30 years ago: Two World Championship matches in the same year

by Dagobert Kohlmeyer
9/5/2023 – 1993 was a particularly memorable year in chess history. Short and Kasparov had decided to leave FIDE and organise their World Championship match on their own, and FIDE, with its then President Campomanes, then organised an alternative World Championship match with Karpov and Timman. But this was not under a good star. During the opening ceremony pyrotechnics set fire to a banner on the stage.

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1993: Two World Championship matches at the same time

1993 was a special year in chess history, because never before had two World Championship matches been played at the same time. In the Netherlands, Anatoly Karpov and Jan Timman played for the FIDE chess crown, and in England, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short were playing for the world championship of their Professional Chess Association (PCA). Karpov and Timman had to "move" to Indonesia for the second half of their World Championship duel. Our author Dagobert Kohlmeyer was an eyewitness at all four venues in Europe three decades ago. For chronological reasons, he recalls the FIDE match first.

Hot opening

The match between Karpov and Timman began in Zwolle, about 100 km northwest of Amsterdam. The lively Hanseatic city with its medieval centre is a tourist magnet and famous for its excellent restaurants. Visitors can explore the star-shaped canal on a boat trip around the old town. Zwolle won the bid to host the first three matches of the World Cup by covering the not inconsiderable costs of the duel at short notice.

4 September 1993 was a beautiful Saturday and the opening ceremony was scheduled for 20:00. Many VIPs came to the Culture and Congress Centre in Zwolle, among them Prince Johan Friso of Orange, who was 24 years old at the time. FIDE President Florencio Campomanes and his most important assistants were there, and I met the arbiter of the World Championship, Dr Lim Kok Ann from Singapore.

The 73-year-old molecular biologist was the chief arbiter at the Chess Olympiad in Manila and in the Netherlands he will be assisted by Horst Metzing from Berlin, the managing director of the German Chess Federation. Geurt Gijssen, who worked as an arbiter in previous World Championship matches, is the match director. The Dutchman cannot referee the duel this time because his compatriot Jan Timman is one of the participants. But Gijssen does an excellent job, as always.

The crowd applauds as Prince Friso enters the arena first. He is flanked by Karpov, Timman and Campomanes. After the national anthems of the Netherlands and Russia are played, the inevitable speeches follow and then the drawing of lots takes place. Timman will have White in the first game. Prince Friso is invited on stage to officially open the match.

The organisers want to add a special attraction to the ceremony. They resort to pyrotechnics to 'unveil' a banner with the names of the World Championship finalists. "Timman - Karpov' is written in large letters on this banner. Everything goes smoothly at first, but then something unexpected happens. The glow intensifies and turns into a fire that catches the whole banner. Dark clouds of smoke rise from the flames - an unprecedented event.

The mayor of Zwolle, Loek Hermans, who was still at the speaker's desk, tried to keep everyone calm to avoid a panic. The curtain falls quickly and the fire brigade goes into action. Were "higher powers" at work here? Maybe someone objected to Karpov and Timman, who were already out of the running for the World Championship, playing for the World Chess Championship.

Jan Timman in Zwolle

Jan Timman's Home Game

After the opening ceremony, I have the chance to have a nice chat with Timman. He doesn't take the stage fire so tragically. "They wanted to do something original, but not everything works out in life. The Amsterdam native sees the white pieces at the start as a good omen. "For sure our duel will be a hot fight. I have prepared for the match more thoroughly than ever before. With Yasser Seirawan, Ulf Andersson and Jeroen Piket, I have very good seconds at my side. We have thought up a few surprises." Jan also finds it pleasant that the first half of the match will be played in Holland, although the spectators will not be able to help him at the board during his "home game".

Two days later, on 6 September, the time has come. Half an hour before the match starts, the 700-seat hall is already well filled. As the stage is very high, an extra platform has been erected in front of it for the photographers. Karpov wins the firstgame, a Caro-Kann. With 14.Nd2 Timman uncorks a novelty, after which Karpov thinks for more than half an hour. The Russian finds a good continuation and can later liquidate into a favourable endgame, which he wins after a mistake the Dutchman makes on move 41. A shock for Jan, but he can return the favour the very next day. Timman's son Artur celebrates his birthday that day, and Jan promises his 11-year-old: "I may have Black today, but I'll try to make something good out of it."

The second game

And Timman succeeds. Karpov opens with 1.d4, and in a Queen's Indian middlegame Timman sacrifices a knight on e5, which the cautious Karpov, however, doesn't accept. But one move later, the knight goes to d3, paralysing the white position. Karpov is forced to give up his rook for the knight and Timman manages to convert his material advantage to a full point, equalising the match. The third game in Zwolle ends in a draw and when the two World Championship finalists move on to Arnhem the score is 1.5:1.5.

Stage 2: Arnhem

The Dutch are happy to host another World Championship duel after the matches between Alekhine and Euwe. As in 1935 and 1937 they do it at different venues in order to further popularise chess throughout the country. Arnhem lies 60 km south of Zwolle. Apeldoorn, halfway between, is where both delegations have been staying so far. Karpov and his team will continue to stay in the hotel "Keizerskroon" for the next few days, while Jan Timman's team will make a small change of location. The matches will now be played in Arnhem's "Elektrum", a congress centre located directly on the Rhine. The hall is a little smaller than in Zwolle, but the foyer with its numerous monitors and the restaurant where the spectators can follow analyses of the experts are bigger.

The enthusiasm of the kibitzers is similar to that at the beginning of the duel in Zwolle. The tables with chess literature, playing material and World Championship souvenirs are closely surrounded. The fourth game is not particularly exciting and ends in a draw after only 20 moves. It is only surprising that Karpov took a full 105 minutes to think through the rather insubstantial moves.

In the fifth game Timman surprises his opponent with 1.c4, and has a great chance to win with 32.Nd4. Unfortunately, he doesn't see it. Timman's team has done a great job in preparing. Grandmasters Andersson, Seirawan and Piket can be seen almost every day, while Karpov's seconds Ron Henley, Vladimir Epishin and Mikhail Podgaets are often absent. In the sixth game, a Queen's Gambit, Karpov makes the most of his opportunities and wins in grand style. With his best performance so far, the Moscow player takes a 3.5-2.5 lead. Too bad for Jan Timman, who missed his chance. A commentator says: "In chess, too, if you don't score goals, you get them!

Stage 3: Amsterdam

Karpov and Timman leave the Dutch countryside and head for the city. Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city with flair, offering something for everyone. The culture lover will find art treasures, the enterprising businessman business and the adventurous tourist his night-time adventure. Six games will be played in the capital. Games 7 and 8 are very short and end in a draw. The ninth game also ended in a draw, but only after a great struggle. In game 10, Timman chooses the Grünfeld Indian for the first time as Black. He introduced a new bishop manoeuvre, but by the end of the bitter battle, which lasted almost seven hours, Karpov had won and now leads 6-4. Is the match already decided?

The tenth game

The next day the two grandmasters got up from the table after only eleven moves. They probably needed a rest. Or was there another reason for the short draw? Timman later denied this. He would never discuss the outcome of a game with his opponent beforehand. On this day, 23 September 1993, in the Amsterdam City Hall, the spectators do not know that the Sultanate of Oman has suddenly withdrawn as organiser of the second half of the match. Allegedly there was no money. The news shocked the chess world. I hear it for the first time on the spot from Horst Metzing. Only a few insiders knew about it before: FIDE president Campomanes, organiser Hendrik van Buren and the Dutch chess president Dick Tommel.

Organiser van Buren told me the next day: "We became suspicious because we had not heard anything from the Omanis, and they had not provided any plane tickets for the two teams to travel to their country. There was no official response to our enquiries for a long time".

I also contacted Campomanes, who referred me to the next day. Then he would make a statement. In fact, it came 24 hours later. The main reasons given for the withdrawal of the Arab Sultanate as organiser were the general economic recession and the lack of time for preparation. None of the journalists were satisfied with this meagre information. As Karpov and Timman sit through their 12th game, which lasts more than six hours and ends in a draw, Campo finally faces our questions at the insistence of the Dutch organisers. But the press conference turned into a farce.

Florencio Campomanes in Amsterdam

Campomanes is unable to give any concrete information about the true background of the fiasco. In August, he had boasted of a prize fund of four million Swiss francs, which would have exceeded that of the London Kasparov-Short match. Now he can no longer produce the supposed guarantee from the organisers.

Being an optimist, he believed the Omanis' promise to put two million on the table, he says with a pained smile. He is still hopeful that the second half of the match can be saved. On 2 October, he says, FIDE will announce what will happen to the 1993 World Chess Championship. Karpov's second, Ron Henley, asks the FIDE president whether his protégé will be crowned the new World Champion if the match is abandoned on the basis of the current 7-5 score in his favour.

Campomanes replies that it is not for him alone to decide, but only for the FIDE Congress in November. In any case, he wants the match to continue. He does not want to be accused of a second World Championship break-up like the one between Karpov and Kasparov in Moscow in February 1985. After the unedifying question-and-answer session, the FIDE president plays blitz games in the press room, while everyone around him is seriously wondering what will happen to the match.

I flew home for the time being, as no new organiser could be found at short notice for the second half of the match. It was not until 6 October that the public learned that Karpov and Timman would continue their duel in mid-October at the Hilton Hotel in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. So they had to fly almost around the world to reach their fourth venue. Their World Championship match lasted until 1 November 1993 and ended with Karpov winning 12.5 to 8.5. But that's another story. In the meantime, I have long since arrived in London to see the World Championship spectacle between Kasparov and Short live.

To be continued...

The games


More articles by Dagobert Kohlmeyer...

Dagobert Kohlmeyer is one of the best known German chess journalists. For more than 25 years Kohlmeyer, who lives in Berlin, has been travelling all over the world to report about and to capture impressions of Chess Olympiads, World Championships, and top tournaments.