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.

Up next

Penang Chess League

The annual Penang Chess League takes place this weekend at the SJK Cina Kheng Thean in Jalan Van Praagh, George Town. Seven rounds, one-hour time control games. The event is open to teams from the public sector, business community, factories, institutions of learning and registered societies and clubs. Details from Penang Chess Association assistant secretary Tan Eng Seong (012-4299 517).

Penang open

The Penang Chess Association (PCA) will organise the Penang Heritage City international open chess championship at the Penang City Hall from Dec 8-12. This will be a Fide-rated event with a RM5,000 first prize. Nine rounds, full time control games. Entry fees for the open tournament are RM50 (Fide-rated player), RM150 (PCA members) and RM180 (others), while for the challengers section, they are RM30 (Fide-rated player), RM50 (PCA member) and RM80 (others). Contact Tan Eng Seong (012-4299 517, for details.

National junior

The Malaysian Chess Federation will organise the third national junior chess championship at the Hotel Olympic, Jalan Davidson, Kuala Lumpur, from Dec 15-19. There will be two categories: the boys under-20 and girls under-20 events. This will be a Fide-rated event over nine rounds and full time control. Entry fees are RM50 (existing Fide-rated players) and RM80 (non-rated players). For more information, contact Gregory Lau (012-9020 123,, Zuraihah Wazir (017-2837 808) or Haslindah Ruslan (019-2069 605).

Sarawak open

The Lanang Chess Association and Sarawak Chess Association will jointly organise the Universal Chinese Sports Sarawak open chess championship at the Premier Hotel in Jalan Kampung Nyabor, Sibu, from Dec 17-19. This will be a Fide-rated event with a RM2,500 first prize. Eight rounds, full time control. Entry fees are RM50 (adults) and RM25 (women and players below 18). Contact Joseph Ting (016-889 3185, fax: 084-331 451) or Lim Kian Hwa (016-860 3180, for details.