“In everyone there sleeps
A sense of life lived according to love.
To some it means the difference they could make
By loving others, but across most it sweeps,
As all they might have done had they been loved.
That nothing cures.”

Faith Healing -Philip Larkin

Depart here: arrive there. I am about to ‘win the exchange’, to put it metaphorically for ahead is an ascent into the sky by A380, leaving behind a bid farewell to the fragments of a life long since passed, still echoing, resonating into that to come: the resumption of the life I chose, the airline chosen to carry me there, and my child waiting for her father to carry her, therefore, an exchange of locations awaits. I will ‘win the exchange’ but it is not without an evinced sense of sorrow. To cherish that disparate fragment left behind so deeply, I will miss it…I know how I will feel and think during take-off next week is ‘Into my heart an air that kills’…one day next year the Bedfordshire chess scene will feel like ‘the land of lost content’, that I can tell … .

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A Shropshire Lad v.40 A. E. Housman

Behold the spectacle of Bedford Chess Club! Before departing I went there to see both it and its members new and old. It was great to thank Mr. Paul Habershon for the help his has given me and to be escorted to the bar by Mr. Nigel Staddon, now 87 years old, and able to answer the questions I posed. It was also a pleasure to meet Mr. Steve Pike, and have a chat at the bar… in fact I wonder and ask myself did I spend more time chatting in the bar than in the club watching games? All in all, truly amazing it was and whether or not I had drunk cider just before never mattered…not that I would ever do such a thing you understand being on the medication that I am!

Oops! Now where's that delete button gone?

Oops! Now where’s that delete button gone?

At the centre of the county scene flourishes Bedford Chess Club. I was so welcomed, it was so very touching but within my heart a sadness spoke too, it said ‘When you close the door as you leave, you must say goodbye to not just the members but the club as a whole’. Many I met were kind and so polite, happy to see me again. There was much to talk about and part of me wanted not to go but to stay… .

I left the building and there something left me…when the exit door was opened it jarred then splintered through my heart…but I remembered as one door closes another opens, and close it I did…so upon the street I stood alone… .

“Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.”
Here -Philip Larkin
There, stood staring into an avenue empty, my brain stopped processing for a split second or two: then I heard the trees arching over rustle in the wind that gusted suddenly, saw the street lights become brighter, felt the pain of ‘farewell’ sharpening, and for a moment I was disorientated. Towards the train station I walked happy but sad, sad but happy as I had an evening so inspired by the courtesy and company of others, and it cannot be repeated… .
To the action… .

In Bedford 3, I offer assistance to Steve Pike’s son at @6.10 then appear!

Farewell beloved Bedford Chess Club…it was such a pleasure, I do hope one day I will see you again…once I have won the exchange (of locations) and played on with a better position…perhaps I will return with my daughter to play also…if I can free us up… .

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Life moves us on. And on. And whilst at the station awaiting an extortionately priced train to where I grew up, that afternoon of horrendous delays extended long into the evening… . It was then, and only then, that my love of the chess club in Bedford became perceptible as a dissonant fragment of a life long passed by, thus a cynical epiphany occurred. I told myself, ‘what I tolerate, so must my child, as she will endure what I endure’. Crap train service as always, for example. I told myself, ‘If you tolerate this (extortionate and crap train service) then your child will be (the) next (to tolerate this extortionate and crap train service)’… .

Who said that the current generation of players are ‘the computer generation’? Like as if it is they and only they? Was it those who were once described as a bunch of sycophant charlatans, educational hoodwinkers who conjured such a deplorable use of ‘the’, that being the definite article? Weren’t we all -way back whenever- at it wiv’ em? I know I certainly was before the bonce got bashed up… . Here’s the proof that helped the most become my school chess champion… .

I’m tempted to ask ‘Do you remember Sargon II?’ but I think the more correct question is ‘How could you possibly forget Sargon II?’

It’s so wonderful to return to the fold, to be back in the heart of the thing I miss the most, to put to one side a return to health, to become so adrenalized, to go into overdrive, to tear my opponent apart, to win us the match yet again and once more for my long-lost team mates, to make my team both proud and happy, to come back and conquer, to make myself both happy and content and so, to come ‘From out of nowhere’, to watch the first 23 seconds of the video below, you will see what I modeled my behaviour on when I checkmated my opponent and became so ecstatic- I kid you not… .

Isn’t it great to know you’ve still got it even though I so rarely have the time to play, and for the second time in two months I won my team the match like I did last year! But this time I turned my opponent over real fast, faster than everyone! The conjured spirits of the long since dead, the legendary Luton Masters from the underworld rise above the earth when I play, descend upon me then flow within me making me much more than a historically attuned and synchronized soul but more so he who breathes the life of those amongst us; those who want to but cannot play on, those who I study, those who I now embody… . They do it out of commonality as well as gratitude because I am, to them, ‘thee exemplar’. But it’s not just the drive, the pulse, the push, the rush, the flow, the surge, the faster flow; more so its the breadth of consciousness and how it widens when its not my move: it’s the realization that what flows through me is permeated by those who made me who I am, it’s the sense of belonging and the open arms you are greeted with by the oh-so-many, those who I have not seen for so long and when victory is achieved by those long since passed on… . Despite the face of adversity still able to stare right at you, life can sometimes be so wonderful don’t you think? I EMBODY THE DEAD -I KNOW THAT AND ITS GREAT BECAUSE THEY LIVE ON THROUGH ME!

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The day and how it unfolded…

Prior to the game…

Being so out of practice of course I was worried. This is about honour but the brain damage I have makes me go from hyperactive to a polarized alternative without warning. I never know when nor have the means to control it. I began telling myself just take it to him if you can. I said ‘You are from Luton (letter ‘t’ not pronounced), you know what that means. Stick it to him. And honour your team and its town. Then as the time of departure drew near I dressed with this on.

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He he, nothing to see here. Not a reference to where I am from but more so where I should be.

I wore the black snow boots bought in Baku, the ones I wore in Bakuriani, Georgia, and on the way back to Tiblisi stopped off and took a pee in scumbag despicable Stalin’s home town (yes, yes, yes claim to fame!). Georgia is below.

Me and me baby. Some cold wind was blowing up that mountain.

Me and me baby in Tblisi. Some cold wind was blowing up that mountain.

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Bakuriani. Me and me baby. Isn’t she lovely? Look at the transportation in use!

I wore black fleece trousers also. I wear black because I am a metalhead. My jacket is orange because I am from Luton. Prior to play I was not confident because I felt tired and not myself but the conversation en route was cracking. I saw what Milton Keynes is en route now. I saw the University and there I began to change. Was it that I had slotted back in? Perhaps yes perhaps no because my play is too strong.

The Karpov-like accumulation of small advantages…

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French Tarrasch with me being white.

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14. Nd4 was played. The purpose is to place the queen on the f1-a6 diagonal because the black queen is misplaced. When the white queen goes to b5 with tempo after an exchange on e2, then Rad1 is played, white has the easier game… .

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Black allows both 15. Bxd4 and 16 Qb5! He thinks a kingside attack is worthwhile. I already know I will win… .

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All endgames are won but two rook endgames require much precision so I played 24. Qxb7. He can activate his rook and does with 27. … Rb8 but look at his back rank weakness, it’s easy… .

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Ahem. I just played 31. Qd6 and then he played 31. … h5. Hahahahahaha. Any thoughts on how I delivered checkmate with the next move?

You know, I left the playing hall both overjoyed but full of sorrow. Enjoy the vids below.

I appear @ 2.47, 6.20, 9.43.

In this one I am Sir, ‘Not appearing in this clip’.

I appear @ 2.42, 4.31 (my point was soon proven in the game), 5.58 (confirmation that I was correct).

I appear @ 5.21.

I appear @ 0.43.

In this one I am Sir, ‘Not appearing in this clip’.

And so I left the building and entered the night at 11 pm or just there after. Whether it was now cold went unnoticed. Leaving behind that which made me what I am mattered more. The walk to the car was where conversation was most convivial. The team captain and I were so overjoyed..oh how I so much missed every single aspect of what I was walking away from. My heart sank so very far. I walked. I walked on. We were triumphant. We left… .

…on our way home we drove along the motorway and I talked about my reading habits, and was the talk of the town we had not yet reached, although only amongst those in the car en route (yes that’s both of you). Did it really matter that I won? Yes it did but what mattered more was to feel loved by those who, being English can’t express their feelings so easily, only to then act in accordance with what they don’t feel. When an exception occurs, you know there is a reason.

We live on. We are together still. We are stronger. We push on. We perform and those who encounter us are felled. We are Luton chess club and when I am there we are exemplars of our Englishness since we are so self-effacing yet strong in the unkempt figure and forlorned, soon to become wizened, face of adversity…oh how wonderful it is to still be indestructible whilst ‘Alive’ for it is now that we are top of the league! And who put us there? It was me🙂 .

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Thank you for reading and watching.

Mark

“As a student of adversity, I’ve been stuck over the years how some people with major challenges seem to draw strength from them and I’ve heard the popular wisdom that that has to do with finding meaning and for a long time I thought the meaning was out there, some great truth waiting to be found but over time I’ve come to think that the truth is irrelevant. We call it finding meaning but we might better call it forging meaning…”

Taken from one of Manhattan’s greatest ever writers…if not the greatest, that being Andrew Solomon. The thing that distinguishes him is not just that he is so often at seminal moments in his texts and speeches unwittingly Aristotelian but rather that he is so modern, methodical and meticulous. Being an established journalist in the US and A’s top newspaper, he knows what his readers anticipate, having been drawn, collectively or otherwise, towards his literature for reasons which are both rationally informed and researched well in our modern age…I was tempted to say well-researched there but I’m neither a fan of compound adjectives nor metaphors to be honest… he is not just a man who is triumphant in the face of adversity, but surprisingly or not, also someone who has liked a complimentary tweet or two made about him by yours truly🙂.

In returning to what was so long ago once ‘home’ -that being where I learnt to play chess- understanding what it once meant to be here and exactly what it means now is not easy. No longer can I consider it as home since home can no longer be ascertained geographically. If we rely upon the cliché that ‘home is where the heart is’ then home is wherever my daughter is so that I can be by her side, protect, love and educate her as every father should, then of course ascribing a location to home is thus otiose. However, life itself is perhaps more complex than chess given it is broader than our beautiful game and much more so the chess community you grew up in and have missed so dearly in more recent years, should you be overtly quixotic. Those thus tainted by the tragedy of its demise from that town you walked almost every road thereof. How do you practice when where you live is bereft of the club you spent so many evenings improving in or not improving in? It is no longer possible to find meaning within its walls, instead meaning must be forged… .

‘I am not an Athenian or a Greek. I am a citizen of the world.’

Spoken by Socrates in Plutarch’s ‘Of Banishment’.

Regarding the walls of thee old chess club I once knew so well, whilst drifting towards a draw in a league game long since significant, me and the team mate next to me had our opponents wander off together. Quietly and somewhat surreptitiously my team mate asked ‘Mark, what do you think to my position?’. I then said ‘It’s out of this world, its covered in bone, it’s out of this world, it’s covered in bone, out of this world, it’s covered in bone, out of this world, covered in bone, OUT OF THIS WWWOOORRRLLLDDDD, COVERED IN BONE AAARRGGGHHHH’. Boy did my team mate look confused, then get this, the chairman of the club came over and said ‘Oy! McCready what ya playin’ at?’ That was back when I used to listen to music during the trek across town. (Erm Mark, please don’t employ the word trek yeah. The last two of the three fatalities you somehow outplayed involve the word trek yes? Bicycle manufacturer and activity in Nepal yes?) I wonder what song such words come from?

 ‘Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious’

Andrew Solomon

God isn’t he gorgeous…oops, erm, irrespective of how badly you played or how instantly forgettable your opening repertoire once was, what you have learnt from is precious… .

‘We don’t seek the painful experiences that hue our identities but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences. We cannot bear a pointless torment but we can endure great pain if we believe its purposeful’ 

Andrew Solomon

It is tomorrow that I must go to Milton Keynes and it is there I must play chess to win for Luton once more…once upon a time this I once wrote about a journey across Bedfordshire.

My team mate sat next to me had not moved since we’d left Luton. We mirrored each other’s posture and sat still as he took an interest in the serenity outside. Beyond the square windows of the car, an arbitrary county line went by. Further in the distance, the shining windows of a farmhouse blazed by a creek that wove among the fields in the hills, beyond valleys sloping into an expanse of time, where day and wild orchids blew across the B-road ahead.

Me, me, me, me, me, erm ages ago… .

What a day what a day it will be. How so exciting the manner in which darkness descends will be. As chess players we gain from our game how essential it is to think ahead, so I say, the experience will outlive the result or the manner in which I win. There is supposed to be a world championship match on but for now there is no world championship match, there is only the road ahead and that which lies beyond it.

Its game on tomorrow…ghettos exist we do not profit from them…just thinking of Milton Keynes now…see below.

You pretend to what you say you feel
You pretend that you’re something special
All your lies that you hide behind
I see right through you
See right through you

The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

In the final day, which had two rounds of the Bedfordshire County Championship in May 2010, tragedy struck. In the break between the morning and afternoon game I sat by myself as quiet and deep in thought as always. A close friend called to say that our mutual friend and Irish man Tom O’Grady had suddenly died. His hospital told him his cancer returned and he had five days to live only… . They were correct, he died five days later. Leaving his two teenager sons behind. They lost the father they loved, his family lost a member so beloved, his many friends he was so close to lost a great companion…upon the cricket pitch I had wandered into, there I stood remembering how charming his banter was, the intellectual American lady I knew was much pleasured by his gentlemanly, jovial and captivating tête-à-têtes always within earshot of anyone nearby wherever he was… .

She said “The water has no memory.”
For a few months everything about our lives was perfect.
It was only us, we were inseparable.
But gradually, she passed into another distant part of my memory,
until I could no longer remember her face, her voice, even her name.

The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

So hurt I remained on the pitch since I was more isolated there, standing towards where the horizon broadened with that which withered and that which did not. Of all people to be taken away…why…why him? I stopped so very hurt knowing he had suffered so greatly for so long…his child autistic and in need of such great care, then of course, the two stabbings in London…was he really the same thereafter? Poor, poor Tom.

We have got, we have got a perfect life – The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

I could not go home on that day at that time so play on I did. It was my worst game ever. In shock, I never wanted to be there, never spoke to anyone, never concentrated, and stood at the window to stare into the fields beyond so that no one would see when tears flowed from my eyes. I could not try in my game and lose I did. It mattered not. You must never play chess under such tragic circumstances for its outcome can never matter…life itself matters more…R. I. P Tom O’Grady. Good bye my good friend.

Take your pride, take your vanity. Can’t you see that your ego’s empty. The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

The writer of that below is so talented and clever. You won’t guess what it is about because that’s his style.

Bedfordshire 1987

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I am what I do…I am what I’ve done…I’m sorry…sorry…sorry…

(Enter organ music)

Readers, with great regret I inform you that my off-line life will first overtake then dominate before ravishing my on-line life over the next few days, thus rendering my ability to post here impossible…of course I know this is both unjustifiable and unforgivable…so please don’t badger me… .

Unfortunately, my hospital just called up to say I should ‘swing by tomorrow to have a head transplant‘…because my head is so misshappen and there’s a rumour abound that I am not ‘ready to make a commitment’ and more crucially not ‘ready to make love to concrete’. Tis’ a shame an injustice I know but what can I do except ask if it’s because ‘my skin is a layer of soot’??????head-transplant_3340531a-large_trans30vlxa5szb-8fe_5wo9d84dqj9r3gve9uez2589okus

I don’t ask that you pass judgement but I do ask that you sum it all up in a sentence but before then envisage what it means to be stood upon a cliff face staring into the horizon, oblivious to that which invites your death below the rocks you stand upon…once more ‘I am what I do, I am what I’ve done, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry…’

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Oh golly, I nearly forgot, just before the head transplant, The magic of Kasparov, Winants vs Kasparov, Brussels 1987. It’s black to play and win. First move is Kf3 but more importantly, how does black win? Game below. This is the only game by Kasparov that I like, being the Karpov fan that I am.

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1070222