Saturday, 24 November 2018

Chess is hard.

Chess is hard.


The month of November has been full of ups and downs for me. On the one hand, I managed to scale new heights in terms of my rapid ELO rating on chess.com, reaching a peak of 1955 and beating 2 NM's along the way. (Nearly beating a CM as well) 

However, a combination of impatience, impulsiveness, and indiscipline resulted in a loss of over 100 ELO points in a span of just a few days. I am barely over 1800 ELO now. 

My dreams of breaking 2000 ELO on rapid chess.com by year's end is quickly fading away. -sigh-


So many losses. One of which including blundering a whole queen in a completely winning position. See the game below:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2018.11.22"] [Round "?"] [White "dr_chessdad"] [Black "OmalPuar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D00"] [WhiteElo "1831"] [BlackElo "1999"] [Annotator "Liew,Mark"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "900+10"] 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 c5 3. e4 dxe4 4. d5 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Qe2 Bf5 7. O-O-O Nbd7 8. h3 $2 (8. f3 $1 exf3 9. Nxf3 {with initiative.}) 8... h5 9. f3 exf3 10. Nxf3 b5 11. g4 $6 {a dubious sacrifice. Right idea but wrong execution.} (11. d6 $1 e6 {and only then.} 12. g4 $1 hxg4 13. hxg4 Rxh1 14. gxf5 {with winning position}) 11... hxg4 12. hxg4 Rxh1 13. gxf5 {Computer says =- to Black but practically speaking the position is quite difficult for a human. His pieces are uncoordinated and undeveloped.} Qa5 $2 (13... b4 14. Na4) 14. d6 b4 15. dxe7 Bxe7 16. Bd6 Ng8 17. Bxe7 bxc3 18. Bf6+ $2 (18. Bd6+ Kd8 19. Ne5 Nxe5 20. Bxe5+ Kc8 21. Bxc3 Qc7 22. Qe4 Rxf1 23. Qxa8+ Qb8 24. Qxb8+ Kxb8 25. Rxf1 {white wins.}) 18... Kf8 19. Bxc3 Qc7 20. Bxg7+ Kxg7 21. Qg2+ Kf8 22. Qxh1 Rb8 23. Ng5 Qf4+ 24. Kb1 Qxg5 25. Rxd7 Qxf5 26. Rd1 Qf6 27. b3 a5 28. a4 (28. Bc4) 28... Ne7 29. Bc4 Qc3 30. Qh6+ Ke8 31. Qh8+ $4 {I have no idea why i played this move. Truly the blunder of the year.} (31. Qf4 {[%csl Gb8,Gf7] White wins because of the dual threats.}) 31... Qxh8 {OmalPuar won by resignation} 0-1

Thankfully, I know the remedy. 
  1. Play fewer games
  2. Study more 
  3. Analyze all previous losses 
  4. Sleep better
I need to remind myself constantly not to hurry and enjoy each game as it is. To appreciate the beauty and play well. Each game presents an opportunity to create a great memory. 

My new favorite chess quote is taken from the excellent book 'A Pawn's Journey" by Elliot Neff. There is no such thing as 'lose'. There is only win, draw or learn.

Whoever is reading this, if you're going thru a losing streak in chess. You're not alone. 

Monday, 12 November 2018

A very impromptu trip to Genting Highlands, Malaysia

Nothing but clouds and mountains

The plan

Last week, when my wife told me our son's preschool was closed the coming Monday and Tuesday (over Deepavali)  I decided it was the perfect opportunity to go for a quick getaway over the weekend.

For the longest time, I had wanted to go make the road trip to Genting and experience a new environment. The hustle and bustle of Singapore often get to me sometimes, with buildings as far as the eye can see. 

A fair warning for those planning to make the journey to Genting by car, be sure to send in your vehicle for a quick check at your regular mechanic to make sure everything's is functioning well before heading off.  We found ours to have a slight water leak but thankfully it was a quick fix. Make sure your tires and brakes are in good working order. Whilst the road conditions are generally excellent with good lane markings and appropriate speed bumps, expect that your car will be stressed to a degree because of the uphill climb with various twists and turns. It's definitely not something a Singaporean driver experiences on a daily basis. Drive safe.

Arrival 

Causeway Jams are just not fun.

Our holiday started off in trying circumstances. Despite reaching the causeway at around 8:30am, we encountered the dreaded weekend jam which set us back a total of 3.5 hours. Thankfully, with a combination of pre-downloaded videos, snacks and in-house car games, we were able to keep the kids from a complete melt-down. The weather conditions weren't favorable as well. A constant downpour greeted us when we got to KL which meant even slower traffic. By the time we finally reached our hotel, we had spent a total of 10 hours in the car with 2-3 breaks in between. Needless to say, I was glad to be able to stretch my legs and enjoy the crisp mountain air that evening.  Special thanks to our family car, who handled the road journey (including the twists/turns in the mountainside) admirably.

Accommodation

A warm bed, a quiet room, and a hot shower. What more can anyone ask for?

Our accommodation in Genting was the aging Hotel Genting Amara resort. Honestly, despite all the negative reviews I've read over the internet, I found the hotel to be sufficient for my needs and keeping in line with the hotel rates that I paid. (It's relatively cheaper than most of the hotels up in the mountain resort)  Quiet clean rooms/beds/toilets with hot water together with functioning air conditioning is all one can ask at the end of the day. Breakfast was palatable with the usual mix of western and local food but nothing fancy. Service was overall so-so. The hotel staff was generally responsive when asked for help if a bit slow at times. One thing I didn't quite like was the lack of free hotel parking. Sure, the rates weren't that expensive (when compared to Singapore CBD's prices) but couldn't they give that privilege to hotel guests? 

Anyway, I digress. We spent very little time in the hotel anyway, only checking in for the afternoon 'half-time' naps and the evening slumber.

Genting Highlands

Genting's landscapes are beautiful. I got what I came for. Fresh mountain air away from the city and a chance to see endless greenery. Peace and quiet, except for the occasional high pitched laughter coming from my 2 toddler boys in the background.
An example of The 'fog'


 The cable car rides offer a breathtaking view of the mountainside and remind me that the world is so much more then what we're used to seeing in Singapore. John absolutely loves cable car rides. Oh, the strawberry farm was pretty cool as well.
A really nice trip up the mountain.
Check out my stash!


The best family photo shot for the whole trip.


Food

Food was generally above average. Thanks to our relatively cheaper accommodation, we had a lot more to spend on food and shopping. The most memorable meal was eating at Lobsters & Burger, a world-famous restaurant chain dedicated to serving the best lobsters on hand. Now, I'm not a big lobster fan, but my wife testified that the lobster served was delicious. Another highlight was eating at 'Eighteen', another restaurant located at the (you guessed it!) 18th Floor of Hotel Maxim with breathtaking views of the mountainside. However, there are many many good restaurants up there in the mountain resort with an endless variety so foodies like myself won't be disappointed.

Eating. Singaporean's favorite pastime.
Another tick off the bucket list.


Check out John's new camera pose. (I wonder where he learned it from?)


the kitchen of 'Eighteen'


Shopping

The Genting Premium Shopping Outlets offer some significant discounts on certain branded goods as my wife would testify. =p

The main shopping center up at the main resort is pricey and I wouldn't recommend shopping there. You won't get much difference in prices compared to Singapore (especially if you compare online) 

We bought some clothes and Christmas presents for our family and friends but nothing much. The main budget was spent mainly on food and amusement rides for the kids.


Check out my ride, Dad
View from the cable car.

Conclusion

Genting is a pretty nice retreat for those looking for a change in scenery. Plenty of good food, great views, cool weather, and even some shopping. Kids can occupy themselves with the various amusement rides. There's also plenty of chances for walks in the various nearby parks. (When the kids are older for sure)