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Notes from Wijk aan Zee

2018/2/9 — 21:00

資料圖片 l Thomas Helbig @ flickr — Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

資料圖片 l Thomas Helbig @ flickr — Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

1. Back then, electoral geography was a real thing and people were so enthusiastic about it. There used to be a website set up by a professor, who spent a lot of effort mapping and detailing all the vote share and seat results in the district council in Hong Kong on a Google Map.(Link

Being an avid fan of elections and their studies, I asked to meet the professor himself (A fellow WahYan-nite) and wanted to see whether I may contribute to the project. Sadly, he informed me that he would be leaving the University, but he encouraged me to “pursue” my dream, since I consider such information may well be precious to the public.

That was the first time I realised how cheap that term actually is. 

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To be honest, now looking back election in Hong Kong is dead. People all believe democracy is a good thing, but nobody is willing to neither pay for a public good nor believe any sort of money spent is going to have an impact. There’s no publication or research because it’s a quasi-autocracy, power of election and legislature is very much constrained by the executive (if there’s actually anything left). 

No money, no honey.  

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2. Three years later after winning the Hong Kong Championship, I went to Europe for 1.5 months (Thanks to my generous boss and company) to play in the local chess tournaments.

Chess to me is a special thing that brought me much fame and fortune, also helping me to develop my communication and thinking skills. 

My own experience has led me to believe that in order to promote the sport, one would also have to be successful to be an example, in order to inspire confidence and trust as a “face” for the project. So other than spending time with teaching and voluntary work with the underprivileged, I’d also spend time to play some overseas matches, a thing I consider as a job no less.

3. I went back to Manchester first, the place where three years ago I studied my master degree. Meeting up with some of the uncles and aunties who have taken care of them during my studies, I have talked about some of the things I do in my job, and my plans to study for another master degree.

They were a bit surprised and laughed “Are you just finding another way to hide away from your problems?” Well, all of them studied something different than what they now worked: Computer science, translation, printing and art design. And all they now do is waiting tables or cooking dishes. 

“It really doesn’t matter what you studied, the point is whatever job you are in, you have to learn it fresh. Unless your boss asked you to study for that course.”

4. Then I went to Birmingham to meet my younger brother Patrick, as well as my old colleague form secondary school Jeff. They have given me some invaluable opinion about my PowerPoint to be delivered to DGS. 

Basically, when people look at the PowerPoint, they should not be scared away, feeling that they are incapable of doing the things you talk about after it. Strangely, now when I look at the PowerPoint, I realised that was actually my original (flashy) idea: Unintentionally I made this thing so difficult to read and understand, just trying to impress the girls. That shouldn’t be the point.

During my stay, I also had a chance to mend the relationship with Jeff. He informed me that during my secondary school years, I had play some chess with Jeff with quite an amount of arrogance. It was because I had always been belittling myself too much, that chess made me feel me feel somewhat special and powerful. He never touched chess after that. I bought him a Rosewood chessboard, and he quite liked it I guess.

5. After a week, I was in Stockholm. I wasn’t performing to my best; there can be a lot of explanations other than one’s lack of skills, other than lacking tournament practices in Hong Kong.

Technical: Indecisive at critical moments, transformation of positions from static to dynamic, general weakness of calculating short-forced lines.

Psychological: No Sunlight, Cold Weather, Alone in Hotel Room, No Friends or Family aside, Not any other players from my country.

5/9 is considered to be merely mediocre.

6.  I had a lot of thought during my stay in Stockholm, mainly about my PowerPoint. I mean, if I am at my competitive career’s deathbed, what would I say? That thought alone gave me some fresh idea to cut down some excessive points in the presentation.

And that I gave the whole trip a second thought: I don’t want to do this anymore.

Right from the start of the trip, I wasn’t able to get adequate financial funding for my trip, and people really think that I am just doing this because I liked it. Travelling, sightseeing, etc. The truth is you spend most of the time in a room no bigger than an average toilet, and all you do all day is in front of a computer. 

I tried really hard during my tournament and have never left the city centre other than taking occasional walks in Stockholm until the very last day, and even had my New Year countdown in the hotel room alone.

It’s really like the mapping project once over. You thought it would do public good, but even public good has a cost, and nobody agrees to pay or share any cost, thinking that it’s just for your own satisfaction. Maybe it’s true, and in any case I am tired of it. I am sacrificed too much for it, working out during all lunchtime, going home to chess exercise myself, weekend all about chess lessons with Grandmasters.  

I spend around 2500 HKD on chess alone with my chess education and materials every month. I am just at the end of my line, and how much I wish I’d be doing something else in my life, like learning how to drive or finishing my German online course.

7. Going back to Birmingham between the match of Rilton Cup and Tata Steel, it has never been so good. I honestly feel like that was perhaps the happiest moment in my life, and that I will never be this happy again.

I miss my friends and family so much after being alone in the depressing Scandinavia and stressful chess tournament. I used to be lamenting that it was a pity I couldn’t travel elsewhere for seeing other chess clubs in Germany/taking face-to-face lessons with my teacher in Ukraine. But no, going back to Birmingham was the best thing that could happen to me, I needed the social interaction and recharging myself.

8. After that, I went to Wijk aan Zee via Amsterdam. The weather wasn’t too good in Amsterdam, but for convenience and out of necessity, I did stay there for 2 days and had some time going around the city. I adored the harmony the Dutchies have with their water and canals, liberal minded and English-speaking. (Unfortunately you’d need to learn to speak Dutch if you want to stay, even when they are fluent in English. They value their own language a lot)

9. During my tournament it certainly also has its ups and downs, and with the Dutch weather so bad (A storm was there), I just couldn’t bear going back to the hotel room again after confining myself to the small dark room in Stockholm for the nights. 

So I travelled from cities to cities if my game ends quickly. Rotterdam, The Hague, sometimes Amsterdam, even just for the few hours and spending most of my time on the train, I’d still do it. It’s the end of my trip and I don’t mind spending a few tens more euros just to be somewhere else if that game didn’t go well (which was quite frequent)

10. I had the time to meet one of my old colleagues (a junior) in University. He studies political parties in Leiden and we had a good talk. What I really didn’t know was that he was one of my company’s sponsored scholar. He mentioned that most of the fund he has used here in Leiden for his Masters was from my company, and now for PhD he was in lack of funds. (Maybe Cambridge, London or LSE, possibly Northwest or John Hopkins)

“It’s all about interest.” While I can agree studying is not just for money, but pursuing one’s interest comes at a price, especially when you take masters and PhD programmes. Taking them is one thing (with all the money and time and effort you put in), getting over-educated is another.

For my current position, I have always liked to study behaviours and decision-making of the others. Chicago offers something like that but only in PhD programme. One can only imagine the time, effort and cost that need to be put in.

And it again recalls the time I had discussed the mapping project, all the public good and cost theory while travelling back from The Hague to Beverwijk. Maybe that’s just what life is, maybe that’s just how people think.

No money, no honey.

11. On the rest day I had a train travel together with a Chinese player, and we had some pleasant talks. What struck me the most was his optimism and relaxation view of way of life. He would talk about how many people is learning chess in China, his friends in China (all very top players), the way the top players are having less income and treatments while the absolute top gets everything. He has advised me to pursue another pathway for income and career, and only take chess as a hobby or some second career interest. (In my case, voluntary work and teaching students)

“Even Wei Yi had only 4,000 Euros, and had to pay for everything except hotel.” No money, no honey.

I was also quite struck with awe about the liberal view of his. “The changes people want, the experience they have with their lives, and it’s all deeply rooted in there. Changes are not coming now, but it will be there eventually, and it will be coming with great force when the people act.” 

He also said to me that I was not relaxed enough with chess, always try to solve problems forcefully (not sharply and with accuracy though) rather than taking things on as they come. That possibly explains certain difficulty I had when facing transitional problems (static to dynamic, dynamic to static, etc.)

It gives me an impression that he understands much more than I do, and is much more optimistic than I do despite seeing and sensing more.

12. At least I tried and can die happy now, Sweden and the Netherlands are stepped down versions of Russia – everybody plays chess. Even though I am one of the finest of Hong Kong, to them maybe I am just a bit better than average regional player. They have major tournaments literally every month, and if this week you don’t have anything in Dutch, you have it in German or French.

To extend a bit, what I am trying to say, is that they have a very organic way with chess. Chess is a part of their life, something they integrate into their habit without conscious effort. To me, chess is still pretty much an alien object, conscious, attention-required. Their chess culture (= what is equivalent as Majhong in Hong Kong) allows them to be in touch with it constantly. Even up to your 60s and 70s, you can still be improving and maintaining a very good level of player.

Age ages you? Possibly. Deteriorating performance? Not quite so, because you are still far from your potential, and therefore what applies to the very peak of athletes does not apply to you, you aren’t even there yet.

Class is a habit, quality is a habit. Everything in effortless harmony.

13. Going back to Hong Kong, I’d probably focus on organising more tournaments and trainings for the juniors and seniors, as well as the underprivileged. Maybe also teaching more students. At this moment I am not sure, but travelling aboard and playing has exhausted me physically, mentally and financially (and in certain amount of debt too)

Maybe not playing myself, but just teaching and organising. Life has come to a stage, and it doesn’t go away, it just changes a form to continue living with you.

14. There was some gender discussion in the past week about women participation in chess, and how the game in general “was in decline”. It came to my attention when I was still doing some research.(Link

It still struck me with great force how the author’s view is accurate in describing the character of chess players: Good analytical mindset, but in general not good team player and lacking empathy with others. That’s always what I considered to be fundamental flaw of men and their game, and voluntary work helps to change that perspective. There’s no use of intellect if that intellect has no platform to exercise upon.

15. Chess is useful and constructive, perhaps. It may be a good idea to promote it, perhaps. But it does not stand firm grounds without stable financial support, without the firm advantage to compete against other activities because of its abstractness and the general reputation of the game brought forth by most of its players.

Is it so worthy to devote so much time and energy alone, when you want to help the others but the others mere see it as your own gratification? What about other things in life? How much time you have for yourself in your life really, especially if now you are just alone without help? Don’t you have other better things to do?

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