Archive for February 21st, 2023

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”

Aristotle -Politics

What would he have made of those who opt for online chess instead of OTB chess I wonder?

The Unhindered

Been back in Thailand for over three months now I have. Meet every Friday upstairs in The Royal Oak pub, Sukhumvit 33/1 Bangkok Chess Club does.

The Royal Oak, formerly The Red Bull

A little noisy it is, a little cramped for space too, but for a club moved on every couple years or so, our latest home is tolerable. Whether good (il buono), bad (il cattivo), or ugly (il brutto), I will still like it and enjoy going there most weeks. It’s a stark contrast to what I left behind: life in the desert was getting to me, of that there is no doubt but now unhindered’ I can do as I so wish -phew!

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly final scene

If anything, it has been a slow and gradual welcome return to the fold. In Bangkok for more than fifteen years to play chess now I have been, and make many friends along the way I did, most of whom are still here plying their trade OTB with a steady pint on hand by their board. Highlight of the week it is, play in the blitz tournaments I do always, even though play well I usually don’t. The topography of Bangkok Chess Club is a tough terrain, not just because the playing premises is subject to upheaval biennially…or thereabouts, but more so that several stalwarts aside you never do know who will turn up week to week. You don’t know how many also, with numbers varying between five to thirty usually. There’s a different bunch that make up the numbers as each week passes, predominantly ex-pats sometimes, predominantly local players sometimes, a mix of both usually. There’s a sense of continuity and impermanence stood side by side at Bangkok Chess Club, making each visit to the club both familiar and unpredictable. For me the overarching emotion in play is a sense of belonging. Neither a tourist nor resident, I am one who comes and goes, never staying for too long or too short a time. Not part of the furniture and not one of the passers by either, somewhere in between I am… .

Because of an unwitting and enveloping sense of ‘this is my home’ has grown and grown since my return to the club, it has made OTB chess a rock in my life. Always a pleasant night out where enjoy the occasion I do; the social aspect of the evening more dominant than the competitive side of it always it is… .

The Unabashed

Unleashed from the desert, now entering the city aka BKK was a breath of fresh air in itself. Just seeing people congregate on a sky train freely was enough per se not to mention seeing women in public, dressed as they so wish. Quickly, a spectacle was there to behold with nightlife awaiting. Having spent many years in Bangkok already, I knew everything was on sale, drink, drugs, women, anything I wanted, and plenty of it too. This meant that I started drinking alcohol in the chess club then was off out partying after it had finished ‘unabashed’. Cider was thy tipple in numerous bars in the red light district.

Magners Cider by the board

All this I had to reign in within a month or so because, as anyone can tell you, chess and alcohol do not mix very well. As the night went on, my play got worse and worse, reaching the point where I was blundering thus losing too frequently. It had to stop. So it did stop, and diet coca-cola soon took over. For sure thy cider enhanced the social aspects of the evening and assisted in mood elevation but on the chess front, it was not acceptable, so I pushed it out, and out it stays. Boycotting booze OTB is both good for my health and good for my wallet but what soon followed I didn’t expect. I curtailed partying too, and a month or so later, cut it out, and accompanying loose women I kept dating unsobered. Normality ensued, reigned supreme, and stayed put. There were no more cancellations to the chess club for the likes of her.

I spent quite a few evenings with her

Her nickname is ‘Nan’, her real name ‘Pannada’ and she’s 29 years old. She’s from up north, Nong Bua Lamphu to be exact, and came to like me quite a bit that night she pulled me out of the chess club -which I took as a compliment. Certify I can, she has quite a body on her 🙂 (and before you ask, yes of course I’ve had my hands all over her countless times but no Luton’s handsomest chess player is not telling you what his favourite part of her body is and not through faulty memory because I was bloody drunk all the time!) What the picture, perhaps, doesn’t show you is that when she wears make up and dresses herself up she really is a very beautiful woman.

The Unflappable

Rather than fool around/about/again drinking excessively at the club, making bad videos for this site, I started to focus on my chess more and more week by week. At first, it was far from easy: online chess has altered my level of concentration when I play so much, too much in fact, making me prone to make mistakes more because online chess is rather unserious, a corollary of which being concentration levels are nominalized. So step by step, I stopped online chess altogether, deleted the apps from my Samsung A8 tablet and focused solely on OTB chess aka the real thing.

Thy trusty tablet. With all online chess apps deleted

Notice that with OTB chess the ability of your opponent differs much more greatly than it does with online chess I did and take some weeks to adjust to it took. Was rusty me off the pace with blitz being played at 3m 2s per game? Yes. So speed up I did. Gradually, my results began improving but only because I lost on time less often. Emotions during play had to be contained, something I put into practice by not allowing myself to give up if a mistake was made, for the simple reason you could still win on time. Taught myself to become unflappable’ I have, and to focus solely on my next move during play became the norm. Adjusting to etiquette OTB, and FIDE rules too, has taken time. You can’t, for example, knock a piece over, press your clock, then put it back on its square. That’s illegal and loses you the game on the spot but easily done it is. And spotting illegal moves with so little time on the clock is not as easy as you might think, most often with kings not being moved out of check -immediate loss.

Three months have come and gone. The desire to act like a playboy do what I want has as well. What is left is a ‘to do what’s right OTB’ attitude. To win. To win more. And more still. The light at the end of the tunnel -pride in oneself! Chess has become a rock. ‘I am a rock, I am an island’ as Simon and Garfunkel once together sang.

Yes I do have a colourful life, don’t I? Quite unlike that of your average chess player, isn’t it? Wonder why? What if I told you under no circumstances whatsoever should I still be alive? And no I am not joking… .

I was sitting at home and had a profound experience. I experienced, in all of my being, that someday I was going to die, and it wouldn’t be like it had been happening, almost dying but somehow staying alive, but I would just die! And two things would happen right before I died: I would regret my entire life; I would want to live it over again. This terrified me. The thought that I would live my entire life, look at it and realize I blew it forced me to do something with my life.

Hubert Selby Jr.

Mark. J. McCready, 5.33pm, Tuesday, February 21st.

Chachoengsao, Thailand.

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