Slick gambit puts chess king in check

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The Independent Online

Chess Correspondent

The world of chess was thrown into fresh turmoil yesterday after a clever gambit toppled the autocratic leader of the game's international federation.

Florencio Campomanes finally met his match after 17 years as president of Fide, during which time his leadership style had astonished and often infuriated chess followers around the world, from world champions down to the humblest pawn-pushers.

But he found himself in an unwinnable position when more than 60 delegates at a meeting of the Fide General Assembly in France signed a statement threatening to leave Fide forthwith, unless "full democracy" was restored.

The president was left with little alternative but to resign his post.

The final moves began with an allegation of electoral irregularities in Moscow last December that led to Mr Campomanes's fifth presidential term. The second move was a report on Fide finances suggesting that presidential spending had captured rather too high a proportion of their coffers. But the third move was the one that left him with no escape.

Since 1993, when Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short left Fide to play a world title match under the auspices of their newly formed Professional Chess Association (PCA), there has been a deep schism within the chess world, with each organisation running its own "world championships".

The main plank of Mr Campomanes's re-election platform was a deal with Kasparov that promised rapprochement and a unifying match for the title next year.

As negotiations became bogged down, however, Mr Campomanes came under increasing pressure.

He had found no sponsor for a Fide title match between Anatoly Karpov and Gata Kamsky, and he had reached no agreement with the PCA on the conditions for a unifying contest.

The Fide championship seemed locked in stalemate by his inaction and led to his being openly accused, by both Karpov and Kamsky, of selling out to the enemy.

For once Mr Campomanes, who has a degree in political science from Harvard, found that even his considerable political skills were not enough to save himself.

He resigned shortly after the central committee of Fide had passed a motion of no confidence in him "and his team" - a king finally pushed from power by his own infuriated pawns.

Bitter endgame, page 8