World War III?

“…part of a long thing I’m in the middle of has a section that I’ve gone back and seen owes a rather uncomfortable debt to certain exchanges between Gary Harkness and Major Staley.” – DFW, in regards to the penultimate chapter in Endzone that is an ‘ancestor’ to the Eschaton section of Infinite Jest


(1) Nuclear powered PUTIN submarines enter the Gulf of Aden after a Russian Su-24 stealth fighter is brought down by an F-16 jet in Northern Latakia, four kilometres away from the Turkish border.

(2) ISIL hijacks seven EUROZONE passenger jet airliners in the skies over the Iberian Peninsula. Schipol is placed under state of emergency.

(3) Italian CoastGuard sinks thirteen immigrant boats off the coast of Libya. The Mediterranean, from Suez to Gibraltar, is quarantined. Riots break out between Syrians and the Standing Rock Indians at the refugee camps in North Dakota.

(4) PUTIN bombers assume maximum attack posture. Obama leaves the White House situation room and boards Air Force One.

(5) Vatican holds a mass vigil for Pope Francis the 266th, after he is critically injured in an assassination attempt in Nairobi. Ayatollah Khamenie breaks fast in Tehran.

(6) Borders around Kinshasa are closed after Chinese doctors confirm the airborne capabilities of an HIV mutation. France tests a 15 megaton H-bomb in the Cote D’Ivoire jungles.

(7) NATO calls emergency meeting in Brussels. Parisians are evacuated to Algiers. Marseille is believed wiped out.

(8) Chinese yuan devalues after the AU embargoes sale of Congolese uranium to Hong Kong financiers. The International Criminal Court at the Hague is fire-bombed by unknown arsonists.

(9) PUTIN begins Fractional Orbital Bombardment of East & Southern African countries allied to NATO & AMERIC. Lilongwe, Matola, Kajiado, Gaberone, Mwanza, Namanga Mori and Hermanus are hit by R-46 missles totalling 150 megatons. The Cape Province is rendered uninhabitable by fallout.

(10) Lagos government severes ISIL links to the ‘mother continent’ after carpet bombing almost the entire cross-section of Boko Haram controlled Nothern Nigeria. Considerable collateral damage reported by BBC. Obama and Hollande rendezvous at the International Space Station after enduring low-earth-orbit launch from Air Force One and Le Escadron respectively.

(11)  PUTIN offers Egypt amnesty for airliner bombing in return for control of Nile. ISIL establishes caliphate Stretching from Baghdad to Tel-Aviv to Budapest to Boulevard Barbes and the rest of the 18th Paris District. Ceasefire between PUTIN, NATO & AMERIC & ISIL agreed to.

(12) Kinshasa government pays reparations for outbreak of airborne HIV in EUROZONE. France tests 30 megaton underwater H-Bomb off the coast of Gabon.


Highway Bar

(All photos by Dr. Wambui Mwangi)

Highway Bar 1

I will open the scene with an early morning: first light half-fried into the sky, the day warming on the grill with the sound of twittering breakfast birds; in phototropism the leaves are turning, the tree is giving birth to shade; and behind the walls the whiskey casks are being rolled and then getting set upright.

Highway Bar is open for business.

But I will direct your muse away from this tangibility of post-dawn. Call this an interlude. In the colourless air there are other things. I have no exact name for them. Ghosts? Ether? Einstein’s gravitational constant? There are personalities. Like your arrogance they hover above the tree-bush. There are personalities in many empty and full bottles. Like your generosity they liquefy to become the Tusker and Waragi everyone sips.

They built the bar, they are the patrons who pushed up the profits, they are the stools who let themselves be warmed under the asses from which came farts of undigested Kampala rolex.

They are the two of them, our characters, as they walk in. First the man who holds the keys to Highway, and second the Lady of Highway. He’s Hinga, She’s Purvi.

Highway Bar 2

Here I must slow the action down because this is important. I might have to rewind. Even delete whole past scenes. Change time frames or adjust nuances of space-time. Watch:

Purvi sees him at the end of the long bar, Hinga polishing glass, Hinga taking his wipe-cloth and manoeuvring around the insides, the fabric sponging in afterwash dampness. Hinga taking his wipe-cloth and whip-lashing a cockroach investigating the bar counter, the cockroach whiskers stunned into paroxysms of near-death.

Hinga watches her enter, the open door, her silhouette cutting the daylight into a shape, the slanting rays now pouring into Highway Bar, the dark wood furniture filtering them, translating them into crepuscular tinge, her skirt cut just above the knee, bare toes on slippers, beautiful skin of her legs.

Purvi takes a table near him. She picks a book out of her handbag and carefully cracks it open at the bookmark. She adjusts her pose and begins to read. Hinga observes with great and silent care. Any inch shift she makes, he catches it.

And this is his problem.

He freezes. He cannot talk to her. He cannot offer Tusker.

Purvi takes a sometimes glance at Hinga. She also doesn’t know what to do. This man is working, he is polishing glass, he is rolling the whiskey casks, but he is silent.

However, it is a strange day and she needs to ask him why.

“Where’s everyone gone?”

Now he must answer.

“They left. To go chase. To find. To search.”

She doesn’t understand. Before she opened the door and let the rays in, she was in the streets. They were deserted. She thought they were all at Highway.

“This isn’t normal is it? You wake up and you expect to find the world. Just like you left it yesterday.”

“I don’t know how to say it.”

And they look at each other. It is getting clueless by the second.

“Bring us two beers, sit next to me on this table and tell me in long stories why the world today is not yesterday.”

Hinga does nothing. She is about to say something but stops mid-throat. Hinga still does nothing. He only stares at her. Minutes go like this. Maybe years. Then Hinga disappears under the bar counter, a chupa-ndebe noise, and he is back in view, and heaves with a slap onto the counter an empty beer crate.

Now the silence between them is truly ice-cold. It’s a deep freeze. Many more years pass by and only then does the thaw begin. Purvi wakes up from her table and goes to the bar counter. The beer crate. Empty.


“Somebody cleaned it out last night. Drank it all. Brown water gone. I only found out today morning.”

“Who is this? Where is he?”

“They say he is two persons. He is many. That’s what they say.”

Purvi makes to leave. In hurry. She reaches the door and again she is a silhouette cutting out a shape. But here she stops.

“Are you coming?”

“I can’t. Have to tell anyone else who comes in what happened.”

“I am the last. Come with me.”

Highway Bar 3

They get out of Highway. Footsteps carry them into the beating heart of downtown, our ventricular valves of backstreet Nairobi Notes, and when they look around they see the red blood cells of the Aortan footpath. The colours are extreme, so alive they have lost the greys of boredom and cold July; the yellow building has turned into Wailing Wall where those who have not worn the clothes of personality take out their Leathermans and cut off their ears because the yellow is too much and blood must flow free, over their faces, drip down to soak their black and white shirts, their black and white personas. The hunt for the one who is now Brown Water cannot be conducted in b & w.

That’s when Hinga and Purvi know they are walking the wrong footpath the wrong way – the extreme coloured people walk against them. He or she is also the twenty four empty bottles of drunk Tusker or the filling of the empty crate but Purvi and Hinga swim against the current of Aorta.

That’s when something snaps inside Purvi.

She hails the last car. It speeds but it stops. She opens the back-door and wants to get inside. She has to get inside because the traffic is moving away, running away, the gap across increasing in car lengths. The traffic must not be allowed to disappear because this is the last car.

But it’s Hinga. Does he want to remain stuck on the footpath? Because you can see him touching himself around the pockets trying to find a Leatherman that’s not there. You can hear him, he has forced into his ears a vuvuzela. Is he one of the stadium cacophonies on the street level, the common man level?

She becomes the one to tell him to shut it, drop it, anti-bafana it, ‘come with me’ or force him into the car against the will of his own black and white. She, Purvi Mahajan Ganatra, is the volatile hydrogen needed to get the inert gassed procrastination of Hinga Wa Dedan moving. Lost in indecision Hinga Wa Dedan, revolutionary P. M. Ganatra.

In Schumacher and Hamilton the car catches up with the traffic. From our standpoint, we see the tail-end of the jam disappearing into the sky beach. Up above is the blue and the gentle wash of white spray clouds breaking surf on the beach of Nairobi heavens. Even the trees in the far yonder look like wind-swept madafu palms.

On the sky beach, Hinga and Purvi take off their black and white personality clothes, they stand naked but lack time and resources of calm thought to appreciate this small moment, and in sharp quick put on their new clothes – rich aubergine blouse of skepticism, drooling blue prima-donna suede footwear, cashew shaded soft mocha pants of conniving, amongst others.

The climate of hot noon weather is breaking into sweat on the Nairobian skins. Purvinga are ready to hit the ragged-town streets in search of Brown Water.

They criss-cross over cocks and hens laid out on the footpath by stinking, bathless, high-noon mamabogas. There are banana peels to step over, or the bodies of dead insects. Awful architecture and bars who have their corner-walls chipped off; Aorta clogged with the concrete fat of dirty-looking brickwork. Flies clothing a naked piece of meat, kill-joyed street vendors clothing the entrances to shops. And they have to nudge them out of their ways to enter other half streets where they lose each other once they discover their tastes in direction are different. Purvinga no more, only one part Purvi Ganatra of Short Street adjacent National Archives, and second part Hinga Dedan squeezing into narrowed depths of Taveta Road.

Highway Bar 4

So squeezed he can’t stand the streets. They are mad. Out of every traffic light, green and red, the ghosts of discipline come out in sequence to disturb his city walk. He wants out. Out of Nairobi. He asks them to send him to the jungles where he can polish meditation like his left-behind glasses.

It’s not easy but word comes Brown Water has banana leaves and locusta submerged in Mukono, Kalangala, Buguri and Masaka. In deep Mutukula. They send Hinga into the forests.

He lies in wait for him to come down from the Elgon through to Iganga where the trap lies waiting in the bark of the Rukararwe tree. He waits with newspaper, reclining himself on the very same bark, feeding on grasshoppered rolex. For many years he remains thus, reading on the third page the boast of Brown Water “My full names are Brown Water Mutesa Esq. of the 15th Kabaka clan and I never panic coz I shed cowardice at the seventh bottle…”

He tires of the wait. From of the Rukararwe he carves out and polishes a gourd, forages for Kampalese ferns, crushes the juice out of them, guides the spillage oozing out of his clasped palms into the gourd, and drinks deep of the jungle waragi. He wants to hallucinate, to sun-dry the Kampalese ferns and turn them into improvised papyrus. To then take the thorn of Kampalese, puncture his fingertips and in blood write down for her his lost fondness of the jungle. To express the desert winds of Ondaatje blowing through him in this rich foliaged locale. The harmattan, the haboob of Sudan. ‘The ninth plague of Egypt’ that is Khamsin.

Highway Bar 5

Back in Nairobi, Purvi is given an ear-cutting yellow truck to help her man the drool blue post office boxes. Rumours suggest Brown Water will soon send the last letter. Rumours also suggest Brown Water will be the found and the finder. The many.

Everyone has stopped mailing and all the postal staff have been sent home on permanent leave. The post boxes must be kept empty, all of them, Brown Water’s last must be caught. Purvi’s daily routine is to open with key, look inside, close, and move onto the next one.

Year after year only emptiness turns up.

Then she feels a change in the ether of afternoon. One last turn of the key before she gives up in boredom. Papyrus.

She is in silent eureka.

“Little India, soft echoes of whispers, once sounds louder, richer and more bouyant with your capacious expressions, still roam the empty Kalahari of my heart. And I heard its prophecy of mirages, some chivalrous chit-chat about the shimmering glories awaiting me in the distance.

Little India, one day those soft echoes will fade away.”

This is anti-eureka. It’s the other side of eureka. No it cannot be. We cannot be.

Everything is left behind – the postal keys, the ear-cutting yellow truck. She leaves behind the papyrus.

Highway Bar 6

But where is she going? Because Hinga Wa Dedan is back in town. Yes, Tarzan boy is goose-stepping the pavements, carrying forward the hangover of his former Migingo jungles, half-stoned amidst the elements of vehicular histrionics – horn, exhaust and insincere road rage; the storied climbs of concrete downtown sequoias, Times-Towered giants; and no there is nothing here to greet him; there are instructions to leave him alone, sheathe him in the quiet pain of ostracism.

High-noon mamabogas watch from the opposite street his walk – in whispers they rumour – this coward abandoned the Ugandan forests just as Brown Water was falling into the Bark Trap. Kill-joyed street vendors clear the paths in front of him. This coward walked away from Brown Water. Even the dead insects resurrect and scurry away so that he cannot goose-step over them. Now that he is back, Brown Water is gone forever.

He walks on. Past the notice boards where they have torn down the heroic posters. He takes the highway to Highway.

Highway Bar 7

Finally, we have the grey clouds positioned athwart the Nairobi heavens with jagged cracks amidst them letting in slants of dying sun and the crepuscular of post-dusk is rolled out like a whisky cask by the ethereal ghosts behind wan nimbus.

It starts to drizzle and at the fork before Highway, Hinga and Purvi cross paths. They are going to the same place. They knew it all along.

The rain is coming out of Hinga’s eyes. Purvi slides her hand into his. Behind them is the march and distant roar of Nairobians. They look and they see the tsunami of humanity approaching. That moving mass has smelled them.

They are coming with weapons – jembes and pangas. Some have sharpened their pencils and others are going to use their pen-nibs. Yet others have improvised their cell-phones to become clubs. Laptops as shields. The second war with Brown Water is drawing nigh.

Hinga has words coming out of him in torrents but Purvi asks him to shut up and tells him it’s senseless but beautiful not to say any more. She goes arm-in-arm with him into Highway.

Inside, the two of them, the many, take out the polished glasses and set them up in order along the bar-counter and the crates are magically full and they, the many, unbottletop the Tuskers and pour the brown water and froth into the glasses and the march and roar is coming closer and closer and the bar stools are shined so fine that the stars in them glow with Einstein’s psuedo-tensors and the bar-air is perfumed with spray waragi.

They are now at the door. Bang and bellow.

Purvi opens and Hinga at the end of the bar-counter watches her cut the three millioned Nairobian gang into a shape. Perhaps they will come in for some drinks, empty the crates, and tomorrow we can start a new day.

Highway Bar is open for business.

Fragment 23


Awonoor, you have happened afterwards.

I have something to say, because your death has not yet come.

The Great Valley split, Ghana built interstellarways to Enceladus ,dark paths rocketing from Accra to Port New Wheta. You are now lyrics of the No.3 hit song, anyways, I watched the hands point to the sky on Naivasha Beach, a crab clawed my knee on Nairobi Beach, cut me there and I stained the sea.

Your voice thunders from the stereo clouds, beaches apart, they roaring, Reggie Rockstone’s lip-syncing, they sweating, they fucking in the open Africa, in the crowds, buttocks scouring the sands, I kiss you baby, lips lap the Nairobi Sea shore, they point their hands to the sky, they howling in your voice, Ghanaian, because there are smiles in their mouths not even halfway sorrowful, they national anthem, woman, Awonoor, it’s your hit song:

I believe in light and day

I believe in women and the gods

You have sons to fire the seperewas now that you are really alive, and your daughters wail because you never closed your mouth.

Fifty million from radionomy Kampala, fifty million from shuttle repair shops Eldoret. Fifty million years and the Valley split, and they are grieving for your living soul at the balafongala concert.

I take a step and sink to my knees, force a crab out of its hole, it claws my knees, a cut, blood, I stain the sea, Me Ka, Awonoor.


Tonight, my mother is cooking me tindoda nu shaak, and in the kitchen she sings thousand year old gujurati folk songs. She was there when you were there. She didn’t hear them come, she just took the lifts and went up. Somewhere down, you were becoming smaller as she rose.

Quick reviews of latest chess purchases


For Christmas, I decided to buy myself a stack of chess books with my winnings from the recent Kenya National Chess Championships. It took a few weeks for the Amazon order to arrive. A portion of the bill went towards paying the KRA duty, something I was not happy with as it made no sense to me why duty is imposed on books. Anyways, once I had them in my hands it was a holiday season well spent with things I love most.

During my 7 month lay off from local competitive chess (May-Dec 2014), I took a good look at the chess reasons for my 2014 Olympiad qualifier debacle. My play in sharp positions was wanting, my endgame skills were pretty shitty and my general approach to playing was rather mechanical. So my choice of books was aimed at targeting these areas, with a couple chosen simply for entertainment value. Having lightly browsed through them over the last couple of weeks, these are my initial impressions:

KASPAROV ON KASPAROV – PARTS II & III (1985-1993 & 1993-2005)

kasparov 2

I had Part I of this trilogy (covering the period 1975-1985). Now my collection is complete. It’s the greatest player of all time explaining the intricacies of his play. And the politics and stories surrounding the various events he took part in. And some autobiographical sketches of life away from the chess board. Kasparov lets his emotions shine through, especially when he talks about his closest rivals. The passion with which he plays comes out in his annotations. The books are meaty.

But what I find most useful is the way Kasparov annotates and analyses. He explains the small and subtle GM moves…the reasoning behind them. The variations he selects to back up the verbal commentary (and there are tons of verbal commentary to the moves) are to the point and thorough. He is not afraid to point out his own bad moves. Whatsmore, it’s incredible to see the vast range of positions he can play. Kasparov has been stereotyped as an opening “Theory Henri” and a flamboyant attacking player. But the games in this trilogy also showcase his fantastic positional understanding, feel for prophylaxis (especially tactical prophylaxis) and endgame technique.

Some random excerpts:

Kasparov - Polgar, Wijk aan Zee, 2000. Position after 21...Bd7.

Kasparov – Polgar, Wijk aan Zee, 2000. Position after 21…Be6-d7.

Here is what Kasparov says at this point:

After this simple reply I came to my senses and began cursing myself: White has no useful moves and not even a hint of compensation for the pawn. I felt an almost irresistible desire to resign, and it was only with difficulty that I forced myself into the mood for a tenacious resistance…

Incidentally, when after the round the journalists asked Kramnik: “Why did you so quickly agree to a draw with Black?”, he replied: “But I could not imagine that Kasparov would play like that with White!”. And, indeed, in such an important game with Polgar, against whom before I had a 4-0 score in ‘classical’ games, a defeat seemed almost unimaginable.

The remainder of the game is an electrifying experience to play through, and an object lesson in the art of being resourceful in a bad position (from the diagrammed position, Kasparov continued 22.c3 with the idea of setting up a Bc2, Qd3 battery with something like Rxf6 in the offing), what with the interesting variations and notes. Kasparov managed to turn the tables and win.

Kasparov peppers his accounts with tidbits from other grandmasters and chess journalists. This gives his trilogy the effect of having been written in a frenzied post-mortem atmosphere, with many voices speaking out their thoughts and a dozen hands flying across the board. It adds to the drama. Here are Evegeny Bareev’s thoughts spliced in when Kasparov discusses the end of the 1999 Sarjevo tournament:

“The participants had the feeling that Kasparov was playing at roughly 25% of his desire. When it was needed, he would develop additional momentum. Eye-witnesses reckon that his mood here was very different from that in Linares and Wijk aan Zee. There he was an angry, hungry wolf, whereas here the wolf was good-natured, as in a cartoon film. But even so the good-natured wolf devoured quite a number of sheep.”

Different events are seperated into different sections, and before going onto the games, Kasparov lets us have a behind the scenes look at his preparation style. Here is a paragraph from the section where he talks about his preparations for the World Championship match versus Anand in 1995:

In July and August, I prepared intensively for the match on the Adriatic Sea, in blessed Croatia. It was a long time since I had felt so well, in the physical, as well as the chess and the psychological sense. I swam a great deal and went canoeing. I established my own personal record: I swam three and a half kilometers in the open sea in one hour, forty minutes. Almost every day I paddled up to seven kilometres in the canoe and at the chess board I spent two hundred and fifty hours.


Genna Ssonko

At the time Botvinik was the personification of chess in the Soviet Union – river: Volga, poet:Mayakovsky, goalkeeper:Yashin, chessplayer: Botvinik. And suddenly – a kid with a name as short as a gunshot: Tal!

Over the last decade or so, many important texts written by ex-Soviet era players, dealing with chess matters off the board, have come out. Busting many myths and stereotypes about chess life behind the Iron Curtain. The best of the bunch by far is Genna Sosonko. His books are a must have for any chess lover. “World Champions I Knew” is his latest offering.

The book has no chess diagrams. No chess analysis. It is pure prose. It has analysis of human behaviour – that of World Champions Genna Sosonko knew personally.

Botvinik, Smyslov, Petrosian and especially Tal, are talked about in depth. The life they lived. What sort of family men they were. How they dealt with the politics of Soviet sports. How they dealt with the KGB. Their personal weaknesses. What they did after games. How they related with other Soviet era players. Their thoughts on Bobby Fischer.

The chapter on Tal has to be one of the greatest chapters in Chess literature. It’s extraordinary. Not only is Tal shown in a way you have never seen him before, the style in which the prose is written is also breathtaking. Being a ficiton writer, I found this to be a stunning example of how to create a vivid character. I read the chapter thrice and I am sure I will be re-reading it many more times in the coming months.

And Tal went to Vnukovo at night for Vodka reinforcement.

And sat around more than once in the cabin gatherings with the captain and officers of a boat over bottles of rum and other drinks that were rarely seen at the time.

And Tal, usually in a tipsy condition, started stubbornly shaking his head and grinding his teeth.

And Tal often found himself without his internal passport.

And Tal might not leave a hotel room for days, with day flowing smoothly into night and again into day.

And Tal, after inhaling a few times, would put a cigarette out so that he could start a new one almost immediately.

And there were always all kinds of chess groupies and semi-bohemians kicking their heels around Tal, sometimes also openly dubious characters. And he was drawn to the dregs for inexplicable reasons, too.

And an ambulance came for Tal on more than one occasion, because “only an immediate injection could save him.”



Chess is a complicated sport, which has to be studied for many years. It is hard to imagine any other sport without coaches. (Is there a single atheletics club or football club that does not have a trainer?). This manual is intended for the many club players who unfortunately recieve no support in attempting to master our complicated sport. In this way it is intended as a substitute for a trainer for those that have none (and a support for trainers), but not an equal replacement for a trainer.

I stumbled across Stage 2 of this series back in October last year. I went through it Oct-Nov and I was damn impressed. I believe it helped me become National Champion. So I decided I had to buy the three volumes of Stage 3.

I think this might be the best training series ever published for the 1500-2300 range crowd. At first sight, it looks so bland. You open the page to a chapter and there is are a few simple examples followed by test positions. You ask yourself: “Why would I waste my money on this?” But as you go through the test positions and examples step by step, you gradually realise you are learning alot. A hell lot.

You might think you know the stuff the books go on about. But you start realizing how much you actually don’t know about the basics. This series gives you a thorough grounding in all the basics you need to know.

Stage 1 is geared to get 1500 guys up to 1800. Stage 2 is for the jump from 1800 to 2100 and Stage 3 2100 to 2300. Especially for a country like Kenya that does not have access to good coaches, this series is vital. Each stage has three volumes (Build, Boost and Evolve).

I will simply list the chapters in one of the volumes in Stage 3 so that you get an idea:

1. Desperadoes

2. Static advantages

3. The comparison method

4. Rook against two minor pieces

5. Open games

6. The minority attack

7. Complicated combinations

8. Fortresses

9. Complex positions

10. The transition to the middlegame

11. The bishop pair

12. Shutting out a piece

13. Playing against pieces

14. Principles of rook endings

15. Playing for traps

16. Castling opposite sides

17. Pawn chains

18. Transition from opening to ending

19. Exchanging queens – the transition to the ending

20. Outposts for knights

21. Having a plan

22. Pirc and Modern defences

23. Complex positions 2

24. Queen endings


positional play aagardcalculation aagard

These are workbooks. And they expect you to be a workhorse to get the most out of them. I haven’t used them much so far. Special time will have to be allocated for them. But the few examples and exercises I have gone through, it appears the books are quite direct and goes straight to the point. My positional play sucks and my calculations skills are primitive. I hope these two books help me out. It’s too early for me to say whether they are any good. I have gone on recommendations of various reviews on the big chess forums. So perhaps a real review from me laters.


mihail marin

I had read ‘Secrets of Attacking Chess’ by Marin. That was a very good book. Marin has a unique style of dissecting positions. He goes deep in and deliberately gets lost in the variations. You learn a lot by following him into no-mans land.

This book focuses on endgames. He picks on 6 outstanding exponents of this phase of the game (Rubinstein, Alekhine, Petrosian, Fischer, Karpov and Korchnoi) and highlights a specific area they are the best at. It doesn’t look at theoretical sort of endgames (that would be the Dvoretsky Endgame Manual book, for example) but at the practical aspects of endgame play. Certainly for Kenyan players like me, the endgame is still a big big mystery.

Marin is not interested in trotting out a large quantity of examples. Instead, he picks a few positions and does in-depth and quality analysis. To really show the reader what’s going on and what he can learn. Rook endgames are something I especially struggle with, especially the practical nature of them. The first chapter of the book (and the one I have gone through so far) is on Rubinstein’s handling of Rook Endgames. The annotations are simply superb and besides concrete variations, Marin also verbally explains at length what is going on. One goes through it slowly, sipping in Marin’s notes. And that’s a good way of learning. Marin makes one develop endgame skills rather than just absorbing knowledge.

To finish with a random example from the Rubinstein chapter:

Rubinstein - Del Turco, Merano 1924.

Rubinstein – Del Turco, Merano 1924. White to play.

This is just a snapshot from the endgame Marin analyses for over 11 pages. Rubinstein here played the dubious 38. Rxf6?! and this is what Marin says about it:

Rubinstein’s intuition seems to have betrayed him at this moment. He might have more or less foreseen the further evolution of the game but must have overlooked Black’s possibility on the 41st move.

However, attributing Akiba’s error to this excusable error of calculation would be rather simplistic description of the situation. In fact, his decision is in complete opposition to his usual way of thinking, something we are already familiar with. Maybe this was just not his best day.

Let us try to imagine how Rubinstein would have judged this position in the other nine times out of ten.

The ending with one pair of rooks is obviously better for white but no human would be able to foresee the  ultimate consequences. It certainly offers practical chances and would be an acceptable way to play for a win if there is no better alternative available.

However, it is not difficult to establish that keeping all the rooks on the board would increase White’s advantage. The fact is that Black does not have time to block the f-pawn with the king and so one of his rook will remain passive. At the same time the white rooks will display their habitual activity, due to White’s spatial advantage.

After 38. gxf6 play might have continued:

38…Rd4+ (38…Rff7 would lose the c-pawn since after 39.Rxc5 Rxf6? 40. Rc6+ white would win a rook.) 39.Kc3 Rd6 (39…Rd5 40.Rxd5 Kxd5 is just hopeless. Black will fall into succesive zugzwangs since the rook cannot move. For instance 41.f7 Ke6 42.Kc4 Kd6 43.Rf3 Kc6 44.Rf6+ Kd7 45.Kxc5 etc.) 40.f7 Rd7 41.R1f3 followed by Kc4 and Black can hardly resist.

Great grandson’s Syokimau train ticket dated 2169 A.D



the SHAPE of nozzles

a housefly LANDING on my shoe


At the super subway trainport Syokimau fire in my pockets the downtown to Machakos late evening shuttle finally the arrival of two thousand downtown freaks I walk against them their current of movement for example this man wearing Mohanlal Naran tailored trousers black with split gap/no zip so that in this hot late December his dik can be airy but nobody can see that his pubic hair is dreadlocked and flowing down to his knees like flywhisk dyed cream.

The engines purring like hundred extinct lions mass graves excavated at laying of Beer Hunger Wine Hyena hotel & black-skinned writers only allowed foundation in former national park and the freaks talk in so many goddamned ways jango qawalis nusrat fateh onyango and my childbirth 2nd floor M.P. Shah then a two day old baby my implanted inner ear phones shoot out garbled Mozart allegro Jose Maria Pires soft and gloomy and sad twenty seventh concerto as I walk past all freaks and they were going home and I was going into the blooming cosmopolis cunt of lady Nairobi last trains moving in many underground tracks all blurry fast I can’t see interstellar matatus route Emba44 landing at JKIA and I love all the freaks I walk past she’s wearing streetwalker acacia thorn studded split open at chest blouse drool blue can’t touch her things because they are sharp.

I hate all this city has become like a crude oil in tetrapak in the SubwaY NaivaS underground 250ml and peach flavour with straw attached ready to drink fortified with vitamin C the fuel which set fire to my rape fantasies and sperms and condoms strewn on colonised Mogadishu beaches wide sandy and without seaweed christmas holidays highways from Mogadishu to Nairobi nuetron bomb tests passing by Chalbi Desert lit up with new years fireworks and Kilimani and Westlands and Kangemi III and new Umoja and Donholm with its great poet and sixteen grandchildren who never read Madman all playing in the December rain of light wet with electric because radioactive powerstation at Karen Naivasha the great suburb grown forever and ever lights now never go out, those Syokimau godowns I am leaving behind and the rare December rainfall this late afternoon almost evening and the atom bomb cauliflowered clouds in the sky I don’t see, I am underground.

The forty shilling train ticket I use as bookmark.

Favourite paragraphs III

They tell me to respect the way we do things here in literature and write about a character dictated by a list that’s been prepared for building bards. By the committee of the Writers’ Board of Kenya: streetkid, prostitute (with heart, perhaps, but victim), fat wabenzi, youth who’s no respect for those who’d cut her clit-bits off, and sundry other minor folk whose role it is to represent the mass (who’ve been betrayed, who only suffer) — and to do this in Gikuyu or Kikamba. Well, that’s fine, for I respect our great tradition of imprisoning our authors. — Stephen Derwent Partington

It is in captivity — ringed, haltered, chained to a drag. The bull is godlike. Unlike the cows, he lives alone, nozzles the sweet grass gingerly, to pass away the time. He kneels, lies down and, stretching out a foreleg, licks himself about the hoof. Then stay, with half-closed eyes, Olympian commentary on the bright passage of days. The round sun smooths his lacquer through the glossy pinetrees. His substance hard as ivory or glass — through which the wind yet plays. Milkless. He nods. The hair between his horns, and eyes matted with hyacinthine curls.  William Carlos Williams

His horses, hard of mouth, swerved suddenly and dashed against a Libyan army. From this single mishap there followed crash on crash. — Sophocles

The motion sun has this pure millimolar thing it does when it settles on the thin layer of dust on the block wood and even before those specks of dust trap the light and disappear into other regions of the air in my mouth-room. Two pairs of eyes in the room dart from object to object and never to each other. The arrangement of shapes and sizes in these rooms is something out of a set in a film written by directed by edited by scored by and produced by a young man in Nairobi with no education and a lot of love and kisses from his mother. Plastic teepee and Tupperware I got as a gift from an Italian man who comes to me in the late night hour, a man who looks at me with blank eyes and offers me his life savings if I can tell him why cold-blooded animals like the shade so much. He often says he loves the sun and he walks for kilometers without water or pauses. He’s third generation Italian-Gikuyu. Once he offered me a story for free. Emphasis on ‘free’. His father, after playing dead in the bloody fields of Wal Wal, 1934, bribed a merchant with silvers and gold to a southern border where he bribed a hunter with anal sex to take him to Marsabit. This man, he likes to spit in my garbage bags, I imagine those who like to spit are hydrated people and I spend nights and days thinking about this. I think about his bad breath and good intentions, his love for highlife benga and the many wrong histories he likes to offer me. I want to be like him, wrong in my convictions and happy as can be. In my garbage cans and in addition to spit are the remains of yesterday where I did things no one has ever done to a vegetable salad and later made that okay with a banana-strawberry-yoghurt splash. A lot of paper has been wasted printing recipes and turning them into manifestos for cats. — Clifton Gachagua

They both laughed the laughter of tipper trucks: it carried all the worry behind them and dumped it in some bola far away. The planets were the dancing hearts of vulnerable witches. Accra could harm the hearts of beings hundreds of feet up in the sky. Accra be sweet-ooooo; only avoid the history, avoid the gutters. When Adwoa Aude ended up finally at her house, she saw Aming standing at her door, waiting to enter with 1976. Her father had thrown her out. Adwoa took her in with her own tall puzzled look. Adwoa was completely exhausted and one had left Sally soon asleep suspended in the sky. — B. Kojo Laing

Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds along the pebbled shore of memory. — John Keats

He saw a vendor selling sugarcane from an open-sided van, mangoes in wooden crates and tall cane sheared with twine. Some things get better, Albert thought. A library, a play street, prods to his optimism, block by block. — DeLillo

When a clueless security guard locked up the library with us in it, we spent half the night in there, fucking on the stairs. You bit my lip until it bled and wrapped yourself around me as though the ground were a floe, breaking away from the continent, sending us over a waterfall and out to sea. With my tongue inside you I was licking the insides of a plump oyster. With your breath ragged in my ear I was listening to a shell from an ancient shore of an alien planet. Then, like wall geckos, we climbed out of the bay windows and ran, glittering with fucking, into town. — Nicholas Ochiel

I recall being told, when I first moved to Los Angeles and was living on an isolated beach, that the Indians would throw themselves into the sea when the bad wind blew. I could see why. The Pacific turned ominously glossy during a Santa Ana period, and one awoke in the night troubled not only by the peacocks screaming in the olive trees but by the eerie absence of surf. The heat was surreal. The sky had a yellow cast, the kind of light sometimes called “earthquake weather”. My only neighbour would not come out of her house for days and there were no lights at night, and her husband roamed the place with a machete. One day he would tell me he had heard a tresspasser, the next a rattlesnake. — Joan Didion


Tusker & Fritz

300521_219943391395878_1622357992_nKQ-470 taxis, faces the runway.

The seatbelt sign lights up.

Some of us had problems tying our shoelaces in kindergarten and now clicking the seatbelt tongue into the slot part looks tough. It’s like throwing one string of shoelace over the other, left brain over right brain, mixing up our logic.

The Rolls Royce engines thunder, it’s the sound of ten thousand atmospheres rushing past. The metal ends of the seatbelt vibrate in-sync with finger bones.

Without looking outside the window, those of us in the middle seats know KQ-470 is now floating because the tyres are no longer bumping over the runway tarmac; the vibration in our finger bones has stopped. Looking outside, those of us at the window seats watch Nairobi slope as KQ-470 banks right. And right, and right, until we have all turned one-eighty and are climbing, moving south, outbound to Maputo.

There are streaks of rat brown rust on the aileron at the edge of the right wing and the aileron flutters spasmodically in the face of powerful winds. That’s how we know KQ-470 is flying fast. We see the rusted part juxtaposed against a dropping Nairobi. Some of us think about what happened in Cameroon. (A nocturnal Cameroon jungle 5 kilometers south of Douala International Airport where KQ 507’s flight recorder is found. Analysis in Canada confirms KQ 507 banked too much that night and the pilots panicked and it fell out of the sky.) Some of us have a fear of heights.

Over Nairobi National Park now, carpets of bush and trees. Water surfaces like ponds, rivers, streams fracturing the landscape symmetry. Clouds outside our windows, their fluff, their shadows on the carpets, the landscape running into the horizon where its hazy because the clouds pack up over there under the pressure of perspective and all the far things look obscure except for the infinite blue sky. Sometimes the landscape symmetry is fractured by shining rooftops which may be isolated game warden posts or some safari lodge using solar panels. This is where some of us admit we have been brainwashed because we are looking for something more dramatic down there. Like an overwater marina trench gouging out some hallucinatory valley, or a Kilimanjaro rising high into outer space. But it’s boring outside their. Kilimanjaro to the left is some small stone burger with melted white cheese spread over it and all else is a flat plain stretching on and on, carpets upon carpets of trees and bush. Small looking hills here and there.

Fingers clasp the edge, the elastic edge, of the pouch that’s in front. It’s warm inside the pouch. Fingers of the other hand grasp the glossy in-flight magazine called msafiri. The name has no capital letters. The magazine is warm. It’s like the pouch is part of a living animal, warm blooded and soft inside. Possibly the body heat of the guy in front has seeped through his seat and now comes out from behind here. The elastic edge catapults back into position as fingers let go.

It shows four elephants walking on the banks of a lake shore at the golden hour. It could be either late dusk or very early dawn. Thick orange sky flaming around the top of page 36, around the elephants in the middle, around the lake water which reflects everything above and around it. The photographer has also employed contre jour technique; the four elephants and the thin strip of ground they walk on form the only darkness; elephant silhouette. They walk eastward, following one another, ready to walk out from the right edge on page 36. msafiri has no capital letters.

The air-hostess rolls the drinks trolley down the aisle. The drinks trolley is a tall steel box. The air hostess puts her hands inside the tall steel box and brings out a cold can of Coca-Cola. Fingers leave page 36 and curl around the cold can. Is it possible the guy in front sucks the heat out of all the Coca-Cola cans on KQ-470 and leaves them chilled? Because after a while the fingers curling around feel the cold fire. The fingers burn in the near freezing heat because they don’t want to let go. Then, on the lower spine, a soft push is felt. From the seat behind a hand has gone into the warm blooded animal and has pulled out a glossy magazine. This is what is felt on the lower spine. The air-hostess rolls the drinks trolley down the aisle and puts her hand inside.

It shows an aeroplane window. Outside, grocery shopping is in freefall. Clouds are sculpted carefully in the shape of cauliflowers. Millions of conjoined cauliflowers and no two have the same size or shape though they all have the same feel. The sky is the blue colour from our nursery school days, the blue that looks happy and carefree. Grocery is falling out of a brown paper bag. Bananas, loaf of bread, milk packet, leaves of lettuce, or is it cabbage, a box of eggs, eggs as white in shading as the cauliflower clouds, a packet of pasta. A slice of pizza seems to have docked away from the brown paper bag earlier and is in a more advanced state of freefall but the particles of mushroom, capsicum and green olives are clearly visible amidst the cheese of the pizza. This is on page 33. The advert for yayayaya does not have any capital letters.

On page 21 there is another aeroplane window. This one shows portion of an aeroplane wing where the Rolls Royce engine is. Colour of the aluminium is very clean. The wing edges and round Rolls Royce engine are like buttocks, thighs, breasts voluptuous curvaceous. This is aluminium pornography shot with a Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 4/1700. An aeroplane wing and engine have never looked more beautiful. No rat brown rust. No clue that beyond the page the wing has an aileron fluttering spasmodically in the face of powerful winds. And looking past the boudoir photography, down on earth there is wildebeest migration (savannah, acacia, Mara River and stuff). On page 48: “It looks like it was assembled from spare parts – the forequarters could have come from an ox, the hindquarters from an antelope and the mane and tail from a horse. The antics of the territorial bulls during breeding season have earned them the name ‘clowns of the savanna’.” What does one of us recall? Which white guy said that in which documentary?

Fingers have memory and they left something in the pouch. They left a touch. A plastic bag. The plastic bag is torn open. It’s a pair of headphones. Like a headband they go around the skull, the fingers adjust the earpads. The fingers of the other hand explore the sides of the armrest, trying to find the hole. The headphone jacks in. But it’s a dirty sonic. Sonofabitch aeroplane radio, can’t hear anything clearly. The earpads are farting poo booh. Stuff the headphones back into the pouch, crumple the torn plastic bag and drop it to the carpet. Some of us are susceptible to barotrauma at this stage when the cabin pressure levels to seventy six kilopascals; the internal headphones, in the head, start whining like hungry dogs under a full moon night. Some of us become aware the aeroplane is still very loud and we need to pee.

Walk down the aisle, handball team here, canoening team there, the black T-shirts, ‘KENYA’ in big capital letters blazing in white ink across everyone’s chests, boxing team here. Every team has its own physical dimension. Basketball team have bigger biceps, judo team have more pronounced deltoids. We are talking of each team having its own unique body size. Tennis ladies team have the best looking legs, steeple chase ladies are small, short, thin and hard as stone at the thighs.

Though we all wear the same black T-shirt, we are not coeval.

Every team has its own mental dimension. Boxing men don’t hear the very loud plane. They comport noise into silence. Focus goes into the hand. The coach is shouting outside the ring, the crowd is roaring in the stands. Hear only the hand hitting the others jaw, the sound of spit flying out from between teeth. The steeplechase ladies think of rhythm, how they will proportionately divide running strides every four hundred meters by how many jumps over the hurdles by how the wind velocity will keep harmony with the rest of the track variables.

As we stand on the pee line, the curvature of the earth cuts clean shapes outside the windows.

Everyone in front of us in the pee line is a federation official. Big stomach guys of Judo Kenya or National Basketball Federation. Skinny, too much lipstick, skinny lips, pee ugly Tennis Federation ladies.

Inside the cramped toilet there are stripes of faeces clinging onto the sides of the metallic toilet bowl. The officials always shitofy everything. The toilet paper is soggy. We are not sure whether it’s because of the alcoholic disinfectant they were doused with at factory level or because of the humidity inside here. We are even afraid to touch the taps because officials have touched them before us. We come back outside with raw, crotch grabbing fingers; squeezing past big stomach of Handball Federation, to enjoy the pleasant climate of the economy class. Ahead, big stomach of Judo Kenya is walking past curtain, the purdah behind which a seven course lunch is being served in Premier Class and we wonder why the big stomachs wants to use our toilets.

We are back outside, walking the aisles. Some of us get back to our seats next to colleagues and in that particular row we feel like one family because to the left is a chess player who specialises in the Najdorf and to the right is a chess player who specialises in the Grunfeld. In that row we speak the same language, Kasparov, and we fly over middle Africa together.

But some of us get back to our seats and feel estranged. To left and right are some of us who speak in incompatible languages, like how do we process a Minority Attack using Judo’s Ashi-Waza, foot and leg techniques? We feel alone. We are mixed up in this row over here.

Sections of mountain ranges and vast clouds gradually slide out of one window and reappear in the next one.

And then one of us will use the aloneness and pull out a laptop, have the air-hostess put a cold Tusker can on the fold out, slide out table, next to the laptop. The Tusker tab is then peeled away, froth foams out and slides down the can whilst Fritz is fired up and King’s Indian moves are put up for scrutiny under the infinite analysis function. That’s it; there are no other sportsmen like the chessplayers. We look like we were assembled from spare parts – the weak chest could have come from a malnourished parking boy fluttering in the face of powerful winds in urban streets like a rat brown rusty aileron, the big stomach from a sports official, and the sharp eyes of the brain from Carl Zeiss.

KQ 470 floats over Maputo. It banks sharply and we are pushed by gravity rightwards. The windows show white is the predominant colour in the city, white buildings sprawling across our field of vision. We are now like a satellite ready to drop to earth. We entered KQ 470 carrying Nairobi oxygen, we will walk out of it exhaling Maputo carbon dioxide. The seatbelt sign lights up.