Sunday, 19 November 2017

Unbelievably stupid

This is one of my old postings that never got to see light way back in November 2015 for some obscure reasons that I can no longer remember. It was about my old school pal, Kee Thuan Chye, launching his Unbelievably Stupid books at The Star Pitt Street building in Penang, and Lim Guan Eng was there to do the honours. Remarkably, a host of my other school buddies were also around in Penang at the same time.

Thuan Chye has not written any new book since then, instead reserving his energy to produce an excellent play, Swordfish & Concubine, which had a short run earlier this month at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre and which my wife and I had the benefit of watching.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Rhythm heritage

I've just been watching the first episode of the 2017 reincarnation of that hit television series of the 1970s, namely, S.W.A.T. and I must say that it is terribly interesting. Action-packed and interesting. But I had to wait until the end of the episode for the theme music which appeared before the closing credits. Well worth the long wait, though, because it is such a kick-ass piece of music. It made me decide to dust the old cobwebs from my copy of Rhythm Heritage's Disco-fied album.

Side One: Disco-fied, Caravan, Baretta's theme (Keep your eye on the sparrow), Theme from S.W.A.T.
Side Two: Blockbuster, My cherie amour, (It's time to) Boogie down, Three days of the condor, Disco-fied (reprise)

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Boys night out

Amidst all the cleaning up on the island and mainland on account of the unprecedented floods, my old schoolmates decided to continue with our reunion at the OFA Restaurant (aka New Wing Look Restaurant), which we had arranged quite a while back. 

Back row: Sukumaran, Ewe Soon, Hock Thiam, Oon Hup, Michael, Siang Jin, Seng Chye, Kah Thiang, Leng Kooi, Yoong Koy, Andrew and Swee Poh
Middle row: Teik Wah
Front row: Seng Sun, Huan Chiang, Boon Hoe, Wee Lork, Chye Chye, Ewe Leong and Siang Juan

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Hutchings memorial service 2017

Although the school's Speech Day was well and truly over - it was held on 3 Oct 2017 - Penang Free School stuck to tradition by holding its annual Hutchings memorial service on the 21st of October.

This morning, about 50 people had congregated at the gates of the Protestant cemetery in Northam Road to await Revd Ho leading a relaxed but solemn procession of the Penang Free School teachers, Prefects and pupils, Hutchings Secondary School teachers and Prefects, a handful of Old Frees - led by the Old Frees' Association president Billy Yeoh and PFS Board of Governors chairman Rafique Abdul Karim - and several other well-wishers, including the Press and a film crew, to the grave of Robert Sparke Hutchings in the cemetery grounds.

The service was completed in about 30 minutes, during which time, there were readings from the Bible and the school songs of both the Free School and Hutchings School were sang, before the solemnity was broken after the wreaths were laid at the grave.

Local historian Marcus Langdon was present to see the service for himself. I think he was much impressed by the dedication of the Old Frees.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Chinese surnames: where do you rank?

Whether we like it or not, we are all in the minority. Below is the latest ranking of Chinese surnames in China, given to me by someone. And if we tally up all the percentages for the top 10 surnames, it only adds up to 44.1 per cent. Hardly a majority:

01李 (Li) 7.94% 02王 (Wang) 7.41% 03張 (Zhang) 7.07% 04劉 (Liu) 5.38% 05陳 (Chen) 4.53% 06楊 (Yang) 3.08% 07趙 (Zhao) 2.29% 08黃 (Huang) 2.23% 09周 (Zhou) 2.12% 10吳 (Wu) 2.05%

11徐 (Xu) 12孫 (Sun) 13胡 (Hu) 14朱 (Zhu) 15高 (Gao) 16林 (Lin)  17何 (He)  18 郭 (Guo) 19馬 (Ma) 20羅 (Luo) 21梁 (Liang) 22宋 (Song) 23鄭 (Zheng) 24謝 (Xie) 25韓 (Han) 26唐 (Tang) 27馮 (Feng) 28於 (Yu) 29董 (Dong) 30蕭 (Xiao) 31程 (Cheng) 32曹 (Cao) 33袁 (Yuan) 34鄧 (Deng) 35許 (Xu) 36傅 (Fu) 37沈 (Chen) 38曾 (Ceng) 39彭 (Peng) 40呂 (Lu) 41蘇 (Su) 42盧 (Lu) 43蔣 (Jiang) 44蔡 (Cai) 45賈 (Jia) 46丁 (Ding) 47魏 (Wei) 48薛 (Xue) 49葉 (Ye) 50閻 (Yan) 51餘 (Yu) 52潘 (Pan) 53杜 (Du) 54戴 (Dai) 55夏 (Xia) 56鐘 (Zhong) 57汪 (Wang) 58田 (Tian) 59任 (Ren) 60姜 (Jiang) 61範 (Fan) 62方 (Fang) 63石 (Shi) 64姚 (Yao) 65譚 (Tan) 66廖 (Liao) 67鄒 (Zou) 68熊 (Xiong) 69金 (Jin) 70陸 (Lu) 71郝 (Hao) 72孔 (Kong) 73白(Bai) 74崔 (Cui) 75康 (Kang) 76毛 (Mao) 77邱 (Qiu) 78秦 (Qin) 79江 (Jiang) 80史 (Shi) 81顧 (Gu) 82侯 (Hou) 83邵 (Shao) 84孟 (Meng) 85龍 (Long) 86萬 (Wan) 87段 (Duan) 88漕 (Cao) 89錢 (Qian) 90湯 (Tang) 91尹 (Yin) 92黎 (Li) 93易 (Yi) 94常 (Chang) 95武 (Wu) 96喬 (Qiao) 97賀 (He) 98賴 (Lai) 99龔 (Gong) 100文 (Wen)

101龐 (Pang) 102樊 (Fan) 103蘭 (Lan) 104殷 (Yin) 105施 (Shi) 106陶 (Tao) 107洪 (Hong) 108翟 (Di) 109安 (An) 110顏 (Yan) 111倪 (Ni) 112嚴 (Yan) 113牛 (Niu) 114溫 (Wen) 115蘆 (Lu) 116季 (Ji) 117俞 (Yu) 118章 (Zhang) 119魯 (Lu) 120葛 (Ge) 121伍 (Wu) 122韋 (Wei) 123申 (Shen) 124尤 (You) 125畢 (Bi) 126聶 (Nie) 127叢 (Cong) 128焦 (Jiao) 129向 (Xiang) 130柳 (Liu) 131邢 (Xing) 132路 (Lu) 133岳 (Yue) 134齊 (Qi) 135沿 (Yan) 136梅 (Mei) 137莫 (Mo) 138莊 (Zhuang) 139辛 (Xin) 140管 (Guan) 141祝 (Zhu) 142左 (Zuo) 143塗 (Tu) 144谷 (Gu) 145祁 (Qi) 146時 (Shi) 147舒 (Shu) 148耿 (Geng) 149牟 (Mou) 150卜 (Bo) 151路 (Lu) 152詹 (Zhan) 153關 (Guan) 154苗 (Miao) 155凌 (Ling) 156費 (Fei) 157紀 (Ji) 158靳 (Jin) 159盛 (Sheng) 160童 (Tong) 161歐 (Ou) 162甄 (Zhen) 163項 (Xiang) 164曲 (Qu) 165成 (Cheng) 166遊 (You) 167陽 (Yang) 168裴 (Pei) 169席 (Xi) 170衛 (Wei) 171查 (Cha) 172屈 (Qu) 173鮑 (Bao) 174位 (Wei) 175覃 (Tan) 176霍 (Huo) 177翁 (Weng) 178隋 (Sui) 179植 (Zhi) 180甘 (Gan) 181景 (Jing) 182薄 (Bao) 183單 (Dan) 184包 (Bao) 185司 (Si) 186柏 (Bai) 187寧 (Ning) 188柯 (Ke) 189阮 (Ruan) 190桂 (Gui) 191閔 (Min) 192歐陽 (Ou Yang) 193解 (Jie) 194強 (Qiang) 195柴 (Chai) 196華 (Hua) 197車 (Che) 198冉 (Ran) 199房 (Fang) 200邊 (Bian)

201辜 (Gu) 202吉(Ji) 203饒 (Rao) 204刁 (Diao) 205瞿 (Qu) 206戚 (Qi) 207丘 (Qiu) 208古 (Gu) 209米 (Mi) 210池 (Chi) 211滕 (Teng) 212晉 (Jin) 213苑 (Yuan) 214鄔 (Wu) 215臧 (Zang) 216暢 (Chang) 217宮(Gong) 218來 (Lai) 219嵺 (Liao) 220苟 (Gou) 221全(Quan) 222褚 (Chu) 223廉 (Lian) 224簡 (Jian) 225婁(Lou) 226蓋 (Gai) 227符 (Fu) 228奚 (Xi) 229木(Mu) 230穆 (Mu) 231黨 (Dang) 232燕 (Yan) 233郎 (Lang) 234邸 (Di) 235冀 (Ji) 236談 (Tan) 237姬 (Ji) 238屠 (Tu) 239連 (Lian) 240郜 (Gao) 241晏 (Yan) 242欒 (Luan) 243鬱 (Yu) 244商 (Shang) 245蒙 (Meng) 246計 (Ji) 247喻 (Yu) 248揭 (Jie) 249竇(Dou) 250遲 (Chi) 251宇 (Yu) 252敖 (Ao) 253糜 (Mi) 254鄢 (Yan) 255冷 (Leng) 256卓 (Zhuo) 257花 (Hua) 258仇 (Chou) 259艾(Ai) 260藍 (Lan) 261都 (Dou) 262鞏 (Gong) 263稽 (Ji) 264井 (Jing) 265練 (Lian) 266仲 (Zhong) 267樂 (Le) 268虞 (Yu) 269卞 (Bian) 270封 (Feng) 271竺 (Zhu) 272冼 (Xian) 273原 (Yuan) 274官 (Guan) 275衣 (Yi) 276楚 (Chu) 277佟 (Tong) 278栗 (Li) 279匡 (Kuang) 280宗 (Zong) 281應 (Ying) 282台 (Tai) 283巫 (Wu) 284鞠 (Ju) 285僧 (Seng) 286桑 (Sang) 287荊 (Jing) 288諶 (Chen) 289銀 (Yin) 290揚 (Yang) 291明 (Ming) 292沙 (Sha) 293薄 (Bao) 294伏 (Fu) 295岑 (Cen) 296習 (Xi) 297胥 (Xu) 298保 (Bao) 299和 (He) 300藺(Lin)

Friday, 6 October 2017

2017's harvest moon

While we Chinese people calls the occasion as the Mid-Autumn Festival on account of the full moon, people in the West are referring to this particular full moon as the harvest moon. According to the almanac, the harvest moon is the full moon nearest the start of the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere which was 23 Sept. Normally, this coincides with the full moon in September but in 2017, the October full moon occurs nearer to the equinox than the September full moon. These two scenes of the harvest moon were viewed at about 5.45am this morning.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The legend of the Moon Goddess

Tonight is the 15th day of the eighth Chinese lunar month which means that we can see the full moon hanging above us and shining bright in its full glory, weather permitting, of course.

The Chinese has it that Chang-Er is the Goddess of the Moon and the story goes, according to wikipedia, that in a very distant past, 10 suns had risen together into the skies and scorched the earth. The archer Yi shot down nine of them, leaving just one sun, and was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. He did not consume it straight away but hid it at home, as he did not want to gain immortality without his beloved wife Chang-Er.

One day while Yi went out hunting, someone named Fengmeng broke into the house and tried to force Chang-Er to give him the elixir. She refused and drank it herself. Chang-Er was transformed and flew upwards towards the heavens, choosing the moon as her residence. When Yi discovered what had transpired and felt sad, he displayed the Fruits and Cakes that Chang-Er had liked and offered them to her in worship.

That is why if you peer hard enough at the full moon in the eighth lunar month, you may see some semblance of the Moon Goddess dancing in the heavens.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Lucky strike

It took between 35 to 40 shots on my mobile camera before I could manage to freeze an image of a lightning strike in Kuala Lumpur about a month ago. When I returned to my room at the Cititel in Midvalley after losing one of my chess games, any thought of frustration was forgotten when I noticed the darkening sky from the room. Soon afterwards, it was a lightning storm blitzing the city. I had a regret that my regular Olympus camera was being serviced but I still had my mobile phone with me. Ah well, better than nothing, I had supposed. So I started clicking away, sometimes at nothing and only in anticipation of a lightning bolt appearing, and was lucky enough to have captured two strikes.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

BBC Radio 1 Vintage

BBC's Radio 1 Vintage brings back some of the best radio programming from 50 years ago. The temporary radio station will be available for the next 30 days. I can't wait to start listening....again and again and again!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

David, Patrick and Jahabar

Three fellas that I met at The Banker's Draught last August when I was down in Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysia Chess Festival:

The first was David Wu, whom I had first met several years ago in Penang when my old schoolmate, Kee Thuan Chye, was launching one of his Bullshit books at the Loke Thye Kee building in Penang Road. After the launch of the book, we had all adjourned to a food court in Weld Quay for a few drinks. Interestingly enough, I had asked David then whether or not he was related to a certain Wu Lien-teh and he said "no."

Well, as many of you would know, David walked all the way from KL to Kelantan in 2015 to raise money for the flood victims of Kelantan and he managed to raise enough to re-build a house for a Malay lady there. In 2016, he went on a solo bicycling trip to China to rediscover his ancestral roots.

Then in a mad rush of adrenaline, he had taken off again on an ambitious bicycling journey around the globe with another chap, this time to try raise funds for childhood cancer. He's trying to raise RM5 million in conjunction with the National Cancer Society Malaysia and he's only asking the public to donate at least RM1 to the effort. In case you want to do your part, you can bank in your donation to Public Bank Berhad account no: 3988587622 in the name of The National Cancer Society of Malaysia.

The second was Patrick Teoh. You should know this niamah guy. His voice was the voice of radio for decades. On Radio Malaysia's Fantastic Facts and Fancies in the 1960s to the Breakfast Show with Yasmin Yusof in the 1990s, I think, and he is still on the Bfm radio station today with his Pick of the Pops on Saturday afternoons.

We had first gotten in touch in the mid-1990s when my pals and I formed an Internet emailing list which Patrick came on board much later. At that time, I had asked him about the word "seque" and he said it meant music flowing continuously from one song to another without stopping. And he said that it's pronounced as "seg-wei".

So when I met him again recently and reminding him about his email, I dropped a clanger by mispronouncing the word and having him correct me. Anyway, Patrick in person sounds exactly as Patrick over the airwaves.

The third was Jahabar Sadiq. First time that I had met this guy but not the first time that I had heard about him, of course. He was the editor of The Malaysian Insider news portal until it was blocked by the Malaysian government in early 2016 and this caused the website to close down permanently a month later.

But then you really can't put a good man down, can you?  He later found someone to back him up and in early 2017, Jahabar was back as the editor of another news portal called The Malaysian Insight. That's how I introduced him to my daughter on that evening at The Banker's Draught: the editor of The Malaysian Insight? "Are you sure?" he tried to cast doubt on my introduction. Of course! How could I be wrong?

Friday, 22 September 2017

King versus King

About two weeks ago, I did mention that if I was in the right mood, I might wish to revisit one or two of the games that I had played in the Malaysia Chess Festival. So there I was, on 1 Sept, freshly recovered from a one-day break in the Seniors tournament where I had experienced three losses in consecutive games. In the sixth round, I found myself seated across from Fide Master Brian Jones of Australia whom I had last played in 2010. We are now seven years older. Would I be heading for another loss or would I be able to break the chain? I had hoped that it would not be the former.

I had vaguely remembered that he had opened with 1.d4 against me seven years ago. I had sprung a little surprise on him then but I wasn't very confident that I could spring the same surprise on him again. Or could I? In the end, when he did open with the same 1.d4 again, I decided to opt for something slightly less risky. The only question was, what? What could I do? You know, sometimes, when you are faced with such a dilemma, it is best to just let your fingers do the talking, or walking, and to hell with the consequences.

So it turned out that after a moment's hesitation, my mind being an undecided semi-blank, my fingers suddenly flew out to push 3...b5. Yes, the Benko Gambit, which even caught me by surprise. Why on earth would I play this? The only other time that I had essayed this move was....lemme December 1974 at the first Asian team chess championship. Between then and now, nothing! Ziltch! In no other game had I ever played with the Benko. Really, I was going to have to play this game almost by intuition alone.

Before I continue, I have a request. If there's anyone who can pick holes in my analysis or train of thought below, please let me know.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. a4 bxc4 5. Nc3 d6 6. e4 g6 7. f4 Bg7 8. Nf3 Nbd7 9. Bxc4 O-O 10. a5 Ne8 11. O-O Nc7 12. Qe2 Rb8 13. e5 f5 14. Ng5 I can safely say that by this time, I had left all my old memories behind. All my moves until the ninth move were automatic but progressively from the 10th move, I had felt that my position was slowly going downhill. But a little voice kept asking me to play 14... Rb4. (See the first diagram) In hindsight, it was probably the only active move I had.

15. Re1 h6 16. Ne6 Nxe6 17. dxe6 Nb8 18. Nd5 Rxc4 Gosh, suddenly this turned out to the only resource in this position or otherwise, I would be slowly strangled in the centre. 19. Qxc4 Bxe6 20. exd6 Qxd6 21. Rxe6 Qxe6 22. Nxe7+ Kf7 23. Qxe6+ Kxe6 24. Nxg6 Bd4+ I'm down by one pawn but I believe that I have a pretty good game. My bishop is active and the white b2-pawn doesn't look too comfortable there. 25. Kf1 Rg8 26. Nh4 Nc6 27. Nf3 Bf6 28. g3 Rb8 29. Be3 Kd5 30. Rd1+ Ke4 31. Ke2 Rxb2+ There, you see? I've got my pawn back and now I have a very d a n g e r o u s c-pawn that's just waiting to advance! 32. Nd2+ Kd5 33. Kf3 Nd4+ 34. Bxd4 Bxd4 35. g4 c4 During the game, I felt that I should resist capturing the white g4 pawn. The white king on the f3 square takes away a very important square for his knight. 36. gxf5 c3 37. Nf1 Kc4 38. Ne3+ Bxe3 39. Kxe3 c2 40. Rc1 Kc3 41. Ke4 Rb4+ Here, I was debating whether to play this check or to move my rook to the b1 square immediately and eliminate the white rook. I think the ensuing endgame would still be drawn, eg 41... Rb1 42. Rxc2+ Kxc2 43. f6 Rb7 44. Kf5 Kd3 45. Kg6 Ke4 46. f7 (or 46. f5 Ke5 47. f7 Rxf7 48. Kxf7 Kxf5, etc) 46... Rxf7 47. Kxf7 Kxf4 48. Kg6 h5 49. Kxh5 Kf5 50. Kh6 Kf6 51. h4 a6 52. h5 Kf7 53. Kh7 Kf8 54. Kg6 Kg8 55. h6 Kh8 56. h7

Back to the game. 42. Ke5 Rb5+ 43. Ke6 Rxa5 44. f6 Ra4 45. f5 Re4+ 46. Kf7 Kd2 47. Rxc2+ Kxc2 48. Kg6 Re8 (See the second diagram) Should White play 49. f7 or 49. Kxh6? It's so inviting to capture the pawn because the king could still move to the g7 square on the next move. But it is a losing move because I would then gain a tempo to push my last pawn forward. For example, 49. Kxh6 a5 50. f7 Ra8 51. Kg7 a4 52. f8=Q Rxf8 53. Kxf8 a3 54. Kg8 a2 55. f6 a1=Q 56. f7 Qa2 and now starts the long process of pushing the white king in front of his pawn before my king plods back towards it. 57. Kg7 Qb2+ 58. Kg8 (or 58. Kh7 Qf6 59. Kg8 Qg6+ 60. Kf8 Kd3 etc) 58... Qb3 59. Kg7 Qc3+ 60. Kg8 Qc4 61. Kg7 Qd4+ 62. Kg8 Qd5 63. Kg7 Qe5+ 64. Kg8 Qe6 65. Kg7 Qe7 66. Kg8 Qg5+ 67. Kf8 Kd3 68. Ke8 Qg6 69. Ke7 Qg7 70. Ke8 Qe5+ 71. Kd7 Qf6 72. Ke8 Qe6+ 73. Kf8 Kd4 74. Kg7 Qe7 75. Kg8 Qg5+ 76. Kf8 Ke5 77. Ke8 Qg6 78. Ke7 Qe6+ 79. Kf8 Kf6)

Back to the game again. 49. f7 Ra8 50. Kg7 a5 51. f8=Q Rxf8 52. Kxf8 a4 53. f6 a3 54. f7 a2 55. Kg8 a1=Q 56. f8=Q Qg1+ The quickest path to a draw, which Jones and I recognised. However, the problem with not agreeing to a draw earlier was because right until this point, we had believed that both sides still had some slight mathematical chances to win should either player faltered. Momentum simply pushed us forward. 57. Kh7 Qxh2 58. Qxh6 Qxh6+ 59. Kxh6 ½-½ Okay, the queens are off the board and the kings are the only pieces left. Still chances to win? Nahh....

You know, playing till reaching a King versus King endgame is not that uncommon. Why, even as I was completing this story, I've just learnt that in the FIDE World Cup that's taking place in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, two top grandmasters - Ding Liren of China and Wesley So of the Philippines - had drawn a game that was reduced to a similar King versus King ending. Really, it's not that uncommon.

Ding Liren - Wesley So, FIDE World Cup, Tbilisi, 20 Sep 2017
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6  3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Be7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. b3 b6 7. O-O Bb7 8. Nc3 Nbd7 9. Bb2 c5 10. Ne1 cxd4 11. Qxd4 Bc5 12. Qf4 Bb4 13. Nd3 Bxc3 14. Bxc3 Qc8 15. Rfc1 dxc4 16. Bxf6 Nxf6 17. Rxc4 Qb8 18. Qxb8 Rfxb8 19. Ne5 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 Ne8 21. Nc6 Rb7 22. Rd1 Kf8 23. e4 Nf6 24. f4 b5 25. Rcd4 g6 26. Ne5 h6 27. Rc1 Ke8 28. Kf3 Nd7 29. Nd3 a5 30. Rc6 Ke7 31. a3 Raa7 32. Ke3 Nb8 33. Rc8 Nd7 34. Rc6 Nb8 35. Rc8 Nd7 36. Nc5 Nb6 37. Rc6 Rc7 38. Rxb6 Rxc5 39. e5 g5 40. Rd3 gxf4+ 41. gxf4 Rc2 42. h3 Ra2 43. b4 axb4 44. axb4 Rh2 45. Ke4 Rc7 46. Rxb5 Rc4+ 47. Rd4 Rc7 48. Rc5 Rxc5 49. bxc5 Rc2 50. f5 exf5+ 51. Kxf5 Rxc5 52. Rd6 Rc1 53. Rxh6 Rf1+ 54. Ke4 f6 55. exf6+ Rxf6 56. Rxf6 Kxf6 57. h4 Kg6 58. h5+ Kxh5 ½-½

Monday, 18 September 2017

Old pirate

I was given this old record by a former colleague from my banking days when I was down in Parit Buntar last month. Obviously, he doesn't have a use for it now as he doesn't own a turntable any more. So I very gladly accepted the gift.

The record is not an original press; it is what was once popularly known as a pirated record. That is, a locally pressed record by some unknown enterprise to satiate the needs of music lovers who would like compilations without bursting their bank accounts. The record was  slightly warped and very dirty. The record label was dirty as well. A thick layer of brown gunky stuff came off when I cleaned it. But I was surprised that after I got the gunk off, the sound quality was acceptable. In fact, very acceptable. And what songs were on it?

Side 1: When will I see you again (Three Degrees), Whatever gets you thru the night (John Lennon), My melody of love (Bobby Vinton), Tonight (The Rubettes), Dirty Old man (Three Degrees), Angie baby (Helen Reddy), Bank of the Ohio (Olivia Newton-John), Honey honey (Abba)
Side 2: Love me for a reason (The Osmonds), Please Mr Postman (Carpenters), Somethin' about you baby I like (Tom Jones), #9 dream (John Lennon), Never ending song of love (Bobby Vinton), The bitch is back (Elton John), Free and easy (Helen Reddy), The river's too wide (Olivia Newton-John)

Friday, 15 September 2017

Flesh trade in colonial Penang

The late Leong Yee Fong - he passed away in 2015 - used to teach History at the Penang Free School when I was studying there, although he never did teach me. Then he left to join the University of Science Malaysia and had a very successful career. The last I met him was in February 2015 when he was already long retired. Although he was by then also seriously ill, he seemed rejunevated in the presence of his former colleagues and the old boys.

About 16 years ago (has it been that long??), he spoke at the Penang Colloquium and his topic was on prostitution in colonial Malaya with a special reference to Penang. Even as long as six years ago, I was debating on whether to reproduce his paper here since it's quite long. Maybe I should, so here goes:
This paper is a preliminary version of a larger paper that will probably be presented at the international conference in Penang in April next year. It is the intention here only to stress certain salient aspects of prostitution in colonial Malaya and especially Penang which was a colonial port-town with a thriving flesh trade in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The main issues emphasised here are: firstly, prostitution in Penang was a part of an international sex trade and a form of flourishing business for several parties involved in the trafficking of women and children. Secondly, the evolution of the flesh trade from licenced brothels in late 19th century to sly prostitution in the 1930s accompanied by the emergence of new forms of entertainment for the Penang community. Thirdly, some possible explanations for the existence of licenced prostitution during the colonial period and finally the spatial distribution of prostitution in Penang and its social hierarchy within the profession.

The Phenomenon in Malaysian History
Prostitution in colonial Malaya and Penang should not be measured against western and modern concepts of ethics and conventions but rather should be seen within the social and economic context of the period under survey. It is all too simple a generalisation to state that prostitution was morally degrading and that prostitutes were despicable creatures of society. Within the context of colonial society, they provided a service to the frontier society and prostitution should be seen from the viewpoint of the social order of the day. They were historically migrant labourers following the massive stream of labour inflow from China that provided the basis for the growth of the colonial economy that modern Malaysia and Penang have subsequently inherited. Prostitution was a form of economic opportunity in a land that was wanting in employment opportunities for women. With their sexual skills they had tamed to a certain extent the turbulence of a frontier society and had contributed to the evolution of a more orderly and stable society. Prostitution, after all, was a legalised profession and so were all the other vices such as opium smoking and gambling that were sanctioned by the colonial authorities. Even the wealthily Chinese had condoned its existence while some had indulged in it as an outlet for their uncontrolled passions. In any case the keeping of mistresses and concubines was the order of the day and some turned to prostitutes, particularly along Campbell Street, as what J.D. Vaughn said "...their wives who were young, pretty and graceful once but for want of exercise soon renders them obese and unwieldy and after bearing a few children they generate into ugly bags". Brothels were centres of social entertainment performing a public service. In traditional China it was known that merchants and government officials transacted their business in brothels and scholars wrote some of their best lines in whorehouses. Chinese society in Penang was an extension of traditional china and what was good for China was good for them.

The Flesh Trade
Japanese and Chinese prostitutes (Karayuki-san and Ah Ku) were two main categories found in Penang. Their existence was the end result of an international network of trafficking in women and children that was centred in the seaports of Nagasaki, Shanghai, Ningpo, Amoy, Canton, Macao and Hong Kong. It was in these seaports that the buying and selling of girls and women were transacted and Hong Kong was the main centre for the export of this human cargo for the vigorous market in Southeast Asia. Singapore with its unrestricted possibilities for traffickers was the hub of the movement for prostitution in Southeast Asia. The port-city as the distributing centre for traffickers who intended to dispose off the women and girls to the main towns in the Federated Malay States, and some invariably landed in Penang brothels where the brothels keepers would eagerly seize them. The continuous export flow of potential prostitutes to meet the vigorous demand in Malaya and other parts of Southeast Asia was sustained by the poverty stricken condition sin South China particularly in the Kwantung and Kwangsi areas, the Akamasu Island and Shimbara Peninsula in Kyusu Island in Japan: the patriarchal system of the family tradition in which female children had little value and the close network of traffickers, procurers, ship captains, and brothel keepers. It is necessary at this stage to examine the existence of licenced prostitution in colonial Penang; it is necessary to look into the macro socio-economic forces that impinged on rural societies in china and Japan and also to look into the increasing economic prosperity in Malaya and Singapore at the turn of the century. On the words of James Warren, it was stated in his book Ah Ku and Karayuki-san, that prostitution was big business. The prices of prostitutes ranged from $150 to $500 or more depending on the women's virginity, age, beauty and origin. It played an important role in providing the capital of the growth of Chinese and Japanese enterprises in Singapore and Malaya. It was prostitution that spawned a host of retail shops and business - restaurants, drug shops, tailors, boarding houses, hairdressing salons and others.

The Justification of Licenced Prostitution
The Chinese community in Penang neither openly accepted licenced prostitution nor did they officially protest to the authorities. It was only on the 1930s that the comments were rampant on the necessity of suppression. The colonial government, on the other hand, officially sanctioned prostitution, as it was considered a social necessity. Demography is a vital consideration as it was considered as to why the authorities regarded licenced prostitution to be important to the social order. Without going into the statistics of Chinese immigration at this stage, it is generally known that there was a massive gender imbalance in Malaya and Penang. This imbalance was only rectified in the 1930s following the onset of the World Depression when a new ordinance was introduced imposing a quota on the immigration of Chinese males into Malaya while female immigrants were exempted from the quota. Until the 1930s the booming economy from the 1880s to the 1920s saw the unprecedented influx of male Chinese, the majority of whom were bachelor labourers. Penang, one of the entry points of Chinese labourers, had virtually become a Chinese city outside China. From the colonial point of view, it was this gender imbalance that prompted the authorities to sanction the existence of licenced prostitution.

Apart from considerations of social necessity, prostitution was permitted as a means of controlling the incidence of venereal disease. Venereal disease was a concomitant development of prostitution and concubine, the latter of which was common among the young European planters in the estates. The alarming fact was that the British community was reported to have incidence of venereal disease on the 1890s and at the turn of the century. Nevertheless, the control of venereal diseases was not thought in terms of suppression and closure of licenced brothels. For the authorities, sexual indulgence had to be condoned. The hot equatorial climate had a stirring effect that a man in England could not fully appreciate. For the vast majority of Chinese labourers and the British bachelors in Penang, sexual passions were aroused by the hot and damp equatorial climate. It was thought that the fires of passion could best be dampened through the channels of licenced brothels, be they Japanese or Chinese. Recognition would entail registration, compulsory medical examination of prostitutes to ascertain that they were safe for consumption and, in general, to check venereal disease from reaching epidemic proportions. It seems that the colonial government tended to blame everything on the climate - the evergreen tropical rainforest, Indian adultery problems in the estates and the uncontrollable sexual appetite of Chinese labourers and the British. It could also be said then that venereal disease thrived under hot climatic conditions.

Spatial Distribution of Licenced Brothels
By 1893 prostitution was already well established in the Straits Settlements. It was estimated that there were 1808, 958 and 150 licenced prostitutes in Singapore, Penang and Malacca respectively. In Singapore, brothel prostitution was located within the precincts of Hylam, Malabar, Malay and Bugis streets with European and Japanese prostitutes predominating. Chinese opium-smoking brothels in Singapore were mostly found around Fraser and Tan Quee Lan streets, the Smith Street area and the Chinatown district in the Kreta Ayer neighbourhood. In Penang, the boundaries of brothel areas were also well demarcated: along Campbell Street where the higher class prostitutes and virgins were located for the wealthy, Cintra street where Chinese and Japanese brothels were found, Rope Walk and the Kuala Kangsar Road area (behind Chowrasta Market) where services could be obtained at budget prices for the coolie class and the rickshaw pullers.

With the passing of the Contagious Diseases Ordinance in 1870 both the brothels and prostitutes were registered and each brothel had to keep a list of inmates with their respective names, ages and nationalities. The registration exercise invariably brought the prostitutes into closer contact with the officials of the Chinese Protectorate through frequent inspections of brothel premises and interviews with prostitutes. The registration system not only defined brothel prostitution within certain boundary limits but also subjected prostitutes to vaginal examination by colonial doctors. Prostitutes who were certified clean and healthy were each issued with a certificate of good health.

The brothel houses carried with them alluring names signifying fragrance, entertainment and pleasure, passion and everlasting happiness. In 1899 it was estimated that there were more a hundred brothels in the red-light district of Penang town. Below are names of the brothels along Campbell Street in 1900:

Cuixiang Lou, Dongyang, Fengyi Lou, Fuhe Tang, Huihua Lou, Tinxiang, Qiong Lou, Qunxiang Lou, Shunyi Tang, Weichu Quan, Xyiu Tang, Xinhehe, Xingshengda, Yangfeng Lou, Yuanfu Tang, Yuechang Tang

It was obvious that many of these names were imported from China where brothels with such names had existed in the main towns of China, some of which were made famous in Chinese novels.

Social Hierarchy
It was generally known that the distribution of brothels was related to the popularity of individual prostitutes. Popularity in this respect was concomitant to the relationship between prostitutes and their clients, and their level of acceptance. It should be noted that popularity was determined by beauty, age and adroitness. As a corollary to this, popularity commanded the ability to levy higher charges for sexual services thereby classifying them into higher, intermediate and lower class prostitutes. It could be a coincidence that the gradation of prostitutes was related to their physical locations subjected prostitutes to physical locations within the red-light district of Penang. The higher-class prostitutes were found along Campbell Street, followed by the intermediate class in Cintra Street and the lower class along Kuala Kangsar Road. As such, while the wealthy and the less wealthy frequented the Campbell Street and Cintra Street brothels, the coolies and rickshaw pullers thronged the Kuala Kangsar Road brothels.

There was little doubt that the status of prostitutes changed in the course of time. With advancing age and changing conditions of health, beauty and adroitness popularity tended to fade away. Consequently, the status of prostitutes descended from Campbell Street to Kuala Kangsar Road. However, not all experienced the descending process on account of suicides and venereal disease affliction. It was known that a kongsi house existed for brothel-keepers and prostitutes, believed to be located along Rope Walk. The kongsi not only functioned as a meeting ground for brothel-keepers to settle disputes and squabbles among the inmates but also as a sanatorium for the infirm and disease ridden prostitutes to rest out their dying days.

The hierarchy of prostitutes was also determined by the essence of relationship between the brothel-keepers and prostitutes. Relationship here was dictated by the prostitutes' origins and financial relations with the brothel-keepers (kwai po). There were three main categories in this relationship. First were the sold prostitutes whom the keepers had purchased from the traffickers. In Chinese they were known as kongchu and considered as "adopted daughters" of the brothel keeper. Second were the pongnin who were pawned or hired to a house and in most cases were girls working off a debt on behalf of their poverty-stricken parents in China. Third were the tap-tang or voluntary prostitutes who were allowed to retain half of their earnings while the other half belonged to their keeper.

From Licenced to Sly Prostitution
Sly prostitution had all along existed alongside with licenced prostitution but its significance and prominence had been overshadowed by the latter. It was only in the early 1920s that sly prostitution attracted the attention of the Secretary of Chinese Affairs, W.T. Chapman. This was largely in connection with the control of venereal diseases and the involvement of European men. The sly prostitutes in Penang were principally Chinese, Malays and Siamese who were subsequently joined by the Japanese in the 1920s. The patrons of sly prostitutes were mostly Europeans, Malays and some Chinese of middle and wealthy class origins. W.T. Chapman, in this respect, enumerated several factors that contributed to the popularity of sly prostitution in the 1920s:

1. In 1909 Lord Crewe, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, issued what was known as the "concubinage circular, warning all officials in colonies not to keep concubines or mistresses. This was in the interest of preserving the image and prestige of the British as the ruling elite in Malaya. The circular had the effect of leading to the concealment of their activities and their patronage of sly prostitutes for it was damaging to British prestige if they frequented the regular licenced brothels.
2. The increase in the number of cinemas in the main towns of the Federated Malay States and Penang. Cinemas provided a convenient means for sly prostitutes to display themselves and where men could contract the service of one without the publicity associated with licenced brothels.
3. The closure of Japanese brothels because the presence of karayuki-san had an adverse effect on the image and prestige of Japan as a ruling imperial power in the east. Consular representatives were ordered to close down all Japanese brothels and to repatriate all the Japanese prostitutes. Invariably, some evaded repatriation and turned to sly prostitution while others worked as waitresses in restaurants.
4. The post-World War One slump had affected the economic viability of a few establishments, which were forced to close down. The prostitutes followed the footsteps of the karayuki-san and became sly prostitutes and extended their clientele to other nationalities.
5. The raising of the entry age for licenced prostitution from 16 to 20 was also responsible for the increase of sly prostitution. Some of the girls who were below 20 and who had been trained as prostitutes inevitably turned to sly prostitution. As to why Europeans and Sikhs resorted to sly prostitution, W.T. Chapman had the following to say. To quote from Chapman:
6. "Among Europeans, the feverish and insatiable thirst for gaiety and excitement which finds its e expression locally in indulgence in the various sensuous forms of jazz dances. I believe that the result of the excitement produced by participation in these dances is to drive many young men out to find women willing to satisfy the desires aroused."
7. "Sikhs are forbidden by their religion to have intercourse with a woman other than their wives. There are very few Sikhs here who are married, subsequently the bulk of this class of the community are driven to the cult of sly prostitution, instead of patronising the inmates of regular brothels." In the case of the Malays, Chapman claimed that:
8. "Many Malay women are married at 13 or 14 to very young husbands. After they have been married a few years the husband tires of his wife and divorce her. By this time she is at an age when she is sexually vigorous. Before marriage a Malay woman is kept carefully shut up and looked after, but as a divorcee, she enjoys a practically unrestrained freedom to which she has hitherto been unaccustomed. In addition to this she has been put to shame by her husband and it is small wonder that she decides to give reins to her sexual desires, and have a good time either as an enthusiastic amateur or a professional. In the present state of education of Malay women a divorcee unless she happens to get remarried, has few interests to which she can devote herself."
9. As to why Malays resorted to sly prostitution, Chapman explained that it was due to the increase in the amount of mas kahwin for the marriage of an anak dara. It was said that the amount, which used to be $22.50 had increased as much as between $100 to $125. Thus, instead of marrying in their teens, Malay males tended to postpone it to 25 or 26. As a result, more and more young Malays were driven to illicit intercourse to satisfy their sexual desires. In the case of women, it was the ease with which a Malay man could divorce his wife that drove them to become sly prostitutes. According to Chapman it was this marital problem that had led to the appearance of sly prostitutes in the sex market.

Sly Prostitution in Penang in the 1930s
By the 1930s social conditions had changed in Penang. Cinemas with sound-track movies such as Majestic, Cathay and Odeon, had become popular entertainment outlets for the Chinese community in Penang. They were exposed to the antics of such notable Chinese actresses as Li Hsiang-Ian who used to sing ever-popular songs - The Fragrance of the Night and China Night - as well as the dimpled and sultry smile of Butterfly Wu and Pai Yang. Coffee shops mushroomed and became popular centres for social gatherings and social discourse on the issues of the day. Dance halls, cabarets and singing cafes appeared, the earliest of which was Wembley Park where the more enthusiastic could dance cheek-to-cheek with taxi dancers. Dancing had become a form of popular culture as dance clubs flourished and provided instruction in the techniques of waltz, foxtrot, quickstep and the tango.

Invariably the changing backdrop provided new modus operandi for prostitutes whose carriers were rudely disrupted by the compulsory closure of licenced brothels in 1930. Being forced out of licenced prostitution, many of them continued their profession as sly prostitutes under various guises. Some worked as domestic servants in lodging houses, which used to accommodate newly arrived immigrants to Penang but on account of the depressed economy following the World Depression were transformed into sly brothels. Some became girl cashiers and waitresses in coffee shops where their coquettish looks became a source of attraction for customers. However, it should be said that not all girl cashiers were sly prostitutes. Nevertheless the more respectable classes of the Chinese community regarded that they were so. The editorial column of a Chinese newspaper, Chung Hwa Siang Pao, in this respect, reflected the general opinion of Chinese society at that time.

"Since the Government's prohibition of prostitution, those pitiful creatures who depend on prostitution as a means of living were forced to become sly prostitutes, but as the Government is also adopting drastic measures to put and end to these, the more ingenious ones therefore, after racking their brains over this problem, hit upon a plan to earn a living by becoming girl cashiers, as this title sounds sweeter to the ear. They think that this sort of occupation is legal and that the Government has no right to prohibit it. Moreover they think that they can do whatever they like. Now, if we were to look at their dresses and their behaviour, we can be perfectly sure that eight or nine out of ten of these girl accountants were once either licenced or unlicenced prostitutes."

The third avenue for sly prostitution was the cabarets and dance halls. The cabaret was a new form of male leisure activity in which they could enjoy the music and songs, the pleasure of dancing and the company of taxi dancers. Taxi dancers were not registered and it was not possible to know whether a taxi dancer was a former prostitute. It was not difficult for prostitutes to work as taxi dancers as they could master the skills of dancing easily. Their earnings were derived from coupon-dancing, sit-outs (providing companionship with an accompanying charge) and sleep-outs when sexual services were offered beyond their duty hours.

Concluding Remarks
Licenced prostitution was a colonial phenomenon in the 1920s. With its abolition in 1930 it was succeeded by sly prostitution but its preponderance as a social phenomenon gradually diminished with the eradication of gender imbalance and the stabilisation of social order with the massive inflow of women in the 1930s and the transformation of the majority of bachelor labourers into a family-centred labour force. However, brothel prostitution together with gambling farms and amusement parks resurfaced during the Japanese Occupation. Women were rounded up and kept in military brothels to service the imperial army. Open prostitution came to an end with the return of the British in September 1945. Sly prostitution resumed with the reopening of cabarets such as Wembley and City Lights, amusement parks and bars. It has persisted until this very day but it is a far cry from the prevalence of sly prostitution in the 1930s.

(Please note that for the purpose of this draft paper, footnotes are omitted. Comments are invited for any correction, improvement or elaboration. Thank you. Leong Yee Fong, 5 December 2001.)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A record rescued

Two views of the same record, one that I bought during my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur. I had gone to a shop at the Ampang Park shopping mall, which faces closure in one or two months' time, and had picked up several records. One of them, this one, was in particularly bad condition. When I removed the record to inspect it, I found that several small insects had died and their dried shells had been compressed against both surfaces of the record. A thick crust of dried insect exoskeleton. I showed it to the store owner and she agreed to reduce its price.

After I returned to Penang a few days ago, I put this record through my usual cleaning process and managed to remove all traces of the dried insects. The rescued record, I must say, looked in quite pristine shape. I must also add that the sound was unaffected, safe for the usual slight clicks and pops that I would normally expect from an old record.

So here now is the record playing on my turntable: Baroque Brass by The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble.

Side 1: Sonate A 7 (Heinrich Biber), Sonate from Die Bankelsangerlieder (Anon), Intrada (Melchior Franck), Intrada V (Hans Leo Hassler), Sonata for Trumpet and 3 Trombones (Daniel Speer), Sonata for 3 Trombones (Daniel Speer), Sonata for 4 Trombones (Daniel Speer), Sonata for 2 Trumpets and 3 Trombones (Daniel Speer), Canzona A 10 (Samuel Scheidt)
Side 2: Chorale "Nun Danket Alle Gott" (JS Bach), Aria and Fugue in Imitation of the Postillion's Horn (JS Bach), Sonata K380 (D Scarlatti), Sonata K430 (D Scarlatti), Sonata K443 (D Scarlatti), Menuetto and Courante for Solo Tuba (JS Bach), March (CPE Bach)

From the liner notes:
Side 1 begins with a Sonata by the Bohemian violinist/composer Heinrich Biber (1644-1704), and is a typical example of baroque trumpet writing using fanfare motifs. Like most of the trumpet pieces of this time its strength lies in its simple form and bold colour heightened by the addition of timpani. The anonymous Sonata (c.1684) comes from a collection of Northern German vocal and instrumental music under the general title 'Bench Singers Songs', while the Intrada of Melchior Franck (1573-1639), composer and kapellmeister of the Duke of Coburg, is one of a collection published in 1608. Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) studied in Venice for a short time with Andrea Gabrieli and this Intrada from his 'Lustgarten' collection of 1601 shows clearly, in its warmth and suavity, the Venetian influence. Daniel Speer (1636-1707) wrote important treatises on musical theory and the manner of playing all the current instruments of his time. These Sonatas show his ability to write effectively for brass. The Canzona of Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654), which closes the first side of this record, comes from a collection of 32 dances in four and five parts published in 1621. This one lends itself to stereo treatment and it has been revoiced for two answering groups of five players each.
Side 2 opens with a sonorous Chorale from cantata no.79 by JS Bach (1685-1750) and is followed by the last two movements of his Capriccio (BWV 992) entitled 'on the departure of a dearly beloved brother'. The departure is signalled by the postillion's horn, creating the best possible excuse for transcription onto brass. Three Sonatas by Domenico  Scarlatti (1685-1757) transcribed for us by Stephen Dodgson (whose original brass works we have recorded on earlier Argo discs) were the result of a conversation one day on the possibility that Scarlatti was influenced somewhat in his compositions by the small town bands he must have heard while living in Spain. Be that as it may, K443 certainly begins in a very brassy fashion. Cello music is not generally associated with brass instruments, but the two movements from Bach's Cello Suite No.1 lend themselves to reincarnation on John Fletcher's tuba, an instrument invented some 100 years or so, after Bach's death. The record ends, appropriately for brass, with a rousing March attributed to CPE Bach (1714-1788).

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The student leaders in our midst

Together with four other friends, all Old Frees, I've been spending the whole of Saturday and Sunday at Penang Free School where we completed a second Student Leadership Workshop for some selected schoolboys from our Alma Mater.

It would have been a shame if we Old Frees do not contribute to the betterment of the Free School in whatever way we can. And my friends and I - Lim Siang Jin, Dr Cheah Swee Poh, Lim Teik Wah and Loh Lean Kang - thought it best to give our time to coach the potential leaders of our society on some soft skill development.

This workshop was actually the second half of two workshops that we had promised the boys. The first was held in April this year (click here to read my earlier story about the April workshop) and we had been amply encouraged by the response to conduct a follow-up for the same set of participants. At first, we had intended to have shorter follow-ups in May and then June, but time just did not allow them to happen. But finally, everything fell into place and the school agreed to find space for our second workshop.

As Old Frees who had celebrated the School's Bicentenary last year, we felt that the feel-good momentum must be maintained as much as possible and the beneficiaries of the momentum must be the present Frees themselves. My friends and I agreed that there was no point in celebrating for the sake of celebration alone if we could not do anything positive for the School.

Unfortunately, we are in no position to help raise money. We are not influential; we can't raise the millions required to improve the School physically. Neither are we capable to challenge the School in any sportive or recreational activity. The schoolboys will run rings around us any time. However, what we can do is to stimulate their minds intellectually and to guide them along on developing their soft skills.

Thus, these workshops were devised. Credit to Siang Jin for his meticulous planning and eye for detail. Lean Kang is a superb former corporate guy who contributed his experience and brought a lot of practical advice to the leadership workshop. Whereas, Swee Poh, Teik Wah and I reprised our roles as coaches to the boys. (Actually, Teik Wah had stepped in as a very capable replacement for Prof Tan Soo Choon who had some other work matters to attend to.)

I also contributed an after-dinner talk on Dr Wu Lien-Teh to make these boys understand how great a man he was. He saved the world from the scourge of the Black Plague but for all his international achievements, Wu Lien-Teh is only remembered in the School through a House that's named after him. Some of us hold the personal opinion that he was the greatest Old Free that Penang Free School had ever produced, greater than any other Old Free dead or alive!

Coming back to this Student Leadership Workshop, coaching these boys was a joy. It was a pleasure to be surrounded by young impressionable minds. The workshop materials made them punch well above their weights and they responded in a way that made us realise that there will always be a lot of hope for Penang Free School. Like I mentioned five months ago, we have many smart boys in our midst and if they were willing to absorb all new ideas thrown at them and served them back to us intelligently, the least we can do is to continue giving them the direction and encouragement to grow.

Again, I wish to emphasise that if you can touch the life of even one Free School schoolboy, you will have done your little bit for Penang Free School. My friends and I have managed to contribute a bit of our time through four long days with them and we now hope that others will do so too.

Finally, we thank headmaster Omar Abdul Rashid, senior assistant Syed Sultan Shaik Oothuman, The Old Frees' Association president Billy Yeoh and The Old Frees' Association committee member in charge of Alma Mater matters Lee Eu Beng for their support of our endeavours. Billy and Eu Beng actually came by to see for themselves how we worked. Much appreciated, guys, it's all for the School! Fortis atque Fidelis.

Attempting to solve a crossword puzzle

Happy faces absorbing in the information

Molding their minds through actual activity

The boys holding their own group discussions

Below and above, we had the boys reacting to the six coloured hats of Edward de Bono.

Au revoir to this group of boys. We hope to see a batch of new faces next year!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Senior moments

It is so easy to get an international chess rating nowadays. A real FIDE chess rating, not one that's calculated by a national chess federation or given by an online chess portal. A real FIDE chess rating that's recognised everywhere and comes from playing in FIDE-recognised tournaments worldwide.

In the far distant past, like in the 1980s or 1990s, the floor of the FIDE ratings have been gradually reduced from 2200 points to 2000 points till 1600 rating points today. With such a lowered rating floor and a subsequent popularisation of chess among the world-wide population at large, it has now been possible for more people to attain their chess ratings than ever before. Indeed, there are now three different types of international chess ratings: classical chess ratings for long time-control games, rapid chess ratings for short time-control games and blitz chess ratings for quick time-control games.

I never had an international chess rating until 2011. Indeed, I was a qualified International Arbiter long before I was a FIDE-rated player. In 2010, I was persuaded to participate in the Seniors open tournament at the Malaysia Chess Festival of that year. That was the first nine rated games that I played against other FIDE-rated players. Then in 2011, I played again in the Seniors open tournament and could claim another nine rated games, which was enough for me to get my first-ever international chess rating.

But then I stopped playing long time-control chess and only dabbled in the occasional rapid chess tournaments mainly in Penang. My FIDE rating became dormant. This year, however, I decided to play again in the Seniors section of the Malaysia Chess Festival. A six-year gap between my last game in 2011 and my first game in 2017.

Needless to say, there is a lot for me to catch up with. Like I mentioned in facebook, when I looked back on the games that I played in Kuala Lumpur last week, many of my chess strategies and chess thoughts were downright leaky, illogical and if I may add now, stupid. They might have looked logical enough when I was seated across from an opponent at the chess board but definitely, now a total embarrassment. But as one of my facebook friends commented, everyone below 2200 have the same problems, not only me. I shouldn't feel that discouraged. Ah well....

Maybe in a future post, I shall write something about one or two of the games I played in KL last week. They were not complete disasters. In fact, I could say that I was quite pleased with some of my leaky strategies. But that will be for the future. As for my chess rating, I fear that I could have lost some 40 points playing in that event and I should emerge from it with a mid-19 hundreds. But I shouldn't be discouraged about it too. Losing or gaining rating points, that comes with the game. The important thing is to enjoy playing and not over-stressing myself.