A Month In Manila with Bobby Fischer Print
Thursday, 06 March 2008 00:00
In Campo`s quest for a Fischer-Karpov Match, Robert Fischer and Anatoly Karpov scheduled meetings in Tokyo and Manila in 1976. Bobby reveals his training secret in the article `A month in Manila with Bobby Fischer` by Casto Abundo.
For more on the late genius, the French chess magazine Europe Echecs has devoted its whole issue to Bobby Fischer. Read Excerpts in Chessbase or visit the Europe Echecs web site.
By This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >Casto Abundo

Bobby Reveals His Training Secret

Campo was trying to arrange a match between Robert Fischer and Anatoly Karpov, and managed to make them meet in Tokyo. "You said this and that about me" they both exchanged pleasantries in their first face to face meeting. The match had been agreed upon one night but Bobby, the next morning, wanted to rethink about calling it the "Professional World Chess Championship". What to name the event proved to be the undoing of the match which never took place.

After Bobby became World Champion in 1972, he visited Manila to open the 1st Philippines International Chess Tournament in 1973, making the ceremonial moves with the late Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. Bobby's only official visit after he became world champion was to Manila and he was asked by chess journalists why he accepted the invitation from the Philippines and refused many others. Bobby replied "I was there in 1967. I was not yet world champion but they treated me like a world champion." He was referring to the 1967 Challenge Bobby Fischer matches organized by Campo in four cities around the Philippines.

After Fischer refused to defend his title in 1975, and FIDE awarded it to Karpov, Campo tried hard to arrange the match. Anatoly went to Manila in 1976 to join the quadrangular tournament with Eugene Torre of the Philippines playing for Asia, Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Yugoslavia playing for Europe and Walter Shawn Browne of the USA playing for the Americas. They were suppposed to meet but Fischer was delayed and came to Manila after the tournament.

And so he had a holiday at the Tropical Palace resort on the ourskirts of Manila. Campo alternated visits to Fischer by Philipine GMs and IMs, Eugene Torre and old friends of Bobby such as IM Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, IM Renato Naranja and the late Rosendo Balinas Jr. I was a young Man Friday for Bobby.

Bobby lived in his own world. He would sleep at four in the morning and wake up before four in the afternoon. Every night he would open his Chess Informant and go over some games with me. He had just arrived from Bangkok where he discovered Thai music and brought cassettes. You could hear Thai music blaring in our cottage most of the day.

We would take long walks at 3 in the morning and talked about everything. He was upset about how some people took advantage of him and wrote unauthorized books. He asked me not to take pictures of him and I respected his privacy. Once he got so excited when I told him Philippine players could have a plus score against Russians since GM Balinas had just returned from his victory in Odessa. Bobby said I should write a book about this.

He could be considerate when he wanted to. We transferred for a weekend to the Batulao country resort and arrived at midnight. The resort owner was Campo's friend and financier of the hoped for Fischer-Karpov Match. Bobby said he was hungry when we arrived at midnight and room service was closed. I woke up the kitchen staff for Bobby who said "You shouldn't have done that."

I made the mistake of beating him once in racquet ball. He was very competitive, got even and would not stop until he had beaten me twice till I was dead tired. At the Matabungkay beach, Bobby proved a strong swimmer and went far out to the open sea. I stayed by his side until the beach houses looked too small and asked him to return to shore.

He told me a secret of his training method he called "Peaking". At 5pm every day he would do strenuous activity, sport, walk or exercise. He explained that he trained his body to peak at this hour so that when the tournament came, he would be primed for a game at this time. No wonder he always insisted on 5pm starting time for tournaments.

Once he was invited to the Presidential Yacht with President Marcos. I repeatedly reminded him of the appointment but Bobby took his time in the shower. I tried to drive fast but he cautioned me to slow down. We arrived late at the pier and the yacht had already sailed. Campo was pacing and had the forethought to have a speedboat stand by for Bobby to catch up. He did, and played two games with President Marcos who to his delight managed to draw with Bobby (who allowed the President to take back moves).

He had not cared about being late for his appointment with President Marcos. But next day when he had a date with a Filipina chess player, Bobby would repeatedly ask me the time and didn't want to be late.

The Philippines had bid $5 million for the aborted Fischer-Karpov match. Instead the $10 million Ali-Frazier 'Thrilla in Manila' took place. Bobby was disappointed the money was diverted to a boxing match. I told him it was a spectator sport and he countered that "Chess is the true spectator sport," because we analyze the game.

It was hard to live with a genius like Bobby who always wanted his way. It was well known that he refused to sign anything, even a cash voucher when he received money. He wanted to take a slow boat home and we took him to the pier. Campo gave him a check and Bobby protested "What do I do now, count pennies?" It was mid-evening but Campo replied "If you sign in the back of the check, I can have it encashed." Campo and I returned to the car and went to the nearby Manila Hotel bar. As he ordered a drink, I asked if we were waiting for someone with the cash. Campo said "I already have the dollars, I just needed him to sign." We then returned to the pier and said farewell to a friend.

Farewell Bobby.
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