The Moves That Matter Part 5: The King Ain’t Got No Hustle

HUSTLE

Jonathan Rowson writes, “I have a friend who never reads or watches anything recommended by only one person, but acts almost immediately on the advice of two or more. He enjoys looking out for such signals and waits for the world to reveal to him what he should do. He says he appreciates books and films all the more when he senses that they are meant for him, and while I am charmed by his methodology, I fear for his sanity. I thought of him when I started watching The Wire

on DVD in 2011. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0306414/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) The series is a gritty and sometimes harrowing take on the urban drug scene in Baltimore, USA, and is awash with swearing and violence. From that kind of description, I found it hard to imagine I could like it, yet with so many trusted friends telling me I would, I relented, and was pleasantly surprised.”

The opening theme music for HBO’s series The Wire is a song written by Tom Waits titled “Way Down in the Hole” (1987). Each year, during the series’ five-season run, the producers selected or solicited a different version of the song. As a series, The Wire is often interpreted as lacking a space for representations of Black spirituality. Each of the five seasons features complex institutional characterizations and explorations of the Street, the Port, the Law, the Hall (i.e., politics), the School, and/or the Paper (i.e., media). Through these institutional characters and the individual characters that inhabit, construct, and confront them, The Wire depicts urban America, writ large across the canvas of cultural and existential identity. For all of its institutional complexity, The Wire then serially marginalizes Black spirituality in favor of realism, naturalism, and some may argue, nihilism.1 “Way Down in the Hole” is a paratextual narrative that embodies this marginalization and creates a potential space for viewers (and listeners) of the show, one that frames each episode and the entire run, through literary and spiritual Black musical contexts. The multiple versions of “Way Down in the Hole” ultimately function as a marginalized repository for the literary and spiritual narratives that are connected to the series—narratives that become legible via intertextual analyses and in turn render visible The Wire’s least visible entities: Black spirituality and the Black Church.2 (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137305251_7)

Something similar happened to me some years after Jonathan decided to invest the time watching what has come to be on everyone’s short list of the best series to grace a screen. For many years I considered the best television series of the genre commonly known as ‘Cops and Robbers’, to be Homicide: Life on the Street


(https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106028/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1)
The Wire rivaled Homicide and may have even superseded it. Ironically, both series are set in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

“The characters are raw and compelling and their dialect electrically authentic. I remember being irritated to find that audiences in America watched some films set in Scotland, like Trainspotting, with English subtitles, but the street language of The Wire is also so far from conventional English that I initially had to do the same. Still, in an early episode I knew I had made a good decision to watch when I saw one young drug dealer – D’Angelo – teach two others – Bodie and Wallace – how to play chess.


“Ya’ll can’t be playing checkers on no chessboard yo!” – D’Angelo Barksdale

this particular scene is an extraordinary work of art; a beguiling mixture of social commentary, existential despair, youthful hope and dark humour.”

“D’Angelo describes the king as ‘the kingpin’ and says that the aim of the game is to protect your own king and get the king of the other side. He says the king can move one square in any direction but that he doesn’t have ‘hustle’.”

“There are many worlds within that word: hustle. As a noun and a verb, hustle hints at a relationship between a setting and a plot, a juxtaposition that defines the moral ambiguity of characters in The Wire. Describing the king’s lack of hustle is a succinct way to say that the king is rarely out on the streets; in professional terms he does not have to solicit clients. The expression also means the king does not directly display force, he’s not typically aggressive, he’s not illicit, not in a hurry, but equally he doesn’t have what you might need to get things done. ‘Hustle’ is sometimes admirable, not least when it seems necessary; the word conveys the spirit of entrepreneurial transgression needed to survive.”

“The king

may not have hustle, but nonetheless he survives for longer than the other pieces by definition. Checkmate – from the Persian Shah Mat – literally means the king is dead. ‘The man’ is therefore the ultimate target of attack, but he is surrounded by people who will give their lives to protect him, and often do. Most chess endgames when few pieces remain, are characterized by the king suddenly becoming emboldened, partly because with fewer enemies around it is relatively safe to come out ‘into the street’, but also because there are fewer allies left to do his hustling for him.”
“The realization that life-and-death chances are not fairly distributed is what makes the chess scene from The Wire so poignant.”


D’Angelo (center), explaining chess to Wallace (left) and Bodie (right), triangulated in a
way as to distinguish a hierarchy within the Barksdale crew

“As the rules of the game are described by D’Angelo, Wallace and Bodie can see their own lives in the game’s metaphors, giving rise to an open question of who or what exactly they are living in service of, and why.”
“Bodie, himself a pawn in the drug wars, points to the pawns, and asks about ‘them little baldheaded bitches’. D’Angelo explains that they are like soldiers and shows how they move, saying they are out on the ‘front lines’. Bodie gets excited by the possibility of pawns getting promoted, about becoming ‘top dog’ if he can ‘get to the end’. D’Angelo is quick to disabuse him of the probability of that happening, implying that they often get ‘capped’ (shot) quickly.”


‘The queen ain’t no bitch. She got all the moves.’
(https://www.kingpinchess.net/2010/02/the-queen-aint-no-bitch-she-got-all-the-moves/)

“Bodie shoots back that this may not happen if they are ‘smart-ass pawns’, which he himself later proves to be, surviving and rising through the ranks until series four. Wallace, on the other hand, proved as vulnerable as most pawns do, and died a few episodes later when he was just sixteen after trying to leave the drug scene. Bodie, Wallace’s friend, was also his assassin.”

“The writers loop back to this scene in series four when Bodie is speaking with Detective McNulty and considering his next move. Bodie is resolute about not being a snitch and conveys that he has done everything he was told to do by his bosses since he was thirteen, including killing his friend Wallace. McNulty know the context and has clearly grown to admire Bodie, calling him ‘a soldier’, as D’Angelo called the pawns earlier. At that moment, after years of imagining he might somehow escape or transform his fate, Bodie sees the truth of being a pawn more clearly, and realizes he is still ‘one of them little bitches on the chessboard.’ McNulty clarifies: ‘Pawns.'”

“In an early chess manual published around the middle of the sixtenenth century, Francois-Andre Philidor

describes pawns as ‘the soul of chess’, and this line is widely quoted by chess teachers and commentators because we know and feel its truth. Pawns are not the most powerful pieces, and they are mostly at the mercy of events, but they have a certain amount of hustle and they both set the scene and shape the narrative.
What occurred to me while watching The Wire is that most of us are pawns to a greater or lesser extent. We have our moments of power, fame and glory, but we are always potentially alone and vulnerable to forces beyond our control. We are the soul of the game of life, and our lives are precious not in spite of our fragility, but because of it.”

The Connecticut Rebels

The Atlanta Kings drew the match with their Southern division rival, the Connecticut Dreadnoughts. If you are wondering what a team from the northern most region of yankee land is doing in the Southern division, you are not alone. The closest tie to the South would be that of the Dreadnoughts first board in the match with the Kings, Michael “Bubba” Rohde, and the fact that his parents resided in Atlanta back in the 1980’s. GM Rohde would visit, and played in at least one chess tournament that I recall, while here. During this time I played backgammon with Michael.

This reminds me of the Atlanta Braves being placed in the Western division of the National League when Major League Baseball expanded from twenty to twenty four teams in 1969. Because the owner of the Chicago Cubs, Philip K. Wrigley, balked at being placed in the Western division, ostensibly because the Cub fans would have to stay up late to watch the games from the west coast. Since Chicago is in the Central time zone there is a two hour difference. To placate Wrigley and continue the rivalry between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, the MLB Commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, who lacked the cojones to stand up to Wrigley, allowed the Cubs and Cards to play in the eastern division while placing the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds in the Western division. This made absolutely no sense because both teams, the Braves and Reds, are in the Eastern time zone, meaning a three hour time difference, one more than the two hour difference between Chicago and St. Louis and the left coast.

Baltimore is also a member of the Southern division. Although Maryland is considered a yankee state, a case can be made that Baltimore belongs in the Southern division, or at least more of a case than can be made with regard to Connecticut. At least Maryland was considered a “border” state. The greatest Southern hero of the War Between For Southern Independence, John Wilkes Booth, was born in Maryland.

“The Baltimore riot of 1861 (also called the Pratt Street Riot and the Pratt Street Massacre) was a conflict that took place on April 19, 1861, in Baltimore, Maryland between Confederate sympathizers and members of the Massachusetts militia en route to Washington for Federal service. It is regarded by historians as the first bloodshed of the American Civil War.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_riot_of_1861)

“Spring, 1861. The American Civil War erupts and Baltimore finds itself at the crossroads of the North and the South. A passageway to the North and a border state to the South, Maryland was home to both Unionists and Southern sympathizers. Maryland was a slave state at the beginning of the war; however, free African Americans made up a quarter of Baltimore’s population.” (http://baltimore.org/guides-interests/civil-war)

“On April 19, 1861, the first blood of the American Civil War is shed when a secessionist mob in Baltimore attacks Massachusetts troops bound for Washington, D.C. Four soldiers and 12 rioters were killed.” (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-blood-in-the-civil-war)

Elvis Presley – An American Trilogy – I wish I was in Dixieland (High Quality)

USCF Board Member Supports Exclusion

One of the chess tournaments held in conjunction with the World Open was something named the “Senior Amateur.” There were two sections of this tournament, one for players rated over 2210 and one for those rated under 1810. The best Senior players were once again excluded from the tournament. There was only one NM entered in the top section, Phillip M. Collier of Maryland. The “winner” was Harry Cohen, rated 1989, also of Maryland. There were a total of 24 players in the top section, with 28 in the lower section, for a total of 52 Seniors. Included in the top section was USCF board member Michael Atkins, another player from Maryland.
As has been the case for several years the highest rated Senior players were excluded from the tournament. The fact that the best Senior players have been systematically excluded from participating is reprehensible. Michael Atkins is a USCF board member and supported the tournament by his participation, thus showing the USCF supports exclusion. The motto of FIDE is Gens una sumus, which means, “We are one people.” All, that is, except for a Senior who happens to be rated over 2210.
What is the definition of “professional” as it relates to chess? In this case the owner of the CCA, Bill Goichberg, is the arbiter. He decides and he decided a “professional” is anyone rated over 2210. As to how Mr. Goichberg came to that conclusion, your guess is as good as mine.
What if an organizer decided to hold an event open to everyone except class “C” players? Suppose he was asked why and answered, “I do not like “C” class players because they are not good enough to have reached the “B” class, the demarcation line between a player who has stopped dropping pieces, but are better than the “D” class players and would most probably win the money in an under 1600 section, so I excluded them.”
What if I decided to hold a Southern Senior Amateur open to all except “yankees” rated over 2210? I would then have to decide who is, or is not, a “yankee”. As the ultimate arbiter, a “yankee” would be whomever I decided was a “yankee.” Most of you are probably thinking, “This is preposterous.”
What if a group of Neo-Nazis in Idaho decided to host an event, the Northwest Senior, in which they advertised it would be for all players except for “Jews” rated over 2210? There would be an outcry from the media heard all over the world, and rightly so, I might add.
Substitute the word “Senior” for “yankee” or “Jew” in the above scenarios. Any way you cut it a member of the chess community is being excluded. What makes it so egregious is those players being excluded by the CCA are the very players who have worked hard all their life to reach the top and in their declining years are being told they are not welcome. So much for “Gens una sumus.”
Former Georgia Chess Champion, and my friend, Bob Joiner, related a story concerning a state championship in the late 1960’s in which the organizers had decided to exclude Mr. William Scott, a gentleman whom I respected and also considered a friend. The organizers, the arbiters of all things chess in Georgia “back in the day,” decided Mr. Scott, publisher of “The Atlanta Daily World,” one of the most respected “Black” newspapers in the United States, would not be allowed to play in the same room as the “White” players. In one of, if not the most, the finest moments in the history of chess in Georgia, Mr. Robert Joiner, and others, refused to accept the “wisdom” of the “pooh-bahs.” Bob and the group just said “No” long before Nancy Reagan. They told the “pooh-bahs” that if Mr. Scott was not allowed to play then neither would they, and there were enough of them to carry the day. Mr. Scott was allowed to play in the same room as the other players.
I, and other Senior players, feel strongly that if a Senior tournament is held anywhere, at any time, under the auspices of the USCF, every Senior alive should be allowed to participate.

ARBITER
I’ve a duty as the referee
At the start of the match
On behalf of all our sponsors
I must welcome you
Which I do — there’s a catch
I don’t care if you’re a champion
No one messes with me
I am ruthless in upholding
What I know is right
Black or white, as you’ll see

I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
Any objection is overruled
Yes, I’m the Arbiter and I know best

CHORUS
He’s impartial
Don’t push him
He’s unimpressed

ARBITER
You’ve got your tricks
Good for you
But there’s no gambit
I don’t see through
Oh, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64

CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64

ARBITER
If you’re thinking of the kind of thing
That we’ve seen in the past
Chanting gurus, walkie-talkies
Walkouts, hypnotists
Tempers, fists
Not so fast
This is not the start of World War Three
No political ploys
I think both your constitutions are terrific
So now you know — be good boys

I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
Any objection is overruled
Yes, I’m the Arbiter and I know best

CHORUS
He’s impartial
Don’t push him
He’s unimpressed
ARBITER
You’ve got your tricks
Good for you
But there’s no gambit
I don’t see through
Oh, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64
CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64
ARBITER
I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
You got your tricks
Good for you
I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
Any objection is overruled
Yes, I’m the Arbiter and I know best
CHORUS
He’s impartial
Don’t push him
He’s unimpressed
ARBITER
You’ve got your tricks
Good for you
But there’s no gambit
I don’t see through
Oh, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64
CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64
ARBITER
Yes, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64
CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64