Memories of Campo

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Last Friday would have been the 92nd birthday of Hon. Florencio Campomanes, someone who all chess-loving Filipinos should remember. He, together with Ramon Lontoc, Jr., share the distinction of being the first Filipino National Masters (in 1956). He was also the Philippine national champion in 1956 and 1960 and represented the country at five Chess Olympiads: Moscow 1956, Munich 1958, Leipzig 1960, Varna 1962 and Havana 1966.

It started out as a passion for chess playing, but this passion soon consumed his entire being and the vision of Florencio Campomanes, the man, became an obsession to make a mark in the chess world, not just for him but also for his country.

Mr. Campomanes was born February 22, 1927 in Manila. He earned for himself college, university and departmental scholarships at the University of the Philippines where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science cum laude in 1947.

Believing in the chess percept that “there is no other move than the best move,” Campomanes pursued his studies in the United States, earning a Master’s degree at Brown, 1951 and undertook Doctoral Studies at Georgetown University, District of Columbia.

Shortly after he returned to the Philippines, Campomanes was one of the founding members of the Philippine Chess Federation in 1956 and prime mover to the creation of the first Chess Olympiad team to play for Philippine flag in Moscow also in that same year.

His closeness with then President Carlos P. Garcia enabled the country to experience a chess renaissance of sorts, for it was then that big names like Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, Renato Naranja, Glircerio Badilles, and Ramon Lontoc Jr. would emerge.

Campomanes put the Philippines on the world map and in many international publications when the big names of the sport came to our shores in the early ‘70s, with the Marlboro Chess Classics. Suddenly, the tournaments in Europe turned out almost empty, because everybody wanted to compete in this part of the world.

It was also in that period when the national juniors were held and the emergence of a promising, long-haired lad by the name of Eugene Torre, started off another era. Torre would later on become Asia’s first grandmaster taking a road directly and indirectly charted by Mr. Campomanes.

In 1978, the Philippines became the center of the chess world, when the World Chess Championship between Anatoly Karpov and challenger Victor Korchnoi was held in Baguio City. It turned out to be one of the most celebrated matches in chess history.

With the brown man from Southeast Asia getting much attention and recognition for his successful projects, Campomanes made it easily to the FIDE presidential elections of 1982, beating Iceland’s Grandmaster Fridrik Olafsson for the post, the first non-European to do so.

In 1992, Manila hosted the biggest international conclave in local sports history. The 1992 Manila Olympiad was to be the grandest Philippine sports spectacle ever as a hundred-odd nations participated.

Campomanes, in his term, made chess a spectator sport, and forever erased the idea of it being a nerd’s game or simply a boring pastime. He made Russians Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov instant millionaires by vastly increasing the pot money in big-time tournaments and the World Championships.

This idea of creating bigger tournaments with juicy prizes has given much reason for players to become serious achievers. Getting serious with the sport or any other endeavor, would mean curbing other negative forces in order to be successful. That is why sports is one of the best solutions to the drug menace, juvenile delinquency and other ills of society.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s Campomanes housed several promising players, giving them everything they needed — food, shelter and a little clothing — his ancestral house in Calle Campomanes in San Miguel, Manila.

One name that is inextricably linked to Campomanes is IM Andronico Yap.

“Boyet” Yap was an orphan who Campo took in as a ward and housed, fed, and clothed. He always gave Boyet odd jobs around chess tournaments, and one day assigned him a job as a “board boy” (someone operating the demonstration boards) during the 1979 Marlboro Chess Classic in Manila. When one of the foreign invitees had to cancel on the last minute due to visa problems, Yap was picked to take his place — apparently because he was the strongest chess player among the staff. Imagine that — from being board operator he jumped to one of the participants in a major (Grandmaster) GM tournament. In the very first round Boyet, unknown, untitled and unrated, defeated the 1977 Soviet chess champion.

7th Marlboro Classic
Manila, Philippines
January 1979

Final Standings:

1 GM Eugene Torre PHL 2520, 10.0/13

2 GM Fridrik Olafsson ISL 2555, 9.0/13

3-5 GM Yuri Averbakh URS 2515, GM Raymond Keene ENG 2465, GM Josif Dorfman URS 2595, 8.0/123

6 IM Rafaelito Maninang PHL 2320, 7.5/13

7-9 IM Haji Ardiansyah INA 2380, IM Ruben Rodriguez PHL 2370, Andronico Yap PHL unr, 6.5/13

10-11 IM Arovah Bachtiar INA 2390, IM Glenn Bordonada PHL 2365, 5.5/13

12-13 IM Terrey Shaw AUS 2355, Jacobus Sampouw INA 2320, 3.5/13

14 Ian Rogers AUS

Boyet finished with 6 wins (Dorfman, Maninang, Bachtiar, Bordonada, Shaw and Rogers), 1 draw and 6 losses. Very impressive for someone who actually had no business playing in such a strong event!

Yap, Andronico — Dorfman, Josif D (2595) [A01]
Marlboro Chess Classic Manila (1), 15.06.1979

1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Bg4 3.h3 Bh5 4.Nf3 Bxf3 5.exf3 e6 6.g3 a5 7.a4 Ne7 8.f4

Eight moves into the game Dorfman already has an idea of what kind of player he is up against — a street fighter with limited theoretical knowledge.

Despite all the unorthodoxy White is already better in the opening. The bishop on b2 holds sway over the long diagonal.

8…Nd7 9.Bg2 h5 10.0–0 Nf5 11.c4 c6 12.cxd5 cxd5 13.Re1 Bc5 14.d4

Can White play 14.Bxd5 — the reply 14…Nxg3 is refuted by 15.d4 and White wins a piece. But the answer is “it is unclear” because after 14.Bxd5 instead of taking the g3–pawn Black can simply play 14…0–0 15.Bg2 Qb6 16.Qf3 h4 Black has the initiative, and Boyet prefers to be the one to do the attacking.

14…Bb4 15.Bc3 Nf6 16.Qd3 0–0 17.Na3 Bxc3 18.Qxc3 Rc8 19.Qd3 Qb6 20.Nb5 Rc6 21.Bf3 Rfc8 22.g4 hxg4 23.hxg4 Nh4 24.Bh1 Qd8 25.g5 Ne8 26.Qg3

After 26.Na7? Rc3 27.Qd2 Rc2 28.Qd1 R8c3 Black is getting the upper hand.

26…Nf5 < 27.Qh2 Qb6 28.Rad1 Nc7 29.Bf3

The idea is to play Bf3–g4xf5 followed by transferring his rook to the h-file. Black should not allow this.

29…Nxb5 30.axb5 Qxb5 31.Bg4 Qxb3 32.Bxf5! exf5 33.Kg2!

With the deadly threat of Rh1.

33…Rc2 34.Qh4! Qb2

In reply to the threat Dorfman goes With the idea of Rxf2, Qxf2, Rc2.

35.Rb1 Qxd4?

Dorfman should have agreed to the draw with 35…Qa2! 36.g6 fxg6 (36…Rxf2+? 37.Qxf2 Rc2 38.Re8#) 37.Rxb7 Rxf2+! 38.Qxf2 Rc2 39.Rb8+ Kf7 40.Rb7+ Kg8 41.Rb8+ Kf7 perpetual check.

36.Rxb7! g6 37.Rbe7! Rf8 <D>



Obviously overlooked by Dorfman. He has to give up at least his rook to prevent mate down the h-file.

38…Qxe5 39.fxe5 Rc4 40.Qh6 Rg4+ 41.Kf3 1–0

That one game made it all worthwhile, said Campo to me many years later. IM Andronico Yap became the next Philippine prospect for international grandmastership, and in fact earned his first GM norm in Europe, but he had a nervous breakdown and came back to the Philippines where he tragically drowned in Manila Bay.

Campomanes’ international fame and contribution to the sport has given him the prestigious sports awards by the two sports organizations in the Philippines — the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) and the Sports Communicators Organization of the Philippines (SCOOP). Both have put him in the Sports Hall of Fame. What’s more, the PSA named him as Sports Leader of the Millennium.

The World Chess Federation (FIDE), on its Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Paris in December 1999, awarded Campo the Grand Knight of FIDE, the highest award of the International Sports Organization.

Hon. Florencio Campomanes passed away in the Philippines on May 3, 2010.

My first encounter with Mr. Campomanes was in 1998. I was supposed to go with the Philippine national team to the 1998 Elista Olympiad as their coach, but politics intervened and my slot was taken away by the Philippine Chess Federation in favor of someone else. The day after the teams arrived in Elista (Kalmyk Republic, Russia) I was completely shocked to receive a long-distance call from Russia. What’s more, the party on the other side was very pissed off and demanded to know what I was doing in the Philippines when I was supposed to be in Russia.

After the initial surprise had died down I realized that the caller was none other than Florencio Campomanes. Now, you should understand that I had never met let alone spoken with Mr. Campomanes before, so the idea that he would call me (and from Russia!) was something completely out of the blue. I replied that my name was on the original list but had been scratched out by the Federation. Nevertheless, according to Campo, I was needed by the team and he offered to pay for my ticket so long as I leave immediately as play was going to start the next day.

Completely flattered by the personal invitation I promised to leave right away and will pay for my own fare (without clearing with my wife — whew! That is another story). Completely satisfied, Campomanes welcomed me to the team.

Unfortunately, I still had to get endorsements from the Chess Federation as a member of the team and then to go to the Russian Embassy for my visa, but with the Federation unwilling to cooperate I could not leave on time. A tremendous blow for me, and I never forgot it.

That was in 1998. Two years later, in 2000, together with the Philippine Chess Society and with the backing of Mr. Campomanes, I was among the founding members of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) which disenfranchised the Philippine Chess Federation as the governing body of chess in the country. There! That showed them.

More Campo stories on Thursday.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.