St. Louis."
"Yeah, I know about Brian," Marvin said, recalling some previous experiences with Brian's compositions. "Well, have a good day, there, Ditzy. See ya around."
Marvin and Priscilla strolled off arm in arm, Priscilla hugging her new giant Teddy Bear. "Roller coaster next?," Marvin asked. "Sure," Priscilla replied, and chuckled.
Today's problem was indeed provided by grandmaster composer Brian Hinkle. Mahalo, Brian, for sending us another of your original and creative works.