Archive for the ‘My own endeavours’ Category

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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Upon reflection, if I visited a site such as this, I would want to get to know more about the author in some shape or form. Well I do try but I don’t really make that possible because of the lay out style I have chosen (although the side bars are clearly there to offset that). I haven’t made a name for myself in chess so slotting me into the overall scheme of things mean I come out as just another chess enthusiast/addict with a blog all his own. But that simply won’t do as so many are in the same boat, thousands in fact. So I shall break rank and enable you to put a face to the posts, so you can see who is writing (this rubbish) this humorous if often inward looking content. This is an attempt at personification of the site, and you could argue that all sites should show similar intentions now and again. A chess player I may be, and the subject of the site is chess but it is called McCreadyandChess, so pics of my life beyond the board are not beyond the parameters of what it was designed for.

I’ll add some photos from facebook, taken over the years but you should know I used to be a photographer and so some pics reflect the creativity I was once noted for, but only a few. The rest depict the colourful life I have ended up with to some degree but they barely scratch the surface tbh and there’s nothing I can do about that. I put the pics in gallery form, so you can just click on them and scroll along. Maybe they give a clearer sense of who is writing or something. The title of the site does the job here I think.

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Laos managed to draw their match against the British Virgin Islands yesterday rather than lose 4-0. They have a point in the table now. Let us hope they pick up another or even a victory but most importantly at all, let us remember the character of the Laotians and hope/assume that no matter what the results are, they are enjoying themselves -highly probable. And so even though they face tougher opponents today, let’s hope their national character wins through and it’s fun all round!

Pak Beng, deep into the Laotian countryside and only accessible by the river Mekong at the time. Do you know I once spent an evening there some 22 years ago in early Feb? There was only one hill, only some of it had electricity, most restaurants used candles when serving evening meals. I slept on wooden boards in a hut further up the hill. There the morning after, I still remember a toddler chase after some weird looking fruit rolling down the hill (which eventually ran out of speed in a puddle, which all excited, he then coveted with a big surreptitious smile) and that further up the hill was a different tribe with their own language as you would expect. Being a tourist, all the locals wanted to sell you was food, pens or drugs -and being me I went and got high whilst there in one of the restaurants and yes I still remember standing on the banks of the river looking at the stars, pointing them out until I got rounded up by a taken aback policeman and sent off to my wooden hut -ah those were the days!
T’was about there where I stood below a glassy evening sky, pointing out the stars.

The reason I stopped off in Pak Beng was because I took the boat to Luang Prabang. So highly recommended by all. I remember wandering around streets not knowing where I was going (because I couldn’t think straight and didn’t know if I had already walked down that street already), then running into the couple I started chatting to at the restaurant when I bumped into them by chance. ‘Where’ve you been? They asked with some exasperation since we got on so well in the restaurant in Pak Beng until, well until, well until it was, erm, well…the conversation became a bit intense and started to wander at the same time also…well anyway so I put on an act and said I wasn’t well and rubbed my forehead to back it up with a slight swoon…in retrospect that was better than saying I got out of it on that shit! But the thing is, for that little tourist loop, it was quite the norm amongst backpackers back then -so I was fitting in really!

Anyway, I am not suggesting you should visit Laos and go and get high, but from personal experience, I am not sure what else you could do. I most certainly don’t recommend getting high then putting about 60 kms on your bike across the countryside in the dark -that you should not do believe me. Ah maybe drink beer and look for someone to play chess on the street? They have their own version of chess there, so be ready, it’s much more popular and you can get a game on the street anywhere, so yes, now thinking about it, do that (but not whilst high). Beer + local variants of chess, and a few photographs…phew I finally worked out how to spend time in Laos more productively!

They might be up for a game or two but which version of chess will they play.

Mark. J. McCready 11.15am August 3rd

Laksi Bangkok

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The draft save is Feb 12th 2021 and this is about as far as I got. What it doesn’t say in the don’ts’s is don’t play it against people who are much better than you! I say this because you concede a lot of space, and if that’s used well you are in a difficult situation to put it mildly. Since this draft save I have adopted the Sicilian with 2. …e6 as it is more solid and gives you more chances. I really ought to point out here that I did play the St. George’s solidly for at least 6 months at a very busy time (300-500 games) but I am by no means a professional player. The book written by Basman I found to be rather poor but he did seem to know that if the centre is closed, you have to play on the flanks or you will get squashed basically. It’s a fun/novelty opening that can really throw your opponent but I certainly wouldn’t try to build a repertoire around it as its only a matter of time before you’ll be shot down in flames. What is written below is entirely from my own experience, and it became very rare that I was troubled in the opening.

The Do’s which provide playable middlegames.

-understand you are conceding the centre therefore you must play on the flanks.

-understand you gain space on the queenside and so that is where you should play. Attacks on the kingside come later, once your opponent is stretched somewhat or at least attending to your play on the queenside.

-minor piece development order is usually queen’s bishop, king’s knight, king’s bishop, and lastly, queen’s knight.

-you have less space than white and so one or two minor pieces should be exchanged so that you have more room for manoeuvre. White will find it easy to attack if this does not happen.

-because you will develop the queen onto a dark square -most likely b6- you should wait for your opponent to commit his light-squared bishop first unless it can be challenged immediately.

-do try to exchange the c-pawn whenever the opportunity arises because it makes it easier to use the b-file, and if the position stays closed you can’t generate counter play.

-given that it is unorthodox either your opponent won’t set his pieces up correctly, will sit and do nothing or will over-extend, if your play is harmonious he will find it hard.

-try to prevent the queen from gaining access to the kingside if possible. It’s the only option has but it can be deadly. In general you are too committed to the queenside to cope with sacrifices or exchanges which open lines.

-do try to understand its an unconventional opening rarely played, which means your opponent probably won’t know what to do and will go for a passive set up.

-if an early a4 is played, push on with b4. It is played to try and gain the c4 square, which you should not allow for that is a concession which will prevent you from opening the game up.

The Don’ts’ which get you out of the opening with a playable position

-don’t think in terms of transposition to The French or The Sicilian are not quite possible and likely to weaken your position quite a bit.

-don’t allow your opponent to gain a three pawn central majority because you won’t be able to undermine it.

‘the king’s knight shouldn’t stay pinned. h6 seems to work well, Be7 is less risky than Qb6, in general the queen isn’t needed on the queenside until mid to late middlegame. Remember, if the centre closes, the King can stay there.

-don’t come out of the opening with no minor pieces exchanged. Aim for two if possible as your position is rather cramped. Almost certainly the king’s bishop and quite often the queens knight.

…push the b-pawn early as its often a useful moves that alters the set up of the white queenside…

…it could be argued that because The St.Georges Defence is passive there is a greater necessy for black to free himself up and for the opening and early middle game that involves generating counter-play on the queeside and utilizing that, often to attack the white centre.

The black queen is a piece that has to be deployed carefully, sometimes it is best to wait because it may not be needed on the queenside, and is often targetted when placed there. It’s best square is seeingly b6, transfering pressure from e4 to d4 but care must be taken so that a bishop doesn’t come to b3 and a knight doesn’t hop into d5 or c4. Queen placement is probably the move which requires the most care.

…if white play is typically playing standard developing moves its because he doesn’t know what to do.

…* the e4 square is what white can win easily with. If the knight on f6 is removed, and you haven’t castled, then wait because the bishop and queen battery on the c1-h6 diagonal is hard to meet.

…when an early c4 comes, re-route the knight to b6 after the exchange on c4. Don’t allow white to capture the knight and double the d-pawns because they are too difficult to defend and your light squared bishop becomes hemmed in.

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