Thursday, 11 November 2010

Christi Hon

I'd like to introduce you to an old chess friend. I first got to know him in the mid-1970s when we used to frequent the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur on Friday evenings. At that time, the Chess Association of Selangor used to hold their weekly playing sessions for their members at the Spotted Dog and my cousin and I used to tag along a few chess friends from Petaling Jaya.

So one day, we came across a chap of around our age who showed a lot of potential. But he had a big mouth. He talked a lot. And I meant, a lot. Really. Not only was he wont to prattle on non-stop during those skittle game sessions but more often than not, they were filled with dry homour and full of double meanings. He was a master of working up the temperature and riling up his opponents. However, there was no denying that he had the talent for the game and he was deadly serious at the chess board.

He was the country's first Fide Master, a title earned from the World Chess Federation, but that was as far as he could progress despite playing for Malaysia a few times at the bienniel World Chess Olympiad. But at home, he made his mark by winning the national championship several times and that made him a fearsome player.

Apart from those playing sessions in the Klang Valley, the only other common chess bonds that I had with him were the official tour of China in 1978 (pictured) and the Chess Olympiad in Lucerne in 1982 when we were both team mates. 

He dropped out from chess in the mid-1990s when he fixed his sights onto other challenges. Once or twice, I would still bump into him at national chess events in Kuala Lumpur. He wouldn't be playing, though, just turning up to have a look-see around and catching up with people whom he still considered friendly enough with him. I've never had any issue with him, so to me, he was still very friendly, very chatty.

Again, after that, he dropped out of my radar screen. But then about two months ago, he showed up during the Malaysia Chess Festival at the Cititel MidValley. He still looked the same to me. Still talked the same way too although his ideas of life and his outlook of the world around him had now taken on a decidedly different colour. Difficult to know whether he was being serious or pulling your leg. So I decided, well, I must get this snapshot done for posterity. I don't want him to disappear again for a few years. Goodness knows when we can meet up again.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's Christi Hon for you...

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