Thursday, 7 December 2017

Mumbai.


Mumbai

Well folks, here I am again after an extended absence, which I will explain a bit later, escaping the Australian summer, to coach the Australian World under 16 team in India. I decided to arrive a few days early to acclimatise and because I had never been to Mumbai before.

In the end, I spent most of the last few days sleeping as the journey was quite taxing at my age. My flight left at 7am which meant no sleep the night before. 

I did, however, take a few walks around the city and the sights and sounds were a feast for the senses. Here are a few examples.


The "Gate of India"  is quite a spectacular monument even though the police and military presence did not make it so easy to move around. Let us not speak of the traffic.


Directly across the road is this architectural wonder.  


And this is the Railway station or one of them to be exact. The name is too long to remember.


I'm not sure how to read this restaurant's name. If you order the chicken, good luck?

Anyway, now to semi-explain my absence. Back in July I got persuaded to sacrifice my weekend, normally devoted to the beach, to play in a weekender. The first day went smoothly with all four games finishing well before the second column of the scoresheet. All against juniors and none worth publishing. Then in round 4, I was paired with my eternal opponent, Steven Soloman.

He didn't play any better than the juniors in the opening and by move 12 I was +3 according to Stockfish. Unlike the juniors, he then stopped blundering and put up fierce and desperate resistance as always. Regardless, 23.Ne4 would have finished the game but playing on general principles I decided to swap as many pieces as possible and so we reached an equal ending by the time we were both down to the 10 second increment. Here are the moves for those interested.

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.h3 Be6 5.Bb5 f6 6.d4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Ne7 8.
dxe5 fxe5 9.Qh5+ Ng6 10.Nf3 e4 11.Nd4 O-O 12.Nxe6 Qf6 13.O-O Qxe6 14.
Qxd5 Qxd5 15.Nxd5 Bd6 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.Nc3 Rae8 18.Rad1 Re6 19.Rd4 
Rfe8 20.Rfd1 Nh4 21.Rc4 Rg6 22.g4 h5 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Nxe4 hxg4 25.
Nxd6 gxh3+ 26.Kh2 cxd6 27.Kxh3 Nf3 28.e4 Kf7 29.Bc1 Ng1+ 30.Kh2 Nf3+ 
31.Kh1 Rg4 32.Be3 a6 33.c4 Ke6 34.c5 dxc5 35.Bxc5 Ke5 36.Bd6+ Kxe4 

Having reached this position we started playing like two drunken sailors jabbing at each other with broken bottles until this position occurred.

 

Bg7 would be spotted by a blind monkey from a plane but I played Kg6?? which leads to a draw...if white does not place all his remaining pieces on the a1-h8 diagonal, and even then more blunders were necessary.

Well, this led to a brain melt from which I am just starting to recover. The following round I played suicide chess, only to have my opponent, Yi Liu, outdo me. The last round was just pitiful. All credit to Tom Maguire, who played an excellent game but against a shadow.

The next day I got a call from the GC hospital telling me to come in for an Iron infusion because my last blood test showed extremely low Iron. I did feel a bit better after hearing that because now I had a fixable reason. This is, however, a recent development so it doesn't  explain my other blunders over the years but for now, I'll just let that slide.....

Anyway folks, time for me to check out and visit the South Mumbai Chess Academy!

Toodles.


Monday, 17 July 2017

Langkawi

This wonder of the world was one of the last things I saw before leaving Delhi. It is a huge rubbish mountain that one drives past for about 10 minutes on the way to the airport on the outer ring road. Why am I showing you this? To let you know that India is not all sunshine and roses. Whereas the school I visited,  people's homes and businesses are very clean and tidy, the same cannot be said of public places and especially roads. Garbage is everywhere. This is one thing I won't miss. Locals put the blame squarely on local councils.


A few hours later I was in Kuala Lumpur and did not feel like spending the weekend there as I would know it well enough to drive around if brave enough. Anyway, Malindo has a cheap ticket to Langkawi and that sounded much better.


I booked a hotel online and took an UBER to the Grand beach hotel. Honestly, the only thing this hotel has going for it is location, but that is so good that I would stay there again. OK,  it's reasonably clean.


I really wasn't up to too much tourism as I was really tired after the intense last few weeks. There is heaps to do though, like diving, jet boating, Eagle feeding, caving etc etc. Just Google and you'll see. I settled for sleeping, swimming  and seafood.


Sunday was my exploring day.  After a long walk down the beach I stumbled across the harbour where all the tourist boats take people around the Islands for the various activities.


By the time I got here the sun was setting but before having a snack at the local eatery, I thought I'll just walk to the end of the peninsula to check out the resort.


The security guard had no interest in me when I went to ask if it was public access so I just walked straight in. While there I got a message on my 0hone telling me I can grab a special there right now for only $500  a night. Wow! How did I resist? 

This place was truly 5☆ with its own marina, several swimming pools, restaurants and bars, and even a lighthouse!


I'll leave it at that otherwise I may miss my flight home! I love Malaysia but not that much 😂
Toodles!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Hectic day in Panipat part2

The Director of Doubleroo Chess Academy Panipat, Gaurav Chhabra, founded a company, www.makeinindia.net.au, ( email gc@makeinindia.net.au ) that brings together retailers from around the world with manufacturers in India. After our Seminar we visited one of the factories.

 The bag featured at the end of part one was made in Panipat by RVcollection, a company that can make virtually anything as I'll show you below. Mr Pradeep gifted it to me upon hearing the sad story of how my passport pouch mysteriously disappeared from my room in Delhi. 

The bright side, now I can carry my Samsung tablet, my phone and my passport all in one bag. Ideal for travelling.


Including this seat which caught my eye immediately. 


Bags are their speciality. They make them to order for retailers the world over including the USA and Europe. Now they are looking to expand to Australia with an order currently in  production.


Lots of bums required around here. Lucky we came 😂


Pradeep showing off his wine coolers. 

Mr Pradeep Kumal
Raj and Gaurav showing off a bag that's bound for the US. Can you tell?
Note the t-shirt :-)

Mr Raj Kumar Mr Gaurav Chhabra
The workstations where the real heroes turn cotton, leather, silk, hemp and all other materials known to man into anything one can imagine.


All meetings, conferences and seminars end the same way in India. With food of course. We received a call ordering us home, where Gaurav's mother's and wife, amongst others, had spent many hours slaving over a hot tandoor to make us a delicious Linner (meal between lunch and dinner).


It was our fourth meal of the day and the sun was still up.


Two types of Roti, two salads, three curries, three pickles, including my favourite, chilli, yogurt and all topped up as soon as a dent had been made.


After a few hours Raj and Pradeep made their way home, presumably for the dinner their wives had made, and our possy went to town for first sweets. I had to try the local Kulfi 😉

Between meals we made a stop at a very talented six year olds place, a young prodigy Gaurav has been teaching. His name is Sambhav. You'll hear it again in the years to come.


He had been taught properly, the Doubleroo way 😉, developing all his pieces, castling and fighting for the centre. This young man also has qualities that can't be taught, like being suspicious. He never took material without checking if there was a trap, something some of my older, much stronger students still haven't fully developed. I won't mention them by name, they know who they are 😂

He could have played all night but after more than an hour we left him with a difficult pawn ending and headed to our next appointment. Yep, you guessed it, second dessert.


We ended up at Rajat Chanana's place, a fellow chess enthusiast and friend of Gaurav's. 


By this time however, we were all bursting at the seams to the five of us shared three desserts. We got home just after midnight. Work had not quite finished yet and now Gaurav and I spent a good hour working on the Doubleroo curriculum. We finished well after 2am with the intention of going to a special breakfast place at 7am. Not surprisingly we all slept in.

Gaurav's mother Sharda, wife Sumiti, nieces Mishika and Janisha, and sister in law Sheetal.

Yesterday morning after breakfast it was time to say our goodbyes with a photo. The ladies of the house had spent all their time tending to our every whim and I have to say I felt slightly guilty not helping in any way. I was promised that next time I'll be allowed to do some cooking. And washing up? We'll see ☺

Gaurav was also answering calls from schools and students from across Haryana state for seminars and lessons after the Commonwealth. Chess is very popular in India and the chess in schools initiative by the Haryana chess association cannot begin to meet the demand. I hope to return at the end of the year to help out.

Doubleroo has also ordered some of those t-shirts we wore to the seminar and other chess paraphernalia. Panipat is a real manufacturing hub and the skilled tradesmen here can make anything out of any material so if there is something you have always wanted made but didn't know how to go about it just email Gaurav.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Hectic day in Panipat part1

I have been meaning to come to Panipat for many years. This year finally everything fell into place. Even so I was only able to spend one full day there. we arrived late in the evening on the 12th after driving from Mathura, with a stopover in Delhi to look at some chess sets. India'sure craftsmanship is renowned. 

As always relatively short trips take all day because not only are the roads slow but one has to socialise on the way of course! Not that different from Mediterranean culture actually. We arrived rather late yet Gaurav's family had stayed up to greet us. After the obligatory midnight snack I was shown to the guest room, decked out like a fine hotel, with kettle, tea&coffee and everything else a guest could wish for.

I was able to write my previous blog post because, as any fine guest room, there was WiFi ☺

Yesterday morning started with Gaurav's mother's home made stuffed Parantha's with home made butter, chutneys yogurt etc etc. They get their milk delivered fresh twice daily and make all the dairy products themselves. I of course stuffed myself stupid.

We then headed into town to collect some things we would be needing later like the new "Doubleroo" t-shirts. (Soon available) 😉

11.am we arrived at the school where our seminar was scheduled and we were immediately ushered through the gates and into the principles office where we were introduced to the department heads and teachers.


The first thing that struck me about the school was how gleaming and spotless it was. Not even a scrap of paper could be seen anywhere. The gardens were tended like in a botanic garden and pavements had cute little drawings on them. So what you may say. Well, despite all the positives, India is not the cleanest country on earth. Bins are few and far between and rubbish is everywhere. Every pavement, street, garden...you get the picture. Everywhere except this school. Not one single scrap. I'll stop now.


There is also a strong commitment to sports as can be seen by this prominently placed poster.


I was quite taken aback when I saw the assembly hall filled with students. We expected about 20. Apparently they had to turn 50 away due to lack of space!


Then came music, three garlands of flowers and a painting by a former student.  An overwhelming reception. After the seminar, which the students followed with great enthusiasm, I was mobbed for autographs until I got writers cramp. Photo's followed in many parts of the school with students, teachers and administrators, and then, can you guess. Yes of course. Food! Lots of food and delicious food.

I will have to leave the afternoon adventures until later as I'm about to board a flight to KL soon. But first....


I don't think I told you yet that my passport pouch mysteriously vanished from my room in Delhi with a few Euro, some Malaysian ringgit in it. Luckily noyes my passport so it was just a flesh wound. 

Well, it has now been replaced by this bag, which holds my passport, tablet and mobile perfectly! Silver linings 😉

Story to follow in part two!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Mathura, City of Lord Krishna.

I must admit that I am not a very good tourist. We again did not get off to an early start, checking out of our hotel, the Anamsa Vaas, at around the cracking of noon. This place is excellent. Everything is clean, all the facilities worked and the staff were friendly and helpful. What a contrast to the night before.

Anyway, as I was saying,  I suck at tourism but luckily so do my friends. We found a parking spot miraculously directly in front of the temple pictured below.


Should we go in? Maybe later, let's do some shopping, check out the market, maybe get some food and drink and continue our spiritual discovery tour later... maybe... if we are not too tired. Guess how that worked out 🤔


We walked up a small alley, past the temple, to the main walking street. Monkeys are everywhere and seem well off, having plenty to eat, and everyone leaves them be. We walked up and down looking for some shirts amongst other things. Sizes were an issue. Although I now can fit quite comfortably into an L in Australia, a XXL here is a tight fit. We kept being told that was the largest size and I should buy it and just lose some weight, we did eventually find a shop that sells XXXL. I haven't had a chance yet to "model" it for you but I'm sure you'll survive the disappointment. 


Naturally there was a group of people singing "Hare Krishna" in his place of birth.  The cows pictured was either coincidentally walking in the same direction, or leading the group.  I remain ignorant.


The Rose Lassi was a highlight of the day. Just delicious. So, loaded up with clothes and other trinkets we decided to hit the road. We still had something to do in Delhi and then another 2 hours to Panipat. All that stood in our way was this cow who was feeling quite frisky. Luckily a small child shooed her away for us. Awkward.


One more thing, if you should one day be following in my footsteps, or rather tyre marks, make sure you stop in at Pahalwan Dhara. It is on the highway a little bit before the Panipat turnoff. It is sparkling clean, the food is delicious and apparently it is owned by a chess player. Unfortunately he wasn't there tonight otherwise I may have been able to play for the food 😉


Toodles folks, I am giving a little seminar tomorrow and, time permitting I'll show you a little of historic Panipat.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Taj Mahal


After the prize giving of the Commonwealth Chess Championship, where I managed to sneak into 5th position despite losing my last game,


And also spent a good part of the evening taking selfie with friends and colleagues who I hadn't seen for a while, like 


WGM Soumya Swaminathan, my old friend Gaurav Chhabra,  his brother Amit and cousin Hulas,  picked me up to begin our trip to Agra to see the Taj. Despite many visits to Delhi I had never managed to make it to see this wonder of the world. After some adventures and a midnight snack at an Indian truck stop we finally made it to our hotel about 3am. More about that later ☺

Gaurav, Amit and Hulas, my three guides.

We had planned to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds and midday heat but even missed the cracking of noon by an hour. After fighting our way through guides offering their services, rickshaw drivers and trinket salesmen we finally made it through the gates. There they don't primarily search for weapons but for tobacco products. None are allowed inside and any found are confiscated.


The story of the Taj is perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever, in the context of the times and place. If you have a romantic soul and don't know it yet I suggest you look it up. The monument has considerably less appeal without it.


It is truly massive close up.


It has four minurettes around it, two next to the river.


The doors are huge yet every inch is covered with delicately inlaid art and writing. No photo's inside although not everyone obeyed this rule.


The Taj is flanked on both sides by imposing  buildings. Guardhouses perhaps?


The view down to the river is nice too.


When looking back to the gardens from the steps of the Taj one gets some Idea of the size of the compound.


Even the corridors have been designed artfully. Is the endless corridor a metaphor for the Shah's eternal love for his favourite love, his childhood sweetheart?


Nothing poetic occurs to me here. Just nice.


It was now late afternoon,  we were all exhausted and sweaty and in need of a cold drink so we headed back. It's not all beauty and sunshine though. The horses here have a sad life and if you have any compassion for these noble creatures, seeing them in their scrawny sad state can put a dampener on your mood. In contrast,


The cows have the run of the joint. All well fed and doing as they please. All traffic gives way to them and they are well fed.

Now back to the hotel where we first arrived in the wee hours.


Gaurav had booked it in advance going on the reviews from satisfied customers on his favourite and normally reliable hotel app. It is a filthy cesspit and we were wondering who could have possibly liked it. As he was about to write one himself, he noticed he already had written a glowing review. These crooks had solicited his mobile number the night before on the pretext of checking the booking, and had then written a glowing in his Name. Mystery solved. Action has been taken.

Doubleroo warning. Avoid this dump.

We are now at a nice place in Mathura, the city of the Lord Khrishna. Expect a report tomorrow.