From Sam Sloan

I just got back from Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. If anyone sent me e-mail between August 30 and September 10, please send it again, because AOL has purged all of my mail up to and including September 10.

I do not know why AOL does this. Don't they know that people go on vacations sometimes? I have had this problem before and have never found any way to recover my back e-mail.

The results of my trip were that I did miserably in the World Chinese Chess Championship, held September 1 - 9 in Singapore, finishing with a score of only 3-6. I started well. In the first round, I had an easily winning position against Yang Xiang Xi of Indonesia. I had a rook and a pawn against his rook and elephant. This was a forced win for my side, but I did not know this endgame and therefore, without much thought, offered my opponent a draw, which surprised him greatly, and he accepted immediately, as soon as he understood what I was asking. After he had accepted my draw offer, several spectators demonstrated an immediate forced win on my part. This would have been my greatest victory ever, had I won that game.

After that, it was straight downhill. In round two, the organizers were so impressed with my first round game that they put me up on the stage with a demonstration board against a player from Macao who had once played on the "Rest-of-the-World" team in the match: China vs. Rest of the World. Meanwhile, the World Champion, Lv Qin, and several other grandmasters played down on the boards with the regular players. I decided to play against my opponent a gambit known to be unsound, hoping to get him out of the books. The result was a horrible 13 move loss on my part, which I expected to be greeted with hoots and jeers from the audience of several hundred spectators, but, to my surprise, they applauded respectfully when I resigned.

After that, I played some more really bad games. However, I must say that early on it was apparent that I had no chance, anyway. I was competing in the "non-Chinese" category, and two Vietnamese had been allowed to play in that category, even though they were clearly master strength players. There was also one "non-Chinese" who was actually a third generation Mainland Chinese. These three eventually won the first three prizes in the "non-Chinese" category.

However, even without them, the competition was stiff. There were six Germans, six Japanese and three Italians in the tournament, all of whom were really non-Chinese. Hans J. Siewert of Germany established himself as perhaps the first non-Chinese European player who can do battle on even terms with the middle level Chinese players in this sort of competition. Siewert got an even score of 4.5-4.5 against almost entirely Chinese opposition. By the way, Siewert has written more than a dozen monographs about Chinese chess, covering all phases of the game, the opening, the middle game and the endgame. Siewert also played over and studied several thousand grandmaster games in preparation for this tournament.

What this demonstrates is that I can no longer try to rely on my natural talent to win in the "non-Chinese" category in Chinese chess tournaments. I will have to study seriously for a change, if I want to have any chance against players like Siewert.

My poor result in this tournament was made up by the fact that on September 9, 1995, an article with a picture of me appeared in the Singapore Straits Times captioned "Xiangqi master catches his game - again." In fact, the article was about Lv Qin, who had just won the world championship for the second time, but one might easily have concluded that I was the "Xiangqi master" mentioned in the article. The picture showed me playing my last round game against Renzo Carassiti of Italy (which I won) and described how I learned to play Chinese chess.

This article demonstrated the injustice which often occurs in the news media. Here, I played so badly in the tournament but nevertheless got my picture in the newspapers, whereas Hans Siewert, who studied so hard and played so well, got no mention at all.

There is no such thing as a hotel room in Singapore which costs less than $100 per night any more, so, as soon as the tournament was over, I took a boat to Batam Island, Indonesia. I spent the next 16 days in Indonesia, from September 9 until September 25. Indonesia is a wonderful country. I have been to 75 countries in the world and I think that Indonesia is the best of all. I traveled by boat and bus from Batam Island, across Sumatra and finally to the capital of Jakarta. I gave a simultaneous chess exhibition to a high school in Jakarta and picked up some extra money by solving chess problems on the street. Then, I flew to Japan. After I reached Japan, I mailed 28 letters to girls I had met during my 16 days in Indonesia (which perhaps provides a hint as to why I liked Indonesia so much). Thanks to the wonders of word processing, I sent them all almost exactly the same letter, so I am just hoping that they don't get together and compare.

In Japan, I attended the World Computer Go Championship. The noteworthy thing about this event is that it was won by HandTalk, a program developed by a university professor in Guangzhou, China, and this program is clearly a middle-kyu player, which constitutes a great improvement over computer go playing programs in the past. After the tournament was over, I played a game myself against HandTalk, and it defeated me easily. Although I am a weak go player, only a few years ago I was able to give 17 stones to any computer go playing program in the world and still win. At the conclusion of the tournament, HandTalk was rated 5-kyu by a professional player from the Nihon Kiin (Japanese Go Association). If anything, it is slightly stronger than that. I believe that this development represents a major breakthrough in computer go.

I flew back to America on October 3.

Sam Sloan

Contact address - please send e-mail to the following address: Sloan@ishipress.com