Marvin J. Mavin, star professional checkerist and Captain of the World Championship Detroit Doublejumpers, was on top of things this year.
He dutifully reported to training camp in August, which was once again at a lakeside resort in Northern Michigan near the town of Au Train. But this year he made sure he was in good shape, both physically and mentally.
The previous summer, Coach Ronaldson had been tough on Marvin, making him run extra miles along the lake and watching him closely to be sure he didn't break any of the team's strict training rules. Marvin wasn't about to go through that again, so he trained over the summer break, going jogging with his girlfriend Priscilla, playing tennis with his friend Brian, and keeping sharp with tough matches against the top-flight King of Checkers computer program.
During the first week of camp, Coach Ronaldson noticed the difference. Marvin's usual irreverent attitude was even missing. The Coach was pleased and didn't feel the need to single out Marvin for special 'attention.' But privately the Coach wondered if the 'new' Marvin was a temporary thing.
Toward the end of the second week of camp, Coach found out.
It was in the evening after a hard day of training and the customary team dinner, a time when the players had precious leisure time. Coach was in the resort's lounge, studying from the latest book by Dr. Reginald Pastor, when Marvin came up to him.
"Coach? Can I ask you something?"
Coach Ronaldson looked up. "Yes, what is it, Marvin?"
"Well, Coach, maybe you noticed that this year for me is a lot different than last year."
"Yes, it would be hard not to notice. Frankly, I'm a little surprised but quite pleased with your preparedness, and especially with your positive attitude."
Marvin grinned. "Gee, thanks, Coach, I was hoping you'd say that, so I was wondering, if like, maybe, you know as a sort of reward, well ..."
Coach frowned. He had an idea what might be coming, and he didn't like it. "Get to the point, Marvin."
"Okay, you know, Sunday being our day off and stuff, like maybe we could go into town for a couple of beers?"
Coach sat up straight, his frown deepening. "Tell you what, Marvin. Solve this problem in five minutes or less." Coach indicated a problem in the book he was holding.
"Uh, sure coach ..." Marvin scratched his head, looked puzzled, and then grinned. "Black to play and win, right? You're kiddin' me. Easy. Black is two pieces ahead ..."
"Yes, Black to play and win. Now show me, if you think it's so simple."
Marvin, now a little uneasy at the Coach's sharp tone, thought for a couple of minutes. "Oh wait ... heh heh, well Coach, maybe it ain't all that easy ... "
A few more minutes passed. "Aha!" Marvin exclaimed, and then began to show Coach the solution.
If your Coach challenged you with a problem like this, could you solve it in five minutes? Well, we won't hold you to any particular time limit; take as long as you like and then click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of today's story.
6-10 1-6 10-14 6x13 22-26 30x23 24-27 13-9---A 27-31 9x18 31-27 23-19 28-24 32x23 24x22 Black Wins.
A---23-19 28-24 32x23 24x15 13-9 14-17 9-6 17-21 6-2 21-25 2-7 25-30 7-3 30-26 Black Wins.
"... and there you have it, Coach!" Marvin grinned again and decided to push his luck a little. "Now, what do you say about Sunday?"
Coach Ronaldson looked up at Marvin. "What do I say about Sunday, and going into town for some beers?" He paused for a moment, noticing that Marvin was looking hopeful. "Well, here's what I say. On Sunday, the rest of the team can go into town for a steak at Foggy's Steakhouse. You, on the other hand, will stay here for a day of special physical training with Assistant Coach Radler."
Marvin shuddered. Joe Radler was tough and mean and gave no quarter. "Aw, Coach, I just thought ..."
"Think again. Think twice. Think really hard. I won't let you go back to your old ways and Sunday will help you remember that. Dismissed!"
Marvin, knowing better than to argue, slunk away and went unhappily back to his room.
The problem in today's column is attributed to one F. McLardy and is thought to have been first published around 1924.