"Don't forget, huh, you have to be here at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning."
With these words, I was unwillingly cornered by Singapore's international master Tan Lian Ann into playing some games with Dato Tan Chin Nam when I was in Kuala Lumpur last week. Somehow over dinner on Friday, Lian Ann had "arranged" for me to play with Dato Tan the next morning. He'll be the arbiter, Lian Ann said. Hah!
But Saturday morning was supposed to be the opening of the Merdeka rapid chess team open tournament. I thought in the hustle and bustle of the moment, I could escape but the inevitable happened. Lian Ann tracked me down at 11 o'clock and said Dato Tan was still waiting for me. Ahh, what to do? So reluctantly, I dragged myself away from the CitiTel ballroom to face the inevitable. My heart sank a little when I saw how determined he was. He had even placed a white pawn and a black pawn in his hands and allowed me to draw lots for colour.
Don't look down on Dato Tan's chess skill. He may be an OBE (over bloody 80) but give him half a chance, he can whop a person over the chess board. Many years ago, one New Zealand Fide Master found this out to his surprise and regret. As for me, I had found this out a few years ago when I gave him "half a chance".
Therefore, I sat down to the games - we played two - with some resolve not to give him any more "half a chance". I didn't. Although I did offer him a "quarter of a chance", he failed to find the best move on one or two occasions. The moments passed and I was saved.
The next morning Dato Tan was again at the tournament hall. He wanted a third game, so we played. With the Merdeka chess games going on behind us, so we played. Immersed in a world of our own and oblivious to everything else, so we played. Again, all he had were just some "quarter chances". So I preserved my streak against him. I think that my game has regained some measure of respect in his eyes...