Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Psychopath In Our Midst?

After reading this, this and this, I thought I was seriously going to puke blood. But then I was reminded of an article I read.

I was reading this article on psychopathy the other day, and all the symptoms just reminded me of someone. This was the definition given:
Psychopathy is a socially destructive personality disorder usually characterised by a combination of emotional, interpersonal and behavioural traits. The most common of these are egocentricity, extreme impulsivity coupled with irresponsible behaviour, pathological lying and a lack of guilt or remorse.
And here are some of the symptoms:

1. glibness (layman's meaning: able to talk/write fluently about bullshit like a politician)

2. grandiose sense of self-worth (i.e. egotistical maniac)

3. pathological lying

4. cunning/manipulative

5. lack of remorse/guilt (i.e. never says sorry)

6. emotionally shallow

7. callous or lack of empathy

8. failure to accept responsibility of own actions

Need I go on?

I have often tried to think that he is not insane and on tried not to make this personal. But going through this checklist, my un-expert opinion is that Voldemort seems very close to being or is a psychopath. I think it is probably closer to a narcissistic personality disorder, but again, I am no expert.

Oh, in case you think I made up the checklist, I got it from Dr. Robert D. Hare's psychopathy checklist. Dr. Hare is a world-renowned psychologist researching the field of criminal psychology.

This is by no means a criticism. Psychopathy is a very real condition and I am not in the habit of discriminating against people who are suffering from various disorders. This post is merely to illustrate and make an observation as well as to raise awareness for those who are unaware.

Dr. Hare describes people he calls psychopaths as "intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse". "What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony."

In other words, listen at your own peril.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Russia's Grandest Master

Chanced upon this recent interview by the World Policy Journal with Kasparov with a really interesting title: Russia's Grandest Master. It's a really long interview and to be honest there is not much chess in it. But he does talk a lot about the benefits of chess and how it can help educate the world. Certainly more credible than some of the things that has been peddled around the chess blogosphere as original ideas, which are most likely not. 

But I think that it shows clearly that despite being a world champion, he is not only good at one thing. He demonstrates very broad knowledge and this, coupled with his ability to think very deeply is an uncanny combination and is a force to be reckoned with in any field.

Here are some examples from the interview:
GARRY KASPAROV: Let’s start with chess as a bonding mechanism. It has its universal values, and it’s quite a unique game. It’s a game that fits the Internet era, because you can play it online. You can follow the game’s great players, and you can analyze it through computer engines, which is very helpful for amateurs. To some extent, there is no longer a cloak of secrecy covering the game. You may have two of the world’s greatest players competing, and any amateur can immediately see the blunder. It’s very different from when I started.

It is no longer the old-fashioned game, when two big champions play the game and one is smoking a cigar while the other one is drinking coffee, and they look at the board, and it takes ages to make a move. Every move is like an enigma for those who do not belong to this temple of ultimate chess truths. Now they just look at the computer screen, push a button, move the mouse, touch the screen, and the machine can give you quite an objective evaluation. If it’s a bad move, the machine will show that it’s a bad move. The machines don’t know everything, but you can no longer hide behind the authority of the player who made the move.
And I particularly like this allusion towards a comparison between Gutenberg and Zuckerberg. For those of you who are not sure who Gutenberg is, he is the inventor of the printing press. In essence, he was the first person who was able to mass produce books in a scale of thousands. Before this, in order to copy books, one had to reproduce the books by hand, one by one. Essentially, Gutenberg's printing press facilitated the Renaissance era due to the ease of spreading information through "cheaply" printed books.
WPJ: So are we reaching that stage now in Russia? Are we there yet?

KASPAROV: Close, very close. But I wouldn’t look at Russia as something unique. It’s also applicable to the Arab countries. We are entering a brand new world, and the changes we are facing now can be compared only to the late 15th and early 16th centuries with book printing, which united the Reformation and led to the collapse of the traditional map with its old-fashioned monarchies, aristocracies, and Rome. That’s what Martin Luther said when praising Gutenberg—that they got a very powerful weapon in books, printed books, which could involve thousands more people in decision-making. The moment you expand the circle of people who participate in decision-making, you create a new political reality. What we are seeing is that the circle has been expanded from millions to hundreds of millions. We don’t yet know the consequences of the move from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg.
We are in the "Facebook era", for the lack of a better term. Now, instead of information being passed around in books to hundreds of thousands within weeks or months, it can be passed to billions of people in just a matter of seconds. This is more power than anyone could have ever dreamed of. But as in all Spiderman comic strips, "with great power comes great responsibility". It is what we choose to do with that power that will determine the course of our future.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Why First GM is Stupid? - Part 2

First of all, heartiest congratulations to Goh Weiming on his second GM norm.

Just wanted to get the pleasantries out of the way before I "defile" Weiming's achievements. Let it be known that Weiming is one of the hardest working players I know. I don't know many people, though. But let's just say I know enough. Because of his work ethic, self-belief and immense motivation, it is safe for me to say that I will take each and every word he has to say about chess with respect and great thought. He is gunning for the coveted GM title without expecting any favors from anyone. But he does have a lot of support from his friends and family, which I think is reflective of the kind of upright character that he is.

So, enough brown-nosing, and on with the point of this post. I read Weiming's post this morning and what he said really resonated with a point I was trying to make many many months ago. He said this (emphasis mine):
I will also like to emphasize just how critical GM Zhang Zhong's inclusion in the team is. He is truly a remarkable player given that he had not played a competitive game since May 2011 (Zonals, had to teach at his chess club, look after his 2 kids and still managed to hold his own easily against active top players like Sasikiran (2720) and Wang Yue (2690) and a few other 2500+ players.

One characteristic of his play is the amount of grit and determination he displays in each game. A simple illustration is his game against Kazakhstan GM Rinat Djumabayev, where he was close to losing but fought on gallantly, making it difficult for his opponent to consolidate each turn. His opponent eventually cracked and allowed Zhang Zhong to save the draw. I don't care what a lot of people are saying about foreign talents, people like Zhang Zhong and Wu Shaobin are role models and locals have a lot to learn from them.
Many of us don't understand the value of foreign GMs. We are so caught up in the "Malaysia Boleh" bullshit that was served to us by the 4th Prime Minister that we think that getting any foreign help in our achievements in anyway is belittling to our own achievements. Why is that so? Nicol David has a foreign coach. Does that make her achievement any less notable?

This brings us back to my point about why trying to get a first GM in Malaysia is stupid (I will only share the relevant point here. You can read more in the actual post in the link provided):
3. What is wrong with importing a GM?

Very often, we look over to our neighbour, Singapore, and mock them for importing GMs to fill their roster. Let me pose this question, can Malaysia even attract a GM to play for Malaysia if it wanted to? Why not? Are we too poor to pay for a GM? Maybe, maybe not. If we look at it deeper again, we will understand that Singapore (good or bad), has a system that attracts talent. This is not only in chess, but in all areas in Singapore (in sports, in the workplace etc). Why don't you ask, why do the GMs want to play for Singapore so willingly, that they are willing to forsake their own country? Is it purely because of money? Or is it because Singapore recognizes their talent?

Let us consider a hypothetical situation. In fact, this is as real as it gets. As we all know, Malaysia is suffering from severe brain drain. Our best minds are leaving us for greener pastures. It is not just the money, but the quality of life, the  recognition etc. Now, who is to say, if we do end up getting our first GM or super GM after years of struggle, that he/she won't just move to another country to play for that particular country? It happens everywhere, even to Super GMs. Sergey Karjakin now plays for Russia instead of his home country, Ukraine. Gata Kamsky plays for the US, Boris Gelfand plays for Israel. So there is nothing wrong if Zhang Zhong plays for Singapore. It happens. So what's going to stop Malaysia's first GM from NOT playing for Malaysia?

So, we come back to the point of attracting foreign GMs to play for Malaysia. If we have the culture and environment to attract foreign GMs, then only we have the capability to keep our very own GM, if he/she ever comes by. If not, who is to say that the GM won't leave Malaysia? Brain drain is a reality. Singapore has foreign GMs and those GMs have helped their locals to improve.

This is like the story of Proton. We insist on having our own national car (like having our own first GM), but at what cost? Just like we pushed so hard for Mas to become a GM, but he has failed, just like Proton has.

Look at our neighbour, Thailand. They do not have their own national car manufacturer. But Thailand is the 3rd largest car exporter in Asia (if I am not mistaken, only behind Japan and Korea). How many cars does Malaysia export? Thailand has a robust and resilient automobile manufacturing industry thanks to its liberal economy. Conversely, Malaysians are all suffering because we have to pay huge import and excise duties for purchasing foreign cars to subsidize Proton. Otherwise, you have to buy the low quality Proton cars. Thank god for Perodua (which intelligently collaborated with Daihatsu). Do we not see this similarity in the chess scene in Malaysia? Are we going to keep focusing on subsidizing one or two people (with potential) to become a GM at the cost of everyone else?

Whether it is Yeap Eng Chiam, or Yeoh Li Tian, or Teh De Zen, or Tan Li Ting or whoever the next top junior is, the goal should not be to focus on individuals. The goal should be to focus on creating a culture that promotes excellence, and recognizes achievement. That is of utmost importance. If talents and achievements are duly recognized without bias, I can assure you that the GM will come automatically. We don't have to subsidize them.

In short, this goal of striving so hard to get a first GM is utterly stupid. We need the right environment to grow a GM and so far, I have not seen anything close. Hopefully, I will be proven wrong someday.
 And here is more from the comments of the same post:
I am not talking about importing GMs to play for Malaysia. Importing GMs to win medals is just as stupid (Think Chelsea and Real Madrid compared with Barcelona (who develop their own talent)).

I am talking about creating the environment to attract GMs. It doesn't matter if the GMs are here to play or to coach, but as long as they remain in Malaysia for a sustained period of time, they will contribute to chess in whatever way. Paying a GM to coach is one thing, but in the case of Malaysia, if the GM has no incentive to stay here for a prolonged period (due to unsuitable environment etc), then we also have to pay for his expenses and lodging, which adds to the cost.

If the GM believes he is able to set up a residence here (i.e. can live in our environment and create a livelihood), then he/she may be more willing to forego the living expenses portion, which is usually the substantial part of the cost.

Another point is that the level of chess now is not as important as the rate of improvement. Having the right environment quickens the pace of improvement. Even if we are behind Singapore now, if we are improving at a faster rate, we will overtake them sooner or later.
This first GM dream is entirely shiok sendiri. Don't you think it's time to go achieve something with your own life?