Archive for the ‘My own endeavours’ Category

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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Those who fool around with the French Defence must be unduly punished, and so I delivered checkmate.

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Not your average blog either.

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The one I love the most
two wheels not four

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According to Nietzsche we should live by our passions as they define us. Does this mean we should photograph them also? Most probably it does, however hard that may be. Thankfully chess is easy to photograph as the subject doesn’t usually do very much. I can’t say that’s true of the thing I love the most, and as the picture shows below, experience can back that up.

Chess is much easier to photograph than heavy metal bands.

May I make a suggestion? Should you want to photography chess, try not to use your phone.

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You may have noticed that I am, on the whole, disdainful of chess literature. In case you ever wondered why, these comments (under the username olcmarcus) pretty much sum up my position on the matter.

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Have you become a loser recently? Losing most of your games are you? Well, are you? If you are a loser all the time, then come to me and read on –I have a lot of experience there!

What do you do to prop yourself up after scathing defeat? A cursory glance at your rating for comfort? Reflect upon decorative victories further along memory lane?

Or do you emancipate yourself from the literary genre encompassing our beautiful game and turn your attention inwards? Have you ever lamented in front of your opponent ‘It was those fucking books I’ve been reading, they said?’

Our soon forsaken literary genre is turning digital these days but still carrying presuppositions which are transcending it’s new found medium-and you are the one paying for it!

If you buy into the blurb, which chess literature is replete with you study for improvement -to become a better player, hence the multitude of publications being churned out on opening repertoire and middle game play. Not to mention all the apps they are bringing out. And although I can’t prove it, the word on the street is the boffins programming them are all drugged up when they do it and the GMs roped in can’t live with themselves because they can’t cut it at the highest level so resort whatever alternative means of revenue they can get their hands on -awaiting further proof.

But should you remove improvement from your motivations, replacing it with the pleasure principle -everything changes. No longer will you stand on your chair in the club, screaming out ‘Them thar books got me all discombobulated! I’ve lost again.

You wouldn’t have started playing chess if you weren’t fascinated by it. No one starts out wanting to improve, it’s love of the game that keeps you coming back for more. But then so many become lost thereafter mainly because there is no profit in writing about playing just for pleasure, so they get hounded out. My advice is to play on but play for pleasure and not improvement.

In prioritising pleasure over improvement, you should enjoy your chess more by becoming unconcerned by results the hits to your self confidence stop, and those soul destroying defeats no longer matter. And who doesn’t want to enjoy our beautiful game more. It may sound like a false anti-thesis in play here but the bottom line is competitive play is defined in terms of results and not how much you enjoyed your game -which is of no importance.

It’s quite simple isn’t it? Stop looking at one thing and look at another instead.

But then why do so many buy into the desire to become better by achieving better results? Looking the other way when you factor in all the effort needed, the pressure it puts you under, and the stress becomes entangled in the smallest of smallest minutiae. And what happens when you reach your very own plataeu and can go no further -what then? Sold into it enough to buy more books, looking for the answer there?

Trust me sweetheart -it’s really not worth it. And above all else, isn’t it you leading your own life. Isn’t it you who chooses who and what to listen to.

Just go back to the very beginning and decide that improvement is not important but the pleasure you gain from playing is, and stays so.

I’m not so great over the board -I’m really not. But I know all too well that being a club player I can put 200 ELO points on my rating quite easily if I put the effort in and slog away. Most, if not all of us could. But not all of us fall prey to the sales pitch that comes along with it…

In order to avoid the road to ruin, head for the path to pleasure and forget about how good you are.

You could argue that eventually it becomes inevitable anyway. Most who hit retirement have already abandoned the latest theory as they are in the process of winding down, and sooner or later we all wind down. As mentioned in a previous post, you may define yourself in accordance with the institute or playing premises you are a part of instead, and just keep it as that if you so wish.

There is no road to ruin down that path. No pressure, no stress, and nothing to lose also.

Since it’s your life, it’s up to you but you should be able to clarify why you play and what you want out of it. And that answer really ought to be personal, decided upon by you with your own decisions made. Rather than something espoused by a literary genre you attached yourself to unwittingly. Ultimately it’s your call, and how rationally informed your decisions are, only you can answer. All I can do is put a few pointers along the way.

You have choices although. You may not realise this but you do. The abandonment of improvement and the stigmata of it’s uncompetitiveness will, once overcome, point you in a different direction. Maybe then, just maybe, you might even thank me for the pointers in play here -as always it’s your call.

And should you define all this as a leap of faith, one which you do not feel ready for, seek out the members of your club who are not interested in studying chess, and bringing along the baggage of chess theory. See how they are in your club and learn from them. You might one day call them ;the happy bunch’

Lastly, Mark’s mystery question about that post:

There is a line in the post which is directly taken from this truly wonderful cover song. Can you guess what it is?


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Welcome back to my blog after a hiatus of nearly a month. Once more I sit with the lights off and air con on, only this time there is a carefully placed humidifier below it for I have upped ship and sailed off to the desert. Although locations do, some things never change. Again I sit naked in front of my computer in the dark, yes it’s the middle of the night. There is a can of diet Pepsi to my side, which I have only just started. It is 12.41 am exactly, and having slept already, I am all yours. A fortnight ago I fell into the habit of going to bed at 6 pm and waking up in the middle of the night, this is no exception… .

Since the Olympiad, I have put chess to one side and just got on with my life. No games played on line. No on line events followed either. No chess at all for a month or so, whilst my glorious summer holiday ended and a working life resumed. I don’t know what constitutes downtime for I don’t know how much time must elapse, but we could say we are in one…well I just stopped thinking about chess per se. In terms of motivating myself to get back into our beautiful game, you could say ‘the chips are down’ with no allusions to jiggery-pokery in play, only the use of metaphor.

Today, a major event in the chess calendar begins:

All eyes will be on the world champion and the gathering of elite players he is pitted against. I won’t be following it for it starts past my bed time. But I do recommend you take a peek.

I will sign off now. I am in a land that fielded a team at the Olympiad which I could beat quite easily if I wanted to. Does this alter my interest in chess itself, I mean to be in a non-chess playing nation of sorts? Well it does but oh-so slightly. More importantly, life moves on and whether we like it or not we must readjust to changing circumstances and what they ask, or demand, of us. I am no longer on holiday and cannot watch chess tournaments unfolding at my leisure, as much as I may like to.

I will touch base again once I have thought of something else to say.

Mark. J. McCready 12.53 am, September 2nd 2022

Room 306, Helwa Apartments

Sakaka, Saudi Arabia

That’s me to your right,. Taken four years ago. Shot style: headbanging mode methinks.

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Hot off their stunning opening victory today, Laos face the mighty Mauritius tomorrow. Eventually the result of the match will fade away until its forgotten. Not very soon and not soon either but one day it will, and then it will be gone…are you gone?

The mighty Mark now moves into gear

‘Oh that English fellow on the bike, he’s gone’

‘Gone? What really? That was quick’ he replied more surprised than interested less concerned than curious.

He, in this instance is myself and the dialogue above refers to the time in Laos I put my bike on a bus and went to Ngam Ngum, only to turn around minutes later and cycle back to Vientiane post haste -not tomfoolery at its very worst just abject mindlessness when things were far from okay on all levels psychologically and physically. The mighty Mark, as it says above was not so mighty at all it seems.

In case you don’t know, what happens in life is you remain alive until the day you die but that day can come sooner than expected if you want it to or you push yourself too hard. And it does for a great many all too often. When I decided to cycle back to Vientiane, I was not in good shape mentally and made a fearfully snap decision for all the wrong reasons. But being me I just went for it and did not look back. I was escaping my ensnared self you could say. There was no real why. No why I could justify. Yes it’s true I have bucket loads of stamina but that doesn’t mean you can behave so impulsively and put yourself under such immense strain, especially once it got dark, and dark it got.

Eventually it reached the point where I had absolutely no idea of where I was and how far from the capital I was. The lighting on my bike was really poor and there was no street lighting either. I couldn’t get off the road I was on but wanted to rest up somewhere. It was only when I got much closer to the capital that I found a room but in truth I had no idea of where I was. Someone found it funny that I asked where I could buy chocolate, being out of the city -I was shattered I needed a sugar rush fast. I started the journey off paranoid, weakened and impulsive, ruining the whole experience of spending a relaxing time by the lake.

When I went to sleep I did not move once in the night and woke in the same position. How do I know? To say the body creaked when it stirred is quite an under-statement as all my joints had locked up. Is it okay to make yourself ill? I used to do it all the time because I have always had a certain indestructibility about me, and so much stamina it never can seem to run out. People hurt themselves because they do not love themselves. Before my child was born I had forgotten what love was and years passed by where I was estranged from it. It’s not like that now and in telling you all this I want to reiterate that in life we have to know what we are getting ourselves into if you want to come out of it in one piece. When you enter into the third world, you don’t go hitting 50-60 kms on your bike late in the day, you just don’t do it because the level of risk is far too high, and the problems encountered are so difficult to solve. There is no need to push yourself to the limit, which I did more or less. So do be more circumspect than I was that time and bear in mind you are only human, and born to make mistakes.

Laos has some painful memories because before becoming a father I didn’t care about anything. Still to this day I think I can go anywhere on my bike but with age I know I have to make that untrue. Laos is a third world country, your options are limited by the empty space that is everywhere, and do you know what happens to those who can’t help themselves? They are left to their own devices. Just don’t be like me and make yourself learn things the hard way. The third world requires much more preparation than the first world, and should you go to Laos to marvel at all it is -be more prepared and less impulsive than usual.

You might believe me, or might not when I tell you I have made so many mistakes in my life and done so many stupid things that they can’t be counted, furthermore, under no circumstances whatsoever should I still be alive. Regarding the cycling accidents of 2016 & 2017, if we add broken bones to fractures, to parts of bone missing, to areas of damage to the nervous system, to blood clots, to collapsed veins, to stitches to external injuries, to seizures, we get a mere 286! That is the undeniable truth of the matter and although my own actions are not an anathema to me, upon reflection I am very disappointed with myself over far too much. Did you know that in chess if you can’t learn from your own mistakes, its unlikely that you will ever improve much. Life is like that too. Pattern recognition is essential because being who you are can become a full time job if you’re not careful -and I should know. So managing patterns in your own behaviour helps always.

Do take care of yourself if you do go to Laos. Just say to yourself ‘Now we don’t really want do anything rash or extreme like that Mark’. Also think ‘Having a bicycle does give you greater freedom but even freedom has its limits’, and lastly think, ‘Some people have a talent for survival almost unsurpassable but not everyone does, and you don’t want to find out if you do or do not the hard way do you?’ Just be sensible and don’t be silly like me, yes I have a talent for survival, as so many frequently remind me but so what, everything dies eventually.

Finally, if you go to Laos -play it smart, meet many locals, and enjoy the finer points of travel. Travel can be a great thing if you want it to be, steer well clear of being reckless and you should be quite fine. The moral of the story is: if you go to Laos, avoid shit creek. And now I am rambling… .

Let us return to the hope that hangs above the gloom that Laos will do well in their next match.

Mark. J. McCready

02.57am, 4th of August

a saddened room with an air of being let down somewhat, alongside the A/C

in Laksi, BKK, Thailand

Indo-China Region


*Editors note. Something is wrong with this, who am I actually talking to? Potential future tourists of Laos? Ye is not amused.

I was nowhere near as prepared and just went for it.

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