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Mike Barton Memorial: A Tribute to a Good Chess Friend

By Gary M. Pylant

On August 20, 2011 38 chess players met at the Greater Memphis Chess Center to honor Mike Barton.  Graham Horobetz won the event on tie breaks over Kenneth Turner.  The format of the tournament was originally two sections: Game in 60 and Game in 30, but the players elected to play only in the G/60, which had four rounds.

The chief tournament director for the event was Michael Salzgeber, who wore a tall black and white checkered, chess hat that look like it came from Doctor Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat.”  Before each round Michael would ring a cow bell to notify that the round was about to begin.  Some of the players found this amusing yet effective to keep everything on schedule.

In the days before chess computers and advanced database programs, Mike Barton was a frequent visitor to a special chess community near East High school in Memphis, Tennessee at Tillman and Waynoka.  Chess legends from the Memphis Chess Club lived in a cove area with white apartments that were made of four living units.  Kenny Thomas, Gary Newsom, John Oman, Sid Pickard, Gary Pylant, Randy Cope, Joy Wellman were a few of the area chess residents that lived in these special apartments.  James Gallagher Jr., Curt Jones, Paul Linxwiler, Jack Smith, Mahlon “Scot” Smith, Charles “Rick” Herbers, Robert Felt and countless others would show up unannounced to play all-night marathons, five-minute parties on the weekends that did not have chess tournaments.  Those were the good old chess days, and Mike made it better.

Mike loved to razz everyone at this chess commune with his sharp wit and sardonic jabs.  He became affectionately known as the “Gill Man” after the monster from the classic horror movie “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”  All of the old-school chess players know what a “fish” is: one that gobbles the bait, especially from an offered gambit pawn, but Mike was not a fish or bad chess player.  He beat the best players in his chess career including Leonid Filatov in 1995.

We all miss Mike, and I am sure that he would be proud of the way the Mike Barton Memorial turned out.  Four players enjoyed winning special chess gift certificates from ChessCentral.com, the web chess store that is owned and operated  by Sid Pickard. Andy Sorensen was surprised to win a chess set and board (both hand carved from Sweden) that was donated by Roy Nilsson.  They ironically played in the last round with Andy coming through with a victory over Roy.

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3 Responses

  1. whatever happened to Kenny Thomas,Randy Cope, Joy Wellman,Gary Newson, anybody know where there live?

    • Hi Roger,

      Kenny is in St.Louis
      Randy is in Atlanta
      Joy is in Oregon
      Gary is the president of the NCCA and Queen City Chess Club here in Charlotte.

  2. Mike played other games with us as well. Every time he cut the cards playing spades he would in a very long and deliberate voice announce, “Thin to win”. We also had a couple of big time shouting matches over a Risk game and a Dungeons and Dragons game. Mike was a fun guy to have around. I’m glad he is being remembered.

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