SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Admired, respected, loved and (sometimes) hated…a person of contradictions and yet a legend of our times, Florencio Campomanes died earlier this month in Baguio, at age 83, of prostrate cancer. Here is an interesting account of the man by a Philippine chessplayer who knew him very well…
Mendoza: A giant who went quietly into the nightBy Al S. Mendoza
EVEN as our age difference was nearly 30 years, he took me for what I was-a mere kid who loved to cover chess. “I don’t go for the usual,” he said. “Boring. I love the non-normal.”
We hit it off right away. It was the Seventies. I was writing for the Bulletin.
He was Chief but more of a soldier, Boss but more of an employee, Teacher but more of a student, Master but more of a slave.
What’s in a name?
To Florencio Campomanes, nothing. He named all his sons, “Florencio.” No “junior.” No “the third.” No “the fourth.” He named his only daughter, “Florencia.”
You called him Sir, you’d get a strong rebuke. “Just call me Campo,” he’d yell at you-but smiling.
Botvinnik. Smyslov. Tal. Petrosian. Spassky. Fischer. Kasparov. Karpov. All world champs. They called him Campo.
Polugaevsky. Kavalek. Brown. Keene. Larsen. Gligoric. Ljubojevic. Quinteros. Portich. Najdorf. Mecking. Pfleger. Korchnoi. All chess legends. They called him Campo.
Toti Abundo, his protégé, called him Campo.
The grandmasters he made, like Eugene Torre, Rosendo Balinas and Roger Antonio, they called him Campo.
Even Marcos, the late dictator, called him Campo.
Des, Auring and I called him Campo before we flew to Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1982 to become Campo’s frontliners in the Fide blitzkrieg.
When, finally, Campo won as Asia’s first president of the World Chess Federation (Fide) that year in a stunning upset, we started calling him Pocams. He liked it immediately.
“Perfect name for a lowly man such as me,” he said.
If there’s one person that Pocams loved so dearly outside of his family, it’s Des. A while back, Pocams received a specially-designed room at Iggy’s Inn in Baguio-a gift from Des and Auring (they own Iggy’s Inn). Des and Auring made me the lone witness to that historic, poignant move.
It was there that Pocams breathed his last on May 3. He was 83. As per his wish, Pocams’s remains were cremated the next day after he died.
No wake. Only a Mass. His ashes were interred at the Baguio Cathedral, next to those of Iggy’s. (Iggy was the late son of Des and Auring.)
Who was Pocams to me? I could write 10 books about him. But even a hundred wouldn’t be enough to describe the man. So big. So hugely humble.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 18, 2010.