Perhaps the most enigmatic personality of modern chess, Philippine born Florencio Campomanes died peacefully earlier today in Baguio City of prostrate cancer. He was 83 years old.
Campomanes was the first ever Asian born head of FIDE, serving as president from 1982 to 1995, and then as honorary president until his death.
The chess icon, who stunned the world by capturing the FIDE presidency as an underdog in 1982 in Lucerne, Switzerland, breathed his last at 1:30 p.m. at Iggy’s Inn in Baguio City.
“He moved on peacefully, and with quiet gentleness all around him,” said Des Bautista, who built the Iggy’s Inn with wife, Auring, and which has become famous for its exotic, native cuisine and cozy rooms nestled among towering pines. “He was a giant in Philippine sports and his passing created a void that will be hard to fill in.”
Bautista and Campomanes – Pocams to his dear friends – had been bosom buddies since the Sixties.
“I lost a man who was more than a brother to me,” said Bautista. “And, if I may add, I also lost a poker mate, whose passion for and skills in the card game are rivalled only by his love for and deft-laden moves in chess.”
“It was his wish that we hold a short wake at Iggy’s Inn,” said Des. “His remains would be laid beside that of our son’s, Iggy, at the Baguio Cathedral.”
Florencio Campomanes (February 22, 1927 – May 3, 2010) is a Filipino political scientist, chess player and chess organizer.
He was born in Manila and earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of the Philippines in 1948. Then, he studied at Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island), where he earned his M.A. in 1951. He undertook doctoral studies at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., from 1949-54.
He was a National Master strength player during his peak years, and was Philippine national champion on two occasions (1956, 1960). He represented his country at five Chess Olympiads: Moscow 1956, Munich 1958, Leipzig 1960, Varna 1962, and Havana 1966. He met some distinguished opposition as a result, losing games against Pal Benko and Ludek Pachman at Moscow 1956, Oscar Panno at Munich 1958, Mikhail Tal and Miguel Najdorf at Leipzig 1960, and Lev Polugaevsky at Havana 1966.
Campomanes brought the world championship to Baguio City in 1978
He became involved in FIDE as a national delegate, and worked his way into prominence in Asian chess organization. Campomanes often boasted that he was close to the former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. Campomanes helped to organize the World Championship match at Baguio, Philippines, in 1978, between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi.
He is best remembered as the President of the international chess organization FIDE. He was elected to that post in 1982, and held it until 1995, through several controversies, most notably the abandonment of the 1984-85 World Championship between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov without result, after 48 games, and the break-away from FIDE of the Professional Chess Association in 1993.
The cancellation threw the international chess calendar into disarray for the next several years, since a series of matches had to be held to resolve the matter, and these affected other qualifying events.
Moscow 1985. Campo and Karpov at joint news conference discussing the cancelled match
On the positive side, the membership of FIDE grew significantly, by about 50 member nations, during his tenure as FIDE president. Campomanes was succeeded as FIDE President in 1995 by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. He was appointed as FIDE Honorary President, and was often present at significant international competitions such as zonal and continental championships, chess olympiads and world chess championships
Campomanes was the only Filipino to ever hold the highest position at FIDE, the world chess governing body based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Sevilla 1987. Campo (far left) entering stage at conclusion of final game between the 2 K’s
On February 5, 2003, the Philippine anti-graft court Sandiganbayan convicted Florencio Campomanes, the former FIDE president, for failure to account for the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) government funds amounting to PhP12.876 million (or US$238,746 at an exchange rate of PhP53.932=$1).
The PSC entrusted these funds to the FIDE for the World Chess Olympiad in Manila, hosted by the Philippine government from June 6 to 25, 1992. Subsequently, Florencio Campomanes was sentenced to one year and 10 months imprisonment.
According to a FIDE Press Release, dated 1/16/2007, Campomanes was cleared of these charges by the Philippine Supreme Court in December, 2006, though FIDE’s release states that the penalty was the equivalent of a 100 euro fine.
Campo and Ilyumzhinov
Campomanes’ charges were overturned based upon a technicality. There was never any resolution about what happened to the 12.876 million pesos mentioned in the above paragraph. The rationale for the overturn was that the Supreme Court of the Philippines decided that Campomanes was not a government official to whom the anti-graft laws applied. Thus as a non-government official, Campomanes had no duty under the law he was prosecuted to render an accounting of the 12.876 million pesos.
In early February 2007, Florencio Campomanes suffered injuries from a car accident, at which time he was in intensive care
On May 3, 2010 Campomanes died in the Philippines.
I first met Campomanes (Campo to his many fans) in 1985 in Mexico, during the Taxco interzonal, and I was immediately taken in by his warm and charismatic personality. He had an amazing memory, and always used your first name when he spoke.
It is quite something to be able to remember thousands of first names, but I suppose that this is a quality that is necessary to cultivate if you want to be president of a large international organization like FIDE. And Campo was loved and admired by much of the chess world for almost 3 decades.
During the years I have met Campo on dozens of occasions. He always addressed me (or my wife, Aida) by my first name. He was always very kind to me, generous infact, and considerate of Canadian chess and especially of the work that John Prentice did to promote chess in Canada and in FIDE during his lifetime.
1966, Havana Olympiad. Here we can see Canadian John Prentice (2nd from the left), between Petrosian and Castro. Prentice had immense influence in FIDE for decades, being a Vice-President of FIDE under Campo’s reign.
When Prentice died suddenly in the spring of 1987, Campo naturally attended his funeral in Vancouver. Prentice was the head of an extremely wealthy family in British Columbia, worth (in those days) hundreds of millions of dollars.
There is a famous story of Prentice requesting a meeting with Prentice’s widow after the ceremony, and of the later meeting between them, also attended by Nathan Divinsky. I have heard two versions of this story, given to me by Campo and Divinsky.
Nathan Divinsky (b.1925) strongly disliked both Prentice and Campomanes
Essentially what happened is that Campo extended his sympathies to Mrs. Prentice, and then raised the subject of creating a special fund in FIDE in honour of his memory. Campo, never one to beat around the bush, suggested that a 1 million dollars donation from Mrs. Prentice would do nicely in getting this project underway!
According to both Campo and Divinsky, Mrs. Prentice did not bat an eye or seem even remotely flustered by this request. Her only reaction was to ask for Campo to pass the sugar for her coffee…
According to Divinksy, the meeting ended without another word being mentioned about the money. And Nathan believes to this day that Campo never saw one cent, as no fund or foundation was ever set up in Prentice’s name in FIDE.
However, I believe that Campo did not return home entirely empty handed! Mrs. Prentice was fully aware that Divinsky and Prentice were not on good terms, socially, and Campo probably raised the subject of the money just to embarrass Nathan, who insisted on attending the meeting. Mrs. Prentice diplomatically let the incident go and I would not be surprised is she dealt with the matter later, privately.
I have many entertaining stories and fond memories of Campo. In 1982 he decided to run for the FIDE presidency, at the Lucerne Olympiad. FIDE , up to that time, had been considered the private property of Europe and America. This was about to change with Campo’s arrival on the scene.
With 3rd world politics inevitably beginning to become mixed with sports in the 1970’s (The Munich Massacre, 1972, for example), the FIDE leadership seemed out of its depth. The 1976 Haifa Chess Olympics saw the entire Arab community as well as the Soviet bloc boycott, and this lead to growing dissatisfaction with the FIDE leadership.
Campomanes, funded mostly by Arab countries (and probably to some extent Marcos himself) , managed to raise millions of dollars to campaign against the then FIDE president, Frederick Olafsson.
At this olympiad no one really thought that any person from the 3rd world would have a chance to unseat the popular icon from Iceland, but Campo won handily. He knew how to use his money and charisma very effectively!
The story that I like best of Lucerne was told to me by Grandmaster John Nunn, who was playing on the English team. According to John , by some mistake both he and Campo were given the same hotel room number! At one point on the first day, Campo walks into the room while John is there unpacking.
Both are quite surprised and embarrassed. John explains that this is infact his room (and shows Campo the room key). Campo replies that it is really his room (not John’s) and that he had previously already checked into this room sometime before John had arrived. To prove this, he goes over to the bed and lifts up the matress: Campo had hidden tens of thousands of dollars under the mattress!!
In Mexico (1985) Campomanes attended the Taxco interzonal as a guest of the organizer. He showed up with his secretary, a 20-something woman from the Philippines. During the event it became clear that she was not just his secretary…(!)
During this tournament there was some small problem that arose (I can not remember now) that required Campo to decide an issue. Walter Browne (the US representative) strongly objected to Campo’s solution, pointing out that Campo’s decision did not seem ‘democratic’. Campo replied , quite naturally if I recall, that some decisions were ‘too important’ to decide democratically! Browne did not say another word…
Walter Browne, 6-time Champion of the US, and one of the strongest GMs of the 1970’s
Campo always showed respect and consideration when dealing with me. I assume that much of this was because of Prentice’s close relationship with Campo. I will never forget the problems that I had in early 1987 , almost immediately after John Prentice died of a heart attack while on vacation in Hawaii.
Certain unscrupulous individuals in the CFC (Stockhausen –then president; Bond –only a governor then, but already showing signs of being untrustworthy; Bunning and the Ottawa mafia, etc) tried to personally profit by Prentice’s unexpected departure from Canadian chess politics.
Igor Ivanov and I got stuck in the middle of this power play, and at stake was Canada’s participation in the following year’s mega chess festival in St. John : The World Chess Festival, and especially the Canadian representative in the Candidate’s Tournament.
At one point I contacted Campomanes and explained the situation. Prentice, before he died, was of the opinion that I should represent Canada , principally because I was clearly the strongest player in Canada! But I felt that the fairest thing to do was to play a match with Ivanov (we both tied for 1st in the previous year’s Championship) and to decide over the board this decision.
However, Stockhausen and gang decided unilaterally to put Ivanov as the Canadian representative (!), feeling most likely that there was more media-mileage in having a Russian defector play against a Soviet champion!
Igor Ivanov defected from the Soviet Union in 1980 at the height of the Cold War. He made Montreal his place of residence.
Campomanes gave me good advice, and told me how to proceed. He deeply respected Prentice and , while not wanting to directly interfere in internal Canadian chess politics, he told me that I could count on his support if the matter went to court and I needed FIDE’s backing.
(To make a long story short, I was eventually chosen as the Canadian represtative for the 1988 festival. Stockhausen and then entire Ottawa mafia was thrown out at the 1987 July AGM. This was the closest time that I had ever been to taking the entire corrupt CFC leadership to court.)
Me with Prime Minister Mulroney in 1988.
At the 1988 World Chess Festival I defeated Andrei Sokolov, who had just lost the candidates finals match against Karpov. Myself and my team stayed in the best hotel in the city for more than one month, and the CFC refused to contribute even one penny towards the expenses of the Canadian representative (me).
As I was about to pay my bill, Campomanes came up to me and told me it would be an honour for him to pay it!! No doubt the memory of John Prentice was still fresh on his mind.
A poster of the World Chess Festival, available online
Another memory I have of Campo is in late 1988 when he came to Montreal to help promote the Spraggett vs Jussupov match slated for early 1989 in Quebec City. After some media event with journalists and photos, we all went to a restaurant on St. Denis street.
At the restaurant, Claude Filion, then an prominent member of the Quebecois and a member of the MNA (elected in Rene Levesque’s riding) and an influential member of the Quebec chess community, tried to pitch a pro-independence program for the FQE from the CFC.
Claude Filion (1945-2004) was a hardcore ‘separatiste’ all of his adult life.
Campomanes was not impressed! Filion wanted FIDE to recognize the FQE as a separate national federation (distinct from the CFC), and to advance his cause with Campomanes he crudely let it be known what he thought of the CFC, colourful insults included. Campo undoubtedly felt uncomfortable being manipulated by someone half of his intelligence and much less cultured.
Before we left the restaurant that evening, Campo came up to me and asked to speak privately. He told me that he did not like Filion’s attitude, that he felt as FIDE president that Canada was an important member, and he asked me to speak to Filion so that he not repeat his shameful performance again….I told Campo I will try, but in truth I did not even speak with Filion about this. If you are of english birth and born in Montreal, you learn quickly that people like Filion can not be reasoned with. Not that I don’t respect the right of Quebec to choose its own path, but it is unfortunate that so many fascists like Filion were attracted to the independence movement in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
I have many other memories of Campo, but these I leave for another time to recount. Campo, despite what his enemies might say, was a great human being, and a wonderful leader. FIDE became a truly international organization under his presidency….that FIDE today is a mere shadow of what it once was is not his fault: for ths we must blame those who came later.
BUT, there is one anecdote that Campomanes told me that I must tell you! One day Campo, in the years before his election in 1982 as FIDE president, needed some serious money for one of his projects. He was always one of the Philippine president’s favourites (Marcos loved the game), and so Campo asked for an emergency meeting with Marcos.
Campo was driven to the royal palace about 8pm and shown into one of the rooms and told to wait there while the President was meeting with some foreign dignitaries. After about 15 minutes, Marcos enters the room and greets Campo. He asks him what the problem was that he needed to see him so urgently.
Campo explained the situation and told Marcos that he needed a million dollars quickly. Marcos nodded, and then asked Campo: ” Florencio, do you need that money right away , or can you wait until tomorrow morning?”
Campomanes was a great chess promoter in the Philippines long before he became interested in FIDE . In 1967 he organized a visit by Bobby Fischer, (called the Beat Bobby Fischer Tour, where Fischer played against many of the top national players) and then again in 1973 he convinced the Philippine president (F.Marcos) to host Fischer soon after he won the world championship title. Here are some photos of these visits
1967. Fischer signing autographs. Campo is seen to the left of Bobby.
1967. Fischer surrounded by adoring fans
1967. An exhibition game against the top Philippine player, Balinas.
1967. Campo (center) assisting the match
1967. Playing blitz with a female fan
1973. Fischer , fans and Campo (lower right)
1973. Campo relaxing
1973. Fischer with his sister Joan on Marco’s yacht
1973. With Marcos. The Philippine president put up 5 million dollars for the 1975 match with Karpov, but Fischer declined to defend his title.
Perhaps the most controversial decision taken by Campomanes was cancelling the Karpov vs Kasparov match (Spring,1985), after 48 games, still unfinished. A lot of ink has since been spilled in an effort to explain, complain, rant and rave about this decision. Shortly before Campo’s death, he made the following comments:
As we can see, the enigmatic Campomanes still wants to keep his secrets. He once told me that it does not matter if the world speaks badly of himself or of FIDE. What does matter, Campo went on proudly, is that they are speaking about chess!