19 January 2013

1st Perak Open – 1979

The 1st Perak Open Chess Championship was held sometime in June 1979. It was held over 4 days at the Ipoh Garden Library, which was part of the then headquarters complex of Ipoh Garden Berhad (now known as IGB Corporation Berhad) (‘IGB’) in Ipoh. Forty or so players played 7 rounds with time control set at 120 minutes each to the finish.

The event was the brainchild of Mr Don Chong Yoon Kong, a prominent Ipoh businessman and the then deputy president of the Chess Association of Perak (‘CAP’). Kelab Beperi organised the event (on behalf of CAP), with IGB sponsoring the prize fund and venue.

Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony was a grand affair with Dato’ Tan Chin Nam in attendance. I recall Dato’ introducing his eldest son Boon Seng, who had just returned to Malaysia after completing his studies in the UK and also the younger Boon Shih. Mr Florencio Campomanes, then the FIDE Deputy President, was also in attendance at the special invitation of Dato’ Tan. Mr Campomanes brought along Glenn Bordonada and Rafaelito Maninang, two 2300+ rated Filipino players to take part, as an effort to help develop Malaysian chess.

Mr Don Chong giving his introductory speech during the opening ceremony.  At the main table, from left, Ng Chong Min (CAP - Secretary), unidentified, Mohd Jamil Yahaya (CAP – Committee), Mr Hira Singh (CAP – President), unidentified, Don Chong (standing CAP – Deputy President), Choo Shek Nyen (CAP – Committee).
(The unidentified persons were non-chess personalities who I was not familiar with. My apologies to these gentlemen.)
1st Prize for the event was RM1,000. I gather RM1,000 in 1979 should be about the equivalent of RM5,000 in today’s money. (Note: Malaysian currency changed from “Malaysian Dollar” to “Ringgit Malaysia” in 1978, if I recall correctly) The attractive prize fund would have been a significant factor in attracting some of the best Malaysian players, spearheaded by Jimmy Liew and Christi Hon, to play in the event.

1st Round Photo: Board nearest camera, Fong Choong Ee with the white pieces in a Nimzo Indian against Mohd Noor Yahaya, the National Schoolboy (U20) champion. On the next board are Lito Maninang (white) playing against Lim Lye Huat, a teacher from Teluk Intan. And at the furthest board, we have Joseph Toh (in the yellow track-top) facing the camera.

Prize-Winners and Malaysia Firsts
The two Filipinos, Glenn and Lito, finished joint first. (I think they won all their games except for a draw when they met each other). However as agreed beforehand, they would not be entitled to any of the prizes. Their participation was solely to give Malaysian players an opportunity to play against top players or see these players in action.

This event offered the first ever RM1,000 first prize in a Malaysian chess tournament. The original proposal was for a lower prize but when Dato’ Tan was informed of the proposed event, he wanted the event to stand out by sponsoring RM1,000 as the first prize.

Another first in Malaysian chess was that prize-money was not shared by players who finished with the same number of points. The prevailing practice in 1979 in major Malaysian chess tournaments was for players finishing with the same number of points to share the prize money. However the organising committee, after due consideration, decided not to follow. The idea was to encourage fighting chess and not see players agree to early draws to share prize money.

In the event, Christi Hon won the first prize of RM1,000 cash and Challenge Trophy, Jimmy Liew followed in 2nd, and from the photo below, it appears that Paul Foo was the 3rd (or 4th).
From left: Larry Parr, Fong Choong Ee, JR Devadas, Collin Madhavan, Christi Hon, Yaakob Buyong, Jimmy Liew, Paul Foo, Phan Wei Liong.

Personal Experience and Games
This was my first major chess competition featuring Malaysia’s top players. At that time, I had just started playing competitive chess less than two years earlier and had not played outside Perak (not even at the MSSM). So it was some sort of a surreal experience.

From the photo above, I faced and lost to Mohd Noor Yahaya from Negeri Sembilan, who was then the MSSM Chess Champion. I actually did not know who he was when I played him and ‘MSSM’ held no meaning for me until 6 months later when I played my first MSSM (in Kota Bharu).

I won against Wei Liong (see picture above) and also against a young boy Mark Kon Wei Syn (‘Mark Kon Junior’). I remember Mark as his father (Mark Kon Senior) had a dental clinic in Kampar and was my dentist (who pulled one big rotten molar from my mouth when I was thirteen. Certain things you don’t forget). However, it was only recently that I found out that Mark Junior has a chess pedigree being the grandson (by his mother) of Professor Lim Kok Ann, the ‘father of Singapore chess’.

I lost one game to Dato’s son, Boon Shih (now better known as Dato’ Arthur Tan), on the Black side of a Ruy Lopez. I believe I lost a central pawn early on and was overrun by a central pawn roller. Over the next few days, Boon Shih went around showing the game to all and sundry. A good win that he was justifiably proud of. I did not meet Boon Shih again until some 20 years later when I met him in the lift in IGB Plaza in the late 1990s. My then office was located one floor below the IGB headquarters (which was then located at IGB Plaza). I was surprised that he still recognised and remembered me, and we said our hellos.

I lost to Jimmy Liew on the Black side of a Giuoco Piano. I recall this game as lasting nearly four hours. (Yea, I made Malaysia’s top player think hard). Towards the end, I had a nervous breakdown in that my mind just went blank. This was my first classical chess event and that was the longest game I had ever played up to that time. In the last round, Christi offered an early draw which I, of course, grabbed with thanks. Christi, by then only needed a draw to secure his RM1,000 prize. With that, I won 2nd place (and I think RM300) in the special prizes for Best Perak Players.

Best Perak Players From left, Fong Choong Ee (2nd), Collin Madhavan (1st), Yaakob Buyong (3rd) and Phan Wei Liong (4th)
 (The above were written from memory. Photos were gifts from Mr Choo Shek Nyen, who is now residing in Australia. Special appreciation should be given to Mr Don Chong, Mr Choo Shek Nyen, Mr Ng Chong Min, Mr Ong Eng Khan and Mr Oh Eng Cheng, whose tireless work ensured the success of this event. )


  1. Thanks for recording this event into the history books. I had nice memories of this tournament

  2. Excellent chess-related article or a memoir I would say. It will be great if this article be compiled into a book for the Malaysian chess community. Mr Eddy, hope you can write chess-related memoirs in a book.

    Keep on writing.

  3. Thanks all for the appreciative comments. I'll write on whatever little chess memoirs I have when I can.

  4. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
    So you were also in rainy Kota Bharu, but I thought that was in 1980 not 1979.

  5. Hi, I was so surprised to see that this inaugural event was recorded and given due credit to the organisers of the 1st Malaysian Open Chess Championship organised and hosted by the Chess Association of Perak. (If I remember correctly, it was so long ago, I was the photographer as well as the Treasurer of the Chess Association of Perak that year). Thanks for the article. It does bring back pleasant memories. Warmest regards, David Shek Nyen CHOO.