By Lim Chong
In some countries, players like Chan Mun Fye would have been recognised as a living legend for their chess achievements. But here in Malaysia, it’s another story.
Chan was in the Malaysian team that represented the country for the first time at the Chess Olympiad when it was held in Skopje, Yugoslavia, in 1972. In fact, he and the late Dr Foo Lum Choon were the only Malaysian players who played in the first two Olympiads that the country took part.
For the 20th Chess Olympiad, the Malaysian team had to spend a week flying to India, England and Russia before they could make their way to the mountain resort of Skopje. Besides Chan and Foo, others in the team were Kao Yin Keat, Loh Chee Hoong, Azmi Ariff and Fang Ewe Churh as the team captain.
Making their debut, the Malaysians fought hard in the extremely cold conditions against higher ranking teams and were finally placed 59th out the 62 countries that took part.
Now approaching his mid-sixties, Chan still retains a boundless enthusiasm for chess and plays whenever he can despite having a full-time job. Chess, he said, is helping to keep his mind sharp.
His sound knowledge of all phases of the game and useful experience gained from various past events have not deserted him. He may not be as sharp as before, especially towards the end of a tiring endgame but you can count on him to fight hard until the very end.
Chan’s humble and gentle demeanour is well-known in the chess community though some less sporting opponents have taken advantage of it. In a tournament last year, Chan’s opponent stopped recording moves when both players ran into time trouble. Despite having the better position, Chan lost on time but he declined to make an official complaint.
Not many are aware that Chan won the national individual championship in 1973 while representing Selangor. He was not awarded the national master title that year as the first official national championship under the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) only started in 1974. What a difference a year can make!
It is really nobody’s fault that Chan did not get the national master title and no one should be blamed. But after more than 30 years, here’s a chance for MCF to make things right. Give Chan the national master title that he rightly deserved and showed that chess has not forgotten those who worked hard to pave the way for all of us.