Just received the sad news that a dear old friend, Tang Kum Foo, or KF as I often called him, has died.
As I've known KF from my chess days back when he was SCF Executive Secretary in 1993-94 (and I the treasurer) to the days when he took over the Presidency in 1998, KF was always the cheery sort, never flustered. He was also one of the founding fathers of Intchess, with the aim of creating a vibrant professional chess scene in Asia having been involved in the popularising of chess in China in the early 90's. It was in 1996 that he achieved his IA title, putting to good use in chess organisation in Singapore and the region.
KF and I shared many views on chess during our friendship. However, he often lamented that the state of affairs in Singapore did not turn out the way he had wanted it to.Hence he departed from Intchess to pursue other interests but continued to monitor the chess scene.
Many may not be aware but he was a top scholar having won the Colombo Plan scholarship in 1967. He was also a chess enthusiast in his early teens. My recollection of him as a chess player goes back to the tournament days of 1980 when he was in the play-off for the Cairnhill CC tournament that year, against a Sec 3 boy named Loi Chee Seng. The game was hard fought but sadly I do not have the scoresheet.
Kum Foo gave me some of his books, but staunchly retained his copy of The Games of Robert James Fischer which was then the must have for any chessplayer borne out of the Fischer-Spassky 1972 era. We were all Fischer fans I guess, recalling that his games were often very tactical and complex. He gave up playing chess in the 90's, preferring to delve into arbitering.
As a person who witnessed the saga of chess politics in 1996 in Yerevan, he told me what he saw and indeed it made me cringe to think our beloved game had been so tainted with the threats that were uttered. More of this can be found on Don Schultz's book Chess Don which was as close to what he told me. In short, KF also became disillusioned with the chess world after that and thought it best to leave. However, owing to a bad investment decision, he had to continue working in Intchess until his debt was cleared and left in 2009.
I last visited him in KTPH 2 weeks ago. He was lucid, but clearly weakened by the bouts of heart attack he sustained. It was my premonition that he wanted to see me again for old time's sake. We chatted a little but I knew that there was no need for more words. It was as if he was, in his own way, saying goodbye to me.
Two days ago I received an SMS from him that he's in ICU after suffering a stroke. He passed on today.
We will miss you.