The Checker Maven

Setting the Date: A Marvin J. Mavin Story

Marvin J. Mavin

The Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League had a weekend lull in their schedule, and Marvin J. Mavin, their superstar captain, was going on a quick vacation with his fiance, Priscilla K. Snelson.

Priscilla, as CEO of the multinational conglomerate Rust Belt Holdings, didn't get much time away from the job. But she had her executive assistant work it all out. The couple would fly out from Detroit mid-day on Friday, arriving in Key West, Florida, late that evening. They could leave Sunday afternoon and be back in Detroit in time for a few hours of sleep before starting the next workweek.

When Priscilla phoned to suggest this to Marvin, he was all for it, and the conversation continued something like this.


"Gee, hon, that's a great idea! What kinda beer you suppose they got in Key West?"

"Oh, Marvin! Is that all you care about? We'll have a weekend together and can enjoy a break from cold weather. We can go to the beach, eat seafood, and ... we can talk about setting our wedding date."

There was silence on the other end of the phone connection.

"Marvin, did you hear me? Doesn't it all sound grand?"

Now, Marvin truly loved Priscilla, and even though their engagement was pretty much her idea, he did want to marry her. Eventually. It's just that he wasn't exactly in a big rush. He liked his shabby apartment, his old Volkswagen, his tatty clothes, and his free lifestyle. Even though he had a multiyear, multi-million dollar contract, he just wasn't into material things.

Priscilla, on the other hand, owned a small fleet of expensive cars, lived in a very large upscale condo, and dressed to perfection in a designer wardrobe.

Marvin was a bit --- fearful.


"Uh, yeah, hon, yeah, we can, you know, talk about dates and stuff. I guess."

"Not 'I guess.' I've made all the plans and it just remains to set a date. But we'll talk more about it." With that, Priscilla ended the call.


The fated weekend came and Priscilla and Marvin flew together in first class to Key West. The weekend started out well, with an oceanside breakfast in their four star resort hotel (Priscilla couldn't find a five star hotel, which would have been her preference). They followed breakfast with swimming and sunning on the beach, a fabulous seafood platter for lunch, and then more time on the beach. It was only after freshening up at the hotel, when they decided to take a walk into the town's historic district before dinner, that Priscilla brought up what she called the "main topic."


"Well, Marvin dear, what do you think about a June wedding?" Priscilla asked as they began their stroll, hand in hand. "It's very traditional."

"Uh, June ... that's like in five months ... ain't that kinda rushed?"

"Rushed? Marvin, we've been engaged for the better part of a year now. I believe in an appropriate amount of time for an engagement, but I think a year is more than adequate."

"Yeah, but ... "

Priscilla let go of Marvin's hand and stopped walking. "'But' what, Marvin?"

Priscilla's hands were now on her hips. Marvin knew this to be a clear warning sign.

"But ... well you know ... we gotta get everything prepared and stuff ..."

"Everything is already prepared. I've settled on all the arrangements, the guest list, the menus. Everything. And you know that very well."

"I kinda ... like ... uh ... hey, it's fun being engaged. Love to have fun, right?"

Now Priscilla glowered. Not good at all. "Yes, dear, fun is wonderful. But do you know what an engagement is?"

"Sure, it's like when I give you an expensive ring and ... oh, yeah ... "

"Right, Marvin, it's a promise to get married. And that's exactly what you're going to do. In June. Do I make myself clear?"


But before Marvin could answer, a group of children, most of them in the nine to twelve year old range, came running up to Marvin and Priscilla.

"Hey," one of them said, "aren't you Captain Marvin J. Mavin?" The rest of the children, about seven in all and a mix of boys and girls, all echoed this question.

"Well, yeah, that's me," replied Marvin sheepishly, "but we're like kinda busy right now ... "

Marvin's latter words went unheard. "Captain Marvin, Captain Marvin, can you give us a lesson? Just a quick one, please, please, couldya please?" the children pleaded.


Marvin looked at Priscilla. Priscilla looked back at Marvin. "Well, go ahead then," Priscilla said. "You've disappointed me. Don't disappoint the children, too. I'll just go back to the hotel and watch the sunset. We'll talk more tonight. A lot more. You can certainly count on that."

Without another word, she turned on her heel and strode off rapidly back in the direction of the hotel.

Was Marvin disappointed and worried? He would save that for later. At the moment, he actually felt a bit of a sense of relief, although that in turn was tinged with a bit of guilt. But the kids were waiting.

"Okay, kids, got a set handy?"

"Over here Captain Marvin," one of them said, and with two others taking one of Marvin's hands each, they led him to the side of the street where there was a checkerboard set up on a little table in front of a shop. "Here you go, Captain Marvin, now teach us!"

"All right then, take a look at this."

Marvin set up the following position.

White to Play and Draw


"Now, this one ain't exactly easy, in fact it's kinda tough but you look like tough kids. Think you can figure it out?"

There were many affirmative replies, and with a lot of chatter among themselves, the children worked on the position. After a few minutes, one of them said, "Captain Marvin, how about this?"

In Marvin's world, checker fans are everywhere, and kids look up to their checker superheroes. It certainly was good of Marvin to spend some time with his young fans, although what he might face when he gets back to the hotel may be less pleasant.

But for now, can you match wits with the youngsters? See how you do and then click on Read More for the solution and the conclusion of our story.20050904-symbol.gif

Solution and Conclusion

It was one of the little girls, who couldn't have been older than nine, who showed Marvin the following play.

1. ... 11-7

In the original publication (author unattributed in The Canadian Checker Player, 1908) the position after Black's previous move, 23-18, was given to solve as a Black win. But it's actually a draw. The expected White move to save the man, 22-17, loses spectacularly: 22-17 4-8 11x4 3-8 4x11 18-22 11x25 29x15 Black Wins.

2. 18x25 7-2
3. 15-18 9-14
4. 18-23 10-6
5. 4-8 16-12
6. 8-11 14-10
7. 23-26 6-1
8. 26-31 2-6
9. 31-27 6-9
10. 27-23 1-6
11. 25-22 9-13
12. 29-25 13-9
13. 22-17 9-13
14. 17-22 13-9
15. 25-21 9-13
16. 21-17 6-2
17. 23-18 2-6
18. 18-23 etc.


Black can make no progress; for instance if instead 18-14 then 10-7 3-10 6-8 to a clear draw. Variations are possible in the play above but none give Black a win. Pretty astute play for a nine year old, but that's how things are in Marvin's world.

"Very nice, young missy," Marvin said. "You're gonna be great one day!"

The children clamored for more, but Marvin said, "Hey, it's getting late and you kids really ought to be at home. But we'll meet again some other time, okay!" Marvin took the time to shake hands with all of them, but he really wanted to get back to the hotel and straighten things out with Priscilla.

He hurried along the now darkened streets and soon reached the hotel. As he went toward the elevators, the desk clerk called out, "Mr. Mavin? I have something here for you."

Marvin stopped and then went over to the front desk. "Yeah, whatcha got?"


The clerk reached under the counter and pulled out ... Marvin's suitcase! He handed it to Marvin along with an envelope. "Ms. Snelson said to give you these. Good evening to you, sir."

The clerk quickly turned away and averted his eyes.

Marvin carried the suitcase over to a sofa in the lobby and opened the envelope.

"Dear Marvin,

"I've done you the favor of packing your suitcase for you, and I've booked you a room at the Key West Arms. It's on the other side of town and it only has a one-half star rating, but it will be good enough for you. I'll see you back in Detroit as soon as you tell me you've accepted the fact that we're getting married in June, period.

"I've booked a different flight early in the morning so you won't see me at the airport. Enjoy the rest of your stay, and do think things over carefully. Very carefully.

"With all my love,


"Well that's a fine how-dee-doo," Marvin muttered. He got up and went back over to the front desk. "Hey there," he said to the clerk, "how do I get to the Key West Arms?"


The clerk gave Marvin a strange look and didn't reply.

"Look just call me a taxi then, will ya? I gotta go," Marvin said.

"A taxi ... well, sir, I might have trouble finding a taxi willing to go there ... okay, I'll do what I can."

Marvin walked back over to the sofa while the clerk made one phone call, then another, and then another. "Mr. Mavin," he called out, "I did find one taxi company that will take you. The cab will be here in five minutes. But sir, really you don't want to go ... "

"Thanks, pal," Marvin said as he picked up his suitcase and went outside to wait for his ride, "everything's gonna be fine. Just fine."

We hope you enjoyed today's problem, which we feel is a practical (if difficult) illustration of a man-down draw.

01/28/23 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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