Backstabbing in Baguio

Kingpin reader Florence Manny (Manila, The Philippines) writes:

‘Grandmaster Keene’s twin acts of treachery against Korchnoi in the 1978 World Championship are in my humble opinion the apogee of his two-timing career. He stitched up Korchnoi before the match by signing a contract he had no intention of honouring. Then he stitched him up again just before the final game by agreeing to have two of Korchnoi’s friends and helpers expelled from Baguio. Little wonder Korchnoi lost that game, the match and the world title.

Within the pages of your esteemed former competitor Mr Baruch Wood’s fine magazine Chess [February 1980], I found a letter from Mrs Jean Stean, a friend of Grandmaster Korchnoi, in which she substantiates Keene’s duplicity in regard to that contract. The writer of the letter is mother to the English GM Michael Stean, who was himself a close friend of Keene at the time of the match in Baguio City. Korchnoi had hired Keene and Stean to be his seconds in the match against Anatoli Karpov.’

 Jean Stean letter

The contract to which Mrs Stean’s letter refers was intended to prevent Keene from writing a book about the match while it was in progress. Korchnoi’s experience of Keene as a second in the earlier candidates final against Spassky taught him that Keene’s work as a book author interfered with his duties as a second, and annoyed him because Keene had not sought his permission to write such a book. We shall let Korchnoi speak for himself on this point, and his thoughts on how to deal with the matter before the Baguio match, by quoting from his book (with Lenny Cavallaro) Persona non Grata, formerly titled Anti-Chess, and from the more recent edition of his autobiographical Chess is My Life. [Editor’s note: Korchnoi’s comments from Persona non Grata are indicated by the abbreviation ‘PNG’ and those from Chess is My Life by ‘CIML’.]

‘I should have cut out the piece of the organism infected with the gangrene of profit. I did not do this. I tried to save the nervous energy which would inevitably be needed to form a new collective [i.e. a new team of seconds – Ed.] by attempting to cure the incurable. I made an effort to restrain the spirit of free enterprise in the English grandmaster.’ – PNG

So Korchnoi gave Keene a choice – be my second or write your book, but not both. This presented Keene with an awkward problem because, as Mrs Stean says in her letter, when Korchnoi made this demand Keene had already agreed with his publisher B.T. Batsford to write an instant book about the Karpov–Korchnoi match. Unencumbered by any feelings of honesty and duty towards Korchnoi, and spurred on by his legendary avarice, Keene did as Keene does and signed the contract drafted by Jean Stean, thereby committing himself to be in breach of that very contract.

Here are the first three clauses of the contract:

‘(1) The Second will devote all his efforts solely in the interests of the Principal in his match for the World Championship in Baguio City, the Philippines.

(2) The Second will not write, compile, or help to write and compile any book during the course of the Match.

(3) All journalistic work undertaken by the Second during this match is subject to the approval of the chief of the delegation which means it must be seen by the chief.’- PNG

Korchnoi later discovered that throughout the match Keene was not only writing a book, he was also sending reports by telex to London, without seeking permission from the head of delegation, Korchnoi’s friend (later his wife) Petra Leeuwerik. In Persona non Grata Carvallo reports that:

‘Korchnoi contends that the daily telexes sent by Keene to London without his knowledge (or the consent of Mrs Leeuwerik) were another source from which the Soviets gleaned information about the work of their team.’

‘Every line was inspected by Campomanes, who was closely connected with the Soviets. And Keene knew about this.’- Korchnoi (PNG)

 Keene’s breach of contract was only one of the strands to his treachery in Baguio, but it was one that left Korchnoi severely weakened by depriving him of the full benefit of Keene’s skills as a second. The other treacherous act relates to Korchnoi’s two acolytes from the Ananda Marga movement who had been teaching Korchnoi to relax and who had had a hugely beneficial effect on Korchnoi’s psyche. The Russians had pressured the match officials and the match jury to have these two young people banned from Baguio, so as to put additional pressure on Korchnoi’s psyche, but eventually a compromise was reached under which the Margae would be permitted to remain in Baguio under a form of house arrest. Dr Euwe, the President of FIDE and therefore the person ultimately in charge of the match, then told Keene and Petra Leeuwerik

 ‘that if the Soviets were to touch my yogi helpers again, he gave me permission to stop the match, and he would organise a new encounter with Karpov. I didn’t know about this…’ [CIML]

Fans of Keene’s machiavellian skills must have rejoiced deep into the night after that fateful thirty-second game, when they learned how Keene had agreed to have the Ananda Margae expelled from Baguio. Why would Keene act in this way when he knew that the Ananda Margae were being of great help to the challenger? Korchnoi’s own explanation of Keene’s behaviour in the closing stages of the match is illuminating.

‘Knowing the facts which subsequently came to light, it is not hard to convince oneself that it would now be extremely disadvantageous for Keene if I were to win the match. He had violated the contract between us signed the day before the Championship contest began. It transpired that Keene was writing a book, working on it every day of the match, and sending excerpts via telex to London. He could not expect the fee from me, however large his share would be in the event of a win. Moreover, if I became World Champion, I would most likely be able, with the limitless power at my disposal, to see that Keene did not even receive his fee as Senior Trainer from the Organizer. After all, the blatant breach of contract could not go unpunished. And one last thing: Keene’s book, in which, as one might expect, he criticized me, Mrs. Leeuwerik, and others, was written with the supposition, even the conviction, that I would lose the match. He, Keene, might now be obliged to re-write the book. And then it would not be able to appear, as it did, almost immediately after the match finished in every book shop in London. It would have had to have been held back for at least several weeks, thereby threatening its financial success.

 ‘No, Mr. Keene had thought everything through most thoroughly before choosing his line of conduct.’ – PNG

And in Chess Is My Life Korchnoi wrote:

‘But meanwhile, in my camp there was a person who occupied a high post, and who very much did not want me to win: Keene, who every day sent telexes to London with chunks of his book on the match, in which he severely criticised the behaviour of myself and Frau Leeuwerik. Keene, who long ago – round about the 15th game – had buried me, Keene, who, after breaking his contract with me, could no longer count on any remuneration from me. And, on the contrary, in the event of Karpov winning he could count on a remuneration from Campomanes! [Korchnoi revealed later in CIML that the amount Keene received from Campomanes was 20,000 Swiss Francs –Ed.]  In the last days of the match and after the conclusion Keene betrayed my interests on several occasions. But it was all very logical. I was to blame – one shouldn’t agree contracts with such people!’ [CIML]

On the morning of the 32nd game of the match Karpov and one of his seconds, Yuri Balashov, submitted a letter to the match jury in which Karpov refused to play if the two Anada Margae were present anywhere in Baguio. This was despite a previous decision by the match jury that Korchnoi’s assistants could remain in Baguio under house arrest.  On this subject Korchnoi wrote the following:

‘It was just a little awkward that the jury had to cancel its own decisions when it had seemed as if everyone was satisfied with the situation – that is to say with the house arrest of the yogis. But what the Soviets desire is law, and after protesting a short while for the sake of appearances, Keene wrote a statement saying that in order to save the Champion [Karpov] from a loss because of non-attendance (how, one might ask, did he rise to his position in the first place? [Here Korchnoi is alluding to the way that Karpov became World Champion when Bobby Fischer refused to play him in 1975 –Ed.]), he agreed to remove the yogis from Baguio. He assumed responsibility for this action and authenticated with his signature his assurance that he would carry out the Soviets’ demand. By two o’clock in the afternoon, he had arrived at the house and informed the Margis that they had to leave. And almost before my very eyes they left Baguio.’- PNG

And commenting on the reason why he believed Keene decided to side with the Soviets on this issue, Korchnoi added:

‘No, Mr Keene. Even the all-powerful yogis did not have the strength to hold up the publication of your book.’ – PNG

Michael Stean later recounted his own disillusionment of the events in Baguio to Sunday Times journalist Nick Pitt:

‘I was very disenchanted with Ray because we had been close friends for many years, and had been at Cambridge together. Ray introduced me to Viktor and Viktor and I became very close. Ray and I were on Viktor’s team throughout the 1978 cycle of world championship matches, from the quarter-finals to the finals. At first it was very good, but during the second match [with Spassky] Viktor became concerned at the amount of time Ray was spending writing books and articles. So he said to Ray, if you want to stay in the team you have to choose: are you a journalist or are you a second? Viktor had the contracts drawn up by my mother and both Ray and I signed them.

‘There is no doubt that all the work Ray was doing in the Philippines detracted from his performance as a second. The terrible thing was that Viktor had always been betrayed and let down. That was why he defected. He needed people around him he could trust. I could not forgive what Ray did and I have not really spoken to him since.’    


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