The Checker Maven

Marvin in Las Vegas: Good Luck 13


Marvin J. Mavin, Captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers, was in Las Vegas. His team had an exhibition match with the Las Vegas Lettuce, one of the top teams in the AAA West Coast League.

The Doublejumper coaches decided the team could do with a little recreation, and gave them the day off before the match. Now, Marvin would have liked to bring along his fiancee, Priscilla Snelson, but as CEO of Rust Belt Holdings it wasn't always possible for her to get time off. So Marvin had the day to himself.


He read a few of those ads that you find in the hotel room magazines, and one of them mentioned a bar and restaurant called "Good Luck 13" that supposedly had craft beers and "the best burgers this side of anywhere."


Good Luck 13 was within easy walking distance of the hotel, so around six in the evening Marvin moseyed on in. He found a clean and tastefully decorated place. There was a long curved bar, and a lot of booths with red leatherette seats. Being by himself Marvin decided to take a chair at the bar. He asked the bartender for a pint of his best local craft beer, and also a menu.


The menu was full of praise for the burgers, of course, and there was a large variety. But the following menu entry caught his eye.

"Good Luck 13 Burger. $39.95. Thirteen three ounce patties with bacon, lettuce, tomato, seven slices of American cheese, Good Luck 13 sauce, and grilled onions. If you like, add $10 to try our 'Good Luck 13' blindfold checker problem, and if you solve it, the burger and the problem are BOTH free."


Kinda like gambling, Marvin thought, but hey, it's Vegas. It would cost him $49.95 if he couldn't get the problem. However, how could he not be able to solve a checker problem? He was a top professional, and top pros play blindfold all the time. Or would it be cheating?

Marvin was a pretty straight shooter, so he told the bartender he was a professional player, and asked if he would still be eligible.


The bartender laughed. "Yeah, everybody knows you, you're Marvin J. Mavin and you're real good, least you think you are. Well, don't matter none. You ain't gonna solve Good Luck 13. Ain't nobody never done it. I'll let ya in on somethin'. The management goes halfsies with me on the extra ten bucks, so I kinda like encourage people. So go for it, make me an extra fiver."

Marvin agreed, although privately he wondered what he was getting himself into. The bartender put in the order for the giant burger, and then showed Marvin a diagram with the following position on it.

White to Play and Win 13 Ways


"Okay, here's the rules. First, you got one minute to memorize this 'cause it's blindfold, remember? No takin' notes or arranging your french fries or nothing. Then the time limit's an hour, and you have to find 13 different solutions to this problem --- Good Luck 13, get it? Yeah, and different ways of jumping are okay but transpositions ain't. Ha ha, well there it is, bud! Your minute starts now."


The bartender pulled out a stopwatch, set it to zero, and pressed the start button.

"Wait ... wait just a second. Thirteen solutions? You gotta been kidding ... "

"Them's the rules and times-a-running, bud. Better start thinkin'!"

After sixty seconds, the bartender snatched the diagram out of Marvin's hands and announced, "Fifty-nine minutes to go!"

"You said an hour ... "

"An hour total, bud. Ha ha, down to fifty eight fifteen now!"

The burger arrived about ten minutes later, a towering monstrosity of beef patties, cheese, bread, and fixings. But Marvin was deep into the problem.

"Let's see ... that's three ... no, here's another, so four ... thirteen? It has to be a trick of some kind ... "

Now, we can't offer you a free thirteen patty hamburger. You'll have to provide that for yourself. But we can supply you with a chance to solve an unusual and intriguing problem, without risking ten dollars or anything at all. Try to solve it blindfold if you can by just memorizing the diagram and working on it in your head. Otherwise see if you can do it without setting up a board and moving the pieces around. Or move them if you have to.

Spend some time on this and when you've found every solution that you possibly can, click on Read More to see the full suite of solutions and the rest of the story.20050904-symbol.gif

Conclusion and Solution

Time passed, and Marvin's burger went from hot to warm to lukewarm to cold.


Finally the hour was up. Amazingly, Marvin hadn't even touched his beer.

"I found eleven," Marvin said. "I don't think there are any more."

"Show me," the bartender said, and pulled out a board and pieces from under the counter.

Marvin set up the position and demonstrated the following eleven solutions.

White to Play and Win 13 Ways


Solution 1

28-24 2. 19x28 9-5 3. 12x19 26-22 4. 17x26 10-7 5. 2x11 8x15x22x31x24x15 White wins.

Solution 2

28-24 2. 19x28 9-5 3. 12x19 26-22 4. 17x26 10-7 5. 2x11 8x15x24x31x22x15 White wins.

Solution 3

28-24 2. 19x28 10-6 3. 1x10 25-21 4. 12x19 21x7 5. 2x11 8x31 White wins.

Solution 4

26-23 2. 19x26 9-5 3. 12x19 10-7 4. 2x11 8x15x22x31x24x15 White wins.

Solution 5

26-23 2. 19x26 9-5 3. 12x19 10-7 4. 2x11 8x15x24x31x22x15 White wins.

Solution 6

26-23 2. 19x26 9-5 3. 12x19 10-7 4. 2x11 8x15x24x31x22x13 White wins.

Solution 7

26-23 2. 19x26 10-6 3. 1x10 25-21 4. 12x19 21x7 5. 2x11 8x15x22x31x24x15 White wins.

Solution 8

26-23 2. 19x26 10-6 3. 1x10 25-21 4. 12x19 21x7 5. 2x11 8x15x24x31x22x15 White wins.

Solution 9

26-22 2. 17x26 28-24 3. 19x28 25-21 4. 12x19 10-7 5. 2x11 8x15x22x31x24x15 White wins.

Solution 10

26-22 2. 17x26 28-24 3. 19x28 25-21 4. 12x19 10-7 5. 2x11 8x15x24x31x22x15 White wins.

Solution 11

25-22 2. 18x25 26-23 3. 19x26 9-5 4. 12x19 10-7 5. 2x11 8x13 White wins.

"Sorry, bud," said the bartender. "You missed two, so lemme see ... $39.99 for the burger, a ten-spot for the problem, another eleven for the beer ... then there's tax ... that comes to $66.06 ... and don't forget to leave a nice tip. A big-shot player like you, you can afford it."


"Now you show me," said Marvin. "Show me the other two solutions--- if they really exist."

The bartender laughed once again. "No way, bud! I ain't givin' this one away!"

"But that isn't fair ... " Marvin began.

"Welcome to Las Vegas, bud," the bartender said, as he cleared away the checkerboard, the uneaten burger, and the untouched beer.

"Hey!" Marvin said, "I wasn't done with ... "

But the bartendar had already deposited everything in the kitchen.

Marvin paid the bill but didn't leave a tip.


"Hey, where's my tip?" the bartender said as he picked up the credit card slip.

Marvin, on his way to the door, looked back and said in an even voice, "Welcome to Las Vegas ... bud."

The Checker Maven offices are in Hawai`i, not Las Vegas, so we don't mind sharing the final two solutions to the problem. And we won't take away your dinner, either.

Solution 12

25-22 2. 18x25 26-23 3. 19x26 9-5 4. 12x19 10-7 5. 2x11 8x29 White wins.

Solution 13

9-6 2. 2x9 10-6 3. 1x10 26-23 4. 19x26 8-11 5. 12x19 11-15 and White wins exactly as shown in Alex Moiseyev s great composition Yin and Yang as previously published in The Checker Maven.

This incredible novelty problem is due to Grandmaster problemist Brian Hinkle, who kindly provided it to us along with all the solutions and some commentary. Brian sends his thanks along to Lloyd Gordon of Toronto, who assisted Brian in finding all 13 solutions. He further notes that former World Champion Alex Moiseyev was able to find eight of them on his own, and wonders aloud if this problem might set a Guiness world record for the highest number of different solutions to a checker problem. He also suggests that if you spring this one on your checker friends, that you not tell them that there are 13 solutions, and just let them see how many they can find.

Brian welcomes your comments at

Thank you, Brian, you've earned a Good Luck 13 burger for sure!

03/25/23 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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