Endgame in bitter chess battle

King swept off the board: Federation president's 17-year reign is ended after vote of no confidence
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The Independent Online

Chess Correspondent

Florencio Campomanes, president of the International Chess Federation (Fide) for 17 turbulent years, has resigned his post after a motion of no confidence was passed against him "and his whole team" at a meeting of the Fide Central Committee in Paris.

With his colourfully autocratic style, the 68-year-old Filipino had led Fide into some of the greatest crises in its history, yet his political skills had always in the past seemed to thrive on the storms and disputes he created. This time, however, he has been brought down by his efforts to do a deal with the rival Professional Chess Association and its leader, Garry Kasparov, the former Fide world champion

The battles began in 1985 when Campomanes terminated Kasparov's world championship match against Anatoly Karpov after the combatants had been at each other's throats for five-and-a-half months. Convinced that Campomanes was robbing him of a chance to win the title, Kasparov declared war against the Fide president.

The sniping between them continued until 1993 when Kasparov, whose anti- Fide stance had not been supported by his fellow grandmasters, found an unlikely ally in England's Nigel Short, who was his official world championship challenger. Short's gripe with Fide in general and Campomanes in particular lay in a belief that he was being short-changed in their decision to accept a bid from Manchester to stage the title match. The prize money was far less than Short had been led to expect. So he contacted Kasparov and suggested they take their custom elsewhere.

The result was the formation of the PCA, the expulsion of both Short and Kasparov from Fide, and the creation of two world championship titles. Between 1993 and 1995, the PCA and Fide ran parallel world championship eliminators. Kasparov defended his title a month ago against the young Indian challenger, Viswanathan Anand, while Anatoly Karpov, who had recaptured the Fide title, faced a challenge from the American, former Russian, Gata Kamsky. At this stage, Campomanes comes back into the story.

At the end of 1994, his fourth term as Fide president was coming to a close and he had announced that he would not seek re-election. At the Fide congress in Moscow last December, he changed his mind. His candidacy was supported in a stirring speech by Garry Kasparov, who said: "If Campomanes wants to stay four more years, I would support him."

Their joint platform was built on an agreement to reunify the two world titles. The schism was damaging to both organisations: the PCA lacked the credibility of backing by the world governing body; Fide lacked the support of the strongest player in the world. So Campomanes was re-elected, and that is when the problems got worse.

While the PCA championship cycle proceeded smoothly, the Fide version ground to an unexpected halt after Kamsky and Karpov qualified for the final. Yet Campomanes, who had shown considerable skill in the past in finding multi-million-dollar sponsors for world title matches, was making no apparent effort to secure backing for the Karpov-Kamsky match. While full details of the Campomanes-Kasparov deal were never published, one major component had been the promise of a unifying match for the world championship in 1996. Yet the delay in organising Karpov-Kamsky brought accusations that the Fide cycle was being quietly forgotten. Both Karpov and Kamsky wrote furious open letters to Campomanes, Karpov accusing him of acting like "God and Tsar", while Kamsky accused him of being an ally of Kasparov in the latter's efforts "to prevent the Karpov-Kamsky match".

In September 1995, a letter was delivered to Fide headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, signed by 61 delegates from member nations, calling for an extraordinary general meeting. Campomanes negotiated, and managed to have it downgraded to an ordinary general meeting, but a motion of no-confidence in him was still on the agenda. So was a report on alleged irregularities during Campomanes' re-election in Moscow.

The no-confidence motion was passed by the central committee. It still had to be confirmed by the General Assembly, but this time his opponents seemed to have done their homework. Another report, on the state of Fide finances, sealed his fate. The figures supported allegations that the president was spending more than Fide could afford.

Without waiting for another vote, Campomanes resigned. Soon after, it was announced that the Karpov-Kamsky match for the Fide championship would take place in Montreal.

The American grandmaster Larry Evans, a veteran anti-Campomanes campaigner, summed it all up: "Every figure in history gets about one defining sentence. For Campomanes the defining sentence will be 'They kicked him out'."