Saturday, May 23, 2015

Unappealing Chess Moves & Malaysian Politics

At one time in my life, I was a competitive chess player. That was many years ago. At the height of the madness, I spent perhaps 2 to 3 hours on average reading chess books and analysing chess positions daily. During the weekends, I could spend even longer hours. I learnt the game as a boy of about 10, but I only started playing seriously and competitively in my twenties.

The thing about chess is that there is almost no ending to the learning process. When you've played enough games, you'd come to a point when almost all openings seem to resemble one another. After learning the basic opening moves, you'd move on to explore specific openings. For example, I spent countless hours learning and analysing the Dragon Sicilian; it was my favourite defence as Black. 

The longest over-the-board game that I had ever played was almost 4 hours, and it was a big struggle against a far-superior player. I can't remember the moves of that game; the only thing I can still remember is that I lost it in the end. Time control was 90 minutes each for the first 40 moves, and upon reaching 40 moves, 30 minutes were added for each player. It was a game to be remembered because I came to a point in the game where I spent almost half an hour to make just one move! 

You see, in the game of chess, sometimes you are bound to reach a critical position, and all the available moves are unappealing; meaning that the continuations are likely to lead to a worse position. Of course that is usually because of weak moves committed earlier in the game. So you start exploring each available option a few moves deep and seeing their respective outcomes in your mind. Seeing the pieces "move" in your mind is a very exhausting process, and in an over-the-board game in a competition, it can be quite nerve-wrecking. But a great part of playing chess is the art of keeping one's cool in the face of a seemingly lost position! After considering several options, and "seeing" what could possibly happen several moves ahead, if you're lucky, sometimes you may find a solution to escape from the mess you are in. But sometimes, there is no clear-cut solution, and the best you can do is to reach a position with slightly promising chances, but unclear advantage. Then of course there are times, when having spent a very long time thinking, you just can't find a way out! That is probably your cue to consider resigning gracefully!

I was having my regular foot reflexology session recently when I overheard an interesting conversation between two fellows near my seat. They were talking about signing up an online petition in favour of a campaign to force the Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, to step down. I heard several thousand people have signed the petition.

I'm not even going to waste my time to find the webpage of the campaign, because that's exactly what it is to me—a waste of time. I don't believe that the fate of a Prime Minister should be decided through an online campaign. There are reasons—and good reasons, too—for having elections in Malaysia. For better of for worse, let the fate of the Prime Minister be decided through the election process. It's not perfect, of course, but it's still better than relying on the number of "Likes" on Facebook.

Although I'm no longer into competitive chess for many years now, some habits from the game remain. I just can't help thinking about all the available candidate moves ahead. As I had explained in the preceding paragraphs above, the chess mind tries to explore the position(s) several moves ahead. And what I see in my mind now is not so appealing! 

Even if Najib actually resigns because of the online campaign against him as the Prime Minister, what's next? Somehow the next in line, Muhyiddin Yassin, becoming the Prime Minister of Malaysia is so unappealing to me. In fact, I'm convinced that that is a lot like "out of the frying pan, into the fire" for Malaysia. Yet, it's almost an implied rule in the ruling coalition that the Deputy Prime Minister should be next in line.

Now looking a few more steps farther ahead (yes, this quite often becomes absolutely necessary in chess), let's assume that the Pakatan comes into power somehow. Who's going to be the Prime Minister then? Anwar Ibrahim? Beyond my imagination! This is a man who was wheelchair-bound and full of braces when he was in prison; but was suddenly dancing on stage shortly after his release. And don't make me start on Hudud law. So you see, although I think Malaysia is in a lot of trouble under Najib, I just can't see anything better for now. I can't see appealing options ahead. 

When in desperation, there is that tendency to remove the Prime Minister for the sake of change. People say to me, "Just make the change, and then hope that the replacement can perform better. And if that replacement is not performing any better, then keep changing until we find one that can perform better!"

Y'know, I really wish that it's that simple. Since Tun Dr M resigned as the Prime Minister, I felt that Malaysia has been going downhill. Most people want change in the hope of improvement; but they always forget of the possibility that even bigger damage that can result from the change. Unfortunately, the damage, once done, will be very expensive to remedy if remediable at all, and it takes years to accomplish. 

Like in the game of chess, I'm reluctant to make impulsive moves when dealing with critical positions. I'd like to think a bit more, not just simply move and then see what happens next. I'm afraid I'm going to think much longer than half an hour this time...

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