Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.

"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Sunday, February 08, 2009

4:14 The 1978 World Chess Championship.

Robert (Bobby) J. Fischer became World Champion in 1972 by defeating Boris Spassky in a controversial match held in Iceland. For the next title match scheduled for 1975, Bobby demanded a number of changes in the match regulations that would give him better chances of retaining the title. When FIDE refused to accept a critical rule change, Bobby cabled to say, “I resign my FIDE World Championship title”. The Challenger, Anatoli Karpov of USSR, thereby became the new world champion by default, and was scheduled to defend his title in 1978.

Note: When Fischer played Spassky the match was decided over 24 games and was won by player first to score over 12 points, counting 1 point for win and ½ point for a draw; if the match was drawn, 12:12, the champion would retain his title, and the prize fund would be shared equally. Fischer wanted the match to be played without limit to the number of games, draws not counting, and to be won by the player first to win 10 games. The match would be considered drawn, however, if the score reached 9:9. This last proposed rule was the sticking point because it meant that the Champion gained his objective, to retain his title, as soon as he has won 9 games, whereas the Challenger has to win 10 games to reach his objective.

Meanwhile, Viktor Korchnoi who lost to Karpov in the 1974 Candidate’s Final Match, had defected to the west and had become the new Challenger, beating two Soviet Candidates in succession. Florencio Campomanes who had won the right to organize the aborted Fischer-Karpov match in Manila with a bid of US$5 million for the prize fund, again made the winning bid of just over one million Swiss Francs as prize fund for the 1978 match to be played in Baguio City, a mountain resort in the Philippines. Korchnoi, of course, was persona non grata with the Soviets who did everything they could to make things difficult for Korchnoi. I got involved in the match because Campo appointed me the Chairman of the Match Jury (Appeal Committee) that should adjudicate protests against alleged breaches of the regulations. There were five people on the Jury, one representing each player’s delegation, and one “neutral” member of FIDE nominated by each player, and myself. This curious set up ensured that on any divisive question, each player would get two votes and I should have to make the decision, a heavy responsibility. The importance of the work we did was illustrated by some of the rulings that we made, for example:

1.The Jury accepts the technical report of the expert appointed by the organizing committee that the chair to be used by Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi does not have any electronic device.

2.The Jury rules that, since Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi is at present not entitled to a national flag, both players shall play without table-flags so that no one may be disadvantaged.

3.The Jury is unable to ascertain if Dr. Zukhar, the personal physician of Grandmaster Anatoli Karpov, can influence the play of Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi by parapsychological means; however, to ensure that Mr. Korchnoi is not disturbed by the presence of Dr. Zukhar in the playing hail, the Jury requests Dr. Zukhar to sit no nearer that the 30th row of seats in the hall.
4.The Jury directs that a cup of yoghurt shall be served by the restaurant waiter to Grandmaster Anatoli Karpov at 15.00 hrs, the flavour being ordered before play begins.

Editor’s note: My father told us that the ruling on yoghurt was made because there was a suspicion that the Russians could be giving their player coded messages about his play strategy, embedded in the timing of the delivery of yoghurt and the flavour thereof.

The 1978 World Chess Championship Match was played at the pace of one game in two days, with Sundays off, without a limit to the number of games. The match would be won by the player who first won six games, draws being ignored, and in theory the match could go on forever if the players keep on drawing their games. Campo said that this was unlikely to happen as in practice one of the players would sooner or later cave-in, and the match was a test of stamina under pressure. The principle of unlimited games with draws not counting was, in fact, insisted upon by Fischer, but in retaining it for the Karpov-Korchnoi match FIDE overlooked another Fischer provision: that if the match went on for three months there should be an intermission of one month before continuation where it left off. In the event, Karpov established a lead of 4-1 at the 17th game (6 weeks) but Korchnoi reduced his deficit to 4-2 on Game 21. When Karpov won game 27 (9 weeks!), it was thought Korchnoi was finished, but Korchnoi fought back to level the score at 5-5 on Game 31. It was anybody’s match now, but in an anti-climax, Korchnoi played the 32nd game badly and lost. The match had taken three months! Three years later, in 1981, Karpov defended his title against Korchnoi again, and again won the match that was held in Italy.


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