The administrator, a handsome man with wavy blonde hair and Wedwood thousands of miles away.
As the 32nd and perhaps final game in the remarkable chess match between Soviet world champion Anatoly Karpov and Soviet defector Viktor Korchnoi got under way, Igor Lyapunov received the news of each move on a previtpahone. He matched the moves on the well-polished chess table in fromt of his desk. It was a time when a person should be able to wrap himself in silence, letting his mind flex into the precise infinitudes of the ancient game, as two bitterly opposed intellects in the remote Philippines battled across 64 square facets of the two dimensions.
But Lyapunov yesterday was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was busy running the central Chess Club of the U.S.S.R., and answering his correctly-listed telephone, a relative rarity in Soviet life. The combination of the two was fatal to his peace and quiet in a nation whose affair with chess seethes with the passion of unrequited love.
Every forty seconds, Lyapunov's outside telephone rang.
"Yes . . . They are playing . . . Yes, it proceeds . . . It's now the 21st move . . . Yes, yes, . . . The position are stable and peaceful . . . There is hope . . . " Down goes the receiver.
Ring. "Yes. . . . Play is underway . . . White looks strong . . ."
Meanwhile, in a back room in the club's temporary quarters (its resplendent permanent building on Moscow's Inner Ring Road is being quetted and rebuilt), a Soviet youth team coach, the coach of the recently deposed) Soviet women's championship, a chess columnist an assorted other panjandrums of the world's mightiest chess apparatuse prowled tensely over their own board, analyzing the moves of Karpov and Korchnoi in the pivotal game.
The only life in the atmosphere came from a lissome 21-year old who has held in international grand master's rating for several years. But she was minding her own problems. Elena Akhmilovskaya was waiting to hear if she would be included on the four-person Soviet national women's chess team, which departs tommorrow for the world chess team championships in buenos Aires.
The club's turf is hallowed ground: only those with a national rating of no less than first class (on a scale of three) are extended membership. Clearly present among these gifted afficionados was the beguiling sense of objectivity ate watching the unseen Karpov wield his white pieces against the complex defense which Korchnoi was deploying.
But for all the objectivitiy, there was little doubt as to which man they were rooring for. Karpov was their man. The club members offered a variety of compiling reason to explain Karpov's mysterious, stunning collapse during the past two weeks in the face of the 47-year-old Korchnoi's bizarre, daunting drive that brought the challenger from the brink of defeat to a 5-5 tie.
Paul Dembo, who writes on chess for "Sovietski Sport," worried that the diminutive 27-year-old Karpov ("he only weighted 105 pounds at the start") had been physically exhausted by the numbing length of the match, which began July 18.
Aivar Gipslis, coach of a former Soviet women's world champion, suggested that Karpov's difficulties had been caused in part by the unexpected death of his trainer just before the match began.
Lyapunov, a member of the U.S.S.R. Chess Presidium, said grumpily that the International Chess Federation (FIDE), which is running the Bagiuo match, should have kept it to the 24-game limit usually observed in previous international championships.
"They (FIDE) thought it might improve world interest in chess, but the players are human," he said.
For him, more than for the others at the club yesterday, the match contained strong political undertones that he found disagreeable.
"I prefer to have this match in the Soviet Union," he said sourly between bouts with the telephone. Did he mean Korchnoi should should have defected, he was asked.
"I mean the challenger should not be Korchnoi," he said.
Korchnoi defected in 1976, after accusing Soviet chess authorities of favoring Karpov during a 1974 playoff that Karpov won. The match determined who would challenge the then-champion, Bobby Fischer of the United States. But Fischer squabbled over the rule of the challenge match, and Karpov was declared champion by default in 1975.
Korchnoi has since accused the Soviet Union of inhuman retaliation for refusing to allow his wife and child to leave.
Like sports, but for far longer, Soviet officials have viewed chess as a deadly serious aspect of projecting national power abroad. The Soviets began dominating world chess in 1927 when Alexander Alekhine defeated Cuban Jose Capablanca. Moscow has reigned over the men's and women's tournament since then with just a few temporary interruptions.
Today, there are an estimated 4 million serious chess players in the country, based on tournament reports from around the nation. "Chess circles" have been established in most grade schools, and local branches of the national chess federation constantly cull the best, bringing them into increasingly competitive circles.
"It's just like sports," one former enthusiast recalled yesterday. "You play three or four times a week, memorize openings, gambits, strategy, constantly under the tutelage of trainers."
The Soviet Union boasts 1,620 "workers chess clubs" among its millions of players and currently lists 65 grand masters, 105 international masters and 720 masters Chess magazines reach an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 readers, and some papers carry weekly inserts devoted solely to chess.