Archive for July 31st, 2022

Olympiad fever is keeping me awake… .

Laos will play Lesotho in round 4 of the 2022 Olympiad in Chennai (formerly known as Madras).

Regarding Lesotho, formerly their weapon of choice was most likely the spear. Whether that is still the case or what are they doing up there on that mountain in South Africa, apart from hide from lions, I also don’t know. Some chess is being played somewhere somehow yes, but that’s about all I can tell you.

If Laos can do well, it could overtake The Seychelles in the table -another great chess nation!

Of lesser importance, England will play Serbia and are favourites due to a slight rating advantage from top to bottom.

Current table, (which partially explains the pairings) can be found here:

You can tune into to Peter Leko and Peter Svidler on youtube easily enough, both of whom are remarkably gifted at showing you how far off from being a Grand Master you actually are -inadvertently of course.

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Admittedly, I have been to quite a few countries -36 in total. It’s not something I am ever proud of or boastful about but when the Olympiads come round, it’s always nice to look out for the countries you are personally fond of.

Laos is one of my favourite ‘countries’ in the world, to use the term broadly. On my last visit there (late March 2016), I cycled just over 140 kms on my Trek in north-eastern Thailand in two mornings before getting my bike over the Mekong river -also the border- and heading inland towards the nearest consulate in a small city, opulent with restored, colonial architecture and casinos -going by the name of Savannakhet. (or sleepy Savannakhet as I dubbed it).

Taken en route to Savannakhet. What the picture doesn’t tell you that on the first morning the train arrived late and so too I left late. When this picture was taken I was already feeling the heat. Trek is 7.2fx hybrid.
Having disembarked from the overnight train at Ubon Ratchathani, its destination, Amnat Chareon was the stop over point I reached exhausted from the morning and early afternoon heat, and having pushed it far too hard early on, I was lifeless under the air con for hours on end once hoteled up that sunny afternoon. Mukdahan (meaning Pearl) is the city on the Thai side of the Thai/Laos border. Savvanakhet was another 25kms or so on. Almost all of the journey between Amnat Chareon and Mukdhan was completed before dawn -and believe me the roads in that part of the world are dark before dawn, as there is little or no road lighting, the sound of the insects in the fields passing by almost deafening in many places. How could I be so sure? There was no traffic at that time. Just me peddling away in total darkness, struggling just to see the road and where it went..
If you look carefully at the central window, you can see my Trek below it, this is the hotel I stayed in in Savannakhet for a night or two. Admittedly, I was in need of rest but would not rest up from using my bike around the city, which in itself was very sleepy and remained very sleepy despite the amount of circles I made going round and round the city, the riverside, and all that between them.

But as lovely as the country and the people may be, or seem to be, their chess team at the Olympiad isn’t the strongest, with the top board being the only rated player, and only in the 1200 region. Still, it’s refreshingly pleasant to see them there as in itself that does constitute progress and it’s good for the country as a whole in terms of building cultural identity and defining progress more readily and explorationally. Should you ever go to Laos, you may notice it is still communist and will always border China. You may also notice that to define it as a nation is stretching the term a quite a bit since it is tribal across the nation and many areas are unchanged in the last 10,000 years, with what we take for granted in modernity, such as electricity and money, having not reached all parts of the country yet, with bartering systems well in place during daylight hours still. Their national language is official but is almost unheard of outside what towns and cities there are, thus almost certainly unlearnt and never used.

For the correct pronunciation of the country you have to drop the ‘s’. The ‘ao’ are pronounced ‘ow’ It’s pronounced Lao as in ‘allow’ minus the ‘a’ at the front.

On a much more solemn note, the country I am currently a resident of has also entered a team, but having had a good look at it I was sad to see I could beat the entire team if I played any of them, and so returning to work in a land where there doesn’t appear to be anyone better than you isn’t a very pleasant feeling I can assure you. There’s a sense of something not being quite right, provided your level of self-understanding is sufficient enough to realise such things(that’s another way of admitting to not being particularly good at something)…perhaps I will have something to become boastful of when I finally get round going back to work. Some sort of national challenge may be in order then most likely declined, ignored, overlooked, and eventually buried under ceaseless online traffic somewhere… .

Mark. J. McCready

12.13am BKK

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