Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Numbers I can understand....

Two days ago when I was writing about bright Jupiter in the night sky (drat, it's still rainy nights where I am), it suddenly dawned on me that I have little understanding of how far the planets are from the sun, or from us here on Earth. I know they are in millions and billions of kilometres but I cannot simply fathom those astronomical numbers:
Mercury : average distance 58 million km (46.0 to 69.8 million km), Venus : average distance 108 million km (108 to 109 million km), Earth : average distance 149.6 million km (146 to 152 million km), Mars : average distance 228 million km (205 to 249 million km), Jupiter : average distance 778.5 million km (741 to 817 million km), Saturn : average distance 1.43 billion km (1.35 to 1.5 billion km), Uranus: average distance 2.88 billion km (2.7 to 3 billion km), Neptune: average distance 4.5 billion km (4.46 to 4.54 billion km) 

Mind-boggling numbers. Just like I cannot imagine the size of a room that holds one million pieces of RM1 currency notes, I cannot picture a distance of 4.5 billion kilometres. How about you? How can I measure 4.5 billion kilometres in Earth terms? But luckily, someone pointed me to a comparative measurement of these distances. Now, here are numbers that I can really understand..... 
Imagine if we hold up a big yellow grapefruit representing the Sun. Mercury will be a small grain of salt about 5.5 metres away, Venus will be like a grain of sugar 10.4 metres away, Earth is another grain of sugar located 15.2 metres away, Mars is the size of a grain of salt 22.9 metres away, Jupiter a cherry-sized tomato at 73.2 metres, Saturn the size of a green grape at 128 metres, Uranus a frozen green pea at 274.3 metres and Neptune also the size of a frozen pea at 429.8 metres. Pluto, now not considered a planet, will just be a speck of dust at a distance between 434.4 and 548.6 metres from the grapefruit.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

UNOOSA should nominate Kirsan Ilyumzhinov instead

I was reading in yesterday's newspapers that Dr Mazlan Othman, who is Malaysia’s first astrophysicist, will soon become Earth’s first official point-of-contact with aliens if they come a-calling. 

Dr Mazlan heads the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa) and will be the nearest thing that we have to a “take me to your leader” person when she takes on the new role, according to online portal

Dr Mazlan was reported to have told fellow scientists recently of an increased likelihood in the meeting with alien life after a discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars.

"The United Nations must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any first contact. The continued search for extraterrestrial communication by several entities sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a co-ordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject."

However, with all due respects to Dr Mazlan -- by the way, I met her three years ago up at a Penang Hill function -- Unoosa has it all wrong on two counts. First, what do they mean by "if they come a-calling"? There are no if's about it. The extraterrestrials have already come a-calling. Don't believe it? Just ask Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. This eccentric soon-to-be-ousted leader of the autonomous Kalmyk Republic in the Russian Federation has claimed to be in contact with aliens. Not only once, mind you, but on many occasions in 1997. And this brings me to the second point. If ever we need to name an alien ambassador, shouldn't Kirsan be the high-profile first choice? My vote goes to him! Anytime. Anywhere. 

He's quite proud and candid about it, actually. He wears it like a personal badge. Where others would have withdrawn into a shell and undergone psychiatric treatment for an alien encounter, Kirsan has even gone forth to talk about his experience openly. Just recently, newspapers around the world began talking of his claims again. Here are the salient excerpts from The Independent newspaper:
You do realise, he asks, that chess is a "cosmic game"? Excavations have shown that chess was played with similar rules, in various continents, centuries ago, he says, adding: "There was no internet before, so how did it get across the world? It means that it was brought from somewhere."

He also insists that there is "some kind of code" in chess, evidence for which he finds in the fact that there are 64 squares on the chessboard and 64 codons in human DNA. He then explains why he believes sweetcorn was brought to Earth by a different civilisation. "I'm not ill. I'm psychologically normal," he says. "I didn't hide it [the contact with aliens] even though I knew that people would laugh at me and say I was crazy. Maybe it was a form of self-sacrifice."

His main goal ... is to increase the number of chess players in the world from 600 million to a billion. And he has serious reasons for wanting this to happen. "Above us, they are looking at us, and maybe they will get tired of us, and suddenly..." he tails off, making dramatic gestures of destruction. "How can we save ourselves from them? Only though intellect, concentration and spiritual energy. If a billion people are in these chess centres, playing chess, the world will have positive energy."

Sorry, Dr Mazlan, I think you have already been upstaged by Kirsan. The politician overshadows the technocrat once again. :-(

Monday, 27 September 2010

By the light of Jupiter

For the past few weeks while the weather was good, I had been noticing a bright spot of light in the night sky but given little thought to it.

At first, I thought it was the planet Venus, making its appearance as the Evening Star, but then as the nights wore on, I started to realise that my initial belief was wrong. That planet would have set below the horizon soon after sunset and yet, even at midnight, the bright spot lingered on and indeed it was moving across the sky itself.

Well, I know now that what I've been seeing is the giant of our solar system. By Jove, it's King Jupiter! It may not be the grandest planet but it is certainly the biggest. And these few weeks, it has been making its closest approach to Earth since 1998 or so. On 20 Sep, it passed within 594 million kilometres of our planet. Since then, it's started to move further away from us. Probably, we'll not see it so near to us again until 2022. That's what stargazers are telling us.

Two nights later, I stepped out of the house to take this photo of Jupiter and the halo around the full moon with my old Dimage Z5 camera. I know that this camera's nothing sophisticated compared to the DSLR cameras that many people are toting around like a fashion assessory, but I was still amazed at its abilty to capture Jupiter's light.

By the way, this year's 22 Sep was very special from the astronomical perspective.

First, it marked the vernal September equinox, the day during which the sun moved across the equator on its southward journey. The day is supposed to denote the official changing of the seasons: summer to autumn in the northern hemisphere and winter to spring in the southern hemisphere.

Second, it happened to coincide with the full moon on the 15th day of the eighth Chinese lunar month. It's when we Chinese all around the world celebrate the lantern festival, marked with the moon cakes. Lately, I've been seeing more imagination going into the production of moon cakes and curious people are picking up moon cakes in all sorts of filling and flavours. Personally, nothing beats the taste of the original moon cakes.

Third, in the western world, the full moon nearest to this equinox is often described as the harvest moon. In olden days when farming was the main occupation, farmers made full use of the natural light from the bright harvest moon to extend their activities well into the night.

The bonus from this unique astronomical occurrence is of course, the close vicinity of Jupiter in the night sky. The planet is still shining brightly at night but unfortunately, the rainy weather of the past two nights has put a temporary halt to my activities. Ah, well, tomorrow night then....

Saturday, 25 September 2010

It's time to get tough with animal trafficking collaborators in government

When I was away in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month, something very significant happened on the illegal wildlife trading scene here. Our country's own infamous Number One wildlife trafficker, Anson Wong, from Jones Road in Penang, admitted guilt to smuggling 95 snakes without a permit.

The 52-year-old Lizard King, as he is known in the United States, was caught at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 26 Aug while trying to bring a bag filled with boa constrictors to Jakarta. Caught red-handed with the "evidence", he pled guilty and the court jailed him six months and imposed a fine of RM190,000.

This could have the end of the story, especially where the court was concerned. However, the leniency of the sentence has shocked many people, both here and elsewhere in the world.

In short, our legal system has let us down. The court had a chance to send a signal to the world that we mean business in repairing our unwelcome reputation as an international hub for this illegal trade but it did not. Where is the will to get tough with animal traffickers? And where is the appreciation and protection for our country's rich flora and fauna?

A paltry RM190,000 fine for 95 snakes? That's just RM2,000 per animal when the maximum fine was RM100,000 per animal. A six-month jail sentence when the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 allows a maximum of seven years?

And getting angry with the court is not the only beef that I have today. Anson Wong is only one factor in the wildlife trafficking equation. The issuance of permits to people like him to keep and trade in endangered animals is the other. Who - or what - is the government authority responsible to oversee the wildlife in the country? None other than the equally infamous Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Peninsular Malaysia, otherwise known as Perhilitan.

To many people, Perhilitan has failed in its duty to protect our flora and fauna. A gross dereliction of duty. The department exists just  for the sake of its existence only. The people at the Perhilitan offices in Kuala Lumpur and the states are sitting comfortable and unwilling to move their butts to deal with issues, even when the issues stare at them in the face. Worse still, they seem to think they are at the centre of the universe and nothing around them matters.They look at conservation efforts around them contemptuously.

In January this year when I was taking a relative for a check-up at a private hospital here, I was taken aback to read a copy of the National Geographic magazine which was highlighting just this very issue. A thoroughly unflattering tale with Malaysia at the centre of storm. Fingered in this lengthy article was Perhilitan itself, especially a woman known as Misliah Mohamad Basir. Anyone reading this story will come to the same conclusion that she must be protecting Wong. "He is my good friend,"she was quoted as saying.

And yet today, she is still there, the Number Two official in the Wildlife and National Parks Department, Kuala Lumpur.

She is the senior government official that will hinder and stymie any effort that Malaysia carries out in wildlife conservation. Transferring out the Penang National Park and Wildlife Department director to another state will not end matters. He can't be alone. If no action is taken at the top to remove the rot, the illegal wildlife trade will still continue unabated. So this woman must be investigated for complicity. At the very least, investigate her for negligence or gross incompetency. Whatever, suspend and remove her from this post immediately. Surely, there are sections and sub-sections in the same International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 to cover all these.

And finally, there must be a very serious attempt to revamp the rest of Perhilitan. This time, it must be the government to show the world that it means business. Stop the rot and stop it by starting with the very top. Nothing less than that can appease the public and the conservationists.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Absolute shit from the bull's arse!

No power? This is just an absolute bullshit!! It's crap! If an Education Minister AND a Deputy Prime Minister cannot act against a civil servant, either directly or indirectly, then he must be prepared to resign and stand down from his office and responsibilities!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Rare Earth, Motown's blue-eyed group

Three Rare Earth albums in my collection of records. This group was one of the very few white groups signed by Motown Records to have ever made an impression anywhere. I was very excited with their sound. In those days, I liked rock groups that featured some horns and Rare Earth was one of them. I remember listening to these records in the mid-1970s and was going "wow" inside.

Side One: Good Time Sally, Every Now & Then We Get To Go On Down To Miami, Think Of The Children, Gotta Get Myself Back Home, Come With Your Lady Side Two: Would You Like To Come Along, We're Gonna Have A Good Time, I Couldn't Believe What Happened Last Night

This album is called simply Ma. In the United States, the album's cover featured a drawing of a grotesquely fat woman on a rocking chair.

My copy of this album, printed in England, sported a different cover and almost completely different songs too. The American version had a 17-minute version of the title track, Ma, while on my record, Ma had been whittled down to a mere 5:24 minutes. Apart from two other songs common to both albums, the remaining tracks on the British album were culled from Rare Earth's much earlier albums in the United States. It became almost a compilation album.

Side One: Ma, Big John Is My Name, Satisfaction Guaranteed (from "Ecology"), Hey Big Brother (from a 45rpm record), I Just Want To Celebrate (from "One World"), Hum Along And Dance
Side Two: Good Time Sally (from "Willie Remembers"), Get Ready (from "Get Ready")

Side One: I Just Want To Celebrate, Hey Big Brother, Born to Wander
Side Two: Get Ready
Side Three: What'd I Say, Thoughts
Side Four: (I Know) I'm Losing You, Nice to Be with You

Friday, 17 September 2010

Penang's largest Malaysian flag?

Anyone observant enough who crosses the Penang Bridge from the island to the mainland would not be able to miss the sight of a huge Malaysian flag flapping away in the far distant Prai industrial estate. I mean, if you are still five or six kilometres away from the mainland and you see a flag towering grandly above all the buildings around it and basically, dominating the view, you can guess how big the flag would be when viewed close at hand.

Curiosity got the better of me and I resolved to find out where this proud Jalur Gemilang was flapping from. Turned out that the flagpole had been erected on top of the tallest building in the Johor Bahru Flour Mill Sdn Bhd compound. Seen close, it was of breath-taking dimensions.

And this morning, I contacted the company. Seems that they have been flying this flag only since the start of the year. It's not a permanent feature; the flag only goes up during special occasions like Chinese New Year or Governor's birthday because they are concerned about exposing the flag too much to the wind, sun and rain. It's expensive material, the company claimed. So enjoy it while you can!

I was told that the flag itself measures 40 feet by 80 feet. The flagpole itself is about 30 metres from base to tip, not that long but since it's mounted on top of the company's highest building, that makes it quite high up in the sky.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

How will the Court decide in Karpov vs Kirsan?

I wonder what is happening in Lausaane, Switzerland right now. Since yesterday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been hearing a suit by former world champion Anatoly Karpov to disqualify incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the election for president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) set for Sep 29.

There are only two possible, foreseeable outcomes from this hearing:

1) If the Swiss Court disqualifies Kirsan from defending his position, Karpov would become the next FIDE president.
2) If the Court upholds Kirsan's candidacy, the stage is then set for the most acrimonious fight in recent chess history between Kirsan and Karpov.

The only unforeseeable outcome is Kirsan refusing to yield power if he loses the legal suit. Would he (a) postpone the FIDE elections indefinitely, or (b) try to set up a rival organisation with the support that he supposedly commands from member federations around the world, or (c) try something else? Any of these options will be no option at all; they will leave the world chess in utter chaos.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Painless travel the "KLIA Transit to LCCT" way

---- The information in this post is no longer applicable but is retained for archive purpose only ----

Earlier this month, I asked my wife to come down to Kuala Lumpur to join me at the Cititel Midvalley where I was staying for the Malaysia Chess Festival. But you'll have to fly down alone, I told her. No problem with that, actually, because she had flown several times by herself on official duties to attend her company's meetings. But all the while, she had gone either by Malaysia Airlines or Firefly, and travelled from the KLIA Main Terminal Building or the Subang Terminal Building by the KLIA Express train or taxi. This time, I told her, it will have to be different because I've just booked her a ticket on AirAsia and she'd be touching down at the KLIA Low Cost Terminal.

But no worries, I flashed her one of my reassuringly famous smiles, you don't have to fret about taking those dreaded shuttle buses all the way down to the KL Sentral. She had been hearing all those horror stories from me, you see, and they are not without basis.

Those shuttle buses. I've mentioned them before and I'll mention them again. Those shuttle buses plying the KLIA-LCCT to KL Sentral routes are the pits of the transportation service in Kuala Lumpur. They seldom keep to the proper schedule. From KL Sentral, I've even missed a flight from the low-cost terminal in January this year because the shuttle bus never left on time. There is an attitude problem in the staff of all shuttle bus companies that operated from KL Sentral. Unprofessional. The time for the bus to depart from the KL Sentral came and gone, but those drivers and ticket checkers on duty preferred to chit-chat and have a long smoke. Finally, we pulling out from the KL Sentral more than a half hour late. Then the driver drove like the wind.... But late is late. No matter how fast he drove, he couldn't make up for lost time. Besides which, as a public transport company, the driver had a greater responsibility to drive careful and ensure safety of the passengers. I doubt he cared.

Huh, that was to be the last time. I've even complained to AirAsia, urging them to end their association with the bus company but there was also no response from the airline. Maybe that should not be too surprising as I'm just a small voice in the crowd.

But air travel is safe enough. And never mind too, as long as there is an alternative to those damn shuttle buses, I shall still use the cheaper AirAsia to travel. Besides, as far as my experience goes, there are lesser flight delays now. So for now, flying AirAsia continues to be bearable for the time being.

Back to my wife. I suggested to her to give the still relatively new "KLIA Transit to LCCT" bus-cum-train service a try. It's painless, I assured her, and she'd enjoy it. And like a good girl, she agreed. So I gave her very explicit instructions. Maybe others will find the instructions useful too. Here they are:

a) On entering the arrival hall at the KLIA-LCCT terminal building, head for the first ticketing counter on the right. That's the one selling the "KLIA Transit to LCCT" bus-cum-train ticket package, and it costs only RM12.50 one-way to the KL Sentral. But in the event that there's no one manning the counter....

b) Head out of the arrival hall, turn left and walk down the row of buses until you reach the final bus bay. You should see the Cityliner shuttle bus with the "KLIA Transit to LCCT" logo emblazoned on its body but also, in the event that the bus is not there, just be patient and wait because it should be on its way from the train station.

I think there are only two buses plying this route to the Salak Tinggi train station and back. The bus drivers are quite courteous and the buses are rather spacious and clean. And the best thing is, the bus will leave right on the dot. It's quite an impression using the service, I told my wife. There are no traffic jams and the bus journey takes only 20 minutes.

c) The bus would stop right at the Salak Tinggi train station. And after about a 10-minute wait, the KLIA Transit train arrives to take passengers to the KL Sentral in 29 minutes flat. That's where the second half of travelling in comfort comes in. It is a perfectly nice, comfortable ride into the city, bypassing all the traffic snarls on the roads of Kuala Lumpur.

And that's how I met my wife ;-)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Ray Peterson

I've made a brief mention of this record previously in this blog: Skeeter Davis's answer songs album called Here's The Answer in which she sang replies to original hit songs by various artists. The original songs and her reply versions alternated throughout the album. It was quite a novelty for me when I was young because not only did it give me an introduction to country music, I could listen to seven different recording artists within one record and it gave me a chance to compare their various styles of presentation. Thus, there were songs by Hank Locklin (Please Help Me, I'm Fallin'), Eddy Arnold (I Really Don't Want To Know), Don Gibson (Just One Time), Jim Reeves (He'll Have To Go), Floyd Cramer (Last Date) and Ray Peterson (Tell Laura I Love Her). I remember that I played through this record many times and this morning, I pulled it off the shelves again to give it another spin. Bliss....

Incidentally, today (13 Sep 2010) marks the 50th anniversary of the start of a campaign in the United Kingdom to ban this last mentioned song, Tell Laura I Love Her. The song was denounced in the UK press as likely to inspire a teenage glorious death cult. Many radio stations refused to play it. Decca Records destroyed thousands of copies of the 45rpm record, claiming it was “in bad taste”.However, it has really withstood the test of time.

More than anything else, Ray Peterson was so well known for that automobile disaster song that his numerous other hits have been somewhat forgotten. There were songs like Corrina Corrina and The Wonder Of You.

He was the first singer to record The Wonder Of You. It was released in 1959 and it went up the American Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at the 25th spot. Various other people sang this song too and the most notable among them was Elvis Presley in 1970. He always sang it before an audience, never in a studio. A story goes that Elvis called Peterson for permission to do the song. Peterson took the call and told him: "You don't have to ask, you're Elvis Presley." And Elvis replied: "Yes, but you're Ray Peterson."

Anyway, here's a rare chance to see Ray Peterson with his version of the song. It is an excerpt from a television show in 1999. At that time, Peterson was already 60 years old and 40 years had passed since he charted with it. He was to pass away six years later. In this video, you can see Mary Wilson, original singer with The Supremes, visibly affected watching him.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Getting connected

It would seem very odd to say that whilst I was in Kuala Lumpur recently, I did not have full access to the Internet. But it is true. I did not have my usual access to the Internet while holed up at the Cititel MidValley for nine days playing chess.

At home, I am connected any time of the day -- and night -- through TMNet's Streamyx service but when I was at MidValley, it was either paying through the nose for the hotel's broadband service at RM20 per day or get connected through other means such as visiting the free wifi zones throughout the shopping mall. It's not something that I'd like to do because I don't like to carry a laptop or netbook around.

There was a third alternative: get subscribed to a so-called wireless "broadband service" through any of the wireless service providers. I chose this third option.

For RM48, Maxis Broadband had given me access to some quick surfing while away from home (It is to be noted that "quick" here does not refer to the speed of surfing but rather, the length of time that I'm connected to the etherworld). In addition, I'm limited to a mere 1.5Gb of data volume per month, an embarrasingly small pittance seeing how I used it all up within the nine days. I'm now seriously considering giving up this package and going for another promotion. There are lots to choose from.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

What's today's date?

Eh, I just remembered that today is 11 Sep, the anniversary date of the terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Center in 2001.

By the way, I couldn't help but use this picture above by Andy Yeoh to depict this morning's goings-on at the Penang Bridge on, yes, you guessed right, the same date!

Fire on Penang Bridge

There's a massive bumper-to-bumper traffic crawl on the Penang Bridge right now, caused by a 132kV power cable catching fire at the 1.5-kilometre stretch of the bridge at about 10.45am this morning.

The jam at the toll plaza. The queue is reportedly about four kilometres long. But traffic is already allowed back on the bridge.

Smoke could still be seen billowing from the bridge at about 1.30pm.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Avatar 3D Special Edition and Phua Chu Kang The Movie

Is it worth spending RM18 to watch Avatar 3D Special Edition? Definitely, a Yes, if you haven't watched it before, a Maybe if you have seen it before but want to see it again. For RM18, you get to watch eight or nine minutes of extra footage. Notably, the most breath-taking is the hunting of the sturmbeests.

Is it worth spending RM10 to watch Phua Chu Kang The Movie? Definitely, a No, unless you want to spend 90 minutes watching a brainless slapstick show that does nothing to tickle your funny bone. Huh, the television series are much better!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Making adjustments

Why is it that I feel down in the dumps today? I should be feeling exhilarated and fully charged, on a high after coming back from a fun-filled trip to Kuala Lumpur, but instead I feel totally exhausted and rather disoriented.

It is as though my body is unwinding itself down. Fun though my stay may be, I experienced lots of tension in the last nine days, both mentally and physically. Although I felt very tired last night, I couldn't fall asleep until after midnight. Worse, it wasn't a deep slumber at all. By four o'clock, I was half awake. I'm feeling a lot of body aches this morning and my wife says my mind is still not home.

I suppose it is true. I'm still thinking of my games: moping about the games which I could have played better. But I can't really complain, not after having withdrawn from local competitions three years ago. After all, writing about chess is different from playing the game itself. But it is nice to get back into a playing mode, even though this particular chess adventure had been filled with a lot of chessboard accidents.

Nevertheless, I really need to unwind today. Perhaps I'll try and go up the hill to relax my mind, relax my muscles and basically to clear my head. In truth, I'm glad to be back home. Nine days in Kuala Lumpur may just have been a bit too long this time. Rather unprepared for it.

Update at 1.30pm: Yes, I came down from a short trek at the Bukit Mertajam hill but it was not to my expectation. I just realised that I'm terribly short on exercise. I'm not in good shape. I finished only half of what I wanted to do. I had to retrace my steps down the earth track instead of reaching the tarmac road. I was hit suddenly by a bout of dizziness. My head swam and I had to rest for about half a hour before I recovered sufficiently and decided that this was perhaps enough for today. Not enough oxygen to the brains. Not enough oxygen in the blood. Maybe this was the result of medication I took this morning. I should have fortified myself before climbing. Once I reached the foothill and took a slice of papaya, I felt much better. And you know what? The moment I came home and took the best shower of my life, I feel so refreshed now. So maybe the aborted trek up the hill did me some good after all!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur....

I just happened to look out of the hotel room's window just a moment ago and what do I see. Glad that I'm not driving anywhere on the roads of Kuala Lumpur on a Sunday!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

On the attack!

Dato Tan Chin Nam may be an octogenarian, his knees may be weak and his hands may be shaky but his mind is still razor sharp.

Given half a chance, he can conduct an attack that blows his opponent off the chess board. India's Ummer Koya got caught in the whirlwind in the fifth round of the Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng international seniors open tournament now going on at the Bintang Ballroom of the Cititel MidValley in Kuala Lumpur.

This game is entered freehand and it may contain typos. They will be cleaned up later, if I do find them. Also, this game is not the final word in chess but please do play through it. It is entertaining enough:

White: Dato Tan Chin Nam (Malaysia)
Black: Ummer Koya PT (India)
1. e4 b6 2. Nf3 c5 3. Bc4 e6 4. Nc3 Bb7 5. d3 d6 6. Bb5+ Nc6 7. 0-0 a6 8. Bxc6+ Bxc6 9. a4 Nf6 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Qd2 Qc7 12. b3 0-0 13. h3 h6 14. Bh4 Re8 15. Ne2 d5 16. Bg3 Qb7 17. e5 Nh5 18. d4 f5 19. exf6 Bxf6 20. Be5 Bxe5 21. Nxe5 Rf8 22. c3 Rae8 23. f4 Qc7 24. Rf3 Nf6 25. Qc2 Ba8 26. Rg3 Ne4 27. Rf3 Rc8 28. Raf1 Bb7 29. Ng3 cxd4 30. Ng6 Rf6 31. Ne5 dxc3 32. Nh5 Rf8 33. Ng6 Rfd8 34. f5 Nd2 35. f6 Nxf3+ 36. Rxf3 gxf6 (At this stage, the spectators were getting excited. What a turnaround in the game. From a losing position, he now had a lot of chances to win. But the problem was, could he continue with the pressure and win the game?) 37. Nxf6+ Kg7 38. Nh5+ Kg8 39. Nf6+ Kg7 40. Nh5+ Kg8 (Well, we thought, was he going for the draw only?) 41. Rg3 (No!! He was going for the win!) 41...Qxg3 42. Nxg3 d4 43. Ne7+ Kf7 44. Nxc8 Bxc8 45. Qh7+ Ke8 46. Qg6+ Ke7 47. Qg7+ Ke8 48. Nh5 Rd6 49. Nf6+ Kd8 50. Qf8+ Kc7 51. Ne8+ 1-0

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Chess legend Liu Wenzhe

This is Liu Wenzhe. I had time to catch up with him yesterday. We were both very surprised to see one another. Although I don't know how to speak Mandarin, nor he English, we bridged the gap with our smiles and handshakes. I haven't seen him for 10 years. The last time we met was in 2000 when he took part in the Wah Seong international master chess tournament at the Cititel Hotel, Penang. I was the chief arbiter for the event.

But our ties go back even further. We first met in 1978 in Beijing. At that time, he was already at the height of his chess prowess, being the chess champion of China or at the very least, champion of Beijing. In later years he was the chief trainer of the Chinese Institute of Chess and head coach of the Chinese national chess team.

Liu's main claim to fame was in 1976 when China first took part in the biennial World Chess Olympiad. It was in Buenos Aires and in one of the rounds, China had been paired with the Netherlands. The story goes that Dutch grandmaster Jan Donner, a towering personality and the Netherlands' best player at that time, was rather dismissive of the Chinese.

But it was a rude awakening for the Dutchman. He got himself caught in a bind and his opponent, none other than Liu himself, ended the game with a great flourish: sacrificing his queen in an irresistible attack. Faced with the inevitable checkmate, Donner resigned the game. A sparkling miniature of only 20 moves.

It was a game that sent shockwaves around the chess world. Donner was a known and respected personality. Liu was unheard of outside China and yet....Donner had fallen to Liu in a spectacular game. This was perhaps the first time that the chess world sat up to notice China. It was the start of the Chinese chess revolution which has since swept the world for all to see.

By the way, in the picture above, there's also Singapore international master Tan Lian Ann standing in the background behind Dato Tan Chin Nam and Norway's Morten Sand. We were having a rare dinner outing at the Swensen's restaurant at Subang Parade in Subang Jaya.