Archive for the ‘Chess in Thailand’ Category

There is a tournament taking place in Pattaya next month. I have attached a photo with all the details. You could say the timing is somewhat questionable, and that its not an established tournament and so its rather unlikely that there will be a huge turn out. It would have helped if they had mentioned the fees for joining also but in the five minutes or so it took to knock that flyer up, it never entered their heads. And you might wonder if they can’t get basic things right like advertising and promoting, can they get organizing a tournament right, being 100 times harder. If you are desperate to play chess it may well be worth going otherwise it looks like a bit of a non-event.

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@BKK chess club tonight -the female in question wore a pink dress and was stunning!

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The journey begins on the side street I live on.
The first major road. Lots of traffic.
Do I look bothered?
Nearing the skytrain.

Aha, thee skytrain station entrance.
Just about to grab the skytrain.
Grabbin’ da skytrain.

Headed in for some OTB action.

Near the chess club.
Pistop @ the local supermarket.
In and around the club.

That’ll be all folks.

Mark. J. McCready 10.07 am, Saturday February 25th, Laksi, BKK.

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“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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The Bangkok Chess Open has reached its twentieth year and can be followed on the link below:
https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/20th-bangkok-chess-open-2022/1/1/1

The tournament is being held in Chiang Mai this year at the beautiful 5-star Shangri-la hotel.

The field is stronger than usual, with the Norwegian number two, Aryan Tari joining the already strong contingent of GMs. Oftentimes in the past the tournament was held in April and clashed with the Dubai Open, however, despite having much less prize money in play comparatively, the tournament remained popular and has continued to flourish across all levels in the game. This is down to the fact that it is known to be a well-organised tournament in a popular destination, with many participants wanting a bit of holiday thrown in with their chess -which they get!

Chiang Mai? Where’s that then? It’s in the north of the country and is the largest city up there. Steeped in tradition more so than anywhere else, the city centre is encompassed by a huge wall, within which is no end of temples both ancient and modern. Some have so much care and attention poured into them that an epicentre for Buddhism is the vibe floating through the streets which criss-cross it. There’s a great, sprawling night market there too, with something on sale for everyone, and a chilled atmosphere amongst the many bars and restaurants discovered. And yes, as you can perhaps guess, it is your beloved author’s favoured location in Thailand, and for many reasons too! Besides Chiang Mai there’s a huge mountain. It’s easy to travel up and you can find a famous temple offering stunning views of the city as well as indigenous people -who are more than happy to have their photo taken with you! What is the symbol of Chiang Mai and how do I find out more about the chess scene in Thailand? Just click on this link http://bangkokchess.com/

Sadly, I just can’t make it this year. I played in and functioned as photographer enough times in the past but this is the sixth consecutive year of non-participation. In truth, since suffering from a major head injury in 2016 I haven’t been able to play competitively, and perhaps that’s how it has to stay.

Bias aside, should you ever consider participating in an international tournament, I strongly recommend the Bangkok Open -it ticks all the boxes. May I also strongly suggest that you don’t party too hard if do you sign up and play on. So many have done in the past, including visiting GMs, and were much the worse for wear because of it. It’s perhaps an exaggeration to say its become something of an embarrassment amongst those of us in the know but the preferred option is that we see less of it -of that there is no doubt. Defining what a ‘chess’ holiday should be something of an open question…but still. Moderation is what I, your beloved author, recommends along with fighting chess each and every day.

Mark. J. McCready

Room 306, Helwa Apt.

10.26 pm, October 22nd 2022

Sakaka, Saudi Arabia

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2B0K1K6

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I found a video that I haven’t seen in a while, in which I give my daughter some training during the lockdown when the Corona virus was reeking havoc on everyone’s lives. My daughter is only aged 7 in this video.

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On this day…

Here’s some content from Bangkok Chess Club two years ago to the day. Lighting could be better -yes I know.

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No 4th floor

Pattaya Chess Club has been housed on the 4th Floor of the Central Dept. store on Beach Road Pattaya for a few years now. Ex-pats and locals often met there during the day for a quick game or two. When I can find out where it has moved to, I shall post further details of.

Not so now

Mark. J. McCready,

10.19am June 30th

Pattaya

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Chess and Thailand

Chess and Thailand are not words that you often see in the same sentence; having become part of the chess scene in Bangkok over the past year, I thought I’d re-address the balance somewhat.

The chess scene in Thailand is primarily found in Bangkok and Pattaya, with the northern city of Chiang Mai bringing up the rear. In Bangkok, a mix of ex-pats and locals meet downtown twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays). There’s always a blitz tournament to partake in, if blitz is your thing. Numbers are usually around 20 per night. In terms of strength, we range from beginners to casual players to those rated between 2200-2300. Thailand has more than one F.I.D.E International Arbiter, and more often than not one will be present, even for casual play. Pattaya, though considerably smaller than Bangkok, has a chess scene which is not only on a par but arguably stronger than Bangkok’s. A group of 40 dedicated players meet at the Brauhaus Restaurant in central Pattaya on Mondays. It boasts a strong German contingent including more than one titled player, and a keen following.

Tournaments occur frequently in Bangkok, a bi-monthly 9-round swiss for those interested is always on the horizon, there’s also a chess academy for juniors, hosting regular tournaments too. The Thai open, Thailand’s largest tournament, is held in April each year in either Pattaya or Bangkok, and has gained recognition internationally, with top GM’s such as Nigel Short committing themselves to it. Players of all strengths come in their hundreds and often enjoy the experience, pointing out that you can play some great chess in a great location. The national team has its own centre in Bangkok, complete with its own library and latest chess software for enthusiasts.

With all this in mind, and given the fact that F.I.D.E has recently acknowledged Thailand’s ‘Chess in schools’ project, what are we to make of the chess scene in Thailand? Chess-playing visitors to the nation are often quick to point out that a love of board games certainly exists in the streets, since Thai chess (a variant of our beloved game), can be seen being played everywhere in Bangkok by motorbike taxis. They may also wonder whether the casual nature of the play is reflexive of the general attitude that Thai’s have towards life itself, epitomised by the expression คิดมากเกินไปแล้วปวดหัว (think too much get headache) and wonder about the suitability of a serious and often stressful game, such as chess. Unfortunately, such predispositions are epiphenomonal to a broader issue: that Thailand isn’t taken seriously as a chess playing nation, and instead is considered to be something of a backwater in the chess world – its current ranking of 97th in the world, sandwiched between Monaco and Yemen, probably not helping. And though it maybe true that other nations in the region; notably Philippines, Vietnam and India have seen chess flourish in recent years, it is a little unfair to overlook Thailand in the face of their success. Comparatively, Thailand is still lacking in terms of development, but the conditions favourable for progress are evident and much is already in place to facilitate it. All that’s required is for one of the many promising young players from Chiang Mai, Pattaya, or Bangkok to grab the headlines with that first elusive GM title, and the rest will be consigned history.

In the meantime, should you wish to be part of a friendly, enthusiastic, cosmopolitan chess scene, which takes itself seriously though not too seriously, all you need to do is contact me and I might just tell you how to find us… .

Some useful links:

1) The chess in schools project, as recognized by F.I.D.E

http://www.fide.com/component/content/article/1-fide-news/5121-qchess-in-schoolsq-in-thailand.html

2) Bangkok Chess website

http://bangkokchess.com

3) List of top Thai players

http://ratings.fide.com/topfed.phtml?ina=1&country=THA

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