Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saturday Morn in Klang

So off it was to the Klang Open 2009. An 8-game, 20-minute, one-day chess tournament.

Why should we take some time to participate in activities which i. cost money, ii. induce stress (and possibly mental health problems!) and iii. has next to nothing to do with your goals in life, when you've got half a dozen great books to catch up on?

Why wake up at seven on a perfectly great Saturday morning (my only 'free' one in five, methinks), get half lost on rural roads and cursing the dude who drew up the map, making multiple wrong turns, only to find you're two hours early, so it mayn't be a bad idea to see Klang city at 8am, and have a small dim-sum breakfast alone when you could be enjoying the morning meal with your family?

Why stand around reading Stephen Hunter's Pale Horse Coming for an accumulated two hours whilst the organisers i. try to outdo other Malaysian chess tournaments in inevitably delaying the start of the tourney by more than an hour, ii. betray their sub-par professionalism by having their registration people sit around holding crumpled pieces of paper with no indication that they're the ones in charge of registration and iii. put together a venue so crammed most participants had to stand outside the playing area and even downstairs (check out the pic, see much maneuvering space there?)? [And all fairness, though, the organisers were real nice folks and doing their best within restricted circumstances]

Because. Because:

There's something about the idea of gaming competition which hooks the average man. There's something about challenging anonymous folks in a process which has, initially at least, a 50-50 chance of either party winning. Even if there's a high certainty you'll lose.

And lose I did. Twice out of the four matches I played (I decided to spend the second half of my Saturday back home).

The first loss (with a fresh doctoral grad in Physics - nice chap, if a little intense) seemed to go okay until I advanced my knight into enemy territory (Ne5) without first checking the consequences of it being taken by the opposing bishop. This resulted in an exchange of my opponent's queen for two minor pieces and a rook. Bad trade for me.

The second one was more depressing because, as always (sigh), my downfall came from sheer yippee-doo-da blindness. Why in the name of all things purple didn't I check before advancing the pawn to f5? How do I control this impulsiveness, this non-caution, this hasty eagerness to believe that no further analysis is required before moving?

I won the other two, but none of them left me with much satisfaction as my opponents were virtually holding a garage sale of key pieces!

The good news: The fact that over 400 people can get together in tight conditions to negotiate black and white pieces over a 64-square board in the midst of economic and political 'heavy rains', perhaps, is a sign that life will go on in its own strange way no matter what the bankers, industrialists and (increasingly untrustworthy) law-makers do or say.

As Ian Malcolm (of Jurassic Park fame) said, life finds a way - for the love of the game.

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