Archive for the ‘On-line journal’ Category

Yesterday I told myself to visit the chess club but I couldn’t. I told myself to because it was meant to be my last visit to the club this year and I wanted to say goodbye to friends and playing partners there. But somehow it didn’t feel quite right, it wasn’t really goodbye.

Most of the members @Bangkok Chess Club are transient and I am no exception. I have relocated many times before, only to return the following year, and for this reason it didn’t really feel like a ‘goodbye’ more so a ‘see you soon’.

And that was how it was left…


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If I were up for it, I would play in this.

But I am not up for it, Mentally I am not strong enough and I am awaiting results from blood tests. I cannot play chess. I cannot do anything. I just sit and wait and hope for a brighter future.

Mark. J. McCready 10.57pm, Monday May 1st,

Purgatory, Bangkok

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Yesterday I had a plan. That plan was to take the skytrain and enter the city. Stop off at my favourite Indian restaurant for a vegetable curry. Get back on the skytrain and go to my hospital for my medication (I have hypermania), then go to the chess club. But that way go it did not. Within minutes of getting on the skytrain I fell critically ill. My whole world collapsed around me because the week before (subject of The visit that never was) I suffered so immensely from my life being threatened that I have been in a state of near collapse ever since. All I could do was hang on for dear life on the skytrain, try my hardest to walk to the hospital, collect my medication, and go back home. It was not very pleasant to arrive at the station I was supposed to get off to go to the chess club and then watch it go by but I had no choice, I was so sick mentally. By the time I got home, it wasn’t even 7pm but I had to fall into bed immediately and lie still all night long. Being the true hypermaniac that I am, of course sleep was not possible, and yes of course it’s not possible tonight also and no it won’t be possible tomorrow night either but these are trivialities. Like I said in the previous post, when your life is close to being taken away from you, you aren’t going to like it and you aren’t going to know what to do. What I didn’t say was it’s not something you can just walk away from and expect to be as right as rain the next day either. And what I couldn’t say was how sure I was of what was happening around me. Was I so startled that I couldn’t see things straight? The answers are coming, the answers are coming, a conclusion will be created… .

Yesterday, I didn’t have the power to play chess. I felt so wounded. I felt confused. I just wanted to go home, close my eyes and make everything go away. I could not speak to anyone, not even my own daughter. All I could do was lie still for many hours, not even hoping that my wounds would heal. I cannot put into words how hurt I have been and if that isn’t bad enough I must wait weeks before I can learn if I have been left with a terminal illness too, one which will eventually destroy my immune system and take my life from me.

Mark. J. McCready, 02.13 am, Sunday April 30th 2023

A quiet and lonely place where I have cried most days this week, Laksi, Bangkok.

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Suppose that you have a job, you have income, and you have time off -like most of us. Suppose that you take holidays and like to factor chess into them. That could mean entering a tournament or maybe just visiting a club to meet locals and survey the scene there -with a few pics for your Instagram account, or Facebook or whatever your preferred social media platform is.

Don’t tell me you don’t use any of them, I know you do!

Does this sound quite normal or quite abnormal? I can assure you, having been posted abroad for almost a quarter of a century now, it’s common to meet chess players who travel abroad to play our beautiful game because the options are boundless all year round. A great many do it, but I apologize, I can’t give you an exact number. Instead, let’s just assume it to be in the tens of thousands of those who have and continue to do so. Professional players, of course, make their living by travelling and playing chess at the same time, some of whom are on record as stating they have done so in over 100 countries. Admittedly, I have only played chess in 6 different countries, posing as the official photographer in only one of them.

We all blunder in chess no matter how good we are. The only difference being the frequency with which it occurs. We blunder away in life too, although this may be less obvious, depending on how well you know yourself, your take on consequentialism, and various other mitigating factors aided and abetted by your own drunkeness, tomfoolery, absentmindedness, dubious driving habits…I could go on.

Don’t do drugs!

Let us suppose you twice intend to visit the very same chess club on your hols, putting in the necessary groundwork in beforehand, establishing where the club is located, when they meet, and so on. But it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen on your first trip. It doesn’t happen on your second trip. Why? How can a scheduled part of your holiday not come into play, and not just once but twice?

In asking such a broad question, invariably a multitude of plausible explanations arise. And not only that, crucial elements can be easily overlooked too. For example, what happens to people when they go on holiday? Do they stay the same or do they go into party mode and just want to have fun? After all, that’s what holidays are supposed to be all about right? Over the years I’ve seen all sorts of things go on including chess players spend thousands travelling half-way round the world to enter a prestigious international tournament and then weren’t even capable of making it out of their hotel let alone make it to the first round, owing to a drink problem so severe they were paralytic before the tournament began, as the tournament started, and then only got worse. I’ve seen GMs fly on in and party so hard they would resurface at each round looking either massively hung over or completely drunk still from the night before, causing them to behave erratically at the board and sometimes just resign on the spot. On one occasion a GM fell so far down the rankings, he was paired against one of my friends, who I have beaten in the past as we were both rated about 1900 then. Even my friend beat him because he was that hung over and didn’t want to play on!

Life doesn’t always go as planned, we all learn that as we mature. On holiday the likelihood increases as we tend to enjoy ourselves too much and this often factors in an excess of things, which aren’t good for us. Things like alcohol and drugs for example. Sometimes things develop which are good for us but derail our plans. You might meet a nice woman you want to spend time with, which might take priority over previously made plans. When you go abroad wanting to have a bit of fun, its hard to know exactly where it will take you, and for that reason what you had planned may not come about. As long as we’ve had some fun and enjoyed ourselves, our plans can be cast aside for another time, can’t they? Isn’t that how it goes?

I recently visited Cambodia, and its capital Phnom Penh. I see it as my second home in Asia because I used to live and work there and know the place pretty well. It’s a place where I can meet former colleagues, close friends, ex-girlfriends and enjoy a thriving ex-pat scene. It’s a city that has shown a greater degree of progress over the last 15 years than any other in south-east Asia and has a lot to offer. Not only that, the Khmer people are sincere, humble and hard-working. They are also very friendly and pretty good at speaking English too. They occupy a city untainted by tourism, and that cannot be said of the bigger cities in the same region. Unlike Bangkok, the closest major city to it, Phnom Penh isn’t a tourist trap full of hustle and bustle all day and all night long. Instead, it offers relaxing walks along the riverside, adorned by royal palaces and feels far more laid back. There are no roads gridlocked by traffic, only streets where anyone will offer their services to you if you need something or cannot find your way around. A stark contrast indeed.

Seen from the riverside Phnom Penh.

But despite my efforts I never did make it to the chess club on both my recent trips and I am too ashamed to say why. Okay, well I was whilst writing the previous sentence but I am not now. On the first occasion my own very bad habits got the better of me and made me so sick I had to spend days in bed recovering, missing the opportunity, and on the second I was accompanied by an ex-girlfriend from back yonder and that…erm, well, dominated proceedings shall we say. Or should we say being a romantic old fool, I didn’t want to leave her side? Unabashed hedonism with no regard to the consequences was what wiped out the chance of any chess and it’s absolutely fine, it really is. On my list of ‘to do’ things it wasn’t very high up. And what is true of my chess is true of my life too. I have made so many blunders throughout my life that they are no longer soul-destroying, having just rendered hours of effort to emerge victorious no longer possible. When I blunder in chess and life, the result is always the same. I feel nothing. Part of me expects it at some point. If I do not blunder yes there is a sense of relief but that is all I am capable of feeling: that and only that. I am not sad that I didn’t visit Phnom Penh Chess Club. Why? Because holidays can and do go badly wrong sometimes. Crime exists everywhere. Only death is real when confronted with your own. And no you won’t like it very much. And no you won’t know what to do. Most certainly it will radically alter the nature of your holiday, and for me, trigger an arresting escalation from being robbed on a deserted street late at night, as happened on the first visit, where all I lost was all my possessions instead of my life. May I offer some advice? As Franklyn D. Roosevelt once said ‘the only thing you have to fear is fear itself’. If danger, or wrongly perceived danger, comes your way, just punch your way out of it. Twice I tried to do that and twice my soon to be opponent backed off super-swiftly. It’s just a shame I couldn’t keep it up. Almost all who threaten only do so to scare you into getting what they want. And they will do so mercilessly because at the bottom of it all lies the undeniable truth that in Asia: life is cheap. Turn the tables on them with real intent and watch what happens -and don’t take too long about it either! Tough when your life is on the line but necessary. It will stop your opponent from thinking about killing you and suddenly start them thinking about how to defend themselves instead. Anger -and yes I do mean of the explosive kind- is your saviour, and your only saviour trust me -just don’t kill anyone!

And on that note I had better leave it there once more proud of myself for employing a Nietzschean technique, which my professor described as ‘pulling the rug from under your feet’.

‘From the military school of life: That which does not kill me only makes me stronger’.

F. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Comment from fan of the site: ‘I see this McCready is at it again, he loves to break the boundaries of chess just because he thinks its too conservative. He loves to trick you into thinking the content is chess-related then pulls you in different directions and inserts content that alters your emotions whilst reading. I take my hat off to him, he’s bloody good at it but I wish I hadn’t read this. Who wants to read about what to do if their life is threatened. He really is a bad sport this McCready fellow.

Comment from critique of the site: ‘I don’t like this post. That bloody McCready has put the fear of god up me! I was going to go to Rio De Janeiro but I think I’ll go to Bognor Regis instead! No I won’t! I’m going nowhere now! I’m staying at home! Bloody terrible post this is! Wish I hadn’t have read it now!’

Mark. J. McCready 6.39pm, Saturday April 29th 2023,

Laksi, Bangkok

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Lest we not forget how we got to where we are. Oftentimes the journey is arduous and full of pitfalls, some of which we fall into. For some just being alive is an achievement, and I should know. If you try to characterise the type of player you will run into something which stops you. Not the ‘why’ but the ‘how’ and also the ‘when’. You may be able to pen a few words here and there if asked to define the type of player you are but establishing how you came to be what you are and construct time frames for what was absorbed into you is much harder if not downright impossible. After a while everything becomes a blur, after that it fades…then you are left with nothing.

Our very own histories are too complex to be straightened out and our paths cross with so many others. It never ends. So at best you may be able to describe the sort of player you are but not the process of becoming. This is not something I am an expert in so let’s just leave it there for now. I don’t try to define myself. I know I’ve always been better positionally than tactically but I can’t say much else. I just classify myself as a club or county player and leave it at that.

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Is your bum okay?

I’m assuming that you, too, use anal beads when you are playing chess, and perhaps, when you are not playing chess sometimes. I don’t. I don’t cheat. I don’t really do anything eyebrow raising -I think they call that getting old. Admittedly I wear glasses rather than rely on my eyesight but that’s hardly cheating. If, whilst reading the previous sentence you didn’t say to yourself ‘I love anal beads’ then read on please. Thankfully the ridiculousness of the latest allegations render it impossible for Niemann to be scarred by them. What a bummer if he was! And we shudder to think what the next allegations are going to be based on…bloody aliens coaching players or something asinine. And to conclude all I can say to you is get help if you can’t leave them anal beads alone. Try The Samaritans or something. The last thing we want is FIDE employing bottom inspectors from now on to cope with the emerging trend. My bum is okay. But yours, well you know better than I.

Just look at this creature of the night. What can we establish? He likes the dark. He likes being by himself. He likes posting on his blog when he doesn’t have anything to say, and he likes to think he is funny sometimes. I’m only half-naked as I type. The weekend is here but there isn’t much to do really, so there’s nothing noteworthy going down. I guess you could say I am the sum total of my parts and am very me. The life I lead has a certain distinctiveness about it and a rather resistant character about it. I could say this only applies to the weekend but it doesn’t. It’s bigger than that but for as long as I remain on top of things and am moving forwards, it’s okay. I never consciously chose to live my life like this but this is how its gone. Perhaps the faults outweigh the merits of the situation. Hard to be sure really. If you ask any loving father does he prefer to be apart from his family unit, he will most likely say no unless he has to. Well, I am an economic migrant and am staying one for some time to come. It’s not ideal but the deal I have is just about the best I can get. So for the foreseeable I am going to move between two separate countries. One is for work and the other family. There’s not really much I can do about it except remain grateful that things are moving forwards. Life is not perfect but then it never was. The rough with the smooth must be taken sometimes. The position I am in ticks a number of lager boxes, so it’s okay. Not perfect but okay.

So I am going to have to sign off here as I don’t really have anything to say. Calm and collected Mark says ‘until next time’ by which time I will still be off chess like I am now. In joyful isolation, I am signing off here.

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Despite having it’s own youtube channel, chessboxing is yet to take off. It has a cult following and has been televised enough times already, but it isn’t generating sponsorship on any level and remains subterranean for now. Admittedly, I can’t see what the attraction is as it appears so amateurish thus unentertaining. But anyway, here’s a sneak preview of something earlier this year, just perhaps it may float your boat.

You can find details of fighters and venues here:

And their youtube channel here:

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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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It’s fair to say that from the very first to the 500,000th time I nearly had a heart attack at the chess board I wasn’t too bothered about it but there were times between the 500,000 to the 1,000,000 mark where I was. Nobody wants medical emergencies at the chess board but even in the current Olympiad we had one, in which an act of kindness helped save the day.

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These days it’s a crime in all first world countries to allow your offline life to remain dominant over your online life, and carries a jail sentence of variable lengths ranging from half a minute to a few days…well so it seems.

It is, of course, the rest day of the 2022 Chess Olympiad in Chennai. You might wonder what chess players do on their day off. Stay in their room and read books? Go for a walk in a park somewhere? Maybe even go for a coffee and chat chess with fellow players? The public perception of chess players isn’t, on the whole, positive. We aren’t renowned for being the most exciting bunch on the planet and are often thought of as bookish and boring.

Well, I have linked below a video or two of the Bermuda Party, the central feature of the rest day, and it does a pretty good job of breaking down certain perceptions of what chess players might do on a day off. Like most, if not all, they party!

If I may be allowed to bring my warped sense of humour into the post, I’ve watched both videos and can confirm there were no punch ups on the dance floors. No knuckledusters seen! No one was bottled or baseball batted and no one was hit by flying pints, flying chairs and flying tables! Just thought I’d let you know! Do take note of how young the audience is. Most non chess players would find all this rather surprising methinks when in fact it’s all quite normal.

Mark. J. McCready 11.10pm August 4th


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