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 When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography.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

5:2 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.

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