Thursday, September 30, 2010


A friend chatted with me on google last night and said that I have made a lot of enemies. (In comments that has nothing to with the posting.) Begins here. Read here. Actually I dont think so. It's just a very small handful but they make alot of noise making them seem like many.

I wonder what their intention really is. One asked me why I use my credentials and then say he doesnt use his. Hmmmm, I guess I use my credentials because if I am writing on Counselling, I'll state what my experience in it is. Pretty normal isnt it? Then he argues that he doesnt flaunt his. Hmmmmm again. How can you flaunt your credentials if you are using a pseudonym? So thats not it.

Ah, I'm a trouble causer. Hmmmm

What is this blog about? I am arguing a case for what I feel are the neglected components in chess training. So you are either convinced or you are not. Simple. Nothing controversial there. Right?

Ah, but then I bring up cases of the kids spirit and healthy competition. Hmmmm, I feel there may be something here.

Lets imagine a scenario. Lets say we are all in one big hall. You, me, chess ninja, anonymous etc. etc. Say I was up on the podium and I ask a question. The question is, who in this room supports unhealthy competition and destroying the kids spirit? Do you think anyone will put up their hand? I dont think so.

Then I ask another question, how many of you will do something about it if you see this happening? What do you think will happen? I'm guessing here but I think a few will put up their hands. And more often than not they will be the guilty ones. Why would I say that?

You see the vast majority will hesitate. They will think, "hey I dont want this responsibility". That is normal. Heck, I didnt want this responsibility. All I wanted was to take care of my kid. And so for the first few years in Perak, I tried everything to get them to leave us alone. But they wouldnt. They kept attacking. And finally I couldnt take the nonsense anymore and shot back.

So, what have we learned so far? Can we narrow down these people to Perak? I havent been to a fixed tournament in KL, Selangor or anywhere else. So no issues there. So can I safely deduce that these people are Perakians. I'll go one step further and say that they are close to or in PICA. And they are angry. Why? Because what I say must be true. Can that explain the anger?

If not, then show us the cross tables. Kampar just did a leg on the 26th. Where is the result? Expose me as a fraud. Hmmmm but then again, if you only do this after I have said it on this blog......

So why are you so angry? Afterall this blog is our co-creation. You did your part and I did mine. And didnt you put up your hand? Arent we in agreement?

Our decisions outside the board.

I had a good chuckle reading this. Here. Go to Rationality's link.

The question of evil

This is a big question and one I was very reticent to embark on. It is a huge leap from saying that an act is evil to that person is evil. We have all done bad things, things we are not proud of, in moments of weakness or anger.

Big question.... Can we define someone as evil? If so under what context? Someone commented on this blog that PICA is evil. Can an organisation be evil?

Before we go on lets examine the burden of proof. Lets say we see 2 balls hitting each other and one of them goes into a pocket like in pool. And we see this happen many times. Can we now say that the one ball going into the pocket is caused by the other ball hitting it? It seems apparent right? But in science that is not proven. To prove something we also need a fully tested theory to explain it. So proof is not easy. Even Einstein's theory is not proven. However Newtonian science is disproved.

So the burden of proof is not easy. Even the Courts say beyond reasonable doubt. So how can we function in everyday life? How can we say a person is evil? Where is the proof?

Do you see where I am leading to? This is what an evil person relies on, if he exists, of course.

So lets examine this scenario. Lets take PICA as an example. But let me say here that PICA is not unique. I only use it as an example because I was part of the organisation and a witness to these acts. I witnessed persons playing around with the programs to see how it can be manipulated. I see results wrongly announced. I see minutes manipulated. I see a funny system of rating exclusive to PICA. Isolated incidences? Can be explained away? No proof. No cross tables are announced and only certain people have access to information. So how? I cannot demand for information like a Court can.

Science may be able to help a little here. In science what the scientists do is to build a hypothetical model with some known facts. Its a model that is in part from the imagination. (So long as the verified known facts fit the model.) So we now have a hypothesis. Better than nothing. (It's the beginning of judgement.) And we test this hypothesis over many many scenarios. And if carefully constructed sometimes it proves to be predictive. This hypothesis tells you that when certain people are involved then certain things happen. Not proven in the strict sense of the word. Remember, even Einstein is not proven.

Is that enough? Is that enough for everyday life? Afterall we dont want to be cheated by the same person or organisation over and over again because we have no proof.

Furthermore in the Courts they categorise premeditation as a greater evil. If we see a person who reacts emotionally because he had a bad day somewhere else, is he evil? Or is the person who knowingly and calculatingly perform these acts more evil. I personally do not categorise the first person as evil. He just has a problem. But the second....

So we have a tested, working hypothesis where we can see premeditation. Is that enough? Can we now say that person, that organisation is evil?

In everyday life we have to make judgement calls. Just like in chess. Sometimes we cannot wait for the proof. The "evil" person knows how to hide that. Do you wait for the proof that someone is killing off the spirit of your child? If you do that, what would that proof look like?


I said here that the spirit is important. I also said that without it the mind is easily confused. Let us explore a little deeper. A reminder here.

At the same conference I mentioned below, I noticed that the coaches from the same company were spread around the conference room. Some were expats working in Malaysia and some were locals. When we were served with extra materials, I noticed that the Malaysians coaches were required to kneel and give us the material with both hands and the expats didnt. So I asked why. The explanation was that it was the Malaysian culture to kneel. Hmmmmmmm.... Something doesnt ring true.

At tournaments in Perak, I noticed that parents just took verbal abuse on them and their kids. Happily it doesnt happen in KL. There the parents will fight.

So why the contrast? Same game. Question. How many Perak players do you see in National tournaments? And if they come how do most of them behave?

The spirit is strong. It takes alot to kill it off. Usually its chipped away slowly. When it is gone, you can see it in their eyes. The light is gone.

The killing of the spirit starts when you first ignore a child in distress, when you accept an insult or an untruth about you. When your achievements are undervalued.

And it strengthens everytime you celebrate an act of courage, perform an act of courage.

Without the spirit, you start to accept the rationalisations for the abuse. The twisting of logic. We need to preserve the spirit. That is the core from where we fight back. Where we say we are as good as anyone out there. That we can be GM or Super duper GM if we choose to; if we are willing to pay the price.

If the spirit dies, its lifelong. It affects every facet of your being. If you are not careful, you start to believe the lies, to accept the untruths. You start to rationalise for them. So claim it back if you have lost it somewhere along the way. It's not totally gone. It's still there. The spirit is strong.

Emotions-the tool

Emotions can be a powerful tool. There are schools of thought that deliberately suppresses emotions or say that emotions is a bad thing. "Dont be emotional, they say". But in my mind, what they are doing is killing empathy and sympathy.

Look at it this way, emotions are there for a reason, every emotion. And there is a purpose for it. Read this. And remember what I said about paradox and the big picture.

It's Both/And. We need good thinking skills and emotions. Dont throw one out. It's a question of ordering; of process. Read here.

Use this analogy. The mind and the spirit is the rider and the body ergo the emotions is the horse. The training is to ensure that the rider rides the horse and not the other way round. But you need all, mind, body and spirit or you are crippled.

Observe this. In a conference I witnessed an event surrounding a noble lady who tried an enterprise. We had an American speaker and he asked the lady to explain how the enterprise failed. And he made fun of her in front of 300 delegates. What do you think should have been the appropriate response? She pretended it was a joke and laughed along. It was a joke. She was the joke.

If you are emotionally damaged, you cant see that. A tool of counselling is to match the event with the appropriate emotions. The counsellor can see the extent of the damage with the inappropriateness of the response.

You need your emotions intact to recognise the "hidden" malice in your surroundings. I remarked in an earlier posting of some officials in PICA. I said they spent as much time honing underhanded tricks as I spent studying chess. They come in many disguises nowadays. If you are trained to be aware you will "see" them. There is something off about them. Their true emotions will surface eventually. Can you see how this tool may work in other chess settings?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Greg Lau wins for Malaysia

I take it back. Maybe he has some steel in him afterall. Read here.

The healthy mind

The contortions of the mind knows no limits. The tools of obfuscation, semantics etc. are infinite. So much so that even whether Clinton had sex with Lewinsky can be argued to ridiculous levels. The human mind has this amazing capacity to fool itself. Ever seen an episode of American Idol? Is it possible that some of them dont know they cant sing? In fact some evidence point to the fact that the more intelligent the mind, the faster and the better it can trap itself.

So where to now? We cannot trust the mind. And we dont want to fool ourselves. So what is the use of mental coaching? How can it work?

My solution is to tie the mind to the spirit. Read here.

Follow the spirit of the law, the spirit of competition, ergo use your conscience. The human spirit is important. There are too many lies and distortions and it is difficult to see the truth. Read here.

Observe around you. If the spirit is damaged, the mind is very easily deceived.

In my model, I use another tool. I use our emotions. If we are able to identify and express the entire spectrum of our emotions, this can now become a tool to sensing our environment. If you are not too emotionally damaged you are also able to sense the emotions of another. I have found this useful during the days I negotiated for a living. I can sense hostility, confusion etc. when entering a new environment.

When I came up with this model, I realised that our best chance is with our kids. Before the damage to the spirit or emotions are too deep. It is not too late for the adults but it is much more difficult. Much more.

Kids can take to the coaching model fast but for many adults we need a lot of counselling to dig ourselves out of the quagmire. Read here and here.

The obvious answer

When we are thinking instinctively, our fight or flight response kicks in. And as I have argued fear closes the mind to learning. Our aim is of course to win. And so we try to win every argument, win every battle, every game and every tournament. The ego kicks in. The consequence of that is that we lose in the long run. A Pyrrhic victory. Why? To win, you have to learn, to open your mind, to experiment ie to lose some battles, to join the dots. When you have learned enough, the consequence of that, is you win. Is that obvious or not so obvious?

Joining the dots

Perhaps one of the most difficult thing in our lives is to continuously join the dots. Why? Every dot joined is an invitation to change. And so we see many stuck people.

But the ability to embrace change is the essence of chess.

Look at it this way. Debono talked about lateral thinking. To stop digging a hole a few miles deep but to move laterally and dig a hole a short distance away for that is where the oil is. What he didnt explain was the psychological problems associated with that manoeuvre.

Let me use a few examples here.

Have you ever seen a Sunday Christian who is so pious in church and then go out and be a totally ruthless businessman?

I once had a conversation with a civil servant on why he appointed a foreign consultant when the locals had better knowledge of the conditions surrounding the job? His answer was that they can now shift the responsibility. If he had joined the dot of the cost to our Nation, he would not have been able to justify that decision in his head. So he compartmentalised.

If you are able to embrace the other 3 components of chess, join the dots, then you will need to change your approach. Can you now see the fierce struggle to defend technical? But is the answer there?

So it is not easy to move laterally. Thinking is not only technical. Thinking is much much bigger than that.

And so resistance is the instinctive response. It signals danger. Here.

The typical response, unless trained otherwise, is to deny, obfuscate etc. What the mind will do is to find one aspect that they do not agree with and attack it, thinking and deluding the self into believing that if that point is won, they can then discard everything else.

Now lets look at chess again. It's a discourse between 2 minds. I give an argument and then you give yours. At a high level the ideas become more and more sophisticated. And so the untrained mind either disassembles or it goes into denial to cope. And they then cannot see the obvious.

And remember this also. Join this dot. If you are operating on instinct ie fight or flight, your mind is closed down or its on narrow focus mode. Look carefully. Both fight and flight are fear responses. (It could be that seeing the big picture is the appropriate response at the time.)

But there is no "danger". The "danger" only exists in your mind. And the defender of those fears is the ego. The ego. I repeat, the ego. Think on this.

And so there is no learning. You cant see. To learn you have to join the dots. And in chess, the faster you can do this; as the argument heats up, and the less resistance you have in your mind, the better a player you will be. And the less tired you become during play.

This phenomenon was first noticed by me in negotiations especially when the numbers became larger and larger. I then formulated a body of work called "The Sentic Negotiator" and gave talks on it. I later expanded on it in my inner child work. Here. So you see, chess is a good training tool. If taught properly you learn to think. So join the dots. It's not easy but it works. An aside: That is actually what thinking with integrity really means. Integrated.

The consequence of not joining the dots is to condemn ourselves to making the same mistakes over and over again. And that is not chess.

Goal setting- Chess community

First part here.

Goal setting is an expression of hope. It's an expression of belief. Clear goals expresses that. The converse; a fudged goal is an expression of lost hope. In goal setting a lofty goal is not an impediment and so the bigger the goal the better. It's having unambitious goals that is the danger. The reason for this, is that, at the outset of any goal there are 2 unknowns ie the unknown unknowns and the known unknows. And these are only known when you set out on your journey. When you take the first and subsequent steps. It's being able to observe, consider and synthesize experience that brings the benefit. And you adjust your mental model accordingly and so become enriched.

But as I said, Malaysian chess has danced in the same spot for many mnay years. Some even argue we have gone backwards. So negativity rules the day. To break this we need a goal, we need a small success along that goal. If that can happen we will find a new release of energy. Look here.

So before we go forward, let us examine what has not worked. Look here.

To move forward we have to learn from our past. What was tried for Asean is actually a sad old story. Patronage does not work. It supports weak, self promoting individuals and engenders helplessness. So looking for another Patron will only prolong our agony. Looking towards MCF does not work. The good, the bad and the ugly are locked in. See here.

So what can we do? The chess community is so diverse. It seems helpless. So why dont we just sponsor them again and hope for the best?

Lets look at this idea. Why not? All else has been tried. Have you ever heard the saying that we deserve the leaders we have? What does this mean? What this means to me is that if we just focus on ourselves and like minded people we can make a difference. How does this work? The answer is awareness. By joining the dots, difficult as it is. When we change the leaders will have no choice but to change. All we have to do is to reject bad tournaments, reject bad proposals, increase awareness of what doesnt work. Keep doing this. Dont be afraid. Take back the power that you have given to them. For without your fear they have none. Remember this. Actually it is all up to you individually. But when enough of us are more aware, change will come.

So if the goal is that first GM for Malaysia, this is the way to achieve it. All else does not work. It's been tried for 30 years and it has caused the convoluted reasoning that we see today (as they desperately try to justify and rationalise away the many years of failure). So stop that. Just change yourself and whats around you. Thats enough. That is the goal. And I believe this goal is achievable because the results lies solely in your hands.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goal setting

Actually there is a good reason why our chess world is negative. Why there is so much drama and finger pointing. It's a natural reaction. It's the reaction to failure. So everyone is only looking after number one. Cari makan.

I propose that the solution is success. Now consider this. Maybe, just maybe we can produce success, produce a GM. We have seen Nichol do it, we just recently saw Lee Chong Wei do it. It's not in chess, but it does demonstrate that it can be done. That a Malaysian can be a world beater. Can you see that possibility? This is important. Without this belief, we cannot go to the next step. Without this belief you cannot last the journey.

Now let us try to understand what goal setting really is and isnt. There are 2 types of goals we will look at. One for the individual and one for us as a chess fraternity.

For the individual.

Let me start with a couple of cases. One was a boy who told me that he wants to be NM. I told him that was not a good goal. Why? Because it is subjective. It is dependent on who is going to be present at the tournament. I said it is better to use Fide rating as a measure. If the NM title comes along the way it comes. You need good interim yardsticks. Another small little goal. Small steps. But important steps because these steps build character. It tells you who you are. Where you are strong and where you are weak. It's a journey of self discovery.

Allow me to go back to my comments about Mas. In that scenario his results in all probability would not have affected the teams results overall. But he would have found out alot about himself if he had fought all the way. He would have learnt a little more about what it takes to beat a GM, a super GM. He would have filed that information in his head. He would have learned more on where he needs to improve. He may or may not make GM but he would have taken away with him a valuable life lesson. He would have discovered his limits, what price he is willing to pay and this would have helped him life long. And strangely he would have been content with that. Why? Because he gave it his all. That is something we can live with. There is no shame. And no question remaining in his mind of what if?

Now do you see why it is important to have that belief? You can tell much from looking at the goals set. The result is not all that important. It's what you learned from the result; its the reason behind your decisions that are important. Question. Was the decision made because it was one for the team or was it made because of a failure in courage?

So it doesnt really matter if your goal is big. Like, to be GM, super duper GM... It's the little molehills that you climb along the way that tells you who you are. It's the journey.

For with each little success, you find energy to go further. The energy comes as you move along. With each step you unblock more of your stuck energy. With each molehill. But you must try your best or it doesnt work. And you must not succumb to excuses.

A conversation

I had a conversation this weekend. I was asked by a friend why do I write this blog? She said that the Malaysian chess fraternity has not reached the level of maturity to understand it yet. This opinion has been mirrored by a few others.

So let me put it this way. In the corporate world, when we assign a task or a responsibility we ensure that the person has the required knowledge and resources to undertake it.

And so it's the same here. To rush to an opinion that the chess fraternity is negative and immature is in my mind premature. Maybe they have not been given the correct tools, resources or knowledge yet.

Besides if they are immature then this is the opportunity for them to mature; if they can identify with what has been written then maybe this can urge them to do something about it. If they are already doing something then maybe this blog will allow them to synergise with others that want the same direction.

That is my hope anyway.

A confession

I have a confession to make. I do not enjoy counselling. There are few successes and it's a very slow process. Most times you are engaging in circular arguments. You present information over and over again but the uptake is slow, if ever. It requires infinite patience and meticulous care in tracing the origins of the problem. And very very often it is multi layered. And so I usually find myself drained and exhausted after a session. It's like looking for that needle in the haystack, finding clues like a detective. So I only do it now when it is necessary and only for a select few. I dont have more energy to give.

But coaching is different. In healthy minds there is little resistance. The uptake is super quick. Sometimes I say "A" and they quickly draw inferences, have insights and some can even come to "Z". :)

Invigorating. Fun. A release of energy, a build up of energy. Consonance.

That is what I saw in our young chess players. I have learnt much from them in these 7 years. And I saw they all had it. All races. And it uplifted my spirit.

But over time, I saw the fire dimming. And I asked why? Why arent they getting stronger with more knowledge? And so now I say something and I also pose this question to you.

To grow you need to own your own statements.

Because that means you own your own thinking. This is an expression of confidence. It shows you dare to think and you dare to put it out there. Think on this. Chess is a game where your thinking is on display. So if you have the courage to do this, you'll also have the courage to face your fears. The failure to do this is shown up by excuses ie self sabotage. Think on this. Show us what you have. Dont hide. I promise you that if you can do that you will be a stronger chess player.

It takes teamwork to produce champions

Jimmy's take. Read here.

I wrote here that I think we have a future. Like anything else in life we need all the right ingredients to make that cake. We have all the ingredients. But some are working their hearts out and others are not fulfilling their responsibility. We need to all to do our part or this future wont come. Read here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Intuition and instinct

Rationality brought up a very good point. Read here.

I was thinking the same thing when I coined the term "imagined fear" in the "inner child" work. I believe that instinct; the fight or flight response; the law of the jungle argument is inappropriate in the mastery of chess. If you look carefully, you will see I have argued that no one is coming at you with a knife, no lions waiting to devour you. In a healthy competition of chess all you have is imagined fears that come from your mind. And the ego is the guardian of imagined fears.

Now I believe that intuition is the correct tool for chess. Intuition works this way. You can only be intuitive when you have knowledge. It cannot come from a vacuum. It's a sudden joining of the dots, a sudden epiphany. And epiphanies only come when the mind is still. Thank you rationality for bringing this up.

Note: And since it is not easy to "undo" instinct, it requires training.

Further Counselling vs Coaching

I stated that when we can use the coaching model, we can find that GM. Here.

Let me try to explain why? The counselling model can also be characterised by helping the counseled face their imagined fears. For more information read here. I mentioned that this is a slow process. This is because of the defences mounted by the mind. This was first described by Freud. The defences are denial, repression, confabulation etc. The defences mounted are formidable and often not easily identified or resolved. You can see amazing contortions of the mind even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

So we can only begin the coaching model when the excuses have ended, when the person is able to face reality without damaging the spirit. Read what I said about the healthy learning mind here. And here.

Here I want to add a caution. The genuine cases are not aware of their defences. We also have other cases where the mentioned defences are mounted but consciously. Here we are going into the realm of con men who use their understanding of psychology to deceive. But that is not the purview here.

I have noticed that our chess community also have signs of these symptoms. We are extremely resistant to change. Here.

Could I be right? Can that be the answer to the mystery of the missing GM? Is that why we are still repeating the same mistakes over and over again? For how many more years? I hope you wont shoot the messenger. Do consider this. What have you got to lose? Do you want that GM? And all else we can achieve and learn along the journey.

A good way forward to that coaching model is to stop instilling fear in our children.

The mystery of the missing GM

I am currently reading a book written by a neurologist on the still relatively unchartered landscape of the human mind (by Sandra Blakeslee and VS Ramachandran called "Phantoms in the brain").

In this article I wrote about the mystery of chess; the mystery of the 64 squares. What I was trying to say but space not permitting is that there is no real mystery at all. The great mystery is why we only look at the technical?

If you can join the dots and acknowledge that there are 4 components to chess. Here. If you can see that chess has only a few variables when it is compared to the variables of the factors that affect human thinking, you will see very apparently that technical is only a small part of the picture.

The mystery of the missing GM is easily solved. Many Countries have done it. All you have to do is to look at the other components. The great mystery is why so many people in our chess world cannot see that. I will hazard a guess in my next posting.

Another question for the technical analysts

Was called away. So while I try to catch up, I would like to pose this question. Here is Jimmy's analysis of Mok's game here.

Now in this scenario, can we say that Mok probably know the technicalities involved in resolving this end game problem? Say if he was given it as a puzzle while he is having coffee at home?

I want to now invite the readers to participate. In any one tournament, how many lost games would you attribute to a lack of technical knowledge? What I mean is that you do not have the knowledge to solve the problem. And how many games would you attribute to a "slip of the mind"? Be honest now. No one can see your thoughts apart from yourself.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A 2200 beats a 2600

Jimmy covers it here.

2200 is his technical strength. How do we measure his mental fighting strength?

ps: I like Jimmy's commentaries. He shows what is going on in the mind of our players. A good sign of mental strength is when you can see your own game like an expert commentator.

pps: A good partial definition of mental coaching is the training to enable you to access more of your technical knowledge under greater and greater pressure.

Pressure-The self talk

We are constantly talking to ourselves. So what we are saying in our head is either helping to reduce the pressure or increasing it. This is important for this is the only thing totally in our control. The external pressures are by and large not.

So if you have a short fuse, the pressure racks up; if you are negative the pressure goes up; if you are not sufficiently prepared, doubts creep in; if you have unrealistic expectations, you are beating yourself up. Can you see that? So there are many factors to preparing the mental warrior. Other than technical.

If the preparation is enough what you will achieve is a reduction of chatter in the mind. See here.

And when the mind is quieter, you will begin to see into the mind of the other. You will begin to "hear" their thoughts. This is something many bridge players achieve. For without the noise in your mind, you'll see much more.

Now go back to our games with England and Lithuania. Imagine yourself in our players shoes. What do you think is the decibel level in their minds? Can you train this away? The answer is yes.

At a certain decibel the mind disassembles.

Pressure of the internal variety

Pressure can come from both external and internal sources. The external factors come from fixed tournaments, unhealthy competition where the outcome is based on who you have jacked up or not and not based on any understanding of chess. And so that is not the purview here.

Let me tell you a story. There was one tournament shortly after Mark became U12 Champion in Perak. As we were heading to the tournament I noticed Mark was wracked in fear. Now the tournament organiser is a known anti Mark person and responsible for many unscrupulous acts. The then U15 champion was also at the tournament and he was a player who consistently beats Mark.

I felt that given his state of mind it was better to turn back and spend our time identifying where the fears were coming from. And so we did. You see when the fear is amorphous, without form, it cannot be handled. We first need to give the fear a name and then we need to find the tools to deal with it.

And so we identified the fears. The first was the playing style of the U15 champion. He plays a very patient noncomittal game. And Mark didnt like those games. And so we took note of that. The other problem was ego. And so we talked about how that would increase his own internal pressure. We talked about the nature of chess. That it is a game played moment to moment. And that focus and concentration is important. Worrying about winning or losing is not going to help. Just one more thing to think about. And not only that, it is unnecessary and did not contribute to him winning. So we gave his fears a name and we developed tools to manage it. We also developed understanding of the nature of the game.

As for the organiser, I told him this. I told him that was not his responsibility. His job is to play on the board. Handling the organiser is my job. I will handle it. And so I took that load off him. Otherwise he would not have been able to carry so much and at such a tender age. Otherwise he may have quit.

Shock factor, the psychological attack

Nigel Short says that the sacrifce need not be sound. It's role is to confuse and to dazzle the opponent. How does it work?

Before we look deeper into that, lets look at the learning mind. The healthy learning mind is able to first evaluate without bias. Without taking out parts that he doesnt like to see or adding past irrelevant and unproven conclusions ie without fear or favour.

Then in a moving picture like the game of chess, the mind is able to process new information without resistance. When the evidence points in a certain direction, the mind is able to process the relevant information and form new strategies and direction. That is a process of change.

But to process information without resistance, this mind must also be used to a high degree of uncertainty. Of suspending preconclusions and be able to continually assess. Uncertainty and change is difficult and comes with feelings of ill ease if you are unused to it.

Now this forms the basis of resistance in the mind. The psychological attack relies on these factors to succeed. Increase the pace of change and the untrained mind cannot keep up and goes into shock.

Note: The psychological attack is on the person outside the board. That is so that it works on confusing the picture on the board. This is important. Technical knowledge is now suspended. The player is in shock and all knowledge irretrievable to the mind.

Now go back and look at the other games from the English match. I will write a little more on our draw with Lithuania in a bit.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The last push

When I was doing weights in a gym, I was told by my trainers that the most benefit is gained from the last push. That means when you feel that you have already given your all and feel you cannot go on anymore, you are asked to do just one more.

Is there a parallel here? I know Sawada (bridge player mentioned in "when the mind is still" post) trains her Japanese team like that. Has there ever been a strong player in chess history that has lost to a much weaker player? Say 300 points difference. Maybe it was Mas's day to make history. Now we'll never know.

Where to now for Malaysian chess?

Contrary to many nay sayers, I believe that we have a future. Let me offer my perspective. Look at the blogs, Firey Rook brings us updates on many International events, Gilocatur takes pain to give us a rounded view of what is happening in Olympiad, Jimmy and Rationality gives of their expert opinions. Plus an anon or two. Hard to tell. They all look the same. It takes time and effort to write a blog. These guys care. We may not all agree but let there be no dispute about their love for the game. Many people are doing and offering what they can. Not forgetting Andrew Ooi of gilachess repute and all the other bloggers not mentioned. Thank you Andrew for your technical help.

Look at the quality of many of our tournaments. The Hamid/Najib team have done a great job. Professionals. Of course there are many others. The bad ones are slowly becoming obsolete.

Look at our parents. A group of them have decided to travel on their own to Greece and rejecting MCF's offer. One even arranged just for herself. Something happened at Asean. In Subic Bay, the Malaysian contingent was asked to stay in the bus when we arrived at our Hotel as we were to be given other places to stay and the contingent split. Adzlin went down with her sleeves rolled up and fought with the organisers. Finally the entire contingent got to stay together just opposite the playing hall. She has set a standard for our officials. Fight for our players or dont bother to go.

So after the Beijing fiasco over living arrangements, this is what the parents are saying. Do a good job or we find our own way. We are not helpless. Thats a good sign, no?

So we have good tournaments and good organisers, we have bloggers that can tell you which tournaments are good and which are fixed. We have our old guards sharing of their expertise. MCF now cannot do as they want as in the old days. Their negative actions and non action is rapidly exposed.

What else do we need? A good development program. Here we are lacking. I see Ziaur but I am not impressed with Najib here. More thought need to be placed here and we will have a much better run into the future.

The writing is on the wall for MCF. I hope they can read.

Just a little more tweaking and maybe....maybe. You can do your part too. Dont support fixed tournaments.

So we are likely to survive post Dato Tan if we keep this up. Thank you for your time.

Question to the technical analysts

If Mas had played Qe3 on his last move before accepting draw, would it have made a difference?

Chess is a game.....

That comprises 4 components. The components can vary in order of importance according to circumstances but there are 4 components nonetheless. The first is understanding yourself, the second is understanding your opponent, the third is the board and finally we have the clock.

You cannot reach the top if you drop one component. If we can see this, if we can accept this, if we can join the dots, we have a future.

An exercise. Under what conditions will one component overtake another? Try as many scenarios as possible.

Self sabotage

I said its about raising our awareness. That we have to bring up our negative emotions/thinking from the subconscious to the conscious. The reason for that is when it's buried in the subconscious we have no chance of ordering it. It lurks in the dark and attacks us without warning. That is why denial is so destructive.

But in order to raise it to the conscious we must learn to live with negative feelings. Allowing it space to express itself so that we recognise it. There are tools to deal with it once it is recognised and defined.

There are so many examples I can give of matches that I have witnessed where our players sabotage themselves. In fact that is much of the training I give to Mark. To recognise those signals in himself and others.

Consider this. With primarily that training, he has got to the stage of a National Junior. The sum of Marks technical training was the short stint with Ziaur prior to Asean. I am curious to see how he would perform when his technical is stronger.

You can do it too. A good way to begin this process is to look for inappropriate responses to events in yourself and others. Look at my statement in 2 cents worth and the angry and not so angry responses. Why do you think that is? Consider it deeply. And begin your journey to more awareness and a stronger chess career.

More comments here.

An analysis of the game under debate. Here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My 3 cents worth-Olympiad

When I say our thinking deteriorates on increased pressure, what I am talking about is self sabotage. A friend of mine had a chat with me on google and she asked how can we stop that? Not easy. In the main its a question of raising that tendency from the subconscious to the conscious. That is awareness. Many times we sabotage our own chances for success. Have you seen that in your game?

Today we play Hong Kong. Lets see if that happens to our team. Then go back to the game with England. Did it happen there too?

ps: Maybe not. Hong Kong could be too weak to pile on the pressure. But lets see all the same. Cant find the live feed but Jimmy is covering it.

For wider coverage go here.

To my anonymous commentators

There is merit in any sort of comments even anonymous. Let me tell you a story.

During my time at the HIV hospice, I tried an experiment in my group sessions once a week. I told the boys that during my group sessions they can say whatever they want, criticise whoever they want, including me, shout or walk out of the sessions. But I carefully placed caveats that all must agree to. The rules of engagement. They were these. No violence, no destruction of property. And if anyone got out of control the other boys were to restrain him. Restrain not bash him up. They all agreed to the terms and during the 6 sessions or so, no one broke the rules.

And we had lively sessions when it got going. And in the interim period I noticed a marked change in many of them. Boys that never smiled before were cracking jokes. The tension in the center was visibly lower. They had someone to listen to them. It made a difference.

Of course all good things must come to an end. They got carried away. They questioned the cook why the food was so bad and it got to the ears of management. I was hauled up and the group sessions ended. Incidentally, the sessions were approved by management prior to its commencement so it wasnt a rogue session.

The freedom to express is important. There is healing there. But the next step is also important. I have hit a nerve. You are angry and so you react. That is good. That means you still have fire in you. Now try this. Calm your mind down. Consider all the evidence again. Take your time and give yourself permission to change your mind.

Now if you can do this faster and faster and within the time frame before your next move on the chess board, before the time runs out, you will be a stronger chess player. I promise you this.

You have fire. Now use it for your own good. It's much worse when the fire is out. Another very good step is to own your statements. Use your name. Be proud of it.

DeBono and imagined fears

When Debono was all the rage, I bought his books. Lateral thinking. The new way forward. But then I realised this. He doesnt talk about emotions. His premise is that its a technical matter. Teach the techniques and voila we have thinking people. And so when I wrote my work, yes, as far as I know, I came up with the term imagined fears and attempted to expound on it, I included emotions and its effects on thinking. Read here.

A simple father from Ipoh with time on his hands. Why not? Put my thinking for all to see. It's the same with chess isnt it? The same with bridge. All can see your thinking. Afterall I can only be proven wrong. No big deal.

But I got enquiries from the Veterans Association of America. They wanted to know how my work can be applied to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome cases. A psychologist sponsored my work and a few other people actually read it.

Why are we so afraid? It's only the ego. Imagined fears. Why do we sit down and say there is nothing we can do? Why only complain? Do something. Anything. Then we show our kids we are not helpless and one day we can take on the English in chess on a more level playing field. But first trust yourself.

Reclaiming chess

On the larger canvass, it does seem that we are pretty helpless. But in chess I think there is a possibility for change. In chess we are more used to competition. We can see that healthy competition is the way to go if we are ever to compete in the International arena. That is if we care to look, join the dots.

Many things have been tried by concerned parents and players. Getting angry, trying to explain how healthy competition is good for all, pointing to the evidence that chess is multi racial and we see excellence in all, joining the Associations to try to bring change from within and sponsoring events to have a voice. I have tried them all.

Chess is a passionate sport and populated by thinkers. We need that passion or nothing can change. Question is, do you love chess enough to lift a finger? All the above has been tried many many times by many many different people but nothing has worked. So what can we do?

I think there is one more thing we can do. But in order for it to work we need the help of every member of this community. The bloggers can help to expose the unfair tournaments and the players can help by not attending. It is a simple solution. And it starts with you. Dont try to convince others. Just do it yourself. It's enough. Vote with your pocket. No need to be angry or argue. It's a waste of energy.

Try this as an individual decision and things will change.

Look at this saying. "When the student is ready, the master will come". I read it as when you are ready to do something, change will come.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My 2 cents worth-Olympiad

I saw part of the game with Mark with him giving me a running commentary based on his understanding. It seems to me that Mas had winning opportunities and he should have fought on for the win. My reasoning goes like this. If we are more than likely to lose to a vastly superior team, then the strategy should be to go all out. Why not? We have nothing to lose.

Caution may be good if we have a good chance of winning and we dont want to bungle on a less than well thought out move and let the team down.

But to play to win racks up our internal pressure. I think that is what the English players were counting on too. Our thinking deteriorates rapidly on increased pressure. They read us well.

Jimmy has given his evaluation too. Go here.


Live coverage here.

First class infrastructure. Next step. Content.

Chess the last bastion?

Or are we moulding it into this? Read here.

What happens if chess goes that way too? Or can it not?

Counselling vs Coaching model

Sometime back I was invited to work at a HIV hospice as a staff Counsellor. I recall my mental exhaustion after every session as I struggled to understand where I can help to anchor the inmates amidst all the pain and suffering in their lives. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. A pronounced observation was their almost total inability to join the dots, to see the larger picture. A compartmentalised life which enabled them to perform unthinking acts.

I was then offered a place to do a Performance Coaching program by UNDP(United Nations Development Program). The idea was to implement this in the HIV work. So I had the 2 models to compare and contrast. You see, the coaching model is based on results; we artificially increase the pressure in order to promote excellence. But there is one big factor. The coachee must on the whole be ready to take increased pressure willingly, understanding that it is for their own good. And do it without breaking down. A partnership.

So I found the model totally inappropriate for people with HIV. The Counseling model is for damaged people. In this model we cannot increase the pressure. We allow people to come to their own decisions in their own time. It's a very slow process.

With this knowledge I got involved in chess. It's 7 years now. And I observed what was happening to our kids. To be fair it is a lot worse in Perak than in KL. But it is only in degrees. I have first hand knowledge with my own son, what happens to the kids in a hostile environment. Hostility from parents or officials or both.

Consider this. If we are teaching our kids the proper way, shouldnt they be getting stronger with new knowledge? Why are they getting weaker especially after U12?

I found that I spent most of my time undoing the damage to Mark. The abuse in Perak was very damaging. Only very recently have I increased the pressure. And only slightly. I believe to have done so earlier would have damaged him further.

So I am not that concerned about the technical. Let me offer another reason. I have a client now in my online business. She is 78 years old. A yoga teacher and new to the internet. She sat down and followed our instructions. She struggled and experimented on her own. Amazing fighting spirit. All things equal I would pit her against any of our National Juniors including Mark. :)

Look at this also. In any profession all are given the necessary technical training but not all make it to the top of their profession. That takes something else.

And so you can see I am clear in my definitions. I use the term trainers and coaches. Trainers teach the technical. They dont see the larger picture yet. Coaches train the players to excel.

But while in theory the coaching model looks better on the surface, as far as I can see, we may need more of the counselling methodology in Malaysia for the moment. We are still inflicting too much damage on our kids. We need to raise this awareness before we can fully use the Coaching model. Remember I said in the Coaching model we artificially increase the pressure in order to simulate reality. Sometimes even more pressure than reality. How many of our kids are ready for that? And without harming their spirit mind you.

When we as a community is ready for the Coaching model, we will see that GM. Not one but many. But first we need to be aware of preserving their spirit. If that is gone. All is gone. No matter how much technical we pump into them. On the other hand, if the spirit is nurtured, they have all their lives to increase their technical knowledge. What is the hurry? Maybe a few are ready now, I'm not sure. But dont risk damaging them if you are not sure. Damaging their spirit is life long.

See Idiots guide here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reminder for UTP

There are few tournaments in Perak I would recommend. But the National rapids at UTP is one of them. Mainly because of Uztaz Rahman. A man I know to be a straight arrow. In all the time I have known him, no hanky panky. Check it out here in Firey rooks blog.

The olympiad

The bloggers have started coverage of the Malaysian team. So far I have noticed Jimmy and gilocatur covering the event. Do check it out on the RHS of this blog.

The wise men

And all the wise men in MCF sat down and looked at the COS provisions. And they said this is good. They smiled and pat each other on the back. They said to each other, "you see, this means we can never be removed". And so the wise men locked themselves in; they never have to listen to another parent, another sponsor, in fact anybody except Dato Tan again. Well done.

And so it became a closed shop, they locked in the good, the bad and the ugly. OK, ok....So there are more ugly, some bad and a few good. But never mind. They are free now.

But as time went by, they found that the criticisms would not stop. That is the nature of chess. Drive one parent away and another one takes its place. They need the players to keep up the pretence. But now when they do decide that maybe it not so much fun being attacked all the time and maybe its time to do something good just for a change. They cant. Why? Too many ugly people. And they are all locked in. Now how?

And now even Dato says he has hung up his hat for 2 years!! Arrrrrgh!

Ah, but for the decisions of wise men.

Lets face facts

I have been asked a few times where do I stand on Hamids bid for the Secretary post in Fide. I have kept silent on this issue but I think I need to speak up. Lets look at the evidence. The Hamid/Najib team have done well at Datmo. We must give them that. There was a lot of skill displayed there. Skills we can all be proud of. But we also have to weigh that against the evidence of the tournaments that Hamid supported in Perak. The first of the series was evidenced by a very flawed cross table. When I pointed that out it was quickly removed. Maybe they thought no one would check. I also have to weigh it against the fact that my unconstitutional removal from PICA is very probably orchestrated by Hamid. He and Greg were the only ones present during the meeting where Dato asked me to organise the event. But that is also not so damning. I am not that important in the larger picture. But then I also remember that during Hamids time, no accounts were forthcoming from MCF. That culture is replicated in Perak. Hmmmmmmm

And from what I can see of Ignatius, there is more evidence that he can bring concrete results. We are talking of world level here. They will set the tone for everyone else. So my answer is this. Under Dato's tutelage, Hamid did not learn how to administer and grow an organisation. But he has learned how to run Dato's tournaments well.

So on balance I dont think he has the skill sets yet for a larger arena. Maybe he needs to come back here and do a good job with the things he missed out before he tries to take on more.

Personally I like the man. But he is not ready yet although I would not say that I support Ignatius either. I just do not know enough about the man.

First learn how to think well

Then learn to think well fast. Look very very carefully. It takes more than the technical. An example I used before was Lim Zhuo Ren. I believe after his very near win at National Close 2 years back, that he would have absorbed some phychological damage. And that would have needed to be resolved before we throw him back into high pressure competition again. Otherwise he will only cement that damage. The case with Mark is also like that. To this day, the damage he suffered at the hands of the Perak officials is still there. That is why at a certain level of competition it still comes back up. Remember I said our memory recall is associated with our experience? Think about it. What happens when you suddenly hear an old song? Smell a familiar favorite dish, or remember an old abuse. (And this becomes compounded over time). So the environment is important. You either give the kids good memories associated with competition or you risk damaging them. At the very least you can try to minimise the damage. I agree. Some of the work needs to be done by them too. When they are old enough, when they know enough. Not when they are saplings. So join the dots. I know many will not because they too were part of the system that brought about this damage to our kids, our players. It's OK. Maybe then you did not know. But now that you do can you change?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post Dato Tan, a blessing in disguise?

It may be. I recall with some distaste my interaction with MCF and CS solution over First GM's sponsorship of Asean training. Let me recount again so we dont easily forget.

Adzlin and I wanted to meet with Najib to engage Ziaur and he said he was busy and wanted us to go to Datcc instead. He finally conceded to meeting us at Bangsar shopping complex. At the training, he was rude and attempted to take over the training. The first thing he said to me was that he didnt photostat the books I requested but he photostated the books for the others. He charged me for project management which he didnt provide. I paid him the full amount he requested because as far as I am concerned it is not going to hurt us financially as we both have other independent incomes. He even had the cheek to tell me that he would confront Adzlin if Tony Fernandes is not there in person when the delegation leaves from LCCT. And on return to KL he cancelled a meeting with us at the last minute even though we had called him a few minutes earlier to confirm. We wanted to discuss his billing.

Greg called up the parents behind our backs and told them to go to Beijing instead after agreeing to us sponsoring the Asean training. We ended up doing all the admin work as well as paying for the flag ceremony which was not our responsibility.

We sponsored Haslinda's air ticket as Chief of mission and she insulted us by giving delegates certs to other parents but not us. And I had volunteered my services as the mind coach for the contingent as well.

We were categorically told by Greg, that MCF does not need to discuss anything with us even though we sponsored the event when I asked for a postmortem on return to KL.

I was told by Haji Ibrahim that I was not to speak to Ignatius as First GM was their supplier. As far as I know we have not been paid a cent by MCF. In fact the converse was true.

Where do these people come from? Are they for real?

All in all I said to Adzlin after the event. I do not see why we should fund them, be overcharged, carry their work and be insulted at the same time. We do not need this. It is better to just look after our kids and I can write blogs.

I think these attitudes may come from the fact that they always have Dato Tan to bail them out. And so they have no respect for other sponsors. I hear that there may be some changes in DATCC as well. Rental may now be enforced or something to that effect.

However I still wish them well. I wish them enough adversity to help them grow up. I hope they can get future sponsors. I wish chess well but I will not get involved with them again as a sponsor unless we receive an apology for the bad behaviour and restitution for the overcharging. I dont owe them a living. Maybe they will now learn to earn for themselves rather than taking sponsors for granted.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What to change?

Read here.

I am wondering why so many of our officials and some of the vendors in our chess circle would rather face villification and criticism time and time again instead of improving and getting praise, trust and respect. It then occurred to me that maybe they have no idea of what to change. We have been immersed in that old culture of mediocrity for so long that they dont know any better. I hope that is the case because then this example may help. Afterall if we are to change we need to know what we are going to change into. So please allow me to share a little from my company emasters to see if it may be helpful.

Brief History

The company was formed on a Vision. A Vision that we will be paid for services based on the market value of our skill sets and not based on where we are from. At the onset we had a few challenges. We design soft intellectual products. That means that once we deliver our product it is gone in the sense we cannot take back a design. An internet company where our clients are primarily Americans. So our standards had to be world class and we also had to collect the money upfront as we cannot afford to chase after bad debt. This went against market norm as usually in design the clients pays after they have seen the designs. I hope this shows that nothing is impossible if we apply ourselves.

Some lessons in partnering

When we first started out we established some demonstrable marketing skill. We became the top 100,000 most visited site on the WWW. And we won some online International design competitions for designing business sites. But we needed more backend support to be commercially viable. We found our first partner from Australia who was technically strong and we worked together to improve our questionaires and improve our technical knowledge in order to put good products into the market. The key principle is win win. Each doing what they do best. But there also had to be trust as we could of course have taken the knowledge and not worked with them. And it proved a winning decision. Besides the obvious complimentary skills between us the underlying skill is judgement, learning who we can trust. How to share, give and take and how to communicate.

As the business grew we brought in more technical partners and we soon reached the stage where we needed our technical people to talk directly with the clients technical people to be more effective and efficient. Let me share our observations as we are copied on the communication. When there is a problem, we found no finger pointing. The problem is quickly identified and each fixed the parts they were responsible for. Professional conduct. Mutual respect.

I hope we can learn from this. No dramas. Shit happens. Hard work is not a problem. In fact it can be fun. It's the drama that is draining. It's all the finger pointing, excuses, denial that saps us of our energy. Totally unproductive and racks up costs. We can be like that too if we can change our attitudes. A good spin off to choosing good partners is that you are not wasting time unnecesarily, doing good work with happy clients and partners and still find the time to start your own blog like this.

Also read this. Here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Direction and unblocking

What happens when we have joined sufficient dots is the development of a Vision, a goal, a direction. We can only navigate when we have the big picture. We then begin the task of prioritising, unblocking our internal resistance to change. We can stop running like a chicken without its head. Stop being a house divided against itself.

Have you ever met someone who says they want to do something but just cant seem to get it done? They seem to be pulled in every direction. No priorities, no direction. Of course that is an extreme case. But you will find elements of it in our players too. That conflict, when we need focus.

Unblocking also means to change whatever it is that is preventing us from reaching that goal. I mean the change inside us, not in our surroundings. Dont wait for that to happen. It doesnt work. I mean develop that ability to take on adversity.

That also means to learn whatever we need to learn to finish the race. That drive. Could that be what we are missing? When we only look at the technical and keep our eyes there, arent we missing too much? Isnt that escapism? Too scared to join the dots and really look at what it takes. Could that be why we are still where we are? Now we are losing a patron. Is that a good thing? Can this be when we start to stand up for ourselves, look at ourself and fight for what we want. Or are we going to say, oh dear, the patron is gone and we are so helpless. Is that the spirit that gives birth to a GM?

Joining the dots

The first step to getting your own internal engine is by joining the dots. Sounds simple but it isnt really. It isnt when you have alot of baggage. Look here when I made a concerted attempt.

Remember the example of Sawada? When I talked of congruity of mind, body and spirit. And I said her mind was silent. Many studies have found that the mind is most creative when it is silent and they have suggested many many techniques.

I find the best way to stop the war in the mind is by just joining the dots. Continue to struggle to see the bigger picture.

Perhaps you can be convinced by considering the converse. Have you seen someone who's mind is at war with himself? What do you think is happening? How does this manifest in his daily life?

Yes. They start to compartmentalise. They start to deny evidence. They begin to selectively read, selectively hear even when the evidence is very very apparent. They cannot join the dots. To do so would be to admit something they do not want to see. It works for some but if you want your mind to work optimally, you need to do this work. Do think on this. There is alot here. Take your time but do consider this.

PS: Just found out that Warren Buffet plays Bridge.

Dato Tan stands down

Read here.

This is my 2 cents worth. I dont think we can find another Dato Tan. I think he is one in a million. I think that to get serious corporate sponsors we have to really look at our deliverables ie what are we giving back to the sponsors. Now that is a thing that will require MCF to make serious changes. That is the crux. That is what I have been saying to them. Dato may be the only person in Malaysia with the resources and who loves chess enough to give consistently and not ask anything in return. As things are going either Dato may have to come back before the 2 years is up or MCF changes, we change the way we do things, look at things. This may turn out to be a good thing. Time will tell.

2 ways to change

There are 2 ways to change. The first is when the pain of status quo is greater than the pain of change. This first scenario describes our chess scene currently. So many would rather suffer the humiliation of not being good, the abuse from doing shoddy work rather than change. In this scenario you can either increase the pressure till they change or wait for total collapse and then slowly pick up the pieces and start again. Think on this. This is important.

The other way is to instigate the pain of change before it becomes a disaster, before the pain of status quo is too big. At this point you have what I call an internal engine. An inner drive to excel. This is what we should be driving for. But we cant. Not so long as we are caught in the first scenario.

But wait! Did I say that you can pressure them to change? Hmmmmm, that doesnt really work does it? Not unless you want to spend your life trying to stop the stream with your hands. Spend a ton of energy to get one ounce of work. So what are we going to do now? Read Friday Reflections below and we'll talk some more.

Friday Reflections

Pay attention to the Road to Grand Isle. I'll write more on it later. Read here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Idiots guide on how to kill off the spirit of a child

Or an adult for that matter. Do use this as a quick reference if you ever find the need.

It's really quite simple. Any idiot can do it. Here are the rules.

1. Tell them they are stupid, even if they are not. Especially if they are not. Otherwise how are you going to look wise and all knowing?

2. Do not fully recognise their abilities. A better way is to get them to do something that is beyond their abilities.

3. Do not recognise their achievements. Find a way to understate it. Dont give it full weightage.

4. Tell them they are weak and dont show them how they can be strong. In fact better still make weakness a virtue.

5. Dont listen to them. That shows them they are not important. They'll soon get the message.

If you practice all these things diligently, at every chance, I guarantee you that over the years their spirit will slowly die.

But if you really are in a hurry, try threats. Frighten them. The more scared they are the faster the spirit will die. When they are frightened, they cant think. And that is always good. Thinking is linked to the spirit you know...No fighting spirit, weak thinking...get it? And vice versa. So that is an indirect way to the spirit. But its an effective way.

The good thing about this guide is that you dont have to be smart to use it. If you are smart, you wont need this guide, will you?

Another personal story.

I didnt do well in my MCE(SPM). In fact I did abysmally. Somehow I couldnt learn. And this was during a time when we had a good educational system with many dedicated and professional teachers. But they couldnt reach me. My mind rebelled. I needed to know the whys and the hows. I also needed to know the why nots. And they could only teach the rules of operation. So I flunked. Not their fault. They tried their best with what they had. And because they tried I thought I was stupid.

And this stupid boy was sent to London. There I met a student from Penang who was doing his PhD in law. A guy called KP Tan. He saw something in me and he spent many many hours teaching me how to reason, how to think, how to learn. Then I met a Pakistani lecturer in Economics and he took me to his night classes in Economics at University of London, I met a maths teacher from Greece who would meet up with me in the evenings to discuss philosophy. My physics teacher wrote me a testimonial and said I was a genius. I dont think that is well deserved but all the same that was what he thought.

How come? How did a dropout from Malaysia become something in the UK? What did they see and appreciate that the teachers in Malaysia didnt. They liked my questions. They excited my mind. They made learning interesting. They were interested in learning too. And they didnt talk down to me from their insecurities. And the boy blossomed. And now I am a man, a father and you have this blog. :)

When I got involved in Chess, I found many Chess players with that kind of mind. Questions, questions, questions. And over the years I see the light dimming. They dont question so much after a while. The fire is dying. So maybe its personal. Maybe I see myself in them. And now we dont even have the type of education system we had before anymore. What a tragedy.

The teachers then didnt know how to handle kids like me although they too produced smart people. But now we know that there are some very smart kids that need different approaches. We have that knowledge now. What are we going to do with those smart ones that cannot afford an overseas education or get a scholarship for one? The environment counts.

This is my concern

Look here.

It's more than just a GM. It's about basic thinking skills. It's about basic communication skills. It's about the dumbing of our kids. It's about what happens in our schools. And this is the end result of a rapidly failing education system. Our smartest and brightest need a safe haven. They are often the first casualty.

I know that is why I got my son involved in Chess. To compensate for what they are not providing in the education system. What about you?

Read this also.

What does a learning discussion look like?

I once wrote to a "student" a note on how to evaluate comprehensively. Its a process of active engagement. I cant find that note but will try to reproduce it here. You first need to read everything without addition or subtraction. Then you ask questions like, if this point is good, why and how is it good? If it is not correct, why and how is it not correct? Then we go one step further. We ask, how can this idea be improved? How is this relevant to me? Where does this idea stand in my order of priorities? etc. etc. You also need to see if it's overall good or overall bad. The specifics and the general.

But before we even begin the process of evaluation we ask questions to the author. Is this what you mean? Can you elaborate on what you are saying? I do not want to misunderstand. I want to engage my reasoning faculties.

This is called a learning discussion. There is no drama. No one is trying to put the other down. No one is trying to prove his superior intellect before everything is considered. There is no up down. All are learning. And the winning argument is adopted. Sometimes its a hybrid of two or more ideas. There is learning and there is growth. Think on this.

Very similar to a technical discussion on chess. Only different variables and on a bigger canvass.

Malaysia Day musing

I remember a statement an MCF official made to a parent after we came up with the Asean proposal. He said First GM was making MCF look bad. Now we came in with a higher value package at a lower price. So what can we do not to offend MCF again? Maybe next time we can come up with a lower value and higher priced package. Then MCF can look really good.

Is that the way? Why cant MCF try to give better value? I hear there is a small storm brewing over the travelling arrangements to Greece. My feedback was that the travel and living arrangements for Beijing was a nightmare. And now they want the parents to trust them again. Why cant they do a good job and earn the trust of parents? Why cant they earn the trust of the people who fund them? Why cant they improve themselves?

The trained mind-one example

I just started playing Bridge again. In bridge we also have the technical aspects. Learning about play and the associated probabilities linked to finessing cards, bidding etc.

But there is another big big aspect to good Bridge play. You start off by counting the hand, that is keeping count of every card that drops and noting its value. Then you learn to keep in mind the bidding at the onset and the values that have dropped and the values remaining, then you learn to watch out for your partners signals indicating count or request for a switch of suit, then you learn to observe the same in the opponents play and signals, then you add other signals like hesitation, body language signals to tell you where the cards are etc. etc.

In bridge you need to make decisions in the moment. The cards are falling as you are trying to order your mind, trying to remember. In one moment of strong emotion like anger or irritation you drop the ball. You get confused, forget and you lose control.

In Bridge we learn that in order to hold complex thoughts, evaluate, prioritise information, we need to maintain equanimity.

In Bridge we also realise that you cannot learn all these skills at once. You slowly develop it. First you learn to juggle 2 balls, then we add 3 and so on.

When you can handle more and more, your mind is trained. Now can you see that we are missing much in our chess training? Why the Chinese use Bridge as a training tool? Why I brought Mark, Sumant, Li Tian and Li Yuen for Bridge training? I think Li Tian is still playing. We need to see a bigger picture. Stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting a different result.

Happy Malaysia Day. What do we need to learn together?

Evaluation skills

Chess is also a game of judgement. Note judgement is not the same as judging. Judging is a qualitative statement. Judgement is an intermediate step in the process of decision making. So sound judgement is important in order to make decisions.

Now note this. When you selectively read, hear or observe, you are not evaluating. Actually what you are doing is defending past conclusions. And that usually comes from imagined fears. Some even go to the extent of adding something totally out of the mix and so add to the confusion.

In logic there are very strict rules as to what can be termed as proven. That is why in law you only state beyond reasonable doubt. It is hard to prove anything logically and even harder to prove anything scientifically. Logic is a series of operations given set assumptions. In science you need supporting theory that gives repeatable results.

So in everyday life we just go from opinion to opinion. Hopefully sounder and sounder ones. But in order to do that you first need to learn to "listen". That is to suspend judgement till all facts are known and weighed. Time permitting of course. This is evaluation.

I first read about the technique of bracketing in 1989 from the author M Scott Peck. I have tried to apply that knowledge since. But it is hard. Our minds rebel. It is hard not to prejudge before the evidence is out. But if we do not develop good evaluation skills you cannot be a strong chess player. Too many false conclusions. Chess is a thinking sport. It would seem reasonable to develop thinking skills to excel.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why many of our kids leave chess

Some possible reasons.

1. In America you take a stone and throw it randomly and chances are you will hit someone in the mental health care. In a highly competitive environment seeing a shrink is deemed a neccesity by some to being able to function optimally. Chess is stressful. And the kids need support to handle this. More so in a hostile environment. I remember during Mark's early years in chess, he met with such hostility he came close to giving up. So we talked alot. I needed him to understand why he was the subject of such unfair practices. He needed to see that it was not him but rather the officials that could not bear to see him succeed because of their own twisted reasoning.

He needed to also understand that although he may be disadvantaged in Perak compared to the KL boys, for instance, who had greater exposure to technical training and competitions that he could use other skills to compensate. That in any competition not everything can be equal but if he utilises what advantages he had, he could even out the odds.

You see, if anyone one of those conclusions had taken root he may have left chess. Grown disheartened at the cruelties of the officials. If he had concluded that he could not ever beat any of the KL boys because of the technical gap he may not have continued training as hard.

I also managed his expectations. One small step at a time. We did our evaluations and gave ourselves achievable targets for each and every tournamnet. And so he continued to grow.

I also made it a challenge for him not allow the bullies to win and succeed in damaging his spirit. I told him if he can hang on despite what they threw at him in Perak, he can only become stronger.

And I stood by his side when I could. And so he knows he has support outside the game. I may not have been able to do much about the abuses but I think my presence and belief in him helped. I have seen many whose parents cringed in fear and so indirectly tell the players that they too must be afraid of these officials and to accept whatever abuse thrown at them or that they just were not important enough to their parents for them to make a stand.

I think many were lost that way.

2. The other reason is maybe that it is not their dream to be a chess champion. Often I see that it is about the parents. The parents ego. Mark only told me that he may like chess for a career after Subic Bay. After he got a taste of what kind of work is involved. After he had appraised for himself that he can take the pressure. Prior to this it was always just to learn. As an aid to helping him learn to think under pressure. You see, it must be the players decision at the end. They must get to the stage where they want it for themselves. It's them that plays, that faces the stress and so it must be their decision. Some parents dont understand that.

What I am saying is, it may not all be MCF's fault. While they may not police all tournaments well and they even support some of these abusive officials. And they do; parents and players need to also look at themselves.

If we can take note of these things and take positive steps to curb them, adjust some attitudes, we will find more players that can and will last the race.

When we acknowledge our weaknesses

Part of the training I give to Mark is to always admit his weaknesses. Actually when you do it does not mean you are weak. It just means you have a weakness to overcome. I tell him, nobody is born strong and only when you overcome your weaknesses can you be strong. We are all work in progress.

Of course some people do not agree. They hide their weaknesses. And in doing so they remain weak. Actually admitting weaknesses is a sign of strength. It's a sign of confidence. It says, I may be weak now but at some point when I overcome I will be strong.

So I tell Mark, dont be afraid to experiment, dont be afraid to tell others what your opening is. If you want to be strong in the mental game you must conquer your imagined fears. Dont hide in the dark where the light dont shine. You can only slowly wilt and die.

"Chess people are wierd"

I was playing bridge online last night and reading the comments on this blog when a penny dropped. Bridge and Chess are actually quite different although both are thinking sports. In bridge we are always looking for clues to test our assumptions since the hands are closed. So we are always trying to get the big picture. Chess on the other hand is about operational thinking. The facts are known. The pieces are on the board and so its about developing judgement and then executing solutions on the board.

I then recalled a friend in London when I was doing my A levels there. He was a brilliant mathematician. He aced his maths and went on to do special maths etc. But he always failed his physics. I always wondered why?

I now think that maths is operational thinking. The assumptions are fixed. But in physics the assumptions are not. We once thought that light do not bend but Einstein says otherwise. We once thought that space and time are two distinct variables but now we think that spacetime is a continuum. The assumptions are constantly challenged.

I suppose thats why theoretical physicists are considered to be amongst the highest level of thinkers.

Now operational thinking may be right to answer the questions on the board but they may not be the way to answer questions outside the board. Questions like what are the characteristics of a GM? What is the best way forward for chess? Too many variables are unknown. And too many assumptions untested. So to chess ninja, dont be afraid to question your assumptions. Look for the bigger picture. There is a saying. From great disorder comes great order. Afterall the questions only exist in your mind. Read my postings on imagined fears.

Monday, September 13, 2010

When the mind is still

I once played in an International Bridge tournament conducted online. My partner and I were a scratch pair having quickly come together for the event. I think we came in second. :) A long time ago. But thats not the story. Another pair came in first. A Japanese lady who is perhaps the best player in Malaysia. So we came in second and Sawada and partner came in first in Malaysia. She was also first in Asia pacific and third worldwide. My partner and I came in around 1,500 placing worldwide. Average.

My point? When you watch Sawada play there is no noise in her mind. I think that is the best way to describe it. Hard to explain but when you watch her you'll understand. When she plays it feels like you can hear a pin drop. Her mind is so silent. No emotions. But super super sharp. No resistance. Congruity of mind, body and spirit. She also trains the Japanese ladies in Malaysia in bridge but wont take on Malaysians. I think I may know why. Some of the Japanese ladies tell me of her training regiment. I think many of us wont make the cut.

That is mental training.


There has been new comment here. I think it merits some consideration. Read here.


Change. I need to change but how? What to change? I saw these words on a young girls notepad many years ago at a seminar. I cant remember what the seminar is about now but I remember those words.

In Subic Bay I had a chat with Jovan, Singapore's National Coach, where I described chess as the game of change. It's amazing that after all the millions and millions of games, no two games are alike. This expresses the vast diversity of thinking in the human mind. This fact implies that flexibility of thinking is a requirement of chess. For understanding. And flexibility can also be described as little resistance to change.

This seamless ability for change is not only important for understanding but also for stamina. Observe this. If you struggle in your mind during play ie too much chatter, strong emotions of impatience, anger, fear or even exuberance you tire. And you tire fast. All these factors increase resistance in the mind.

We want strong chess players and yet the bastion of chess is mired in deep resistance to change. There is not even official recognition of these aspects of the mind game. Does this factor increase or lower our chances of producing strong players?

Try talking to someone who just doesnt get it. Do you find that conversation draining? Then find someone who's mind is open. Talk to him/her. See how it feels. Try it this week as you meet people, talk to people. See the difference in energy. See this and you will be able to begin a new journey in chess. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Sunday musings

Every year a Malay couple friend visits us for Raya and we go out for makan or just hang out. They have a boy now in Standard one. The mum was telling us that her son had a misunderstanding with one of the teachers in school. So she told her son, no problem, I'll just write the teacher a small note to explain and it should clear matters up. Her son freaked out. He said, no mum, you'll make things worse. The teacher will not understand.

That reminds me of some of the really dumb rules the schools and some businesses make. Sometimes I think its deliberate. Make a dumb rule and get everyone to follow it. The few thinking ones will then question the dumb rules. Then we can mark them and give them even more stupid rules till they are as stupid as us.

Is that how it works? The dumbing of our kids. Stop the questions, place them in fear and all will soon toe the line. Dont you think our kids need a place where they can question freely? Where they can learn and grow? Thats what I thought would be good. That was what motivated me to explore the Chess Academy. We cant do much about that situation but I think at least we can create a small environment where our kids are allowed to explore and excel without being beaten down by smaller minds.

Sunday musings

I remember a conversation I had in Subic Bay. I guess this sort of things happen alot during holidays. :)

This guy was saying he was told by a Vietnamese coach that he tells his players... If you find yourself losing against a Singaporean player, dont give up. Keep fighting. They crack under pressure. I guess its all relative isnt it.

Who is the go to person now?

I wanted to stay out of this fray because of the obvious futility of it. Read here. But I suddenly wondered, who is the go to person now? Hamid has clearly shown his ability for deft political manuevering and perhaps also revealed the tremendous clout behind him to take this issue past the President and Secretary. Not an easy "accomplishment". My sources say that Datmo was used as the threat to get them to toe the line.

Still Hamid is trying for greener pastures now to apply those well horned Malaysian skills. I hope his support remains as solid there. But in the meantime, before he goes global, it may be best to go to Hamid if you want things done in MCF. Nothing else seems to work.

Further along the road

Hey, we are doing well with tournaments. New milestones by Hamid/Najib team at Datmo. Congratulations. Not to mention the amazing array of tournaments at Datcc.

But before we pat our backs too much, can I ask a question? What happens if Dato is unable to fund Datmo anymore? Can we extend this attention to detail to development too?

Lets look further along the road a little.

Nichol Davids mental coach

I once did a short project with a french guy who was Nichols mental coach. A guy called Michele Ganne. Or spelled something like that. He brought me to the National Sports Complex and showed me an immersion chamber where the athletes are placed to train their minds. In Australia sports psychology is a big thing.

I wonder why we dont do the same for a mind sport? I dont think we are that weak in technical skills. I think where we are weak is in mental strength.

The value proposition

The missing link. I was talking to a friend in Penang on the phone during Raya. He has a strong aversion to anyone making money from chess. This is not the first time he has mentioned this to me. And so I thought on this.

You see, in a drama like the one our chess world is immersed in, people do make money. Sometimes lots of money but one thing is often missing. The giving of value is missing.

Actually there is nothing wrong with money. It is essential to the survival of any enterprise. But the money should be earned as the result of giving value.

To give value, one must think deeply about how to solve the problems we have, how to help people achieve their hopes and dreams.

But alas, we are enmeshed in the cultivation of dirty tricks. And we see the results of that. Wierd decisions of who goes to the Olympiads, lack of transparency, charging for things we didnt do etc etc.

I have wondered why for some time now. Why do these people want money that way? They are constantly vilified, criticised. And they want respect but seem totally unable to ever do the right thing except as another side show. They try to project confidence and yet they are not.

So I suggest this way out of the quandary, give value. Sit down and really think about how to deliver a good development program, make policies that work. Think through what it takes to create that GM. Eschew dirty tricks; all the energy spent there will never get you the respect you want. Spend that energy instead on giving value. There is nothing wrong in making money. But there is something wrong when you make money and do not give value in return.

Stop trying to put each other down. Instead try to work together in a complimentary way. You'll find that new energy is released when you get results, when you give value. You'll also get the respect you crave. When you achieve milestones, achieve success.

Some people have told me that I speak in riddles. I dont think I do. But I may be talking of things outside their ken. So I'll leave you with an example. Look here.

Here money is made and people are happy to give it. It's not the cost that I think is the problem, people can pay. Its when you give no value that creates the problem. Please note that emasters charge the same rates as an American firm but is based in Ipoh. Do think on this. Things can change when we can change. Think of this also. Chess is about change.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A bedtime story

I was once working with a developer and he had a son. His son never shone in our meetings. Then one day a group of us went to Penang for a negotiation without his father. In that meeting I found that the son had a scintillating mind. He was able to see problems clearly, make good decisions. He had the knowledge. His technical proficiency was dazzling. He just never had the confidence to express himself prior to this occasion. Nature gave him a very high IQ, he was well trained in all the technical aspects of the business. But somehow his confidence was not nurtured.

Nature vs nurture revisited, To John for your consideration.

When I was in Perak chess for many years, I observed this. Fixed matches, winners who's names were "accidentally" missed out when announcing the winners list. This happened so often that in my mind it could not be an accident. But there was no hard evidence. Missing the names were explained away, the injection of a hidden PICA rating system which upsets pairing is just bulldozed through, no cross tables published etc.

I could see the anguish and pain in many people at this unfair practice but nobody spoke up. All were quiet as they feared more repercussions if they protested.

Finally there was an example where this one official that has the "bad memory" called up his daughter to the podium even though she was not a winner. The "purpose" was to embarass her in front of a hall of people. That was how I saw it anyway. But nobody else saw it that way. Thay have "accepted" that this official has a "bad memory". But only when reading the winners list. Sharp in everything else.

Incredible I thought. For 2 reasons.

1. What happened to these people that they can do things like this over and over again with no conscience and against the weakest of our community? Our kids. That person even did that to his own kid. What happened to him?

2. Why did no one stand up to defend their dignity? Why didnt the parents stand up for their kids?

My believe is something happened to them along the journey of life. Somewhere their spirit was broken or damaged. And without that spirit you cannot be a strong chess player or even a decent human being. So the technical is not that important John. A child's spirit is easily broken, dont you think? Their talent in chess or anything else after that will be buried. How many "GMs" did we bury that way?

Furthermore it requires time and nurturing to be able to take more and more pressure. Training and abuse are 2 very different things.

Why reject 30 million?

As I was reading this article my mind went back to the incident where PICA former President, Dr Yee, told my sponsor, DKLS, that they would have to write a proposal to PICA before PICA can consider whether to accept the 2 million that DKLS wanted to sponsor chess with.

I couldnt believe what I heard. Do you think this article can throw some light on that stand? Read here.

The scenario is similar.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Reflections

We need to nurture our young talents or people like this will slip through the cracks. Read here.

On value creation

There is an interesting debate going on between me and John. See comments here. I hope this example can illustrate what I have been talking about in paradox thinking. Here. This is essentially what happens in chess and why we are still stuck. The example is on contradiction thinking. And contradiction thinking does not create solutions; it does not add value.

Lets consider this. It's a win lose argument. The solution is really both/and. Both technical and emotional. And more. We also need knowledge on how things work.

Here I will digress a little. Lets talk about listening skills. Listening is not easy. To listen properly we need to suspend our preconcieved ideas. The technique is called bracketing. This was first expounded by M Scott Peck. By bracketing we allow the other to expound their ideas without judgement. Listen first. Only after that do we weigh and consider what has been said. This technique does 2 things. First it allows the other to feel heard and it also allows the creation of a new idea. That is also the basis of partnership.

By not being able to hear the other, we are creating a top down relationship, a hierachy, a patronage. In this relationship no new value is created. Why? Because the only input is from the one at the top, the one who "wins" the argument. A pyrrhic victory at best.

Contradiction thinking also create information silos. I believe we already have all the knowledge we need to create our GM's. But the information cannot be shared so long as arguments are of a win lose nature. All sides need to listen before new value can be found.

So we find in Malaysia, the followers of Dato Tan who is a strong advocate of tournaments and his people who are good at that. The people who want systematic development, the ones who can best contribute to that development are sidelined and starved of funds. Either/Or thinking. My way or the highway.

But we need Both/And. Both tournaments and development. The different strengths and weaknesses recognised. And so the solution must come from all sides listening and recognising each others contribution. And maybe even more. I have been arguing for a systematic approach to EQ training on top of technical. Yes, on top. EQ has the bigger picture. If the players EQ is not carefully nurtured they will not be able to take the pressure at the top despite all the technical. And so far it has mostly fallen on deaf ears. I have given example after example of good players who have been victimised, fixed tournaments and in our chess circle few even raise an eyebrow. It has become the norm.

So these things need to be fixed. Then we create value. We need to have our concerns listened to. And from all stakeholders. It is not about win lose. It's about creating value. Then chess can grow. But first we need to listen. My conversation with John is typical of the conversations within our chess world. So to find the solution we need to move away from that.

But maybe it would be impossible to have all sit down and listen. So maybe the doable solution is a small group with the correct skill sets who are also able to listen to one another and contribute.