Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Campo, R.I.P.

Florencio Campomanes passed away on Monday, 3rd May 2010. I only managed to sit down to write this today, I still feel saddened by his passing. Death is so final.

I first met him in 1978 although I cannot claim to know the man very well. He had a personal touch with people. On the occasions that our path crossed, he always had time for a few words with me. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to catch up with him when he was in Malaysia not so long ago.

Campomanes was not just an official, he could play and play well too. In his younger days he had represented Philippines at the olympiads. At the 1980 Malta olympiad, he stopped by unexpectedly at our lodgings (we were accomodated in a three bedroom house instead of hotels) one night. On seeing us playing blitz, he joined in for a few games. In every game he opened with 1. f3 followed by 2. Kf2, which I naively tried to smash without success. He kept trying to get me to play for money which I naturally declined. Poor chess players like me cannot afford to lose money at blitz.

In 1981, I went to Hong Kong to play a tournament to be followed by another tournament in the Philippines. After the Hong Kong tournament ended, I decided it would be cheaper to stay in Manila then in Hong Kong. I re-arranged my flight to be with Filipino IMs Rico Mascarinas and Lito Maninang. The tournament was in Baguio City and there were some ten days before the start. So, on arrival they took me to the Manila YMCA.

There were various room options with corresponding prices. There were single , twin sharing as well as six sharing rooms and with or without air-conditioning. Mindful of the pocket money I had and that I had to stay for some ten days, I choose the cheapest room with six beds. Rico suggested it would be more comfortable to take the twin sharing and I settled on the cheapest available. There was no air-conditioning and the baths and toilets were in a common area. I shared the room with a Filipino weight lifter.

The next day I was summoned to the manager's office. There was a phone call for me. I was puzzled as I did not know anyone in Manila. On the other side was Campomanes, playing the perfect host. When he found that I was staying in a room with only a ceiling fan, he asked to speak to the manager. I was promptly transferred to a much larger room with attached bath and most important in the Manila heat , air-conditioning! When I protested that I could not afford such a room, the manager calmed me down. All the expenses were already taken care of. Campo always looked after visiting chess players.

While he was a friendly person, there was another side to him which I personnally observed. He was a very competitive man and could not stand losing.
At the 1983 Asian team, the Chinese were vying with the Philippines team for the championship. Both teams were neck to neck. On one of the rest days, the organizers arranged a sight seeing trip to the famous Taj Mahal. As we were waiting in the bus, Campomanes came by. When he saw the Filipino players sitting in the bus, he exploded. It was quite a frightening sight watching him bawling out his players. They got off the bus and back to their rooms. Perhaps Campo knew sometime. This was the first time that Philippines did not win this tournament.

Rest in peace, Campo.


abdooss said...

So they got off the bus, went back to their room and STUDY CHESS some more?
Just curious...

Jimmy Liew said...

Well the point was, they should not be relaxing with so much at stake. Some might think it better to get the team to unwind rather than continue the stress. Different points of view.

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