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The Fixx

cy curnin and the fixx, June 2012

People of a certain age probably remember the song “One Thing Leads to Another”. It was the breakout hit of The Fixx in 1983, from the second album Reach the Beach.

They actually did a lot more good stuff than that, and occasionally I listen to various Fixx tunes while I work. I’ve always been a fan particularly of the bright guitar sound and style of Jamie West-Oram.

So when (to my great surprise) an offer for tickets to a Fixx performance came around the office this month… “VIOLET JAM! A cocktail party featuring The Fixx, playing all the hits…” said the invite. At a hotel 3 minutes from work.

Sounds like another sad 80s revival, eh? These guys opened for The Police on their (final) Synchronicity tour. Now they’re playing cocktail hour at the Natick Crowne Plaza. More than likely, in fact, one imagines one or two original band members dragging the Fixx moniker around to try to cash in on nostalgia one last time.

Not so fast, sonny – or as Cy Curnin said (tongue in cheek) after blazing through a particularly powerful tune at the show, “STILL SOME JUICE IN THE OLD LEMON, WOT?”

What an awesome show!

Same five musicians who cut Reach the Beach. Played plenty of new music, and it sounded GREAT. They’ve been playing together and releasing new albums ever since the 80s. New album Beautiful Friction drops July 17th.

They’re way out of the spotlight, indeed – for me that just meant I got to stand next to the stage.

Jamie West-Oram and The Fixx, June 2012

How I got into this mess in the first place, part 1

Harwood Mulliken was a kind old professor with a bow tie. When the Mullikens came to visit us (in the late 1970s), he would set up a chessboard in the living room and play my older brother Keith a game.

My brother enjoyed this so, when he earned some cash working the scoreboard at the St Jude’s Memphis Classic PGA golf tournament, he used the money to buy a Fidelity Chess Challenger 7. A truly state-of-the-art machine, i.e. slow and crappy at chess.

Then in 1981, when I was in middle school in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky, a new student named David Ruffalo insisted that we hold a knock-out chess tournament. He talked 16 people into playing, one round each Thursday after school in Mr. Leising’s room.

Side note: David Ruffalo was awarded his PhD before I finished my undergraduate degree. Smart dude.

My first opponent psyched me out by talking trash all week leading up to the game, and then played awfully and I won. Then I went home and started practicing against Keith’s Chess Challenger machine. I beat my buddy Pat Gardella the next week. In the third round I had to play Brian Moore. His older brother Brett was the captain of the high school team, so I expected to lose, but somehow I won that game also. Then I beat Ruffalo in the championship.

I had discovered that I really like winning.

Brett Moore tracked me down – “You beat my brother, you have to play for the high school team next year.” So I did. I played board 3 or 4 on a four-man team, with a 10-week season playing against other local schools in the Greater Cincinnati High School Chess League (GCHSCL).

I lost my first game. I lost my second game. I lost my third game. I had discovered I really hate losing. I became embarrassed and determined. So I lost my fourth game. Then I won the last six games of the season. My parents gave me two books: Chess Openings in Theory and Praxis by IA Horowitz (which I just threw away within the past year) and The Chess Companion by Irving Chernev. I could not understand chess notation so I had to figure it out myself to read the books.

“We have to win the Kentucky team championship,” said Brett, and so in the spring of 1982 I played in my first rated tourney, a four-round Saturday Cincinnati scholastic “tornado”, as a warmup for the Kentucky tournament. The top seed was David Glueck, a 2400 in high school who later quit chess and became a college professor in New Hampshire. The second seed was Albert Moore (I think), an 1800 who presumably got destroyed regularly by Glueck.

In my first rated game, I played one John Stinchomb, rated 1200, who gave me a free pawn via the strange sequence 1.P-Q4 P-Q4 2.P-QB4. Obviously I took it. He won. I won one game, against a 1000-rated player whose name escapes me, and lost two others including a long last-round game against Ken Potter, a 900-rated member of the Price Hill Death Squad chess team.

My first rating was 943.

In the Kentucky championship the following month, I beat a 1400 named Tony Sammons in the first round – a Budapest defense, believe it or not – but then lost all my other games.

We did not win the championship.

I later became the commissioner of the Greater Cincinnati High School Chess League. I never won the Kentucky scholastic championship, although I won the overall (open) state title in 1987.

Brett Moore later got a medical degree and quit chess in favor of bridge.

Tonight I played 3 hours and then blundered and lost to a 15-year-old.

FIDE-rated chess in Boston/RI

Get thee to the Metrowest Chess Club next Tuesday. Especially if you have a FIDE rating!

Why?

- The open section will be FIDE rated this month. But we need more players who have international ratings, to help out those of us who don’t.

- Also, we need five more players to reach a threshhold that gets  TD Matt Phelps his Intergalactic Arbiter certification.

- What’s in it for you? Fun chess and easy money.

After the first round, there are only two masters entered. (The club championship, a closed round robin event, is being held concurrently and has siphoned 5 FIDE-rated masters out of the open event.) After Yedidia and Curdo, I’m the third seed. Curdo drew his game, I drew mine, and I believe Yedidia has half-point byes in rounds 2 and 3.

So if you’re a master and you jump in now, you get a retroactive .5 bye for the round completed, and you’re right in the hunt for first place ($140-$100-$80 is the prize structure).

- Goldberg, Rabin, Rizzitano, Vigorito, Harris, Bird, Reverby, Corke, Shmelov, etc – c’mon down!

You are a sad, strange little man

That’s Buzz Lightyear, addressing Woody in Toy Story.

Certainly not as creative as Churchill’s “He looks like a female lama who has been surprised in the bath”, but much more widely applicable.

Confidence

When a journalist asked the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington if it was true that he was one of only three people  in the world who could understand Einstein’s relativity theories, Eddington considered deeply for a moment and replied: “I am trying to think who the third person is.”

- from Bill Bryson’s book A Short History of Nearly Everything

USATE 2012 wrapup: Happy endings

UPDATE 3:

Crosstable’s up!

 

UPDATE 2: USchess.org has a writeup of the grand finale – the last game going, among all 1300 players, was Hess v Goletiani on board 1, table 1, winner-take-all.

And Hess won. Great drama!

UPDATE 1: The New Jersey chess federation has posted a prize list (as a download). One team – one of the Tebow ones, the 17th seed at 2185  – finished alone on 5.5.

Three teams are listed on 5 points: Master Maters, Go Ahead Mate My Day, Three-and-a-half Masters, and our friends Caro-Cain Defense.

We (Shmelov Sox) lost Best Massachusetts Team on tiebreaks to Won for All and All for One.

—–  [original post] —–

Round six:

Goletiani v Hess, USATE 2012

That’s the top table – Goletiani’s team (the ones who beat us in round 4) versus GM Robert Hess’s team, with (I think) his brother on board 4. Sorry it’s a crappy picture.

On table 3, Martirosov’s Massachusetts team squared off against IM Fluffybunny (David Vigorito)’s Massachusetts squad.

I’ll have the results posted here as soon as they’re available, along with some additional observations. (Like the answer to the burning question “who is Ted McHugh?” and much more.) But for the moment:

My team finished at 5-1, with top boards Denys (6-0!!!) and Anya (5-1) killing their last-round victims quickly. I had my fourth draw in a row – bleh. Matt, um, I couldn’t watch Matt’s final game <grin>. Huge congratulations to Denys.

Were you there? Hope so. It remains the best tournament on the calendar, whether you play well or poorly. If my updates sound a little grumpy, it’s all said with the utmost affection. Great time, great people.

—–

While we wait for updates, let me take one more chance to point you to my wife’s IndieGoGo project video: http://www.indiegogo.com/myfreshlocal

It’s about accelerating the growth of healthy local food systems. Thanks.

USATE round 4: Naming conventions

I failed to do my annual USATE Team Name prediction thread. Tsk tsk.

There are a couple of Tim-Tebow-is-a-virgin+bad-chess-sex-jokes this year, and at least one Whitney Houston reference in poor taste, but the overwhelmingly popular theme is “Occupy”. Occupy d4, We Occupy the 7th Rank, Occupy Open Lines, etc etc. I didn’t see anyone who did anything particularly clever with it, and sourly imagined that the “best team name” judges would pick at least a couple as finalists, which they did.

But in a pleasant surprise, the winner by applause (and by a clear margin at that) was “Mitt Romney Variation: We Play Both Sides of the Board”.

As for chess: 12 teams entered the round with 3-0 match scores. We moved up to board 4 – intoxicating, scaling the heights. We were paired down marginally against Caro-KanCain Defense: 999 Plans to Mate (or something like that). [update: Denys had to explain to me that it's a Herman Cain reference. Doy.] I drew my 2249 opponent, unfortunately blundering in a very strong position on the white side of the first Nimzo Indian I’ve allowed in the last 100 years. We lost the match 1.5-2.5, assuming Denys won.

Drat.

goletiani-shmelov, usate 2012 round 4

That’s WGM Rusudan Goletiani versus Denys Shmelov on board 1, late in the evening. Vadim Martirosov is watching on the right. Everyone behind the blue rope is what we call “riffraff”. :)


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