shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Modes of flight of Riamfada and comparison to Tinkerbell //Some chess memories, hustler foil, Bali


My wife flew to Singapore on Wednesday 30 Sept 09 evening. She will come back to Muscat Oman on 8 Oct with bagful of books and cans of shellfish that I love. I love live shellfishes even more, but almost impossible to get that in Oman.

With her away, no new photos in this blog as she not only take the photos, she upload them for me. However I found some old photos of that 'basket' that you have seen in Riamfada's room. Here was how that basket used to look like. You recognised the handle whipped with twine.


Then this basket was moved into Riamfada's room. In retrospect, I should have gotten photos taken of the basket as it was chewed to pieces. Which it was, and a drift wood then tied onto the handle.


I specially chose a piece of driftwood that looked like it was torn out from the branch, with loose separate sinews of wood suitable for Riam to chew on. She finished those loose wood sinews and chewing on the wood branch now. I could not deprive her of her chewing fun, even if I got to sweep up the floor periodically.


Photo above was the 'ring' in Dec 2008. Then later on it became the rhomboid, but still called as 'ring' the way I called that old basket , basket even without the basket already chewed to little bits.


We all love it as the rhomboid became more wobbly then when it was a ring or a square.

I mentioned that a lot of cuttlefish bone were found on the beach, about 6 inches or longer. Riam did not bottle to chew the bone as she had so many other nicer things to chew on , not excluding dear wife now and then. I pulverised the bone a bit at a time to add into her mash. Being lazy, I wondered if easier way can be found to pulverise cuttlefish bone short of shouting to my wife to do that.

Then I looked at the liquidiser in the kitchen that only used to mash the beans of Tinkerbell mash. I added half full of water, and broken pieces of 2 cuttlefish bone. At a press of finger, the blades started to spin and all those pieces of cuttlefish bone became a milky liquid.

I then settled the water, pour the water away leaving cuttlefish powder behind. I washed and poured away the water 8-9 times. I now have nice cuttlefish bone powder to periodically add to the mash.

During a neighbourhood walk recently before my wife flew off, I noticed a new landing from Riamfada in her recall flight. She flew to me, a bit higher than usual. She flew past my shoulder, and in a flutter of wings, she landed so lightly on me but facing the direction that she came from. She flew past me, did a U turn in the air, and then touched down onto my shoulder.

I mentioned in my Tinkerbell chronicles that Tinkerbell used to do this even at an early stage below.

It was always un-nerving every time this was done. One never know if they flying off to the horizon or making that U turn to land softly on the shoulder. See reports on an even more spectacular Tinkerbell landings in

With my wife away, I did not bother on any weekend trips. I had to do the neighbourhood walks with Riam and Dommie and Katie. All of them expected it of me with the cats appearing by magic about 530pm. Even when feeling lazy, I could not be that mean to them all by not taking them out for the neighbourhood walks.

Without my wife around, doing recalls with Riam became more difficult. When I asked her to step up on a wall or fence as precursor to do recalls, I could not get more than 10 meters from her before she decide that was far enough and flew to me. I tried to give her the 'evil eye' and gestured NO NO NO. My eyes were not evil enough and my gesturings too weak to hold her until I could give recall cue. To make best of a bad situation, I had to give recall when she launched off to me.

With my wife, Riam would stand on her hand perch and be distracted by my wife or felt cosy with my wife and allowed me to walk far far far away. Or my wife turned around so her body blocked Riamfada view of me walking away. You seen enough of our shots on the beaches and you can estimate for yourself the distance she allowed me to walk away and the distance flown by Riam on her recalls.



Some chess memories, hustler foil, Bali and Nepal

I re-read what I wrote of Tinkerbell. To find details that I forgotten about.

So I thought I record this before it faded completly from my mind.

Unlike most people who started playing chess very young, I came onto chess fairly late. I had this girlfriend in 1970. I was hit with a thunderbolt. She was the first love in my life. She liked chess and wanted to teach me. I had no choice in that matter even though I thought chess was boring not knowing better then. In short time, I found I could beat her easily.

She left me a short time later, with as broken a heart a 19 year old guy could feel. I had to go into the Army for 2 years for National Service. But the love of chess she started in me remained since then.

I went on to borrow chess books from the library. I entered the world of Alekhine, Reti, Ruy Lopez, Capablanca and Bobby Fischer and got to know of flanchetto bishops, Sicilian Defense , control of the center and differences between close and open games. And in time found myself to be a fairly strong player. People that used to impress me in school days , being school chess champions during the time when I had not entered chess yet, were soundly beaten by me.

In 1972, Bobby came into notice of the rest of the world when he fought Spassky and brought us 'poisoned pawn' and dragged the entire world kicking and screaming into chess. I became a minor celebrity as I already know chess when the rest of the world still figuring out how to set out the chess board and chess pieces.

Then one day, in 1973, I was in the University Student Union House trying to do last minute studies for my engineering examinations when a noisy chess game started next to me. I saw a formal schoolmate Choo Yang playing with another guy that I later found out to be Arthur Tan.

I knew CY was not my match, and watched him just narrowly losing to AT. If he had one more move, CT would have won. It was irritating to see AT winning game after game. Especially when he called the rooks as castles and the knights as horses and talked in broken English like a moronic patzer. I thought Arthur was a new comer into chess brought on by Bobby Fischer. That he was lucky to win in all his games. The games ended when CY was cleaned out of money losing 50 bucks at 5 bucks a game.

I then suggest a few games with AT thinking smugly that I would beat him easily as he so nearly lost to CY in all the games I watched. Amazingly, I found I was always a move short of killing him. In that afternoon instead of doing last minute studies, I lost 100 bucks to AT. He then said he was late for lectures and if I could return the chess set and clock back to the University club that he signed out under his name.

I then found out from others that day that he was a National Master and a medical undergrad.

I had been hustled. I decided to keep the clock and chess set for myself and not returned them to partially compensate my loss to him.

A week later, he saw me and asked if I returned them as the club wanted to charge him. I was very strong in those days. I tore up telephone directories like tissue paper. In arm wrestling, if anyone could hold me just one second before I took him down, he would be the winner.

Above gave my background , even if it was written to illustrate something totally different. And if you are interested in martial arts, you might like to read this record of my email conversation at a martial arts forum.

It was only when Tinkerbell came into my life that I stopped my daily 2 hours training. That 2 hours were just to keep ticking over and in touch with martial arts. At peak, I was doing about 6-7 hours every day. That's another side of me that perhaps I should write down. I found it amusing that black belts who trained 2 hours twice a week think that they can fight the entire world.

At that time in 1973 with the meeting of that Arthur Tan, I weighed in at 210 lbs, but looked as if I weighed 170 lbs. Nurses trying to weigh me with those sliding weight scales always guesstimate I was 165-175 lbs and was bewildered why the weight refused to tilt until I set it for them.

I was already annoyed that he hustled me. I saw a 3 feet long iron bar on the ground. I picked it up, twisted it into a pretzel around my forearm, and told him he is a lucky man, and if he can try to make me return the chess set and clock.

Instead of being frightened, he looked positively delighted. He admitted he hustled me, and that I should keep the set and clock. But he knew I love chess and said that he will be happy to teach me beyond what the books had taken me. He also had this proposal. He told me he love hustling at chess. But sometimes annoyed bad losers did beat him up. That perhaps if I could 'protect' him and I could learn more.

We became good friends, sealed by tea he bought at the Student Union house, and he taught me chess beyond books. Just as you cannot hope to pick up good tennis by just reading books, you cannot hope to be good in chess just by reading chess books, unless you are gifted like my son. You need a much stronger player to guide you.

In those days, Singapore had British military base and Vietnam war was in full swing. Troops of servicemen would come to Singapore for R&R. I would go with Arthur Tan to places like the old raucous places like Bugis Street where booze and tranvestite and foreign soldiers gathered or in coffee shops near the British base at Sembawang. I play chess with Arthur in those places. With him talking stupid asking me how to move the horse etc etc. Others who think they are good in chess would be drawn in. I then gave up my place. And watched them slaughtered by Arthur. I got a cut. Protection not free. It was really fun too. Once to the point he returned $10 to a guy for his taxi fare back to camp.

In between, I learned a lot of chess from Arthur. I learned from others , and from the many chess tournaments Arthur introduced me into. I was literally dragged kicking and screaming by him into my first chess tournament. I learned the next lesson. Reading books and guided by better players will not be enough. That will be just talking the talk. You must walk that walk , and fight and be blooded in tournaments.

Arthur was a very good friend. It was a pity he died young, before Mark my son showed his chess skills.

I graduated in Civil Engineering in 76 after 4 years, and worked as a Civil Engineer in Jurong Town Corporation reclaiming land and building industrial infrastructures. I still had this very strong interest in tournament level chess.

In 1977, I took part in National level chess tournament and tried my best to climb out of the plateau I found myself to be in. Those tournaments were gruelling fights. I did my best, but could not get into that top ten. There were 200 contestants. I knew I had no hope of being in the top five, but I thought I could have been in top ten then.

I took a holiday in Bali to recover, the first time I been to Bali. I was there to enjoy Bali and to recover from what I considered to be a major chess defeat for me.

In those days, there were hardly any electricity there, and oil lamps were light all over in the losmans when evening fell. No huge resorts or gigantic hotels were even dreamed of in those days. Bali was magical then, so were the mushrooms and the herbs. Occasionally, one could still see Bali ladies walking about bare breasted or publicly bathing in the sacred temple's fountains. Travellers then lived with the community and not in expensive ghettos of tourists.

Balinese culture was vibrant and everywhere then, with Balinese laying out flowers and decorations in their shrines. Rituals were real and by the Balinese for the Balinese and not a show for the tourist trade. Bloody cockfights were part of their temple rituals. Losers were killed immediately after. I recalled seeing Rothschild Starlings in flocks then. They are now extinct in their birthland.

I was lazing on Kuta beach early one afternoon reading a book when a Balinese local walked by carrying a chess set. The locals walked about the beach as vendors of fruits, of local delicacies, and local handicrafts including ornate chess sets based on elaborate carvings of dieties. But the chess set with that local was too grotty. He stopped by this Caucasian guy next to me. I could not catch what was said, but that chess set was opened and set up. That local was playing him for US$ 2 per game. That was big money as my room cost me US$ 1 per night. Money went a lot lot further in the 70s.

I watched him winning 4-5 games until that Caucasian gave up. I then asked if I could play. He smiled at me and came over with his chess set and we played on the beach.

As the game went on, I could see him setting up a trap for me. I went along and set my trap using his trap as the bait. He sprung his trap and won a piece. Which went into my trap I set for him and two moves later, he knew he would be checkmated. In the next game, I pulled out all stops as I knew his measure. I love chess, knew clearly the hustling process being taught by a master hustler, but I never was into hustling. I crushed him.

He realised my power , and asked me to wait a few minutes. He rushed off and came back with another local. He was stronger. We played a couple of games for him to realised I was not a simple tourist who know some rules of chess. Another player was called, and after a few games, yet another player was called.

While I did not get into that top ten in the tournament I was recovering from, there were 190 other players who were ranked lower. Even the lowest of the 200 tournament contestants would still be better chess player than anyone who had not taken part in chess tournament. That first Balinese player was good, but would have ranked 60 or so in that tournament. I enjoyed myself that entire afternoon as the locals went to call better and better players to match me.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I ordered drinks and fruits and local delicies from the vendors for myself and the growing crowd of Balinese chess players and watchers around me. I gathered that they play chess with tourists for an honourable living. The stakes became higher and higher.

The last player was very strong. But I just came from a powerful tournament. I won the game. It got dark and we adjourned to my losman nearby. We were to play again in the light of oil lamps. I won about US$400 at that point. In those days, and in Bali, that was big money when US$30 might be take home pay for the month. I told him I had to leave the next morning to continue on my trip up into the mountain and would have a last game. I asked him would he want to bet all that I have won. He turned to the others and discussed briefly and agreed.

All of them had been the epitome of courtesy to me, not saying a word on the play so far during the games itself. They played for money, but they loved chess. I had no qualms about being a hustler foil for Arthur. Those soldiers had money to be ripped off.

And I love chess and love and respect those chess players of Bali. I had no desire to walk off with their money. Their money meant a lot more to them, their families than to me.

The last game was hard fought. It came to the end game. It was my turn to move, and the winning move was clear, and the losing move was also clear. I looked him in the eye, and made that losing move. He thought for a few minutes, and made that move that I knew he would make to win the game. I smiled, offer my hand, and tipped my king over in acknowledgement that he won.

He smiled back, gripped my hand , and drew me me over for a bear hug with the rest clapping their hands.

That was one of the most enjoyable afternoon of chess in my life. I believed they all got their money back, less what I spend on drinks and fruits for all of them that afternoon.

The rest of the evening dissolved hazily in my memory, other than that I ordered and paid for beer and spirits for that last player and all who wanted to drink with us.

The next morning I went up to the mountain and was staying at a losman on the rim of the volcanic crater. In that evening, I met another traveller there. A chess set was on the table and in short time, we decided to play. He shocked me by taking the first game. In my years travelling about, every few players got a game from me. And he won the 2nd game easily. My best could not prevail against him in the third game. He then told me that he found my play to be very strong, but he was an International Master from Holland. My ego was restored. It was no shame to lose to any IM. IMs normally do not travel about and I thought most IMs have no life other than to haunt tournament halls playing chess. I had the fortune, or misfortune to have meet one of them travelling about seeing sunrises and sunsets. We did not play for money, lucky me. I did not looked up in the sky that night. I would have seen that the moon was blue that night.

I told him of my encounter on the beach with Balinese chess players all the way to that last game. He was fascinated. It was late and we went to sleep having agreed we will walk down to the lake at the bottom of that volcano crater the next morning.

I woke up next morning to find a note left by him. He apologised for changing his mind and had left by the first bus to go to Kuta beach. He wrote he was short of money.

Bloody hell!

I hoped all those local chess players decide to take a few days holiday after that afternoon with me and keep their winnings safe and not meet that Dutch guy.

The next interesting chess episode was in Nepal.

I think it was in 1986. I was working as construction/project planner working on the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit system. I decided to take a 3 weeks holiday alone in Nepal with the intention of doing the Annapurna circuit around the Annapurna Massif.

I landed in Katmandu. The que to get the trekking permit was only five or six people. 4 years later when I went there with Joy, the que became 200 meters long.

Prior to that trek, I thought I better check out my legs and lungs around Kathmandu first. The book advised that you should do that first to see if you can walk, and like to walk, before you find that you cannot walk when you were in a high mountain trail, especially on your own. Especially so when I lived my whole life then in Singapore with the highest peak, Bukit Timah , at 133 meters high.

So I took the bus outside Kathmandu early morning and walked about the villages.

I was passing through one village early that afternoon when I saw a chess game being played and watched by a couple of guys. Of course, I watched. When that game was over, I asked the winner if I could play. They all smiled and agreed. He was an ok player. He was what I would termed a street fighter with a lot of cunning tactical knowledge. But I was also a street fighter, with enough cunning tactical knowledge AND also firmly grounded in the theoritical background of chess as well.

He was surprised to lose to me that first game. The next couple of games, I crushed him totally. Now, I loved to play chess, and I loved that game, said to be a pool where elephants can bath in and gnats can drink from. I am closer to a gnat than that elephant.

I love to transmit better understanding of chess. And I could see that player love chess. I had to crush him absolutely for him to see the light.

A chair was brought for me to sit. I played the next game thinking my thoughts aloud as to why I move. To every move I made, there were good and there were bad points, all to be considered and weighed.

I talked of control of center, the xray attacks, and the pins, and the double attacks, and removal of guards.

I talked of all I knew of the interplay of tempo, the positions, and the material and how they blend and combined together.

It stopped being a match. I played until I had winning position, and then turned the board around to take the losing position and changed that to winning position.

Alternate plays were made and considered to illustrate all I said as not just theory.

More and more questions were fielded at me and they were very intelligent questions. Tea was brought to me, and pastries were offered to me as I talked and talked moving the chess pieces. I thought that player was good to have asked me all those questions. I turned around and was shocked there were at least 30 people all behind me. The questions asked came from them. That guy playing me was the only one who spoke english and he was relaying their questions and answers back. He was also the village chess champion. They all smiled at me and clapped. I could only grin back at the audience and I turned back to the board with even more energy and spirit. That entire afternoon went by with me talking, lecturing and playing. I declined offers for me to stay in their village as I had to go to Pokhara and Annapurna the next day.

{editted on 25 April 2012 to add that account around Annapurna below
Last Footfall in Nepal// Sharon & kitty advice // Riamfada over weekend 18-19 March}

I started on the Annapurna circuit, and heard from grapevine that China opened the Tibetan border on Nepal to independent travellers for the first time. I might have gotten the year wrong, but it was that year that the Tibetan border was first opened to independent travellers. I turned back and went to Khatmandu and faxed and gotten a visa to travel overland into Tibet. I wired to my office to extend my leave as I was not going to let the chance to get into Tibet overland from Nepal slipped. I crossed over, and on that morning, a landslide cut that road in 12 places. I could not turn back into Nepal. I had to go on to Lhasa and down into Yunnan and took a hard seater train for 4 days and 4 nights to get out via Hong Kong. This will be another story another time.

(editted on 8 Mar 2010 . I wrote on this trip into Tibet here
"Harry Potter // Rustaq // 1st overland into Lhasa " )

My office and boss were so happy I got back still alive that they all forgave me extending my 3 weeks leave into 6 weeks at full pay. I had to give them lectures on that trip together with my photos and slides for full forgiveness.

The calender moved a few years now into 1989. Joy was my girlfriend then and we decided to go to Nepal and trekked on that Langtang Trail.

The que for trekking permits became 200 meters long this time from that 5-6 persons que in the past.

Still in Khatmandu, we went into this tea shop and I saw the owner sitting in front with a beautiful Stauton chess set and chess clock. I asked him if we could have some games. He gave me a snotty look and asked if I knew how to play chess. I told him I know a little.

Chess players are liars. So do not blame me. Also perhaps he was a very powerful player.

I got his measure in a few moves. I crushed him that first game to his shock. He had not expect my level and had played a cheap trap on me. His next game was better, but he was not my level and I crushed him as I was annoyed at his earlier condescending appraisal of me.

He then declared we should use the chess clock to set time limits. He had not known I was a blitz player (play and finish chess game in 5-10 minutes) and a bullet player (play and finish chess game within a minute a game)

I crushed him in all the games, even in games where I handicaped myself giving me 3 minutes on the clock against his 30 minutes.

He waived all the tea charges on me. We became friends.

He then told me I should go to this village nearby where the players there were so strong. He said that village was unknown before in Nepal chess world. Then 3 years ago, they came onto Nepal Chess world by storm and the top ten players of Nepal all went to that village.

I asked him which village it was, not daring to hear his answer.

He told me that village, the same village as I stopped by that afternoon a few years ago.

I should have gone there again. I had told them I would send them chess books late that afternoon before I left. But I forgot about that after the excitment and a couple near death experiences in Tibet. I felt quilty not keeping my words to them.

The next day, I went off with my wife on that Lantang Trail.

Next time I go to Nepal, I will bring an armful of chess books for that village.



If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.

or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice

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