25 years ago: termination of the first K-K match

2/15/2010 – It was one of the most controversial decisions in chess history: on February 15, 1985, the President of FIDE Florencio Campomanes terminated the World Championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov after 48 games. Twenty years later "Campo" spoke about the reasons for the step he took. A new book published in Russia contradicts his version. Video and book extract.

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25 years ago: termination of the first K-K match

The World Chess Championship 1984, which was a "first to win six games" match, started with four victories in the first nine games by the reigning champion Anatoly Karpov. At that point, with experts predicting a quick 6-0 whitewash, his challenger did something extraordinary: playing super-solid chess Garry Kasparov dug in and battled Karpov to 17 successive draws. He lost game 27, then fought back with another series of draws until game 32, his first-ever win against the World Champion.


The 1984 match between Kasparov and Karpov was abandoned after 48 games

Another 15 successive draws followed, then Kasparov won two games: 47 and 48. With Karpov was still leading by five wins to three, the President of FIDE, Florencio Campomanes, flew in from FIDE and, in one of the most controversial decisions in chess history, terminated the match (it would be replayed as a "best of 24" match in November 1985). Here is the full score of the match, which broke the previous 34-game record for a world title match between José Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine in 1927. You will have to scroll to the right to see all of it:

In August 2005 Campomanes was at a FIDE Congress in Dresden, Germany. During a pause in the deliberations he sat down in the restaurant outside the Sport Hotel for a 45-minute interview with Frederic Friedel for ChessBase Magazine. The following section touches on the termination of the 1985 match and "Campo" gives the reasons for the step he took.

The book Campomanes speaks about in the above interview has, to the best of our knowledge, not yet appeared. But another one has – a fairly explosive exposé of the interference of the Russian KGB in the course of world chess. The book is entitled "The KGB plays chess" and is available here – you can google for other sources. It is only available in Russian and a German translation ("Der KGB setzt matt – Wie der sowjetische Geheimdienst die Schachwelt manipulierte", Exzelsior Verlag 2009). The authors are Boris Gulko, Viktor Korchnoi, Vladimir Popow and Juri Felschtinski. We currently do not have the original Russian version, but translating from the German translation this is what it says about the termination:

"FIDE President Campomanes, who was already a KGB agent, was persuaded with the help of numerous promises and presents to prevent Karpov's defeat at any expense. At the same time [USSR Chess Federation President, Vitaly] Sevastianov turned to Campomanes. With the signature of [deputy chairman of the KGB] Bobkov a proposal was finally sent to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to terminate the match and start again with a 0-0 score. The intention was to avoid the impression that the decision favoured Karpov. But mainly people did not want to displease Kasparov's powerful patron Gaidar Alijev. The Central Committee supported the proposal of the KGB and Campomanes terminated the match."

The above is one of the tamer sections of the book. Read the whole thing and shudder! The book is due to be published in the Fall of 2010 by Hanon Russell of Chess Cafe. Title: The KGB Plays Chess – The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown, by Boris Gulko, Vladimir Popov, Yuri Felshtinsky and Viktor Kortschnoi [192 pages, ISBN: 978-1-888-690-75-0, SRP: $19.95]. Unlike the Russian and German books the English-language edition will have approximately three dozen photographs.

Here's an excerpt from an interview conducted by Hanon with Garry Kasparov after the publication of the fifth volume of the series My Great Predecessors.

Garry Kasparov: I remember for game forty-nine we analyzed the Scheveningen. We looked at this complicated line. I was very happy, and I wanted to take my chances with both black and white.


Kasparov being interviewed by Hannon Russell

Hanon Russell: Did you have any idea that some sort of fiasco would occur?

GK: I thought it was all over after game forty-seven when they first had this attempt with Kinzel and running back and forth. I turned it down. I had no interest in doing that. For me, the fact that I rejected all these back door maneuvers proved that that’s it. Campomanes taking the decision was not part of my consideration.

HR: The Soviet Federation was pressing hard to get the match stopped. Campomanes allied himself with them, and so did Karpov; although Karpov for the public perception was acting if he was against it.

GK: He still signed it. He signed Campomanes demand.

HR: And you refused.

GK: I refused, yes. As Campomanes said, the champion agrees and the challenger will abide. I remember that in that room I had no allies. You can ask Averbakh, he was very quiet. They all wanted this just to be over, because there was a clear order. I remember Sevastyanov saying, “Anatoly, sign it. It is a good paper.” As I said in the book, Karpov’s only problem was the rematch; he wanted to make sure the rematch was guaranteed if he loses the match in September. That’s it. One thing that we can still argue is whether Campomanes had another decision to announce, and upon seeing me in the audience [of the press conference] he changed it. You never know. With me in the audience the momentum could have changed. I was not supposed to be there. It was Rona Petrosian who called my mother and said if Garry is not there he will not forget it for the rest of his life. He must be there, because anything can happen.


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