Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.

"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Saturday, January 03, 2009

4:6 Singapore Chess Federation

When Singapore was granted Statehood in 1959 and societies were required to be registered, I took the initiative in 1961 to register the Singapore Chess League under the name Perseketuan Chatur Singapura. With the government aiming at becoming part of Malaysia, Malay had been adopted as the “national” language, the Bahasa Kebangsaan (I took a class in Malay and passed Standard One) hence this name. I also had an artist draw our badge that incorporated the state badge of crescent moon and five stars on red background. Since those early times the Singapore government has limited the use of the state badge to government bodies and I believe that the Singapore Chess Federation (SCF), our present name, is the only private society with a badge incorporating the badge of the Republic of Singapore.

I was president of the SCF 1961-82, with a year’s interruption in 1981. I was taking a greater interest in international chess than I had previously and had become acquainted with Florencio Campomanes (Campo) whose chess career in the Philippines sort of paralleled mine. Campo persuaded me to make our 1967 Pesta Sukan Championship an International event and brought two other Filipino masters, Renato Naranja (who won it) and Rosendo Balinas with him to play in it. We also had some Malaysian and Indonesian players. The expenses were sponsored by the Chung Khiaw Bank whose General Manager was Lee Chee Shan, a great friend of Amak.

The Chung Khiaw Bank was largely owned by Aw Cheng Chye the son of Aw Boon Par and Chee Shan had married Cheng Chye’s sister. Chee Shan had managed the bank since it opened after the Occupation, personally supervising the staff by arriving daily at work at eight o’clock. Our support from the Chung Khiaw Bank came to an end when the bank was sold to the United Overseas Bank in curious circumstances.
Jim Slater, the English fmancier, under the name of his company Slater-Walker, had persuaded Cheng Chye to sell him shares in Haw Paw Brothers, a pharmaceutical company derived from Tiger Balm, after which Slater-Walker somehow got control of the Chung Khiaw Bank. One day Chee Shan was surprised to receive some visitors who told him they were from Slater-Walker and had come to take over the management of the bank. The Singapore government was no less surprised, but decided that a “local” bank should not be taken over by foreign interests. After some arm-twisting here and there, Wee Cho Yaw, owner of UOB was persuaded to pay $50 million for Chung Khiaw Bank, and SCF lost a good sponsor.

In 1968, Campo invited me to play in an open championship in Manila where I finished near the bottom, one of the young Filipinos who crushed me being 16-year old Eugenio Torre! I was able to get leave to play in Manila because of a government ruling that the staff of government departments and of statutory boards such as the university could have “unrecorded leave” (leave beyond their ordinary allowance) when representing Singapore in sport. Though some denied that chess was a sport, the Singapore Sports Council took the broad view that it was.
Campo said that it was time Singapore took part in the Chess Olympiads, the next one being scheduled for 1968 in the Swiss city of Lugano. I was of a like mind and to help prepare the Singapore Team I invited Nikola Karaklajic to play in the 1968 Pesta Sukan Open Championship. Nik won the event with the clean score of 9 wins in 9 games, which feat Americans describe as a picket fence result.. More remarkable was that the six members of the Indonesian Olympiad Team had played in the Pesta Sukan for practice and each had to play against Nik.

Singapore’s first Chess Olympiad Team comprised Tan Lian Ann, Lim Kok Ann, Tan Lian Seng, Giam Choo Kwee and Choong Liong On. It was a formidable undertaking for me to raise the expenses of the trip but it was worth it. At that time, the Olympiads was played with preliminary groups and final groups and being last in our preliminary section, we found ourselves in Group D Finals. In this group we found our opponents more of our standard and ran out first, ahead of France. It was great to report that we were FIRST in Final Group D. Nik was our honorary coach, accepting from us only pocket money and board and lodging.

Note: The first International Team Tournament was held in Paris in 1924. There are now separate Olympiads for men and for women. Four players and two reserves make a men’s team; three players and one reserve, a women’s team. Women may play in men’s teams. The host country provides board and lodging for all teams.


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