Thursday, April 17, 2008

Self-Deception Part 1 - Chess

I picked up my interest in International Chess when I was in Form 4. When I was a senior prefect, I get to know 2 junior prefects, 2 years younger than me (I call them LTH and CKW here - they might be reading this... hahaha). They introduced me to the Chess Club that they were joining at that time. And, being enthusiastic, I learnt professional chess gameplay, which led me to learn how to think ahead of things that would happen - in immediate terms, in chess gameplays. In two months, I improved tremendously. I debuted my participation in public tournamemt by being a representative for my school (SMJPP at that time) in Chess in the Perak Schools Sports Council, district level. Although I did not bag anything home, it did lay a foundation in my upcoming chess tournaments.

I remembered clearly that, apart from my skills in chess gameplay, I also learnt:
- To know the strength and weakness of my opponents
- To admit mistakes and learn from a lost game
- To learn and improve from a won game
- To read books on chess
- To discuss strategies and tactics on other people's games (from this, I learnt chess notations, so if you ask me what it means by 1. f3? e5 2. g4?? Qh4#, of course I know)

Fool's Mate
[ 1. f3? e5 2. g4?? Qh4# 0-1 ]

Knowing my opponents

This was not only emphasized in chess games, but also an important rule in the ancient Chinese Art of War. How could you win a war if you have no idea how strong your opponent is? Never take your army as a kamikaze war objects, else you will lose all that you have.

I remembered three particular games that I played that led to a draw in two games and a win in the third. One was my game with a kid 7 years younger than me (I was 17 and he was 10). I knew that this chap was exceptionally talented, and in order to save my face of being inferior to a kid, I tried to force a draw, with a silent intention to look for his blunder. Eventually, what's left on the chess board were my King, my only pawn, and his King. I managed to balance out the game, with a pawn surplus. Based on the position, the odd was simple - a draw.

The second was a game with a greedy guy, capturing my valuable pieces happily, and eventually I had 5 pawns and a King. I looked at the pieces, did a simple calculation, and found a loophole - my King could not move, and it was my turn. I observed and knew that he's greedy. So, I gracefully moved my pawns into the sacrificial spots, and that silly chap captured my pawns one by one. Eventually - stalemate! Haha! From a losing game (0 pt) to a draw (0.5 pt). Silly greedy boy.

The third is much more challenging but crazy. In the beginning I blundered and eventually was demoralized so much that I had 4 chess pieces left against my opponent's 12 pieces. However, I knew she had two problems. She was greedy (same as the silly guy), and she forgot one of the most basic yet important rule - always keep your back rank on guard. She left her back rank (the row where the King is in the beginning of the game) unguarded, her 7th rank blocked the escape route for her King, and all other chess pieces of hers were 'somewhere else'. Immediately, I grasped the opportunity, and I pushed my rook to back rank of hers. Rh8+. Rxf8#. 1-0. Checkmate! A back rank mate! Bye bye bye, m'lady!!!

Back Rank Mate, an example. Result 1-0.

Learning from my past games

I always have my notebook ready in recording all my games. (Alas, I don't keep them anymore.) Whenever I played a casual game, I heard whispers of "yes" or shaking of heads - the rule is, not a bystander can give comments on any games. Well, it's a fair, one-mind-versus-one-mind game. So, after a game, those yes-whisperers and head-shakers will sit down together with me and my opponent to discuss the game, and how we could improve on the strategies and tactics of the ever evolving games. We even met every Sunday @ 2pm - 5pm, usually in a youth-oriented cafe in Ipoh called Xin Yi Dai, to practice and discuss games. There I met my mentor in chess, EY. A funny and talkative ex-Michaelian who helped me a lot in improving my skills, and I'm glad to know him.

Very importantly, when I lose, I would accept it and admit all the mistakes I made during the game. Many times I saw dissatisfaction and rage expressed towards the won opponent. Some even overturned the table. What a loser - turning the game into sour grapes - it showed practically no sportsmanship. Moreover, the fella will never learn from past mistakes.

Learn from others

Same as self improvement, I sometimes took a visit to chess tournaments on certain Sundays in Taman DR Seenivasagam. Main purpose - to fellowship with chess players, and to observe and learn their gameplay. It was interesting to get to know their passion in chess (which boosts mine as well) and their unique gameplay strategies and tactics. Sometimes, I adapted their sophisticated strategies in my own gameplay. The one that I remembered using is the eloquence of usage of double-knight tactic (it's amazing to discover how much damage a knight can cause, let alone two, and it's fun to put it into practice).


Gameplays among ourselves and great players in Ipoh was never sufficient to move on. We definitely needed more. Books on chess strategies, tactics and recorded gameplays of famous international players were required for our further improvement in skills. We always kept ourselves updated. Else, we would stop there, while others move ahead. Which was not good!!


If I were to fail to realize the above, I would never improve myself, even in life. And most importantly, if I refused advancement and yet thought I could play chess on my own, I would never get to anywhere. What happen was it could lead to refusal on what was actually happening around me. The fact is, the earth moves even if I refuse to move. Life goes on whether I like it or not. And, people improve even if I don't. Refusal to know these facts would lead to self-deception. And, my journey in the life of being an active chess player makes me less prone to self-deception. And the irony of the fact is, whether we like chess or not, life is indeed like a chess game. We need to move forward, position ourselves on strategic spots, learn from mistakes, rely on each other, always keep ourselves updated, and most importantly, discipline ourselves.

The game is at hand - win or lose, it is up to us how we train ourselves to play the game.

1 comment:

Jeremy Chin said...

You are right I'm reading this. lol.