Friday, April 29, 2011

Mike Barton: the Player, the President, the Teacher, the Captain

The article below:
 by Dwight Weaver
My first memory of Mike Barton was meeting him, around 1983, at the Memphis chess club.  I had started playing chess again after about a year or so of absence.  We first got to know each other as opponents, and at some point he asked if I would show him how to play the English opening.  Well, I was hesitant right then and there.  I was not about to show someone my favorite opening weapon.  I had just gotten back into chess and I figured Mike and I would meet again across the board from one another, and we did.  He won consistently without my sharing any opening secrets.  As time passed, Mike and I became the best of friends.

Personal Computers came along and Mike and I shared the same interest in them as well.  If I named an exciting computer program, he would go out and get a copy.  Once, I mentioned a turn-based, war game simulator, called Empire; he purchased one and we played it against each other for many afternoons, months on end, into the wee hours of the morning.  He and I were both Trekies.  Mike had a picture made in Las Vegas with himself matted in with the original crew of the Starship Enterprise.  For years, if I noticed his phone number come up on my caller ID, I would answer the phone with, "Yes Captain."  Mike would always reply, "Commander," and then we would carry on our conversation. 

From 1988 to 1991 we traveled to out-of-town chess tournaments.  One time we were at the Mississippi Open Chess Championship in 1988 and were paired against each other in the last round.  Mike did not know it during the match, but if I had won our game I would have tied for the Mississippi State Chess Championship title.  He was always landing a right hook with his jokes and personal jabs.  After informing Mike about my championship chance, he said to me, "Why didn't you say something?  I would have thrown the game."   Mike started playing chess at the Memphis Chess Club in 1979, where you find him mentioned for the first time in the January 1980 Mid-South Chess Advocate as winning the 20th Mid-South Open's amateur section with 5½ points out of 6.  As the years passed, he kept rising in the club in chess strength and rating while all the time losing physical agility.  Mike had a form of Muscular Dystrophy. 

In chess Mike was known as a "fish killer."  A "fish" is someone who does not quite grasp the chess game in some areas and loses most often to seasoned players.  At the risk of making myself sound like one of the fish, I recall winning only one tournament game against Mike, and that was back in the 1984 Memphis City Championship.  He would remind me of that game on occasion and wonder why, if I was going to win a game against him, it had to have been in the City Championship.

Mike ran for and won the Memphis Chess Club presidency for the year 1993 in which he fully devoted himself to the post.  It was during his term as president that the club moved to another location, changed the regular meeting days to Sunday afternoons, and had the greatest revival of the Mid-South Chess Advocate.  It was also in the 1990s that Mike gave time to Girls Inc., formerly known as Girls Club of Memphis, and taught chess classes there.  In appreciation of Mike's service, the Girls Inc. organization gave him a hand painted picture, thanking him for his support, in which he had framed and mounted on the wall of his room.

In 1985 Mike conquered Doug Eckert, rated 2370, at the Arkansas State Championship.  He also took down a 2412 rated player, by the name of Leonid Filatov, on February 18, 1995, in the second round of the Collierville Chess Club's Winter Open.  His last rated game was in that tournament in which he tied with Charles Herbers for first place.  Mike began to play more online chess and other computer games up until his death on June 4, 2002.  Mike was born on March 2, 1959.  He will always be missed by me as the Captain, and I hope to keep his memory alive for what he gave to the club as a player and as one of its former presidents. 

Even if you did not know Mike Barton, this annotated game by him below will give you a glimpse of his personality.  The game was published, with the notes, in the Mid-South Chess Advocate Vol. 9 No. 1 1991.

"One of my favorite things to do is beat Ed Boldt, in a nice game of chess,
and then tell everyone about it.  He and I have been doing this to each other
for the last 18 years.  At the moment we are playing a match with the score tied at 1.5 each; here is game three, where I crushed the fish."

Ed Boldt (white)  vs Mike Barton (black) Game 3 June 1991

1. e4? (He knows I play the French which refutes e4.) e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6
4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Qb6 8. Na4 Qa5+ 9. c3 cxd4 10. b4 Nxb4
11. cxb4 Bxb4+ 12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 b6 14. Qc2 Bb7 15. Qc7 Ba6 (At this point
in the game I remember thinking, "I hope he drops his Queen, or something.")
16. Bxa6 Qxa6 17. Qc6 Rc8 18. Nc5 Rxc6 19. Nxa6 g5 20. g3? (According to Suetin this
was wrong and I hoped he was right.) gxf4 21. gxf4 Rg8 22. Nb4 Rc3 23. Kf2 Rg4
24. Rhg1 Rxf4+ 25. Ke2 Nxe5 26. Rac1 Re3+ 27. Kd1 Rc3 28. Ke2 Rh4 29. Nb1 Rxh2+
30. Kd1 Rxc1+ 31. Kxc1 Ke7 32. Nd2 h5 33. Re1 Nc4 34. Nf3 Rf2 35. Nxd4 Kd6 36. Nb5+ Kd7
37. Nc3 h4 38. Nd3 Rf3 39. Kc2 h3 40. Rh1 f6 41. Nd1 Ne3+ 42. Nxe3 Rxe3 43. Nf4 Rg3
44. Nxh3 Rg2+ 45. Kb3 e5 46. Ng1 Ke6 47. Nf3 (Oh yeah, give me that horse!) Rg3 48. Rf1 e4
49. Kc3 Rxf3+ 0-1 (After the game I craved a cigarette, but then I remembered I quit years ago.) [Barton]

Here is another highlight tale from Mike's chess career:

Tennessee Chess News November-December 1987

by P. Linxwiler

W: J. P. Davis (1657)
B: M. D. Barton (1967)

The winner of the 1987 "Lazarus Award" goes to Mike Barton, who comes back from the dead so many times in this game that it defies belief!!  Faced with umpteen mate threats, Barton elects not to resign the seemingly hopeless position and with an assist from his opponent, (21. Kd3??), Mike pulls off the most scandalous swindle of the whole tournament!  (Game Below:)

Click "Read more" to see the game.

Results of the 1st Mike Barton Memorial Chess Tournament
Memphis, TN August 20, 2011


  1. Great post. Mike was an original - and had an endless fund of "yo mama" jokes!

  2. Dwight
    Thanks for the story on Mike. It brought back a lot of memories for me. Mike was one of my all time best "chess-friends". We also hung out and went to tourneys together, mostly from about 1977 to 1983 (when I left Memphis for the first time).
    Mike was quick to dish out the trash talk but was also had a thick skin and he could take it too. The comment he made about craving a cigarette in the comments to his game with Ed Boldt was classic Mike.
    Mik was a guy who never let his physical limitations sap his spirit.
    I remember once he and I went to the old open air mall in downtown Memphis (can't remember what it was called) so I could play this street hustler who had been set up there for a while. As luck would have it, I beat the guy in a $5 game. He insisted that we play double or nothing. I continued beating the guy until I was ahead a considerable amount of $ (At least for the time..I was 20 years old and barely scraping by). Well finally I decide it's time to leave with my winnings. My large street hardened opponent had different ideas. He would not pay up and insisted that I stay and play some more. I insisted on payment and tensions escalated. At this point it became obvious that two guys who were observing our game were ready to come to the aid of my opponent (not that he would have needed it). At that point I turned around and remembered that MY support consisted of...Mike.. I decided it best that we exit the situation without the cash. As we slinked back to the car, Mike in his usual fiesty spirit said "C,mon Big Gar'...I think we could have taken 'em."
    Thanks again Dwight for the remembrance of Mike.

    Gary Newsom

  3. It makes me proud that I got my friend Mike so worked up and satisfied with our games. We met at around age 12-13 years old. There were two really kind chess coaches by the names of Ernie Pinson and David Baker that helped us a lot. Ernie was around 1600 and David around 1900 when 18-1900 was unheard of in our area. Along with the Olson brothers and Bernard Bishop we were taken all over West Tennessee to play in 'adult' tournaments. There was no such thing as scholastic back then. Smoking was allowed in the tournament hall during the games!! Dyresburg was one of the chess hotspots back then. Mike and I were the best of friends. I knew him before the MS really kicked in. We got into a fist fight one day over god knows what around 13yrs old ... he kicked my butt thoroughly. On the chessboard he was strongest. As time went by he and I went back of forth. I believe we ended up equal ratings . To this day at the Jackson Chess Club we still roar about that article. It was and outstanding game by anyone's standard. I could go on and on. Many of the Memphis players knew him well but not the way I did. We loved each other like family. Our parents were friends. His mom was a pistol. British and full of life, his dad solid as a rock anyone would be proud to have Merle as a dad. He was absolutely awesome. Always excited to see us. Cheering us on as we played downstairs literally for hours sometimes all day along without a break. Mike was a real trash talker. He also had way with the girls. He always got the pretty girls leaving me in his dust. I never saw him as weak in that chair .. I always saw him as that physically strong and mentally superior boy I always wanted to be like. I miss you Mike I really do. He gave me the set his Uncle from England gave him shortly before he died. His excuse ... (he was never able to do anything nice for me lol) ... he was cleaning out his closet and thought I might want it. I always told him from 1971 on that I liked that set.We played thousands of games on it. I mean it 1000's He told me his Uncle taught him how to play chess, the one from England. He, the Uncle was given the set from someone older meaning it is a very old set. He had lived in Kansas City before moving to Jackson Tn and then on to Memphis years later where you guys were lucky enough to get him while he was still in rare from. lol I will bring one year to his memorial tournaments sorry one touches it. I have played a handful of games with it speed chess but I use it for home analysis .. I feel like he is there criticizing me the whole time. Thanks for posting this game I have thick skin too. (-: