shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

With my son in Budapest and Amsterdam // Setting the foundations for Riamfada's future

With my son in Budapest and Amsterdam

many more photos in Flickr folder "Mark in Budapest & Amsterdam "

My son was already in Budapest taking part in a grueling International Master Chess round robin tournament organized by First Saturday headed by Mr Nagly Laszlo after 8 years hiatus from chess. All the competitors there in this IM Chess tournament were high level International Masters from Russia, USA, UK and Hungary.

At least one of them good enough to qualify for Grand Master. On top of that, most of them stayed in Europe taking part in high level chess competitions for months as part of their preparations for this particular tournament.

Mark flew in and took part after that 8 years laid off and got woken up. His hopes of making that IM norm and getting that title was dashed early.

He wrote to me on all his games when I was still stuck in Muscat.

I consoled him best as I can with encouragements via emails.

Some of my correspondence with my son reproduced below to give an idea how brutal this seemingly gentle looking sport can be like.

From: Mark
Subject: Off to a bumpy start
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 3:47 AM
Hi Dad,

We are at the end of round 3. I have 0.5 points from 3 games.

Game 1: Mark vs Petter Stigar 2268

Got myself caught in unfamiliar territory, made the right decision to sac a pawn for positional compensation, and went down fighting instead of losing passively. Lost.

Game 2: Mark vs Eric Kislik FM 2350

Spotted exactly what he would play, prepared for it, and throughout the game had a slight advantage. We both got into severe time trouble, blitzed 15 moves to the time control. He blundered outright, and I blundered back by missing it. Eventually, we both went into a drawn endgame. Draw.

Game 3: Mark vs Erwin Toth IM 2390

Spotted exactly what he would play, prepared for it, and went into a good game where we both had even chances. The game got exciting when I correctly made a pawn sac in exchange for an exciting attack. Fumbled during time trouble. But the problem was that I was too eager to deliver a KO with too few pieces in the attack. We analyzed it after the game, and I realized that if I wasn't so impatient to win quick, I would have sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn. Not outright win, but a good game. Instead, my attacked stalled quickly because of too few attacking pieces. Lost.

You can view the games on the First Saturday website. They should be up pretty quickly.

Generally, I am satisfied that I didn't get thrashed outright, given that I have been totally out of the chess circuit for 6 years. All the games so far were well-fought, and not one-sided losses. I think I also made some important decisions on positional play and pawn sacs for initiatives, a concept that was rather murky for most of my chess playing days. Though I need to work on the followup after the sac. So far, I notice that I am too eager to regain loss material for the positional sac.

I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't discouraged. 0.5 out of 3 is a bad score, no matter how you look at it. I think the IM norm is nearly over. I need to make 8 points from 11 games, and I only got 0.5 from 3 so far. I practically need to win the rest of the games. Very discouraged with the results, but somehow, felt some consolation that the games were all well-fought and not outright losses like during the downhill period of my active days.

I will still prepare thoroughly for each game. Somehow, with the chances of an IM norm nearly over, I think I will just focus on playing my best for each game and nothing more. Just prepare well and play as best as I can. But somehow, that seems to be the story of my life; always trying, and never really succeeding.


Subject: Re: Off to a bumpy start
To: Mark


Do your best and create moves of beauty.

You realised with your hard losses you are there at the top with them considering they had not lay off for 6 years as you did.

By worrying about success, you might inevitently caused the loss of success.

If you play with power and vision and beauty, success will come naturally and without thoughts and mental energy bein drained in worries of success

hugs and love


From: Mark
Subject: RE: Off to a bumpy start
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 2:50 PM
Thanks for the encouragement.

Before I came, I had done some research on my opponents. Some of them, like Kislik, whom I faced in round 2, had been camping in Budapest since June, playing in either the GM or IM tournament ever since. He too, had not made his norm despite 5 months of trying. But yeah, there are players like that who have not been laying off.

I am going off to visit Central Market very soon. It's supposed to be a paradise for cheap and good food. After that, I am coming back to prepare. Up against IM Scalanczytoday, who has several hundred recorded tournament games under his belt against my 80+ matches in ChessBase.

Promise to give him one hell of a fight.


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 2009 07:13:06 -0800
Subject: RE: Off to a bumpy start
To: Mark





HUGS & Love


From: Mark
Subject: RE: Off to a bumpy start
Date: Thursday, December 10, 2009, 3:09 PM
Hi Dad,

Lost again. This is getting disturbing. After I get back to Singapore, I need to seriously think of something to radically improve on my own training. Or maybe this is something I should expect, for my first tourney in 6 years. Need to do some post-mortem on how to improve. Would be playing in another fide-rated tourney in Jan, but this time in Singapore. The National Championships.

My match with Scalanczy was a most interesting one. He played into my prep, but whipped out a move that was never played seriously at high level. Basically, Scalanczy is Hungary's version of IM Giam Choo Kwee. The game was full of fireworks and snares, like what we had encountered whenever playing against the likes of IM Giam.

I was very certain that Scalanczy's novelty move was bad, because it was never played before at high level. Even Fritz didn't cough up that move during my prep. My hunch was right, but that was only after I analyzed it back in the hotel. Failed to punish the guy for his mavericks. This game was very interesting because of his novelty move. Players from all over were coming to watch how the game would turn out. I give you the first 15 moves of the game, which was the decisive part of the match. The game pretty much played itself after I missed the decisive move to turn the tide.


1. P-k4 P-QB4
2. P-QB3 P-Q3
3. P-Q4 N-KB3
4. B-Q3 P-KN3
6. P-K5

I prepared this opening. Scalanczy plays only Sicilian Dragon. He played this variation of the Sicilian twice. Once, he won after some cheapo combination. He lost against this same variation in November 2009 when he tried a dubious move that was easily refuted.

6 ....... P-B4
7. Q-R4 ch B-Q2
9. P-KB4 B-KR3 novelty move

Nearly all the games in ChessBase chose Q-QN3. Over here, I thought for very long. Probably close to 15 minutes before my next move. I was very certain Scalanzy's novelty move was a bad one.

10. N-QR3 ......

During my post-mortem analysis, Fritz also came up with this move. I found 1 game in ChessBase on this variation, and the GM also chose this move. But the game in ChessBase was GM vs amateur. The amateur handled the Black pieces very badly, so that match was not reflective of the complications in this variation.

10. ...... N-QB3
11. P-KR3 B-K3
12. Q-QN5 P-QR3
13 QXNP B-Q4
15. B-QN5 ch K-B1

From move 10 to move 15, I had spent around 45 minutes of my time on it. I saw that my queen would be trapped, and it made me nervous, even upset. My mind was in a tailspin. Didn't I think that Scalanzy made a crappy move?

But the truth is, Scalanzy did make a crappy move. I was shocked during the post-mortem analysis, Fritz thinks White has a great advantage!!

16. QXR?? BXQ
17. RXB ......

(My son knows I prefer to read chess in the old format)

Move 16 was the decisive blunder. If I had played PXN instead, I would have more than sufficient compensation for the Queen. My 3 minor pieces for the queen woudl be active, and Black woudl be in trouble. Instead, i went to take the rook, and i never got my rook + 2 pieces coordinated together. Black was winning after the mistake on move 16.

From move 10 to move 16, I must had spent close to 60 minutes of my 90 minutes. Time control is 90 minutes to make 40 moves, and with every move you make, you get +30 seconds on your clock.

I was wary of getting into severe time trouble so early into the game. Maybe too wary. I saw the correct move, but didn't think too deeply into it. I think I was in a fluster also, for having missed Scalanzy's novelty move, and also thinking that Scalanzy's novelty was bad and that how come I couldn't have refuted it? Shit! I played the refutation correctly 99% of the way!

The game dragged on for another 1.5 hours, after Scalanczy missed a quick easy win after my mistake on move 16. He went for a long hard win instead.


Date: Thu, 10 Dec 2009 03:03:50 -0800
Subject: RE: Off to a bumpy start
To: Mark

Dont let this get you down.

Look at this as training for your next attempt at IM.

After the rust of 6-7 years layoff at high level chess, you are still doing very very well.


Love and Hugs


From: Mark
Subject: RE: Off to a bumpy start
Date: Saturday, December 12, 2009, 5:00 AM
Hi Dad,

I completed round 6 today. Scored 1 point out of 6 games; 2 draws, 4 losses. The Hungarian IMs are very strong, even though they are rated roughly the same as I am. Most of them can't afford to travel around, so they play only in their local circuits and against each other in the First Saturday tournament on a monthly basis. They are very very strong.

I lost a game yesterday against a Hungarian IM. Spent the evening defending and holding, and then when he had the advantage, he got overconfident, played natural developing moves while I fought back in severe time trouble. By the time he realized it, he had dropped the ball and his overwhelming advantage fizzled out into a drawish endgame. Then I fumbled gave him back his chance, then he made a mistake in the endgame, I saw the drawing moves but didn't play it, and the game was lost. We were the last match to end.

Today's game was a draw against a Yankee who took time off to play in the First Saturday tournament. He played a very solid defense, I prepared against it, and throughout the game or the prep, I could not find any loophole in his defence. Was lucky to get a draw, after I made a mistake and gave him very serious attacking chances. But he played it too fast, sacced a rook for a mating attacking that was one move shy of mate, and I ended the game with perpetual check. Draw.

Date: Sat, 12 Dec 2009 04:54:50 -0800
Subject: RE: Off to a bumpy start
To: Mark


Chess is richer and tougher than you expected. Especially after such a long lay off of 7-8 years.

Just continue and do your best in your remaining games.

I look forward to seeing you on 14 Dec

Hugs and Love


From: Mark
Subject: RE: Off to a bumpy start
Date: Sunday, December 13, 2009, 5:55 AM
Hi Dad,

The match today was 4 hours of bitter struggle. I had a good advantage in the middle game, but ran into time trouble and made an inaccurate move that gave Ivan (opponent) the advantage. Ivan (opponent) tried to confuse me by playing fast, hoping to capitalize on m time trouble. Instead, he fumbled and lost his advantage instead.The advantage shifted from me to Ivan and then back to me again like a pingpong game.

By the time we were nearing the end, I was mentally drained and tired. Ivan was clearly tired too, for he thought for a while and proceeded to play inaccurately. And my spirits totally left me when I made a mistake, and allowed a superior endgame position to slip from my grasp. Ivan made a move that totally escaped me, was threatening a checkmate, and inside me, I broke down instead.

I was a hairs-breath away from losing. And I could have escaped with a draw, but my brain broke down, my morale collapsed. I just needed to play 2 moves correctly, and I would drawn the game with perpetual check. Instead, I played only the first move correct, and then played like an idiot for the 2nd and critical move.

Ivan was more shocked than I was that he won. He was expecting me to play correctly and gotten a draw.

I missed escaping by an inch. It was as good as missing by a mile. People who stood around me watching the game all saw the correct move. But I didn't. I was totally drained emotionally, mentally and physically at the most critical seconds of the match. I had about 9 minutes to think carefully. But my spirit surrendered, and I foolishly played like a zombie instead of maintaining my calm and searching for a way out. I saw the right moves, but didn't see carefully enough!!!!!


Finally on the 14th December, I flew into Budapest myself. My wife remained in Muscat to look after the birdie and the beasties.

Notwithstanding global warming, I flew into the coldest and whitest winter Europe had seen for years. I feared I might not even be on that flight as heavy rains lashed at Muscat creating floodings all over after a year with no rain at all.

And did you all noticed the hot air and non-agreement that we gotten from Copenhagen?

It was good to see Mark again after 2 years. Lunch starting with heavy Hungarian beef goulash soup warmed us up as we talked of his ordeal in that tournament. He still had 3 more matches to go. He agreed while he lost his edge after the 8 years lay-off from chess, he had hold them much of the time and while he lost closely at the end, he was never threshed. I reminded him he played in so many Chess Olympiads as No 1 and top board for the country, and had won in the past against top boards of many countries. Those that he won had been IMs or had gone on to be GMs and even super GMs.

I could not hope to teach him chess even when he was 4 years old. But chess is fighting, and that I could teach. I reminded him of the old samurai saying I taught him long time ago.

“ If you cut through my skin, I will cut through your flesh.
If you cut through my flesh, I will cut through your bone.”

And of the ancient Taoism symbol of white and black spiral. And right in the heart of the white is a black dot just as in the heart of black is a white dot. That within the most desperate defense that he might have to make, there must be an element of deadly attack even in incipient form. And the same with an attack . That he must discard his fear of losing the match to refocus on the attacks that made Mark so feared in his past. He scored 60-70% playing as top board in International Chess Olympiads.

Anyone with ChessBase can call up Mark Chan’s games of the past. His competitors in this tournament had seen and studied his games the same way Mark studied their games. I told him they probably feared him more than he feared them.




Budapest from my hotel window

Fight with William Paschall

I wished I can say he won the rest of the matches. I could hardly bear to watch his games in detailed when being fought out. We analysed them back in the hotel and saw him played much more attacking chess and losing out at the end on time trouble. His rust layers from 8 years lay-off had to be ground off. He got his confidence back. And most important of all, he was glad he got back into high level chess again.

His last match was with IM William Paschall, an American who is also a GM contender. That game was so furious. Pascall did a beautiful rook sacrifice and threatened to win a piece. To my shock, Mark ignored that potential loss of a piece and made what I thought was a suicidal move. More gathered to watch. Then I saw Mark was setting a mating attack on Paschall.

The position became too complex for me to watch. I wanted to throw up in the tension. It was a lot worse for the two of them. I had towithdraw to the smoking room and not watch anymore.

In the after game analysis with Paschall, that hard fought match was approaching to a draw. But Mark had seconds left on his clock and he made that wrong move and lost.

Paschall was the winner of that tournament. After that tournament was over, I engaged Paschall to coach Mark in the 2 mornings before we flew off to Amsterdam. Paschall was Mark’s first chess coach in all his years at top level chess.

We tried to see a bit more of this ancient city. The cold was just too bitter. We lasted an hour up in Castle Hill in the morning before we felt compelled to abort that. Mark agreed the next time he will try for his IM in Budapest 1st Saturday tournament will be in summer.

many more photos in Flickr folder "Mark in Budapest & Amsterdam "


Pest of Budapest across the Danude river seen from Castle Hill

We went to two of the thermal spas here, Széchényi Spa and Gellert. Beautiful as they might be, the hotsprings of Taiwan and Japan, and some of those in China were more gorgeous and more sprawling. The hot pools of Hungarian spas were at 36-38C and too luke warm for me. Hot pools in Taiwan would be at 45 C and hotter, and with luxurious places to cool down and dry out after that, and with fine food and fine wines too.

On the 19th December, we flew into Amsterdam after some delays because of the heavy snows. Amsterdam had its first white winter for years. To my delight, Mark loved the raw herrings of Amsterdam.

Leidseplein with snow

The snow covered that huge outdoor chess board at Max Euwe.

It was so cold that even if it did not snowed, no sane chess players would have been there. But then, if you do play chess, you are not sane in the first place.


many more photos in Flickr folder "Mark in Budapest & Amsterdam "

We enjoyed the Van Gogh museum and saw the Night Watch. He was in Amsterdam for his first time and I had been there about a dozen times and it was my pleasure to guide him about from the red light area to elsewhere until we left on 24th December.

There was an interesting episode at the Schipol Airport security when I left on the 24th . This girl ahead of me at the security check had a ¾ full bottle of water . Security told her regulations changed and she could take that through with her. I was shocked as with the rest of you when that Nigerian attempted to blow up that plane on Christmas day.

I guess the regulations will be changed again and no more liquids will be allowed to be taken onto planes at Schipol or any other airports.


many more photos in Flickr folder "Visit from Harry "

I could now focused again on Riamfada when I came back. I wrote a fresh appeal in Omanforum in the local forum this time instead of in the expat forum.

Among those that wrote to me was this Dutchman Harry, married to an Omani lady and with 2 lovely daughters. On 25th December, we drove with Riamfada the 75 km over to their beautiful place in Yiti. He had a farm, with chickens, geeses, 2 emus, goats and rabbits and dogs. Chickens were free ranging until nightfall where they stayed secure against the foxes roaming that area. He told me that is is paradise on Earth, and made him an Omani in my eyes.

Harry is the Prime Candidate for Riamfada. There are also 2 other families that agreed to be on the reserve list.
All will be guided by me. Even if they do not get Riamfada, the training and guidance that I will give them will be good for their future parrots.

Harry drove over to my villa on the 27th December to see Riamfada’s room and the environment to be prepared. He saw the mash in the freezer and in the fridge and read and seen photos of that.

getting explanation on perches and foraging points

watching harnessing process



Riam taking off from him

seeing the snuggling ritual with Riam prior to her bedtime

watching me say goodnight to Riam

many more photos in Flickr folder "Visit from Harry "

I told Riam that Harry is likely to be a very important part of her life. Harry was delighted to get Riamfada to step up on one of the many sticks I had around to be taken to the living room. Where she did her fly to routines and played with us. He saw how easy it was to harness Riamfada and joined us on our neighbourhood walk with Dommie and Katie. And then the rituals after the walk and the way she snuggled with me before taken to her room to sleep.

I showed him part of my writings that will be important for him. Tinkerbell Legacy at the heart of it all. And the accounts of escapes. That with all my care and attention to details, Murphy and his army remained always at your elbow. That you prepare for the worse instead of hoping for the best.

The first month will be on the training and familarisation with Riamfada. In the second month, Riamfada will be kept over some weekends by him to bond with his family. I hope that if handover is to be done, that be done as free from stress as possible for Riamfada.

I am down to last 3 baggies of frozen mash and a baggie in fridge good for 2-3 weeks. On the cooking day of Mash Batch 7 , he said he will be there to see that process. I will invite those 2 reserves to watch the mash cooking as well as good balanced food aka Tinkerbell Mash is so important.

Yesterday on 29 December, Sulaiman an Omani, one of the reserve came to my villa to see Riamfada and the arrangement in my villa for her. I showed him the mash, got him to use stick to get Riam to step up and to go on our neighbourhood walk. He was a bit intimidated by Riamfada despite my exhorting him earlier not to be afraid. Riam sensed that, and decided to have her parroty jokes on him. Riam lunged at his finger giving me and him a fright, but Sulaiman told me Riam just mouthed his finger and not chomp down hard. Then back in the villa, Riam deliberately flew pass his head on all recalls to me.

Photos of Sulaiman visit not uploaded yet.

many more photos in Flickr folder "Mark in Budapest & Amsterdam "

many more photos in Flickr folder "Visit from Harry "



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

hit counter code

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.