The Checker Maven

Marvin on Tour

Marvin J. Mavin

It was June, and Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar Captain of the World Champion Detroit Doublejumpers, was on a summer publicity tour.

Now, recall that Marvin had gotten himself into hot water with both his team and the National Checker League (NCL) over a dispute during the semifinals in the previous season's playoffs. It was quite controversial and after hearing all sides of the issue, the NCL had given Marvin a one week suspension, to be served at the opening of the coming season. They also hit him with a $100,000 fine and ordered him to do the NCL equivalent of community service.

His team's anger had subsided and he was left in place as Team Captain. However the team fined him a further $100,000 and put a warning in his personnel record.


So, Marvin was on tour, by order of the NCL. It wasn't all bad although it was very long and tiring, and as a kind of punishment or penance, the NCL's order stipulated that he was to travel only by bus or train, not by air, and that he couldn't stay in any lodging rated higher than 2 stars by the AAA. His tour took him through the central states and provinces, starting in Manitoba and making his way down through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma and then various stops in Texas before he would eventually finish up in El Paso.

He was currently scheduled to appear in Wacko, Texas. Wacko was a small town of about 10,000 but it was the home of the Wacko Woozies, an amateur checker team that perennially took the Orange County championship and was always a contender for the Texas "Champion of Counties" title.


Marvin arrived at the Wacko Train Depot at midday. He was greeted by a big turnout with a lot of fanfare. The newly elected Mayor, Cloudy Summer, gave a short speech (at least it was her idea of short). The Captain of the Woozies, Danny Dan Daniels, gave a little talk of his own, and then sprung something of a surprise.

Danny Dan Daniels

"Here in the great state of Texas, we do things the Texas way. And that means big. Why Texas is so big that ... "

Danny went on to tell a couple of Texas jokes, neither of which Marvin really got. Then Danny continued, "In fact, in Texas, we play Texas checkers. Why, another Texan, Willie Whatsis, done gone and invented it. We play it on a 20 by 20 board with would ya believe, 90 pieces per side. That there is one big game. Maybe you'd like give 'er a whirl, Marvin?"


Down below the podium, a couple of workers whisked off the covering of a large table to reveal a Texas Checkerboard, fully four feet square.

"Uh, you know, Danny, actually ... "

"Aw, can't blame ya, son, it's a tough game and a game does kinda take a while with all them pieces. And dang if near all the time, it ain't nuthin but a draw."

Danny shook his head wistfully and then said, "Anyhoo, you ain't here for that. What you are here fer, is to give a simul ... Texas style. And by Texas style, I mean ... "

"Big," Marvin piped up. "Yeah, Texas style is big. I got it, Danny."

"Durn if that city boy don't catch on fast!" Danny said, and the crowd laughed. "Well, then, a Texas style simul is you against a hunnert of the town's best!"


"A hundred?" Marvin said. "That's a lot of ... "

"What, ain'tcha up to it?" Danny asked. "There's a lotta folks here just waitin' fer a chance ta play ya. 'Course iffn ya wanna be yeller an' back out, why, that's up ta you."

"I'll do it," Marvin said. He didn't look happy but he felt like he had been painted into a corner with no other way out.


The crowd cheered and yelled. "Let's go!" Danny said. "Over to the auditorium! And there's Texas bar-bee-koo for everyone after the simul's over!"

Sure, Marvin thought, with a hundred players it'll be over around noon tomorrow. Even a game of Texas Checkers wouldn't take that long. Well, his thoughts went on, maybe if I play fast enough I'll get to have dinner before the sun comes up in the morning.


Marvin, led by Danny and followed by the big crowd, went over to the auditorium, which turned out to be an enormous service club dance hall.

"Yup," Danny said, "we do that there line dancin' on Saturday nights. You ever done that, Marvy? Ah, 'course ya ain't. You don't look like a line dancin' kind a feller."


Marvin didn't reply. The only dancing he ever did was ballroom dancing with his wife Priscilla, and he didn't do it very well. Priscilla also dragged him off to the ballet from time to time.

The hall was set up with indeed a hundred numbered tables arranged in a huge circle. Townsfolk were quickly taking their places as Danny remarked, "Now looky here, Marvy, these folks paid real good for a place in the simul. We done charged 'em a hunnert bucks each. Real good fundraiser for the team, ya know? But seein' as how they paid all a that there money, you give 'em a real good show, ya hear me?"

Marvin nooded his head, all the while wondering just how good a show he'd be able to put on with so many contestants.

Willie Whatsis

The chief referee turned out to be Willie Whatsis himself. Willie quickly went over the rules for the competition, after which an air horn sounded and play began.

With such a large number of players, there was bound to be a mix of skill levels. It took less than an hour for Marvin to win fifty of the games, and another hour to win thirty more. In the third hour, Marvin won ten games. That left ten to play against opponents who obviously were skilled checkerists.

Marvin won five more in the fourth hour. That made the score 95-0-0. A little more play scored him three more wins and one draw. This changed the score to 98-0-1 but there was one game left and Marvin thought he could get at least a draw and maybe a win. The opponent was a very strong player who went by the name of Southpaw Steve. Steve was not only good at checkers, but was reputed to be the best bull rider in the county. Of course Marvin didn't know that.

Southpaw Steve

Danny came over to Marvin and whispered to him, "Marvie, I said give 'em a good show. You done wiped most of 'em out, now you gotta let the local folk go home with one win anyhoo. You gotta lose this last one, okay?"

"What?" Marvin said, rather loudly, but Danny whispered, "Keep your voice down, boy, you gotta make it look fair and square even if'n it ain't. Get it over with an' then get yorsef some a that there Texas bar-bee-koo."

Despite Danny's admonition to keep quiet, Marvin almost said something, but then just shook his head and changed his mind. Throw a game? That would be the day. He just couldn't see why a dishonest win would be of any value to the local boys, and if word ever got out, Marvin would be in even deeper trouble with the NCL. It could very well be a career ending event.

It was Marvin's move and the position was as follows.

Black to Play, What Result?


Marvin made a decision.

And then he made his move.

What would you do? You're in a big simul and you've done really well, but the organizer asks you to lose the last game on purpose, and there will be consequences if you do and consequences if you don't? Fortunately you don't have to make such a decision, you just need to try to solve today's problem and then click on Read More to see the solution. You'll have to provide your own bar-bee-koo, though!20050904-symbol.gif

Solution and Conclusion

Marvin moved 2-7 and the following play took place.

2-7---A, B 17-14 15-18 23-19 18-23 26-22 23-26 19-15 26-30 22-17 30-25 15-10 25-21 13-9 7-11 10-6 21-25 17-13 25-22 6-2 22-17 Black Wins.

A---3-7 26-22 7-11 17-14 11-16 23-18 15-19 22-17 etc. and Black can't manage a win.

B---2-6 26-22 3-7 17-14 6-10 22-17 15-18 23-19 18-22 19-16 10-15 16-12 7-11 12-8 15-18 8-3 11-16 etc. and Black had better be happy with a draw.

Marvin's final score was 99-0-1. The home town players had managed no more than a single draw. The big crowd booed and catcalled.


Marvin stood up from his chair and offered to shake hands with Southpaw Steve, who gave Marvin a Texas bone-crusher handshake. "Well, you're good at checkers, I'll give ya that, but I'd sure like to see what would happen if'n you were to ride a bull! Haw haw haw!"

The crowd stopped booing long enough to laugh and throw a few insults Marvin's way. Danny sidled up to Marvin and said, "You ain't much of a listener, are ya boy? Well, there ain't gonna be no bar-bee-koo for the likes a you. This here crowd ain't too friendly like an' mebbe we better just get you outta here afore ya get what's comin' to ya, Texas style. Hang 'em high, baby!" At that Danny started to laugh himself.


"Well that's a fine how-to-do," Marvin muttered, "can't I even get a beer?" But Danny didn't hear him, or perhaps just ignored him.

To repeated boos and jeers, Marvin was led from the dance hall to where a car was parked outside. Danny told Marvin to get in, and Danny took the wheel and sped off. Not a word was spoken until Danny pulled up in front of a bus stop. "Okay, boy, out with you," Danny ordered.

"But I need to get back to the train station," Marvin said as he left the car, "I'm on the train to El Paso tonight."

"Take the bus, boy! Or walk for all I care! And if'n you ever come back to these parts--- and I ain't saying that we want ya back--- ya better do things the Texas way. Now skedaddle!"


Danny sped off, leaving Marvin standing at the curb, hungry, thirsty, tired, and just wishing that his publicity tour would come to an end.

Today's problem is a correction published in the Toronto Telegram of a game played in the 1925 Canadian Tourney. 3-7 was played to a draw as Black missed the win.

06/15/24 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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