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 When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography.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, February 28, 2009

5:4 Lazing by Lake Lucerne.

The above lay in the future as we returned from Manila to Lucerne and I occupied myself with the work of the Secretariat while Campo went globe-trotting being the FIDE President. In between dealing with the K-K Matches, I helped to organize the Olympiads and FIDE Congresses as well as meetings of the Executive Council in various parts of the world: New York, Alicante (Spain),Timisoara (Rumania), Tunis (Tunisia), etc. In most of my travels for FIDE, Rosie was able to accompany me and to enjoy the hospitality, especially in the FIDE Congresses. She was a great help in these because I was so busy with my work as General Secretary that I could hardly have managed without someone to take care of my laundry and meals. She was also the most beautiful of all the wives of FIDE senior officials and was very popular with them.

After he had subdued the Soviets in the matter of Kasparov’s disqualification, Campo reached a mutual understanding with the Soviets in the organization of the world championship matches when the Soviets saw that they could benefit from large prize-funds only if Campo brokered matches outside the USSR, though time ran out for the Soviets by the end of the 1980s. But when we returned to Lucerne after Manila, another storm broke out, this time with the Americans, on account of Campo’s decision to award the organization of the 1986 Olympiad and FIDE Congress to the United Arab Emirates, in Dubai. Venezuela had been given an option by the Manila General Assembly to organize the above events and the Emirates had been given the second option. When Campo announced that Venezuela had abandoned its option and that the Emirates had exercised theirs and he had awarded the organization to them, few gave the matter little thought at first.

Note: When a national federation asks for the right to organize a FIDE championship, the General Assembly grants the federation an ‘option’ for a given period, say three months, by the end of which the federation is obliged to make a ‘firm offer’ with a deposit fee which would be forfeit if the offer is subsequently withdrawn. An option fee is also payable before the end of the Congress, and this is forfeit if the firm offer is not made.

When the Israelis were alerted to it and confirmed that they would not be invited to Dubai because the Arabs considered themselves at war with Israel, they made loud protests and gained the support of the Americans and most West European countries. Campo had done his home-work well, however, and though it took him many long hours of discussions in the 1984 Congress (Thessaloniki) and the 1985 Congress(Graz), he brought the Israelis round to acceptance of their fate because all had been done within FIDE regulations. Thus he averted a clash in FIDE that could have led to boycott of the Dubai Olympiad by a score of Western teams, and I was so impressed by his statesmanship that at the end of the Graz Congress I told him I would see him through the 1986 FIDE elections though I had given notice that I would resign after Graz. Since Campo terminated the 1984 match 1 had been aggravated by the abuse heaped on Campo by Western media led by Raymond Keene who averred that Campo had been summoned to Moscow by Karpov to save him, and having to answer the disinformation put out by Keene and his allies. I thought for the sake of my ulcer I should leave FIDE after Graz and let Campo find a new assistant for his 1986 election campaign but after he had succeeded in turning the Israelis around, I felt obliged to support him. In the event, Campo was elected FII)E President for a second term in 1986, and re-elected again in 1990 in Novi Sad. I resigned from FIDE, however, after the 1987 Congress in Seville and left Lucerne on March 30, 1988.

5:3 Dancing with Bears
If the Soviets had quietly taken the rebuke Campo administered them in March over the Hoogovens affair, they screamed “foul” in June when Campo awarded the organization of the Korchnoi-Kasparov Candidates Semifinal Match to the United States Chess Federation, in Pasadena, and the Smyslov-Ribli Semifinal Match to the UAE Chess Federation, in Abu Dhabi. Campo had chosen these venues in furtherance of his campaign promise to promote chess everywhere, but the first venue, particularly, did not suit the Soviets because they were about to boycott the Good Will Games in Los Angeles in revenge for the American boycott of the Moscow Games the year before, and it would not do at all if Kasparov was playing in Pasadena throughout the L.A.Games. Chess was a victim of the athletic Cold War, it would seem.

The Soviets said that the FIDE President had exceeded his authority by not giving full consideration to the players’ wishes and Kasparov would not play in Pasadena. As an after-thought, they added that Smyslov would not play in Abu Dhabi as the climate was not suitable. The Soviets had blundered badly, however. They had been familiar with the FIDE regulations for selection of venues for the World Championship matches in regard to the Karpov-Korchnoi matches, when each player had opportunity to object to this or that proposed venue. They did not realize that in regard to the Candidates’ Matches, for which organizers were difficult to find, the players were not given so much say in the selection of the venues, and the regulations gave the President the last word in this matter. Through the summer months, the Soviets vilified Campomanes in the media to try to get him to change the venues, and their allies bombarded him with telexes, but Campo would not blink an eye-lid. Came the scheduled day when Korchnoi solemnly sat down and started his opponent’s clock, knowing it was a no-show. Kasparov was declared in default and Campo promptly declared Korchnoi had qualified for the next round of the Candidates’ Tournament, the Candidates’ Final. When Smyslov also defaulted in Abu Dhabi, Campo named Ribli the other Finalist. The Soviets warned Campo that they would bring up the matter in the F1DE Congress and ask the General Assembly to rescind Campo’s decision.

The Soviet assault in the Congress was spear-headed by Cosmonaut Vassily Sevastianov, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, and President of the USSR Chess Federation, but Cold War tactics did not fash Campo at all. According to FIDE Statutes, the President had full authority to act for FIDE in between sittings of the General Assembly, and Campo had taken the precaution of securing the support of the FIDE Bureau (later the Executive Council) in all he did. Moreover, the Western delegates supported Campo because he had been trying to do something for the Americans, and the Third World delegates supported Campo because he had been doing something for the Emirates. Campo spent long hours in closed door sessions with the Soviets and finally convinced them that he had both right and might on his side. He listed the delegates and told Sevastianov how each would vote and invited him to sound out the delegates himself. The Soviets were aghast. In Garry Kasparov they had a potential rival and successor to Anatoli Karpov and if the General Assembly confirmed Campo’s decisions, Kasparov’s career would be set back for three years at least. They could not bear to learn what Kasparov’s god-father (his supporter in the Kremlin) would say. At last, they asked Campo what could be done, Sevastianov could lose his medals! Campo replied that he could “organize afresh the matches” if the parties concerned, meaning the players, the organizing federations and, of course, F1DE, agreed and were compensated for their expenses and loss of potential income. The terms of the agreement were never published and I did not know even the total amount involved, but it was not chicken feed. When the Semi-finals item on the agenda reached the floor of the Assembly, Sevastianov distributed copies of a telex from the Chairman of the USSR Sports Committee (in effect, the Minister for Sport) saying he hoped a misunderstanding had been eliminated and will not affect cooperation for the benefit of chess. Campo then distributed copies of his reply saying that since the USSR Chess Federation now understands FIDE President was empowered to decide venues of Candidates’ Matches... he would consider steps “to organize afresh” the Candidates’ Semifinal Matches. The matches were rescheduled in London and Kasparov and Smyslov duly beat their respective opponents to qualify for the Finals. Kasparov later beat Smyslov in the Finals held in the USSR and became the Challenger. Discussing with Campo in later years, the story of this and subsequent tussles with the USSR Chess Federation, I suggested the title, Dancing with Bears, an allusion to the title of a popular 1990s move, Dances with Wolves, featuring Kevin Costner.

Kasparov had barely six months to prepare for the title match with Anatoli Karpov scheduled in September 1984, and expected to end before the Olympiads and FIDE Congress in November in Thessaloniki, Greece. The expectation was not fulfilled, Karpov rushed to a 4-0 lead in the first 9games, then Kasparov found his feet and there were 17 draws which did not count before Karpov won a fifth game. Everyone thought the match was over as Karpov needed only one more win to retain his title but Kasparov hung on grimly with another four draws before winning his first game. Now with a 5-1 lead, Karpov pulled himself together, and there were 14 more draws. Meanwhile, after leaving the Match to attend the FIDE Congress, Campo returned to Moscow to discuss with the players how the match could be stopped. Both players accepted that it might be necessary to stop the match, notwithstanding the rule of “unlimited games”, but quite understandably, the players wanted different things and ultimately Campo declared the Match “ended without decision.” By this time, Kasparov had won two more games, so the score was 5:3 when the match ended and he believed that he could have won the match had it been allowed to continue. Campo said that there was no assurance whether the match could last another 1,2,10, or 20 more games, but his decision made Kasparov his enemy and Kasparov vowed he would destroy Campo and FIDE with him.

This is not the place to tell the story of the Five Crowns as Yasser Seirawan described the matches between Karpov and Kasparov. Suffice it to say that Campo rescheduled the terminated 1984 match with new rules in 1985: best result over 24 games, counting draws as ½: ½, and Kasparov won it. There were five K-K matches in all, with Karpov qualifying to be the Challenger each time he failed to win back his crown, but after the 5th K-K Match, Nigel Short of England became the Challenger in the world championship match scheduled for 1993. This was Kasparov’s chance; he resigned from the USSR Chess Federation which had fallen on difficult times with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and persuaded Nigel Short to reject the offer of Manchester City to host the World Championship Match. Kasparov then formed the Professional Chess Association to organise a PCA World Championship Match in London in 1993 with prizes provided by computer giant Intel. Campo declared both Kasparov and Short in default and said that Jan Timman and Karpov who had both lost to Short in the Candidates’ Matches would replace Kasparov and Short in the (FIDE) World Championship Match. This was played, half in Holland (with myself as Chief Arbiter - see later) and half in Jakarta, Indonesia, with the minimum prize fund stipulated by FIDE that Campo somehow scraped together. Karpov won the match and became the (official) World Champion.

Thus it was, that in 1994 there were two world champions, not as bad as in boxing where there were three! Intel did not like that at all though they supported the PCA in a number of great tournaments. They told Kasparov they preferred to deal with the “official” world champion, and that he should get his act together, and this resulted in a final twist in Campo’s dance with the bears. The Greeks who had been granted the right to organize the 1994 Chess Olympiad and F1DE Congress did not fulfil their obligations and FIDE had to call for new bids to organize these events. Kasparov, who was in Russia at that time got the Russian Chess Federation to organize the Olympiad with barely over a month to get things ready. Then, when Campo arrived for the FIDE Congress, Kasparov put a strange proposal to him. Campo had long declared he would not run for FIDE President again (he was much disappointed by the feeble help he got from FIDE officials in organizing the Timman-Karpov match), but KasparoV asked Campo to run again. Kasparov said that he had no confidence in any of the three candidates who bad been nominated, as required by FIDE, three months in advance for election as FIDE President. FIDE was bankrupt, Kasparov said, but he could bring sponsors to FIDE if FIDE would forget the past and organize a “re-unification match” between him and Karpov for the real world championship title, and Kasparov believed that only Campo could do that for him. Campo was entranced by the notion of being a key player once more and decided to co-operate though I advised him against it. With Kasparov’s support, Campo got the General Assembly to change its electoral regulations so that he could be nominated, then won the election against Kouatly (France),the sole candidate that remained.

The French delegate Claude Loubatiere had asked me when we chanced to meet at the opening of the Congress if Campo would run for President as rumoured, and how he could do that when FIDE regulations required nominations for President to be made three months in advance. I told Loubatiere that in the many years I had worked with Campo he never once contravened FIDE regulations, and if he ran and was elected it would be done legally. After Campo’ s election I saw Loubatiere standing outside the conference hail and looking very glum.
“There you are, Claude,” I said to him, “everything done legally.”
“Legal,” Loubatiere snapped, “but wrong,” and I suppose he had a point there.
Though Kasparov planned the Re-Unification Match as being played between himself and Karpov, he had committed himself to play defend his PCA title against a Challenger that qualified through PCA Candidates’ Matches. His opponent was Anand of India whom he defeated to retain the title. In the FIDE Camp, Kamsky of US (he had emigrated from USSR before the fall of the Soviets )had qualified as Challenger and it was well into 1996 before the FIDE World Championship Match was organized and won by Karpov. In the meantime, it had become clear that Kasparov was unable to get backing for the Re-Unification Match and told Campo it was off. Faced with this in the 1995FIDE Congress in Paris, Campo told the General Assembly he was resigning because he had been elected to organize the Re-Unification Match, and proposed as his successor, Kirsan Iljumzhinov, President of the Calmic Autonomous Republic (inside Russia) as his successor. The General Assembly reluctantly agreed, for there was no viable alternative, and left it to the 1996 FIDE Congress in Armenia to settle the issue.

5:2 Lucerne, 1982.
When we arrived in Lucerne for the Olympiad, I found Campo campaigning vigorously for election as FIDE President, his platform being to truly internationalize chess because he felt that FIDE was too Euro-centric. Campo wanted more participation of third-world countries in FIDE affairs and in organization of FIDE events.

The incumbent President was Grandmaster Fridrik Olafsson of Iceland who had succeeded Dutch President Max Euwe in 1978, and who had left the FIDE office in Amsterdam. Since Olafsson was commuting between Iceland and Holland he left much of the management of FIDE to FIDE General Secretary Ms Ineke Bakker. It was natural that Olafsson depended a great deal on Ineke Bakker in his campaign for re-election, and in her enthusiasm, Ineke said some harsh things about Campo that she probably should not have. She said, for instance, that Campo had bought the votes of third world countries when he donated books and chess equipment to them through the Commission for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries (CACDEC).

There were three presidential candidates, Olafsson, Campomanes and Bozidar Kazic of Yugoslavia. After the first ballot had eliminated Kazic, Campo won the second ballot by a good margin. It was F1DE practice that on the day following his election the President-elect would inform the General Assembly who was to be his General Secretary and the Assembly would show its approval with a round of applause. As we celebrated Campo’s success in his hotel suite, Campo went to find Ineke Bakker to ask her if it would be all right if he nominated her for the post of General Secretary the next day. After some little time, Campo returned and blurted out, “Ineke says she won’t continue as General Secretary!” In retrospect, I imagined that Ineke had told Olafsson’s supporters that she would never work for the “opposition”, and felt obliged to vacate her office, at least for a while, sort of hara-kiri by a vassal when the Shogun dies.

When Campo had recovered his breath he started to draw up a list of candidates for General Secretary. No one was indispensable in his view, and he would show Ineke Bakker he had more than one string to his bow. In short order, he recruited by telephone some FIDE personalities for this purpose: Grandmaster Raymond Keene of England, Bozidar Kazic of Yugoslavia and Roy Clues of Wales, then turned to me.
“And you, too, Lim,” he cried, “you can do the job too.”
“Who, me”, I said in astonishment.
“Yes, you,” said Campo, “your wife would like to live in Europe, won’t she?”
“Yes,” I said, doubtfully.
“There,” cried Campo, “he has agreed.”
And so the next morning, when Ineke Bakker announced that she would be no more the F1DE General Secretary at the end of the Congress, Campo rose and said:
“I have four candidates for the post of General Secretary, all good people. They are Grandmaster Raymond Keene, Chairman of Commission for Information and Publicity, Mr. Bozidar Kazic, Chairman of Commission for Rules, Mr. Roy Clues, FIDE Treasurer, and Professor Lim Kok Ann, President of East Asia Zone. I leave the choice to the General Assembly, but my preference is for Professor Lim.”
You could have knocked me over with a feather!
In a flash, Raymond Keene was at the microphone: “I believe the President’s preference is an excellent one, and I stand down in favour of Professor Lim.”
Next at the mike was Clues who said, “I agree with the President that Professor Lim would be an excellent General Secretary and I stand down in favour of Professor Lim.”
All Kazic could say when he got to the mike was, “Me, also.”
I was rising to my feet to have my say when Campo fixed me with his eye and said, “You’re elected”. This remark drew a hearty round of applause which I guessed settled the matter. I quickly called Rosie (it was night-time already in Singapore) and told her I had been elected FIDE General Secretary, and asked if she would she mind moving to Europe. Campo had guessed right, for Rosie made no objection at all, only asking when.

Campo and I arranged with Ineke Bakker to meet her in Amsterdam two days after the end of the Congress and there we formally “assumed office”. Campo then left me in charge to learn the ropes while he went back to Manila. He was back within a fortnight and I returned to Singapore to arrange the transfer of my home to Amsterdam. By this time Sing Yuen was already in College, soSu Min agreed to put her up when she was not in the hostel, Su Hui had finished his National Service and had decided to sign up as a regular soldier as he liked the out-door life. He agreed, meanwhile, to help Rosie pack and to accompany her to Amsterdam for a holiday. I also made hasty arrangements to transfer my duties as SCF President to SCF Vice-President Tan Hoay Gie.

Rosie had a little adventure en route to Amsterdam with Su Hui. Travelling by Aeroflot to save money, they were confined to their transit hotel in Moscow for a day and half while waiting for the connection to Amsterdam because they had “transit” visas only and could only leave the hotel for tours provided by the airline. My good friend Dr. Eddie Ho Guan Lim, former Permanent Secretary in the Singapore Ministry of Health, and who had been appointed Singapore Ambassador to the Soviet Union, learned that Rosie was in transit, and used diplomatic influence to have them released for a visit to the Singapore Embassy. It was a great kindness on Eddie’s part for Ambassadors do not ordinarily take such trouble with people of small consequence such as a retired professor. When Rosie and Su Hui got to the airport the next morning they found that they had left their passports in the hotel safe and so had to miss the plane and return to the transit hotel with the prospect of doing the Moscow tour with other transit passengers a couple more times before getting on the next Amsterdam plane. In desperation, Rosie called Eddie Ho again and that worthy came and fetched them from the hotel and put them up in the Embassy until they could leave Moscow.

When I went back to Amsterdam to await the arrival of my family I brought my Apple personal computer with me and was soon writing letters and other FIDE circulars for Campo with it. By February, Ineke Bakker had finished writing up the minutes of the Congress as she had agreed to do, and she left the office to Campo and I. Her assistant also completed the calculations of FIDE ratings for the second part of 1982, and after this had been published, I was truly on my own. I was paid the salary that Ineke Bakker was paid, I forget how much, but I and other secretaries were the only paid staff in FIDE. In this regard, Tan Chin Nam remarked, “When you lay out pea-nuts, you catch monkeys only.” Campo did not receive any salary, but was reimbursed for his travel and hotel expenses plus a small daily allowance.

The first serious business that Campo had to deal with was a complaint from the Dutch Chess Federation that the Soviets (USSR Chess Federation) had pulled out of the prestigious Hoogovens Tournament at Wijk aan Zee at the last minute, saying that they had not been informed that Korchnoi -non persona grata with the Soviets - would be a participant. The Soviets had blundered, however, because the official who had accepted the invitation to send two Soviet grandmasters to Wijk aan Zee had over-looked that Korchnoi had been named among those who would be invited. When they discovered this, they thought it a good opportunity to let the world know that if Korchnoi played in a tournament, no Soviet player would. Nasty. After a report from a fact-finding commission Campo sent a memorandum to the Dutch and the USSR Chess Federations to say that the Soviets had clearly contravened FIDE regulations and “I severely reprimanded the USSR Chess Federation for this contravention.”

When Campo found that FIDE was paying rent for its office in Amsterdam he cast around fora sponsor who would subsidize FIDE’s expenses and found a sympathetic ear in the organizers of the Lucerne Olympiad, a non-profit company that described itself as the Lucerne Chess Organizers (LCO, actually, LSO in German). The LCO offered us free use of office space and an annual cash subsidy of SF.20,000. Though there were comparable offers from other places, Campo found Lucerne most congenial and so in June we moved our office to Lucerne. The Amsterdam office had been located on the fringe of Amsterdam’s red-light district. Our new office in Lucerne was located in an unused part of a girl’s finishing school, adjacent to the convent of the nuns who ran the school. From the canals of Amsterdam to the mountains of Switzerland. and from a red-light district to a nunnery in Lucerne! What a great change that was!. Rosie and I set up house in an apartment ten minutes by bus from the Secretariat. Sing Yuen paid us a visit and helped Rosie buy the heavy furniture some of which we eventually brought back to Singapore. There was an English speaking evangelist church just a few blocks from our apartment. The prime movers in this church were Luc and Murna Bigler. Luc was Swiss and a Quaker who was in constant trouble when he did his military service because he adamantly refused to carry a rifle. Murna was from New Zealand and we were familiar with the songs she brought from her home. I decided not to invest in a car, not liking to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Su Hui helped in the office for a little while setting up the computer program to calculate ratings and to publish them. This was a most important part of FIDE’s work for players everywhere depended on us to calculate their standings in the world rankings. In 1984, the US Chess Federation agreed to calculate and to publish the FIDE ratings, thus relieving us of quite a labour and some expense. In 1985 the rating work was transferred to Yugoslavia, but by 1988, Campo decided that we had to engage a staff member and do the ratings ourselves. Campo hired a local, RoIf Kaiser, who could answer the phone in French and German as well as in English, and translate correspondence in these languages. Irma Largoza from Manila joined the Secretariat to help with correspondence in English and with the accounts. We were busy getting ready for the FIDE Congress scheduled for Manila in October 1993.

Note: FIDE Ratings were invented by Arpad Elo of USA. Players’ ratings changed according to their results in international tournaments reported to FIDE and the new rating lists published every six months were eagerly awaited. The highest rating in July 1994 was Anatoli Karpov’s 2780, same as Bobby Fischer’s best. Some years back, Kasparov made 2800. The lowest rating is 2005.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

General Secretary of FIDE
5:1 The Chess Olympiads
Singapore first took part in the Chess Olympiads in 1968 (Lugano, Switzerland), then in1970 (Siegen, Germany), 1972 (Skopje, Yugoslavia) and 1974 (Nice, France).
Note: The term Olympiad actually means the four-year period between the Olympic games as celebrated in ancient times. FIDE was a member of the International Olympic Committee when it was formed in 1924, but when the amateur status of Olympic athletes became an issue, FIDE was forced to resign from the IOC. FIDE however, used the English term ‘Chess Olympiad’ to describe the two-yearly International team tournament, but the term ‘Chess Olympics’ is generally used in other languages.
We had a break after Nice because the 1976 Olympiad held in Haifa, Israel, caused a controversy between the Arabs and the Israelis; the Arab countries would not come to Haifa, but they organized, instead, a “Counter-Olympiad” in Tripoli, Libya, to which Singapore was invited. We did not want to appear to take sides by playing in Haifa or in Tripoli, so we abstained, which was a pity because both organizers had offered to pay for our air-tickets. Campo was wiser than us; he sent a team to Haifa and a team toTripoli. “We play chess anywhere” he said. We did not play in the 1978 Olympiad because the venue, Buenos Aires, was too far away for us, and we skipped the 1980 Olympiad in Malta because we were short of funds. The 1982 Olympiad was held in Lucerne, Switzerland and Singapore had a team again.
When I retired from the University, I told the Singapore Chess Federation that I wished to vacate the Presidency as well, and a new President was elected in my place. After a year, however, the new President resigned before the Annual General Meeting and I was elected President again, in my absence. I had to vacate my post at the end of the Lucerne Olympiad and did not serve as SCF President again.
Four players and two reserves made up an Olympiad team. The host country gave us board and lodging in a hotel the class of which depended on our status (it was not a level playing field) and we paid our air tickets ourselves. Most socialist and some third-world countries paid the tickets for their players; Singapore relied on private donors aided by tax-exempt receipts from the Sports Council. I played board No.2 in the first three Olympiads and Board No. 4 in Nice, and No. 6 in Lucerne. My score was always poor, 30% being my best result, I believe.
In the Skopje Olympiad, because of encouragement from Nikola Karakiajic who always came to the Olympiad as our honorary coach, we had a women’s team for the first time, namely Jane (later Mrs. Tan Lian Ann), Giok Chin (later Mrs. Giam Choo Kwee) and Mok Boh Peng.
I had my first serious relapse problem with my ulcer in Skopje and felt so bad that I had to abandon the team and go home. The airline Area Manager in Rome took one look at my face and gave me a priority connection to Singapore. Luckily there were no complications and rest in bed for a week put me back on my feet. Rosie did not accompany me on my chess trips at that time, she had to stay home and mind Su Hui and Sing Yuen. As related above, in 1974 Rosie brought Su Hui to Paris to meet Carleton, then with Sing Yuen joined me in Nice for the Closing Ceremony of the Congress.

4:17 A place of one’s own.

Lim Chong Keat, Chong Eu’s younger brother, was an architect whose firm, Architects Team3 had won an international competition for the design of Jurong Town Council. One day he asked me if I would join him and a few others in building a small condominium in Pasir Pajang, not far from where the Haw Par Gardens was located. Rosie was most interested because she had always hankered after a sea-side dwelling. The government had recently proposed a superior 11DB development in Siglap plain but when we went to look over what we thought was the proposed site we had found Siglap plain on the landward side of East Coast Road and not on the sea-coast as we had hoped. In actuality, coastal reclamation was still taking place, and eventually the HDB executive flats were built in Marine Parade at Neptune Court, not far from where Titania Rosie’s former house had stood. After our initial disappointment we had not followed up the Siglap development and missed out on something Rosie wanted very much. Now Chong Keat’s proposal for a condominium to be named Starpoint was most attractive and seemed a chance at last for us to realize Rosie’s dream.

The condominium was to incorporate many of Chong Keat’s architectural ideas, the most striking of which was a hexagonal (or octagonal) design that enabled the greatest area to be enclosed by a given perimeter - a near circular as compared with a rectangular design. The snag was that it was difficult to fit ordinary furniture with right-angled corners into a building where the rooms had hexagonal joints. No matter, we scraped together the down-payment and took a mortgage for the rest. It was a fine concept that Chong Keat had and we felt privileged that he had invited us to join a small party often owners that included himself and his sister.

Starpoint had only ten storeys with an apartment on each floor, thus ensuring the maximum privacy. There was also a small swimming pool and a garden, but because there were so few owners, the maintenance cost was relatively high - most condominiums having about fifty owners. We rented out the apartment for a year or so and occupied it ourselves for a few weeks as a holiday jaunt, but we were disappointed when we found that reclamations had placed the sea-shore, once barely a hundred metres away, at a distance of over a kilometre. Chong Eu laughed when he heard of our concern at the high maintenance fees. “You are not qualified,” he said, “on your professor’s salary to live in a place like Starpoint.” We had to admit that Chong Kent’s style, elegant though it might be, was beyond our means, especially when thinking forward to my impending retirement from the university. We decided to sell Starpoint and look for another place.

After taking a wistful look at Marine Parade again, we cast about in the Tanglin area and found a nice apartment in Devonshire Court, in Killiney Road, almost adjacent to the Telecoms Centre. I had told Rosie that we should not take an apartment higher than the fifth floor because of the stairs we would have to climb in the event of a power failure. The view from the 10th floor apartment in Devonshire Court, right cross-country to Goldhill Towers in Thomson Road, was so wonderful that I told Rosie we should take it, never mind possible power failures. I did not realize until much later that the architect of Devonshire Court had been Chong Keat’s partner and that our newly acquired apartment had an octagonal style that created some problems in furnishing, though not as bad as in Starpoint. We moved into Devonshire Court in 1978 with Sing Yuen, the only chick left in the nest, and not too soon, for within a couple of years, at the age of 60. I was retired from the University, having already had an extension of five years beyond the retiring age of 55. I would then perforce have to give up my University quarters.

Along with the problem of finding his own housing if he had occupied university quarters, an academic on retirement would have to find a new source of income. He was paid a gratuity on retirement and could withdraw his accumulated provident fund, but after paying for a house or an apartment there would scarcely be enough left to last him to the end of his days, assuming that he still had four score and twenty years to go. A medical graduate in the clinical line could start his own clinic and perhaps earn even more than he did when teaching. For a para-clinical like myself the options were either to set up as a pathologist in a private laboratory or to re-learn clinical medicine and to set up as a doctor in general practice. Neither option appealed to me.

Another problem that faced a university retiree was that of providing for medical bills. The University had paid his medical expenses and those of his dependents, but the retiree had to provide for medical expenses at a time when they were more likely to be incurred. In my own circumstances, though I might have thought of going to the C class wards to save money, this option was not available because I had to go to the A Class wards because my son was a doctor and the best treatment had to be given his dad. A compensation, however, would be that the attending consultants would not charge anything for their services, as a professional courtesy between doctors, and also because I had been their teacher. Rosie always had a problem with this point of medical etiquette and was ever reluctant to seek medical attention because she did not like the obligation of having to receive free attention. The general problem that faced everyone was that not only had the cost of living gone up, but the cost of dying as well.

Being at a loose end, and wanting to see what “business” really was like, I asked YY if there was anything I could do in his office; I was prepared even to try my hand at selling, though I realised that neither Professor Lim, nor Dr. Lim, could sell anything. YY took me seriously and asked me to try my hand at organizing the research unit that he had just started and paid me handsomely for the year or so that I was with WYWY Private Limited, My task was to analyse the trends in the demand for copiers and to forecast what WYWY Pie Ltd could sell in the following year. If we ordered too many machines, we would have to dispose of what we could not sell at little profit and cramp the sales of the year after. If we ordered too few, our would-be customers might turn to other makes and our market share would be diminished. Ricoh’s sales office, of course, would want us to buy more than what prudence told us, for they had analysed market demands also and wanted to fulfil the market share prediction that good business required of them. I took the opportunity to buy an Apple computer and to learn how to use a spread-sheet and a word processor. Little did I guess to what use my newly learned skills would be put.

4:16 YY found.

The other new converts that we met in the follow-up class included Y.Y. Wong and Douglas Ingles both of whom had interesting stories to tell about their conversions. After a few weekly classes at Oon Teik’s house we met atY.Y. ‘s apartment in Nassim Road, and continued to meet in his home thereafter, even when he moved to a house in Swettenham Road. The strength of YY’s conviction may be judged by the fact that he chose to buy a house rather than an apartment mainly because he wanted to have space for our meetings, if we choose to meet at his home. He was prepared to provide premises for a house-church if there was a congregation.

Wong Yip Yan (YY) was a former General Manager of Equatron, a subsidiary of Inchcape Company (formerly Borneo Company), specialising in office equipment. After resigning fromInchcape to strike out on his own, he obtained the agency for Ricoh Photo-copiers as the main-stayof his firm, WYWY Private Limited, and built up a flourishing business with branches in Penang andKuala Lumpur. One fine day YY opened his morning newspaper to find a full page advertisement showing photographs of his staff with this statement: “We, the Managers, Sales Executives andEngineers of WYWY Private Limited have no confidence in the Managing Director and we have allresigned with immediate effect.” YY hurried to his office to find the premises deserted but for a few old faithfuls who had not known of the mass desertion.

Now, the photo-copier business depended essentially on maintenance of services to the office and copy centres that rented copiers from YY. They had to be supplied daily with copy paper, ink, and spare-parts, and given technical assistance in the event of machine faults. Any interruption to this service would interrupt the cash-flow on which YY relied upon to run his business and to pay for thenext shipment of copiers from Japan. To maintain this service, YY “borrowed” a number of managers and engineers (technicians) from his Malaysian branches and recruited new local staff. He told all enquirers it would be business as usual, and took a hand himself in maintaining services to hiscustomers. Perhaps he even managed some sales.

YY had been married for about 10 years to Ng Geok Choo, a Christian of the Lutheran persuasion, and who had been trying to persuade YY without success to attend church with her. In his extremity, as he was working late in the storeroom preparing the bottles of ink for distribution thenext day, YY was inspired to say, “If there is a God out there, I promise to try to become a Christianif you get me out of this fix, but you must send me someone I can respect to teach me,” YY wouldhave nothing to do with young evangelists who had challenged him with the words, “Are you saved?”

It seems that God was there and listening, for YY’s business survived the crisis; his customers put up with the temporary inconveniences and after a while business return to normal and WYWY Private Limited continued to grow. YY learned subsequently that his former staff had turned up en bloc in Tokyo to see Ricoh’s Far East Sales Manager and asked him to give them the Ricoh agency in Singapore. They were told that Ricoh had an agreement with Y.Y. Wong, and until he notified Ricoh that he wished to give up the agency, and so long as he fulfilled his purchase agreement Ricoh had no reason to give the agency to anyone else. A few weeks after things had returned to normal, YY received an invitation to attend the Billy Graham Crusade in the National Stadium and was urged by his wife to go. YY was not impressed by the bally-hoo surrounding the evangelist crusade and said he would not go, but Geok Choo kept on urging his to do so.

YY tells the following story later: “Somehow, on the last night of the Crusade, I found myself driving on the highway to the Stadium in a mile -long traffic-jam, and with the engine of my Mere heating up. ‘There you are,’ I said to Geok Choo, ‘I told you we should not have come, the engine is going to seize up and we shall be stranded in the middle of the traffic.’ Geok Choo did not reply, and I guessed she was praying. Our car did not break down and soon we entered the Stadium parking lot, ‘Now,’ I said to Geok Choo, ‘the parking spaces are all taken, where am I to park our car?’ ‘There,’ said Geok Choo, pointing to an empty parking lot just in front of me, from which another car had just emerged, and of course, she had not forgotten to bring our VIP parking ticket.

“We went into the Stadium and I did not want to go into the VIP stands so I led Geok Choo to the upper tiers at the back to hide myself. Billy Graham had nearly finished his sermon and was calling on us to go down and be prayed for. ‘Don’t push me,’ I told Geok Choo, “everyone is looking at you.’ and with that, I got up and made my way down to the front where I found myself at the back of a crowd of sinners being prayed for. I was about to turn away when I felt someone tapping me on the shoulder and saying, ’Have you been attended to?’ I looked round to see this old gentleman with a name card saying, ‘Professor Khoo Oon Teik’. “The name was familiar to me, for a Professor Khoo Oon Teik had been asking for me in the office in the last few days and I had not returned his call (Someone had recently given Oon Teik a Ricoh copier and he wanted some help on it). My first thought was, how did he know how to find me in the Stadium, but it turned out, he did not know who I was, only that I was a sinner wanting to be saved. So, he put his arms round my shoulder and led me through the Sinner’s Prayer, then took my name and address and told me I would hear from him again. A week or so later, Geok Choo and I went to Professor Khoo’s house to attend follow-up classes in which we learned how to study the Bible. I was really impressed when I found Professor Lim Kok Ann a fellow student at my side.” When YY commented that God had sent him not one, but two professors to convert him, I said, “When God gives, he fills your cup full measure, pressed down and running over.”

Oon Teik had surrounded himself with a number of Christians from various churches, and after our follow-up classes were over and we had been baptised and became members of WesleyMethodist Church which was Oon Teik’s church, YY invited Oon Teik to lead a bible-study group in his house in Swettenham Road, meeting on Wednesday evenings. Geok Choo led a women’s bible study group that included a number of Japanese women. In the past 18 years, over 60 Japanese were converted by Japanese evangelists, working partly from Geok Choo’s group, and all were baptised in YY’s swimming pool. The converts included a few Japanese men who are the most difficult on earth to convert.

Besides the Wednesday group, YY also had a few men meeting on Friday mornings to praise God and pray for each other and for anything that we felt needed praying for, even for the world at large. This has been sustained though the Wednesday evening group had dwindled as the members found their own prayer-groups, or just other interests.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

4:15 I am found.

Note: The section title is from Amazing Grace:
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Earlier in the year my ulcer had acted up again as it was apt to do and I had gone to see Professor Khoo Oon Teik a couple of times. On the second occasion he asked me if he might pray for me. As I considered myself a free-thinker, I could not see any objection to Oon Teik’s suggestion and agreed. I don’t remember what Oon Teik said in his prayers, but I was moved by his message that God was the Healer and the doctor only his instrument. Rosie was with me then as she had been getting treatment from Oon Teik for her high blood pressure, and I had gone along with her to get some advice on my ulcer condition. Before we left Oon Teik suggested that we should attend church. This appealed to Rosie very much for though she was not a Christian she had a very good friend in college who was a Christian and had heard much about Christianity that interested her and at the same time was mystifying. I had stopped going to church because I felt that the teaching of the church was inadequate to meet modem situations, but Oon Teik was teaching, “Jesus is alive and well.”
One of the immediate results of Oon Teik’s prayers was that I decided to give up smoking. I knew that smoking aggravated gastric ulcers, and I felt that it was unreasonable for me to ask God to heal my ulcer while I continued to undo his work at the same time. I had given up smoking two or three times in the past and had gone back to the habit after varying periods of one to six months. On this occasion, however, I broke the habit “cold turkey”, that is, without trying to reduce smoking gradually, but just threw away the cigarettes I happened to have, and never smoked again.

The resolve to give up smoking had an unexpected side effect when I was in Baguio because the constant need to refuse offers of cigarettes reminded me that I was collaborating with God in healing my ulcer and the sense of the presence of God in my life was often with me. I recalled that some who had wanted to give up smoking had asked for prayers to help them do so, but I was able to give up smoking without any fuss. Was this part of God’s work in healing my ulcer? And, as I reflected on the absurdity of some of the decisions of the Match Jury, I could not help feeling that there was something not quite right with what I was doing with my life.
"Here I am,” I said to myself, “at the top of my profession, Professor and one-time Dean of Medicine, MD and all that, also at the top of my hobby, Chairman of the World Championship Match Jury, making decisions, subject only to veto of the FIDE President, also, President of our Zone, and what have I been doing? I have been discussing what colour of yoghurt Karpov should have. Surely, this shows the truth of what the Teacher says, ‘All is vanity; man is like the grass in the field that blooms in the day and is cut down in the evening and cast on the fire.’”

The sequel was that when I got back to Singapore I was ready to listen to things spiritual and so Rosie and I went along on Oon Teik’s invitation to the Billy Graham Crusade that was held at the National Stadium. When Billy Graham made the altar call Rosie and I went forward and met Oon Teik near the stage and he helped us say the Sinner’s Prayer to yield ourselves to God. After this we were asked to attend follow-up classes at Oon Teik’s house which was in College Road where I stayed not so long ago because Oon Teik had succeeded me as Master of K.E. Hall.

4:14 The 1978 World Chess Championship.

Robert (Bobby) J. Fischer became World Champion in 1972 by defeating Boris Spassky in a controversial match held in Iceland. For the next title match scheduled for 1975, Bobby demanded a number of changes in the match regulations that would give him better chances of retaining the title. When FIDE refused to accept a critical rule change, Bobby cabled to say, “I resign my FIDE World Championship title”. The Challenger, Anatoli Karpov of USSR, thereby became the new world champion by default, and was scheduled to defend his title in 1978.

Note: When Fischer played Spassky the match was decided over 24 games and was won by player first to score over 12 points, counting 1 point for win and ½ point for a draw; if the match was drawn, 12:12, the champion would retain his title, and the prize fund would be shared equally. Fischer wanted the match to be played without limit to the number of games, draws not counting, and to be won by the player first to win 10 games. The match would be considered drawn, however, if the score reached 9:9. This last proposed rule was the sticking point because it meant that the Champion gained his objective, to retain his title, as soon as he has won 9 games, whereas the Challenger has to win 10 games to reach his objective.

Meanwhile, Viktor Korchnoi who lost to Karpov in the 1974 Candidate’s Final Match, had defected to the west and had become the new Challenger, beating two Soviet Candidates in succession. Florencio Campomanes who had won the right to organize the aborted Fischer-Karpov match in Manila with a bid of US$5 million for the prize fund, again made the winning bid of just over one million Swiss Francs as prize fund for the 1978 match to be played in Baguio City, a mountain resort in the Philippines. Korchnoi, of course, was persona non grata with the Soviets who did everything they could to make things difficult for Korchnoi. I got involved in the match because Campo appointed me the Chairman of the Match Jury (Appeal Committee) that should adjudicate protests against alleged breaches of the regulations. There were five people on the Jury, one representing each player’s delegation, and one “neutral” member of FIDE nominated by each player, and myself. This curious set up ensured that on any divisive question, each player would get two votes and I should have to make the decision, a heavy responsibility. The importance of the work we did was illustrated by some of the rulings that we made, for example:

1.The Jury accepts the technical report of the expert appointed by the organizing committee that the chair to be used by Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi does not have any electronic device.

2.The Jury rules that, since Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi is at present not entitled to a national flag, both players shall play without table-flags so that no one may be disadvantaged.

3.The Jury is unable to ascertain if Dr. Zukhar, the personal physician of Grandmaster Anatoli Karpov, can influence the play of Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi by parapsychological means; however, to ensure that Mr. Korchnoi is not disturbed by the presence of Dr. Zukhar in the playing hail, the Jury requests Dr. Zukhar to sit no nearer that the 30th row of seats in the hall.
4.The Jury directs that a cup of yoghurt shall be served by the restaurant waiter to Grandmaster Anatoli Karpov at 15.00 hrs, the flavour being ordered before play begins.

Editor’s note: My father told us that the ruling on yoghurt was made because there was a suspicion that the Russians could be giving their player coded messages about his play strategy, embedded in the timing of the delivery of yoghurt and the flavour thereof.

The 1978 World Chess Championship Match was played at the pace of one game in two days, with Sundays off, without a limit to the number of games. The match would be won by the player who first won six games, draws being ignored, and in theory the match could go on forever if the players keep on drawing their games. Campo said that this was unlikely to happen as in practice one of the players would sooner or later cave-in, and the match was a test of stamina under pressure. The principle of unlimited games with draws not counting was, in fact, insisted upon by Fischer, but in retaining it for the Karpov-Korchnoi match FIDE overlooked another Fischer provision: that if the match went on for three months there should be an intermission of one month before continuation where it left off. In the event, Karpov established a lead of 4-1 at the 17th game (6 weeks) but Korchnoi reduced his deficit to 4-2 on Game 21. When Karpov won game 27 (9 weeks!), it was thought Korchnoi was finished, but Korchnoi fought back to level the score at 5-5 on Game 31. It was anybody’s match now, but in an anti-climax, Korchnoi played the 32nd game badly and lost. The match had taken three months! Three years later, in 1981, Karpov defended his title against Korchnoi again, and again won the match that was held in Italy.

4:13 Su Hui with Carleton
When Carleton visited Singapore earlier that year he told us about the children he had been adopting and on an impulse I had asked him if he would “adopt” Su Hui and take him to America and put him through high school. Su Hui had been doing badly in school because he could not cope with his Chinese lessons and even with extra lessons from a private tutor, Su Hui was surely getting further behind in his class, having spent practically all his study time on Chinese. When Carleton understood that I was serious and why I felt Su Hui would do better in America rather than in Singapore, he had a private talk with Su Hui and asked him if he would like to come and live with him in Chevy Chase. I could just imagine the delight on Su Hui’s face when he realized he was going to start life anew, and in America. When I went to Nice for the FIDE Congress, Rosie took Su Hui to Paris where Carleton met him and took him to Washington.

Su Hui stayed with Carleton and Joe Wegstein for four years and got good SATS (the national school leaving assessment test) results when he finished High School, though this did not qualify him for anything in Singapore. I sent Carleton some money from time to time for Su Hui’s upkeep, but Carleton kept it separately for Su Hui’s personal use. In the last year of Su Hui’s stay with Carleton he had the good fortune of accompanying Carleton with his other kids to attend Carelton's Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm. Several years previously, the Nobel Prize Committee had asked me to nominate someone for the Nobel Prize and I had put up Carleton’s name citing the discovery of kuru as justification. Carleton was horrified when I told him about this for he did not think himself worthy to be ranked alongside the giants of science and medicine, such as Albert Einstein and Linus Pauling. Though I might have been biased, I believe that time proved I had judged rightly the importance of his discovery.

4:12 FIDE Golden Jubilee
The World Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded in 1924 in Paris and in response to a call by FIDE that its affiliates should organize special events to commemorate its Golden Jubilee, I organized the 1st Asian Team Tournament in Penang. I was the President of our Zone (Campomanes was FIDE President for Asia), and I chose Penang for the venue because the Chief Minister of Penang (Dr. Lim Chong Eu) agreed to give us the Penang Town Hall as the venue along with other assistance, and my new-found friend, Dato Tan Chin Nam, the President of the Malaysian Chess Federation, had agreed to get the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Razak, to donate a Challenge Trophy. The Tournament went very well, I ran the tournament with the help of Tang Tuck Hing, one of my laboratory assistants who took leave for this purpose, and we published all games ready for distribution the day after they were played. Philippines, led by Eugenio Torre won the event.

Concurrent with the Team Tournament, the FIDE Bureau (Executive Council) held one of its quarterly meetings, and Campomanes organized a meeting of Asian Presidents for consultations on FIDE matters. China had been an inactive member of FIDE for a number of years, understandably so because of the social upheavals of the past few years. When I wrote to the Chinese Chess Association as President of our Zone to urge them to send a team and to attend the Asian Presidents’ meeting, they replied that they were not ready to send a team of players, but that they would be represented at the meeting by their consular officials in Malaysia. It was the first participation by China in a FIDE event, although only by proxy. This was the opening that Campo and I had been waiting for because we had agreed that our best hope of breaking the Russian strangle-hold on the world championship was to encourage the Chinese to take up “international chess” seriously. Chess was a part of the Chinese culture and it should not be difficult for them to adapt to the international rules.
The following year Campo led a large team of Philippines players in a Good-will tour of China and brought with him gifts of chess equipment and books. Philippines had somehow legally got round the copyright laws and had re-printed many chess books, including Chess Informant, a most valuable tool for the chess master. Ultimately the Soviet colossus was brought low, though not in the way Campo and I might have imagined. In 1991, 17 years after China first took part in a FIDE event (by proxy at a conference!) Xie Jun of China won the World’s Women’s Chess Championship, terminating 62 years of an unbroken line of Russian (Soviet, actually) champions.

The Chess Olympiads and FIDE Congress were held in Nice that year. Our team did modestly, occupying its usual place somewhere above the middle rankings. I was a reserve, but I spent most of my time in the Congress where Campomanes was elected FIDE Deputy President, and Tan Chin Nam a member of the Bureau. As FIDE Deputy President, Campo was Co-Chairman of the Commission for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries (CACDEC) and was able to win the support of many third-world countries with donations of books and chess sets, nominally from the Philippines Chess Federation, but in fact, largely from his own pocket.