Friday, December 3, 2010

Chong Eu's unreserved support for chess


Remembering Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, an honorary patron of the MCF and the Penang Chess Association.

I STARTED playing chess quite late in my school life – when I was in Form Three. Before that, chess meant almost nothing to me. Hard to imagine it now, but it’s true.

It took me about five years from the time I saw my first chess pieces before I started learning to play. I still remember the occasion when I laid eyes on the pieces. It was at the end of the year. I was in Standard Four and there was this guy, one of my classmates, who was showing around his set of mysterious wooden pieces.

For a young boy whose only exposure to the chequered board at that time was the game of draughts (or checkers, if you like), I took the revelation that there could be other forms of board games, rather coolly.

Anyhow, that was my first exposure to chess. That classmate of mine turned out to be the younger son of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, Penang’s second chief minister who passed away more than a week ago.

I don’t know at all whether Tun Dr Lim played chess but I do know that my classmate friend must have got the inspiration for the game from one of his father’s closest buddies.

In case anyone doesn’t know, that would be Prof Dr Lim Kok Ann from Singapore, an expert on bacteriology who later became the general secretary of the World Chess Federation (Fide).

The two Lims – Tun Dr Lim and Prof Dr Lim – had forged a close friendship since their university days in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1940s. It was a friendship that later contributed a significant part to the growth of chess in this country and beyond.

In 1974, Fide was celebrating its golden jubilee and had wanted their affiliates to organise chess events in their part of the world. Prof Dr Lim was then already the Fide Zone 10 president and he wanted to organise the first Asian team chess championship.

Enter the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF). The federation was formed that year; its founding president, Datuk Tan Chin Nam, had quickly persuaded Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, to donate a handsome silver challenge trophy in his name.

But still, where could the tournament be held? At this point, Datuk Tan and Prof Dr Lim turned to the one friend that they had in common: Tun Dr Lim who, five years earlier, had become the Chief Minister of Penang. Datuk Tan had known Tun Dr Lim since the 1960s.

When the idea was mooted to Tun Dr Lim, he readily agreed to let the MCF use the Dewan Sri Pinang for the Asian team chess championship.

Through the state government, Tun Dr Lim also lent much support to the numerous activities in Penang during the Fide golden jubilee celebrations, in particular, the Fide bureau meetings that were held at the Merlin Hotel (now the City Bayview Hotel).

For his unreserved support for chess, Tun Dr Lim was made an honorary patron of the MCF and the Penang Chess Association. The other honorary patrons of the MCF were the nation’s first three prime ministers: Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn.

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