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 When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography.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, March 07, 2009

6:2 Chairman again

Campo called me in the summer of 1990 and asked me to be a member of the Appeal Committee in the World Championship Match that was to be organized, half in New York and half in Lyon with a total prize-fund of USS3 million. After failing to topple Kasparov in Saville, 1967, Karpov had qualified again as Challenger to make a fifth K-K encounter. Campo did not turn up at all for the New York half of the match because he had a motor accident in Zambia in which his driver, the President of the Zambia Chess Federation was killed, and Campo was hospitalized for a week and was wearing a neck-brace for months afterwards. I had to write and deliver a speech for Campo at the Opening Ceremony and I was Chairman of the Appeal Committee in Campo’s absence.

Kasparov had earlier expressed his disagreement with the USSR Chess Federation which he thought (rightly) favoured Karpov by saying that he would play under the flag of the Russian Republic and not under the USSR banner, and the organizers had hoisted the Russian flag in the playing ball. A question from Karpov’s delegation faced me before the start of the first game: was the display of the Russian Republic flag in accordance with FIDE regulations? This was an easy question to answer for it recalled the question posed in Baguio 15 years ago, whether Korchnoi could use the flag of Argau, the SwissCanton where he resided. The Appeal Committee ruled that the Russian flag was not an official flag recognized by FIDE regulations and should not be displayed in the playing hall; further, neither player should use table flags as they would obstruct the spectators’ view of the board. The Soviet delegation did not see or pretended not to see that under the respective name-cards of the players below the chess-table, minature flags of the USSR and of the Russian Republic were painted. The first twelve games in New York were tied 6:6; in Lyon, Kasparov gained an early lead and held Karpovoff to win the match by 13:11 and retain his title.

Rosie enjoyed very much the visit to New York as the matches were staged in the Hudson Theatre right next to Times Square and we were lodged in the adjoining Macklowe Hotel. We did not get to see any Broadway shows but we took in a dinner show that featured Eartha Kitt whom we had seen thirty years earlier. It was nostalgic. In the two weeks interval between New York and Lyon, we made a flying visit to Su Chong’s family in Calgary. We were surprised in Lyon to meet Singapore’s Ambassador to France, David Marshall, who had come to speak to some Singapore school-children on a cultural exchange visit. David Marshall remembered us and invited us to visit him in Paris, saying he would put us up, so on the first opportunity we went by train to visit Paris.

When I mounted the train I was misled by a notice which said we should place our suitcase in the luggage compartment provided at the end of the carriage. When we arrived in Paris and I went to collect our suit-case, wefound it had been stolen. I had missed another notice that said passengers should watch their baggage. The notices were all in French, of course, and I was so proud that I understood the first, that I did not try hard to understand the second. So it was that we turned up at Marshall’s house without any change of clothing, stopping only on the way to buy some nightwear and under-clothes. What really hurt was that Rosie had packed her best Chinese gown to wear at a possible Embassy reception and it was gone with the suit-case. On the way back to Lyon, Rosie recognized Peter Brook, the producer of the Mahabharata, a celebrated epic then playing in Paris, in the carriage corridor, and complained to him that we had been unable to get tickets for his play. Without hesitation, Peter Brook told us to call his secretary and said she would give us a couple of tickets. This required another ride to Paris where we stayed just over-night after seeing the play. It was terrific and well worth the trouble.

Campomanes called me again soon after that and asked me to be Chief Arbiter of the second half of the Candidates’ Final Match in the Women’s World Championship between Alicia Marie(Yugoslavia) and Xie Jun (China) to be held in Beijing. As was often the case, no neutral country was willing to host the match of eight games, so it was played in February 1991, half in Belgrade and half in Beijing. In the first half Xie Jun led by 2½ to 1½, in the second half, in Beijing, Xie June won the third game after two draws to qualify as the Challenger. Later the same year, Campo asked me to be Chairman of the Appeals Committee in the Women’s WCM to be organized in Manila. Thus it was that in 1991, Rosie and I were present when Xie Jun defeated the Champion Maya Chiburdanidze to break the 62-year monopoly of the Soviets on the women’s world title. Later that year I was Chief Arbiter in the Men’s Interzonal Championship, and in 1992 I was Chief Arbiter again, of the Olympiads, both these events being held in Manila.

Soon after Xie Jun’s success, I got a call from Lee Seng Tee, brother of Lee Seng Ghee who was a Scout in my patrol when I was Patrol Leader. Seng Tee explained that his wife’s uncle, a former Minister in the Chinese government living in Beijing, had told him with enthusiasm of the success of a Chinese girl in international chess. Seng Tee wanted to encourage the Chinese in their efforts so he had donated a library to the Chess Centre (Qi-Yuan) in Beijing. Actually, Seng Tee had donated a large sum to endow a International Chess Foundation in Beijing (and made his wife’s uncle the chairman of the board of the foundation), the income from which was used for construction and further expenses of the library, including organization of international tournaments. The annual income from the endowment was about US$100,000, a great sum, especially as it was in foreign currency. I gladly agreed with Seng Tee’s request to advise the Chinese Chess Association on the books they should buy for the library. In fact, I had on my own, given some help to Xie Jun by getting a donation to buy her a lap-top computer. Hitherto, when she travelled to play chess, she had to carry two suitcases of books, mostly back issues of Chess Informant, all now available on hard disk in a portable. The Chinese Chess Association made me an Honorary Adviser, and I helped them organize the S.T. Lee Cup Open Tournament in Beijing with prize fund of US$16,600.

Lee Seng Tee subsequently called me occasionally to ask me about chess matters and I was invited to lunch at the Garden Club, an exclusive businessmen’s lunch presided over by Seng Ghee at one table for about fifteen Hokien speaking business friends, some carried over from his father’s time, and by Seng Tee at another table for about ten English speaking friends. The latter was English speaking because a co-host was Henry Eng, an American-born Chinese who had married Seng Tee’s sister and who spoke only a Cantonese dialect, apart from English.


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