2015-02-13 23:21:01 UTC
The previous year, in 1969 the FIDE Congress was held in San Juan Puerto Rico. I was there as a player. I did not attend the FIDE meetings. At that meeting, Edmondson proposed Max Euwe to be the next FIDE President. The Soviets did not oppose it but did not immediately agree to it either. Later on they did agree to it and Euwe was elected unanimously. However, the USA got browning points for being the first to propose Euwe.
I was there because I was a friend of Walter Browne who had been invited to play in the grandmaster tournament. This proved to be a great break for Browne because he got the grandmaster title in this event by beating Kavalek and four Puerto Ricans and drawing the rest of his games. He had just earned the International Master title a few weeks earlier at a zonal tournament in Singapore where he tied for first. He was in that tournament because he had won the Australian Championship as he had been born in Australia, although he had always lived in Brooklyn.
When he arrived in New York after a round the world tour, it happened that they desperately needed an international master to play in a tournament in Puerto Rico. The reason was under the FIDE regulations at that time, for there to be a A-1 international tournament there needed to be exactly ten grandmasters, two international masters and four local players. They had the ten grandmasters, including World Champion Spassky and Larsen, but one of the international masters Anthony Saidy had found out at the last minute that he would not be able to play. If they could not find another international master to replace him, the tournament would collapse, as then a grandmaster title or an international master title could not be won at this events.
So, when Browne showed up unexpectedly and they had called the FIDE headquarters and verified that he had received the international master title, they felt it was a gift from heaven.
While Browne was playing in the grandmaster tournament, I played in the open Swiss event being held along side it. It happened that I had the best tournament of my life and took an early lead. The name of the tournament was "Torneo Mundial de Ajedrez" or World Open Chess Tournament. Narciso Rabell Mendez, the organizer, called it by that name because the FIDE Congress was being held at the same time, so it really was a world chess tournment.
I won the early games. Then I beat Hugh Myers who played his pet Nimzovitch Defense against me 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6. I drew International Master Rene Letelier from Chile. Finally I lost to International Master Jose Gutierrez from Colombia where I played a combination where I won his queen for rook in the middle game but he got my king in the middle of the board and beat me anyway. That game was published in South American chess magazines is on chessgames.com
I won all of my other games. My opponents were mostly FIDE officials who were coming for the FIDE Congress being held at the same time.
Although this was the best tournament result of my life, the tournament was never rated so I did not get the huge number of rating points I was entitled to get. When my rating did not go up, I called the USCF office in New Windsor New York and asked what the problem or delay was. Ed Edmondson got on the phone and said that it had not been rated because Narciso Rabell Mendez the organizer had not paid the USCF rating fee and had not paid the membership dues for all the non-USCF members who had played in the tournament.
The USCF rule is that for a tournament to be USCF rated all the players must be USCF members. This tournament consisted almost entirely of foreign players. All of my opponents had been from other countries, except for Hugh Myers and he had been living in and representing the Dominican Republic for years.
Edmondson told me that he had been in Puerto Rico for the FIDE Congress. In view of the problems he had had with Narciso Rabell Mendez for the US Open Chess Championship that had been held in Puerto Rico in 1967, Edmondson had personally taken the cross table off the wall in Puerto Rico and taken it back with him to New York. So, he had the cross table with the results. He just needed the money to pay for the event to be rated.
It turned out that my rating was just a small item in a big picture. Narciso Rabell Mendez was active in the Independista Political Party that seeks full independence for Puerto Rico, Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño . His cousin, Narciso Rabell Martinez, who has almost exactly the same name, had been imprisoned for life for terrorist activities including bombings.
The end result of this was that Puerto Rico broke away from the USCF and was either expelled from membership or withdrew. No USCF rated tournament was ever held again there or at least not until recently.
My next encounter with Narciso Rabell Mendez was in 1986. I was at the World Championship for Under-14, Under-12, and Under-10 in San Juan. I was there as the trainer and manager of the Polgar Sisters of Hungary. Judit and Sofia Polgar tied for second in the World Under-14. The winner was Joel Lautier.
Actually, the Polgars had wanted Sofia Polgar to play in the World Under-12 and Judit Polgar to play in the World Under-10. They would easily have won those events blindfolded. Narciso Rabell Mendez did not want the Polgars to play in those events because he knew that the Polgars would win so easily there was no need to bother playing. He wanted the two Polgars to play in the World Under-14 where there would be a real contest and meanwhile his Puerto Rican kids could play in the Under-12 and Under-10 events where he could get some favorable newspaper publicity for them.
I was the representative and spokesmen for the Polgars as I had been living and traveling with them and they trusted me. Have you ever heard the expression: "Between a Rock and a Hard Place". There are two people in this world who will never compromise and will never give in. Those two people are Laszlo Polgar and Narciso Rabell Mendez. The Polgars had come all the way from Hungary to Puerto Rico there just to win the world championship titles for the daughters. They only cared about the titles. The were not interested in getting a good game.
Finally, Dr. Lim Kok Ann, Secretary General of FIDE, who was at the FIDE office in Switzerland, was called about this. Somehow Dr. Lim convinced Laszlo Polgar that he had to go along with what Narciso Rabell Mendez wanted. I do not know what Dr. Lim Kok Ann said to Laszlo Polgar as I was not in on the call but I suspect that it was a question of bowing to authority. The three sisters were shocked and surprised when their father Laszlo Polgar gave in and agreed, because he never does that.
Have you ever played in a tournament directed by Narciso Rabell Mendez? I did not think so. I have. His tournaments are absolutely the worst, the worst, the worst ever. They are run just to boost himself, not for the benefit of the players.
In the 1986 events, Rabell refused to post a wall chart. Everybody had to keep their own notes to figure out who was winning. Pairings were made in secret. Nobody could figure out why he made certain pairings.
One little Puerto Rican kid was given full point byes in the first two rounds in the World Under-10. This put him in first place. Then headlines in the San Juan newspapers the following day said: "Puerto Rican boy is the LEADER IN WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP".
The kid lost all the rest of his games.
I could go on and on about the many antics of Mr. Rabell. He has done so many bad things it would take me hours to write them all. Let me just say that Rabell is absolutely the worst. The worst. The worst.
As far as Edmondson being his friend, Edmondson kicked him out of the USCF. That is why Puerto Rico is no longer a USCF affiliate.
Somehow Narciso Rabell Mendez thought that all the trouble he was getting from the Polgars was my fault. He thought if he could just get rid of me the Polgars would be compliant and not make any more trouble. The tournament was being held at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and I and the players were put up in the student dormitory on the campus. I was given a room to share with Craig Leo Van Tilbury who was there to compete in a Caribbean Championship representing the US Virgin Islands. We remained friends until he died in 2010. Every evening we would come back to our room and share the latest antic of the day by Narciso Rabell Mendez.
I know you are thinking that Narciso Rabell Mendez kicked me out of the student dormitory. The opposite happened. I did not know he was charging me for the room. Since many of the players had come with their parents, each player got two rooms, one for the player and one for the patent. The French girl came with her coach Louis Roos. They did not need an extra room They shared a room together. You know how they do it over in France. If I ever meet Louis Roos again I will ask him how it went. I had previously met him in the apartment of the three Polgar Sisters in Budapest.
Since each player was entitled to two rooms, the two Polgar sisters were entitled to four rooms. We only needed three, one for the Polgar Parents, Mama Bear and Papa Bear as I liked to call them, one for the three little Bears, Zsuzsa, Sofia and Judit, and one half for me who was sharing a room with Craig Van Tilbury.
Another family like this was the Sarwars, Jeff Sarwer and Julia Sarwer. They had brought along a chess coach too, International Master Vitaly F Zaltsman.
One night when I went down to the lobby of student dormitory where we were all staying at 1:00 AM, Zaltsman was there nervously waiting for a taxi cab. He kept calling asking when the cab was coming. I could not understand what he was so worried about. He was taking a cab to the airport in the middle of the night and there were no flights at that time.
When morning came, Narciso Rabell Mendez was outraged. Zaltsman had flown the coup. Turned out that Zaltsman was like me. He had thought the room was being provided. He was a paid professional coach for the Sarwars. When he found out that he was expected to pay for the room, he fled in the middle of the night.
As a result, I was put on lockdown. Since Zaltsman had escaped without paying, I had to be watched to make sure that I did not leave too, the way Zaltsman had done. I was a prisoner.
Finally, I called my bank in Lynchburg Virginia and had them transfer the money to the account of Narciso Rabell Mendez, so I was permitted to leave.
The event was won by Joel Lautier, who later became a top grandmaster. The two Polgar sisters tied for second. Many of the players later became famous. KK Karanja from Kenya had a good result but got swindled by Sofia Polgar who had a lost position. He somehow believed that he had been cheated and never played again. Jeff Sarwar won the World Under-10 Championship and later became a movie star in the movie Starching for Booby Fischer. Jorge Zamora who played representing Honduras was only six years old. He did not win but he won this event in later years. He changed his name to Jorge Sammour-Hasbun, tried to transfer to Palestine and became a grandmaster strength blitz player.
My next encounter with Narciso Rabell Mendez came during the 1986 World Chess Olympiad in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I had arrived with my family ten days before the event and had gotten a job with the Gulf News reporting on the event. My daily newspaper columns had rubbed some chess officials the wrong way, especially my articles defending the three Polgar Sisters from Hungary, who had been banned from attending the event.
Florencio Canpomanes, President of FIDE, had summoned me to his massive presidential suite to give me a lecture warning me not to cross the line and to worry about press censorship. The Polgars were a hot issue and Campomanos warned me not to mention them in the press again. Hugh Myers later told me that the UAE authorities had already decided to deport me and the police had been ordered to go to my hotel room, pick me up and have me put on an airplane out of the country, but that Campomanes had called Gobash and had interceded and got them to let me stay provided I promise to be a good boy from then on.
Just as we were finishing up, Campomanes received a call from Narciso Rabell Mendez. I speak Spanish well and Campomanes was fluent. He kept saying in Spanish, "Narciso, Narciso, we will fix it for next round but we cannot change it now."
Remember the story about the rock and the hard place? No chance either one was going to back down. I found out what was going on when the Puerto Rican team forfeited their first round match against England.
The problem was Puerto Rico had a player named Luis Torres with a FIDE rating of 2250. Peru had a player named Luis Torres rated 2210. For obvious reasons the pairing committee had mixed up these two players, giving the player from Puerto Rico a rating of 2210.
This had resulted in an earth shaking event because it happened that Puerto Rico was right in the middle of the pairing chart. Puerto Rico with the wrong rating for Torres was near the top of the bottom half and since the top half plays the bottom half, Puerto Rico was paired against one of the top teams, England.
However, had the correct rating been entered for Luis Torres, then Puerto Rico would have been on the bottom of the top half and would have been paired to the team on the bottom of the pairing list which was Yemen. Yemen was on the bottom because none of their players had ratings and they were last in the alphabet.
Narciso Rabell Mendez figured that Puerto Rico wold beat Yemen by 4-0 and then he would send a press announcement to the news papers in Puerto Rico that Puerto Rico was in first place in the Olympiad, ahead of Russia and other strong teams, just as he had announced in the newspapers in Puerto Rico that the little boy who had been given byes in the first two rounds was the "Leader" in the World Under-10 Championship.
Campomanes admitted to Rabell that a mistake had been made and the his Torres from Puerto Rico should have been given his 2250 rating and therefore Puerto Rico should have been paired against Yemen. However, now it was too late. The pairings had been posted for hours, the players were preparing for their opponents and a change in this one pairing would have resulted in all the pairings being changed from the top down the line. So, the pairings could not be changed and the games had to start.
So, Narciso Rabell Mendez walked out.
Of course, the players like all chess players wanted to play against strong opponents and were anxious to play against England, but they could not disobey their leader and organizer or else be banned themselves when they got back to Puerto Rico.
From them on, Narciso Rabell Mendez sent the daily results of the team to the newspapers in Puerto Rico as though the first round results did not exist. For example, if the second round result had been a 2-2 tie, the real score would have been 2-6 but Rabell would report it as 2-2 and calculate where his team would have been had they won the first match by 4-0.
As it happened, later on in the Olympiad, Puerto Rico was paired against Yemen and Yemen beat them by 2 1/2 - 1 1/2, so the dream Narciso Rabell Mendez had of being tied for the lead after the first round would never have happened.
Do you have any more questions about why I call Narciso Rabell Mendez a "comlete nut"?