Tuesday, April 2, 2013

THE IM THAT NEVER WAS

I met Chia back in the days when I was a student in RI in the late 70's, visiting the National Chess Enterprise store on Killiney Road shopping for chess books. He was also writing for the Singapore Chess Digest under the name of Unknown Bobby, where  he annotates games for the magazine. I guess he picked that name because he, like Fischer, hates draws. In fact, during the final game in one Queenstown Club championship, he was so disgusted by his opponent offering him a draw at every move that he got up and resigned the game. His gruff voice barked " You  like to win so much, win lah!" and stormed off. It was perhaps his uncompromising stance at the chessboard that he fell short of the vital point in achieving the norm at every IM tournament he took part, which eluded him in his quest for IMship.

Chia has his own brand of humour few would comprehend. He once advised me, after I've lost to Michael Siong my once nemesis, how to beat him. "You know he loves to get up to walk about after each move right? Just wait till he is about to get up,put out your hand (to make a move). When he's about to sit down, withdraw your hand!" he finished his sentence with that wry smile. In another episode, I had just declined a draw against IM Tan Lian Ann in the River Valley Rapid Tournament and lost in a time scramble. Everyone crowded round to remark that I should have won but Lian Ann dismissed it saying there was no win. After the crowd dispersed, Chia came round to show me the win. "See! you can win!"

Back in those days where I regularly visited the Queenstown Chess Club, Chia would play many blitz games with me and our regular opening discussion was the Classical Caro-Kann where he held the Black pieces. I was usually ground down by his maniacal Bishop manoeuvres though I was following the current theory then. But it taught me a lot about how to hold such positions, not just knowing moves alone.

He was also the one who taught me mahjong. Yes, we did not just play chess. He gave me his mahjong manual and told me to study it if I was to avoid paying expensively over the table. The art of losing less was not easy to fathom for a chessplayer who was bent on winning at all costs. Watching him exit the game by throwing the winning card to the smallest hand made me realise that it was alright to lose sometime, but to limit my losses.

In return, I introduced him to the world of ICC. ICC was text-based in those days, until ZIICS was introduced with graphics. It was then that I asked him to sign up and before long I realised he was an admin. He would then spend his nights on ICC playing, chatting, sending muahs and wuahs (mainly ICC lingo) and wuah sehs to ICC regulars.

I had not much to say to him over the last decade, as he was in poor health and became withdrawn. But there was always a nod from him when we saw each other.

Vaya con dios my friend.

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